Gulf of Mexico deep Water fish

Or Regalecus glesne

Life seems almost normal along the highway that runs the length of Grand Isle, a narrow curl of land near the toe of Louisiana’s tattered boot. Customers line up for snow cones and po’ boys, graceful live oaks stand along the island’s central ridge, and sea breezes blow in from the Gulf of Mexico. But there are few tourists here this summer. The island is filled with cleanup crews and locals bracing for the next wave of anguish to wash ashore from the crippled well 100 miles to the southeast.

Behind Grand Isle, in the enormous patchwork of water and salt marsh called Barataria Bay, tar balls as big as manhole covers float at the surface. Oily sheens, some hundreds of yards across, glow dully on the water. Below a crumbling brick fort built in the 1840s, the marsh edges are smeared with thick brown gunk. A pair of dolphins break the water’s surface, and a single egret walks along the shore, its wings mottled with crude. Inside the bay, the small islands that serve as rookeries for pelicans, roseate spoonbills and other birds have suffered waves of oil, and many of the mangroves at the edges have already died. Oil is expected to keep washing into the bay for months.

Even here, at the heart of the disaster, it’s hard to fathom the reach of the spill. Oil is penetrating the Gulf Coast in countless ways—some obvious, some not—and could disrupt habitats and the delicate ecology for years to come. For the scientists who have spent decades trying to understand the complexities of this natural world, the spill is not only heartbreaking, but also deeply disorienting. They are just beginning to study—and attempting to repair—a coast transformed by oil.

About a hundred miles inland from Grand Isle, on the shady Baton Rouge campus of Louisiana State University, Jim Cowan and a dozen of his laboratory members gather to discuss their next move. In the agonizing days since the spill began, Cowan’s fisheries lab has become something of a command center, with Cowan guiding his students in documenting the damage.

Cowan grew up in southern Florida and has a particular affection for the flora, fauna and people of the lush wetlands of southern Louisiana; he’s studied Gulf ecosystems from inland marshes to offshore reefs. Much of his research has focused on fish and their habitats. But now he worries that the Gulf he’s known for all these years is gone. “These kids are young, and I don’t think they realize yet how it’s going to change their lives, ” he says of the oil. “The notion of doing basic science, basic ecology, where we’re really trying to get at the drivers of the ecosystem...” He pauses and shakes his head. “It’s going to be a long time before we get oil out of the equation.”

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2010-06-24 21:44:55 by waldenseeker

Water, the holy grail in the exploration of our solar system, the most coveted of all discoveries. NASA has repeatedly placed it at the forefront of all deep space mission agendas. We seek it out knowing that without water there is no possibility of life. Yet here, on the one place that provides all the water supporting all the known life in the universe, we are continuously increasing the amount of pollution and harmful contaminates we pump into our one source of life. A 2009 study by the U.S. Geological Survey detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the United States

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