Sniffing Out Oil Plume

When Chris Reddy, Ph.D. ’97, based his award-winning doctoral research on the analysis of oil samples from the North Cape oil spill, he had no idea that his knowledge would prove vital in the response to this country’s largest environmental disaster.

Since the Deepwater Horizon drill site began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico last April, Reddy, a marine chemist at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has collected oil samples from Louisiana salt marshes, testified before congressional committees, and answered questions posed by the international media. He also climbed aboard the GSO research vessel Endeavor last June and spent 12 days in the Gulf of Mexico collecting data on the historic spill.

Reddy was part of a Woods Hole team that deployed a submersible, about the size of an average refrigerator. Named Sentry, the submersible was equipped with a spectrometer in its nose that “sniffed” out a 22 mile long underwater plume of oil and mapped its dimensions.

This information will help researchers better understand the subsurface oil behavior and composition in the area.