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‘Modena’ strikes oil

The UGA Skidaway Institute Autonomous Underwater Vehicle “Modena” found oil last summer, but not in the way anyone expected.

Modena was dispatched into the Gulf of Mexico as part of the ECOGIG (Ecosystem Impacts of Oil & Gas Inputs to the Gulf) research project to study the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf ecosystem. When the researchers, including Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards, recovered Modena, they discovered her fabric skin was covered with dark blotches. At first the team thought it was some sort of algae. Closer examination revealed the spots were created by oil droplets in the water.

Modena and  her oil-stained skin.

Modena and her oil-stained skin.

Oil stains on Modena's skin.

Oil stains on Modena’s skin.

Edwards and the team believe the oil stains were caused by droplets from the spill that have remained suspended in the water column.