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NOAA Scientists Still Studying Mississippi Dolphins

Researchers with NOAA are wrapping up a two-year study of dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. They’re looking for any health problems that may be linked to the BP oil spill. During a boat trip on Wednesday, the first dolphin is spotted in the East Pascagoula River. Photographs of the dorsal fin give scientists a “fingerprint”. “By looking at those carefully, you can uniquely identify the animal. And that pattern will change over time. But if you’re doing a long term study, you can usually keep up with how it’s changing,” said Dr. Keith Mullin, a marine mammal researcher with NOAA. Dolphins feeding in the shadow of Ingalls shipyard provide another photo ID opportunity. Two years after the oil spill many questions remain about how the oil spill affected the health of dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. “This is a very big eco-system that was potentially affected by the oil. And it will take time to get to the bottom of the damage that was done,” said Tim Zink, who works in communications for NOAA. NOAA has released the preliminary findings from a study of dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, an area which was heavily oiled by the Deepwater Horizon. Researchers there said the results are alarming. “We’ve had some of our researchers indicate they’re the sickest dolphins they’ve ever studied,” said Zink. Those Louisiana dolphins were underweight, anemic and had compromised adrenal glands; symptoms consistent with oil exposure. The NRDA process will determine how many dolphin deaths may be linked to the BP spill. “It’s not like you can go down to Walmart and buy a new dolphin to...

Pollutants Found in Eggs of Minnesota Birds Two Years After Oil Spill

Researchers say they have found traces of pollutants from the BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago in the eggs of Minnesota birds. In examining pelican eggs in the largest lakeside colony of American white pelicans in North America, scientists have discovered traces of petroleum compounds as well as remnants of Corexit, a chemical used to break up the oil spill. The birds migrate back to Minnesota after spending the winter in the Gulf, with young pelicans usually spending a year in the warmer climates, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Mark Clark, an ecologist at North Dakota State University, studies pelican eggs and is helping the state Department of Natural Resources look for contaminants that could cause birth defects in developing pelican embryos. “Even if they’re present in small amounts, they may have a large impact on the development,” Clark said. “Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that’s where the developing embryo and chick starts. And when things go wrong at that stage, there’s usually no recovery.” Clark said the research on how petroleum affects developing bird embryos is scant, meaning scientists are unsure of what will happen when the pelican eggs hatch. The Environmental Protection Agency has said Corexit contains carcinogens as well as endocrine-disruptors, which Clark said could interfere with growth hormones at play during an embryo’s development. Nearly 80 percent of the eggs tested so far contain Corexit, while 90 percent contained petroleum...

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