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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 14, 2010

UI faculty plan trip to Gulf Coast to study effects of BP oil spills

During the next few weeks, the University of Iowa Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering will bid a temporary farewell to professor Thanos Papanicolaou and two other research staff members.

The three, along with researchers from two other universities, will take off on a 10-day trip to the Gulf Coast where they will search for oil and other hydrocarbons. Researchers hope that by studying these hydrocarbons they may be able to find out what negative effects the BP oil spill in April may have had on the ecosystem.

Papanicolaou, who serves as Donald E. Bently Faculty Fellow of Engineering, and his team hope to bring back to the UI samples of rock fragments called "bed sediment" for further research. Data from the trip will be used to apply for a grant from the Department of Energy, as well as for future research projects. Papanicolaou said the project will be instrumental in improving conditions for the ecosystem, local fisherman and tourism.

Papanicolaou said that oil and water is a destructive combination because together they create a seal above the water that prevents water-living organisms, such as plants and bacteria, from getting the oxygen they need to survive. The research aims to prevent further damage to these organisms.

The group hopes to have an open dialogue with locals to demonstrate the value of their research through this destructive event.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,; Writer: Tiffany Hung