AUM professor gets $40K to study Gulf oil spill

AUM professor Ben Okeke
AUM professor Ben Okeke

MONTGOMERY, AL. – The National Science Foundation has awarded Auburn University at Montgomery professor Ben Okeke a $40,000 grant to study the environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

While the obvious visual signs of the spill seem to be disappearing, the long-term effects remain to be seen. Understanding what is happening to crude oil components and dispersants and their impact on water quality, sediments and seafood – along with the overall coastal ecosystem – is critical to quantifying the long-term impacts of the spill on the Gulf Coast economy and residents.

Okeke is collaborating with Alison Keimowitz of Vassar College and Ming-Kuo Lee and James Saunders of Auburn University to investigate the effects of the spill on Alabama's coastal wetlands. Long after the more apparent aspects of the spill have been cleaned up, the total organic matter content of the waters and surrounding ecosystems will continue to be increased. The team will study the effects of the oil spill on toxic heavy-metal cycling and microbial activities in nearby wetlands.

"I am excited to work on this project," said Okeke. "It is a great opportunity for my students, especially those taking my senior and graduate environmental microbiology courses. I am particularly happy for this opportunity to serve my community."