Imaging Technology Shows Gulf Oil Impact on Coastal Marshes

TTI Exploration, a privately held geosciences technology company based in Houston, has completed preliminary processing and analysis related to a subset of its Operation GulfSCAN NRM™ data set.

Between May 1 and July 30, the survey acquired ultra high-resolution data over approximately 29,000 square kilometers of very sensitive marsh areas of the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. New time-lapse images, produced from data collected by high-tech airborne sensors and TTI’s scientific team on the ground, show the condition of the habitat. The data measures the habitat before the oil and dispersant washed ashore several months ago compared with recent images collected after it has been exposed to the contaminants over an extended period of time.

Alfredo Prelat, Ph.D., TTI’s chief scientist, said, “Even where oil is not visible, our technology can show where plant life has been affected by the recent oil spill. Indeed, much of the spill’s impact may not be visible to the naked eye.”

The imaging data for this time-lapse subset was initially acquired on May 21, and then re-flown on July 17. The company plans to fly additional time-lapse surveys chronicling the evolving health of the Gulf Coast’s ecosystems.

John Day, Ph.D., an environmental scientist with Louisiana State University and a consultant to TTI, said, "It is clearly premature to come to any conclusions about the long-term impact of the oil spill. Even if marsh grass is observed re-growing, it is clearly less than it would have been. To determine the full effects of the spill, more studies and measurements of vegetation health will be needed, including photosynthesis measurements, changes in above and below ground biomass and decomposition through the next growing season."

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