2012 Progress Report: Uptake and Effects of Dispersed Oil Droplets and Emulsified Oil by Estuarine Crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico

EPA Grant Number: R835184
Title: Uptake and Effects of Dispersed Oil Droplets and Emulsified Oil by Estuarine Crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico
Investigators: Lee, Richard F , Chung, J Sook , Perry, Harriet , Snyder, Christopher
Institution: Skidaway Institute of Oceanography , University of Maryland , University of Southern Mississippi
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2015
Project Period Covered by this Report: January 1, 2012 through December 31,2012
Project Amount: $476,553
RFA: Environmental Impact and Mitigation of Oil Spills (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Ecosystems


(1) To determine the uptake and effects (molting, molting hormones, genes mediating molting, DNA strand breaks) of dispersed oil by blue crab and grass shrimp embryos/larvae/postlarvae. (2) To determine the uptake and effects (molting, molting hormones, genes mediating molting, DNA strand breaks) of emulsified oil by immature blue crabs and grass shrimp exposed to oiled sediments. (3) The establishment and implementation of a Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation teams in four communities in the north central Gulf of Mexico coastline. These teams will be part of the proposed project and develop public presentations on the project and its results.

Progress Summary:


The research during this past year focused on the uptake and effects of dispersed oil and emusified oil on crustaceans (blue crab and grass shrimp) found in estuarine areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Suspensions of dispersed oil affected the hatching and molting of the grass shrimp embryos. Exposure of blue crabs to food containing emulsified oil resulted in distended hemocytes with eosinophilic material composed of glycoproteins. Since hemocytes have an important role in the crustacean immune system, we speculate that crabs with such distended hemocytes may have an immune system less able to deal with microbe invaders. Preliminary results of this work were presented at the 17th PRIMO (Pollutant Responses in Marine Organisms) meeting in May 2013 at the University of Algarve in Faro, Portugal.

Community Outreach

A series of three workshops (primarily educational) and three work days (primarily interaction with researchers) were conducted in March, April, May and June 2013 at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Residents in the Gulf Coast affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill of April 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico were recruited through presentations in various coastal communities, posters and newspaper articles to apply to join the COAST (Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation) team. There was a special effort to recruit residents from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, and Biloxi, Mississippi, which have a significant commercial crabbing community. From the residents who applied to join COAST, project leaders selected 20 people. The selected participants included commercial and recreation fishermen, charter boat captains, seafood industry professionals, naturalists, teachers and members of the general public. The COAST team participated in a series of six 1-day experiences that began on March 1, 2013. The Educational Workshops explored through talks and demonstrations the general properties of oil, action of dispersants on an oil spill, general biology of shrimp and crabs and effects of oil on shrimp and crabs. During the work days, the volunteers worked with scientists in the laboratory and field on shrimp and crab projects. There were several newspaper articles in the local papers about these workshops.

Future Activities:


  1. Exposure to Dispersed Oil
    The effects of dispersed oil on ecdysone production and the EcR/RxR complex (ecdysone receptor/retinoic acid receptor complex) by different grass shrimp embryo stages will be determined. In addition, embryos exposed to dispersed oil will be fixed and examined histologically for tissue abnormalities.
  2. Exposure to Emulsified Oil
    Ecdysone production and responses of the EcR/RxR complex will be assayed in grass shrimp and blue crabs fed food containing emulsified oil and to sediments containing oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. There will also be a histological examination of tissues from control and exposed crustaceans.

Community Outreach

The volunteers of the COAST team will be doing presentations to their communities over the next year concerning what they have learned about the fate and effects of an oil spill from their attendance at workshops and work days in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. There will be a report prepared with evaluations and photographs of the outreach activities of the past year. The Program Development Coordinator from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory will be working with a videographer to narrate a video that will tell the story of the various outreach programs of this grant.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 8 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Petroleum, grass shrimp, blue crab, crustaceans, molting dispersant, dispersed oil, emulsified oil;

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2013
  • Final Report