Frontiers

Oil and Water

Douglas Jerolmack and Federico Falcini of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science discuss the catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
June 2010

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Douglas Jerolmack and postdoctoral researcher Federico Falcini have been studying the flow of river water and sediment into large bodies of the Earth's waters.

Jerolmack combines field studies and lab experiments with mathematical modeling to understand geological formations that emerge at the interface of fluids and sediment. His studies range from how ripples in sand on the bottom of a river change over minutes to the preserved record of millions of years of coastal evolution on the continental shelf.

We're actively now pursuing research on the interaction of the river plume with the ocean so that we can better assess its potential as an effective broom for the oil slick. – Douglas Jerolmack

Falcini specializes in fluid dynamics, which he uses to construct models for how geological structures form, change and disappear in places where soils and moving waters interact. Their research holds important applications for dealing with the massive oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and prompted them to study the movements of millions of gallons of raw crude pouring into the sea.

In this audio Q&A, Jerolmack and Falcini answer questions about the spreading of spilled oil and how we might deal with the giant oil slick as it moves toward coastlines.

Is it possible to stop the oil from coming ashore?

The government has approved construction of barrier islands. What do you think of that strategy for holding back the oil?

What role will the Mississippi Delta play in stopping oil from washing ashore?

Are there ways of using the flood-control works
in the Mississippi to protect delta wetlands?

How can we deal with the loss of marshlands
in the Mississippi Delta?