David Hollander, a University of South Florida Marine Science professor, was guided by his knowledge and luck when he found extraordinary oil sea plumes.
Hollander describes sea plumes as giant hazy clusters of oil that become invisible. The plumes mean oil lingers at the bottom of the ocean, where it will have an effect on small organisms—the beginning of the food chain.
Hollander researched and explored petroleum in France. His foreign expertise became a key resource to finding the plumes.
According to Hollander, he and his crew knew there were sea plumes in the ocean because researchers in Georgia were the first to actually find one. The Georgia researchers took samples in plastic containers, which are also composed of meta carbons, or oil. Consequently, there was not enough solid evidence to prove to BP that sea plumes were present in the ocean.
Hollander had sea plumes in mind, and his crew set off in the school’s research ship, the Weatherbird II. “In contrast to Georgia’s studies of the south and west of the ocean, the USF team focused on the north and east,” Hollander said. “The north and east parts of the ocean were important because we were concerned about Florida’s coasts.”
Professor Bob Weisburg helped Hollander by creating a daily forecast of where the surface oil was going. By doing so, Hollander had a good idea of where to follow the oil.
Even though Georgia was technically the first to find sea plumes, Hollander and his team were luckily able to intercept the material and be the first to confirm oil sea plumes. “We were in the right place at the right time,” Hollander said. “Despite the tragic event, everything we touched was a new finding or a new understanding. It was very exciting from a scientific standpoint. I was a part of a true exploration.”
Since the plume finding, Hollander has made speeches to tell scientists and the public about the oil spill and its effects.