Gustavus Students Dissect Fish Affected by Gulf Oil Spill

Posted on December 14th, 2010 by

Sophomore biology major Tricia Weyland and junior biology major Maria Bryan take a tissue sample of a fish from the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearly 20 environmental studies and biology students at Gustavus Adolphus College recently spent several hours over the course of two days dissecting nearly 400 fish taken from areas in the Gulf of Mexico affected by the BP oil spill this past summer.

The fish came to Gustavus because Assistant Professor of Biology Joel Carlin has partnered with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research vessel Oregon II. The ship surveys the diversity and health of the marine environment in the Gulf of Mexico from Veracruz, Mexico to Miami, Fla.

Gustavus students who assisted in the dissecting, took tissue samples from the fish that Carlin will use as part of a research project aimed at determining whether genetic diversity in these bottom fish changes depending upon their proximity to the oil spill.

“Usually scientists who have an idea just hope that they can get enough samples to begin a project, and hope that they might be able to finish it,” Carlin said. “Imagine my surprise this Thanksgiving when I received several coolers packed with whole frozen fish. In the upcoming months I hope to find out more about how they lived and what impacts the oil spill may have had on their lives.”

Joel Carlin and Kat Coughlin '09 aboard the Oregon II in 2009.

In addition to the recent dissection process, Carlin’s partnership with the NOAA has allowed Gustavus students the opportunity to serve aboard the Oregon II during the summer months. Kat Coughlin ’09 and Abby Williams ’11 both spent two weeks on volunteer research cruises aboard the NOAA ship.

For more information about Carlin’s research, contact him at 507-933-6305 or


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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