Campus News

Grant to used to assess effects of oil leak, dispersant on plant populations

Geneticist Mike Arnold has received a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Grant to assess the effects of crude oil and dispersant on native plant populations in the Gulf Coast region.

The $175,000 grant will allow Arnold and two postdoctoral researchers to gather baseline information about the spill’s immediate effects on coastal iris populations in and around bayous and marshes, including the effects of the dispersant applied to break up the oil.

While at LSU, Arnold, a postdoctoral research associate some 20 years ago, established multiple research sites along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana, which he maintained after coming to UGA in 1989. In July, he began surveying at the various sites, which range from inland, fresh water habitats to brackish creeks and saltwater tidal marshes.

Arnold already has identified DNA markers in the hybrid coastal irises that provide clues about where and how the plants evolved and hybridized. For example, some species show resistance to high-saline waters while others thrive only in fresh water.

Other species grow well in sun while others survive only in shade, and so on.