LiMPETS data can assist in disasters

Students in the LiMPETS program monitor sand crabs in Monterey Bay.

Students in the LiMPETS program monitor sand crabs in Monterey Bay.

More than a week has passed since the southern California oil spill that dumped more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel. In that time we have seen an unprecedented response by our state, federal and non- profit agencies to not only clean up the oil, but to address animal welfare. According to a May 27th report from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 16 boats are at work performing cleanup operations.
“Cleanup crews have removed over 10,000 gallons of oily water mixture, and our SCAT teams continue to comb the 7.8 miles of affected shoreline. As of 11 a.m., today, cleanup crews have removed 310 cubic yards of oiled vegetation, 760 cubic yards of oiled sand and 2,610 cubic yards of oiled soil.”
Once the initial operation settles, resource managers will look at the long-term impact of the oil on coastal and ocean habitats. 
This is where programs like LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring and Experiential Training for Students) can help. For more than a decade, students in the LiMPETS program have monitored four sites on the Santa Barbara Channel, and the professional group Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) have monitored the same areas for more than 25 years. These datasets help resource managers gauge the initial impact of the oil spill on coastal organisms. They examine long-term data from before the spill and compare it to data collected after the spill. Participating LiMPETS students are in a real position to help inform resource managers about the effect of this spill over the next few years. 
In 2007, after the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay, the state came to the LiMPETS program and asked for both the sandy beach and rocky intertidal data. This was the first real test of these datasets in response to a natural disaster and it taught program managers a lot about what the LiMPETS data could answer and what it couldn’t answer.
As distressing as these oil spills are, they can serve as strong teaching tools for how humans impact the environment. With LiMPETS, students assess the health and effectiveness of California Marine Protected Areas, but their data could be used in response to disasters – which creates an additional benefit to their existing end goal. 
Take a look at the following links for more information:
LiMPETS
PISCO
CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Oil Spill Response
Volunteering to help with the oil spill