New Virtual Fish Lab App

New Virtual Fish Lab App

New Virtual Learning Tool Helps Students Study How Oil Spills Affect Fish.

App-based lesson plans bring real experiments on Deepwater Horizon into the classroom, home.

Miami scientists are bringing lessons learned from one of the worst oil spills in history into the classroom.

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led science consortium RECOVER launched the RECOVER Virtual Lab, a free online learning program for budding scientists ages 8+ through college to conduct their own ‘fish treadmill’ experiments in the classroom or at home.

The virtual fish experimentation laboratory, currently has one lesson plan led by University of North Texas (UNT) Ph.D. student Derek Nelson to measure the effects oil spills have on the physiology of two economically important fish in the Gulf of Mexico—red drum and mahi-mahi.

The web- and app-based lab includes a downloadable lesson plan and quizzes for teachers and students to conduct similar experiments as university scientists using real data from Loligo swim tunnel respirometry systems.

The virtual lab was developed by the RECOVER science consortium. Led by UM Rosenstiel School Professor and Maytag Chair of Ichthyology Martin Grosell, the RECOVER team (Relationships of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk), conducts studies on the impacts and toxic effects of crude oil on ecologically and commercially valuable fish that reside in the Gulf of Mexico. It includes 35 scientists from four institutions.

Recent studies by the RECOVER consortium members showed that fish embryos and larvae exposed to crude oil during early development results in malformation of hearts, which likely results in mortality or reduced cardiac performance in surviving individuals.

The RECOVER team also recently published a study that showed that such surviving individuals display reduced swimming capabilities (link).

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which more than three million barrels of crude oil got released in 2010 into the northern Gulf of Mexico, was the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, contaminating the spawning habitats for many fishes. Researchers continue to investigate the impacts of the oil spill to advance scientific understanding of the impacts of the incident and the potential associated impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health.


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