Oceanic Oil Spill Simulations Provide Memorable Disaster Preparedness Training
Oceanic crude oil spills continually threaten species health and ecosystem integrity. Remediating oil-impacted regions is often time consuming and labour intensive for disaster response teams. Crude oils contain multiple hazardous compounds, are often odorous, sticky and viscous, and may adhere easily to sand, rocks and biological tissues. Such properties make crude oil contamination very difficult to clean from shoreline communities. In order to provide an effective and memorable training experience for senior-year university students, a hands-on laboratory simulation was developed to realistically recreate both the impacts of an oceanic oil spill as well as the disaster management procedures required to remediate affected regions. Students were tasked with creating their own microcosm-scale coastal ecosystems, complete with seawater, sediment, plants, model animals and a replica shipping vessel. A quantity of medium-weight crude oil was then spilled from the replica ship’s location and tidal forces were mimicked to disperse the oil. Students were provided with small-scale remediation equipment in order to practice their own management strategies for cleaning and extracting oil from their ecosystems, as well as protecting natural and assets. At the completion of the simulation, participants were asked to reflect on their experience and to extrapolate their microcosm experiment to full-scale oil spills. Learning and teaching educators noted a high level of enthusiasm and engagement from students. Student Feedback Surveys across multiple years also revealed consistently high student satisfaction and strong positive feedback from students, in regard to learning from the experience. This laboratory simulation proved to be a very effective educational tool which also creates a fun and memorable experience for university science students.
KeywordsEnvironment Ecology Petroleum Pollution Laboratory
I would like to thank the UTS School of Life Sciences Technical Officers for their support and advice in creating, performing and reviewing this experiment, in particular Rod Hungerford. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the UTS School of Life Sciences and Faculty of Science for their continued enthusiasm and support of 91159 Environmental Remediation.
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