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Images: Tracking Toxic Chemicals in Oil Spills

In November 2007, the container ship M/V Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. A gash in its hull spilled tens of thousands of gallons of heavy fuel oil into San Francisco Bay. Where did that oil go? (Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)

MIT/WHOI graduate student Karin Lemkau collected samples of oil from the Cosco Busan spill that remained on rocks in several locations in the San Francisco Bay area. She has been analyzing them to learn what happens to various chemical compounds in the oil after it is released to the environment.

(Camilo Ponton, MIT/WHOI Joint Program)

Red dots indicate several locations where MIT/WHOI graduate student Karin Lemkau has collected samples of oil from the M/V Cosco Busan. (Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

One of Lemkau’s sampling locations was littered with pieces of broken ceramic dishes from a ceramic factory closed in the late 1960s—some now coated with oil from the Cosco Busan. (Karin Lemkau, MIT/WHOI Joint Program)