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Oil from Cosco Busan

A Shard of Evidence

Karin Lemkau searches for oil—but not in the usual places. In 2007, a container ship, the M/V Cosco Busan, struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and spilled tens of thousands of gallons of fuel oil in San Francisco Bay. Lemkau, a graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, uses comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography to study what happens to different compounds that comprise the oil. Are they evaporated into the air, dissolved into water, broken down by sunlight, or eaten by microbes? Lemkau collected oil samples from around the bay, including this Coscu Busan oil stuck to a shard of broken dish from a factory closed in the late 1960s. (Photo by Karin Lemkau, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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