A research team dedicated to further the understanding of oil induced effects on fish and the potential for recovery


RECOVER (Relationships of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk) is one of 12 research groups awarded grants totaling 140 million by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) — a 20-member independent research board created to allocate the $500 million committed by BP for independent research programs following the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill.

The spill spanned 87 days during which approximately 4 million barrels of crude oil were released into the northern Gulf of Mexico; making it the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.

RECOVER scientists are examining the detrimental effects of oil on two ecologically and economically important species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico: Mahi-mahi and Red drum.


Concerningly, the DWH spill overlapped with the spawning events of many commercially and ecologically important fish species, including yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, mahi-mahi and other large pelagic or open-ocean fish. Not only were the breeding fish themselves exposed, but also their more sensitive and vulnerable offspring. Previous studies show that exposure to small fractions of oil at these early life stages lead to decreased and impaired heart function and swim performance. Oil concentrations found in coastal waters, while less than those in the open ocean, were still high enough to result in similar negative effects in other fish species.

The ultimate goals of RECOVER are to:

Examine the extent of negative effects caused by like concentrations of oil in mahi-mahi and red drum and the possibility for recovery

Provide insight into best practices for managing future spills

Determine outcomes on an ecosystem wide scale

To do this we will be using a multi-pronged approach:

Oil Toxicity and the Heart
Will the coastal red drum display similar negative cardiac effects to oil exposure as the pelagic mahi-mahi and will they be able to recover when transferred to non-contaminated conditions?
Gene Expression
Can the adverse effects of oil exposure seen in mahi-mahi and red drum be initially identified and predicted by gene expression analyses?
Swimming Performance
Will fish exposed to oil have impairments in swim performance and if so, why?
UV Light’s Effect on Oil
Does co-exposure to oil and UV radiation amplify the negative effects of oil?
Predator/Prey Relationships
Will oil exposed fish be able to avoid predation as well as their non-exposed siblings and will they be as efficient predators themselves?


Participating Institutions

The RECOVER consortium brings together the expertise and experience of marine biologists, aquatic toxicologists and geneticists from four research institutions.


Hatchery Tours

The University of Miami Experimental Hatchery of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is located on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay approximately 1 mile southeast of downtown Miami, Florida. The Experimental Hatchery includes a number of culture areas, which give the facility the capability of concurrently supporting a wide variety of diverse research projects including the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) funded RECOVER consortium.

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Virtual Learning

RECOVER is committed to outreach and education. We are hard at work creating exciting new learning modules for use at home and at schools. Check back soon for exciting learning opportunities.



Derek Nelson Wins UNT 2016 Graduate Student Innovator Award


Derek Nelson, who just completed his third semester as a biology doctoral student, performs open-heart surgery on fish in the Gulf of Mexico. His work measures the health of aquatic life, while monitoring crude oil impacts

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Scientists conducted exposure experiments on Gulf killifish populations with known adaptions to common environmental contaminates to determine how rapid adaptation affects future fish health.

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RECOVER and other groups from the University of Miami presented their science at the 2016 Coconut Grove Seafood Festival

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