Eckerd group hunts for oil disaster cluesCurrent and former Eckerd College students today are nearing the end of a 10-day research trip in the Gulf of Mexico as part of an ongoing study of the impact of the BP oil disaster. The students are working with Eckerd marine science professor Gregg Brooks and are traveling aboard the RV Weatherbird II under the supervision of Stan Locker, a research scientist in marine geology and geophysics at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. The research is funded by the Deep-C Consortium, which is studying the distribution and fate of the oil and dispersants released during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and almost unheard of for undergraduates,'' Brooks said. "Anytime they can get experience on a real research cruise, that's unbelievable." The students are helping to map the sea floor of the gulf off the coast of Panama City to create a baseline of information about the topography and habitat of that area, Locker said. The results will inform future research. "It's important to know what resources are out there to be protected,'' Locker said. "There is a broad application of this research."