Montana News

Jul 5, 2011 6:40 PM by MSU News Service

MSU fisheries research helps assess impact of oil spill on Yellowstone River

Montana State University fisheries scientists are assisting state and federal environmental officials in assessing the impact of Friday's oil spill in the environmentally sensitive Yellowstone River.

More than 750 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River when a pipeline beneath the river broke creating a plume of oil that has already traveled more than 270 miles downriver into North Dakota, according Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks are being provided data on fish diversity and abundances collected by university scientists earlier this summer and in previous years. Ongoing sampling will document any changes to the river that may have occurred as a result of the oil spill. University biologists will provide FWP with GPS locations of sick turtles and fish, as well as document obvious fish kills if any are found.

"We have been conducting research for many years examining species of fish inhabiting the Yellowstone River," said Al Zale, an ecology professor at MSU and unit leader of the Montana Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit, a cooperative effort between MSU, USGS, and FWP.

"In the weeks and months ahead, we will be looking for any unusual changes in the river's natural environment and any impacts on the species of fish we would expect to find at this time of year," Zale said. "Some species or ages of fish may be more susceptible to this type of pollution than others."

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