Channel Islands

Assessing the Effects of the Refugio Oil Spill




When an oil pipeline belonging to Plains All American ruptured last spring, sending more than 21,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean near Refugio State Beach, the affected beaches included many that are part of a long-term monitoring project managed by Professor Sean Anderson and his colleagues in CSU Channel Islands’ Environmental Science & Resource Management program.

This monitoring project provides high-quality research experiences for students. Following the rupture, Dr. Anderson marshalled 13 full-time summer research students, with 40 additional students, to collect data on oil spill effects. Researchers began their work immediately to collect data about contamination, tarring, chemical effects, and water quality changes. Impacts on wildlife and people, including economic costs, were also considered.

Besides providing the community with important information, this project demonstrates the ways that CSU research involvement actively serves and brings value to the community. It was funded in part by Project ACCESO, a U.S. Department of Education HSI STEM award, and university support.

“This experience has convinced me that I am on the correct career path and want to be involved with such research professionally after graduation,” said Edgar Ruiz, an undergraduate researcher involved in the project.