Jeff DeQuattro is coastal projects manager for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama.
1. It’s been a year since the Gulf oil spill. How are you feeling about the health of the Gulf’s ecology?
JEFF DeQUATTRO: Bob, I can’t come up with an answer for this one because I’m frustrated with the politics of the “health of the gulf’s ecology” that we are facing here. There is too much noise in those politics for me to know the health of the Gulf. There is disagreement among so many different groups of people about how to fix the problems that ail us. It’s really tough for me to talk about it without cringing at the thought. Some scientists say one thing, some say another. Most can’t say anything until the BP lawsuit. But The Nature Conservancy is moving ahead with our own restoration work in the Gulf, and we have the science and experience to back up that work.
2. When will science have a good handle on how damaging the spill was (or wasn’t) to the Gulf?
JEFF DeQUATTRO: That’s just the thing. It will be years before we have a stronger handle on what’s happening. But our estuaries and coastal areas along the Gulf have been degrading for many decades even before 200+ million gallons were released into our systems. That is why we are starting the restoration of our natural heritage on a pace that can give the rate of loss a run for its money.
3. You were helping clean up some of of Alabama’s coast after the spill. What’s the weirdest thing you saw washed up?
In Alabama, I saw mostly oil in the form of numerous tar balls — some that were the size of a BB, and some that were quarter-sized. It was mostly evident on the first 10 meters of land, and then in the wrack line (the line of seaweed and debris that’s deposited at high tide). Besides various sizes and shapes of plastic bottles splattered with oil and pieces of Styrofoam boom floats, I did find a 55-gallon drum that was covered in oil. The label indicated it belonged to a BP crew boat. I’ve seen these barrels before and it was empty because it was probably going to be used for recovered oil or oil-contaminated absorbents. Mind you, tar balls are still washing up on Alabama beaches to this very day.
4. You work a lot on oyster reef restoration — which sounds like a dirty job. What’s the worst part of it?
JEFF DeQUATTRO: There is nothing about what I do that I don’t enjoy. I could totally do without the yellow flies though. No big deal. Seriously though, I’ve seen some challenges in my line of work, but they have only made us better at what we do.
5. Oysters — how do you like ‘em served?
JEFF DeQUATTRO: Raw, grilled, fried, stuffed, fresh, sustainable, and from the Gulf of Mexico.
(Image: Jeff DeQuattro at an Alabama oyster reef restoration project. Image credit: Beth Maynor Young.)