POINT MUGU, Calif. - Students from Cal State Channel Islands are skipping their summer vacations to document the Refugio oil spill.
The students have been hard at work since the spill occurred, combing beaches from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles County.
The environmental science research team from Cal State University Channel Islands usually goes beach to beach counting sand crabs and documenting beach health, but now it is also documenting the amount of tar found on local beaches.
The students are looking for tar balls, and oil on the surface of the ocean, as well as oil in the sand or on marine wildlife.
"There is definitely more tar on our local beaches than average. I have seen," said CSUCI student Reily Pratt.
"You know, it is still concerning that there is more tar," said CSUCI student Tevin Schmidt.
"Up in Santa Barbara we have a lot of oiling directly on the beach but as we get farther away and down in Los Angeles and in Ventura County we are seeing very very patchy amounts of tar much higher than we would normally expect," said professor Sean Anderson.
To find out just how much tar is related to the spill compared to natural seepage, the researchers are using a baseline-- measurements and observations taken from local beaches before the spill occurred.
"We are studying this and the sand crabs to get a rough estimate of beach health because that is what everything feeds on on the beach, including birds. So by studying those communities over a long period of time, we can understand those communities and when something like an oil spill happens we get a better estimate of what exactly an oil spill will do to those communities," said Schmidt.
The team said the research is critical to find out the long-terms effect the oil spill has on our environment.
"As a scientist it's an excellent opportunity for us to look at the impacts and say these are the impacts we had as people and what do we need to do to fix this," said Pratt.