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Oil Spill Research


Reddy has been active researcher on oil spills that have occurred during the past fifteen years1, including the North Cape (Rhode Island; 1996), Bouchard 120 (Buzzards Bay; 2003), Cosco Busan (San Francisco; 2007), and the Hebei Spirit (South Korea; 2007).

He has also directed the most recent efforts to study the long term impacts of oil spills in salt marshes from the Florida and Bouchard 65 that occurred in Buzzards Bay, MA in 1969 and 1974, respectively. These studies have shown that the last remnants of spill fuel continue to have deleterious impacts on crabs, mussels, and marshes grasses today2.

He also studies natural oil spills that occur off the coast of Santa Barbara3,4

Professional Activities

He is an associate editor for Environmental Forensics and member of the editorial board for Marine Environmental Research. Reddy has provided expert testimonies on oil spills for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, US Coast Guard, and US House of Representatives.


In 2006, he was awarded an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship, which teaches scientists to communicate environmental science to the lay public, media, and policymakers. He presents scientific talks to lay audiences throughout the country and has published more than 20 op-ed articles or editorials on science-based issues in, for example, the San Francisco ChronicleThe Boston Globe, and Science magazine. He teaches a course and workshops for science graduate and postdoctoral students on communicating science to nonscientist audiences.


He has received many professional accolades, including the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Prize (2002), given to the “nation’s best and brightest academic researchers.” In 2009, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences invited him to participate in the Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium, the highest honor a scientist under 45 can receive from the academy.

Select Oil-Spill Related Publications (Peer reviewed)

Reddy, C.M. and J.G. Quinn. (2001)  The North Cape oil spill - The fate of hydrocarbons in Point Judith Pond and Rhode Island coastal waters. Marine Env. Res52, 445-461.

Reddy, C.M., Eglinton, T.I., Hounshell, A., White, H.K., Xu, L., Gaines, R.B., and Frysinger, G.S. (2002) The West Falmouth oil spill after thirty years: The persistence of petroleum hydrocarbons in marsh sediments. Env. Sci. and Technol36, 4754-4760.

Slater, G.F., White, H.K., Eglinton, T.I, and Reddy C.M. (2005) Determination of microbial carbon sources in petroleum contaminated sediments using molecular 14C analysis. Env. Sci. and Technol39, 2552-2558.

Peacock, E.E., Nelson, R.K., Solow, A.R., Warren, J.D., Baker. J.L., and Reddy. C.M. (2005). The West Falmouth oil spill: 100 kg of oil persists in marsh sediments. Env. Forensics 6:273-281.

White, H.K, Xu, L., Lima, A.L.C., Eglinton, T.I., and Reddy, C.M. (2005) Abundance, composition, and vertical transport of PAHs in marsh sediments. Env. Sci. and Technol. 39, 8273-8280.

Peacock, E.E., Hampson, G.R., Nelson, R.K.,  Xu, L., Frysinger, G.S., Gaines, R.B., Farrington, J.W., Tripp, B.W., and Reddy, C.M. (2007) The 1974 spill of the Bouchard 65 oil barge: Petroleum hydrocarbons persist in Winsor Cove salt marsh sediments.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 54, 214-225.

Culbertson, J.B., Valiela, I., Peacock, E.E., Reddy, C.M., Carter, A., and VanderKruik, R. (2007) Long-term biological effects of petroleum: Response of fiddler crabs to oil in salt marsh sediments. Marine Pollution Bulletin 54, 955-962

Plata, D.L., Sharpless, C.M., and Reddy, C.M. (2008) Photochemical degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in oil films. Env. Sci. and Technol42, 2432-2438.

Culbertson, J.B., Valiela, I., Olsen, Y., and Reddy, C.M. (2008) Effect of field exposure to 38-year old residual petroleum hydrocarbons on growth, condition index, and filtration rate of the ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa. Environmental Pollution 154, 312-319

Culbertson, J.B., Valiela, I., Pickard, M., Reddy, Peacock. E.E., Reddy, C.M. (2008). Response of salt marsh grass to residual petroleum spilled 38 years ago in Wild Harbor, MA. Journal of Applied Ecology 45, 1284-1292

Wardlaw, G., Arey, J.S., Reddy, C.M., Nelson, R.K., Ventura, G.T., Valentine, D.L.  (2008) Disentangling oil weathering at a marine seep using GC×GC: Broad metabolic specificity accompanies subsurface petroleum biodegradation. Env. Sci. and Technol 42, 7166-7173.

Farwell, C., Reddy, C.M., Peacock, E.E., Nelson, R.K., Washburn, L., Valentine, D.L. (2009) Weathering and the fallout plume of heavy oil from strong petroleum seeps near Coal Oil Point, CA. Env. Sci. and Technol43, 3542–3548.


April 25, 2010
Undersea Asphalt Volcanoes Discovered 
Diving in the submersible Alvin, scientists investigated mysterious, large, dome-like structures that they saw on sonar maps of the seafloor off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. What they found astonished them.
Source: Oceanus Magazine

April 25, 2010
Asphalt Volcanoes on the Seafloor
An audio slideshow: Join scientists as they discover that mysterious mounds on the seafloor near Santa Barbara, Calif., are the remnants of ancient asphalt volcanoes. And read an interview with them.
Source: Oceanus Magazine

May 14, 2009
While Oil Gently Seeps from the Seafloor 
When oil spills in the ocean, chemical changes happen fast—usually too fast for scientists to get on the scene to study what happened. An ongoing natural oil seep off Santa Barbara is giving scientists a chance to investigate these processes for the first time.
Source: Oceanus Magazine

May 28, 2008
Popular Way to Assess Oil Spills Can Be Misused
The technique offers a rapid, low-cost way to locate large areas where oil has sunk to the bottom of rivers and oceans. But that doesn’t mean it can also effectively identify lesser levels of oil that can have harmful impacts on ecosystems and public health.
Source: Oceanus Magazine

April 23, 2007
Still Toxic After All These Years
Does oil spilled in 1969 still have impacts on wildlife? Ask a fiddler crab.
Source: Oceanus Magazine

October 13, 2004
Oil in Our Coastal Back Yard
An oil spill on WHOI's shores set the stage for advances in the science of cleaning up
Source: Oceanus Magazine

July 1, 2003
Oil Spill a Bane for Buzzards Bay, a Boon for Coastal Science 
WHOI chemists respond to a disaster in the Institution's backyard.

March 1, 2003
Oil from Spill Lingers in West Falmouth Marsh

A 30-year-old oil spill persists in Buzzards Bay, just three inches below the seabed