No one doubts that an oil spill is a serious environmental crisis. Besides being a mess, it’s often immediately deadly to birds, fish, and mammals. This body count — as grim as it sounds — is an important tool for researchers to measure the impact of the spill.

But how do we account for the creatures affected by oil spills which don’t immediately die? Recently, a team from the Mote Marine Laboratory was in Sitka to study this very problem.

The basement of the Sitka Sound Science Center is packed to the gills with fish. A pair of huge tanks with several hundred young coho salmon, known as smolt, sit in the middle of the room. Lining the walls are another 25 tanks or so, where the coho were exposed to various amounts of crude oil.

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