It's hard to fathom exactly what the White House communications people were thinking in their slap-happy pronouncements about the Gulf region. Were they genuinely unconcerned about their results being called into question? Did they not think Gulf residents would be disturbed by massive fishery closures only yards away from open recreational areas? Did it not occur to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that dozens of researchers would quickly descend upon the area, taking samples of everything from dead frogs to seafloor sediment?

We will probably be left to ponder these questions for years to come, but with a wave of reports coming in from research vessels scattered across the Gulf one thing has become very clear — the Obama administration stands corrected and should be much more careful in issuing future safety proclamations when the data has yet to be vetted by ... umm ... real scientists.

The report today from the University of Georgia that 70-79 percent of the BP oil still remains in Gulf waters (some of it in dispersed form, but much of it accumulating on the sea floor) dramatically counters the claim by NOAA head Jane Lubchenco that 75 percent of the oil is "gone" from the system, and fresh evidence of contamination in the food chain from Tulane University may make local residents think twice about eating Gulf seafood.

Two research teams are now beginning lengthy studies of the environmental impacts on the region. Paul Orr of the Mississippi Riverkeeper association (above) is collecting samples from the delta area, and a large team of scientists has just set sail aboard a Greenpeace research vessel to perform an in-depth analysis on coral reefs, sponges, plankton, and potential "dead zones" in the Gulf caused by oil-eating bacteria — none of which have been properly studied.

Paul Horsman is the campaigns director for TckTckTck — the largest coalition of climate and energy NGO's in the world — and he is on board blogging from the ship daily. The trip will result in huge data samples that will be studied for years to come in an attempt to truly understand just what happens to an ecosystem when a disaster of this magnitude occurs. As Paul says:

The research is likely to raise more questions than answers. But this is the start of trying to see what the impacts of this spill have been. It will take many months if not years before the full account of what happened here will be known. In the meantime, we can call our government to account, we can stop the industry expanding and continuing as if nothing had happened. We must continue to demand a shift from environmentally destructive energy sources to clean renewable energy.
Teams of scientists in the Gulf question government findings
Independent researchers from Tulane, the University of Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Greenpeace, TckTckTck, Mississippi Riverkeeper all launch studies of Gulf oil po