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Oil Spills

Learn About Oil Spills and Their Impacts

Photograph courtesy United States Food and Drug Administration

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a tragedy of enormous proportions that will impact communities and be studied by scientists for many years. Use the resources on this page to help your students better understand oil drilling and the impacts of oil spills. 

Each activity features film clips, maps, and photography from National Geographic’s collection of online articles and visuals about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

Materials created with the generous support of Oracle.

2010 Resources

Layers of Life Diagram

An illustration supplement from the September 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine depicting coastal and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. The illustration addresses damage to ecosystems and dangers to organisms from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Geography of Offshore Oil Map

A downloadable map supplement from the September 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine showing the extensive network of oil and gas wells, pipelines, and platforms found in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Activities for preK-3

Birds, Feathers, and Oil

How does oil affect feathers?

Sorting the Gulf Ecosystem

What are the different types of plants and animals living in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem?

Photo Gallery

Activities for Grades 9-12

Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup

What was done to clean up the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010? How effective were those efforts?

Rescuing, Relocating, and Rehabilitating Wildlife

After oils spills, should humans rescue, rehabilitate, and/or relocate wildlife?


Can the Gulf Survive?

Get the DVD

With exclusive access to BP's clean-up operations, National Geographic investigates what happened to the 4.9 million barrels of oil that poured from the sea floor in one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. From the front lines of the cleanup efforts, National Geographic follows the first two months after the spill, tracking cleanup efforts as experts seek to learn the ongoing effects and BP battles the spill and the public outcry.

Read About It

Gulf Oil Spill

Read the October 2010 National Geographic magazine article that asks the question: Is another Deepwater disaster inevitable?

Learn More

2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Find photos and articles on the worst oil spill in U.S. history to date.

Pictures of Disaster

View photos from the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Gulf Oil Spill—One Year Later

After the worst oil spill in U.S. history, nature has shown surprising strength—but the long-term damage remains to be seen.