SUITLAND, Md. (AP) -- The Smithsonian's vast collection of 137 million objects can come in handy at a time like this.
Scientists are beginning to determine the full impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and help guide its recovery. But they will need to know about all the creatures that lived in the water before the oil began gushing -- from the commercial shrimp to rarely seen giant squid and microorganisms.
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That's where the Smithsonian comes in. The museum and research complex in Washington holds the most complete set of invertebrate species that live in the Gulf.
The collection will serve as the baseline for measuring the oil's unseen impact on the ecosystem -- and the extent of the Gulf's recovery.