Saturday 27 May 2017

The Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem

A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 19 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.

C-IMAGE Blog

Whether in the field or in the lab, C-IMAGE highlights the research of our members and our students.

Katelyn Knight, Student of the Month, March 2017

Katelyn Knight, Student of the Month, March 2017

The role of microbial communities during oil spills gets a bit of attention due to their role in biodegradation of oil and dispersants. Since 2010, research have discovered that dispersed oil inhibits growth of certain bacteria strains, and biodegradation occurs in different phases depending on the weathering of the oil. Katelyn Knight looks to make her mark in microbial research with her studies on their community structure in response to changes in the marine environment. Her work at the University of West Florida makes her or C-IMAGE Student of the Month of March 2017.

What path did you take to make it to where you are now? Bachelors degree, internship experience, working experience?

I obtained my Bachelors degree in marine biology at the University of West Alabama. While I attended undergraduate school, I worked in a research lab at the university under one of my professors and also volunteered on multiple graduate students research projects. I also did my own research project studying grass shrimp in the Pensacola Bay as an undergraduate for a research in biology class. This particular experience allowed me to take teachings and lectures in class and put it to practical use in the field.

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Bekka Larson, Student of the Month, February 2017

Bekka Larson, Student of the Month, February 2017

Many of the Students of the Month have been involved in their research for several years, but few have been involved from Gulf spill through recovery. Bekka Larson, a PhD student at the University of South Florida-College of Marine Science, has studied the sediment of the Gulf from the months following the spill in 2010 through today. It is Bekka's persistence and dedication to understanding the Gulf's recovery which makes her our Student of the Month for February 2017.

Bekka started her work with sediments and oil spills as a research technician with Dr. Gregg Brooks at Eckerd College Department of Marine Science, and managed the collection of critical cores during the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) response. Her research uses high-resolution core sampling to analyze how the seafloor environment changes after major events like oil spills. Sediments act as history books for the Gulf's past, and Bekka is turning the page of our understanding of the Gulf.

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Susan Snyder, Student of the Month, November 2016

Susan Snyder, Student of the Month, November 2016

The public often asks "Is Gulf seafood safe to eat after the Deepwater Horizon spill?" Short answer: Yes. So long as we're not eating gallbladders or fish livers. Susan Snyder studies ecotoxicology at the University of South Florida-College of Marine Science where she takes tissues and bile from fish and analyzes the amount of oil in them.  Susan is the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for November 2016!

Susan's research focuses on how sick a fish gets when it is exposed to oil, specifically exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), the larger and more toxic components of oil. Her research on PAH Exposure in Gulf of Mexico Demersal Fishes, Post-Deepwater Horizon in Environmental Science and Technology. 

What is the focus of your research? How will your findings contribute to the overall understanding of oil spills or oil spill response?

I measure polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in fish tissues.  PAHs are the toxic and persistent component of oil.  We measure PAH metabolites in fish bile to get a level of short-term (days) exposure to oil.  The idea behind this method is similar to a urinalysis drug test of a human.  We also measure PAH levels in fish liver and muscle tissue to understand accumulation of these contaminants.  Chronic exposure and accumulation of PAHs is linked with negative health effects in fish, such as liver cancer.

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Juan Viamonte, Student of the Month, October 2016

Juan Viamonte, Student of the Month, October 2016

Juan Viamonte, a PhD student in the Institute of Technical Biocatalysis at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), studies microorganisms in extreme conditions. With jars of sediments from the Gulf's floor shipped half-way around the world, Juan cultures the bacteria and repressurizes them to simulate the conditions at the bottom of the ocean. With these lab simulated conditions he is able to provide more accurate estimates of deep-sea biodegradation, important information when developing models during response efforts. The scope of Juans work makes him the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for October 2016.

What is the focus of your research? How will your findings contribute to the overall understanding of oil spills or oil spill response?

My research focus is evaluating how microorganisms can degrade Light Louisiana Sweet (LLS) oil when specific physicochemical conditions, similar to the ones surrounding the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout, are simulated in the lab. With the help of high pressure reactor prototypes, biodegradation reactions are carried out at 150 bar and 4°C, assisted by bacterial communities present in the upper layer of sediments collected near the Macondo well by the C-IMAGE cruises.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Dan Razionale

R/V Weatherbird Log-Dan Razionale

My name is Dan Razionale, and I am currently a Marine Science Undergraduate on the Geophysics track at Eckerd College. My research focuses on various Geochemistry following the Deep Water Horizon Blowout event of 2010. I use sediment cores collected from the C-IMAGE cruises to make integrated graphs and tables illustrating how Reduction and Oxidation (Redox) environments are responding to the blowout event. By separating these cores into very small increments (2-5mm) from the top down, and analyzing them separately, I am able to create comprehensive depth profiles of specific metals in the surficial sediments.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Melissa Rohal

R/V Weatherbird Log-Melissa Rohal

Hi my name is Melissa Rohal I am a PhD Candidate at Texas A&M Corpus Christi working under Dr. Paul Montagna in the Coastal and Marine System Science Program.  My research focuses on the role and value of microscopic animals that live on or in the sediment.  While on the cruise my task was to collect sections of mud from sediment cores for later processing in the lab.

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One Gulf Wrap Up-Dr. Steve Murawski

One Gulf Wrap Up-Dr. Steve Murawski

A Final Blog from the Chief Scientist of the OneGulf Survey

Crossing under the Skyway Bridge into Tampa Bay represents the symbolic end of the OneGulf Expedition – a 40 day voyage of discovery of the biology and geology of the Gulf of Mexico.  Our travels throughout the Gulf took us over 4,000 miles and resulted in literally thousands of samples of fish, sediments, water and plankton.  In one sense the cruise is over, but in another sense it is just beginning.

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Lindsey Dornberger, Student of the Month, September 2016

Lindsey Dornberger, Student of the Month, September 2016

Lindsey is a PhD student at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. She is a part of the Fisheries and Ecosystems Ecology Lab led by Dr. Cameron Ainsworth. 

What path did you take to make it to where you are now? Bachelor’s degree, internship experience, working experience?

I started my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA)  with the intention of studying large land mammals. I’d always had a love for all things cute and fuzzy, and I thought I’d make a career out of it. While in school, I applied for and was selected as one of four biology scholars for the NSF Undergraduate Training in Theoretical Ecology Research (UTTER) program at UTA. This two year program combined biology and mathematics majors in ecological modeling coursework and research projects. Originally I was disappointed that none of the program mentors had a specialty in lion pride modeling, however I did not anticipate how enraptured I would become in epidemiological modeling. The creativity needed to make a mathematical equation that captured the dynamics of disease transmission among bees in a hive was the exciting challenge I didn’t know I had been looking for.

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Will Overholt, Student of the Month, August 2016

Will Overholt, Student of the Month, August 2016

Will is a PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech in Joel Kostka's lab. He is interested in how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected environmental microorganisms, and the possible mechanisms by which the microbial community aided in removing contaminating oil.  The combination of field and lab work makes him our C-IMAGE student of the Month for September 2016. We asked Will some questions so we can get to know him and his research better.

What path did you take to make it to where you are now? Bachelor’s degree, internship experience, working experience and what initially interested you in working with your GaTech colleagues?

From a “birds-eye-view” my path to Georgia Tech and C-IMAGE seems rather straight forward. I have been fascinated with nature and the environment from a young age, and I was an avid birder by the time I was 8 years old. My father is an Entomologist and with a trusty butterfly net we collected, grouped, and displayed insects from every camping trip and walk that we would take. My mother was trained as a toxicologist / immunologist so I was also widely exposed to the names and effects of common household chemicals as well as diseases and their agents. I was fascinated by the enormous diversity of life and would pester my parents with questions of “Why?”, “Why does the male widowbird have so many colors and such a long tail while the females are a drab brown?”, “Why do you have different eagles in forests vs. savannahs, and why are the savannah eagles so much bigger?”

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Diana Torres Galindez

R/V Weatherbird Log-Diana Torres Galindez

Mi nombre es Diana Torres, soy estudiante de biologia de la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, UNAM. 

He tenido la oportunidad de participar en dos de los cuatro transectos del Proyecto de C-IMAGE. En la primera ocasion tome un vuelo a Florida, para reunirme con el equipo de trabajo del C-IMAGE. Zarpamos  de Tampa el 2 de agosto y llegamos a Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico, el 12 del mismo mes. 

Regrese a casa a recuperar energia y regrese al barco el 21 de agosto, lista para realizer un transecto mas de 10 dias. 

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Sherryl Gilbert

R/V Weatherbird Log-Sherryl Gilbert

My name is Sherryl Gilbert and I am the C-IMAGE Program Manager.  On August 17th, I flew into Poza Rica, Mexico to meet my fellow C-IMAGErs just as they were two weeks into their Gulf Wide Fish Survey of 2016.

We are three days into this particular 10-day leg that left Tuxpan, Mexico on August 21 and will arrive in Corpus Christi, Texas on September 1.  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to get away from my more standard C-IMAGE duties and help our students and scientists collect the pieces of this incredible dataset.

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R/V Weatherbird Blog-Kristina Deak

R/V Weatherbird Blog-Kristina Deak

Hi! I'm Kristina Deak, a PhD student with Dr. Steve Murawski at the USF College of Marine Science. This is my fifth year at sea with the Mud & Blood expedition collecting fish with Dr. Murawski.

I primarily study golden tilefish, a demersal fish that loves to make burrows out of mud.  This makes them a particularly attractive species for oil spill research, because they make their homes in the oiled sediment and then remain close by for the majority of their mature lives, leading to continual exposure to contaminants in the vicinity. 

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Dr. Shannon O'Leary

R/V Weatherbird Log-Dr. Shannon O'Leary

I recently discovered that an important component of my research is the fact that I am engaged in a real-life version of Go Fish.

As a postdoc in the Marine Genomics Lab at TAMUCC I study the molecular ecology and conservation genetics of exploited marine fish.

In less science-y terms that means that I use markers in the DNA to identify patterns of connectivity between fish population (so whether fish from one area breed with fish from another area) and explore the interaction with and adaptation on a genetic level and determine how this applies to marine conservation and management of fishes.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Chris Bailey

R/V Weatherbird Log-Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey, fisherman extraordinaire and crew member of FIO's R/V Weatherbird II, has been fishing with C-IMAGE scientists since 2014, and an active crew-member aboard the vessel since 2011. Chris’ role aboard the Weatherbird II during C-IMAGE research cruises is as the main fisherman, setting out and pulling in all of the fishing hooks.

To date, Chris has set and pulled in almost 58,000 hooks!

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Samantha Bosman

R/V Weatherbird Log-Samantha Bosman

My name is Samantha Bosman and I am Research Assistant at Florida State University. Since my last year of undergrad in 2004, I have participated on research cruises almost yearly. Each cruise has been unique and has offered different experiences.

During the One Gulf cruise, I experienced seasickness for the first time as we traveled toward the southern Gulf of Mexico shortly after tropical depression Earl traveled along the coast of Mexico. However, after a full uninterrupted five hours of sleep, I was able to recover and continue collecting samples.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Greta Helmueller

R/V Weatherbird Log-Greta Helmueller

Hello! My name is Greta, and I am an incoming master’s student at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. I originally hail from the great state of Minnesota, which doesn’t have too many oceans, so this is my first time doing any sort of oceanographic fieldwork ever! Therefore, I thought I’d dedicate my blog post to sharing things that I’ve learned about being on a research cruise as someone who has zero experience with the ocean:

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Simeon Pesch, Student of the Month, July 2016

Simeon Pesch, Student of the Month, July 2016

The behavior and mechanics of deep sea plumes is been studied using samples of liquid oil, "dead oil," expelled from nozzles to view turbulence in the plume and estimate how the droplets distribute in sub-surface and surface plumes. But how does a mixture of oil and gases, like methane and known as "live oil," change droplet sizes and turbulence within a plume? Live oil is the natural way oil discharges from a well head, and Simeon Pesch is working to incorporate live oil into future oil fate models.

Simeon is a PhD student at the Institute of Multiphase Flows at the Hamburg University of Technology in Germany. His work with gas plumes makes him our C-IMAGE student of the Month for July 2016. We asked Simeon to share his research within the blog. 

What path did you take to make it to where you are now? Bachelor’s degree, internship experience, working experience and what initially interested you in working with your TUHH colleagues?

In 2009 I began studying process engineering at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and in 2012 I got my bachelor’s degree. During my study I worked as tutor for the Institute of Multiphase Flows (IMS) for several years, teaching undergraduate students fluid mechanics.

In the year 2014 I went to Ghana for an internship in a petroleum engineering company. This was a very intense and instructive experience, not primarily in terms of engineering but also because I learned a lot about the culture and the way of solving problems there.

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Jessica Wonink, Student of the Month, June 2016

Jessica Wonink, Student of the Month, June 2016

During the Deepwater Horizon spill, an estimated 10% of the 210 million gallons spilled remained on the sea floor affecting these benthic (bottom dwelling) ecosystems. This oil finds its way to the sea floor through two known processes, (1) oil floats to the surface, degrades, and sinks to the bottom,known as a MOSSFA event, and (2) sub-sea plumes meet the continental shelf and cover the bottom in oil. To understand the effects of these two processes on benthic ecosystems, researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have set up aquariums to simulate interactions of oil and dispersants to benthic communities.

Jessica Wonink, a M.S. student at Wageningen is studying the interaction of oil and dispersants on macro- and meiofauna found on the sea floor. Jessica is our C-IMAGE Student of the Month for June 2016.

What is the focus of your research, how will your results contribute to improve understanding of oil spills? (What are your research questions?)

I am exploring the possibilities to test the effect of oil spills and related marine snow on benthic meiofauna. These tests have not been done before, so not much is known about the effects that oil spills could have on benthic meiofauna. I want to develop a test method for this. Also I am working with two phd students on an ecotox aquarium experiment with benthic macrofauna. Right now, we are trying to integrate meiofauna in this macrofauna experiment so we can test the effects of oil and marine snow on both groups in the same experimental set-up. By keeping organisms of both groups in the same aquaria, we mimic a more natural environment.

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Marcia Trillo, Student of the Month, May 2016

Marcia Trillo, Student of the Month, May 2016

Our Near-field and far-field modeling group is working to recreate oil spills under varying conditions. Applying strong currents and adding dispersants which changes droplet sizes in computer models can make predicting their eventual fate easier. Marcia Trillo, a M.S. student studying in Dr. Claire Paris' lab, is helping answer questions about oi-water interactions.

Marcia is the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for May 2016. We asked her about her past studies and research for this month's blog.

What is the focus of your research, how will your results contribute to improve understanding of oil spills? (What are your research questions?)

Our goal is to use visualization techniques to trace the evolution of oil plumes and optimize evaluation with observations. We use the CMS (Connectivity Modeling System), which is an oil spill application of the community modeling system, based on a stochastic, multi-scale Lagrangian framework developed by Dr. Claire Paris. The CMS uses the droplet size distribution and biodegradation rates from high pressure experiments as input, and its output is then tested against the data set collected during and post the Deepwater Horizon Event.

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Antonio Nava-Fernández, Student of the Month, April 2016

Antonio Nava-Fernández, Student of the Month, April 2016

The past three months have featured students from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México who study the deep-sea environments and micropalentology. Antonio Nava-Fernández (Tonio) studies benthic foraminfera in the Bay of Campeche.

Tonio is our C-IMAGE Student of the Month for April.

How are your studies and their results helping to understand oil spills?

The results that were obtained on populations of benthic foraminifera, they help understand the effects generated natural and anthropogenic events such as oil spills. This understanding is possible because foraminifera are sensitive to variations in conditions of water mass where they live, they are affected by changes in nutrient availability, O2 concentrations, organic matter, pH and the presence of contaminants, among other factors. These alterations result in changes in the patterns of abundance, diversity, morphology and isotopic composition of foraminifera.

So that by analyzing these populations in stratigraphic sequences collected in areas that have been affected by a stressful event as it is an oil spill, it is possible to know the status of populations before, during and after the spill.

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Adriana Gaytán-Caballero, Student of the Month, March 2016

Adriana Gaytán-Caballero, Student of the Month, March 2016

¿Por qué decidiste estudiar en la UNAM-ICML?/Why did you decide to study at UNAM-ICML?

Elegí realizar mis estudios en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) porque es la mejor universidad en mi país, es pública (da la misma oportunidad de estudio a personas con diferentes recursos económicos), y porque los investigadores que trabajan en la misma, desarrollan proyectos en conjunto a nivel internacional, así como proyectos con enfoques en investigación actual y necesaria para nuestro país.

I decided make my studies on our National Autonomus University because it is the best University in Mexico, is public (same opportunity for students of different incomes) and because researchers at UNAM have international projects and focuses on the actual knowledge needed to our country.

En particular, elegí realizar mi posgrado en el ICML (Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología), debido a que la investigadora Elva Escobar-Briones trabaja en el instituto y es mi tutora. La Dra Escobar tiene una excelente trayectoria como investigadora, desarrollando ciencia de alto impacto en un nivel internacional, en particular en temas de mar profundo.

In particular, I decided make my postgrad on ICML (Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología) because professor Elva Escobar-Briones is working there and she is my advisor. Professor Escobar has an excellent research background, developing science of high impact on international level, in particular on deep sea ecosystems.

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Laura Gómez, Student of the Month, February 2016

Laura Gómez, Student of the Month, February 2016

¿Porque decidió estudiar en la UNAM – ICMyL?/Why did you decide to study at UNAM-ICML?

Porque en el ICMyL se desarrollan los temas de investigación que son de mi interés, los cuales están relacionados con estudios micropaleontológicos, especialmente aquellos realizados con foraminíferos en un  contexto paleoceanográfico.

Because the UNAM- ICMyL develops the research topics that are of my interest, which are related to micropaleontological studies, especially those made with foraminifera in a paleoceanographic context.

¿Cómo sus resultados ayudan a comprender los derrames de petróleo?/How do your results help understand oil spills?

Al comparar la abundancia, diversidad y riqueza de poblaciones de foraminíferos bentónicos en secuencias de sedimento superficial submuestreadas a una resolución de 0.2 mm y colectadas alrededor de la zona de derrame de petróleo (Ixtoc) se puede comparar como se comportaban estas poblaciones antes, durante y después del evento, tratar de comprender como este agente externo “nocivo” repercutió en la ecología de organismos bentónicos, cuanto tiempo paso antes de que afectara a la población y  como ha sido la recuperación de los mismos.

By comparing the abundance, diversity and richness of the populations of benthic foraminifera in a sequence of surface sediment subsampled at a resolution of 0.2 mm and collected around the area of oil spill (Ixtoc) we can compare how the population behave before, during and after the event. With this study we try to understand how this "harmful" foreign agent affected the ecology of benthic organisms, how much time before it affected the populations and how long is takes to be recovered.

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Travis Washburn, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, January 2016

Travis Washburn, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, January 2016

'Why does the deep sea matters?' can be answered differently depending on who you ask. If you ask Travis Washburn, PhD student at Harte Research Institute/Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, he'll describe nutrients moving up through the food web, and ecosystem services of communities living in the sediments - the main topic of his research with Dr. Paul Montagna.

Travis looks to take a seemingly isolated region, the deep ocean benthic communities, and link it to human benefits and the impact of future spills to the seafloor. Travis' work makes him the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for January 2016.

What is your research focused on, how will your results contribute to improve understanding of oil spills? (What are your research questions?)

My research is focused on assessing how the Deepwater Horizon blowout affected benthic communities in the deep Gulf of Mexico as well as effects of natural seepage.  I am also looking at specific benefits that the deep-sea communities provide humans, such as trophic transfer of nutrients and chemicals up the food chain or pollutant burial.  My results should prove very useful in determining the extent and effects of future deep-sea blowouts on the seafloor.  They will also show if and how human-caused hydrocarbon releases differ from areas where hydrocarbons naturally enter the environment.  The examination of ecosystem services provided by the deep-sea will try to partly answer the question “Why does the deep sea matter” as well as help to put some value on damages there.

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Inok Jun, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, December 2015

Inok Jun, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, December 2015

We may never know precisely how oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon well on April 20th, 2010, but C-IMAGE modelers are working hard to understand the intricacies of oil blowouts. Inok Jun is a PhD student at Texas A&M University studying with Dr. Scott Scolofsky and working to understand how deeper depths, the addition of dispersants, cross flow currents, and type of oil affect the fate of oil within an ocean.

We asked Inok several questions about her research, past studies, and inspiration to become an oil researcher as part of the C-IMAGE Student of the Month-December 2015.

What is your research focused on, how will your results contribute to improve understanding of oil spills?

My research topic mainly focuses on understanding and predicting the behavior of petroleum fluids in the ocean using the numerical simulation. The transport and fate of petroleum fluids released in the ocean depend on their rise velocity and dissolution rate. Especially in the deep ocean, physical and chemical parameters of bubbles are potentially affected by the formation of clathrate hydrates, yielding unknown mass transfer effects. In my recent study, I have tried to understand the effect of hydrate on fluid particles in the ocean to predict the oil spills more accurately.

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Jennifer Granneman, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, November 2015

Jennifer Granneman, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, November 2015

Tracking fish throughout their life cycle has improved tremendously over the past decades thanks to advancements in isotope chemistry and natural fish tags. Jennifer Granneman studies the otiliths (ear bones) of fish to see if their exposure to pollutants like oil occurred following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Jen is a PhD student at the University of South Florida-College of Marine Science, and is the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for November.

We asked Jen several questions about her past academic career and path into her PhD research, and here experience using lasers.

What is your research focused on, how will your results contribute to improve understanding of impacts of oil spills? What stage of research are you currently in?

As part of my dissertation work, I am using otolith microchemistry to determine whether several offshore fish species in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) were exposed to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill.  Otoliths are aragonite stones located in the ears of fish that record both fish age and ambient water chemistry throughout the lifetime of the fish.  My project utilizes the ability of fish otoliths to record the environmental conditions that a fish has been exposed to throughout its lifetime to assess the exposure of individual fish to the DWH oil spill.  One of the benefits of measuring otolith microchemistry is that we can establish baseline ambient water conditions that a fish was exposed to prior to the DWH oil disaster. 

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Nine Henricksson, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, October 2015

Nine Henricksson, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, October 2015

Previous students of the month blogs have focused on hydrocarbon degradation at high pressure and in anerobic environments, and remote sensing and optical oceanography. Now we look at a more biological factor studied through C-IMAGE...Microbes.

Although you cannot sea them, the microbes Nine Henricksson works with at the University of West Florida have incredible impacts on hydrocarbon degradation in the Gulf of Mexico. The implications of Nine's work - mapping microbial communities in the Gulf of Mexico determining driving factors for their populations - makes her our C-IMAGE student of the month for October.

Nine is a Master's student at the University of West Florida's Center for Environmental Diagnosis and Bioremediation, studying with Wade Jeffery and Richard Snyder (Virginia Institute of Marine Science). We asked Nine several questions about her path and her research highlighting her as the Student of the Month.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Kate Dubickas

R/V Weatherbird Log-Kate Dubickas

Not many places in the world does time stretch, compress, and become seemingly relative, but the middle of the ocean is one of them.

This includes my last four days aboard the Weatherbird II out here in the near middle of the Southern Gulf of Mexico. A group of five, including myself, Jeremy Browning, Dr. David Hollander, Dr. Patrick Schwing, and Dr. Isabel Romero met up with the Weatherbird II late morning on September 26 to exchange crew and begin our journey back to Saint Petersburg, Florida from Tuxpan, Veracruz.

I was invited on this research cruise as an opportunistic Zooplankton Ecologist. With the fish folks done with their sampling endeavors, our trek back to Saint Petersburg allowed for some Bongo Net deployments along the way; every 45 nautical miles or so. Every 45 nautical miles breaks down to about every 4.5 hours.

My name is Kate Dubickas, I am a second year master’s student at the University of South Florida, and this is my first research cruise where my mission was focused on sleeping in increments of 4 hours and collecting zooplankton.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Jeremy Browning

R/V Weatherbird Log-Jeremy Browning
I have the privilege of cruising back on a transect from Tuxpan, Mexico to St. Pete aboard the RV Weatherbird II, collecting planktonic fish eggs for DNA barcoding. You should know, as I told someone a few days ago: this IS my first rodeo.
 
My previous experiences have been in the realm of freshwater systems, so I am accustomed to grabbing a bucket, a net, and a notebook and wading in a creek for just a few hours collecting crayfish, grass shrimp, and sometimes mussels.
 
Given the lack of experience at sea, and being the type that obsesses over detail, preparing for this trip came with some degree of anxiety. I spent several weeks prior to flying into Mexico planning, packing, and making lists. Of the meticulous planning, I now say: That's cute. Those best laid plans are for naught in the face of circumstance.
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R/V Weatherbird Log-Gustavo Enciso Sánchez

R/V Weatherbird Log-Gustavo Enciso Sánchez

Antes de hacerles saber mis comentarios sobre lo observado en mi corta estancia a bordo del R/V Weatherbird II, deseo agradecer al Dr Murawski la invitación a este crucero.

Before expressing my comments regarding what I observed during my short stay on the R/V Weatherbird II, I want to thank Dr. Murawski for the invitation to participate on the cruise.

En resumen fue una experiencia agradable, observe orden y coordinación tanto en cubierta como en comedor y camarotes. El arte de pesca y tipo de draga empleados fue algo que no había observado antes aunque me llama la atención que no pescaron de noche.

In summary, it was a nice experience, I saw order and coordination on the deck, as well as on the galley and staterooms. I had not seen before the type of fishing gear and dredge used on this cruise and it called my attention that no fishing was conducted at night.

En el B/O Justo Sierra se hace la pesca por arrastre de red y se trabaja durante las 24 horas pero al parecer los objetivos de los estudios difieren. Lamento no haber podido auxiliar más a Brittany y los demás integrantes del equipo de trabajo y me siento un poco apenado de no hablar su idioma. Les reitero mi agradecimiento.

During the cruised on the B/O Justo Sierra, we trawl a bottom net and work 24 hours a day but it seems that the objectives of this study are slightly different.  I am sorry for not being able to provide more assistance to Brittany and the rest of the sediment team and I am embarrassed of not speaking their language. I reiterate my gratitude.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Erin Pulster

R/V Weatherbird Log-Erin Pulster

Day 19 onboard the R/V Weatherbird II for the C-Image II Southern Gulf of Mexico expedition.  Last night, while transiting across Bahia de Campeche, we were able to view the supermoon lunar eclipse, also known as the “blood moon”.  This seems fitting considering our cruises are known as “Mud & Blood”.

I can’t imagine a better place to stargaze and watch such a spectacular event that will not occur again for another 18 years.  Students, scientists and crew were scattered around the Weatherbird with all eyes in the sky.  With every rolling wave, the giant blood moon bounced across the sky, appearing so close as if you could reach out and grab it.  Luna bonita.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Antonio Frausto Castillo

R/V Weatherbird Log-Antonio Frausto Castillo

El trabajo observado para la colecta de organismos y sedimentos nos muestra otras técnicas de pesca así como la toma de las muestras. Donde se puede obtimizar el volumen de muestra para diversos análisis por organismo.

The work observed collecting organisms and sediments samples shows us other fishing techniques as well as taking samples. Where you can optimize the volume of samples for diverse analysis of the organism.

También vemos que el arte de pesca utilizado nos permite obtener organismos de mayor talla y por lo tanto se pueden observar mejor las posibles malformaciones teratogénicas y los posibles efectos de la contaminación en los diversos tejidos y órganos.

We also see that the fishing gear used allows us to obtain greater sizes and therefore we can better observe birth defects and effects of contamination in the various tissues and organs.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Itzel Michael López Durán

R/V Weatherbird Log-Itzel Michael López Durán

En la colaboración del Dr. Steve de la Universidad del Sur de Florida y del Dr. Adolfo Gracia de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México pude observar diferencias en la forma de trabajo; debido a que el arte de pesca nosotros durante 10 años de estudio del Golfo de México hemos trabajado con red de arrastre en zonas costeras por lo que no nos permite obtener muestra de organismos de tallas mayores. Sin embargo en esta ocasión las especies son diversas a las que generalmente se vienen trabajando.

In collaboration with Dr. Steve (Murawski) of the University of South Florida and Dr. Adolfo Gracia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México could observe differences in the form of work; we have been studying the Gulf of Mexico for 10 years using coastal trawl in coastal zones that do not allow us to collect organism samples of the same sizes. However, this time the species are different from those we generally work with.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Martin Ramirez

R/V Weatherbird Log-Martin Ramirez

La experiencia a bordo del buque de investigación Weatherbird II ha sido de gran importancia en mi carrera profesional, ya que me dejó gran aprendizaje, amigos, asi como la interacción con colegas. Todo ello me permitió intercambiar ideas entre diferentes investigadores y pudimos establecer líneas de investigacion con la información que se ha generado entre las instituciones involucradas en esta campaña oceanográfica.

My experience in board of the research vessel Weatherbird II has been of great relevance for my professional carrer. I take with me a lot of learnings, friends, and the interaction with colleagues. This let me interchange ideas with different scientist and we could established subjects for future research with the information generated by the institutions involved in this oceanographic cruise.

Por medio de observaciones a lo largo de esta campaña, pudimos constatar que ciertos peces se distribuyen por todo el Golfo de México, por ello, es ahí donde radica la importancia de los esfuerzos de colaboración interinstitucionales (UNAM, USF, TAMUCC). La complementación de información, generada y por generar acerca de las condiciones del Golfo de México es de gran relevancia para la sustentabilidad de los recursos que genera este ecosistema.

This journey let us see that certain fishes are distributed all a long the Gulf of Mexico, at that point, the inter-institutional  (UNAM, USF, TAMUCC) cooperation is relevant. The complement of information already generated and still to be generated further, about the conditions of the Gulf of Mexico is fundamental for the sustainability of the resources that this ecosystem generates.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Joel Ortega Ortiz

R/V Weatherbird Log-Joel Ortega Ortiz

This cruise has been a great opportunity to investigate fish species that live near the continental shelf edge in the southern Gulf of Mexico and make comparisons to what previous C-IMAGE cruises have found in the northern Gulf.

While fish caught in the deeper stations (golden tilefish, king snake eel, yellowedge grouper and hake) are familiar to researchers who have done the same work in the northern Gulf, they have seen different species on the shelf in the Campeche Bank.  Information on species diversity across regions of the Gulf will be very valuable for the ecological models we are developing for C-IMAGE.

Results from this cruise will be particularly useful for the Atlantis model I am working on, which focuses on Campeche Bay and the areas potentially affected by the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill. Having first-hand knowledge of the fish communities in this area will be useful for my work at USF.

The cruise has also given me an opportunity to return to a part of the world that is dear to me.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Brittany Verbeke

R/V Weatherbird Log-Brittany Verbeke

A little about myself: I was born in Florida, grew up in Colorado, and came back to Florida to go to Florida State University for undergrad. I graduated last fall with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a minor in Geology, and I am currently working as a lab technician in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at FSU.

Previously, I participated in the Northern Ecosystems Research for Undergraduates program through the University of New Hampshire, which included going to Sweden to study the thawing permafrost and presenting a poster at the American Geophysical Union conference. I also worked as a research assistant in the Geochemistry department at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, where I studied stable isotope concentrations of meteorites.

Her Research Interests:

While I am most interested in geology, I love anything and everything to do with isotopes; environmental science encompasses all earth systems whether it is geological or biological, and isotopes provide an important representation of these systems.

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R/V Weatherbird Log-22-23 September Update

R/V Weatherbird Log-22-23 September Update

Location as of 7:34am EDT (11:34 UTC): N 18.9188º, W 94.2364º, Water Temperature: 29.9ºC.

22 September Update (From Shannon O'Leary, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi):

We sampled the deep sights at transect 33 Tuesday. First two sets weren't to exciting, dogfish, lots of wenchmen, a grouper or two and a few snake eels. We did get two large spider crabs, a scalloped hammerhead and we had a bird come hang out a top the Weatherbird flagpole.

We hit the jackpot on the last site (33-150) with 15 tilefish and 15 or so Gulf hake - that means we've caught tilefish in and outside the area potentially affected by the oil spill, similar to the way they've been analyzed in the Northern Gulf. Susan found really high PAHs in their bile (highest ever recorded in a fish if I recall her paper correctly) and now we'll be able to see how that compares to the fish down here.

Today is Amy's birthday, so Thomas disguised the smell of chocolate cake baking in the oven with the shrimp he cooked up for lunch and we managed to keep it all a secret until she came up after her shower. The last station was a long one with that many tilefish getting the full treatment (i.e. Kristina's stuff in addition to all the other samples needed to be taken) and then still needing to work up an additional 15 fish after, so a large piece of chocolate cake was a good way to end the night (I'm still digesting my piece now).

Tomorrow we'll be sampling stations 30-150, 100 and 80.

23 September Update (From Steve Murawski, University of South Florida-College of Marine Science):

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Shannon O'Leary

R/V Weatherbird Log-Shannon O'Leary

“Look at that sea, girls--all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

As usual, Anne (with an e!) says it best. People sometimes wonder why a kid growing up smack in the middle central Europe with the ocean at least a then hour drive away in every direction would always answer the question of what she wanted to do when she grew up with “Something with fish and the ocean”. I shall tell you why: I have always been fascinated by the world around us, animals, plants, the physical environment and how everything interacts. New places always meant new ecosystems and new things to discover.

And in some ways the ocean trumps terrestrial ecosystems, because while at first glance all you see is water around you, it is actually a complex system comprised of many ecosystems interacting with each other, each with its unique set of organisms and characterized by specific physical and chemical properties and so while it take a little more effort there seems to always be potential to discover more and more different things.

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Nuttapol Noirungsee, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, September 2015

Nuttapol Noirungsee, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, September 2015
Nuttapol "Ice" Noirungsee studies biodegredation of methane and methane-oil mixtures at high pressure and low temperature as a PhD student at Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH). The name 'Ice' originally comes from his parents (a Thai tradition for given nicknames), but his colleagues from TUHH think it is for the German high speed rail, the InterCity Express, for his walking speed around the lab and campus.
 
His interest in oil science began through an undergraduate scholarship through Mahidol University where he traveled to met TUHH researchers Rudolf Müller and Ana Valladares Juárez. Keeping in touch with Müller and Gabriela, Nuttapol found an exotic project involving the biologiy and chemistry of petroleum-degrading bacteria. "I was so thrilled that I will know how it feels when building a reactor and talking about oxidizing methane with a monooxygenase!" Nuttapol said. Over the past few years, Nuttapol's research has continued to progress and support the goals of TUHH and C-IMAGE.
 
We asked Nuttapol more about his interests in oil science and how his research contributes to that of TUHH and C-IMAGE.
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R/V Weatherbird Log-Jessie Heckman

 

My name is Jessie Heckman and I am going into my sophomore year at Eckerd College majoring in marine science on a geology track. I have been doing research with Dr. Gregg Brooks for about a year now and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go on this cruise and see the research I do in the lab come full circle. Today was our first day coring and my first time ever coring. Since we were at a shallow site, the whole process was pretty fast pace but a lot of fun.

Even though I went into coring not knowing much about the process, I came out much more confident. Everyone on the ”mud” crew was super informative and helpful (and patient) whenever I had questions or was unsure about a step in the coring process. I can’t wait for round two!

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Boryoung Shin

It has been a week on R/V Weatherbird for 'Mud and Blood' cruise. We have been lucky to have nice weather and successful core sampling. I've collected top 10 cm sediment samples and sea water samples to use for cultivation experiments. I also sectioned core sediments in fine scale from a few sites to analyze microbial community in sediments by depth.
 
This cruise has been really impressive because we have female students only and we really have showed 'girls' power' by great teamwork. I am excited to meet other people on second leg and I hope it will go smoothly as well.
 
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R/V Weatherbird Log-Kristina Deak

 

Greetings from the northern tip of the Desoto Canyon!

 After two slow days of fishing, we hit a couple of excellent sampling locations yesterday and were up until 2 AM processing all of our tilefish.  When a fish comes up we have to rapidly bleed it and collect a few very time-sensitive organs.  We use almost every organ of the fish, so each dissection is quite exhaustive.  Afterwards, the fish are filleted by the crew and everyone furiously tries to scrub scales and blood off of themselves and sleep as much as possible before the next long line set.

 

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Alejandra Mickle

"This research cruise is my 8th cruise in the GOM; my 4th aboard the R/V Weatherbird II but only my third cruise sampling sediments and using the CTD.

 

My overall research interest align w/ the biology and ecology of deep sea fishes and, for the most part, my trips to the GOM involve longlining for deep sea telosts & elasmobranchs. However, this time, my advisor Jeff Chanton, asked me to help out and represent him on this Mud and Blood curse. I was happy to help! I always.. or almost always, enjoy time at sea!

Although I have been on cruises to collect sediment cores and CTD samples in the past, I have always only been involved with the retrieval and collection of samples-never with the deployments of the multicorer. This time, I had the opportunity to be a part of the deployment operations and was able to learn how things need to be set up on the machine before it goes out to sea, adding another tool to my skill-set field work.

Even when this trip had no direct involvement with my research it is always great to come aboard the Weatherbird (last time was 2012). The crew is always fantastic and extremely helpful and Thomas' meals are delicious! It was also great to work with on all female science crew. These women work really hard, often through the night to collect samples that will provide valuable data for their research. Most importantly, It is really enjoyable working with them and seeing them all work together for the advancement of science."

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R/V Weatherbird Log-Erika Fredrik

16 August, 2015:

Night and day have become reversed roles to what I'm used to on a daily basis at work. During this research cruise, biologists longline during the day and geologists, like myself, core at night. As a scientist I have been condition research in the lab on BP oil spill samples for a little over two years now. Today, I got a hands-on opportunity to see how these samples are retrieved in the field.

Being able to work alongside experienced scientists made me appreciate science as a whole and helped me see how important it is to obtain complete core samples. At 7:30 am this morning, I deployed my first 8-core multicorer and moved these samples to a transfer post where I put a transfer collar on top of the coring tube-moving our samples into polytubes. After capping, taping and labeling a core, it was on to the next one!

'Strenuous, Muddy and Attentive' is how I would describe the field work on deck. Until today, I thought the majority of the effort dedicated to these samples was done in the lab. Turns out, I was wrong. Both these jobs are difficult; field work is simply more physically exhausting. While I may only be deploying an extruding for a relatively short period-I know that the stakes are high for samples taken at priority sites and it is crucial to remain focused and work together to get the job done. 

I love forward to getting dirty with my fellow scientists and cannot wait to see what the rest of this research cruise has to offer!

Until next time, Seas the day!

Erika

Image: Brigid Carr (Eckerd College) and Erika Fredrik (USF-College of Marine Science) prepare cores for deployment in the northern Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Liz Herdter)

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R/V Justo Sierra Returns to Port

As of 10:30a EDT, the R/V Justo Sierra, crew and C-IMAGE researchers are back in port at Brownsville, TX and the first of our summer cruises is in the books. Researchers will begin dividing cores for analysis back to their respective universities, where the real work begins to uncover the mysteries of Ixtoc.

Dr. Patrick Schwing (USF-College of Marine Science), Cruise Coordinator & Co-Chief Scientist has some final words from the Return to Ixtoc cruise:

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.--Henry Ford

As the coordinator and co-chief scientist for this cruise, I was able to witness nearly every aspect of this cruise materialize, from conception to execution. By the numbers, the cruise was a great success. Our science party represented eight institutions and collected samples for a total of sixteen different laboratories from more than ten institutions. Despite some initial delays (e.g. leaving Tuxpan 48 hours behind schedule due to equipment shipping delays) we were still able to retrieve water measurements, water samples, and sediment samples from 37 of our planned 50 sites. This is in addition to deploying the instruments twice at five priority sites and only missing retrieval of sediments at one out of twenty priority sites. But numbers can only say so much about the success of a cruise.

The real success story is how well the science party and the Justo Sierra crew functioned as a team. I am grateful for all the hard hours that everyone worked, often waking up before their shift and sometimes working many hours after their shift until all the work was done on deck and in the labs. By the second site, the entire science party had the deck and laboratory operations down to…well…a science.

This cruise would not have been possible without support from the groups at UNAM-ICML, who not only expedited the shipment of equipment to Tuxpan, but also helped with customs and port operations in Brownsville. We are very grateful for their assistance onboard and off.

Amongst all of the science operations and business to be done, we tried to keep it fun onboard. More so than all of the work, most of us will probably remember the great people, the Sunday barbecues, the sunsets, the Abkatun gas flares, the midnight movie screenings, minion cookies, avenger stickers, and quotes that are only funny at 3:30 in the morning after a long shift. But most of all, I will always remember how well the science party and the crew came together to make such a successful cruise.

As we pull into the port of Brownsville, I can only hope that this cruise and the samples we collected will provide a platform for the many groups affiliated with CIMAGE to produce great science and many publications, provide a repository of valuable samples for future studies, strengthen the network of young scientists studying the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, and ultimately contribute to the legacy of C-IMAGE and GOMRI.

Signing off from the Justo Sierra,

-Patrick Schwing

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R/V Justo Sierra Log-Travis Washburn

My name is Travis Washburn, and I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi.  My research focus is on deep-sea infauna, or the small worms, crustaceans, and mollusks that live in the mud on the deep seafloor (benthic communities).

There are many different animals that live in the sediment, some can thrive in areas that have low oxygen or are contaminated by oil and other chemicals, while others will die.  Thus by examining the animals that make up the communities at specific locations we can begin to determine whether the areas above them are healthy or not.  I am using the benthic communities to help assess the damages done by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the deep Gulf of Mexico.

During this cruise we are examining the benthic communities around the IXTOC wellhead which produced a large spill off of Mexico close to 40 years ago. By doing this we hope to learn about the changes we may expect in the future around the DwH wellhead.

Today just so happens to be my 32nd birthday, and I thought it only appropriate that I write the blog for today. While it is a little disappointing that I cannot have a beer today, being out at sea with a good group of scientists, and by now my friends, more than makes up for it. I actually got a cake with candles, and per Mexican tradition took a large bite out of the cake before cutting it. I am still trying to get the last remnants of icing out of my beard.

Things have started to wind down somewhat now as the end of the cruise comes into sight. The breaks in between stations have gotten longer as we begin to make our way back to US waters. Everybody has managed to catch up on all of the sleep they missed out on during the first parts of the cruise, more or less, so people are more talkative (and coherent).

The work is going easier since everybody has found their rhythm, but today is especially hot, so most everybody is keeping inside when they can. The seas are very calm which makes the work easier as well; however, there is hardly any wind. The bottoms of my boots have begun to melt off, so I guess it is time to retire them when we get back to shore.

Our lab alone has already collected several hundred samples which I will drive back to school when we dock on Monday. Once there the slow, tedious process of separating all of the animals out of the mud and identifying them will begin. It is always amazing to think how less than two weeks of sample collection will result in over a year of work back in the lab by several people. I am looking forward to being home with my girlfriend and dog, but I will miss the excellent Mexican food aboard the ship as well as our science party and Mexican counterparts. I hope to stay in touch with my new friends and will most likely see many of them in the future as I continue my work in the deep GoM.

Cover Photo: Adriana Gaytan-Caballero & Travis Washburn search for benthic infauna including worms, crustaceans, and mollusks from the southern Gulf of Mexico (Credit: Sara Lincoln).

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R/V Justo Sierra Log-Rachel Kalin

4 August 2015:

 

It is August 4th and days are already starting to blend together. Time is only relative to mealtime and deployment times.

 

My name is Rachael Kalin and I am part of the core transferring team. I am a student at Eckerd College and am the lab technician for Dr. Gregg Brooks. We work with short-lived radioactive isotopes, namely 210Pb, in order to determine sediment ages within the past ~100 years. We also determine texture and composition of the sediments using grain size and carbonate analyses.

 

Today was probably my favorite day aboard the R/V Justo Sierra so far.

David Levin from Mind Over Media and USF’s own Joel Ortega joined us for the morning and afternoon, which was a nice change of pace. Luckily all of our deployments went off without a hitch. To blow off some steam after our deployments we played some catch with a ball of mud and a mud fight broke out. On transit to out next site we saw dolphins and rays on the bow. We still have a few hours of transit left until out next site, so I’m going to catch a quick nap before an eventful night.

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R/V Justo Sierra Blog-Will Overholt

2 August 2015:

 

Day 3 on the Justo Sierra and everyone is starting to figure out their roles. It was a bit of a rough start. At the first site I almost dropped a precious core, and one of our instruments (an oxygen sensor) was not working correctly. By now though, we’ve sorted out the kinks and are beginning to act like a well-oiled machine.

 

I should back up a bit, my name is Will Overholt and I’m interested in mud, specifically the bacteria that live in mud.

On this cruise I have been collecting the mud to try and discover if the tiny microorganisms (predominantly bacteria) are still reacting to oil from the Ixtoc oil spill. I am interested in a tiny subset of bacteria that can eat oil, and are important in removing oil from the environment. In addition to collecting the mud for analysis back in the lab, we are monitoring the oxygen in the mud to get a sense of how much carbon (food) there is, and what types of bacteria we can expect at different depths.

On the Justo Sierra, I’m working the 8 – 12 shift with Paco, an engineer from UNAM. Since we’ve figured out the routine, and the sites are still fairly far apart I’ve been able to enjoy a bit of the finer sides of cruise life (namely ridiculously large amounts of delicious food, incredible views, and fantastic company). It’s been so much fun to practice my (awful) Spanish with the very friendly Justo Sierra cruise members as well as with Paco and the other UNAM members, and to learn some of the more interesting Mexican flavored Spanish slang. I’m looking forward to another 2 hours of transit time, before settling down for a long night of playing with mud. Life is pretty good!!

--Will Overholt is a PhD Student at Georgia Tech working in Dr. Joel Kostka's microbial ecology lab.

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R/V Justo Sierra Log-Dr. Isabel Romero

You can follow Dr. Isabel Romero on twitter, @IsabelR0mer0

 

1 August 2015:

 

Good seas keep us on track!

 

The beautiful weather has shortened the transit time a great deal these first days, as the sites are spread far apart.  Also, the R/V Justo Sierra is a 160 feet vessel, much larger and faster than the R/V Weatherbird (which we have been using for the past few years [for northern Gulf cruises]). With the weather on our side and a faster boat, we may be able to catch up on the time lost waiting for our gear to arrive to the city of Tuxpan, Mexico.

It is fair to say that Tuxpan turned out to be a very nice and warm city, with extraordinary food and authentic markets.  There were lots of people on the streets, even entire families walking around late at night. People welcomed us with open arms and were very delighted to share their culture and food with us.

After a long transit of about 20 hours, we arrived to our deepest site (3800 m depth) this morning at 9:00 am. The site is located at the eastern most portion of our cruise track on the northwest corner of the Campeche Bank. Scientists spent the transit time processing their samples, preparing for the next round of samples to be collected and decorated styrofoam heads. Yes, you read it right! It’s becoming a tradition now to decorate and send styrofoam heads down to the bottom of the ocean to commemorate and remember the good times on our cruises. And, this time we have a few styrofoam Mexican skulls as well!

At 1:30 pm we received the water samples from the CTD and two hours later we got nice full sediment cores. We were all very excited to see the laminations [types of layering] present in the core we split, which kept us busy for a while. Also, we got back all heads and skulls looking good and shrunken by about 50%.

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R/V Justo Sierra Log-Nicola Zenzola

It's been 2 days at sea and I still have the will to keep searching for answers.  This is not my first research cruise, but there is something about the open sea that makes it look like a brand new undiscovered place.  The sea always hooks me in.

So far, we have been to 3 sites SL26A-250, SL26A-750 and IXNW-1600, and collected about 36 sediment core samples.

My shifts are from 12:00-4:00 AM and PM, and my primary deck operation is using the oxygen probe and conducting micro extrusions. I collect oxygen concentrations down core to make an oxygen concentration profile and investigate microbe activity in each sediment layer. Working the night shift has proven to be amazing, not only because it is cooler, but because marine organisms come out. Last night I spotted a couple of squid and 2-3 flying fish. Each day is different at sea, you just don't know what we are going to discover in the sediment or what we might encounter.

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Shaojie Sun, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, August 2015

Shaojie Sun, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, August 2015

Shaojie Sun is a graduate student at the USF-College of Marine Science. Originally from China, he is working towards his PhD in Dr. Chuanmin Hu’s optical oceanography lab.

Sun research “is focused on using satellite images to detect and quantify oil distributions during the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill.” In other words, he looks at satellite images to see where the DWH surface oil went. He also has collaborated on a project deriving the surface oil trajectory of the IXTOC-I oil spill.

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Boryoung Shin, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, July 2015

Boryoung Shin, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, July 2015

We asked Shin a few more questions, and her responses prove that scientists are human too!

(Q) What are you doing today?

(A) I am still recovering from jet lag so I feel a little sleepy honestly (She has just returned from Korea). I have to do lab work during the day, for example, making culture media, doing dishes, sequencing data analysis, etc. I am planning to go to the gym in the evening.

(Q) What are your aspirations (for your research and/or after you graduate, life goals, etc.?)

(A) My major goal in life is to have a happy family by balancing well between my career and family. I cannot decide which career path I want to follow between academia and [corporate] so I want to consider all chances for now. My short term goal is, of course, getting nice results from my work and publish cool papers.

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Aprami Jaggi, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, November 2014

Aprami Jaggi, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, November 2014

Aprami Jaggi is a PhD student studying the partitioning behavior of xenobiotic compounds typically found in oil releases in seawater. She is a student of Steven Larter's and Thomas Oldenburg's out of the University of Calgary's Petroleum Reservoir Group.  She was asked two questions about her research and her daily activities.  

Big Picture

1) What is your research project and why is it important and relevant to the GoM? 

My dissertation research is focussed on the study of the partitioning behaviour of xenobiotic compounds into seawater systems. Xenobiotic compounds are exogenous chemical species (not normally synthesized by an organism) which have the potential to instigate acute or chronic toxicity in organisms, even causing death in extreme cases. Such compounds are found majorly within petroleum and its release in the environment typically follows accidental spillage. The unprecedented quantity of oil released during the blowout of the Macondo well, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, led to an increased interest in the environmental fate of crude oil xenobiotics.

I aim to experimentally determine the partitioning behavior of water soluble oil components using live oils (methane-charged) with saline waters over a varying range of pressure and temperature, as seen along the depth of the water column. This data will aid in near-field and far-field distribution modeling of the environmental fate of crude oil components of interest (BTEX, phenols and other compounds which might be observed using FTICR-MS and LC-MS technologies) and assist in the prediction of component migration pathways from potential oil spills.

 

2) What are you doing today?

Today, I am conducting bench top experiments using the oil from the DWH spill (Source Oil B) to form emulsions with water. I will be analyzing the variation of emulsion separation times with the change in temperature and composition of brine. Further, I will analyze the separated water for the presence of hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon species (oil constituents partitioning into the water) using GC-MS and FTICR-MS. The data will provide useful information about a broader range of oil components (and hopefully some less volatile compounds which are less affected by lab procedures) to extent the partitioning behavior knowledge to a larger group of xenobiotics.

The GC-MS provides useful information about the structure and concentration of low molecular mass species (especially hydrocarbons) that partition into the water. FTICR-MS technology provides a much more comprehensive analysis of partitioning oil components into the water, especially species containing polar functional groups including compounds of higher molecular mass.

Thank you, Aprami!!!  Next month we'll talk to another C-IMAGE student about his/her research... Stay tuned!

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Shokouh Rahsepar, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, October 2014

Shokouh Rahsepar is a PhD student studying the biodegradation of oil with other particles present. She is a student of Alette Langenhoff's and Martijn Smit's in the Department of Environmental Technology out of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.  She was asked two questions about her research and her daily activities.  

Big Picture

1) What is your research project and why is it important and relevant to the GoM? 

The aim of my research is to improve our understanding of these individual processes, and specifically the effects it has on the biodegradation of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The outcomes of this study will improve the decision support system to select the most effective response option at oil spills.

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Emily Chancellor, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, August 2014

Emily Chancellor is a MS student working on larval fish exposure to oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  She is a student of Steve Murawski's out of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida.  She was asked two questions about her research and her daily activities. 

 

Big Picture

1) What is your research project and why is it important and relevant to the GoM?

My thesis research focuses on estimating the proportion of larval fish of economically important species that were exposed to oil during the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).  Larval fish play an important role in determining adult fish populations and are especially vulnerable to oil.  Many economically important species spawn in GoM waters during the time period of the DWH oil spill and their larval fish were likely exposed.  Understanding the proportion of larval fish exposed by species will contribute to understanding the impacts of the DWH oil spill on long-term health of these important fish stocks.  I am looking at historical records of larval fish abundance in the GoM from the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) database and modeling these abundances against the extent of the DWH spill in order to estimate the proportion of each species affected.  I am also investigating how time of year and ocean factors correlate with larval distribution to see if I can predict larval abundance and proportion exposure to hypothetical GoM oil spills occurring in different times and areas.

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Katelyn Houghton, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, September 2014

Katelyn Houghton is a MS student working on the impacts of oil and dispersants on bacterial productivity in the Gulf of Mexico.  She is a student of Wade Jeffrey's out of the Department of Biology and the Center for the Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida.  She was asked two questions about her research and her daily activities. 

 

Big Picture

 

1) What is your research project and why is it important and relevant to the GoM?

 

 

My thesis project is focused on the effects of MC-252 oil and Corexit9500A dispersant on bacterial production and community structure.

 

Bacteria are the most abundant and dominant life forms on earth and within the marine environment; they are the primary mediators of oil biodegradation. Biodegradation is the breakdown of complex chemicals by microbes into carbon dioxide and water.  This process allows the otherwise inaccessible carbon to be utilized by higher trophic levels, feeding the microbial loop.

 

It is important to understand the effects of the oil and corexit mixture on bacterial production and community structure because of their critical role in the marine ecosystem. Without a healthy functioning microbial community the higher trophic levels would suffer.

 

 Little Picture

 

2) What are you doing today?

 

 

Today, I am working as a Biology intern at the EPA, Gulf Ecology Division. Currently, I am at my desk checking emails.

 

When I am not glued to the computer I can be found in the molecular lab, preparing samples for DNA sequencing. We are currently working on a project focused on developing genomic indicators of nutrient enrichment in aquatic ecosystems.

 

 

Excess nutrient loading is a leading cause of decreased water quality, and as such it has become a priority to assess impacts and develop an early indicator system.

 

Thank you Katelyn!!!  Next month we'll talk to another C-IMAGE student about his/her research... Stay tuned!

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Kristen Dahl, C-IMAGE Student of the Month, July 2014

 

 

Little Picture

 

2) What are you doing today?

 

Today, I am continuing a literature review on DNA barcoding methodology and placing supply orders. This molecular technique analyzes differences in short sequences of DNA from a "barcode" region of a mitochondrial gene to match unidentified specimens to known sequences held in global databases. In lionfish, this technique will be useful in determining the exact prey items consumed that are no longer identifiable to species because of digestion. This methodology is precise and requires expensive laboratory reagents, so careful research between biotech companies is necessary order the correct materials while following my budget.

 

 

Thank you Kristen!!!  Next month we'll talk to another C-IMAGE student about his/her research... Stay tuned!

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Gulf of Mexico research vessel meets visiting engineer from Hamburg, Germany

Guten Tag everyone and welcome to my blog!

My name is Saman Hosseini or just Sam and I am a visiting engineer from the University of Technology Hamburg - Harburg (TUHH), one of the C-image partners. I have the opportunity to be on the Weatherbird II with a group of scientists from the University of South Florida (USF).

Due to high winds, we left St. Petersburg, Florida last night (Nov. 6th) at around 5:30 p.m, a couple of days later than expected to hit our first measuring spot: The Florida Middle Grounds.

Being on a research vessel for the first time and with the expected bad weather, I made sure to take my motion sickness medication a day before leaving and so far I can say: I'm fine ;). I hope it stays this way, even though we are expecting high winds tonight.

This morning, around 6 a.m. we started the first rounds of testing the C-BASS system, a piece of technolgy that is currently in the development and test phase. C-BASS stands for Camera-Based Assessment Survey System and it is being developed to be used for fish and habitat surveys. It has 6 cameras and sensors measuring salinity, temperature and depth.

Right now, we finished recording the first determined path and we are moving towards the next one.

If the internet connection allows me, I will try to log on here and post texts and pictures day by day in order to show you what we are currently up to and explain some of the science that is being done out here. All I can say for now: It's pretty impressive!

Bis bald,

 

Sam

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