Tuesday 28 March 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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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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Listen to our Podcasts

  • #10 The Risks for Fish +

    #10 The Risks for Fish What happened to the fish in the days and weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? With a suite of Read More
  • #9 Forensic Oceanography +

    Listen to learn how scientists reanalyzed remotely sensed data taken in the late 1970s to study the Ixtoc 1 oil Read More
  • #8 In the Mud in Mexico +

    #8 In the Mud in Mexico “We were of the mind that with studying the Deepwater Horizon in the northern Gulf we weren’t getting a full Read More
  • #7 The Ixtoc Spill: Reflections +

    #7 The Ixtoc Spill: Reflections The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened just a few years ago, but it might be possible to predict its impact Read More
  • #1 Overview of C-IMAGE +

    #1 Overview of C-IMAGE C-IMAGE PI Dr. Steven Murawski talks to David Levin about the research goals of our center and the importance of Read More
  • #2 Sampling for oil in the sediments in the Gulf of Mexico +

    #2 Sampling for oil in the sediments in the Gulf of Mexico C-IMAGE PI's Steven Murawski and David Hollander on board the Weatherbird II in August of 2012 talking to David Levin Read More
  • #3 The "not-so-visible" impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico +

    #3 The Three years after the BP oil well disaster, scientists are struggling to understand the effects on the Gulf ecosystem. From Read More
  • #4 Fitting the Gulf of Mexico inside a computer: how to build an ecosystem model +

    #4 Fitting the Gulf of Mexico inside a computer: how to build an ecosystem model Mind Open Media's David Levin talks with C-IMAGE members Cameron Ainsworth, Jason Lenes, Michelle Masi and Brian Smith about building Read More
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