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.