Sunday 22 October 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.

Nathali Schmid, Student of the Month, August 2017

Nathali Schmid, Student of the Month, August 2017

C-IMAGE is developing computer models to estimate the fate and concentration of oil. But a major factor of predicting this accurately is knowing what the droplet size distribution was at the well head in a high pressure environment. Tasks 1 & 2 are working together to integrate high-pressure experiments and computer models to provide first responders an accurate estimate of where oil is going.

Nathali Schmid, a M.S. student from the Hamburg Univeristy of Technology (TUHH) recently traveled to the University of Western Australia as part of a student exchange program. Working with Dr. Zachary Aman, Nathali is learning new ways to answer the same question, 'what size are the droplets coming from deep sea well during oil spills?' 

How has your experience been traveling to Perth and the University of Western Australia in the student exchange program?

During the ‘2nd Symposium on Deep-Sea Oil Spills’ at Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) in September 2016, I met Prof. Zach Aman for the first time and that is where we figured out a concept for a collaboration. I started to prepare some experiments without even knowing if I will actually be going to Perth. By the time everything was fixed I got really excited.

I have got relatives in Perth which were very welcoming and made Perth feel like home to me immediately.

My first visit to UWA was super impressive as well. The campus with it’s relaxed atmosphere is right next to the beautiful swan river where I enjoy my lunch every now and then.

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Melissa Rohal, Student of the Month, May 2017

Melissa Rohal, Student of the Month, May 2017

Melissa Rohal, a PhD student at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is on a mission to stick up for the little guys. They're not as attractive as dolphins or sea turtles, but benthic macrofauna are all the rage in the deep ocean. Small animals like worms, copepods and nematodes fill a key role in the food web and act as indicator species of the health of the ecosystem.

While working on her PhD at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Melissa works to understand the impacts of oil spills on deep-sea ecosystem services provided by meio- and macro-faunal communities. Her researcher and ability to 'stick up for the little guys' makes her the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for May 2017.

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

When I started my education all I knew was that I wanted to study the ocean, so I took a broad approach and entered the Marine Science Program at Coastal Carolina University.  The course work looked at all aspects of oceanography including physical, geological, biological, and chemical.  As I progressed through my degree I took an internship at the Ripley’s aquarium while also helping my professors with research.  From these experiences I discovered that research was what I wanted to pursue.  I was unable to get into graduate school right away so I took a job at the Columbus Zoo helping the keepers in the shores area.

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Xiaoxu Sun, Student of the Month, April 2017

Xiaoxu Sun, Student of the Month, April 2017

Natural oil degrading microbes play a critical role in the ecosystem's response to oil. These bio-degraders are found throughout the Gulf, especially in areas of natural seeps. Different groups of bacteria degrade oil in different stages - first, secondary, and late responders. Their role in cleaning up surface spills is highly studied, but how these degradation processes occur at depth might be quite different.

Xiaoxu Sun, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology School of Biology and Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, designs experiments to test the biodegradation process in high-pressures. By simulating the conditions microbes experience at depth, Xiaoxu can assess the impacts of dispersants on degrading oil. His work makes him the C-IMAGE Student of the Month of April 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 Environmental Engineering in China. After that, I came to US to pursue my master’s at Michigan State University, where I studied anaerobic degradation of hydrocarbons in groundwater systems including BETX (benzene, Ethylene, Toluene, and Xylene).  I loved my research experiences at MSU and I wanted to know more about bioremediation processes.

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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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