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

A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 17 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.

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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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-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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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

 

 

Little Picture

 

2) What are you doing today?

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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.

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Podcasts from The Loop

The Loop is a series of podcasts which take an in depth look at C-IMAGE research. Partnering with Mind Open Media reporters Ari Daniel Shapiro and David Levin, our researchers share the importance of their studies and how they help our understanding of oil spills. David and Ari have produced eight podcasts and have more in the queue. The podcasts are linked below. Plug in and learn about our research!

Listen to More Podcasts!