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.
So this is my third Mud & Blood cruise, and my focus is definitely on the mud!
My name is Travis Washburn, and I work at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. My dissertation focused on the impacts of oil on the deep Gulf of Mexico communities living in the mud. My lab is hoping to use samples collected in the same places over the last several years to determine how communities in the deep naturally change over time.
Without knowledge on these natural changes it is very difficult to determine whether the Deepwater Horizon spill is still affecting animals to this day or if the changes we have seen over time would have happened regardless of the spill.
While this is the third Mud & Blood cruise I have been on, things feel rather different this go around. For one thing, I was a lowly graduate student during the first two trips while now I am officially a doctor. But there is also a mood on the ship, part excitement, part anxiety, and part sadness, as we all know that this seven-year-old project is coming to an end.
There has been a lot of good science that has come from this study, and now it is up to us to continue this important work in new ways. I am very excited to get back to the lab and look through the mud we have collected.
We left the port Tuesday morning, and in order to get on the schedule of working nights my first task was to go to sleep. We boarded, finished loading gear, went through the standard safety talks, and then I was off to bed until about 6 P.M. (this is one of the easier jobs on the cruise). I woke up just in time for dinner, and then it was the waiting game, reading and writing as the boat slowly made its way to our first station. We came to our first stop around 5 A.M. where we sent our multicorer over the side and hoped that we would get some good mud. Thirty minutes later the corer is back on board with a lot of water, and just enough mud to work for us. We moved on to the next station where we also found a lot of water along with a bit of sand. By then it was after 7 and time to go back to bed to prepare for another night of sampling.