July 31, 2019–Meet the scientists!
When swapping at-sea stories with colleagues, we can all agree that who you share the boat with will easily make or break a research cruise. As a consortium project, there are 18 scientists representing four institutions on board the R/V Point Sur, all with different skill sets, levels of experience, and paths that brought them to the CONCORDE team. While it may seem a bit crowded for one boat, we all brag about how well everyone gets along. Not only has everyone shown great interest in each other’s projects, there has also been a lot of scientific discussion, shared information, and talk of future collaborations, especially among the early career scientists aboard the ship. When remembering that the term “Concordia” is Latin for harmony, this project could not have been more appropriately named. We feel very proud to be part of such a great consortium and are so excited to see the future careers of everyone coming from the CONCORDE team!
Dr. Christian Briseño-Avena – Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University – Christian, a post doc from OSU, is the Chief Scientist for the Summer CONCORDE cruise and has been excellent at coordinating research activities. He also operates the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS) to examine zooplankton distributions within the water column with fellow post-doc Dr. Adam Greer. Christian has been on many research cruises including one across the Equator where his Polywog name was “Stupid Penguin.”
Kevin Martin – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi –the Field Operations Coordinator for the CONCORDE project, sometimes referred to as the equipment extraordinaire and logistics guru, Kevin served as co-Chief Scientist on this cruise. Kevin operates the CTD, POGO, and is always on standby when needed for the mininess and ISIIS. We really aren’t sure where we would be without Kevin on board! Kevin has spent many days at sea or traveling to remote locations for research. He has even taken a submersible 900 m down in the Gulf of Mexico and been bitten by a penguin in Antarctica.
Dr. Alan Weidemann – Naval Research Lab – Alan is the principal investigator on board. We have thoroughly enjoyed his mentoring and guidance while on the R/V Point Sur. He has shown extreme interest in each person’s research and has been a great pleasure to work with sharing his life and career experiences throughout the whole cruise. If you ever get a chance to sit down and chat with him, ask him about the Royal Society of the Killer Daphnia!
Dr. Alison Deary – Division of Coastal Sciences at University of Southern Mississippi – Ali is a post-doc under Dr. Frank Hernandez at the Gulf Coast Research Lab at USM. She served as Chief Scientist during the Spring CONCORDE cruise. Currently, she is mentoring master’s student, Angie Hoover, to look at larval fish condition throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico. Ali is not new to research cruises. In fact, she has done research in both hemispheres and is known for wearing her lucky corgi socks aboard the ship while managing plankton sampling operations.
Dr. Adam Greer – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Adam is a post-doc under Dr. Monty Graham at USM and contributes to the CONCORDE mission by managing operations of the ISIIS. He served as Chief Scientist on the Spring cruise and uses in situ imaging to study zooplankton distributions in the northern Gulf of Mexico with Dr. Christian Briseño-Avena. Adam has been working with the ISIIS since he was a graduate student. He has never been on a research cruise without it.
Dr. Hannah Box – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Hannah is a post-doc for Dr. Alan Shiller studying submarine groundwater discharge using radium. Her academic background has been very focused in chemistry in the lab. She likes environmental topics and wanted to add that component to her chemical research. So, she found a perfect fit with CONCORDE, where she points out that, “Most labs do not have windows,” and has thoroughly enjoyed being out in the field again. She has had some amazing opportunities in the past surveying, tagging, and identifying Great White sharks in South Africa; so, returning to marine realm has been gratifying!
Adam Boyette – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Adam is a PhD student under Dr. Monty Graham studying lower trophic levels particularly focusing on the interactions between the primary producers and grazers. His interest in oceanography was derived from harmful algal blooms but he has enjoyed the opportunity to branch out during his studies at USM. Even though he works with lower trophic level research, he is often a proponent of higher trophic level sampling. In fact, he caught our lunch today and prepared a tasty cioppino, or fisherman’s stew.
Peng Ho – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Peng is a PhD student under Dr. Alan Shiller studying trace metals. For her dissertation, she’s analyzing trace metals that were collected through an NGI project to also look at submarine ground water discharge but this particular data set did not include radium sampling. Although, her dissertation will not include CONCORDE, she is here to perfect her radium sampling technique with the help of Dr. Hannah Box. Peng has come to the University of Southern Mississippi all the way from Taiwan and has been able to do a bit of traveling across the country since being here. She really enjoyed visiting the Grand Canyon and San Francisco!
Lauren Quas – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Lauren is a Master’s student under Dr. Ian Church in the Hydrographic Science Program at University of Southern Mississippi. She uses the multibeam to map the sea floor for CONCORDE with an emphasis on acoustic backscatter to quantify grain size of the seafloor sediment. Lauren got her B.S. in geology and spent much of her time wading in creeks in Memphis, TN which left her reminiscent of her time along the shore and brought her equipped with a geological background to the department of USM’s Hydrographic Science Program.
Maxwell Williamson – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Maxwell is a master’s student under Dr. Ian Church in the Hydrographic Science Program at USM. His main interest is in mapping the seafloor, which he learned to appreciate during his three years living on a sail boat. His goal is to use the multibeam data to develop better nautical charts.
Kelia Axler – Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University – Kelia started working on the CONCORDE plankton team from the Gulf Coast Research Lab, transitioning over time from technician to graduate student. She will be starting her Master’s at Oregon State University this fall and will be studying some aspect of larval fish ecology in relation to river plumes and/or hypoxic regions in the northern Gulf. After our Bonnet Carré Spillway cruise, Kelia sailed from Mississippi to Florida in a 25 ft sailboat to take a scientific scuba diving course in the Florida Keys.
Allie Mojzis – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Allie is a technician in Dr. Monty Graham’s lab at USM as well as the Facilities Manager of the Division of Marine Science. Marine science has been her passion since she was twelve years old and she treasures every opportunity to conduct at sea research. Her first research cruise in 2010, in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, was on the R/V Cape Hatteras, the sister ship of the R/V Point Sur.
Sarah Muffelman – Division of Coastal Sciences at University of Southern Mississippi. Sarah is a technician in Dr. Frank Hernandez’s lab at Gulf Coast Research Lab at USM. She enjoys sorting and identifying icthyoplankton and zooplankton. She has worked with Dr. Hernandez for ten years. When Sarah was a kid she made a pen pal because she found a message in a bottle which added to her interest in coastal science!
Carla Culpepper – Division of Coastal Sciences at University of Southern Mississippi – Carla is a technician in Dr. Frank Hernandez’s lab at Gulf Coast Research Lab at USM. Back in the lab, she spends her time counting and identifying invertebrate zooplankton and has been fishing the mininess for the last seven years. You can always count on Carla to provide a music playlist to get the boat rocking!
Sydney Acton – Dauphin Island Sea Lab at University of South Alabama — Sydney is a technician in Dr. Jeffrey Krause’s Lab at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Her research entails phytoplankton productivity rates where she spends a good portion of her time on the vessel in the rad van using radio isotopes to assess productivity. Sydney actually has a background in Biomedical Science and finds her time aboard the ship to be a whole new world.
William Dobbins – Dauphin Island Sea Lab at University of South Alabama – William started as an intern in Dr. Jeffrey Krause’s Lab at Dauphin Island Sea Lab in March. The summer CONCORDE cruise is his first research cruise! He is here to help filter water as his lab looks at phytoplankton abundance, biomass, and productivity. He has really enjoyed his first cruise aboard the R/V Point Sur and looks forward to many more research cruises!
Laura Whitmore – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi- Laura is a PhD student under Dr. Alan Shiller researching methane flux which when coupled with radium sampling can support the presence of submarine groundwater discharge. This is her first cruise in the Gulf of Mexico since she conducts most of her research in the arctic. Laura is also excited to be participating in a cruise to the equator soon!
Antonio Pliru – Division of Marine Science at University of Southern Mississippi – Antonio is a PhD student under Dr. Monty Graham at USM studying the benthic life stages of Aurelia, a type of jellyfish. Antonio was quick to step in when the plankton team needed an extra hand. The time aboard the R/V Point Sur has added to his more than 350 days at sea which has included a swim call in the middle of the Atlantic over an Atlantic Ridge in 4500 m of water.
This is our last blog post from the R/V Point Sur! We would like to thank all of the scientists and crew for their hard work as well as Tara Skelton, our land based contact, for her amazing work publishing our daily blogs.
Ali, Carla, and Kelia
July 29, 2018–Hypoxia blog
During the process studies for the Fall and Spring cruises, we were interested in sampling stratification and freshwater plumes, respectively. We decided to change gears for our Summer campaign and for our current process study, we are looking to sample low oxygen areas, more commonly known as hypoxia. The northern Gulf of Mexico is infamous as the second largest hypoxic region worldwide with the areal extent of hypoxia sometimes being about the size of Massachusetts! For us at CONCORDE, we are interested in examining hypoxia during our process study because it can change the distribution of plankton in the water column. Some depths, especially near the bottom, do not contain enough dissolved oxygen to support many creatures. In addition, the extent of the hypoxic conditions can be influenced by the amount of freshwater added to our system, nutrients, and stratification. Aboard the R/V Point Sur, each of our research teams has ways to measure the oxygen in the water ranging from sensors mounted on our sampling gear to Winkler titrations in the wet lab. With today’s blog, we want to highlight the different methods we us to look at hypoxia during our CONCORDE cruises.
July 28, 2016–Crazy Critters!
When the average person discovers that we are marine biologists, they typically assume that we study dolphins, whales, or large pelagic fish such as sharks. But for us CONCORDE biologists, the tiny critters that drift and float passively through the seawater are our charismatic creatures. While seemingly insignificant to most, these microscopic organisms, collectively termed “plankton,” are the base of the food chain and a critical source of nutrients for many larger aquatic lifeforms, such as the aforementioned fishes and whales. Plankton is made up of bacteria, algae, crustaceans, fish larvae, fish and invertebrate eggs, worms and so much more that pique our curiosity as researchers on board the R/V Point Sur. The CONCORDE biological division consists of graduate student Adam Boyette, who uses a FlowCAM to image phytoplankton; Dr. Adam Greer and Dr. Christian Briseño-Avena, who use the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS) to image zooplankton; and Dr. Ali Deary, Carla Culpepper, Sarah Muffelman, Kelia Axler, and Antonio Pliru, who use plankton nets to sample for larval fish and zooplankton and a microscope camera to photograph interesting critters. See below for a selection of images taken by the biological team’s FlowCAM, ISIIS, and microscope camera during the CONCORDE cruises.
July 27, 2016–Point Sur Cuisine
One thing people might not realize about research vessels is how well fed we are while on board. Research on a boat can be very labor intensive and sitting down to a good meal can easily be the highlight after a long day of sampling. Here aboard the R/V Point Sur, Chef Alex Forsythe prides himself on preparing the traditional favorites while always creating a well-balanced healthy meal. He goes above and beyond to provide beverage and entrée options, but requests are always encouraged. No cruise is complete until we have had at least one Taco Tuesday. Some other favorites amongst the scientists are gourmet s’mores, hamburgers, steak, and tiramisu. He also makes a mean biscuit and gravy and there seems to be a never-ending supply of bacon. Full, happy scientists make for a full, happy cruise!
For more of Chef Alex’s culinary treasures, please follow Point Sur Cuisine on Facebook!
July 26, 2016–Meet the Crew of the “Point Sure”
Since the beginning of the CONCORDE project, a few of us researchers have begun fondly referring to the R/V Point Sur as the “good ol’ Point Sure,” because it became immediately obvious that the crew would do anything they could to help the scientists. The crew has come from a variety of different backgrounds with decades of collective time spent aboard commercial and research vessels. From the Gulf of Mexico oil fields to the Alaskan fisheries, the crew has a wide range of experience to contribute to running a successful, safe, and happy ship.
July 25, 2016–Equipment and Instrumentation
Now that we are in our second full day of sampling, the collection process is becoming routine, although it is often punctuated with amazing moments, like a double rainbow or a sea turtle sighting (both of which happened today). For the rest of the summer cruise, we are going to highlight some of these moments. For today, we will immerse you in our lives as researchers and crew by detailing how we collect our various samples. It can take many years, dedicated people, and expertise to use and troubleshoot our innovative equipment.
July 23-24, 2016–Let the sampling commence!
A Day in the Life of a CONCORDEian Onboard the R/V Point Sur
After nearly 48 hours of preparation, mobilization, and calibration, we’re finally here to do what we came to do! We completed the multibeam patch test in time to reach our first station, situated just east of the Chandeleur Islands. The night crew hit the deck at 7:30 pm with enthusiasm and collected water from eight different stations throughout the night, using a variety of sampling equipment. In addition to using a variety of gear, the water team looked at both the chemical composition and phytoplankton, which are microscopic marine plants, throughout the water column at each station. The following morning, the plankton team deployed their nets just after sunrise in an effort to support our plankton imaging system (ISIIS), which is towed for six hours during the day centered around local noon. The ISIIS is pulled through the water column behind the R/V Point Sur at five knots, continuously collecting images of Gulf of Mexico microscopic life. Simultaneously, the multibeam team used acoustic signals to continuously map the seafloor in order to inform the CONCORDE researchers of the changing bottom topography during sampling efforts. Not long before sunset, the plankton team cast their nets back overboard to collect the last set of daytime samples, just in time to give way to the water team as they returned to deck for night sampling.
July 22, 2016–Mobilizing for Research
Mobilization, or as we like to call it “mob,” is the staging of the vessel for a scientific cruise. This involves packing any equipment that could potentially be used for collection of samples, experiments, or data processing and transporting it to the ship. This requires a lot of planning and forethought, as once we are at sea, we cannot simply go to the store. Once at the port, the ship and science crew work through rain or shine to set up the vessel for research, which entails cranes, hardhats, and teamwork!