We’re all at the airport now, awaiting our flights back to Oregon, Maryland, and Florida. There is a van on its way back to Michigan with a freezer full of fish samples from the trawl. The shipping company will be picking up our stuff from the LUMCON docks today or tomorrow and we should have it back in our respective labs sometime early next week.
Despite some setbacks, we had an overwhelmingly successful cruise. Early on it was unclear if we would be able to get all of our transects in, due to the weather and the simple fact that we had an ambitious plan, but in the end, we dropped one at the far eastern end. On the right is the final plot of our preliminary data showing all of our transects.
In some ways we had a dual purpose on this cruise. We have done quite a bit of work on the hypoxic “Dead Zone” in the Gulf, and its impacts on fish and zooplankton, so we continued that work, which was originally funded by NOAA (CSCOR office). But our intent was really to examine that region with respect to the oil spill. We did not see any overt visible oil anywhere, but there were some interesting patterns in the CDOM sensor that we will have to tease out to see if there is a hint of oil anywhere. We have some samples for chemical analysis that will be run in the coming weeks and months too, which will give a more definitive answer to the question of whether or not there was oil in our sampling area.
Oil definitely made it into the bays and marshes near where we were sampling, and in Cocodrie, LA we saw some of the impacts of the spill. Marinas where fishing boats were docked had controlled access, and restaurants were closed to the public because they were feeding BP workers and contractors. There were shrimp boats bedecked with oil booms where there were likely nets just a few months ago. But that’s all anecdotal, and the full story will continue to emerge as our data is processed and the data from other researchers in the Gulf region work up their samples.
One thing I always try to impart to grad students is that science is really about stories. What we do means nothing unless it gets out for people to understand and advance it. These stories take various forms, through science writing, peer-reviewed articles, blogs, and presentations. I hope this blog provided a little insight into what we do, and how and why we do it. If it was enjoyable too, well that’s just grand. I’ll be slowing down on the entries in the coming days and weeks, until our next trip to the Chesapeake, but I’m having fun doing this and I hope those who are reading it are having fun too.