Time flies when you're having fun!

Some harsh winter weather has kept us at bay for a while on the sumberged oil study. A colleague shared his hobby with me and I now have a new favorite passtime...

I don't fly fish, but making these things is great fun!  I am seriously contemplating investing in my own personal fly tieing kit!

SOCS Update

The crew has been rockin'and rollin' and we have completed 8 of our 10 sites in Mississippi.  Albeit in miniscule amounts, we are finding oil.  The dispersant really broke things up and the oil we are detecting is in tiny specs suspended in the water column and on the ocean floor.  Our initial 'presence/absence' search for oil will be enhanced with subsequent sampling.  Following laboratory examination of the samples we submit, the field operations team will decide where our targeted sampling effort will begin.

Some more shots of the crew...

Late winter on the Mississippi coast is surprisingly warm and we have been graced with mild weather, which makes our work a lot more pleasant!  Some more shots from the deck of the Horn Island...

Biloxi Sunrise

Got to the marina early yesterday morning...just in time to watch the sun rise...

Southern Lights?

I have never seen the northern lights (its on my list of things I want to do before I die), but today I saw a very cool spectacle of mother nature...colorful clouds.  Don't know if it was gases in the atmosphere, light refraction...a miracle?, but I have never seen anything like it. 

Sweet Home...Mississippi?

Work on the SOCS project continues, only now I am the team lead for Team 71, operating out of Biloxi, MS.  Our boat, Horn Island, is docked at the Point Cadet Marina right behind the Isle of Capri Casino.  A couple days of rough seas had us on stand down for a little while, but the weather today was wonderful, the seas were calm, and we are back on the grind.  Here are some pictures of the crew at work...

Setting up the sentinels

Our makeshift darkroom for detecting oil under UV light

East Ship Island

Taking a snooze on the deck

Poms, poms, and more poms

SOCS Team 69

Sorting samples

Work on the Alibi continues.  The days are long and the work is hard, but I am enjoying it.  I am working with a civil engineer, a soil scientist, an environmental scientist, and a marine biologist; its really interesting to see the oil spill incident from different perspectives and learn about how each branch of science is monitoring and characterizing the extent of the affects on the Gulf.

In a nutshell, what we are doing is deploying Sentinels, contraptions we put together that have  'pom poms' on them.  They literally look like cheer-leading pom poms and are made of a synthetic fiber that the oil adheres to.  We deploy the sentinels, let them soak for 24 hours, and then retrieve and examine them for traces of oil.  Some of the oil is visible, but after being treated with dispersants, much of the oil has been reduced to minute amounts undetectable to the naked eye.  We have a special box with a UV light in it that we examine the pom poms under. When placed under the light, oil fluoresces a bright orange and we are able to detect its presence.  If oil is found, the sample team collects water and sediment samples which will be later examined in a lab. 

Here are some pictures from deck...

The Alibi

Dave, our deckhand, with a double catch of hardhead catfish

Some of the crew on our lunch break

Stern shot

Me with a cabbagehead jellyfish

My Alibi?...Gulf Shores

So today I began my 3rd deployment to the Gulf working on the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Response.  I am part of a team monitoring the levels of submerged oil off the coast of Alabama.  Our team consists of a 4-person sample team, a BP rep, a federal NOAA rep (me), a boat captain, and his deck hand.  The Alibi, a 57 foot fishing boat, is equipped with everything we need to deploy Sentinels...contraptions that detect submerged oil in the water.  If/when we find it we take samples of the water and the sediment at the site.  This type of work is all new to me and I am enjoying learning more about a different kind of science!

Captain Ed...this guy has been in the military, a Marine Police, Game Warden, Ship Captain, carpenter, you name it.

Coolest part of today...we  caught our own lunch!

 King Mackerel

It doesn't get any fresher than this!

Raptor Rendesvous

Today I spent the day at the Southeastern Raptor Center where I occasionally volunteer doing raptor rehabilitation.  The morning's task was to transport a permanently-injured, non-releasable bald eagle to the Atlanta airport to be sent to her new home at the Dallas Zoo. 

Her wings were fitted with special foam bumpers to protect them during transport.

While we were in the air cargo hangar we saw a man preparing a dead body for transport!  The Delta representative told us that on average, every commercial airline flight transports 1-2 dead people...think about that the next time you are on a plane!

When we got back to the center from the airport, we were informed that 3 of the birds being rehabilitated and occupying outdoor aviaries were killed and eaten by raccoons!  One of the volunteers spotted one of the culprits in the large flight aviary and we had quite the afternoon wrangling it.

She only looks sweet and innocent!