Course blogs MNS354Q 11-Su

Course blogs of Marine Environmental Science class (MNS354Q) in 2011-Summer

(Note: original photos are lost during transfer process)


 

Lab #2 

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 The photos below this description are comprised of the day’s events (not in chronological order) and vividly display young scientists learning invaluable field techniques including utilization of a sonde and refractometer, ground water extraction, water sampling, tests for H2S and more. The day started with a trip to the Port Aransas waste water treatment plant where we witnessed the processes that various human wastes go though before being released which involved coarse screening, aeration for bacterial decomposition of waste, settling/further screening, and chlorination. Water samples were then collected at the waste water output site.
 Next was a visit to the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center where a myriad of birds were observed. Water was also taken here for further analysis in the lab as well as for the H2S and water quality tests.
 We then took samples of water nearby the WWTP where most of the water had high salinity. It’s interesting to note that the ground water samples had a lower salinity. Just past the neighborhood observation deck, Chris literally took the largest fall for the group and saved the cooler of test equipment by sacrificing what was left of his already dwindling comfort.
 The last collection site was thoroughly challenging for B team. The Sun was seemingly beating down on us both figuratively and physically as we sank further and further into the sediment with each step. Despite the challenges, we gathered valuable data and had a great time in the process.
 It’s safe to say that we came back more seasoned scientists than before and developed a deeper understanding of the local area as well as the intricate processes that take place as a result of each and every flush we produce.

When nature calls 

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In this lab (06/09/11) outing our tasks were to collect water samples.  Luckily we were not measuring nitrate and ammonium.  Sometimes you just have to ignore your peers, pop a squat, and eutrophicate!!!


Health Therapy Day 

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On 6/16/11, the class had a nature adventure in the local salt marsh area and had a good dose of health therapy, after having some reality check at the local waste water treatment plant. The students enjoyed the hot bubble bath and mud pack therapy accompanied with salt aerosol breathing. Some also enjoyed tasting fresh and succulent organic plants in the nature garden (Salicornia and Batis). Overall, I think it was a very healthy workout for everyone… 

 
Look how serious they looked at the reality show they were watching.

 
They wanted to be in harmony with bacteria family down there.

 
With ever boosted appetite, they were assimilating more energy for the day.

 
Hot bubble bath site. Hmmm, so warm, and taste just right…

 
Team B(est) members are discussing about the value of salt aerosol breathing.

 
They are boasting their treated legs after having some mud pack therapy session.


Lab 2: Eutrophication

Posted by Melissa Griffin at Thursday, June 16, 2011 10:07:36 PM CDT

So what happens after you flush the toilet? This question was answered today when we visited the Port Aransas Waste Water Treatment Plant. I was hesitant to say the least but it turned out to be pretty interesting; however, there was a point in which the smell was so strong it made my eyes water. I found out that the bacteria used to breakdown sewage actually came from our bodies. In class, we are currently studying eutrophication and the implication is has on coastal ecosystem.

 

After, the WWTP we drove over to the Port Aransas Birding Center and took water samples. Building a boardwalk for viewing birds that are attracted to the freshwater is ingenious! It was pretty hot and we did not see very many birds but there were some Roseate Spoonbills flying in the distance.

 

We then ate lunch under Charlie’s Pasture Pavilion before splitting into our 3 groups. I was in group A along with Katelyn, Hesper, Aubrey, Matt, Steve, and Crystal. We were led by Dr. Shank. As all the other groups loaded in the van to start sampling we began to hike.

 

It was hot and windy and a couple group member compared it to the book Holes by Louis Sachar. We soon found our first sampling site. It wasn’t what I expected because it was very shallow and in order to get near the water you were ankle deep in black sediment. The smell of sulfur was strong. Our salinity and temperature reading were so high that it made us question the equipment but after realizing how shallow the water was and with evaporation our readings were likely correct. Then we were off to our next site. It was a very long, hot hike back into the marsh and I found it unlikely we would find any more water but we did. Again, it was quiet entertaining watching us wade through the mud in order perform the tests.

 

After, we trekked back towards the pavilion and stopped at one last site, the channel. In addition to testing the channel, we had an opportunity to clean off our shoes a little bit. On the way back to the lab, Dr. Shank treated us to slurpees for our hard work. Upon arriving at campus, we unloaded the van and headed up to lab to begin analyzing our samples.  Not a bad day!

 
When I saw this sign I thought, “Seriously!” Then we found out one of the guys that use to work there actually drank the water!

The aeration chamber…

Aubrey using the sonde at our first site.


Aransas Bay Banter, by Kathryn Mendenhall 

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Six in the morning only three weeks into summer…dang. Eh, it’s not that bad. A bit of breakfast, some lab equipment load up, and we were off on the C-Hawk with Captain Britt. The group included Charlie, Bud, Laura, Emily, Melinda and I. There I was sitting there on the boat thinking, “I’ve never used a single piece of this lab equipment other than a GPS. Should be interesting.”

The first station was quite entertaining in the fact that by the time we were half way done with data collection, we were closer to the second station than the first. Was it going to be like this at EVERY station, because if so, it’s going to be an extremely long day? I discovered that Sonde’s are both entertaining and aggravating, but I think the latter is more or less the current’s fault. In the words of Bud, “UGH. I didn’t even touch it!” Our group had the equipment use down to an art form after the first three, finishing all data collection at all nine stations by 11:15. Most everyone took a long nap on the boat ride back after we all ate lunch.

Unloading the boat was followed by water-quality testing in the teaching lab, testing carbon dioxide, alkalinity and hydrogen sulfide. It was fun trying to interpret what ‘violet gray’ and ‘blue gray’ looked like during the various titrations. An early finish sent us all on our way to wait for the other lab groups. Three hours in the computer lab and two super-long marine science articles later, the other lab groups finally arrived after getting stuck in the dreaded ferry line. The whole day was ultimately a success with the only downfalls being half-sunburned faces, red-legged kayakers and the loss of clear sample bottles. 


Bay Day! 

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On June 9, 2011, the class has conducted the hydrographic surveys and water sample collections in 3 different bays in the Aransas estuary system in Texas: Aransas, Copano, and Mission Bays. Each team worked on a separate boat in the designated area during the day for better understanding of physical and biogeochemical processes in the local bay system. The R/V C-Hawk worked in the Aransas Bay (primary bay), R/V Dr. Cleo in the Copano Bay (secondary bay), R/V Shearwater in the Mission Bay (tertiary bay) with 3 tandem kayaks.

 
Photo 1: Aransas Bay team on R/V C-Hawk

 
Photo 2: Copano Bay team on R/V Dr. Cleo

 
Photo 3: Mission Bay team on R/V Shearwater (and kayaks)


I chose the right major…

Posted by Melissa Griffin at Saturday, June 25, 2011 1:21:46 PM CDT

Well lab three was mostly a success… with the exception of a few sun burns! The purpose of the lab was to learn about basic beach process such as beach debris, beach profiles, and submarine groundwater discharge. It started off with a trash pickup. My partner Crystal and I were at first optimistic; seemingly there wasn’t too much! We even took one garbage bag. Upon closer inspection we realized we had clearly underestimated the amount of trash we would pick up and had to head back for another bag.

After garbage pick-up we merged into larger groups and worked on creating beach profiles. This was a little tricky! We soon figured it out and worked through our two stations. Lunch was followed by a swim call. It was times like these I realize I chose the right major!

The came to the end as we surveyed the beach for submarine groundwater discharge and talked to Tony Amos about beach debris. We were all exhausted and a little red! All in all a success! However, there was one message many of us won’t soon be forgetting… Plastics can kill…


Gratification 

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There is pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not man the less, but Nature more….-Lord Byron

Indeed, Byron spoke the exact words that I’m sure the majority of us were thinking during Lab #3 on San Jose Island. Collection of trash was carried by group pairs to conduct a beach survey. Aubrey and I found lots of bottle caps and various plastics on our venture toward the private fence line, some that we were unable to identify because of there origin. Do countries have a different system? Or do they have a plastic identification system at all? These are some questions we asked while roaming the beach. We found various kinds of trash and nicknacks, including a creepy plastic doll and a large metal drum bigger than Aubrey. We considered pushing it back…but it didn’t work out. Dr. Shank was kind enough to help us with the heavy trash bag on the long walk back.

There is nothing more satisfying than a long swim call on the beach after picking up tons of trash. No need to worry about the storm system developing off shore, for it’s colossal grey clouds seemed to miss us by only a margin as a small spitting of rain drops before toppling over Northern waters. We ate wraps for lunch…again…before enjoying the exhilaration of the ocean once more. Eventually we made our way out of the water and divided into bigger groups for beach profiling. Most everyone liked to job of eye-leveling due to its ability of making the user look like a true “Columbus”-adventurer.

Tony Amos and Guy Davis stopped by during their beach survey to give a talk about trash and the way it has changed over time in today’s society. It’s surprising to think that the US didn’t start drinking bottled water until the 1980s. I’ve always wondered what the benefit of it being stocked in pantries was when there’s free water coming right out of the kitchen sink tap.

Walking back to the ferry was bit difficult with loads of trash and gear, but oh so worth the gratification of looking behind at a beautifully clean beach. Anyway, it was good exercise :). We all loaded up into two different Shearwater trips across the channel and hid under towels from the sweltering heat of the sun. Burnt to a crisp, all of our red feet trudged back to teaching lab for a short debrief before taking quick showers in time for dinner. So despite exhaustion and having cherry red ears, the day brought many of us an ultimate sense of joy.

 


A day in the life of poop 

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Last Thursday we visited the Port Aransas WWTP and got to see what everybody ate for dinner the previous day, recycled of course. It was very informative, and somewhat reassuring, to see the processes that clean and treat our waste water before it is returned to the environment. Our group, C team !, went and took samples at the marina, airport, beach and UT MSI pier. We had a close encounter with a small plane trying to land while we were on the run way. Sometimes its necessary to risk some students in the name of science, fortunately none were sacrificed to the WWTP alligator. We had a successful outing and a lot of fun,

Justin Cuervo


Questions… 

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Hello everyone!

I am currently working on lab 2, and I am trying to match up the data with the sites, but I am having a hard time doing so. I am trying to go by the thumb-tack names given on the google map in the lab description (like eutro 1, ref 1, etc.). Could someone from each team put their coordinates with the corresponding label? I’m sure this will make writing the lab report a little easier for everyone. I tried typing in the coordinates to google map, but I guess it doesn’t know how to read them. Also… do we have to write a comment for each lab blog posted? Thanks!!!

My team’s stuff: (team C)

eutro-12: 27 50.330N, 097 04.029W
eutro-13: 27 48.542N, 097 85.218W
eutro-14: 27 48.413N, 097 05.140W
second eutro-14: 27 48’476N, 097 05.254W
ref-1: 27 49.643N, 097 03.184W
ref-2: 27 49.641N, 097 03.184W


Tar balls are not balls… 

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So yesterday in lab we learned about tar balls (which are not actually ball shaped) and the impacts of oil spills on our lovely coastal environments. Now honestly, seeing a bird or any other marine animal coated in oil is just depressing. But playing with the solid oil debris which washes up on shore can be fun. As we discovered, tar can come in many shapes, can be malleable or brittle, it smells bad, breaks like obsidian (go geology!), and is not a bad art medium…
 
Now I’ve honestly never brought this stuff home with me (though my boyfriend has stepped in it and tracked it into my apartment…) but it personally would not be my first choice for a beach souvenir. 
Oil spills are not wonderful events, they can have horrible impacts on sensitive coast environments, shut down fisheries, and cost millions of dollars to clean up. But they’re also not the worst things either. If we just let nature take its pace and degrade the oil naturally, we might be better off leaving it to mother earth to take things back to balance.
Ps.
That ship, Bitu Mountain which “tried” to make a U turn in our ship channel a few days ago and got stuck, well it came back into port yesterday, without causing trouble luckily this time

San Jose beach day! 

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Of all the labs this had to be the best! It started out pretty cloudy which was nice but once that sun came out, the water went fast. Picking up beach debris was not all that glamorous but you can learn alot from beach trash. Finding that dead sea turtle was pretty sad though. But all the sadness aside, it was a pretty great trip. Listening to Mr. Amos was pretty informative. But the best part had to be when we were all tired, dehydrated and sunburned waiting for the boat to come get us then all of a sudden, a spotted eagle ray starts jumping, heck, flying out of the water! Totally worth it! But I admit, I learned some pretty important lessons that day
1. Littering is bad, and water bottles and their caps are the most common of beach litter.

2. Private islands are the best place to find shells and sand dollars.

3. Remember to bring plenty of water and reapply sunscreen EVERYWHERE! So at the end of the day your things and butt aren’t burned (…learned that lesson the hard way)


Stinky Lab Day 

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Hey again!

Well, this is pretty unlike me, but I felt like putting off all of the other things I need to write, so here it is: a blog where I actually finish something way before the due date!
Today we had our last lab for Dong-Ha. It was pretty fun and informative, and I enjoyed learning more about oil spills. My favorite parts had to be handling the tar balls and watching the really cool oil spill simulation. Attached are some photos that I feel pretty much sum up the lab experience – Tar smells gross, Dong-Ha gives great lectures, and Drew takes too many pictures.
Collins

Lab #4 

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Today in lab we encountered tar balls, oil samples and a bombardment of interesting knowledge. The talk consisted of informative details on the characteristics of  oils, shoreline assessment, oil spill planning, inspection of tar balls and even called upon our creative minds to produce oil spill scenarios with the newly acquired enlightenment. Even though we weren’t out in the field enjoying the waters and UV rays, the lab indoors was just as genial. The highlight of the day was unquestionably our time spent observing tar balls. We played with them as if play-doh, cracked them to expose the unmistakably conchoidal fracture that’s typical of obsidian, and one of us even created beautiful tar art. As class went on and we realized more and more that this was our last day of lab, the saturation seemed to fade from the room, much like the color in my photos has (since this blog page seems to alter the tones of uploaded images). As I dropped the evaluation forms through the mail slot of the administration room, I had the stark realization that the summer is half over.
“Lucky for me” I thought to myself, “these memories will stay with me long after the forms hit the floor”.
One of the many side effects of oil spills
Hesper lana gracefully penning
Steven likes poking things
 
Peers were intrigued by today’s samples
 
Some annoying guy kept taking photos during the whole lab lecture.

TAR! What is it good for? 

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Well, apparently it’s a decent medium for art… but really, are there any ways we can recycle or reuse this stuff?
I decided to do a little research on the internet to see if the stigma surrounding tar is entirely nasty or if perhaps it might be good for something.

  • In Northern Europe, pine tar (coming from the wood and roots of pine trees) was used as a water repellent on the hulls of wooden ships and as roof shingles… As you might have guessed, they don’t do that anymore. Not since the invention of steel of ships and people figured out how to build decent roofs.
  • Tar is still used as an additive in the flavoring of candy, alcohol and other foods…. wait! really? Hold on, this deserves further research. Apparently tar is used to flavor a Finnish Liquorice (from Finland) called Terva Leijona (google it) and their alcohol called Terva Viina.
  • As an anti-dandruff agent in shampoo (do you think Head and Shoulders should get on that?)
  • Cosmetics and soaps (the new mud mask?)
  • Medicinal uses that relieve itching and skin rashes such as eczema. An old Finnish proverb says that “if sauna, vodka or tar won’t help, then the disease is fatal.”

So, the unfortunate news is that all of these products come from Pine Tar and not Coal Tar (which is actually carcinogenic). After discovering the many uses of pine tar,  I was curious to know if it could be used as a fuel alternative (like ethanol), but as far as I am able to conclude from research, it would not be a sufficient source. Kind of interesting to think about though.
 


A Day on San Jose 

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Every day out in the field teaches me something new. Our day at San Jose Island was no exception. We started the day picking up trash, sorting and classifying everything we found. But even after an hour we had not come anywhere close to removing all of the debris. I am a member of the Campus Environmental Center’s Recycling Team and realize the importance of recycling, especially limiting the use of plastic bottles as does the rest of the class. But the average person throws things away thinking there are no consequences. Out of sight, out of mind. I think that trash pick up days promote the idea of recycling to the general public and help keep our beaches accessible. 

Then we surveyed the beach, creating a profile and measuring slope. We took a break for lunch, and of course a day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without some surfin’ and swimming. 

After a long, long day in the sun, here are a few things I learned…
Dune jumping is fun, slightly painful, but fun.
There are eagle rays in the channel.
These rays jump. High.
And no matter how many layers of sunscreen I apply, sunburns are inevitable


The Black Plague 

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Fossil fuels have influenced our lives in many ways. It seems, now days, that they are so entrenched in our society that there is no possible way to get rid of them. Of course it’s nice to get in our cars, which are run by these oils, and go to the store, which can also be powered by these oils. Fossil fuels have made our modern way of life very convenient. But with pros, there are always some cons. These fuels can make life very inconvenient for other organisms if we are not careful. We looked at tar balls today in lab that were found right here in Port Aransas. Tar balls can be natural, but there’s little doubt that many of them are anthropogenic.   But on the brighter side of things we got gummy worms

 
The marine environmental science lab is definitely one of the best lab courses I’ve had yet. Doing field work in the bays, estuaries, marshes and on the beach is so much more enjoyable than O. chem lab.


Fun in the Sun 

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This past lab definitely had a lot in store for us. Looking at the beach in San Jose Island, you would assume that it was relatively clean. However, as evidenced by the amount of trash that all of us were able to collect, so much was hidden from my first impression! Afterward, we were able to measure the elevation of the beach, and then have some play time! Some were enjoying the surf, others were learning how to surf, and Hesper, Jen, Jessica and I jumped off about an eight foot dune into a sand pit. After break time, the class broke off into groups to find the search for groundwater discharge. It wasn’t until Steve dug his feet into a soft patch of sand underneath the waves that we were able to feel cold water rise from the sediment. Actually, the ground there was made up of decaying Sargassum fluitans. We soon met with Tony Amos, who was able to impart his wisdom of beach debris to us. On our way back to UTMSI, many of us were able to witness a huge spotted ray jump clear out of the water twice! It completely caught me off guard, since I didn’t know that they could do that.

motivated students 

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I never thought that my students would be this much exited about the trash and sewage. Awesome.

Beach Vegetation Line 

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Beach Cleanup Lab

It was great to see a beach with a natural vegetation line! While Saint Jose Island has its own problems, such as erosion, it is not plagued by a two lane road and constant engineering like we see on Mustang Island.
 
The plants growing on the dunes are always fighting a battle against erosion and this is very obvious at the dune boundary. 
Many of the plants had interesting characteristics or structures that stood out and helped them survive in this demanding environment.
   
This is another example of a DYNAMIC environment.

Running Around Mustang Island

Posted by Laura Ortiz-Malave at Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:58:27 PM CDT

     Our second lab was definitely eye-opening for me. I think it was a bit comforting to know that waste water treatment plants are not the bad-guys that I thought they would be- they really take care of the sewage in an efficient way! It was interesting how the microbes had to be aerated in order to function in the most energetically-favored way (aerobic respiration), and how that tied in with what we were talking about in class for that week. I liked that the microbes looked like a chocolate river, but then I was snapped out of my senses quickly with the smell. I wondered about the birds that sat on top of the water in the clarifier, and how they were affected by drinking and bathing in the water that wasn’t fully treated.

     Taking our trek around Mustang Island was a fun trip and we quickly got the hang of using the instruments. Jen and I had a mini-adventure at the airport. As we were crossing the runway to get to the salt marsh, a plane was landing. Charlie quickly let us know that we had to get clear off of it since the wings looked like they were going to hang off the runway! It was especially fun getting to the beach, where some of us took the time to notice the coquina clams on the beach. It was also nice to get back early, but we had to quickly do our titrations. Overall, I enjoyed the trip!


Lets just say the beach excites me;) 

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(Photo by Drew H.)

The day started as an extraordinary voyage across the channel to San Jose Island, led by Captain Frank.  In this quest to reach enlightenment, me and my fellow scholars fought valiantly to acquire the knowledge that the beach of San Josefina had to offer (the beach is female in my mind).   The task was simple, to storm the beach and persuade San Josefina to give up her secrets.  Under the commands and directions of the doctors of philosophy we used various tools to pry the information out of San Josefina.

 
(Photo by Drew H.)

It was difficult, but after a long day of vigorous physical activities in the hot sun we managed to obtain the information we needed.  I will summarize the attributes of San Josefina for my fellow scholars who did not have the opportunity to travel with us on this journey:

  • she was steep and had small but an extensive set of mounds
 
(Photo by Drew. H.)
  • not as trashy as others have seen, but still stinky
 
(Photo by Drew H.)
  • mainly salty, with little fresh discharges

San Jose Island 

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As the group arrived on San Jose Island, by taking the Shearwater across, we were amazed at how there was so few people around. We set up camp in a pristine looking area and assumed the rest of the beach had little trash on the shore. However, when prompted to collect and pick up trash, the groups quickly realized at how wrong first impressions can be. Although there was hardly an visible trash at first glance, we observed many bottles, ropes, styrofoam containers, light bulbs, and etc. in the dunes and buried under the sand. Collectively, the class collected about 12 bags of trash.  
Measuring the slope of the shoreline to the dunes was our next group project. We focused on replicating two transect lines and taking the average measurements by each group to get a general profile of the beach. We also learned how to use tools and techniques that we had never used before.
 
Lastly, we tried to use the sonde to located groundwater discharge into the ocean. We collected temperature, pH, salinity, and DO measurements. We also used a thermometer and phychometer to measure soil temperature and humidity, respectively. Many groups were able to “feel” the cold water discharge, but the tools were not able to detect a significant difference. However, one group was able to located the freshwater discharge.
For our down time, we swam, learned how surf (courtesy of Chris Shank), threw the football around, and my favorite, went dune jumping.

San Jose Island beach pickup/survey 

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This last Thursday (6/23), the class had quite the adventure. Upon arrival by the Shearwater to the island, we set up fort. I was pleasantly impressed with the sight; the beach appeared clean, meaning less work for us. However, when we dispersed and started picking up trash, I realized I was mistaken. There was so much more trash than I thought was there (a lot of trash was hidden in the dunes or buried in the sand). This really put into perspective how much trash is really out there, floating out in the ocean and being transported to beaches around the world. Although we didn’t even scratch the surface of pollution pickup, I feel good that the class walked away with about 12 bags of trash.

After picking up trash, it was time to survey the beach profile from the water’s edge to the dune. While seemingly simple, this process seemed like forever (even though we only did one of the two sites), because at this time, I’m pretty sure my body began digesting itself. Following a much needed lunch break, a reapplication of sunscreen and some quick “wave intensity measurements”, it was back to work with the survey of the second site. By this time, everyone was tired and had one less layer of skin, which made the next part of the lab (searching for groundwater output) seem even longer. With some unsuccessful (still salty) sonde readings, we called it quits and went back to camp, where we waited for Tony Amos to talk about the trash. Carrying all the gear plus the 12 additional heavy bags of trash, we made it back to the dock to get picked up, where the best part was take place.

I was sitting with my back to the water when I heard the excited scream of about 5 girls, followed by a splash of water. Wondering what all the commotion was, I turned to the site of a large stingray jumping clearly out of the water. This was amazing being that I’ve never even heard of stingrays jumping out of water, let alone, it happening about 50 feet away. This was a pleasant end to a long day on the beach.


Beach day! Yay!

Posted by Alexandra Collins at Sunday, June 26, 2011 10:32:01 PM CDT

Hey guys!

As you all know, last Wednesday, we helped save the world. Our amazing class went to San Jose Island, just across the channel, to have our beach day! We got some sun, learned how to surf, and most importantly, picked up trash! Mr. Cuervo and I (Justin) teamed up at the start of the day to clean up the beach. We found a ridiculous number of green bottles of bleach from Mexico – who knew that the shrimp that we eat actually gets bleached?! That’s kind of gross – I would much rather eat spotty shrimp than eat shrimp that’s been bleached of colour. By the time Justin and I were done, we had cleaned about 50 yards of the beach and filled one trash bag to the brim. It was so heavy that we couldn’t even carry it, so we dragged it all the way back to base camp! Then it was lunch time / swim time, which was pretty great because the waves were so big! We then moved on to the beach profile survey using the hand-sight method, took another break, and then finished off with hunting for freshwater inflow. That was like a little treasure hunting game, and was actually pretty fun because we got to wade around in the surf.  Tony Amos was also kind enough to stop by on his own beach survey to lay some knowledge down on us about the composition of trash that he’s found on the island over the past 30 or so years. By the time the day was done eight hours later, everyone was feeling a little bit exhausted and sun-kissed but pretty happy about helping to clean up San Jose’s beach.

 Until next time!

Collins


Is Recycling Just a Trend? 

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No matter how you wear it, beach debris is just not fashionable. While there are plenty of large items (like ropes, boats and appliances) that wash up on St. Joe’s Island each year, most of the debris is plastic. In fact, nearly 70% of all trash that washes up on the Texas coastline is plastic (Danielle Gifford, Environmental and Public Health 210). Doesn’t anyone find it ironic that despite the fact that the dumping of plastics into the ocean has been banned since 1987 plastic is still the most commonly washed up debris on our coastline? Why don’t we see the results of our great efforts? For one thing, it is difficult to regulate offshore dumping, especially by commercial ships and industries. What people don’t recognize is that these plastic bottles travel through oceanic currents all around the globe. It is the responsibility of people all over the world to stop dumping plastics. The real effort lies in educating the public. An increased awareness in recycling programs has recently swept the nation. But does this awareness end at cool t-shirts from Abercrombie and Fitch that read “GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK.” ? It may appear that recycling and energy conservation is just an image at this point. Personally, I don’t think the public will understand the implications of their plastic dumping until they have taken a walk down St. Joe’s Island (and other coastal areas). No matter how well you dress it up, plastic in the oceans is a issue we are readily faced with. Ps. Everyone should listen to the song Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead… It should inspire us to stop living in a “plastic world” (both actually and figuratively)


Trash Pick up 

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Today we pretty much collected trash on the beach. I was expecting piles of trash, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t as dirty as I thought. It looked kind of clean at a glance, but once we started looking for trash in the dunes, our trash bags were fillling up. There were several times where me and Jessics had to literally dig the platic bottles from the sand. We also found a light bulb which was kind of interesting. After trash pick up, we swam for a bit which was a fun way to cool off. We then moved on to doing transects measuring the slope of the beach.Then we swam some more, this time surf boards were used. I was able to stand up on the first try and fell every time after that. We then measured water quality tests with the sonde, and attempted to find freshwater flow. I was able to feel the colder freshwater in my toes, but the sonde wasn’t able to pick up the signal. I noticed there was a bag stuck in the sand near the shore, so I tried to dig it out. Alex then came over to help me, anf after what felt like a lifetime we moved the thick, yellow plastic bag out the water. I felt so accomplished. Tony Amos came over and talked about the things he had found that day and where they could possibly come from. I couldn’t really hear him, but I’m sure it was interesting. We packed up our stuff, and walked towards the boat. While waiting we see the spotted eagle ray jump from out the water as if it were flying twice, then disappear. I had no idea they could do that, so just being able to observe that was amazing. It was a pretty good day except there was no shade, we were running out of water, and everyone was burning up (some more than others).

The Adventure Ends 

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Last we left our heroes, they had just found the first of the Fish-Balls! The legendary one-star Fish-Ball! Taking from what they learned in last episode, the krew (That’s what I’m calling it. Hahaha!) learned that Fish-Balls are disgusting quasi-fish-things that just like to live in some stinky muck. Like, whoa, so foul. Thus, they decided to travel to the Isle of San Joe where it was foretold that many piles of crap could be found that the Fish-Balls might be wriggling and bouncing around in. So armed, with trash-bags in hand, the krew set out for today’s episode: “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Fish-Ball!”
Upon arrival, San Joe actually looked pretty sparkly. Except for some hot spots of major nasty, even Taicho Planet would chill here! The krew was disheartened, but went about checking the trash just in case. Work progressed through the day, with a couple training breaks in the Ancient Combat Schema of Wave Shredding. However, as work continued, surprisingly, everyone found there was still a lot of crud to be bagged! And hey! Check that out! Some of these illegally dumped oil cans have Fish-Balls in them, score!
 
(Kris-kun and Droog-dono pose for the camera with a “Hella Dank” bag of Fish-Balls.)
With fish balls in hand, the Krew….wait….wait where did Kris-kun go? I swear he was here a minute ago with the Fish-Ba-Ohhhhh, well, trucks
Standing on a stolen boat, Kris-kun had gathered all the fish-balls, and prepared the beastie boys mix-tape that would summon the awesome cosmic whale. The beat box boomed, and the fish-balls detonated in a cloud of mystical chum, calling the strangely (and eerily) carnivorous cosmic whale from the heavens to answer the call.
Whale: OooooOOOOooooOOOOooo wubwubwubwub OOOOooOO
Kris-kun: Oh mighty whale, I do not have the tongue for your dulcet and terrifying tones, but I ask that you understand and grant my wish! Devour the sun, and make it night forever!
And so the whale did.
 
Next episode: The Krew adventure’s in the teaching lab, because the world outside has become a dark, frozen hell-scape.

Obligatory tar ball post. 

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So yeah if you have read anyone else’s blog, you know that we got to play with tar balls in last week’s lab. A tar ball is a blob of petroleum that has been weathered after floating in the ocean. For our oil spill lab, we were handed zip block baggies each with a tar ball about the size of my hand. Tar balls can come from natural oil seeps or from oil spills. The density depends the type of petroleum and the amount of solids in it. When a tar ball is less dense than seawater it can travel great distances via currents and winds.

 Also, last Thursday Port Aransas had tides slightly higher than normal due to effects of a tropical storm off the gulf coast of Mexico. That Thursday afternoon following lab, I went on a jog down the jetty. The water was ridiculously high towards the end because of the high tides. The last half of the jetty was being splashed and beaten by waves constantly. While on the last half of the jetty, I saw a beautiful shining clump of black tar! I was ecstatic. I picked it up and brought it back to the dorm ready to show all my fellow classmates. Maybe it was from the deep water horizon oil spill from last summer? It most likely was from a natural oil seep. Natural oil seeps are common in the ocean. Being freshly plucked from the ocean it was still pretty soft. So I brought it back and told the story of my magnificent find to everyone.  Then Emily said, “wow its soft, drop and see if it bounces”. So I did, I dropped it and no, it did not bounce. It exploded. WIth a puff of smoke it broke into a bunch of pieces and fine powder.
So I learned many things in lab, but outside of lab on the deck of the B dorm I learned that fresh tar balls do not bounce.

The Adventure Begins 

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This, is the story of a man…
A man on a quest…
Arriving from the mainland, he came in search of knowledge. You see, it was told in legend that there existed 7 mystical Fish-Balls which when gathered together could be used to summon the mighty whale who shall grant it’s summoner one wish.
Entering an uneasy alliance with other adventurers, the mighty Kris-kun set out for high adventure, on the hunt across the island of Port Aransas and its surrounding bays for the magical orbs that would grant his wish. 
Today’s adventure takes place in Episode 2: “Don’t Be a Kris In The Mud!”
After his epic battle with Apollo in episode 1, Kris-Kun was forced to were the Super-Gen Jock Jeans of Replenishment! They are really uncomfortable in the mud, you guys, like, ugh. Dried mud jeans become sand-paper on a hair-curling sun-burn.
This venture led our adventurers to seek the wisdom of a wise-man, who educated them upon the workings of the sewage treatment plant. The native habitat of fish-balls. They learned all the steps along the way where utter crap, became sparkling, life-giving water pouring out the other end. And so armed with this information, and finding now fish-balls in the plant, the adventurers split up into separate groups to see if they could track the paths of the water using advanced scanners to trace the chemical signatures.
Eventually…
We found one. The one-star fish-ball!
 
To be continued…

Return to Lab #1 

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  Back when summer was just creeping in, we went on our first Marine Enviromental Science lab to study bay hydrography. The class woke up the earliest out of this whole summer session to be ready for class at 7:30. We promptly split into our three groups and loaded up our gear into three vans and one boat. My group visited Copano Bay where we used the large sonde, secchi disks, niskin bottles and a variety of other equipment to measure water properties. We saw two of the NERR platforms, which we were later able to compare our data with. The boat ride turned out to be quite fun, and we learned many new techniques. My group was running short on time which prevented us from having a swim break, and we got out first tastes of the infamous warm wraps for lunch. Overall the trip was worth the experience…..Until we got stuck in the ferry line for over an hour an almost missed dinner, although it did allow for many of us to catch up on the sleep.


T Balls 

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So Katelyn was kind enough to draw a picture of me with a tar ball. It looked a lot nicer than I thought it would be.

 

When we broke them in half they had this glass like appearance which looked pretty cool. There are also softer forms of tar balls…I think. We also played around with the Oil Spill Trajectory Simulation Model everyone keept wanting to see bigger oil spills which I thought was funny. Dong-Ha talked some more about Oil Spills and their effects on the coast. Then about Oil Spill response plans, then we had to try to come up with some response plans.We were able to keep the tar balls but they were too smelly. It was a shorter lab than usual, but that was fine with me. Towards the end me and Alex started to take pictures with the magnifying glasses up to our eyes. My picture was funnier though. 🙂 Oh yeah then we filled out course evaluations, which are always fun.

The End.


My Other Lab Blog Entry 

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Our last day of lab was on July 1, 2011.  This day was spent entirely in the lab unlike the other three, which was kind of a relief because we did not have to eat a wrap for lunch.  We also were finished with the lab before noon which was also very nice.  During this lab, we learned about oil spills and how they can spread to the coasts of different areas, how they can be cleaned or prevented, and what tar balls and diesel looks like.  Lots of my fellow students broke their tar apart or made tar art.  Once play time was over, we had to pick two situations in which oil was spilled in two locations around Port Aransas.  We had to predict what areas it would affect, what would be affected, and how it would be cleaned up.  We had one hour to finish it, and everyone raced to try and finish it.  Once we were done, we filled out our assessment of the course, and then we were all free to return to whatever it was we do when we’re not in class.

 

The semester, in review. 

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Hindsight is 20/20. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. This blog is all of our labs’ successes and shortcomings all rolled into one.

The first lab, was smooth sailing. We took the seahawk out with Britt and QiYuan on Aransas Bay. We took Sonde measurements south to north and had a great time.
 
Pros: we got back mega early, way earlier than everyone else. It rocked. We got to shower, and in science getting to shower before heading back to lab is rare.
Cons: the drift of the boat made the sonde measurements hard to take, as you would let all of the line out, and to sonde would insist it was only 2 meters down. darn you sonde, darn you current. 
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda? Chris would have worn pants. Legit, thick, construction worker pants.
  
Lab 2, the roughest lab of the semester. You could see the heat waves off of the blue-green fried, cracking algae. The horizon looked like a scene out of Holes. No shade, anywhere…except under a construction outlook that we cowered under while attempting to find the next site. In the salt marshes near the Aransas airstrip, we took water quality and chemistry measurements from the surface and groundwater. We were looking for nutrients, nutrients that could have come from the Sewage treatment plant that we had visited earlier in the day. There were no alligators. Except this one. 
It seems Chris is always in danger. 96 reasons not to talk to alligators. Even if you are a hilarious wastewater treatment manager. 
Pros: I felt like a badass Survivor/Amazing Race contestant trekking across the Sahara. I got my bronze on. We all received hydrogen sulfide mud treatments up to our knees for free, especially Bud, who not-so-willingly volunteered to take all of our samples at the last site. We got to eat free pickleweed which is regularly sold for exorbitant prices at Whole foods. 
Cons: We almost had to live by pirate rule- you fall behind, you get left behind. I forgot the main sucky thing about being in Holes, you don’t get water from the truck very often. We ran out of water. In the middle of nowhere (not really, but it increases dramatic tension). We almost had a brawl for the last bottle (see last parenthesis). 
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: We should have packed more water. We could have flagged down Ken Dunton who was flying his plane over us (ok, it probably wasn’t really him) and asked for a ride home. We could have at least build a SOS marquee out of crispy blue-greens and pickle weed on the ground. We should have left a note at home, incase we went missing. Always leave a note when engaging in perilous adventure.
  
“Look, its a bird, its a plane, its KEN DUNTON!” Bud just wishes I would take the measurements so we can GTFO.
Lab 3, the second week in a row in which I felt like I had been sent to some sort of juvenile detention center: trash pickup! We fanned out on the beach to collect and identify different kinds of trash. Katelyn and I were partners/grand champions. Unfortunately, we chose the south end of the island, which included the jetty. Mistake. There were easily hundreds of thousands of water bottles in every crevice between the rocks. But, this made our bags look fuller, and pleased Tony Amos, the trashfinding god among men. 
 
Like, this many. Thanks globalshift.org for this great visual representation of the international plethora of bottles!
After trash pickup, Chris taught everyone to surf, and we enjoyed our *last* wraps of the semester! Everyone shifted their focus from trash to treasure as we greedily collected sand dollars. Then it was on to beach profiling. Using a stadia rod and mini-telescope level finder, we took the slope measurements. Later, we attempted to find fresh groundwater using a sonde. It went alright, but much of the freshwater was immediately incorporated in the salt water, so fresh water signatures were hard to find. Finally, Tony Amos came to examine our catch (of debris), show us his, and talk to us about beach debris in general. By the time he had finished, we were all huddling for shade, tired, and hoping the shearwater would be coming to our rescue soon. We packed up camp, took a first and final class photo, and carried our trash to the dock (extra style points to Charlie for carrying his in a  Mulan-esque manner) 
  
Go summer students, 2011!
  
Way to get after it Charlie…to defeat, the HUNS. Stolen from Katelyn. Picture and clever saying. 
Pros: we cleaned up the beach, serious Karma points. great body surf, great treasures. 
Cons: the Jetty had a serious number of water bottles, which was somewhat depressing. The bags were seriously heavy to try to carry back.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: shoulda not claimed the jetty for our cleanup. Coulda either done a better rain dance, or brought more sunscreen.  
Lab 4, Final lab of the year, and the first lab of the year that was in the lab! We learned about tarballs and the implications of an oil sill at sea; it allowed the BP disaster to hit close to home. It was cool to see all of the tar balls, different shapes, sizes and consistencies. Most of them looked like obsidian, and Katelyn even used hers as an art medium. Later, we used a simulator to create our own disastrous trillion gazillion oil spills. What a great last lab!
 
Pros: NOBODY GOT SUNBURNED! NO LAST LAB REPORT! GUMMY WORMS!
Cons: oil spills are sad, it hurts birds and shorelines.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: shoulda not broken the tar ball into a million stinky shards to clean up before the end of lab. shoulda   eaten fewer gummy worms-not!
Overall the year was a great time, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished. I love you all…ish. ;] Future students, if you are out there reading this, learn from our mistakes. Don’t repeat history! Or do, seeing as how we had an amazing time botching it along the way.

Life is a beach, STOP THROWING TRASH IN THE OCEAN! 

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Last summer (2010), I thought it was a good idea to take a weekend lab down in Port A for the credit while I was taking classes in ATX. I figured it would be a good way to get out of the big city and see some b**ches. This class was Coastal Environmental Science of Texas Bays with Dr. Min. Sounded cool enough for me, but little did i know, this lab would involve trekking on a beach picking up trash…

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Summer 2010, Pickin’ up trash on San Jose Beach with my hood rat posse. 
This summer (2011) in Marine Environmental Science with Dr. Min, we conducted the same scientific procedure. Honestly, when I heard we were picking up trash on the same beach, I thought to myself, “Hey, I already clean that b**ch”. I figured we would all go out on the b**ch and see that it was spotless. Then I would tell the whole class the story of how my hood rat posse and I cleaned the entire b**ch last summer. I also thought this would lead to a swim call that lasted until Dr. Shank was tried of watching us all fail at surfing. BUT! to my surprise there was trash on the b**ch. Like a lot of trash, we as a class collected 12 huge garbage bags full of plastic, ropes and other debris that washed up.
 
Summer 2011, random girls (pickin’ up trash) in bikinis that are not in my hood rat posse.
 I was able to personally witness how much trash washes up on San Jose B**ch in one year. I feel this view is pretty unique. I have only been to this b**ch twice, both times i came with two empty garbage bags and left with two garbage bags full of trash. Seeing the amount of debris that can build up in one year really shocked me. I now am super conscious about throwing my plastic bottles into the correct recycling bin. Also, I feel like leaving trash on the b**ch is one of the worse crimes a human can possibly commit (behind wearing sea turtle boots). People do not realize how much trash we as a society create, nor do people know or care about where it ends up. NeWsFlAsH! a bunch of it ends up in the ocean!… I think if more people took this lab (or both labs like I did in two summers) more people would appreciate the b**ch and ocean. Hopefully, people will feel obligated to do there part in properly disposing trash, rather than throwing it in the ocean to be washed on a  b**ch somewhere.
NOTE: **: ea

San Jose Island 

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On July 24, 2011, my fellow students and I went over to the beautiful San Jose Island.  We crossed the boat channel and unloaded all of our heavy gear; Jenny and I carried the monster sonde all the way down the beach and were almost defeated, but we were triumphant!  Once we were debriefed about what we would be doing on this lovely island, Jen and I took off with our giant trash bags, wire brush, gloves, and clipboard in hand.  We noticed that this beach was very different from that of Port Aransas, the dunes were much closer to the water and much steeper than those of Port Aransas.  After the collection of the trash was done, we made our way back to the camp and dropped off our giant bags of trash along with everyone else’s.

 
Dong-Ha Min
It was then time for a break!  We got to swim for about 30 minutes.  The waves were amazing!  I had not seen waves like these in a very long time.  We body-surfed and Dr. Shank taught a few students how to surf.  This was definitely one of the best parts of my day besides the second break after lunch 🙂
 
Dong-Ha Min
After our break, we went on to do our beach profile survey, which was a new technique to me, but interesting.  Several people tried to figure out how to use the hand level, but only a few of us succeeded.  Hesper did a great job on our first two profiles, and everyone else did a great job doing what they did.
 
Drew Huebner
Lunch was as expected…..the dreaded wrap!  But the horror of the wrap was soon forgotten as we got to take another break in the water.  It showered a little while we were out there, but it didn’t make a difference.  After the break we did one more profile and then went on to find the freshwater input.  We found ours about ankle deep in a patch of sand where there was decaying sargassum.  Steve had found it and didn’t tell us, but told us to go stand by him.  We didn’t trust him because we thought he had done something to the water…….but eventually we did and we noticed the difference in the water temperature within the sediment.
After all of the data was collected, Tony Amos came and spoke to us about trash and showed us some of his treasures he found that he would be selling in the ARK auction.
 
Dong-Ha Min
When it was time to head back, we all realized that the trash had to be taken back as well…..so we got the guys to carry most of it and Melinda carried one of the monster sondes back by herself!  While waiting for the boat to take us back to the lab, we saw a spotted eagle ray jump out of the water twice in the channel, it was the coolest thing ever!  There were also lots of dolphins swimming and playing around as we waited.  Overall, this day was successful, and possibly one of the best labs of the session.

Eutrophication Lab revisited 

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On the field trip to the Port Aransas Waste Water Treatment Plant I found that many birds, crocs, and tomatos love the results of the treated water that flows from the outfall, even though the students may not of cared much for the smell and the heat. We learned about the interesting transition from sewage to clear (blueish-green) water thanks to our entertaining tour guide. After lunch was when the real fun began, our two hour hike through the desolate sand flats of Charlie’s Pasture in search of water. This turned out to be quite interesting becasue the extreme drought conditions had resulted in the evaporation of the bodies of water that had previously been there. Although only two bodies of water were found by my group, the search for it and getting covered with the anoxic sediments which smelled of rotten eggs was still fun. My shoes will probably never be rid of the smell, but thats what makes field work interesting. We finished our day with a relaxing walk through Paradise Pond, which was also lacking water but was very lush and shady, at least compared to the majority of Port Aransas. My favorite part of the day was being able to rinse my feet and shoes in the Corpus Christi Channel.


From tanker to tarball 

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When my sister and I were little, we relentlessly got yelled at for throwing gooey tar balls at each other on the beach. They were the choice of ammunition in battle; they were the grossest thing on the shoreline (side from sargassum) and you didn’t have to make them yourself like you did sandballs. After though, we pretty much looked like this. Well, not exactly. But, a little.   Taken from Zedge.com
However, I never knew where the tar came from. All i knew is that it made my little sister cry so it must be the best stuff on earth. WRONG.
In lab this past week, we learned the origins of tar, from tanker to shoreline. If there is an oil spill out at sea, the sea surface slick emulsifies and creates chocolate mousse. The wind and waves work at this emulsion, tearing it into smaller pieces which become tar balls. These tar balls are persistent and can travel hundreds of miles. However, for us, if a tanker has an accident immediately off the coast in the waiting area near San Jose Island, they may not have to travel too far. When dried out, the tar balls look more like fractured obsidian.
  stolen from Drew
Overall, it made me realize just how much of it I had seen throughout my lifetime, and the environmental implications this had, that I never knew about. A bittersweet flashback to the past, but a great way to end the year!

Effects of human desires 

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The oil spill lab really opened up my eyes to the damaging results of human activities on the environment. There are so many things I feel are wrong with the world: one of them being the strong reliance on the diminishing oil reserves. I’ve always had this viewpoint, but this lab just solidified it. Natural oil seeps into the ocean are normal, but I feel that whenever there are human influences that affect the biological/physical/chemical processes of the ocean, something must be changed. This is one of those cases.

The lab was composed of examining oil samples (diesel and crude) and tar balls, and working on case files of different oil spill scenarios. It was a relaxing, comfortable (because of the A/C) day in the lab (no long, hot day in the blazing Texas sun) and we got out early, making the entire class more motivated to do the work. It was also a pleasant surprise to learn that we had no paper to write afterwards. Thank you Dong Ha for some great labs and no lab report!

Steve hard at work

 

Katelyn taking advantage of the drawing capabilities of tar


The Ferngully Monster Lives!!!!!!!!! 

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The day started off with a hardy breakfast that Chef Robert slaved sooooo hard over.  I was preparing for the day long adventure that was in the near future, another quest of enlightment was on the horizon.  Poor old San Josefina had left us some black stinky presents for us to examine.  Our goal was simple, to understand oil spills and to design a scenario to help protect against this danger.
However, Dr. Min was possessed by an evil monster. He was in fact the evil oil monster from that Ferngully movie.  He did not want us to learn about oil spills, he wanted to further the spread of this evil substance. He passed around sleeping potions designed to put even the most attentive students into a deep dark slumber.
Before the potion was administered, this beloved student was eager to learn.  But the potions side effects caught on quick.
Before she knew it, she was fast asleep.  But luckily, she was such a great student that despite her unconsciousness, she still went over various oil spill scenarios in her head.   She went over various spill sites and preventative measures and was still able to obtain enough knowledge to defeat the evil oil monster.
Dr. Min was thankful for our help in defeating the Ferngully monster.  He gave us some treats in return.
Happily ever after. The End.

Gulf Coast to Montana 

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It does not get very much different in terms of ecosystems when you compare our Port Aransas estuary to the Yellowstone River of Montana. Snowmelt to drought, pipelines to tankers and oil rigs, ocean to river.

For those who didn’t check their email, an exxonmobile pipeline which ran underneath the Yellowstone River ruptured spilling an unknown amount of oil into the river (Hundreds of Barrels?). This river is currently flooding and the oil is affecting towns, agriculture, and wildlife.
This new spill shows just how different each oil disaster is from the next, as if our lab didn’t show us that! In the ocean the amount of water area involved is very large, but in a river it is confined between two banks. An interesting factor playing a major role in this spill is mixing by the river. An early observation is that a lot of the oil is being diluted due to the snowmelt flooding, however this is also making the oil difficult to contain.
This spill shows that not all disasters happen when the limits are being pushed, such as depth or tanker delivery speed.  Many spills just happen, even when all the lawful regulations are being met, as was the case with the Montana spill. It just goes to show that safety and prevention are still critical, as is the ability to respond accordingly to the specific environment of the spill. For this reason I found our lab very helpful and informative. The lab helped teach oil spill response techniques as well as providing an exercise that helped the students learn about the Port Aransas habitats on a big picture scale.
Best of Luck to Montana
   
 photo:  toledoblade.com photo: National Park Service

Spill Disasters 

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We might not have gotten to go out in the field to learn about coastal processes, but in the last lab for our class we learned oil spills, how they can occur, what problems they cause, and the best way to deal with various types of oil spills. This topic was of interest because we have all experienced the infamous Deep Horizon oil spill of last year.

The class had the chance to observe and inspect some of the tar balls that washed up ashore the Port Aransas area that derived from the oil spill of last year. Upon observation, the tar balls seemed highly variable in texture. Some were extremely hard and some were still clay-like. I will be looking into why this occurred. In the meantime, my hypothesis for the variable textures is that is is dependent on the composition of the tar. Other factors could be the environmental processes.
 
Lastly in class, we had the chance to investigate the GNOME system and how it can predict the response to oil spills based on currents, winds, and other processes. We then had the opportunity to develop a case and predict how an oil spill in a local system would effect the environment, how it would interact with coastal processes, and how we would respond in that scenario.
Although the lab was short, I think everyone left knowing more about oil spills and their effects, short-term and long-term. Oil spills will continue to occur so it is imperative we learn how to deal with these types of situations and what types of hazards they pose to marine life and coastal environments.
 

Tar Lab, a poem 

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Tar Lab
by Hesper Lana Fang



This last week’s lab we looked at tar
washed ashore from the sand bar
condensed into these craggy balls
they ranged from mighty to quite small

We’re not called scientists by no reason
we’ll study things in any season.
Sniffed at, picked at, torn apart,
they’re not for eating but good for art.

Then we listened to Prof. Dong-Ha
his lecture deserved a great hurrah
he taught that plans were undefined
and oil spills aren’t all unkind.

We then imagined a natural disaster
and played the role of weather forecaster
to think about the things we’d say
if there was a spill in Copano Bay

All in all we learned a lot,
a better lab day could not be bought.
It instilled in us a sense of zen,
and we all emerged as better (wo)men.

Our Final Day of Lab 

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Well, I’m sad to say that our labs are over, and for me that means having to leave Port A this week L Although this week’s lab didn’t involve trekking through mud and wetlands or waiting in ferry lines it was still eventful to say the least. The highlight for everyone was getting to see the tar up close as well discover its many uses; some of us took pictures, some observed, others used it as an artistic medium! 

This lab really highlighted all of the effects that a single oil spill could have and the many outcomes based simply on wind and current patterns. The GNOME simulation seemed like a great tool to be able to predict where the oil will reach the coastline, and this information could be utilized in the clean up processes.


Mission Bay recap 

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If I may tickle nostalgia by bringing my fine readers back to the first lab of the year? 

It was my first encounter with the trusty Shearwater, the platform of so many hydrographic surveys to come. T’was a bright and sunny day smeared with 1000 SPF sunscreen as well as various physical and biogeochemical processes of local Texas bays and estuaries. We deployed around the mouth of Copano Bay and steered the ship toward the entrance toward Mission Bay, where the water was too shallow to carry on in the Shearwater. At this moment we deemed it best to divide into kayak duos in order accomplish the precarious task of using sondes and hydrogen sulfide test kits to ascertain our wildest hypotheses.

Although I did not get to go collect data in a kayak as did some of my compatriots, Crystal, Dr. Shank, and I did manage to collect some juicy bits of data about the surrounding waters of Mission Bay. We became lost when we realized we were without a GPS. After fruitlessly and shamelessly begging our rival survey team for help, despair was narrowly averted when Dr. Shank single-handedly located the GPS under the steering wheel cabinet. The rest of our time was spent relaxing on the deck and drinking iced water while watching the kayak-shaped sunburnt specks in the distance who seemed to be working very hard to get back to the boat.

After recording our data, we took a brief swim break over lunch. Some may recall the mud cake that I retrieved from the clay-like bottom of Mission Bay. For those interested, I spread it over sidewalk to dry for the better part of the day. When it lost a sufficient amount of moisture, it reached a consistency similar to that of pottery clay. I’m not a gambling man, but I sculpted it into a skull and crossbones in recognition of the pirates that we are. Pirates of the Copano Bay.

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