Course blogs of Marine Environmental Science class (MNS354Q) in 2011-Summer
(Note: original photos are lost during transfer process)
Last Edited:Monday, June 20, 2011 1:01:25 PM CDT
Last Edited:Saturday, June 18, 2011 7:05:50 PM CDT
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!!!
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.
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…
Last Edited:Wednesday, June 22, 2011 6:07:47 PM CDT
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,
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
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.
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
Last Edited:Friday, July 1, 2011 9:34:54 PM CDT
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)
Last Edited:Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:26:46 PM CDT
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
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.
Beach Cleanup Lab
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!
Last Edited:Monday, June 27, 2011 11:33:20 PM CDT
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.
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:
Last Edited:Wednesday, July 6, 2011 1:35:46 PM CDT
Beach day! Yay!
Posted by Alexandra Collins at Sunday, June 26, 2011 10:32:01 PM CDT
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!
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)
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.
Last Edited:Friday, July 8, 2011 10:29:49 PM CDT
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.
Hindsight is 20/20. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. This blog is all of our labs’ successes and shortcomings all rolled into one.
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…
Last Edited:Wednesday, July 6, 2011 11:22:04 PM CDT
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.
Last Edited:Tuesday, July 5, 2011 11:51:59 PM CDT
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.
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.
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.
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.