Our trepid group of 2020 shelf-wide hypoxia cruise participants have been working hard to get the ship away from the dock. Whose on board and who isn’t:
Dr. Cassandra (Cassie) Glaspie, Louisiana State University, Chief Scientist. Cassie is an assistant professor at LSU and excited about getting involved in the hypoxia project. She was going to come as co-chief scientist to learn the ropes; then Nancy’s injury and she is now Chief Scientist. Cassie published a paper (2019) on shifting diets of fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. She has been poring over our Standard Operating Procedures and knows what we do inside and out. Just now needs to put pencil to station log sheet.
Gina Woods, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Co-Chief Scientist. Gina is a research assistant with the Rabalais’ group. She has been doing all the cruise preparations under the watchful eyes of Wendy Morrison and Nancy Rabalais. This includes getting everything together; cruise book; winkler chemicals, f factor, titrator; loading the supplies in the lab, unloading the lab, loading the truck, unloading the truck, loading the Pelican; preparation of the Pelican wet lab space; on Pelican training of volunteers.
Jillian (Jll) Tupitza is a graduate student of Dr. Glaspie. She is interested in benthic ecology and how salinity gradients in Barataria Bay influence the composition of benthic infaunal communities.
Victoria (Torie) Lambert, is a marine educator with LUMCON, and serves as the communications and media person. This cruise is her last activity at LUMCON. She will be departing on August 2 for a masters degree divinity program in Ohio with a concentration in ecology and justice.
Rebecca (Becca) Frowine, is also a marine educator with LUMCON. Her experience prior to this Pelican cruise is small boats and education trips on LUMCON’s RV Acadiana.
Dr. Nancy Rabalais, LSU/LUMCON, principal investigator, is not on board because of a fracture in her cervical 2 vertebra. She has guided this research program since 1985. Her first shelf-wide hypoxia cruise was on the Pelican, its second voyage. Nancy will be on line and participating via Google Hangout in the computer room of the Pelican.
Wendy Morrison, LUMCON, is a senior research associate in the Rabalais’ group, also deputy director of the CWC-III oil spill consortium. She is not on board. She knows everything and has been stepping Gina through all preparations, via phone, photos and emails. She is also the trouble shooter for problems on board.
Dr. Leslie Smith, Your Ocean Consulting LLC, is our data tech, data manager, web site guru, and all other things many of us do not understand. She was on board with us from 2010 through 2015, but on shore for this one. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island with studies of Narrangesett Bay and joined many shelf-wide cruises. Her Ph.D. advisor made her come up to me at a science meeting to introduce herself and get to know me. She has been with us ever since.
We all had our two week before and two day before corona virus tests; all were negative. We are considered a ‘low’ risk cruise because we would always be within 24 hours of a port. We have a low capacity science crew to maximize social distancing and to ensure a bunk room would be empty in case someone needed to be quarantined. Daily temperature checks and masks are routine.
Our small science crew (went from 6 to 5, with the loss of Nancy on board) with alternating 3-person 12-h shifts, became all 5 on every shift from 6 am to 10 pm, then all off for rest. Marshall and Adam, marine technicians, are working 2 am to 2 pm and 2 pm to 2 am shifts.
WHAT DID WE EXPECT?
Mississippi River discharge and nitrogen loads were high in May, which would lead to a prediction of a large area of bottom-water hypoxia (estimated at 17,500 to 20,000 square kilometers).
The LSU forecast on size has a caveat about size if there are tropical storms or other wind and wave disturbances. Then the predicted size is estimated to be 70% of the size based on Mississippi River nitrogen load (i.e., 14,000 square kilometers). Well, Tropical Storm Hanna moved from east to west across the central Gulf of Mexico and is slated to cross the Texas shore as Hurricane Hanna on Saturday pm between Port Mansfield and Mesquite Bay.
The passage of the storm across the central Gulf of Mexico contributed to the 5 to 6 foot seas at the beginning of the hypoxia cruise, but will subside into the week. Should conditions remain calm for an extended period, or winds and waves did not mix up the full water column, then more hypoxia may be found to the west of the Mississippi River. This is what we will find out!