Drifter Study Tracks Oil Near Damaged Platform and Mississippi Delta

Scientists gain a better understanding of how spilled oil moves in the Gulf of Mexico

Scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (UM) and their collaborators designed a unique experiment to study the movement of oil to better monitor and predict the transport path in the event of a future spill. The collaborative research team used a combination of tools which included satellites, drones and surface current drifters deployed around the former site of a leaking oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico which was damaged during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The study took place around the platform site just offshore of the Mississippi Delta on April 18-20, 2017 and was a collaboration of two Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) funded projects: Influence of River Induced Fronts on Hydrocarbon Transport, led by Villy Kourafalou, professor of ocean sciences at UM’s Rosenstiel School, and the Consortium on Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment (CARTHE), led by UM professor of ocean sciences, Tamay Ozgokmen.

“This field study provided unprecedented details on how fronts created by the spreading of river waters in the Gulf of Mexico could influence the transport of hydrocarbons and their pathways toward the Gulf coasts.” said Kourafalou.

The scientists collected several types of measurements to track rapid changes of spreading oil, in tandem with changes in the spreading of Mississippi River fronts.  High resolution satellite data complemented boat surveys and floting drifter tracks. UM’s research vessel, F.G. Walton Smith, gathered radar measurments of currents and sections of temperature and salinity. CARTHE drifters, made of floating bamboo plates, and commercial drifters provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET) were deployed and tracked in real time.

“A critical aspect for observing the hypothesis of river fronts acting like natural booms in the ocean, was not relying on a single tool, but rather on multiple platforms, such as drones, satellites, ship-based marine radar as well as drifters and subsurface measurements. This collaborative model was very effective and worked well in the field.” said Ozgokmen

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The research vessel F.G. Walton Smith and the vessel St. Anthony near and on surface oil, with the Mississippi River waters in the background (white line marks the river induced front); image credit: Oscar Garcia (WaterMapping LLCAnother key aspect of the study was the measurement and evaluation of oil thickness, which for the first time, is being included into high resolution model simulations of circulation and oil drift performed by UM and MET.

The findings document the close synergy between fronts induced by the Mississippi River and pathways the floating oil followed as it drifted on the ocean surface under the influence of several other factors such as winds, waves and regional circulation. The findings also add a missing component in the complex processes that moved the drifting oil during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill disaster, which occurred in close proximity to the Mississippi Delta. The updated oil drift algorithms which include oil thickness, are expected to greatly improve the ability to monitor and predict oil transport in the event of a future spill.

The field study was coordinated by Oscar Garcia of WaterMapping LLC, which also provided drone and small aircraft surveillance of fronts and oil spreading, as well as satellite data analysis, in collaboration with Chuanmin Hu of the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at the University of South Florida.

Video link: https://youtu.be/T6X2HAsYPu8

Trajectories of individual drifters after a few weeks of release, marking several potential pathways of oil toward the coastline or the Gulf interior; image credit: HeeSook Kang (UM/RSMAS).

Deployment of drifter in thin oil; image credit: Yannis Androulidakis (UM-Rosentiel School)

Have you seen these drift cards?

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Scientists need your help in locating these small, eco-friendly wood cards, as part of a scientific experiment studying our local ocean currents.

The Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study (#BayDrift) is a collaborative community science project studying the current flows in Biscayne Bay to better understand how trash, sewage, oil, and harmful algae blooms get transported through South Florida waters by the wind and ocean currents. The effort is led by CARTHE (Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment) at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

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On Friday, December 9th, 280 small, eco-friendly wood cards were released into Biscayne Bay from 7 sites near downtown Miami by students from elementary to high school. The “drift cards” are brightly painted and float along the water’s surface, moved by the currents. Each card is coded so the project team can identify where it was deployed. By tracking the location where drift cards are released and found, we will learn how the currents distribute debris in Biscayne Bay.

The ultimate goal of the project is to advance our understanding of the area’s flow patternsMap, demonstrating how the ocean and bay currents transport various substances, but also to give students a hands-on STEAM activity (Science Technology Engineering Art Math). By hosting informative art events at Vizcaya, the Ramble at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden,
the Miami Science Barge, Nerd Nite Miami, the Key Biscayne Citizen Scientist Lecture, and Art Miami at Art Basel, as well as partnering with the youth poetry competition, Piano Slam, the backs of the drift cards are full of colorful images and inspiring poetry. Over 100 of the cards feature poems written by Piano Slam students inspired by the music Migrant Voyage by Manuel Valera and the migration of the ocean currents. The Bay Drift team hopes these eye catching additions will increase the chance of the cards being discovered and reported to the scientists.

Ten local organizations and seven schools participated in the December 9th Bay Drift release:

Organizations Schools
CARTHE at the University of Miami Lamar Louise Curry Middle School
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Leisure City K-8 Center
Patricia & Philip Frost Museum of Science MAST Academy
Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves Mater Grove Academy
International Seakeepers Society Miami Northwestern Sr. High School
Key Biscayne Citizen Scientist Project Miami Springs Middle School
Miami Waterkeeper South Pointe Elementary School
Miami Science Barge
Piano Slam
Surfrider Foundation – Miami Chapter

This is the second #BayDrift release to date. The first took place on September 12, 2016 and 38 cards were reported, some very close to the release point and some nearly 70 miles aP1110178way. CARTHE scientists also released 15 biodegradable, custom-made, GPS-equipped drifters, providing detailed tracks of their journey. Preliminary analysis shows that most o
f the drifters remained inside the Bay for much longer than some predicted. This could have important implications for resource managers and decision makers in the event of some type of spill inside Biscayne Bay.

If you find a drift card, you are asked to report the location, data, time and a photo using #BayDrift or BayDriftMiami@gmail.com.  For more information on the Bay Drift study, visit www.CARTHE.org/BayDrift.

 

CARTHE, Waterlust Team Wins Top Prize in Video Challenge

A team of scientists and filmmakers at the Rosenstiel School won top prize in the Ocean 180 Challenge for their video “Drones on the Beach” and placed in the top 10 for their video about ocean currents, “Bob the Drifter.”

Watch the award-winning video:

To read the corresponding science publication on drone technology used in oil spill research, click here.

The videos were created by the Waterlust team, which includes Ph.D. student Patrick Rynne and alumna Fiona Graham and Jennah Caster. Both videos were based on CARTHE ((Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment) research. CARTHE is a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative consortia based at the Rosenstiel School.

37,795 middle school students judges in over 1,600 classrooms in 21 countries selected the top entries. These students were responsible for critiquing and evaluating the finalists based on their creativity, message, and educational value.

Watch “Bob the Drifter”

The Florida Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE Florida) hosts the annual Ocean 180 Video Challenge, which aims to engage non-scientists and students in timely and relevant ocean science research while inspiring scientists to effectively share their discoveries and excitement for research with the public. For more on the Ocean 180 video Challenge, click here.

CARTHE, Waterlust team

CARTHE, Waterlust team

Exploring Marine Science Day 2014

Saturday October 25, 2014 marked the 12th anniversary of the Exploring Marine Science Day for middle school girls. The Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment (CARTHE) partnered with the UM Rosenstiel School and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to host this day of interactive learning. Fifty young women from across South Florida spent their Saturday with Rosenstiel’s female faculty, students, and researchers to get an up close look at what it is like to be a marine scientist.

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  • The girls learned about corals with Stephanie Schopmeyer and helped with coral restoration by planting coral (skeleton) fragments on special nursery plantforms.
  • The amazing women from Marine Geosciences never disappoint! Amel Saied, Anna Ling, Kim Galvez, and Carolina Bardaro taught the girls how to squeeze water from mud samples and they explored some of the amazing organisms found in the ocean.
  • The highlight of the day is always drawing blood from a toadfish with Dr. Danielle McDonald and her students. They learned about red and white blood cells, plasma, and stress hormones.
  • Rana Fine taught the girls about ocean acidification through an experiment in which the girls test the pH of sea water, before and after the addition of a carbonated soda.
  • Aplysia! CARTHE Outreach Manager Laura Bracken taught the girls about the importance of the amazing aplysia and the fascinating details of their life cycle, but the best part was actually getting to hold their slimy new friend.
  • The girls learned about density during a colorful experiment, mixing salt and freshwater with Meredith Jennings and Renellys Perez.
  • Josefina Olascoaga created a spinning ocean in the lab, complete with dyed ocean currents and eddies!
  • Dr. Lisa Beal completed the day with a powerful video of female oceanographers and a reminder to all of us, “Don’t let the boys have all the fun!”

Attendees had this to say about the event:

“Today’s program was awesome! I did not know there was so much science out in the ocean…”
“I love science and everything I did today was amazing”

“Today was one of the best days of my life!”

“I learned that there was a lot more to marine science than I thought.”

The activities are clearly fun and engaging but most importantly the girls left with a greater interest in science and knowing that anyone can be a scientist. Our scientists are also athletes, mothers, community leaders, and artists. According to the evaluations, the majority has an increased interest in studying science!

Thank you to all of the volunteers from CARTHE, RSMAS, and AAUW for making this day a success.

— Laura Bracken

CARTHE Air & Ocean Photo Contest

Do you often see incredible natural phenomena appearing on the sea surface or sky? Snap a picture of it and you can win cool gear from CARTHE – The Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment.

To participate in the CARTHE Air & Ocean Photo Contest, simply observe nature, capture its beauty, and share it! For example, the various “textures” of the sea surface with different wind conditions, accumulation of sea weed and other debris along lines parallel to the wind, strong contrast in colors and sea texture at river inlets, and dynamic air-sea interactions. For more information, visit the CARTHE website.

IMG_8204Here are the rules:

Entry Rules

  • Images can be of the ocean, coastal water systems, inland water systems, or air/atmospheric systems.
  • The CARTHE Photography Contest is open to all amateur photographers. Amateur photographers are those who earn no more than 20% of their income from their photography. Eligible photos are those that have not been published or accepted for publication and must have been taken by the person submitting the entry. The Photographer must have ownership and copyright of all entries.
  • All photographs must be taken in a natural fresh-water or salt-water environment.
  • Digital editing of photographs is acceptable in moderation. Only minor adjustments will be accepted (ie. minor brightness, contrast, or cropping). Any heavily filtered or manipulated photograph will be rejected at judges’ discretion.
  • Ownership and copyright of all entries remain with the photographer. CARTHE, GoMRI, and RSMAS reserves the right to publish the winning photos without compensation for educational purposes, including, but not limited to publication on the CARTHE/GoMRI/University of Miami/RSMAS websites, social media, in brochures or for future contest promotion. Proper credit will be given to all winners.
  • By submitting your images, you are agreeing to the terms above.

Snap away and good luck!

Explore CARTHE’s Award-Winning Website

The University of Miami was awarded two Outstanding Achievement awards by the Interactive Media Council for excellence in the design, development and implementation of the CARTHE website. Based at the UM Rosenstiel School, the Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment (CARTHE) is a research team dedicated to predicting the fate of the oil released into our environment as a result of future oil spills.

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The CARTHE website launched in August 2013 and serves as a web portal devoted to interactive information and science education for scientists, students, members of the press and the general public. The CARTHE website was created in collaboration with Professor Kim Grinfeder and his team from the UM School of Communications.

“The idea of this website was conceived when I met Kim Grinfeder from the School of Communication at a workshop I attended on main campus,” said Tamay Özgökmen, CARTHE director and Rosenstiel School professor.

“We needed an interactive website to tell our complex scientific story.  Over the course of the next few months, we conceived the website, which had two main interactive elements: An interactive infographic through which visitors can get information about the project, and a main introductory video on the homepage,” said Professor Özgökmen.

The CARTHE videos were developed by Ali Habashi, faculty member in the UM School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media.

“Ali was recommended to me by three different, unrelated people within a week. His name came up repeatedly when I said that it would be most efficient to have a video to tell our complex scientific story within the time span of a few minutes;  people would say “Will Ali do it?” He has a great reputation within the UM community and beyond,” said Professor Özgökmen.

“What I liked most about this project was its cross-disciplinary aspect and how it really shows how different areas of UM can collaborate,” said Kim Grinfeder, associate professor in the UM Department of Cinema and Interactive Media. “CARTHE is an amazing project happening at our university and to learn about their work and to have the opportunity to tell their story was an incredible experience.”

“There are plenty of benefits that can come from bringing faculty members from different schools together, and the CARTHE website is one example,” said Professor Özgökmen.

The judging consisted of various criteria, including design, usability, innovation in technical features, standards compliance and content. The website won in two categories, Science/Technology and Natural Environment/Green. It has received 4,583 visits since its launch in August 2013.

For more information about CARTHE, please visit www.carthe.org or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/carthe.gomri.

— RSMAS Communications 

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