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)

Outstanding Mentor & Student Award Winners

UM Rosenstiel Professor Roland Romeiser of the Department of Ocean Sciences is the winner of the 2017 Outstanding Mentor Award. This annual award is meant to recognize faculty and staff members who go above and beyond in fostering the professional and personal development of RSMAS graduate students. The award is based solely on student recommendations and nominations were evaluated by a committee made up of student representatives and the previous year’s recipient.

David Ortiz-Suslow (left) and 2017 Outstanding Mentor award recipient Roland Romeiser

According to Dave Ortiz-Suslow, chair of the student SLED committee that choose this year’s winner, “Dr. Romeiser is described as having a profound interest in the well-being of OCE graduate students. He is an excellent instructor, accomplished researcher, and outstanding mentor to many students, not only the ones he directly advises.”

The SLED committee also recognized Professor Elizabeth Babcock of the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology as this year’s Honorable Mention. Dr. Babcock is an excellent mentor who works ardently to encourage students’ professional development at and beyond RSMAS.

Student Awards

On Friday, April 28 an award ceremony was held honoring all UM Rosenstiel student accomplishments during the past year.

Spring 2017 Student Award Winners

Photos of the 2017 awards ceremony can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/RosenstielSchool/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154576154375949

Best Ph.D. Dissertation – F.G. Walton Smith Prize
Dr. Sarah Larson (MPO)

Best Student Publication – Millero Prize
Jara Schnyder (MGG)

Mary Roche Endowed Fellowship 
Mariana Bernardi-Bif (OCE)

Koczy Fellowship
Kevin Schauer (MBE)

Masters of Professional Science for Excellence in Ocean Stewardship
Ana Nader Valenci (MPS)
Jeff Palumbo (MPS)

Graduate Studies Service Award
Samantha Dowdell (MAF)
Meredith Jennings (MAC)
David Ortiz-Suslow (AMP)

Teaching Assistant Excellence Award
Zachary Daugherty (MES)
Sharmila Giri (MGG)
Jacob Jerome (MAF)

Career Development Fund
Ryan Kramer (MPO) and Eleanor Middlemas (MPO)
Michael Connelly (MBE)
Shane Hinton (MPS)
Amanda Mikalian (MPS)
Heather Sadusky (MPS)
Joletta Silva (MPS)
Jennifer Simms (MPS)

David Rowland Endowed Fellowship
Molly Amador (MBE)
Ana Palacio-Castro (MBF)

International Light Tackle Tournament Fund
Lela Schlenker (MBF)
Christina Pasparakis (MBE)
Heather Sadusky (MPS)

Best MPO Student Seminar Award
Ryan Kramer (MPO)

Best Abstract OCE Student Seminars
Romain Chaput (OCE)

OCE/AMP/MAC Best Student Seminar 

Dave Ortiz-Suslow (OCE)

 

Congratulations to our spring award winners and a special thanks to the Graduate Academic Committee for carefully reviewing and selecting the winners from a very strong group of nominations.

 

 

Provosts’ and AGU Student Paper Award Winners

Several UM Rosenstiel School faculty received awards for their research from the UM Office of the Provost.

Bill Johns accepts research awardWilliam Johns, professor of ocean sciences, received a Provost’s Funding Award. This new UM research award recognizes productivity in research, as evidenced by sustained, peer-reviewed extramural funding and is selected by a committee of Research Deans. “Your ability to propose and perform innovative and relevant research, and thus maintain a well-funded research program over an extended period of time, is exemplary,” said UM Vice Provost for Research John Bixby.

Johns is a seagoing oceanographer specializing in the use of long-term moored instrumentation to study ocean circulation. His research involves studies of the large-scale wind-driven circulation, with emphasis on the dynamics of western boundary currents, and on deep flows related to the global thermohaline circulation and climate variability.

The 2017 Provost’s Research Award recipients from the Rosenstiel School are:

  • Douglas Crawford Department of Marine Biology & Ecology                            Project, titled “Providing Physiological Phenotypes for 1,000 Human Genomes to Interpret the Importance of DNA Sequence Variation.”
  • Cassandra Gaston Department of Atmospheric Sciences                               Project, titled “Determining the Impact of Saharan Dust on Clouds and Climate.”
  • Neil Hammerschlag Department of Marine Ecosystems & Society                   Project, titled “Assessing Performance Breadth of Large Mobile Fishes in Relation to Temperature Variability Using Multi-sensor Biotelemetry.”

The Provost’s Awards for Scholarly Activity and Research Awards were presented on March 29 at a special event to recognize their research accomplishments. The Provost’s Research Awards are administered by the UM Office of the Vice Provost for Research to provide salary support and direct research costs to faculty for research.

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AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award

AJDA SAVARIN

AJDA SAVARIN

UM Rosenstiel School graduate student Ajda Savarin won the AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting for her research presentation, titled “Diurnal Cycle of Convection and Air-Sea-Land Interaction Associated with MJO over the Maritime Continent.”

“There is a lot of competition for this distinguished award,” Michael G. Brown, professor of ocean sciences and director of the UM Rosenstiel School graduate program, “Congratulations to Ajda!”

Savarin is pursuing a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography. Her research relates to the study of an atmospheric phenomenon called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), including in its initiation, and its eastward propagation across the region of Maritime Continent, and modeling those processes using the Unified Wave Interface – Coupled Model (UWIN-CM).

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Named UCAR Trustee

Professor Shuyi ChenProfessor Shuyi Chen is one of five new trustees named to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) board. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Chen, professor of ocean sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School in an expert in the prediction of extreme weather events, including tropical cyclones and winter storms. She has also been an affiliate scientist at NCAR since 2006. She serves as vice chair of the National Academies Board of Atmospheric Science and Climate (BASC). A fellow of the American Meteorological Societ. Read more about Chen.

UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 110 North American colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research for Atmospheric Research with sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. UCAR’s community programs offer a suite of innovative resources, tools, and services in support of the consortium’s education and research goals.

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.

 

Drawn to the Sea

When Patrick Rynne contacted me on December 11th of last year, he explained that one of Waterlust’s initiatives was to showcase ocean scientists’ fundamental research interest and juxtapose the topic with their personal passions. He said “Obviously your name jumped up immediately. We’d love to produce a piece on you that contrasts your love of freediving with your research”. I was stoked about the idea of a snapshot documentary. I thought it could be a very artistic and powerful way to communicate science to the general public. Drawn to the Sea, the Waterlust 4-minute long video was launched 6 months later, coincidently during the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) which takes place only every four years, and I could not be happier with the outcome. It’s making was a very educational and amazing journey that I’d love to share.

The short video is composed of three major parts: the narration, the footage, and the soundtrack.

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The Narration

Being familiar with my research on fish larvae, Patrick had a story board already in mind, but he asked me of I would prefer to do the narration myself. As far as I remember, water has been my sanctuary and since I am very passionate about my work and about freediving, I found it easy and fun to write the narration below. The hardest part was to make the story short enough to be told in 3-4 minutes. It took however coaching from Patrick to speak into a microphone and many repetitions alone in my office late at night, with complete silence to get it right!

I have always been drawn to the sea. As a kid, I imagined the magic of the aquatic realm and found comfort underwater, mesmerized by the sounds of waves on the shoals and of my heart beat slowing down.

I am a biological oceanographer and a free diver. The ocean is where I push my mind and my body. I study the earliest days of a fishs life, what we call its larval stage. All fish, even those that grow to become very large, begin their lives very small. They may be tiny, but weve learned they are far from defenseless. They are strong and self sufficient having evolved to survive the pelagic life. Like the mantra ek ong kar, they and the ocean are one.

Despite this, they must still find their way through the oceans currents to a safe home like a coral reef where they can live and grow. At first we thought some would find a suitable habitat by chance, while others would be lost in the vast ocean. But today we are discovering a different story. Fish larvae are skilled swimmers and work together by using the light from the sun, and the smells and sounds in the ocean to find their way home. Even when young, they are connected to the sea in ways we dont entirely understand. When I observe them, I cannot help but think they know something about this blue world that I don’t.

Unlike a fish, I cannot extract oxygen from the water. But with long, deep inhales, I have learned to fill my lungs with air and slow the beat of my heart. Underwater, I find peace listening to my pulse slowing down and the sound of water over my body. I sink as pressure increases and I feel the water running faster over my face. I imagine that I am just like the tiny fish I study.

I explore the ocean with others like me, learning how to hold my breath and extend each visit below, just a little bit longer. But no matter how hard I train.my body will eventually force me to leave and return home to the air. Sometimes.in my dreams, I imagine I could hold my breath forever. I feel free. I wonder if I could, would I ever come back?

The Soundtrack

The music actually came after the narration. Despite personal preference for cello or violin, I had to agree that the piano soundtrack chosen by the Waterlust team was perfectly in tune with the narration. They have a lot of experience putting together amazing videos with beautiful soundtracks so it did not take long for them to find the perfect fit.

The Footage

Most of the footage was the result of a weekend session done with the Waterlust team in the Florida Springs. We had a great time freediving with them and their creative angles. Before that, I started organizing all my footage together and Patrick reviewed it and figured out what more was needed. The video needed field and lab footage of larval fish. I had some unique video of groups of damselfish larvae navigating taken by my husband Ricardo (RSMAS Alumni) and I on the Great Barrier Reef a few years ago. This study was recently published in PLoS ONE in December 2015. However, the field of larval fish behavior is relatively undocumented. So Patrick came to my lab and took some radical video of mahi-mahi larvae (generously donated by my UM Rosenstiel School colleagues, Daniel Bennetti and Martin Grosell) with a macro lens shooting at 240 frames per second!

The video also needed freediving clips from travel or from competitions. My first competition was at Deja Blue in October 2013 and my latest trip was at the Dean’s Blue Hole this April 2016, where I regularly service an acoustic pressure instrument that records sounds in a marine sinkhole. However, we still needed some footage of the meditation practice that is part of my freediving training, and of course of the fun part of the freediving with “others like me”. We asked Waterlust Ambassador, Ashley Baird, to join us on that endeavor. Ashley is from central Florida and also a competitive free diver and a great friend, so she was perfect for the role and she kindly accepted!

The best part of making the video was hanging out with the amazing Waterlust team,at Ginnie Springs around a fire camp and freediving under the moonlight. It was my first time visiting the Florida springs. I could not believe that after so many years in Miami, I had missed such natural beauty in Central Florida. The freshwater is so clear that you can see the refraction of the hammocks on the Snell’s window from the bottom of the sink holes.

I hope you enjoy the video and that it will inspire more documentaries of our scientific research at RSMAS and of our passion for the ocean.

 

Claire Paris, Professor – Department of Ocean Sciences, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Claire Paris-Limouzy leads the RSMAS Physical-Biological Interactions Lab and is a champion free-diver.