FRONTS: a 24 Hour Microbial Survey

A few weeks back, Dec. 18-19, Dr. Thrash and I took part in sampling the tidal exchange at Barataria Pass in Grand Isle, Louisiana in collaboration with Dr. Chunyan Li (http://www.oceandynamics.lsu.edu/) from the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. The sampling involved a 24 hour survey across Barataria Pass collecting physical ocean, microbial community, and chemical data.

The day started early with us leaving Baton Rouge at zero dark thirty so that we could be in Grand Isle and ready to sample by 0900. Beyond running out of coffee mid trip, the drive down was smooth and filled with great views of the land slowly disappearing to be replaced by more and more water. Once on Grand Isle, we made base camp at the cozy Sand Dollar Motel and the accompanying marina.

This type of sampling was a first for me. The sampling scheme had a crew, composed of Dr. Li, Dr. Thrash, Mr. Eddie Weeks, and myself, sampling every 4 hours. The sampling consisted of collecting water for microbial community and chemical analysis, and realtime data from a YSI and CTD at three different points. Then two laps across the Barataria Pass were performed to collect the physical data using an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) attached to the front of our boat.

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View from the docks in at the Grand Isle marina
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The sampling gear getting ready to be loaded onto the boat.

The sampling would take about an hour from start to finish. The water was collected using a peristaltic pump that was onboard the boat and the water was transferred to shore where the filtering took another bit of time. We used the same protocol we have detailed before and you can watch here: https://thethrashlab.com/2014/10/08/thrash-lab-sampling-at-calcasieu-lake-jetties/

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Mr. Weeks, Dr. Thrash discussing science during an ADCP run.

We were lucky because for the most part the water remained calm, and the rain held off for most of the day and night. The weather was a bit chilly for the Louisianans, but I didn’t mind it too much. On many of our passes, we were lucky enough to be accompanied by dolphins, who seemed to very interested in the ADCP that was on the front of our boat.

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The ADCP on front of the boat that seemed to really excite the dolphins.

They would swim along with us as we sampled and recorded our data, and even sometimes interrupted the signal by swimming underneath.  However, they made for awesome pictures and entrainment. Not many microbiologists get to say they sampled with dolphins.

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A dolphin swimming in front of the boat as we sampled with the ADCP

As most of you readers know, the Thrash lab really enjoys finding new ways to showcase the science we are doing; this blog being one of them. While sampling for this project, we were lucky enough to have the talents of Mr. Eddie Weeks, who also works as a drone pilot for a variety of purposes. You can check out some of his videos here http://vimeo.com/user473306.  Mr. Weeks, along with driving our boat and helping sample, brought along a drone to help video some of our work. We were able to use our GoPro to video some of our setup process in between sampling. In the future, we hope to use a more detailed setup but for now this is pretty awesome if you ask us!

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The drone
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Getting ready to fly the drone.

Though the sampling was long, we made it through the whole 24 hour period successfully and got some great images and data to go along with it. We would like to thank coffee for its kind contributions of keeping us awake during this trip including the 0400 time point.

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The crew at 4am. We probably needed more coffee.

Cheers to all and hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday break.

Signing off,

Mike

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