Antarctica research published

On March 23rd, research on the microbial variation across a 5500 km transect of Antarctic surface sediment that Dr. Thrash and I had worked on with Dr. Deric Learman from Central Michigan University was finally published in Frontiers in Microbiology under the special topic: Microbiology of the rapidly changing polar environments. Since then, the article has had >1200 views from around the globe and was one of the top ten articles in Frontiers in Microbiology for the month of March. The research began when I was a Masters student in Dr. Learman’s lab. When I came here to LSU, Dr. Thrash was added to the project. This research would of never happened without the help of Dr. Andrew Mahon (CMU), Dr. Scott Santos (Auburn), Dr. Kenneth Halanych (Auburn), and Dr. Pamala Brannock (Auburn). Each one helped collect our sediment samples while they were out to sea doing their own research. I’d also like to thank Dr. Ben Temperton (University of Exeter) who helped with our analyzes.  We are excited to finally have it published!

Here is a quick blurb on it:

Western Antarctica, one of the fastest warming locations on Earth, is a unique environment that harbors under explored levels of biodiversity. Our work focuses on the seemingly “invisible” inhabitants of the ocean floor that boarder the western and peninsula portion of the Antarctic continent.   While microorganisms are the smallest forms of life on Earth, they are abundant (typically more than 10 million cells per gram of sediment) and influence the cycling of important nutrient such as carbon and nitrogen. They also represent the foundation of the food chain that supports larger and more complex forms of life. To study this environment, ocean sediment samples from the continental shelf of western Antarctica were collected over a 5,500 km transect from the Ross Sea to the Weddell Sea. By using 16S and 18S rRNA amplicon sequencing, this work has shown these sediments to be incredibly diverse and were distinguished by their correlations to organic matter and stable isotope fractions (TN, δ13C, etc.). Our work further demonstrates the versatility of marine microbial life and its ability to persist at near zero temperatures as well as greatly increases the available information for this region.

Learman, Deric R., Michael W. Henson, J. Cameron Thrash, Ben Temperton, Pamela M. Brannock, Scott R. Santos, Andrew R. Mahon, and Kenneth M. Halanych. (2016)
 Biogeochemical and microbial variation across 5500 km of Antarctic surface sediment implicates organic matter as a driver of benthic community structureFrontiers in Microbiology7:284. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00284

Ending the first Diel sampling set


Enjoy some time pictures from time points 0200 and 0600 as we completed our 24 hour survey at the C transect site. The video I have uploaded is of the Platform and its fog horn that sounds every 20 seconds or so. Its a real joy to work and sleep to.

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The sunrise at 0600 this morning. To be cheesy #nofilter
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Sunrise on the Northern Gulf of Mexico after our last CTD cast
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The rain has come back on our way to the 2nd 24 hour survey site

Diel Sampling: Update

Well Day 1 has come and starting to end though my day will still go on for another 10-12 hours. When I woke up this AM, the ship was tossing and rolling quiet a bit for being in the Gulf. The first time point was at 0600 and between lack of sleep, an early morning, and some good waves, I wasn’t exactly feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed, nor was anyone else. Alas, the day went on and the time points began to come and go.

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Waiting for the first CTD cast…also a snap of Lauren Gillies thinking hard about what what their game plan is

The first and second time points were split up by a trip just past the site C6B where Dr. Nancy Rabalais (LUMCON) and Dr. Brian Roberts (LUMCON) took sediment cores for experiments they wanted to run back at LUMCON.

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Setting up the box corer for sampling on the RV Pelican

The second time point was quiet, it was just me sampling so I had the whole CTD to myself. But of course the day isn’t complete without some type of problem ! HA! I am three for three on cruises that have some sort of issue, but some say thats oceanography. Anyways, thanks to the awesome crew of the RV Pelican, and some patience, we got the hydraulics fixed and were able to once again deploy the CTD.

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The sampling set up…woo! Make sure you secure your Yeti things.

While on the water, you get to see a lot of things : dolphins, fish, jelly fish, etc. But today, between time point three and four, I got to see a Water Spout which I was really excited about. It was pretty far away and the only picture we got is thanks to Mary Kate.

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Look to the left of the oil rig and there is a line from the water to the clouds. That is the water spout! Thank again to Mary Kate Rogener for the photo. 

Overall, all is going well. I am waiting for time point 5 to come (2200) and then hopefully get a nap in before time point 6 (0200). Follow my twitter account (@Hensonmw_08) for more live updates. Enjoy some pictures!

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1800 Time Point means everyone is out sampling
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Setting up on the station C6B. Thanks Ari for the photo! 
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Sunset on the Northern Gulf Of Mexico

Cheers,

Mike

Diel sampling: Cruise number two with the LUMCON team

Today, we board the RV Pelican for a second time in two weeks. The Thrash lab will be sampling with Mary Kate Rogener (@mkrogener) from Dr. Samantha Joye’s lab (UGA), Post Doc Ari Chelsky (Brian Roberts, LUMCON), Lauren Gillies and Erin (@GilliesLE) from Dr. Olivia Mason (FSU), and Wokil Bam from Dr. R. Eugene Turner‘s lab (LSU) under the lead of Dr. Nancy Rabalais (LUMCON).

The RV Pelican sitting in Port at LUMCON.
The RV Pelican sitting in Port at LUMCON.

Unlike the NGOM Shelfwide Hypxoia cruise, we will be focusing this cruise on two sampling sites within the Hypoxia transect over 24 hours.

the 2015 NGOM Shelfwide Hypoxia transect. We will be sampling two sites from two transects over 24 hours time periods. Figure credit to Dr. Nancy Rabalais and Dr. Leslie Smith
The 2015 NGOM Shelfwide Hypoxia transect. We will be sampling two sites from two transects over 24 hours time periods. Figure credit to Dr. Nancy Rabalais and Dr. Leslie Smith.

Sampling will once again include three depths, while collecting water for nutrient data and filters for microbial community data. The idea will be similar to our Fronts sampling.

Others on the cruise will be working on sediment cores (I am excited for this!) as well as work on biogeochemistry rates.

Follow along as we go on our five day journey! And don’t be afraid to ask some questions! And Make sure to follow me on Twitter for live updates (@Hensonmw_08) as well as Mary Kate (@mkrogener) and Lauren (@GilliesLE).

Back of the RV Pelican
Back of the RV Pelican
LUMCON at night
LUMCON at sunset
The LUMCON emblem on the RV Pelican
The LUMCON emblem on the RV Pelican

Cheers,

Mike

Northern Gulf of Mexico Shelfwide Hypoxia Cruise

Two weeks ago, I was able to take part in the 6 day Northern Gulf of Mexico research cruise. This is its 31st year that it is going on and our third year taking part in it (see 1, 2). This year I was the lucky one to go instead of Dr. Thrash. This was my first official collection cruise so I was pretty excited to finally get out on a boat and put into practice everything I had learned while at the CMORE summer course.

Once again, our lab was working with Dr. Olivia Mason from Florida State University and her graduate student Lauren Gillies (@GilliesLE), who recently published a paper with Dr. Thrash from the 2013 research cruise: Archaeal enrichment in the hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Congrats to them!

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Prepping the lab before the cruise starts

Though for the most part the set up and collection was the same as past years, this year I added a little twist to the game: Culturing.

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Our set up with the clean hood added for me to culture!

The cruise was a lot of fun and as usual I learned a ton about the Northern Gulf of Mexico and hypoxia. The main focus of the rest of the cruise was determining the size and nature of the 2015 “dead zone”. Dr. Rabalais (LUMCON) and her team worked countless hours to make sure all the data was collected and ready to be sent to NOAA, the EPA, and the public. This year we found that the dead zone was larger then scientists had predicted. This year’s dead zone extended over more than 6,400 square miles.

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A map depicting the stations sampled, as created by Leslie Smith and Dr. Nancy Rabalais (LUMCON) http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/Research/Shelfwide%20Cruises/2015/
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A map depicting the hypoxia measured in the nGOM, as created by Leslie Smith and Dr. Nancy Rabalais (LUMCON) http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/Research/Shelfwide%20Cruises/2015/

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/080415-gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-above-average.html

http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/

A few more pictures of me with some of the awesome graduate researchers (Mary Kate Rogener (@mkrogener) from Dr. Samantha Joye’s lab (UGA)) and Post Doc Ari Chelsky (Brian Roberts, LUMCON) also on board the RV Pelican.

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Sunset behind the RV Pelican
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Heading back to port at LUMCON in Cocodrie, LA
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Mary Kate working in her temporary anaerobic space
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Sometimes when you filter three depths in the Hypoxic waters you get three colors.
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Past years have been flat, this year we got some storms which was fun!
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Getting our sampling in before a squall moved through! It was blowing like stink out there but Lauren didn’t care
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Working in the hood to culture some microorganisms…Thanks for the picture Mary Kate
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Obligatory selfie
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The infamous C6C platform

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Keep an eye out for more publications from the Mason and Thrash groups on this exciting research area!
Cheers,

MWH

2015 Summer Course on Microbial Oceanography

Okay, first off, sorry for all these late posts. This summer has been pretty crazy for all of the Thrash lab! We have been busy with sampling, trips, etc…safe to say, we have generated plenty of data this summer.

This summer I was able to take part in the 2015 CMORE Summer Course on Microbial Oceanography. The course is roughly a five week long intensive learning environment hosted by the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education at The University of Hawaii Moana in Honolulu, Hawaii.  In total, 16 students from around the world (Germany, Austria, Israel, Spain to name a few) were invited through an application process to attend the course titled ” Microbial Oceanography: Genomes to Biomes”.

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2015 CMORE summer course students and some faculty

After some awesome introductions the first day by Dr. Dave Karl, Dr. Matt Church, and Dr. Ed DeLong, we started our first week of lectures from our main speakers Dr. Angelicque White, Dr. Mick Follows, and Dr. Dan Repeta. The topics covered nutrient cycling to modeling and focused more on describing the ocean as a habitat. For me, it was my first time really tackling this type of information and it was a lot of information to take in. But lucky for me, we had some of the best teachers there to help us through it all.

Even though the group came from a diverse background, we all felt a strong bond with each other.

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Hiking with the group before the course started.
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Enjoying a night on the beach with everyone after our first day of the course

The second week focused on Genomes and was taught mainly by Dr. Greig Steward, Dr. Craig Nelson, Dr. Ed DeLong, Dr. Alison Murray, Dr. Eric Allen, Dr. Bethany Jenkins, and Dr. Penny Chisholm. Topics including sequencing techniques, analysis of genomic data, Antarctica, Eukaryotes, microbial ecotypes, and much more. It was another awesome week that brought us to the end of our lecture portion and one step closer to getting on the RV Kilo Moana for a 7 day research cruise.

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Getting a tour of the sequencing facility at CMORE Hale
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The new Illumina technology for library prep using microfluidics
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The new NeoPrep machine from Illumina
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Why not have a robot to prep your samples for you

The RV Kilo Moana was an amazing ship and quite big. Especially if this was your first time being on a research cruise or a research vessel. I guess, I was a bit spoiled.

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The Kilo Moana at port

The cruise was one of the things I was most excited about. And to be honest, it was amazing. The CMORE crew did an amazing job prepping the ship and materials for us to use. During the cruise, we had five groups that rotated through five “stations”. The “stations” were flow cytometry (counts and sorting), molecular (DNA extractions, PCR, Sequencing Prep), physical oceanography (CTD prep, casting, retrieval ,etc), productivity (PP and BP), and nutrient analysis (Chlorophyll, ATP, Nutrients). Each day gave us a new station to work at and the ability to learn new techniques. To be short, for those familiar with the Hawaiian Ocean Time Series (HOTS), this is the type of data we collected. The data we collected and analyzed as well as protocols can be found on the CMORE website.  The cruise was hard work and I found myself learning something new every time we did a station. We even learned what happens when an array gets too close to the boat 🙂 .

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How you solidify a gel on a moving boat.
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Dr. Church doing his favorite thing…working the winch..though most of the time it was the students doing this.
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Waiting to recover a productivity array which we deployed every day
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Obligatory selfie
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One of the many amazing sunsets
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Bringing back the CTD
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A view from above
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Sorry but I love sunsets while on the water
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Trying on our Gumbi suites
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Heading out to sea
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Working on our C14 Primary Productivity samples
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Just catching a rainbow

It is hard to put into words how much I learned on this trip, how many new friends and colleagues I gained, and the amount I grew as a scientist. I cannot thank all the individuals that put this on, participated in, and helped out with this course enough.

Enjoy a little closing video I made for the group and everyone after we presented our data at a seminar for all SOEST and CMORE.

Sorry the movie had the music removed 😦

Failed dive attempt at C6C

Last week we sailed on the R/V Acadiana to C6C to de-winterize the SONDE attachments only to be stymied by a jack-up rig and increasingly bad sea state. We sailed for three hours, and when we arrived, the water was calm enough to dive, so we suited up. With the first team of divers literally standing on the transom to jump in, a jack-up rig radioed for us to wait so they could post up near our dive site. We waited for two hours on station (incidentally, we could have completed everything we needed to do in that time), with 10-15 kt wind on the water for the duration, and when the first team finally splashed, the sea state was trash. Dive Safety Officer Lora Pride called it all off. These things happen. But there were some good photos, and a video of the scene out there at C6C before we got stopped, so I thought I’d post them. We’ll be out again soon.

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The R/V Acadiana poised for action at dawn
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The LUMCON docks at 0 dark 30.
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Heading out, with an old friend coming in – the R/V Pelican returning to LUMCON
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Breakfast on the ship- a major perk of the Acadiana!

Here you’ll see some video of one of the many service helicopters that land on the rig and some of us getting ready on the back of the Acadiana. The sea state is relatively calm at this point, so it would have been perfect timing to dive.

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Back at the dock, our dive flags still flying. We’ll get ’em next time