The Microbes of the Mississippi River – A Rowing Adventure for Science

For the past four months a crew of four rowers and four shore crew members with OAR Northwest, a not-for-profit adventure education organization, have been on a journey of a lifetime on the Mississippi River. After over 100 days of rowing, the crew has traveled from the headwaters of the River in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. They arrived in Baton Rouge on November 16, 2016 and spent a few days visiting LSU and talking to students about their journey.

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After months on the Mississippi River, OAR Northwest rowers Audra and Calli arrived in Baton Rouge. Researchers at LSU met the rowers near the new bridge to retrieve water samples the rowers had collected for analysis of microbe DNA. Photo by Dawn Jenkins.

Just as the state of Louisiana has a special connection with the “Mighty” Mississippi River, the OAR Northwest rowing crew has a special connection with LSU. This is the second OAR Northwest Mississippi River adventure during which rowers have collected water samples for Dr. Cameron Thrash, an assistant professor in the LSU Biological Sciences department. Cameron’s research focuses on relationships between microorganisms and biogeochemical cycles, particularly in marine systems. Thanks to a relationship with the OAR Northwest team that started when founder Jordan Hanssen met Cameron’s family in Washington, and which has developed into an ongoing citizen science project, the Thrash lab is now building a complete microbial “map” of the Mississippi river…

See more from Paige Jarreau and me about this amazing project at The Pursuit LSU College of Science Blog HERE.

Sampling the Mississippi River Delta

Mike and I went on a sampling trip Tuesday (1/12/16) to the Mississippi Delta (“The Birdfoot”) near Buras, LA. This was my first sampling trip ever with the Thrash lab, and I must say that it was a great experience! We headed out loaded up with our equipment and coffee, and ended up with a fantastic view of  the sunrise at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. Sadly, the picture does not come close to the beauty of  our actual view.

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Sunrise at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain

At the site, Mike waded out into the water to collect the sample while I got to hang back and enjoy the scenery. It was a great day to be outdoors with cool air and the sun shining.

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Our view from the dock

 

Some pelicans that didn't seem to mind us
Some pelicans that didn’t seem to mind us

 

Mike taking YSI readings
Mike taking YSI readings

 

Mike filtering a water sample
Mike filtering a water sample

Overall, I really enjoyed my sampling adventure with Mike. This trip was a part of our 3 year study of the coastline to characterize the microbial population of the Louisiana coast in conjunction with adding microbes to our Louisiana State culture collection (LSUCC) from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m hopeful that we will isolate some novel organisms from this and future trips. Not all undergraduates are lucky enough to be a part of a lab that allows us to be out in the field for data collection, so I’m grateful to Dr. Thrash and Mike for the opportunity!

 

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

Sampling Lake Borgne

Last week David and I got up early enough to duck a series of storms coming through the region for some sunny sampling on Lake Borgne. This also saw the maiden voyage of a new Thrash Lab capital acquisition, the R/V Schipperke. We put in at Campo’s Marina, toodled out to a site past the old fort (these are commonplace in this region), and took measurements and water collections. The water was almost fresh, with a salinity ~5. David used these to inoculate the latest high throughput cultivation experiment since Mike Henson is currently at the C-MORE summer course. Here are some photos.

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On the way through the cut
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David taking YSI readings

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