Our latest lab adventure began on early Sunday morning after we all shook off our winter hibernation and flew to New Orleans for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. I bumped into Pat on my flight from Charlotte to New Orleans, and once on the ground in NOLA, Pat and I caught up with Katie and Liz over fried chicken and gumbo and waited for our fearless leader, Helen White, to arrive from the California coast. We spent the afternoon taking in the city and plotting which talks and posters to see at the conference, and rounded off the day with dinner at a nearby diner with scandalously good pecan pie.
Dawn arrived, and to prepare for a long day of talks we marched to Café Du Monde for a breakfast of beignets and strong coffee: a breakfast of champions. Dr. Rita Colwell opened the conference and impressed upon us the importance of interdisciplinary action following the spill. Admiral Thad Allen, who led the response effort to the 2010 oil spill, also reflected on his experiences as the National Incident Commander, which included some impressive one-on-one conversations with that other Commander onboard Air Force One.
The past two days have been busy in the best possible sense. I have been bouncing from talk to talk, and from poster to poster, soaking up all I possibly can about the poorly understood polar oil and dispersants, the twin foci of my thesis project. It’s been amazing to meet the faces behind papers I have been reading and to watch disagreements unfold in heated Q&A sessions.
Tomorrow, Katie and Liz will present their posters, and shortly thereafter we will make our way back to the Ford, and hopefully we can bring a little Gulf warmth with us!