Starting form Gulfport, MS, the White and Reddy Labs traveled to Ship Island and moved along the Gulf Coast to collect samples and make our way to New Orleans, LA, which is our home base for the next two nights.
To get to Ship Island (which, like many of our sites, is the home of an abandoned Civil War fort), we took a ferry. Ship Island is a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi. Upon arrival, I was amazed by the natural habitat (marshes and grasses, reserved for bird nesting areas). With hopes of finding a giant tar mat, Helen and I discovered a giant tarp in the water (not oil), which was disappointing, since we went out waist-deep to examine it. The sampling at this site was interesting becauseof the variability of size, shape, and quantity of sand patties at different sides of the island. The samples collected on the bay side were completely different from those collected on the oceanside, even though most spots were less than 100 meters apart. Here, we encountered birds, jelly fish, beautiful hermit crabs, dolphins, and country music. After the samples were collected, we swam in the water, and had frozen coffee. The best part (other than the beautiful beaches and samples) was talking to BigBob about the sources of natural oil and gas on the ferry back to gulfport! Being around a group of scientists ensures that you’ll constantly be learning new things and contributing to others’ knowledge and curiosity as well.
After the Ship Island adventure, we sampled at the jetties near gulf port in search of oil on the rocks which the jetty is composed of. usually, rock scraping applies to the collection of a certain form of oil, but this site had caked on sand patties that were to be collected. To do this, we climbed on and dismantled the jetty in search of rocks with oil on them, which would then be collected via scraping, and analyzed by a member of the Reddy group for the effects of photooxidation of oil found on rocks.
Finally, we made our way to NOLA, where we went out to dinner at a seafood restaurant in New Orleans with the Reddy Lab. After that, we walked through the city at night, which was lit up in neon lights (mostly for bars and hotels). Before the night ended, both of our labs ate beignets and went for a stroll along the river.
TLDR: Collaboration, marine mammals, and fried food seem to be a common theme on this excursion.