Welcome to the web site for Sediment and Solute Transport on Rivers and Margins (SSTORM) Research Group! Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh from East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute lead the team.
Check out our research in/on wetlands, estuaries, barrier islands, shelves and groundwater.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eye on Irene: Watch Out for the First Atlantic Hurricane This Season

Although Hurricane Irene doesn't have an impressive structure (e.g., an eye) at the moment, this sizable storm is forecast to stregthen to a Category 3 storm in a few days.  Models of this system (as shown above) disagree on the landfalling future of this system, but the coast of North Carolina will certainly experience effects and could be where Irene comes ashore.  Residents need to get prepared for potentially a Major (Cat 3+) hurricane.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Successful Cruise: Thanks to the Captain and Crew

Dale, the Captain, at work.  He and the Chief Mate, Bobby, and the Second Mate, Larry, helped us get where we needed to go and sample the seabed.

Tina (left, Marine Tech), Mark (center, Chief Enginner), and Robert (right, Asst. Engineer) stand ready to help with docking...and are glad to get rid of us!  The were all always will to help answer questions or fix equipment.

Bob, the Steward, serves up a meal of yummy smoked ham for dinner.

Stephen, an Able Seaman, along with the other deck crew, John (theBosun) and Mark (a fill-in Able Seaman), kept a careful watch on the deck operations...and also helped with keep everything clean with the hose! 

8 August

It was a pleasure to return to the Gulf of Mexico and specifically to work aboard the R/V Cape Hatteras.  The weather cooperated, making the seabed sampling easy, and the Captain and crew helped us collect all the samples we could in the short time we were allocated.  The students worked tremendously hard, and Bob, the Steward, kept us well fed and hydrated.  It was a very successful trip, and we now have an impressive number of samples to investigate the record of the Mississippi River flood and other events (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) that have impacted the Gulf system.

Once we hit the dock our stuff was packed and ready for unloading.  What took us days to set up and collect, was packed into our vehicles within a couple hours.  We have a long drive back, but we're glad were returning with a large load of samples!

I'll wrap up the blogging for this cruise by saying a huge thanks to Dale (the Captain who oversaw the mud mayhem and effortlessly guided us to many sites including those in some tough locations), Bobby and Larry (the Mates who navigated us to countless core locations and helped us sample the many sites), Mark and Robert (the Engineers who kept the ship running smoothly and the A/C pumping!...both are critical in the Gulf!), Bob (the Steward who filled our bellies with many meals), Tina (the Marine Tech who ressurected the CTD and assisted with our many needs), and of course, John, Steve and Mark (who worked with closely on deck, watching for our safety and tolerating our muddy mess, and all the while did this with smiles and a sense of humor).  The Cape Hatteras is a special ship, which can really do it all, from coring sites where a person can stand (almost) to sampling the water and seabed at great depths.  One of the reason the ship is so capable is the experienced, hard-working and amiable crew.  I also need to thank the fabulous group of students who worked long hours on this cruise and made the trip extra enjoyable.  Additionally, my co-investigators were a pleasure to go to sea with, and I hope we can find future opportunities to work together.  THANKS! J.P. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the name of science...

If you look close, you'll notice that the daywalkers are working together with the mud-sucking Vampire Shift. That's right, it's one big scientific family as we work to meet our final goal of stations before we have to start steaming to port (Gulfport). It has been a quick cruise, but everyone (scientist an crew alike) has worked hard to get the job done.

We will collect our last core in about an hour…that will make 68 cores! Thanks to everyone for a job well done. Now it's time for the real work…to the lab!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Sunshine Shift Shines

The Sunshine Shift (Kevin, Devon, Jessica, David, Alisha, Reide)

Having a little fun during a very long day.
7 August

While the day watch (Noon-Midnight) has had the luxury of working during relatively normal hours of the day.  I must admit they have worked extremely hard and have had fun doing it.  They have collected and processed a ton of cores, and they have worked in intense heat, sweating like dogs and covered in mud.  They mean business, but make the work fun by talking, singing, and occasionally, dancing.   They have had some very tough days, and we have to thank them for a lot of our progress.

Nice job.

Many Jobs on Watch

Devon cleans off an x-ray tray.

Reide, Jessica and David cut yet another core.

J.P. prepares a multicore tube.

Devon (right) and David (left) clean off a sediment tray before x-raying.
7 August

During a watch there are a variety of jobs that need to be done, including sample recording, coring/ctd operations, cleaning, sieving, filtering, erosion chamber monitoring and interaction with the Captain and mates.   Some example photos are above.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vampires Hunt for Ocean Mud

A moonlight night on the Gulf of Mexico...

A mud vampire soaks up the moonlight.

The vampire team scavenges for ocean sediments on the Mississippi River delta.

They race aboard the R/V Cape Hatteras to find more magical mud.

The vampire team collects critical samples to learn more.

Vampire making sophisticated mud measurements to better understand the sedimentary system.

Slow core collection leads to an unfortunate vampire victim (Co-Chief Scientist Dr. Reide Corbett).

6 August

A strange group of students and faculty aboard the R/V Cape Hatteras are thirsty for sampling the seabed at night.  They roam the ocean with the aid of an amiable and talented Captain and crew who assist this odd coven of mud hungry monsters in finding marine sediments.  In the Gulf of Mexico, they have found their nirvana, where massive floods supply millions of more metric tons annually.  Over the past few days they have used a multicore to collect copious quantities of the gold for ghouls.  This black oozing matter is a mysterious mixture of aluminosilicate minerals, quartz sand and organic materials (both microscopic and macroscopic).  Humans have altered the amount of material washing into our coastal oceans through damming (which reduces the sediment discharged) and land–use changes (which generally increases material fluxes).  Naturally, the vampires are curious to find out more about how and why.  But before they can understand the Earth system and human influences, they must obtain key samples to quantify sedimentation rates and compositional details.  Quenching their thirst for knowledge will enable them to provide valuable insights which can inform managers and ultimately help their vampire brethren and the related mud-sucking marine macrofauna.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are victims if mud sampling is slowed.

Thanks to Alisha Ellis for the spooktacular photos.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Freaks come out at night...

The Vampire shift starts at midnight…core thirsty scientist ready to take on the elements to gather mud from the seafloor. Dr. JP Walsh (Chief Scientist), together with Dr. Sid Mitra, lead this band of night walkers. I will be the first to admit that the night shift is tough to adjust to…it's hard to be excited about starting your "day" at midnight. But that hasn't slowed this coven of mud suckers.

The night and early morning hours does provide some different sites to see. I have heard tales of tuna, water spouts, famous drill rigs…impressive indeed! It is interesting to see this crew in the morning…the vampires seem to turn into zombies throughout their 12 hour shift. That said, many still pitch in to help during the shift change. It is always great to see so many people working together for a single goal…the science!

The lead scientists (Walsh, Corbett, Mitra, Xu) often get together between shifts to make sure everyone is up to date on the accomplishments of the previous 12 hours and we all agree on the approach for the next 12 hours. We sometimes make slight modifications to our plan as samples are collected and new information on the sea floor deposits are gathered. Today we are steaming toward the Atchafalaya River delta. Planning on several shore perpendicular transects to the west of the delta.

The fun and excitement continues…

A City at Sea

5 August
The Gulf of Mexico is huge body of water.  But when you are on it, you hardly feel alone.  There are so many oil rigs and other platforms and structures that the area can look like a city.  Attached are a few pictures that show views of GOM infrastructure and ships, including one shot of the Discoverer Enterprise which drilled on of the relief wells for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last summer.  Looking a the map above, it make you wonder how this equipment in the ocean can survive through major huricanes like Katrina.


5 August
The night shift can be pretty slow.  But, every now and then we are fortunate to witness some interesting sights, and tonight's watch did not disappoint.  In addition to sampling a few important areas, we were able to witness a very impressive thunderstorm, including a couple waterspouts.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Sun Sets on the Sunshine Shift

Still happy despite being sun blasted.

A busy, muddy deck...a beautiful sign of successful geological research.

A typical Gulf of Mexico view.  Oil rigs are everywhere you look.

Fishing remains a huge industry in the Gulf due to the fertile waters.
4 August 1800

After only 6 hours on watch, the day shift is looking pretty haggard... but in a good way.  The sun and heat have been relentless, and the work on deck hasn't stopped.  But, despite being muddy and sweaty, they wear big smiles and show no signs of slowing down.  A huge benefit for all of us is that the sea conditions have been ideal as you can see from the pictures above.

The cores continue to come up full, and we are very happy with our results thus far.  We are seeing the same stratigraphic layers we samples on previous cruises with two important changes: 1)  a thin layer (about an inch) of deposition from the 2011 flooding has been draped over most of the area and 2) the benthic organisms have continued to stir the sediments, slowly erasing the seabed record of the Gulf's great hurricanes (e.g., Katrina).  So far, our expectations are being confirmed, but we'll see what the coming days have to offer.

Stayin' Alive - The Sunshine Shift

Co-Chief Scientist Reide Corbett is ready for sampling frenzy.
Jessic (left) and Devon (right) battle with placing an x-ray tray into a core.

Alisha sieves a sample to examine the macroscopic benthic organisms.

Kevin keeps working on an endless line of samples for filtering.

David examines a new set of cores to start the subsampling process again.

5 August

After getting a good night's rest and a large lunch (actually their breakfast), the day watch (Noon-Midnight) was ready to rock the fantail in the mid-day sun.  Co-Chief Scientist Corbett leads this small group (6 people total) of hard-working scientists.  It was another very hot and humid day, so even with a tarp for some shade, they were sweating up a storm within 10 minutes of arriving on shift.  Fortunately, the steward Bob and the crew, like John (not pictured), are proactive about making sure everyone is well fed and hydrated.  John was nice enough to bring out a cooler with gatorade and water!  "Service with a smile." he said, but really just a darn nice gesture!

Let the Coring Begin and The Vampires Come Out

The first core heads over the side.

Scientists wait with baited breath.

Muddy and sleep-deprived, a couple of Vampires (Sid and Ray) use their remaining energy to focus on cutting a core.

4 August

At about 2100 (9 PM), we arrived on our first site.  The "Sunshine Shift" started the sampling, but it was just a few hours until the "Vampires" had to report for watch.  Our first hiccup in operations arrived quickly when the Marine Tech, Tina, discovered that the CTD water-column profiling system decided to stop working.  These kind of challenges are the norm in oceanographic research and can be frustrating for all.  But, I've learned t is always better to have a an positive attitude when things don't work as you hope, and it's wise to have a backup plan.  Fortunately, our work is focused on collecting seabed samples, so this isn't a major issue.  Of course, Tina would work hard in the coming day to see if she could ressurrect the sytem.

The first two cores went relatively smoothly.  The Vampires trickled onto the deck at 2345, prepared to do some work...and ready to lose some sleep.  The first night of a night shift is always tough because there is no easy way to make the transition.  Most people tried to take a nap that afternoon, but that hour or two sleep is of little help the next morning when you still haven't really slept for 30 hours.  It was a busy night, and people kept awake by learning their watch responsibilities and getting stuff done.  By the morning, our faces and clothes were muddy, and our minds were numb. Everyone needed rest.  But, it was a successful, productive night.  As you can see from the lack of many pictures, our focus was on survival.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Safety and Science

Stephanie races to don a gumby suit.

The thrill of victory shines in Stephanie's face.

Dr. Kevin Xu from Coastal Carolina University talks science during a group meeting.

3 August

After a good taco lunch, the scientists turned their attention to Tina, the Marine Tech, who briefed us on safety and other matters, such as conserving water, limiting web use, and being a good shipmate.  Additionally, she showed a brief safety video which reviews emergency procedures, e.g., what to do in the event of a fire, man overboard or abandon ship.  It was very informative, and everyone played close attention which was good to see.  The fact is accidents happen, and everyone needs to be prepared when living aboard a ship.  Once completed we did an abandon ship drill, and Bobby, Chief Mate, reviewed additional important safety concerns and procedures.

We returned to the mess area (location where we eat and, in fact, the crew keeps it quite tidy!) to review the science plan and activities with the science party.   I (jp) explained how we are not only looking at the affects of recent flooding but aslo will examine changes in the sedimentary layers deposited by hurricanes Katrina, Rit and Ivan.  Everyone was very attentive and sounds eager to get to work.

Into the Great Blue Yonder

Leaving Gulfport, MS for the Mississippi River delta.

The pilot boat trails us out of the harbor.

Dr. Kevin Xu showing students the ropes.

3 August

After breakfast at 0730, we moved our vehicles to a designated parking lot.  Then, we were busy making sure the equipment was well tied down before we headed out into the open sea. Students took this opportunity to learn and practice some useful knots, e.g., the bowline and trucker's hitch.  Basic knot tying is a critical skill that every sea-going person must know.

We left the dock at about 0900 and started steaming to our study site, the Mississippi River delta, which is about 10 hours away (west). 


Final Preparations

The Principle Investigators for the research.

Chief Scientist Extraordinaire..."Where's the ship?"

August 2

Today, we set up our instruments and equipment for going to sea. Everytime a new group of scientists boards a research vessel, they need to arrange the lab in the most suitable way for their research. The process of loading equipment onto the ship, getting it unpacked, testing it out and securing it to its temporary home usually takes a day or so, depending on the operations and cruise length, location and ship. The Hatteras is a nicely sized vessel with a large deck and 3 lab spaces, so there are a lot of options for oceanographic work.

Automotive Hiking Across the Vast Southeast Coastal Plain

August 1
Oh beautiful for spacious skies... yes, there is a lot of sky and wooded areas between North Carolina and Gulfport, MS as well as a lot of fast food signs and highway. We just completed the long drive in record time (without speeding, of course). We got nervous a couple times, because we kept returning to Greenville.
We arrived at the RV Cape Hatteras about 9 PM after completing the 14 hour trek. After a good meal, we're ready for some rest and then to get to work loading the ship tomorrow.