|Cruising in the Gulf|
Tom Bianchi, a professor in the Texas A&M oceanography department, was Chief Scientist during a recent research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico studying hypoxia, an aquatic phenomenon in which dissolved oxygen concentration levels decrease to the detriment of life in the affected area. Near the Texas and Louisiana coasts, there is an 8,000 square mile region known as the “Dead Zone” in which hypoxia is regularly observed, especially during the summer months.
The research cruise is one of a series funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In order to better understand the mechanisms that control hypoxia, the team of scientists led by Bianchi collected data regarding nutrients, CO2 concentrations, and sediment levels in the Gulf.
April and May mark the Mississippi River’s high discharge time period. It is believed that increased fresh water levels stratify Gulf waters and contribute to the early stages of hypoxia. Bianchi will conduct a second cruise in August, when hypoxia often peaks amid low precipitation and wind levels.
Bianchi expressed optimism that the research would yield revealing results.
“A new core sampler is also giving us water collected just above the sediment water interface where we believe a lot of important bigeochemical processes are occurring,” Bianchi said.
Fenix Garcia, an oceanography graduate student, joined Bianchi and Dimarco for the cruise. Garcia used instrument designed by Oceanography professor Shari Yvon-Lewis to collect data on aquatic CO2 levels.
The cruise ran from April 25–30, 2011.
Graduate students and advisors: