The DEEPEND Crew will be setting sail this Friday, April 30th for their third midwater trawling research cruise, DP03. They will spend 15 days at sea collecting environmental and biological data in the northern Gulf of Mexico surrounding the Deepwater Horizon site. On board will be 15 scientists whose expertise includes areas such as taxonomy, sound scattering, genetics, oceanography, and light. The teacher-at-sea for this cruise will be Christia Hewlett who teaches marine biology at Sheridan Hills Christian School. There will be one additional guest on this cruise who has never been to sea before – Flat Stanley! You may remember seeing him before as a child or maybe have received him in the mail from friends or family. He will be blogging about his experiences at sea and sharing photos here. In addition to our scientific mission, we will be filming activities onboard for two upcoming documentaries and for public and educational outreach.
The goal of this third cruise is to better understand the relationship between water masses and animal distributions in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be accomplished by establishing stations in two oceanographic features that are currently in the northern gulf, the Loop Current which spins clockwise and a cyclonic eddy north of the Loop Current which spins counter-clockwise. Loop Current water, which originates in the Caribbean Sea, is very warm and low in nutrients whereas cyclonic eddies are thought to be “oases in the desert” with higher nutrients due to upwelling. Another aim will be to identify the organisms that make up the sound scattering layer, detected acoustically using a powerful echosounder. These layers contain higher abundances of organisms and are an important component of the oceanic gulf ecosystem. It is important to understand the natural variability in the gulf as related to different water masses so that we may detect changes resulting from events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
You can follow along using the ship tracking map on our homepage to see where we are at any time. An updated HYCOM model of the oceanographic conditions will also be posted there. You can find photos, videos, and blogs posted throughout the cruise showing you what’s happening in real-time! So check back daily for updates!