Celebrating the Newness on World Oceans Day

Last month, our lab participated in a very successful research cruise on the R/V Pelican. This was my ~27th oceanographic research expedition, and the 7th that I have been Chief Scientist of. The focus of the cruise was mud, glorious, deep-sea mud, which we are using to study the artificial reef effect on benthic microorganisms.

Each cruise is special to me for different reasons. They range from the significance of the discoveries, the technologies, the challenges we overcome, the team work, the food (which was exceptional, thanks to our chef Dave Bhattacharya), etc. This past cruise was special for the newness:

I had the privilege of introducing three Mason students to ocean science (Sarah Brown, class of 2016, Beth Haley, and Matthew Johnson). I shared the challenge and adventure of marine studies with Dr. Joel Gaston (Naval Research Lab), who never envisioned such would be part of his job.  Our Marine Technician, Marah Dahn had her first at bat with multicoring, and with the help of Chief Engineer Rodney Redman, she was a natural, and put core, after core on the deck. Finally, I brought my Department Chair, mentor and friend, Dr. Bob Jonas, an experienced scientist and sailor back out on a UNOLS vessel after a hiatus.

A three day stretch of flat seas was a welcome treat for both science and comfort.  Through the guidance of our Captain, Nicolas Allen, we were always on or ahead of schedule. This provided time to enjoy the show that pods of dolphins were putting on daily.  Every time First Mate Erik Gravel would see a pod, he would alert the science party in seldom subtle ways (“Baby dolphins!”), and then watch the stampede to the bow.  The students asked Erik and I if we ever tire of seeing dolphins ride the bow wake.  We were unanimous: “No, it never gets old“.

On World Oceans Day, I celebrate the newness found in each cruise, my good fortune to have, and share a scientific view of the ocean that most never see, and the wonder of the deep blue that never gets old.

-Leila H

The sights and sounds of the Hamdan Lab students seeing the dolphins for the first time.



Off to sea with colleagues new and old: (left to right) Preston Fulmer, Bob Jonas, Kylara Martin, Joel Gaston.


Mason students and staff (left to right), Sarah Brown, Zeima Kassahun, Beth Haley and Matthew Johnson manage a science selfie with the multicorer and CTD.



We can’t hide our love of the mud. Left to right, Sarah Brown, Beth Haley, Leila Hamdan


…Neither can R/V Pelican crew members Dirk Wakker, Erik Gravel and Christian Williford .


Thanks to all for another great cruise.  The PE16-23 team (left to right): Matthew Johnson, Zeima Kassahun, Bob Jonas, Sarah Brown, Rodney Redman, Beth Haley, Marah Dahn, Dirk Wakker, Kylara Martin, Christian Williford, Leila Hamdan, Nicholas Allen, Preston Fulmer, Joel Gaston, Tom Boyd. Not pictured: Dave Bhattacharya, Erik Gravel, Hernando Bacosa, Kaijun Lu