On June 25th, 2019, we will embark on the first research cruise for the Microbial Stowaways project, funded by NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research program. This expedition will take 9 days aboard USMs R/V Point Sur with ROV Odysseus on board. Our team includes 8 scientist, 2 archeologist, 4 ROV crew members, an outreach specialist, a middle-school teacher from the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, and 8 Point Sur crew members.
Main goals for this expedition are to discover and characterize two unexplored, wooden shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico, and investigate their role in microbial biogeography in the deep-sea. We will be collecting hours of video footage of these never before seen shipwrecks, and collecting sediment and water samples around them to explore the environment and microbiomes around these exciting habitats. We will also deploy experiments on the seafloor to study how biofilms form on surfaces in the deep-sea, a critical step which takes shipwrecks out maritime past and into the present as artificial reef ecosystems, teaming with life both visible, and invisible.
Our lab is in the middle of cruise preparations, a busy but exciting time! We are planning the cruise track, dive plan, and sampling schedule. And, importantly, taping and labeling vials for sample collection by the 100s. These expeditions depend on attention to detail, early preparation, and a lot of supplies.
On June 24th – 25th, we will be at Port of Gulfport, in Gulfport, MS doing our cruise mobilization and engaging with the Ocean Science and Technology Sea Camp students who will be visiting the ship with staff from USMs Marine Education Center. As a part of the Camp, high school students will tour R/V Point Sur. observe our preparations to go offshore and talk with us during a live telepresence event later in the week.