Spring has sprung! The Gulf Coast is warming up, the azaleas are blooming and ACER scientists have been gearing up to start this year’s field work. Before we head back out to the field, ACER scientists were able to relax a bit and share their work with the general public.
On March 9th, Alabama Public Television partnered with Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs to film the first live webcast at DISL of Gulf Detectives. Gulf Detectives was designed to introduce middle school students to the concept of watersheds, using Mobile Bay as an example. Live segments showcased related DISL research, including some of ACER’s work. Dr. Ken Heck and ACER technician Whitney Scheffel shared their mesocosm work investigating how the diversity of salt marsh plants affects their resilience to and recovery from oil exposure. DISL scientists Drs. John Valentine, Kelly Dorgan and Jeff Krause also spoke about their research. Dr. Dorgan’s graduate student Ryan Parker showed viewers some of the organisms he is studying. You can watch the full episode online at aptv.org. This episode will also be rebroadcast on Friday, April 22nd at 11am on your local APT station.
The following week, on March 14th, Dr. Heck and his team’s mesocosm work was also featured on NPR’s Here and Now with Peter O’Dowd (starting at minute 2:01 - 5:15)
Finally, we wrapped up March with ACER Director and Principal Investigator, Dr. John Valentine, speaking about his team’s research at the local Science Café on March 29th. This event, hosted by the University of South Alabama’s Archaeology Museum and co-sponsored by DISL and ACER, was held at the OK Bicycle Shop in downtown Mobile. It was a great turnout and Dr. Valentine provided some insightful information about how the top consumers of the northern Gulf of Mexico were impacted by not only the oil spill but also by the regulatory actions taken in association with the spill (e.g. fishery closures). He highlighted how important the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem is to our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) yet how under-studied this region actually is. He highlighted the problems associated with having limited baseline data (i.e. pre-oil spill) available. Determining how the system would fare from this large disturbance requires teasing out the effects of the spill from other natural disturbances (Hurricane Katrina and El Nino) and the lack of data from our region made that more difficult. Concluding, Dr. Valentine stressed the continued need for funding to monitor our highly productive Gulf waters. An entertaining question and answer session followed.