This summer the Anthozoan UCE’s project and Dr. Quattrini have given me the opportunity to take part in my first ever deep-sea research cruise! We are currently on day 7 of the 17-day OP2017 Restore Cruise in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We are targeting 4 species of coral (Hypnogorgia pendula, Paramuricea biscaya, Swiftia exserta, and Callogorgia delta) to sample across 16 sites. The cruise is a collaboration between labs at Harvey Mudd College and Lehigh University and is funded by a grant from the NOAA Restore Act. Populations of the target species were heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and by the subsequent use of chemical dispersants to clean up the oil. The overarching goal of the project is to eventually determine a model of gene flow of these 4 species in the Gulf of Mexico to guide restoration efforts for the impacted populations. The models of gene flow and larval dispersal will be created using the results of population genomics conducted by the Herrera Lab at Lehigh University and DNA barcoding efforts conducted by Dr. Quattrini in the McFadden Lab at Harvey Mudd College. The genetic results combined with larval dispersal models (A. Bracco, GA Tech) will give us an idea about patterns of connectivity between populations across the GOM. My roles on the cruise include both watch standing and sample processing. My sample processing duties involve preserving a clipping of all the coral samples we collect in 95% Ethanol for later DNA barcoding. I am not only doing this for our own barcoding purposes at Harvey Mudd, but I am also preserving mesophotic corals (H. pendula and S. exertia) in ethanol for Dr. Etnoyer’s Lab at NOAA. My watch standing duties include logging dives in the ROV van when the ROV is collecting samples and otherwise aiding anyone in anything they need done while I am on watch. While those are my official duties, they are not the only activities I have been participating in during my stay on the ship. I have been aiding other scientists on board with their projects when they need help and I have learned a lot about other ongoing research in the field of deep-water corals and their associates. Beyond this I have been spending time making lasting connections with great young minds in the field at institutions such as Lehigh, Temple, Penn State, University of Hawaii, NOAA, and USGS. I am very appreciative of this amazing opportunity that has solidified my ambitions of continuing to pursue a career in deep-sea exploration and research.
-Mike Adams (Harvey Mudd College ’18)
UCE Project Team
All things Anthozoa, Evolution and Ecology
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