According to Jesse, his greatest challenge this summer was translating the Gulf of Mexico sampling methods to accurately measure the settling rates and volumes of marine snow in Cook Inlet's more extreme and demanding environment. He worked hard to design his study to reflect a gradient from mineral- dominated aggregates to more biologically dominated aggregates in Kachemak Bay's water column.
In addition to the water sampling in Cook Inlet, the proposed research consists of additional laboratory experiments at the University of New Hampshire where marine snow will be grown in roller tanks and mixed with sediment, oil and chemical dispersants. The marine snow aggregates that form will then be tested for settling rates and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), and placed into a flume for resuspension studies.
"Spill response scientists know oil mixes with sediment,"Jesse said. "Marine snow presents a new component with biological factors to add to response considerations. Past spills have shown that aggregate quantity and size increase with oil in the water. This project explores this observed phenomenon with inputs specific to Cook Inlet. We are looking to characterize the biological and sediment particles existing in Cook Inlet and explore how they could change the fate of spilled oil."
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