nGoM sampling cruises 2023

In Summer 2023, the Baker lab joined the Thrash lab (University of Southern California) in embarking on two trips off the coast of LUMCON (Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium) on the R/V Pelican to collect sediment samples in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The purpose of these expeditions was to expand our knowledge of marine sediment microbial diversity. This included sampling for DNA extractions, RNA extractions and pore water collection.

Baker lab members Val De Anda, Katy Appler and Emily Aguilar-Pine went on the first cruise in May 2023. Below are some favorite snapshots and moments of the cruise.


R/V Pelican


Day 1: Val, Katy and Emily holding sediment cores

Day 2: setting up multicore

Day 2: at work in the wet lab

Day 3: sunrise 

Day 3: kitchen window view

Day 3: break time

Day 4: all smiles after successful coring ft. Katy and Val

Day 4: coring ft. Katy, Val and Emily

Women in STEM

Cheesin’ ft. Katy, Emily and Val 

Choppy waves ft. dolphins

Saying goodbye to the R/V Pelican!

Samples safely made it to -80C freezer in Baker lab

Baker lab members Natalie Sarno, Emily Hyde, Emily Aguilar-Pine and Kathryn Currie went on the second cruise in August 2023.

August Cruise Log:

Sunday, July 30:  We got our rental vehicle and packed it high with all of our supplies needed for the cruise (chemicals were shipped to LUMCON).

Game of Tetris

Monday, July 31: Started the day off at 5 am, packed the last few things (and ourselves!) into the rental and set off. We stopped in Houston for some breakfast, and with a quick stop at Grainger in NOLA for some Whirl-Paks, made it to our hotel with time to spare to unpack, relax and have dinner with the Thrash lab (USC).

Exploring NOLA ft. Natalie and Emily H.

Tuesday, August 1: Early morning, Natalie and Kathryn made a quick jaunt over to Cafe du Monde for some beignets and coffee, then the whole crew headed to LUMCON. We unloaded everything, chose our berths, then headed with the Thrash lab to get lunch and any additional supplies needed in Houma. Tuesday night concluded with getting acclimated to the R/V Pelican, making p&b sandwiches, playing scrabble and prepping for the following day.

Cafe Du Monde ft. Natalie

Last sunset from shore

Wednesday, August 2: First official day on the R/V Pelican! We got to our first site around 9:15 am and cast our first multi core. We tried a few different methods with this site, and were unfortunately unable to use extruder so we transferred the sediment directly into Whirl-Paks. After lunch we did sediment preservation to do DNA and RNA extractions once we got back to Baker Lab UT Austin, cleaned up the deck, and prepped glycerols. Then, after dinner we finished up glycerols, played some card games. and watched a beautiful sunset. The waves lulled us to sleep.

The innumerable uses of a lifevest ft. Natalie

Day 1 sediment

Glycerol prep ft. the Emilys

First sunset from boat

Thursday, August 3: Day 2 was a success. We got the extruder to work for these sites’ sediments today which made coring much more efficient and less messy and were able to do two sites. Same flow as the previous day with sediment preservation and cleanup. Kathryn and Zack (Thrash lab) ended out the day by both reeling in sharks!

Successful cores ft. Natalie and Emily P.

Day 2 sediment

Shark catch ft. First Mate and Kathryn

Friday, August 4: Slower day. Sediment was soft where site was at, somewhat like sand, so we finally used the boxcore since we weren’t picking anything up after repeatedly casting multicore for two hours. Cameron (Thrash lab) used the GoPro so we have footage of the core going down all the way, but not catching anything. Really fascinating that it would be so different from 1st cruise at the end of May. Potential theories are high sediment rate in this area, no rigs and some sort of event in the Mississippi. Since we didn’t use multicore, we didn’t have core layers and instead transferred directly into falcon tubes and Whirl-Paks from boxcore. Glycerol preps, cleanup, naps and laundry finished out the day.

Boxcore ft. the Emilys

Day 3 sediment

Reaction to casting for the final time of the day ft. Emily P.

Enjoying the waves and sunset ft. Baker and Thrash lab

Saturday, August 5: Busy day with two full core sites (with multicore working!). We rescued a frog larva (?) and also a bloodworm found in our samples, and ended out the day by lying on the deck looking at the stars while the crew was kind enough to turn off the boat lights for a bit.

Successful cores ft. Kathryn and Emily H.

Day 4 Sediment

Sediment ft. bloodworm

For the love of mud ft. Kathryn

Glycerols ft. Natalie

Sunday, August 6: Last day of coring! Originally was supposed to be a short coring day, but we were able to redo the site from day 1 with the extruder working this time, which was excellent. We had spaghetti for dinner which was another highlight and we celebrated our last night on board with the crew and Thrash lab.

Extrusion in action ft. Natalie and the Emilys

Sediment preservation ft. Emily H. and Natalie   

Caught mud-handed! ft. Emily H.

Celebrating on land ft. Baker lab

Monday, August 7: Busy day of packing, shipping our samples and driving back to NOLA. Made it in time for dinner with Thrash lab and celebrated a successful cruise!

Rental all re-packed ft. Emily H.

View from backseat ft. Natalie 

Tuesday, August 8: Drove back to Austin. Made a quick stop in Houston for lunch, then unloaded everything at lab and ensured our shipped samples were stored safely in our new -80C freezer.

Cruise was a success!     

After cruises, the Baker lab has extracted DNA from cruise samples, sent for sequencing and are currently assembling data to elucidate the microbial diversity in the nGoM.

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