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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hypoxia Dead Zone measured to be smaller this year

AUGUST 4, 2020
The bottom area of low oxygen in Louisiana coastal waters west of the Mississippi River, commonly known as the "Dead Zone", was mapped at a much smaller-than-average size this summer. The area was 2,117 square miles (5,048 square kilometers), larger than Rhode Island but smaller than Delaware, and well below the projected estimate of 7,769 square miles (20,121 square kilometers).

The full release is available for viewing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

NGI Guidance on Safe Conduct of Fieldwork during CoVid-19 Pandemic

Much of the Nation and in fact the World is reeling from the CoVid-19 outbreak.

The NGI has taken steps to ensure a continued path towards safe conduct of field research offshore, during the CoVid Pandemic, and has adopted the basic safety protocols and principals set out by NOAA for work to resume on Small Near-Shore Research Vessels. These protocols include:


  • Field operations are limited to Vessel Crew and Principal Investigators and those personnel deemed essential to the needs of the project.
  • Employees that do not feel well, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have experienced COVID-19 symptoms must not participate in field operations. These symptoms include fever, respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath), aches and pains, chills, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, diarrhea, and loss of taste and smell.
  • Personnel must be limited to the absolute minimum number of people needed to perform the work safely. For safety, small vessel and shore-based field operations require a minimum of 2 people in the field at all times; no one may conduct fieldwork alone.
  • The vessel operator or PI/chief scientist will make a hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) available for all personnel. Hand sanitizers should be used throughout the day as necessary. This includes after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or handling shared equipment and before eating, drinking, or touching your face.
  • Assign each piece of equipment to a specific person whenever possible to minimize the sharing of supplies and equipment.
  • Maintain social distancing of > 6 ft. whenever possible. If it is not possible to maintain a 6-ft distance, masks/facial coverings must be worn.
  • Each person is responsible for their own food, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, face-covering/mask, work gloves, etc. These items should not be shared. If coolers are required, each person will have their own cooler.

Loading boats and vehicles for field operations:

  • Prior to boarding a vessel or entering a vehicle, apply a disinfectant to all surfaces with which the occupants will come into contact. The use of disinfectant should be discussed with the PI or unit responsible for the vessel/vehicle prior to use to ensure its compatibility with surfaces. Disinfectants may include an EPA-approved disinfectant solution or disinfectant wipes or a solution of 1/3 cup bleach added to 1-gallon water. Do not rinse or wipe off disinfectant solution, but rather allow it to air dry. If a bleach solution is used, it must be replaced daily to ensure effectiveness.
  • Wash or sanitize hands following the loading of vessels or vehicles.

Vehicle travel:

  • Vehicle use during field operations (e.g., when driving to a field site or trailering a vessel) is limited to a maximum of 2 people per vehicle, regardless of vehicle size. If possible, we encourage 1 person per vehicle. Any time there are 2 people in a vehicle together, all windows must be open and masks/face coverings must be worn by each person. If weather conditions do not allow the windows to remain open, vehicle occupancy is limited to 1 person per vehicle. The only exception to this rule is if the weather deteriorates during the day and it is not possible to return to campus with the windows open or with only 1 person per vehicle. In this situation, the vehicle occupants should be seated as far apart as possible, must wear a mask/face covering, and should return to campus immediately.
  • Designate a single person as the driver for each vehicle. That person should be the only person to drive that vehicle on that day.
  • At the end of each day, disinfect the vehicle following the same procedures used prior to entering the vehicle.
  • Wear nitrile gloves while fueling vehicles, or if gloves are not available, use sanitizing wipes on the pump handle and keypad and wash or sanitize hands after fueling.
  • Should an overnight stay be required, each person should have his/her own room.

Small-vessel operations:

  • Small vessel operations should involve the absolute minimum number of personnel needed to safely complete the work (minimum 2 people). For our vessel 25 feet in length, no more than 4 people should be on board. Allowing for a potential minimum 6 Foot Social-Distance.
  • Designate a single vessel operator for the duration of the day. The vessel operator should be the only person occupying the helm station and manipulating helm controls and electronics.
  • Designate a specific PFD for each person. Do not share PFDs.
  • Should someone experience the onset of COVID-19 symptoms while on board, the vessel must immediately return to the dock and further operations will be suspended until the vessel can be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Given the difficulties in maintaining distance on a small vessel, mask/facial coverings must be worn by all personnel while on the vessel. Recognizing the potential for heat exhaustion while wearing masks and performing field activities, routine breaks should be taken as needed, during which vessel personnel maximizes distancing to the greatest extent possible and rest without masks (if a minimum 6-ft distancing can be maintained between/among all personnel on the vessel).
  • Upon returning to the dock at the end of the day, wash the vessel thoroughly with fresh water. After the wash-down, disinfect all occupant-contacted surfaces in the same manner as upon boarding.
  • Wear nitrile gloves while fueling vessels, or if gloves are not available, use sanitizing wipes on all surfaces that will be handled (pump handle, switches, keypad, etc.) and wash or sanitize hands after fueling. When possible, fuel vessels on campus to reduce contact with others.


  • Clean and disinfect all equipment (including PFDs) used in the field at the end of the day, using a disinfectant approved by the PI responsible for the equipment (see above for information on approved disinfectants). If equipment cannot be disinfected using an approved disinfectant, it should be placed in a designated and marked area for at least 5 days before re-use. If the equipment will not be harmed by direct sunlight, it may instead be left in full sun for a  minimum of 24 hours before re-use. These waiting periods do not apply if the same person is using the piece of equipment two days in a row.
  • Wash or sanitize hands following the unloading of vessels or vehicles.


As some institutions of higher education (IHE) open in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following considerations for ways in which IHEs can help protect students and employees (e.g., faculty, staff, and administrators) and slow the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). IHEs vary considerably in geographic location, size, and structure. As such, IHE officials can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the IHE and the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.

CDC Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education (IHE)


Guiding Principles to Keep in Mind

The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in IHE non-residential and residential (i.e., on-campus housing) settings as follows:

IHE General Settings

  • Lowest Risk: Faculty and students engage in virtual-only learning options, activities, and events.
  • More Risk: Small in-person classes, activities, and events. Individuals remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
  • Highest Risk: Full-sized in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

IHEs may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
    • Recommend and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.
    • Encourage students, faculty, and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.
  • Cloth Face Coverings
    • Recommend and reinforce the use of cloth face coverings among students, faculty, and staff. Face coverings should be worn as feasible and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to all students, faculty, and staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
      • Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
        • Babies and children younger than 2 years old
        • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
        • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance
        • Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or other medical personal protective equipment.
  • Adequate Supplies
    • Support healthy hygiene behaviors by providing adequate supplies, including soap, hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

NGI - MSU Education & Outreach Opportunities

STEAM: Science Through the Arts

STEAM programs add art to the STEM curriculum by drawing on design principles and encouraging creative solutions. In 2013, a joint resolution was introduced in the United States House of Representatives expressing the sense that adding art and design into Federal programs that target the STEM fields encourages innovation and economic growth in the United States.

The Travelling Trunk Education & Outreach Program

NGI has developed loanable "Travelling Trunk Shows" which include Art and Science-based curriculum designed to support the national college and career readiness standards. We typically include the "science, literature and arts behind the scenes" that includes targeted classwork and lessons of discovery for oceanography, marine and fisheries science, and weather. These trunks provide STEAM-focused interaction with large numbers of schoolchildren, their parents, teachers, and administrators.

NGI Art and Design Competition

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) at Mississippi State University is proud to announce a STEAM art competition, where original drawings, paintings, photography, or other renderings, depicting the natural environment, marine, avian, or aquatic species, the ocean, or weather, as related to the Mississippi River, The Gulf Coast, or the Gulf of Mexico Basin, are to be submitted for review. The winner of the competition will have their art featured in the "Portal" Newsletter.

Continuing Education Opportunities

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) has joined with the Department of Geosciences and the Center for Distance Education at Mississippi State University to provide Continuing Education and/or 4 hours of Graduate College Credit to teachers and professionals wishing to undertake a 7-10 day geosciences field course. The course locations for this year are Bahamas (split undergrad/grad), Western WA, NY, and Great Plains Storm Chase. A science background is helpful to successfully complete these courses and costs $1250 plus tuition (4 hours of in-state graduate credit). (approximately $2978 total) Additionally, for most of the trips, the students pay for their meals, but the Bahamas trip includes meals. Students are also responsible for getting to the start location on their own (e.g Seattle, Nassau, Oklahoma City, etc.).

Visiting Scientists to your Classroom or Organization

The NGI can provide assistance in locating a guest speaker for your classroom or organization meeting to discuss various topics including Coastal Hazards, Geospatial Data Integration and Visualization, Ecosystem Management Climate Change, and use of UAV/AUVs in the environmental and agricultural sciences.

Lesson Plan Database

NGI along with the INSPIRE program is developing a database of approximately 500 Mississippi Science Curriculum-based lesson plans and assignments for k-12 classrooms. These will be linked to our website in the near future. Click Here for Lesson Plans: http://gk12.msstate.edu/lessonplans.html

For More information please contact the Education & Outreach Office at EandO@ngi.msstate.edu

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

NGI Successfully Completes NOAA Third-Year Science Review

Please click the image below to follow the link.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Compounding impact of severe weather events fuels marine heatwave in the coastal ocean

NGI Researchers B. Dzwonkowski, J. Coogan, S. Fournier, G. Lockridge, K. Park & T. Lee, from the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab published an article titled "Compounding impact of severe weather events fuels marine heatwave in the coastal ocean" in "Nature Communications".

Exposure to extreme events is a major concern in coastal regions where growing human populations and stressed natural ecosystems are at significant risk to such phenomena. However, the complex sequence of processes that transform an event from notable to extreme can be challenging to identify and hence, limit forecast abilities. Here, we show an extreme heat content event (i.e., a marine heatwave) in coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico resulted from compounding effects of a tropical storm followed by an atmospheric heatwave. This newly identified process of generating extreme ocean temperatures occurred prior to landfall of Hurricane Michael during October of 2018 and, as critical contributor to storm intensity, likely contributed to the subsequent extreme hurricane. This pattern of compounding processes will also exacerbate other environmental problems in temperaturesensitive ecosystems (e.g., coral bleaching, hypoxia) and is expected to have expanding impacts under global warming predictions.

This work has been particularly relevant to the last two hurricanes (Laura and Sally) that impacted the Gulf coast in 2020

Please Click on the image to view the full paper.