Internships awarded as part of a program established in memory of the victims of Deepwater Horizon


Tue 12/14/21 – 4:04 PM | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

Four undergraduates from across the Southeast region studied a variety of marine science issues this summer with the support of an internship program established in memory of those who lost their lives in the Deep water horizon Oil spill.

the Deep water horizon The Memorial Undergraduate Internship Program was created by the Mississippi Based Restore Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) to honor those who perished in the 2010 explosion. The competitive program provides funding to undergraduate student interns to conduct research projects linked to ongoing projects funded by MBRACE that fill research gaps on water quality and oyster reefs and their sustainability. MBRACE is a consortium of the four Mississippi research universities: the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is the lead institution, and others include Jackson State University (JSU), Mississippi State University ( MSU) and the University of Mississippi (UM).

“We are proud to offer an internship that honors those who perished in the Deep water horizon spill and supports the next generation of marine scientists, ”said Dr. Kelly Darnell, director of MBRACE and assistant research professor at USM. “During this inaugural year of the internship program, the excellent group of undergraduate student interns conducted research in support of MBRACE’s mission to understand the stressors and dynamics of our coastal ecosystems. and to support the management of Mississippi oyster resources. We look forward to continuing to provide internship opportunities under this program in the years to come. ”

MBRACE’s mission is to seek a deep scientific and technological understanding of chronic and acute stressors, both anthropogenic and natural, on the waters and dynamic and productive ecosystems of the northern Gulf of Mexico, and to facilitate the use sustainable use of the important resources of the Gulf.

Below you will find information for each student and a description of their project.


This project was funded with federal funding from the United States Department of the Treasury, Mississippi and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence as part of Resource and Ecosystem Sustainability , tourism opportunities and revived economies of the Gulf Coast states. Law of 2012 (RESTORE Law). Statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Treasury, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, or the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence.

MBRACE project: Basic research program

Raised: Joe Bell, elder

The school: USM (Ocean Engineering)

To advise: Dr Kemal Cambazoglu (USM)

Hometown: Waveland, MS

Project description:

In situ measurements for water quality monitoring, performed by USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering, are used to validate the results of the Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere (COAWST) modeling system. -Wave-Sediment-Transport) for the spatial and temporal variability of water quality as it is affected by the opening and closing of the Bonnet Carré spillway (BCS) in 2019. New simulations have also been implemented to improve the accuracy of model predictions.

Public impact:

BCS openings are known to alter and reduce ocean variables, such as salinity and water temperature, found in the Mississippi Sound and Bight, due to the outflow of fresh, cool water from the Mississippi River. With well calibrated and reliable modeling applications, improved strategies can be established regarding spillway operations. This can better mitigate adverse side effects on the marine ecosystem and ultimately lead to more sustainable practices.

To note: Bell submitted an abstract for the 2021 Atmospheric Geophysical Union meeting which is taken from his internship research.

John Preston LilesMBRACE project: Basic research program

Raised: John Preston Liles

The school: University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (Geosciences)

To advise: Dr Padmanava Dash (MSU)

Hometown: Fort Smith, AR

Project description:

The main objective of this project is to assess the potential risk of algal blooms harmful to oysters and human health in the western Mississippi Strait. This will be achieved through a set of integrated tasks: (1) Collecting water samples near the Henderson Point and Pass Christian oyster reefs, (2) Laboratory analysis of water samples to determine structure of the phytoplankton community, algal toxins, chlorophyll a, phycocyanin and nutrients, (3) Correlations of the combined dataset (newly collected dataset and past data from 2015 and 2019) with river flow, ( 4) Document the abundance of HABs in the western Mississippi Strait and assess the risk of algal blooms harmful to oysters and potentially higher trophic level organisms, including humans. Tasks 1 and 2 were completed this summer. Liles completed this work during the summer and fall of 2021 and plans to present this work at conferences and subsequently publish this work in a peer-reviewed journal.

Public impact:

Virtually all of the world’s coastal countries are affected by Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) which have resulted in massive fish mortality, loss of income primarily from fishing and tourism, loss of commercially valuable shellfish resources and culturally vital diseases and deaths in populations of protected marine species and threats to human health. The area of ​​oyster reefs as well as the volume and value of commercial oyster harvests in Mississippi waters have declined sharply in recent years, which has been attributed to a range of environmental stressors, including a deterioration of water quality. In In 2019, the Mississippi Strait was hit by an unprecedented proliferation of cyanobacteria that led to the closure of the commercial oyster fishery, the death of fish, the death of birds and the closure of beaches. In December 2015, a huge red tide outbreak wreaked similar havoc in Mississippi Sound. Therefore, the main objective of this project is to assess the potential risk of algal blooms harmful to oysters and human health in the western Mississippi Strait.

Jaycie keylonMBRACE project: Competitive Research Program: Impacts of Water Quality on Oyster Development to Inform the Restoration and Sustainability of Oyster Reefs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Raised: Jaycie Keylon, Pharmacy P1 (first professional year)

The school: MU

To advise: Dr Deborah Gochfeld (UM)

Hometown: Harrison, AR

Project description:

This project, which is also Keylon’s Distinguished Thesis Project, assesses how different environmental stressors affect disease susceptibility and stress responses in oysters. The aim was to analyze the expression of genetic biomarkers linked to the presence or absence of disease or stress.

Public impact:

Oyster reefs provide essential ecosystem services to estuaries, including shoreline stability, increased biodiversity, improved water quality, and economic value to the community. Adverse environmental conditions, such as low salinity, increased seawater temperature, hypoxia or ocean acidification can impact the susceptibility of oysters to disease. By understanding how these stressors interact, we can do our part to try to reduce the environmental impacts on oysters and help preserve these important marine ecosystems.

Heel WashingtonMBRACE project: Competitive Research Agenda: Examining Rare Earth Elements in the Mississippi Strait

Raised: Talon Washington, senior

The school: University of New Orleans (biology)

To advise: Dr Alan Shiller (USM)

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Project description:

This project, which examines rare earth elements in the Mississippi Strait, is part of a larger project to examine the evidence for the inputs and impact of subsea groundwater (SGD) discharges into the Strait. of Mississippi. DMS is important because it is a hidden pathway for material input into coastal systems. These inputs include various chemical species that can affect the coastal ecosystem, such as nutrients, metals and oxygen-depleting substances. Rare Earth Elements (REE) are a group of heavy elements that are not really “rare” and have many applications in modern society, such as magnets, catalysts, and medical imaging. Rare earths can also be used to study various oceanic processes. In fact, groundwater is often enriched with rare earths, so these elements can be used as tracers of SGD inputs to the coastal system. During his summer internship, Washington learned how to collect SGD samples for rare earth analysis. She then analyzed a series of previously collected samples and prepared a short presentation describing what she found. It appears that the larger project will be able to use its data to continue efforts to describe the contribution of SGD to the Mississippi Strait and what the impact of SGD is on critical issues such as oyster survival. and oxygen depletion.

Public impact: This will help describe and locate the SGD entrances in Mississippi Sound.

** MBRACE project: Competitive research program: Optical observation of oyster larvae (O3L)

To advise: Dr Xiaodong Zhang (USM)

** This project is recruiting an undergraduate research intern in the 2021-22 academic year.


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