Featured student: Samira Daneshgar Asl

Featured student: Samira Daneshgar Asl
Samira standing with the multiple corer while at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. (c) ECOGIG

September 15, 2014

What is your educational background? I received my B.Sc. degree in Geomatics Engineering from Shahid Rajaei Teacher Training University, Tehran, Iran. I obtained my Master’s degree in Photogrammetry Engineering from K.N.Toosi University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. I am currently a PhD student at Florida State University.

Where are you from, and how does it compare/contrast to your current location? I have traveled far from my native country (Iran) and have had to adapt to American society while remaining true to my Islamic heritage. As an international student, I experienced quite a culture shock with a sudden change of country, culture, language, food, and academic methods. I have, however, had the opportunity of making new friends and meeting people from all around the world.

What aspects of your life, education, etc., led you to become a scientist and drew you to the research you are doing now? My parents were the first and best teachers of my life. Beyond them are the professors that I had at one of the best universities in Iran. I must credit them for encouraging me to become a scientist. I have always had an interest in protecting our planet. Earth is our home and by a proper stewardship of its resources we can be a more prosperous society. I believe it is imperative that we take advantage of every opportunity we can to ensure that it sustains us for a much longer time. For most of my adult life I have had a desire to study how life thrives within the oceans. I never thought that my background in Remote Sensing would play such a role in determining not only detrimental effects on the world's oceans caused by man, but also in doing research on the oil spills in the ocean as a part of ECOGIG project. I also believe my passionate interest in protection of the environment is what allowed me to become a subcontractor to Stratus Consulting for NOAA’s Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment since July 2013 and a subcontractor to the NASA DEVELOP National program at the Marshall Space Flight Center for the Southeast U.S. Water Resources project since June 2014.

How did you become involved in ECOGIG? My research group became a part of the ECOGIG program.

What is your role and specific research in the ECOGIG project? As a part of ECOGIG, under the supervision of my adviser Dr. Ian MacDonald, my original work toward further publication and dissertation products is to model short term changes at the ocean’s surface for oil spills following the Deepwater Horizon incident. I am working on modeling oil spill trajectories and persistence as a function of air-sea interaction. I am basing my research on a combination of satellite images, simulation of wind and ocean conditions, and data on oil weathering sequences derived from the SINTEF OSCAR model. My research, coupled with my remote sensing background, gives me a solid grasp of how to use SAR imagery to chart the movement of oil slicks on the surface of the water and their effects on the environment.

Have you been involved in other projects and if so, how does your experience working in the ECOGIG program compare with your other research experiences? I have yet to participate in projects other than ECOGIG.

What is the history of your cruise participation, ECOGIG or otherwise?

  • R/V Weatherbird II, Deep-C Geomorphology cruise, Gulf of Mexico, 23 Jun-3 July 2013.
  • R/V Weatherbird II, Deep-C Benthic Ecology cruise, Gulf of Mexico, 22-29 September 2012.
  • R/V Bellows, Geomorphology Shallow Shelf cruise, Gulf of Mexico, 12-18 July 2012.
  • R/V Holliday Chouest, Mesophotic Reef cruise, Gulf of Mexico, 16-30 September 2011.

What do you like most about working at sea? I absolutely love working at sea, as long as I don’t get seasick. I enjoy how we all work in an organized way in groups. We have the opportunity of working with new instruments every time we go out. We are different scientific groups with different responsibilities, but we work together to achieve our objectives. This allows us to experience new things rather than just our own responsibilities at times. The thing that I love the most is watching the Sun set while I am working on the deck.

What, if any, novel or unique findings have you had? I examined the scale of chronic and incidental discharges of hydrocarbons from the Gulf offshore energy and shipping facilities. I am going to be the first author on a manuscript titled “Chronic, Anthropogenic Hydrocarbon Releases in the Gulf of Mexico” which is in press for the Deep Sea Research II journal. I also had an interview regarding this paper which was published in the Nature international weekly journal of science by Mark Schrope on 28 January, 2013. I am also vigorously engaged in quantifying the observational grid of oil distribution during the Deepwater Horizon incident. We have produced spatial and temporal time series of distribution and magnitude for floating and surface oil throughout the duration of the release. I have given 6 poster presentations describing my research in different conferences and Deep-C meetings from the time I started my PhD in Florida State University.

What do you see as your major contributions to the ECOGIG program? I believe that studying the fate of the oil spill is one of the main goals of the ECOGIG program. Using my knowledge in remote sensing during my PhD, I am working with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images on the hydrocarbon discharges in the Gulf of Mexico which has had large impacts in the ecology of the surrounding area. Petroleum discharges are a common source of toxic substances in marine ecosystems. Catastrophic oil spills, like the Deepwater Horizon Blowout of 2010, are a major concern in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, I see my research which is modeling of oil spill trajectories and their persistence as a function of air-sea interaction as a major contribution to the ECOGIG program.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your ECOGIG involvement and its effect on your science? As a graduate student, it is an amazing experience for me to be a part of such a high quality program like ECOGIG.

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