Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Greetings from Ed Buskey, the PI for the DROPPS consortium.  Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an International Symposium on Deep Sea Oil Spills in Qingdao, China. I was invited by Piers Chapman, the PI and director of the GISR Consortium at Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station. Even though I already had travel plans for the weeks before and after this meeting, I decided I could not pass up this opportunity.

Traveling to Qingdao was quite the experience. I left at 7 AM on a Saturday morning and first flew from Corpus Christi to Houston, where I met up with my colleagues from TAMU. We then flew to Chicago where we caught a non-stop, 13 hour flight to Beijing, China, which took us over the North Pole. Our last flight was a short one to Qingdao on the coast of China, followed by a long drive to our hotel. With the 11 hour time difference it was about 9 pm on Sunday night when I finally got to sleep in my hotel bed.

Qingdao waterfront

The meeting started the next morning at 9 am. We had 12 speakers the first day and 6 speakers on the second day, with a mix of Chinese scientists and guest speakers from the US and Australia, each with 30 minutes to present.  There was a lot of interest and discussion of subsurface application of dispersants at the wellhead, pointing out the advantages of this approach including the longer time it takes for droplets to reach the surface (days to weeks versus hours), the larger surface area for dissolution of soluble compounds and colonization by hydrocarbon degrading bacteria, and the more rapid dilution of toxic compounds. Oil that reaches the surface may be skimmed under ideal conditions, but if it reaches sensitive coastal habitats attempts to remove the oil may cause more damage than the oil itself. Oil that reaches vegetated shorelines will often kill the vegetation and increase erosion. Anaerobic sediments in many coastal habitats are not effective in breaking down petroleum hydrocarbons. Piers Chapman gave an overview of the research from the GOMRI GISR consortium, and I presented on the DROPPS consortium results.

We had a short opportunity to be tourists in Qingdao on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to the US. On Wednesday morning we visited Laoshan, a very tall mountain next to the sea that is home to a Taoist temple. In the afternoon we visited the Tsingtao Brewery, the second largest in China, which was started during the German occupation of this region of China early in the 20th Century. Of course our visit included some beer sampling.
Laoshan mountain and temple entrance

On Thursday we were given the opportunity to do some shopping. We visited an open market with lots of vendors where you have to haggle over the price. We also visited a green tea wholesale shop and a large department store.

Our Chinese hosts treated us exceptionally well, and we had the chance to share meals of seafood delicacies that included sea cucumber and other fish and shellfish that I was not always able to identify. Evening meals were always served on a circular table with a large glass “lazy susan” to allow easy sharing of food and beverages. Our Chinese hosts were very fond of making repeated toasts toasts with beer, wine or mao-tai, a very strong beverage that is over 50% alcohol! This definitely made it easier to eat some of the difficult to identify sea creatures our gracious hosts ordered for us.

Unidentified seafood at dumpling restaurant

Dinner on “beer street” with a traditional round table with lazy susan