Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Whales and ocean iron fertilization


A Novel Geoengineering Idea: Increase the Ocean’s Quotient of Whale Poop

The fight against global warming has a brand new weapon: whale poop.

Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have found that whale poop contains huge amounts of iron and when it is released into the waters, the iron-rich feces become food for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, the algae is in turn eaten by Antarctic krill, and baleen whales eat the krill. Through this neat cycle, globe-warming CO2 is kept sequestered in the ocean.

Scientists have long known that iron is necessary to sustain phytoplankton growth in the oceans, which is why one geoengineering scheme calls for adding soluble iron to ocean waters to encourage the growth of carbon-trapping algae blooms. While environmentalists have fretted over the possible consequences of meddling with ocean chemistry that way, this new study on whale poop suggests an all-natural way to get the same carbon-trapping effect: Increase the number of whales in the ocean.

When Stephen Nicol of the Australian Antarctic Division analyzed the feces of baleen whales, he found an astounding amount of iron in it. New Scientist reports:

Nicol’s team analyzed 27 samples of faeces from four species of baleen whales. He found that on average whale faeces had 10 million times as much iron as Antarctic seawater.

This led Nicol to suggest that before commercial whaling began, baleen whales may have been the source of almost 12 percent of all the iron in the Southern Ocean’s surface water. Nicol says that when the Baleen whales started to be hunted and killed over the last century, the Southern Ocean lost a rich source of iron.

“Allowing the great whales to recover will allow the system to slowly reset itself,” he says. And this will ultimately increase the amount of CO2 that the Southern Ocean can sequester.

David Raubenheimer, a marine biologist who wasn’t involved in the current study, told New Scientist that the findings are important.
They highlight a specific ecological role for whales in the oceans “other than their charisma”, he says.
Please see a related report about the food chain of whales.


So if Diatoms are caused to bloom whale population would increase and then the iron would be recycled by the whales.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Diatoms, the secret sequesterer

Diatoms, the secret sequesterer

Posted In: R&D Daily | Climate | Global Climate Change | Oceanography | Biology | Chemistry | Argonne National Laboratory (DOE)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Even though you can’t see them with the naked eye, certain tiny sea algae make a big difference to the world’s climate. By taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they convert it into solid plant matter and sequester it in the world's oceans.

But what makes these particular algae, called diatoms, of interest to scientists at Argonne and around the country is their ability to sequester a different organic compound: phosphorous. That's because phosphorous in the seas helps the algae grow faster, which allows them to remove more carbon from the atmosphere during their lifetimes.

A photomicrograph of an oceanic diatom, which can turn dissolved phosphorous into an inorganic mineral shell.

Though recent attention has focused more strongly on the relationship between atmospheric carbon and climate, researchers like Argonne X-ray physicist Ian McNulty also believe that the balance of dissolved phosphorous in the world’s oceans also plays a vital role in maintaining the planet’s fragile ecological equilibrium.

"If we can understand how phosphorus uptake and sequestrations takes place, we could uncover information that might give us clues as to how carbon uptake and sequestration take place in the ocean and affect the global carbon balance," said McNulty, who leads a collaborative effort to study how diatoms sequester various dissolved compounds. "This research is of huge interest to climatologists and bears directly on and the potential to combat global climate change."

McNulty and his colleagues have spent years studying diatoms, which absorb phosphorous from the surrounding water during photosynthesis. Unlike the carbon dioxide or several other elements that diatoms take in during their lifetimes, absorbed phosphorous does not re-enter the environment in its original state. Instead, the diatoms convert it into an inorganic mineral known as apatite. During the course of a diatom’s life, naturally occurring dissolved phosphorous is transformed into a mineral shell. When a diatom dies, this shell sinks to the ocean floor, sequestering the phosphorous from the ecosystem for millennia.

“Even though each individual diatom is exceptionally small, the scale at which they sequester phosphorous and carbon from the environment is vast,” McNulty said. “When you add it all up, the diatoms in the world’s ocean are taking up gigatons of phosphorous.”

“The phosphorous balance in the oceans is intimately connected with the carbon balance in the atmosphere – you can’t alter one without altering the other,” he added. “High phosphorous levels in the environment allow the algae to grow and reproduce, and as they expand they take in more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Ellery Ingall and Julia Diaz, both of Georgia Tech, rinse particle samples aboard a research vessel. The diatoms collected in these samples were then taken to Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source for analysis.

Phosphorus is one of the principal ingredients of fertilizer, and makes up a large portion of agricultural runoff that winds up in large bodies of water, said oceanographer Jay Brandes of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Georgia, who collaborated with McNulty on the research. Researchers from Skidaway and the Georgia Institute of Technology helped to collect and analyze the diatom samples.

"Oceans are the repositories of everything that washes off the lands, and phosphorus is an important nutrient for all kinds of life, especially plant life," Brandes said. "Because these diatoms need it to survive, the levels of phosphorus will control the size of the algae population. As the diatoms use up the available phosphorus and turn it into polyphosphates, they will die off in large numbers, altering the phosphorus balance."

In order to study the molecular dynamics that underlie how diatoms capture and convert phosphorous, scientists need a high-energy synchrotron light source that can generate just the right type of light to illuminate phosphorous’s chemical structure. Fortunately, Argonne is home to the Advanced Photon Source (APS), which provides exactly the kind and intensity of X-rays that McNulty and his colleagues need. “In order to study the chemistry of phosphorous, you need a very specialized facility,” he said. “The APS is and will remain at least for a few years the brightest star on the horizon for this kind of research.”

Experiments performed on the APS use a physical phenomenon known as X-ray diffraction, in which the object under study – in this case, the phosphorous compounds contained with the diatom – scatter the oncoming X-ray beam. The pattern produced by the scattering allows scientists to determine the precise atomic configuration of the phosphorous in the sample. Argonne also is home to a world-class scanning X-ray microscope that provides another key that can unlock the chemical secrets of phosphorous compounds.

The APS allows researchers from around the world to observe and analyze structures that cannot be seen anywhere else, and an anticipated upgrade to the facility will give scientists an even more comprehensive view of diatoms at the molecular level. For instance, at the upgraded APS, Argonne researchers and users could study cryogenically preserved living algae to see the exact mechanism that allows them to form their apatite coatings.

After the more concentrated X-ray beams are built, physicists from Argonne and partner institutions could also examine the diatoms' ability to sequester other trace elements, such as iron and arsenic. Some of these elements are toxic, not only to the environment but also to people, and McNulty and his colleagues are eager to find new ways to prevent these chemicals from ending up in our bodies. “If you can image the concentrations of trace elements in cells, you can understand the root cause of many diseases or monitor the uptake of anti-cancer drugs. All of these advances depend on improving the sensitivity and resolution of the facility we have here,” McNulty said.

Underwater desert surrounds Aleutian volcano


Underwater desert surrounds Aleutian volcano

April 23, 2010

Stephen Jewett has dived in ocean waters from one end of Alaska to the other, but he has never seen an underwater landscape as barren as one he saw last summer.

"Diving off Nome where they were doing offshore dredging (for gold) was close, but nothing compares to what we found around Kasatochi," said Jewett, who dives as part of his job with the University of Alaska Fairbanks' School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Kasatochi is an 800-acre island in the Aleutians that destroyed itself with an eruption in August 2008. Its 40,000-foot ash cloud disrupted Alaska Airlines flights from Seattle to Anchorage. Almost nothing on the island survived its transformation from lush and green to gray and muddy.

A mature kelp forest offshore of an Aleutian Island that resembles the offshore environment of Kasatochi Island prior to its August 2008 eruption.
Photo by Shawn Harper

Jewett visited the island twice in 2009, once in June and once in August, to perform dives around the island and see what became of the lush kelp forests that had formerly ringed the island. He recently gave a presentation at UAF to discuss his team's findings.

During Kasatochi's violent eruption, the island "blooped out," as one biologist put it, becoming 31 percent bigger as sand and ash flowed out to sea. That sand was mostly what Jewett and fellow divers Héloïse Chenelot and Max Hoberg found off Kasatochi.

A diver samples the sands offshore of Kasatochi Island in June 2009.
Photo by Héloïse Chenelot.

"There is absolutely nothing there it is barren," Jewett said of some of the spots in which they dove. "There were no fishes, no large invertebrates, and plants were rare. There were no crabs, sea stars, or urchins that you would see at any other site in the Aleutians."

The erupted ash and mud created an apron of gray that now surrounds the island.

"The lights probably went out underwater (during the eruption)," Jewett said. "Mobile organisms might have been able to get out of the way, but the sponges, kelp, and urchins were buried."

The thick beds of kelp that used to make motoring ashore in a skiff difficult were gone around most of the island, but Jewett and the others eventually saw something other than sand on their dives.

"We were delighted to see rocks, and then we found barnacles - our first sign of animal life," Jewett said.

The barnacles were large enough that Jewett and Hoberg decided they had survived the eruption, which probably heated the sea just offshore considerably.

They also found living diatoms - single-celled algae with cell walls made of glass. The diatoms were a species that is often one of the first colonizers of bare rock after a disturbance.

Another discovery was amphipods, tiny creatures that look somewhat like shrimp. They are also among the first creatures to return to a barren, undersea landscape.

Like the island itself, the shallow waters offshore of Kasatochi are still a desert, but recovery is underway. Jewett expects that a few healthy strands of kelp the divers found - the fastest growing kelp in the world that can grow a meter a day in the summer - will continue to prosper as the fine sediments erode away.

"There is a remnant of algae for future recolonization," Jewett said. "There is seed to replenish this otherwise sterile environment."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bill to provide $1 billion for San Francisco Bay restoration moves forward


Bill to provide $1 billion for San Francisco Bay restoration moves forward

By Paul Rogers and Mike Taugher
Posted: 04/22/2010 05:42:25 PM PDT
Updated: 04/22/2010 10:13:47 PM PDT

A Bay Area lawmaker has introduced legislation in Congress that would elevate environmental restoration of San Francisco Bay to the heights of efforts in Chesapeake Bay, Lake Tahoe and the Florida Everglades.

The bill, scheduled to be unveiled at a news conference today by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, would authorize $100 million a year for bay restoration by 2021 — $1 billion total.

If approved and signed by President Barack Obama, the money would be overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Funding could be used to restore wetlands, clean up mercury pollution from old mines in South San Jose, filter storm water runoff, eradicate invasive plant and animal species and restore thousands of acres of former Cargill salt evaporation ponds that line the South Bay shoreline.

"The bay has suffered 150 years of degradation," said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, an environmental group based in Oakland. "We have spent a decade putting together excellent plans to restore it to health. But to put them into action will require this major federal investment."

San Francisco Bay and the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta make up the largest estuary on the west coasts of North and South America. Since the Gold Rush, the bay has shrunk by one-third, due to diking, filling and development. Although most filling ended in the 1970s with modern environmental laws, the bay lost 79 percent of its tidal wetlands between 1800 and today — from 190,000 acres to 40,000 acres. Wetlands are critical habitat for hundreds of bay species.

There are at least 40,000 acres of pending wetland restoration projects around the bay that lack funding, including the former Cargill salt ponds and former salt evaporation ponds at Napa-Sonoma Marsh, as well as Hamilton Airfield in Marin County and Eden Landing in Alameda County.

State and federal officials estimated three years ago that the Cargill restoration alone would cost $987 million over the next 50 years, with roughly three-quarters of that money needed to upgrade vast systems of earthen levees that control flooding in South Bay communities.

Over the past 15 years, Congress has approved several billion dollars to address long-standing environmental problems at Lake Tahoe, the Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay. Although Cargill sold the former industrial salt ponds in the South Bay to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Fish and Game in 2003, only about $20 million to $30 million has been raised since then from private, state and federal sources to fund engineering and environmental studies and complete actual construction work.

That money has paid not only for studies and scientific research, but also for projects to install more than 50 tidal gates on existing levees. Those have brought water in the former ponds — which made salt for roads, food and medicine — to the same salinity as the bay, a key first step in restoring them to marshes. Already bird numbers have begun to increase.

"This the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. The benefits to the citizens of the United States, not only in job creation, but for the health of the bay, are at least as big as the benefits of restoring Lake Tahoe and the Everglades," said John Bourgeois, executive project manager for the South Bay Salt Restoration Project, overseen by the California Coastal Conservancy.

Apart from wetlands, the bay faces pollution challenges. Runoff from city streets, industry and occasional sewage spills foul its waters.

And special jobs, such as removing dozens of old military ships in the "Mothball Fleet" in Suisun Bay, loom.

"Cleaning up the bay is a critical undertaking," said Speier, the lawmaker who introduced the restoration measure. "We have to curb the harmful effects of pollution while conserving our water resources, restoring the natural landscape, protecting our fish and wildlife, and rebuilding our local communities."

The bill, HR 5061, is co-sponsored by 10 other Bay Area lawmakers, including Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chesapeake Bay health in 2009 met 45% of goals


Bay health in 2009 met 45% of goals
Some express disappointment over annual report card
By Meredith Cohn | meredith.cohn@baltsun.com
April 8, 2010

The Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000-square-mile watershed made modest improvements during the past year, according to a report card on the bay's health released Wednesday. But those who contributed to the assessment and other observers say that after 25 years of efforts, they were disappointed by the pace of gains.

About 45 percent of goals were met in 2009, an increase over the year before, according to the Bay Barometer. The annual report is produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a coalition of federal, state and nonprofit groups leading restoration of the nation's largest estuary.

"There were some improvements, but the bay was still at 45 out of 100," said Jeffrey Lape, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, during a news conference in Annapolis to unveil the results. "That tells us the bay remains in degraded condition."

The report said some gains were made in water clarity, underwater bay grasses, bottom-dwelling species and blue crabs. Dissolved oxygen was down.

On the restoration front, the report said the bay program reached 64 percent of its goals on pollution reduction, oyster reefs, forest buffers and environmental education in schools. But while improvements were made to wastewater treatment plants, reducing the harmful nutrients, there hasn't been much progress on reducing runoff from farms or air pollution from cars and power plants.

Further, the report said, more people moved into the area and their activities offset many of the gains. Since 1950, the number of people in the watershed has doubled, the report says. Agricultural runoff is the bay's biggest source of pollution, but polluted storm water runoff from urban and suburban areas is increasing the fastest.

Rich Batiuk, the bay program's associate director for science, said the mixed and somewhat disappointing results are common. Some years are a little better than others, largely depending on the weather: More rain means more polluted runoff. All of the recent rain could mean that this year will be a little worse.

But in the report and during the news conference, Batiuk, Lape and others pointed to areas of potential progress. The six watershed states and Washington have set new, short-term goals on nitrogen and phosphorus to speed cleanup and increase accountability. And an executive order from President Barack Obama puts new emphasis on pollution reduction.

Lape called the report a mix of "hope and reality."
Others in the environmental community said residents must cut down on fertilizer and driving and demand more from lawmakers. As an example, they asked for support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, to expand federal authority to regulate all sources of bay pollution.

On Wednesday, however, no one said that change would come quickly. Cardin's bill, for example, has met opposition from lawmakers in neighboring states. New federal regulations enacted since the executive order on pollution will take years to take effect. And a state law to curb runoff from development was modified recently to grandfather many projects.

"People of this region who are disappointed year in and year out with the results of this report card need to contact our elected officials and hold them accountable for the repeated failures to restore clean water," said Hilary Harp Falk of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which represents nonprofit groups in the bay area.

Beth McGee, senior water-quality scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said that pressure won't come until bay supporters do a better job of communicating the link between people's actions and the cleanliness of local drinking water and recreational and economic opportunities. "Clean water has everyone's support; they just have to see the connection," she said.

Some environmental activists said the outcome for the bay is not certain.

"This annual report has become a broken record, and it's time to fix it," said Tommy Landers, a policy advocate for Environment Maryland. "Fortunately, we have the best chance yet to make significant progress on bay restoration. Some of our leaders are stepping up to the plate. The question is whether they'll swing hard or bunt."

What you can do
The report offers some steps that the 17 million people in the bay watershed can take to help improve the estuary's health:

•Don't fertilize your lawn because that adds to nutrient pollution

•Pick up dog waste to keep bacteria out of the bay

•Use a phosphate-free dishwasher detergent to reduce phosphorus in wastewater

•Drive less to reduce emissions

•Plant native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to filter pollution and attract wildlife

•Install a rain barrel or rain garden to collect and absorb runoff

•Volunteer to clean up a stream, creek or river in your community
An earlier version misattributed some statements concerning a bill sponsored by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin. The Sun regrets the error.

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

Global Warming ; SRM ; Ocean Fertilization, etc


Risky Gamble

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases may be well intentioned and even
helpful. But as the sole strategy for climate change control it is nevertheless
inflexible, expensive, risky, and politically unrealistic, according to this government economist. Such a strategy could even make matters worse.
Fortunately, there is a better solution.


Alan Carlin is a Senior Economist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The views expressed in this article are his own and should not be taken to represent official U.S. policy.

"Fortunately, recent research illustrates that nature has worked out an efficient system for removing carbon dioxide from the seas: fertilizing ocean plankton to stimulate them to absorb carbon dioxide (much as plants do) and transport it to the sea floor. Humans have not yet figured out a very efficient way to emulate nature in this regard — seeding the ocean with iron particles has been suggested — but ocean fertilization may be the best current hope, whether under either the ERD or the SRM approach. Given the magnitude of the threat, research on and implementation of geoengineering or other solutions to ocean acidification also needs to become a top priority."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Manage cyanobacterial blooms using adapted Bacillus cereus


Controlling Algal Bloom

Exact and permanent solution for toxic algal-bloom by organic way.

Manage cyanobacterial blooms easily by using adapted Bacillus cereus without any environmental damage.

Adapted Bacillus cereus is capable of lysing cyanobacterial cells.
Bacillius cereus produce nontoxic substances for against microalgae microcystis.

Required strain for each 1 m3 water - 0,02ml

1800 USD per 100 ml
Thus cost for 1 million liters is $ 360.

Nualgi required for 1 million liters is 1 kg - $ 10.

Bacillus cereus only kills the cyanobacteria and will not deal with the N and P in the water, hence the cyanobacteria may again bloom after a few weeks.

Diatoms will consume the N and P and hence is a permanent solution.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Animals not requiring Oxygen


First-Ever Animals Found Living Without Oxygen in Marine Dead Zone
by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York on 04. 8.10

Life Will Find a Way . . .

You're likely familiar with the ever-growing marine dead zones, areas in the ocean where no life was believed possible due to depleting oxygen levels. But in a truly startling discovery, scientists have stumbled upon the first animal that can survive without oxygen--a feat that until now was only possible in bacteria. This has a number of implications: both regarding the possibility that life may yet adapt to more severe conditions on earth, and on whether life is possible on other oxygen-free planets--and may be more abundant than we thought.

It looks like a tiny jellyfish in a protective shell. It measures around a single millimeter. And it can survive and reproduce without any oxygen at all. The new species of Loriciferan, named already named Spinoloricus Cinzia after the wife of the scientist who discovered it, and it could be the biggest biological discovery in recent times.

The BBC reports that scientists from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy found the creature in the Mediterranean Sea's L'Atalante basin--which is "about 3.5km (2.2m) deep and is almost entirely depleted of oxygen, or anoxic." They collected some specimens, which they incubated in an oxygen-free environment--and the eggs hatched successfully in the complete absence of oxygen.

The Oxygen-Free Animal
From the BBC:

"It is a real mystery how these creatures are able to live without oxygen because until now we thought only bacteria could do this," said Professor Danovaro, who heads Italy's Association of Limnology (the study of inland waters). "We did not think we could find any animal living there. We are talking about extreme conditions - full of salt, with no oxygen." The discovery of the new Loriciferans represents, he said, a "tremendous adaptation for animals which evolved in oxygenated conditions".
This discovery is especially important when paired with the facts that these marine dead zones are doubling in size around the world every 10 years. This is happening largely because of human activity (of course); it's the result of nitrogen-rich sewage spewing into the coastlines across the globe.

A partial map of marine dead zones--where oxygen-free creatures may yet flourish. Via NASA

Marine Dead Zones
The New York Times has a good explanation of what happens:

Nitrogen from agricultural runoff and sewage stimulates the growth of photosynthetic plankton on the surface of coastal waters. As the organisms decay and sink to the bottom, they are decomposed by microbes that consume large amounts of dissolved oxygen. Most animals that live at the bottom of the coastal ocean cannot survive as oxygen levels drop.
And this is happening all around the world (global warming has been found to play a major role, too). With oxygen-deprived areas expanding, it therefore becomes imperative for sea life to adapt to survive without it--which may be what has happened with this Loriciferan. We'll have to see what details emerge about the creature's life cycle, but needless to say, this could be big. The scientists say that it could additionally help them better understand the possibilities of life existing on other planets with radically different atmospheres. In other words, this probably helps the case that it's out there.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sampath Kumar's speech at TEDx Velammal, Chennai

Sampath Kumar – TEDx Velammal Talk on Feb 9, 2010.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Environmental groups seek fix for Gulf dead zone


Environmental groups seek fix for Gulf dead zone

By Nikki Buskey
Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 12:05 p.m.

HOUMA — Farmland runoff is creating an “environmental disaster” in the Gulf of Mexico, and state and federal agencies should strengthen agricultural-pollution regulations to rectify that, environmental groups say.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Mississippi River Collaborative released a joint report this week called “Cultivating Clean Water.” The report examines the effectiveness of state regulatory programs that control agricultural pollution and recommends policies the groups say will result in cleaner water.

The dead zone, an annual phenomenon in which oxygen is sucked from a swath of Gulf waters, is blamed on fertilizer and other farming-related chemicals that find their way into the Mississippi River. The runoff drains into the Gulf of Mexico where, once combined with warm water and summer temperatures, it creates an area of low-to-no-oxygen incapable of sustaining plant and marine life. Creatures are forced to flee the dead zone or die.

“We live at the mouth of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, so we’re getting pollution from 42 percent of the nation flowing past us,” said Matt Rota, water-resources director with the Gulf Restoration Network.

The report focuses on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution because the Environmental Protection Agency considers those the most harmful. The two also trigger massive algal blooms in the Gulf. Those blooms eventually die, sucking oxygen from the water as they decompose.

“Louisiana could do a better job of making an outcry, saying that we have this major environmental disaster on our hands,” Rota said.

The report points out the country has a fragmented and poorly implemented state-based agricultural-pollution regulations. Currently, most programs attempting to curb runoff are voluntary. Farmers typically get an incentive if they take part, but participation isn’t mandated.

Environmental officials said targeted, money-backed programs could play an important role in reducing water pollution.

“It is clear that voluntary programs alone will not get the job done and funding for voluntary programs continues to fall under the budget knife,” said Craig Cox, of the Environmental Working Group.

The report examines existing state programs and suggests five commonsense practices:

n Vegetative buffers between farmland and water.

n Buffers between fertilizer and manure applications and waterways.

n Restrictions on winter applications of manure.

n Keeping livestock out of water bodies.

n Restrictions on applying fertilizer in fall.

The report says several states have regulations to control agricultural pollution, though all fall short on enforcement and monitoring due to small budgets, limited staff and political resistance.

“We need to make cleaning up these watersheds a priority,” Rota said.

Whitney Broussard, a researcher at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the solution is a multi-agency and multi-state cooperation.

“A watershed problem, like the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, requires a watershed approach, and watersheds pay no attention to political lines,” Broussard said.

Nikki Buskey can be reached at 857-2205 or nicole.buskey@houmatoday.com.