Melissa Fye, April 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 15, 2005

Acoustic Habitat boat
Acoustic Habitat boat

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Science and Technology Log

The AHI (Acoustic Habitat Investigator) research boat was once again launched from the decks of the HI’IALAKAI this morning with scientists Joyce Miller, Joe Chojnacki, and Jeremy Jones aboard. They set a course for 23*43.6’N and 166* 15.7’N.  Their daily ritual involves mapping the sea floor using multibeam sonar technology (sound waves) in more shallow areas than the ship can pass over. While those persons were out to sea, editing of swath data continued in the onboard computer lab and the lead scientist worked out some data involving conductivity readings. After lunch, the HI#1 10m speedboat was launched from the HI’IALAKAI to shuttle another scientist out to the AHI in a swap. (The AHI is a small research boat and isn’t really suited for more than 3 people at a time). The CO, (Commanding Officer)  and other members onboard accompanied scientist Kyle Hogrefe out to check on a buoy nearby and they then went scuba diving at La Perouse Pinnacle.

The ship resumed shipboard mapping throughout the afternoon. Around three o’clock PM, the AHI and HI#1 boats were recovered and brought back on board.  Later that afternoon and into the evening, scientist Joe Chojnacki began Trackpoint II testing over the side of the ship. Finally, about seven o’clock p.m. the TOAD was fed on a cable line overboard for preliminary testing. TOAD stands for Towed Optical Assessment Device.  Basically, it is two cameras and lights attached to a metal apparatus, which is used to ground proof the acoustic data that has been collected by the sonar systems.  To break it down even more simply, the sonar system creates data in number form, about the ocean floor, which is then translated into colorful dots of data and made into a map.  The sonar detects different heights of the sea floor, including atolls, pinnacles, and such.

The TOAD is a camera system which records pictures of the ocean floor to reinforce the data collected by the sonar system.  The TOAD feeds real time images on film through its cables directly into monitors in the dry lab onboard the HI’IALAKAI.  While testing proceeded last night, myself and a few others gathered around to see images on the monitors of the sea floor below us. We saw huge table coral and fish swimming below.  Benthic habitat mapping proceeded throughout the night.

Personal Log

I spent most of the day recording weather readings, interviewing three more scientists on board, editing data, and watching video from the aforementioned TOAD system.  It was exciting to see the ocean floor teeming with life right below our massive ship.

Joe Chojnacki was interviewed today. He is a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, studying geomorphology.  Joe is originally from Wisconsin, but grew up living overseas, the son of two teachers who taught abroad. His main responsibility on this cruise at sea, is to deploy the TOAD (towed optical assessment device) and assist with any diving operations on board. His work is primarily filming underwater to substantiate data being collected by the multibeam systems.  He has also done work towboarding, an operation in which two divers are pulled (towed) below the surface to scan the ocean floor for debris or bottom type, for further investigation.  He enjoys his job and graduate school work because he gets to help solve the puzzle about underwater geography and he is also getting to learn about other facets of the work, like sonar mapping and data editing. The tools he uses most often are the computer, dive and TOAD equipment, as well GPS systems (global positioning systems). He will attend one cruise out at sea a year while taking classes. Mr. Chojnacki comments that a person well suited for this type of career needs to be willing to take risks and be well motivated because it is a difficult lifestyle and not very well paid. There are no well defined career paths, so one must be willing to take opportunities as they arise, to persevere, and be curious about the things around them.

Sea floor mapping specialist, Alyssa Aaby is also onboard for this cruise.  She originates from Portland, Oregon and is enjoying her first post graduate job. Her duties involve editing data collected from the sonar and putting the information together into a map. Alyssa is also learning new tasks, like the onboard mapping involved on the AHI.  She has been working in Hawaii since August for HMRG (Hawaii Mapping Research Group), which is supported through grant funding by the University of Hawaii. Ms. Aaby has an educational background in environmental science and a graduate degree in GIS through Oregon State. She believes the best part of her job is getting to learn new tasks, like coming out to sea to help collect data while traveling across the Hawaiian Island chain.

Because she spends a majority of her time in front of a computer, she believes the long stretches of nonhuman interaction in front of the screen can sometimes be a drawback in this type of career. She credits a college advisor for helping her narrow down her career path and she believes that anyone interested in this type of career needs to take the path of a computer programmer in their studies. An ability to take an image and rotate it in your mind is also important. Alyssa works 9-5 hours while in her office on land but will travel to sea 5-6 times this year to visit places like Fiji and Papa New Guinea.

My final interview of the day was with Coral Reef Ecosystems Specialist, Jeremy Jones.  Mr. Jones is originally from Indiana but has spent the last four years here in Hawaii. Like Mr. Chojnacki, he has worked as a towboard specialist, and has had jobs working in aquariums, a vet technician, and marine debris specialist.  He possesses a bachelor of science degree in marine science and credits a high school library advisor with helping him to narrow down his field for college studies. He believes the travel is the best part of the job, and even as a teenager, he enjoyed studying the stars up above and the ocean down below. He has many responsibilities on this cruise; to include the repair and maintenance of the AHI research vessel, assist in dive operations, as a coxswain (driver of the AHI boat), and he is learning more about the collection and editing of the sonar data. Mr. Jones admits that this type of job has a “hurry up, and wait” mentality about it. In other words, someone who is interested in this type of career needs to understand that you must be flexible, think quickly in times of emergency, have infinite patience, and be a people person. You need to be able to adapt to living in close quarters with other people. Mr. Jones will spend 5-6 months at sea this year.

The interviews I have conducted have made me realize the infinite number of occupations in this area of science and I am looking forward to my future interviews this week.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students: Multiple choice question! All living things in an area, together with their environment, is called a (an) ________________________. a) marine habitat b) ecosystem c) continental shelf d) gulf stream

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’s Question: 1)What is the name of the wettest place on earth? (Hint: it somewhere in Hawaii.) Mount Waialeale, Hawaii 2)List the name of the reference source you used (this includes websites remember!) Earth and Environmental Facts book 3)The annual average rainfall of this place is 661 inches a year.  How many feet of water is that? about 55 feet  How many yards? about 18 and 1/3 yards

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