Maggie Prevenas, April 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 15, 2007

Species Profile: A Member of the Team!

Yes! I am an official ice observer, a real member of the scientific team. My job is to tag team with Robyn Staup, my fellow PolarTREC teacher, to record the conditions of the ice every two hours.

The Healy breaks a path through the ice. But what KIND of ice?
The Healy breaks a path through the ice. But what KIND of ice?

It’s not as easy as it sounds. So every two hours one of us takes flights of steps up to the bridge. We are set-up in a corner. Our station is made up of a computer, camera, pencil, piece of paper and the guide for Official Ice Observers.

I get help and advise from my friends up on the bridge.
I get help and advise from my friends up on the bridge. 

I try to time my observations to be at the same time that the ship has stopped to take some samples. I need to take three pictures there, all in certain places, upload them to a website form, and interpret certain environmental conditions.

This satellite image of ice on the Bering Sea is very accurate.
This satellite image of ice on the Bering Sea is very accurate.

How much ice? What kind of ice? How cloudy is the sky? How cold is it? Is there ice algae? How much? What is the visibility?

Is this cake ice or pancake ice?
Is this cake ice or pancake ice?

After that’s all recorded in the form, I have to stop the observation so that the observation has a start and end time. I reread what I wrote, check the links to the photos and upload the form. Then I double check it again by going out of the website and back into it and rechecking the data and photos.  At first it took us over an hour. Now we have it down to about 15 minutes.

Kolohe gives me advise sometimes. But he gets into so much trouble I have to keep him close to me when I am on the bridge.
Kolohe gives me advise sometimes. But he gets into so much trouble I have to keep him close to me when I am on the bridge.

The hardest part is getting outside to take a picture of the ice horizon. On one side of the boat, there is a big gust of wind that takes your breath away, it’s that cold. I don’t stand around, I just take the picture and get back into the bridge.

Spotted seals are found by ridges and waffles on the ice. They are often hiding. Can you spot the spotted seal?
Spotted seals are found by ridges and waffles on the ice. They are often hiding. Can you spot the spotted seal?

Why are we doing this? All the scientists need to see how abiotic factors influence their sample. Ice is an ever-present factor here in the Bering Sea. When scientists get off the ship and go back to their research labs, they will want to know what the weather was like and what the ice was like on the days and times they took samples.

Jeff Napp, a senior scientist onboard Healy, puts fine nets in the water to trap phytoplankton and zooplankton. He will use the ice observation data.
Jeff Napp, a senior scientist onboard Healy, puts fine nets in the water to trap phytoplankton and zooplankton. He will use the ice observation data.

We were told it’s the first time anyone has been so regular in reporting this data. And what we are doing is very valuable to them.

Hooray for science and teamwork!