Maggie Prevenas, Week 1 in Review, 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

Week in Review

On Monday, April 9: we loaded the ship with many bags and boxes of gear. Everyone moved into their rooms, unpacked and then headed for the science lab. In order to do science experiments, the scientists had to set up their labs.

The food is yummy onboard the Healy. There are always many fresh fruits, vegetables, beverages and snacks in the galley. Some of the food I have eaten includes fresh mixed fruit, creamy vegetable soup, and lo mein with vegetables. The salsa is to die for. There are fresh baked pies, coconut macaroons, brownies and ice cream.

Tuesday, April 10: we shipped out of Dutch Harbor and steered north. The water has been amazingly calm. We have seen many gulls and some smaller waterfowl. One of the research groups is counting and identifying our fine-feathered friends. Since they don’t have very much equipment besides binoculars, they were busy from the first day out, collecting data.

Wednesday, April 11:  was the first big push for samples from the rosette. Because so many teams need seawater in order to do their experiments, there are many sampling stops. The water is below freezing, but it is still liquid because salt is dissolved. Many of the scientists are using the water samples to test for the concentration of various nutrients and plankton.

Why nutrients? They are one very important limiting factor in the growth of the producers. Yes, without sunshine there’s no life, but algae and other phytoplankton need fertilizers to grow like crazy. Measuring the concentration of these nutrients allow the scientists to check on the health of the ecosystem and make predictions about what might happen to the delicate balance in the Bering Sea.

Thursday, April 12: was a very interesting day because the Ice Seal Team, from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, did some practice runs using the zodiacs. The Healy had never launched zodiacs of this size before so it was practice for the Coast Guard as well. The scientists in the lab were in full experiment mode, working on perfecting their technique or tweaking their new setup.

Friday, April 13: started our rotations through the science labs. We arranged our rotations around the theme of ‘Energy and Nutrient Transfer Through the Ecosystem.’ Dr. Cal Mordy was my first scientist mentor. He is looking at concentration of nutrients and oxygen in seawater. Robyn Staup, the other onboard teacher, was connected with the physical oceanographers, Drs. Nancy and David Kachel and Dr. Ned Cokelet. She fired tubes and learned many different techniques they are using to test the water of the Bering Sea.

The helicopter did a launch from the flight deck on Friday afternoon. The NMML (NOAA) is doing population counts for ice seals in the sea. Much work has to go into creating a flight plan. Time is made to communicate concerns. It was all done right, thanks to the careful attention of Ice Seal Team Leader Mike Cameron.

Today we saw our first ice.

Saturday, April 14: was a trial day for both Robyn and I as we are training for being the Ice Observers for the cruise. We had training in ice observation yesterday, but today we were on our own. Every two hours we look at the ice and interpret what kind and how much. We get help from the Coast Guard as they tell us the visibility in nautical miles and track our latitude and longitude too. We take ice observations as long as the sun is shining in daylight. After the scientists have completed their investigations in May, our ice observations will provide information about how much ice was there when they collected our data. The helicopter did another transect and observed ice seals and walrus.

Sunday, April 15: a great day to submit ice observations and look for walrus and ice seals. The animals are becoming more common and the birds are becoming scarce. Why? There is hardly any open water anymore, we are surrounded by ice.

The Ice Seals had another transect using the helicopter.

Robyn and I are working on the pictures we need for our first Live from IPY event. Our theme will be life on board a scientific research vessel that is also a Coast Guard Icebreaker.We believe it will be at 10:30 Hawaii time, 12:30 Alaska time, 1:30 Seattle time, 2:30 Mountain time, 3:30 Central time, 4:30 Eastern time. We expect to have representatives from both the Coast Guard and our scientists present.