Beth Lancaster, April 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 9, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind – Northwest 20 – 35 knots
Swell Waves – 4-12 feet
Sea Water Temp – 9.4 – 10.5oC

A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells that range from 12 to 15 feet.
A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells 12 to 15 feet.
Reported sea surface temperatures from April 7, 2008 for coastal California from satellite data.  The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast.  The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5oC and the blue 8.6-10oC.
Today’s reported sea surface temperatures for coastal California from satellite data. The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast. The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5 degrees C.

The weather reports collected from the bridge of the McARTHUR II reported that the waters traveled over the course of the day did in fact reach 12 feet.  The winds from the northwest cause an upwelling effect, which brings deep, nutrient-rich cooler waters to the continental shelf area off the coast of California. This nutrient-rich water plays a large role in the food web of the area, increasing primary productivity, which will then result in large numbers of marine mammals and birds due to the availability of prey items.  This period of upwelling in the area of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries marks the beginning of a productive time of year.

Science and Technology Log 

Part of the mission on this cruise is to gather oceanographic processes data to look at the relationship between biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors within the study area.  While many samples are being collected through observation and survey equipment outside of the ship, there is just as much being collected in the laboratory onboard the McArthur II. The ship is equipped with several pieces of equipment that report physical features and measurements throughout the day.  This information is recorded for scientists onboard to utilize in their data analysis.  The following is a list of equipment, and their functions being used to measure oceanic processes:

Thermosalinograph (TSG) – Surface water is pumped from the ocean through a hose to this piece of equipment which measures temperature and salinity.  There is an additional probe that measures CO2. All information collected during the course of the cruise will be given to researchers to use in data analysis.

Scientific Echosounder – Sends a sound wave into the water column.  If there is anything in the water column this sound wave will reflect back to the ship. The longer it takes for the reflected wave to get back to the ship the farther away the target is.  Comparing three different frequencies emitted by the echosounder allow scientists to identify different types of plankton in the water column, and set sampling sites.

Navigation Software – Allows researchers to track where they have been and where they are going. Because nets and other equipment are being deployed from the ship this computer software allows scientists to view the charted underwater topography to determine placement and depth of equipment.  By marking sample sites using the software, scientists can look at the relationship between the ocean’s topography and living organisms collected.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.
NOAA TAS Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.

Personal Log 

Pteropod collected from a hoop net.
Pteropod collected from a hoop net.

I have been onboard the McARTHUR II for four days, and have enjoyed every minute of helping out with the research project. Scientists have been so patient and willing to answer all of my questions. The crewmembers onboard the McARTHUR II are very friendly and helpful. I now have a much better understanding of the marine physical environment than I did upon my arrival!  I am enjoying living at sea, even the small bunks!  The ship is actually very large you would never know there were more than twenty people onboard!

Animals Seen Today

Black-footed Albatross, Pteropod, Pigeon Guillemot, Copepods, Brandt’s Cormorant,  Ctenophore, Sooty Shearwater, Krill, Northern Fulmar, Microscopic Plankton, Black-legged Kittiwake, California Gull, Western Gull, Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, Rhinoceros, Auklet, and Bonaparte’s Gull.

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