Mark McKay, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 16, 2009

Main science lab on the Knorr
Main science lab on the Knorr

Science Log

Well things are starting to settle into a routine here on the Knorr. What appears to be chaos is actually a very well staged operation. Everything has a place and is secured so as it doesn’t become a hazard in rough seas. The researchers and crew all know their jobs and the ship runs like a well-oiled machine. There are several science labs here onboard. The largest is the main lab pictured below, but there are other labs, which serve specific purposes, spread through out the ship. His ship is totally dedicated to Science. One thing I forgot to mention is that the Knorr is the ship that Dr. Robert Ballard used to find the Titanic on September 1, 1985. A lot of history associated with this ship.

Close Up of Collected Zooplankton
Close Up of Collected Zooplankton

Most of the day we have been heading in a northeasterly direction paralleling some really interesting Geology in the North Slope of the Aleutian Islands. We stopped periodically “on station” at specific points of scientific interest. It’s really interesting watching the coordination between the different experiments that are run from the ship. What I thought was really interesting is the work they are doing with zooplankton on this cruise. Zooplankton consists of a range of organism sizes that includes anything from small protozoa’s to large metazoan animals. Examples would include copepods, larval fish and the very important Krill or euphausiids. These crustaceans (Krill) are a very important part of the Bering Sea food chain. Scientists onboard use what is known as a MOCNESS, which is the acronym for Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sampling System.

Sorting Zooplankton
Sorting Zooplankton

This system is towed through the water at a speed of 1.5 knots from one of the winches on the ship. This system consists of five or more nets that can be opened or closed under computer control at desired depths. After the system is retrieved from the water, that’s when the fun begins. These scientists have a lot of samples to pick through, so they always like to have help. I got to spend a big chunk of my evening looking through trays of plankton, trying to pick out specific species of copepods, krill, and juvenile fish with tweezers. That was tedious work but we made a game of it, and I had a chance to see lots of examples of local critters. We have been staying close to coastal waters for the last day. Tomorrow we will be heading back out to the west and a bit farther away from coastal waters. I’m looking forward to seeing how both the water chemistry and the organisms we fine there differ from what we have experienced in the last couple of days. Stay tuned!

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