Bryan Hirschman, August 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 13, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 6 knots
Wave Height: 1 ft
Wave Swell:  1-2 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.20C
Air Temperature: 14.20C

Science and Technology Log 

This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner
This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner

Life at sea can be very unpredictable. One minute everything is working great, and the next minute problems occur. Last evening a problem occurred with the net reel. The net reel is a large bull wheel that the nets roll into and out of when lowered in the water. The reel is spun by a huge engine that pulls the nets in when they are loaded with fish. This net reel is anchored to the boat with 16 huge bolts and nuts. Four of the bolts were found last night to be weakened during one of the daily inspections of ship’s mechanical instruments. The crew is constantly inspecting each piece of equipment to ensure the safest working conditions. Once this problem was seen all fish tows were canceled. We will be heading into port four days early to fix the problem.

An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel

Once in port the entire net reel will have to be lifted by crane and all the bolts will be replaced. The reel will then be lowered back in place and locked in place with nuts. Even though we are not fishing, other work on the ship is still occurring. The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) is deployed at regular intervals. This device sends depth and temperature data to a science laboratory to be recorded and used later (discussed in more detail in log 2).

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.
Toxin-producing phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.

The HABS (Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling) research is also still being completed by Nick Adams, an oceanographer with NOAA. He takes water samples approximately every 10 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles). After collecting the samples, he filters them for toxin and chlorophyll analysis. He also collects seawater for phytoplankton numeration and identification. His main focus is on toxin-producing genera, such as Pseudo-nitzschia and Alexandrium which are responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, respectively.  At the end of the cruise, Nick will be able to create a map of the concentrations and locations of toxin- producing phytoplankton. This will then be compared with data from years past to determine patterns and trends.

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton Alexandrium
Toxin-producing phytoplankton Alexandrium

The phytoplankton themselves are not harmful to humans, but as they accumulate in the food chain there can be human-related sickness. If we eat the organisms that are eating the plankton that produce toxins, we can become ill. Not much is known about the cause of the toxin producers, but with more research like Nick’s, scientists continually increase their understanding and ultimately hope to prevent human sickness from these phytoplankton.

Personal Log 

I am saddened to be cutting my journey earlier then expected, but I will leave the ship with fond memories of Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, and all the wonderful people who work on the ship. I am particularly grateful to the seven scientists who have gone out of their way to make me feel at home on the ship and have answered all of my questions. They are: the acoustic scientists: Dr. Dezhang Chu, Larry Hufnagle, and Steve de Blois; the fish biologists: Melanie Johnson and John Pohl; the oceanographers: Steve Pierce and Nick Adams. They are each extremely dedicated and passionate about their research and equally passionate about protecting our oceans and the organisms living there.

Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl
Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl

Challenge Yourself 
Volunteers play an integral role in supporting the environmental stewardship conducted every day by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Across the United States and its coastal waters, opportunities exist for volunteers to take part in research, observation and educational roles that benefit science, our citizens and our planet.

Visit this website to see where you can help


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