Wesley Struble, 31 July, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Wes Struble
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
July 8 – August 10, 2010

 Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) cruise
Geographical area of cruise: Equatorial Pacific from 110 degrees W Longitude to 95 degrees W Longitude
Date: Thursday, 31 July 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Current Position: 2.25 degrees South Latitude & 95 degrees West Longitude;
Cloud Cover: 5/8,
Cloud types: Nimbostratus, Stratus, & Altostratus;
Visibility: 10 nautical miles;
Wind Speed: 13 knots;
Wind Direction: 130 degrees;
Wave Height: 1 – 2 feet;
Swell Height: 4 – 5 feet,
Atmospheric Pressure: 1014.0 mb;
Temperature: 20.0 degrees C (68 degrees F)

Science and Technology Log

It is easy to get wrapped up in the day- to-day cruise activities that are involved in maintaining the buoy array and the ship. Lest we forget, I wanted to spend a little time in this log discussing the overall purpose that has led to the investment of all this technology, science, and financial resources.

A moment of respite during a buoy deployment operation

This cruise (and many others that follow on a regularly scheduled basis) maintains the TAO buoy array. TAO stands for Tropical Atmosphere and Ocean. The buoy array is located at approximately 15 degree intervals from 95 degrees West Longitude (just west of the Galapagos Islands) across the Pacific to 135 degrees East Longitude (north of the Island of New Guinea). In addition, the buoys are placed north and south of the equator at 8 degrees, 5 degrees, 2 degrees with one buoy positioned on the equator itself.

These buoys measure a variety of ocean and atmosphere conditions: Air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall, and relative humidity. They also measure water temperature and conductivity. The buoys generally transmit their data hourly. Besides the huge amount of information that is collected over time that can be used to study atmospheric and oceanographic weather conditions, the TAO array also has a very specific goal – to collect data to increase our understanding the El Niño/La Niña cycle, otherwise known as the Southern Oscillation.

NOAA Corps Ensign Alise Parrish at the controls of Aftcon (Aft control room) during a buoy deployment

Most people have at least heard of the El Niño phenomenon but, other than knowing that it somehow affects weather patterns, many are ata loss when asked to actually explit. The El Niño is a cyclic weathphenomenon that affects a very large portion of the globe. In its simplest form it is a shifting of warm Pacific Ocean water from the western part of the basin (near New Guinea, Indonesia, and northern Australia) across the equatorial Pacific toward the South American Continent near Peru/Ecuador.

In normal climate years the Trade winds (the Trade winds are easterly winds) and ocean currents (specifically the Equatorial current – a west flowing current) work together to keep the warm equatorial waters in the western Pacific piled up near New Guinea & Indonesia). These warm waters produce huge amounts of evaporation pumping massive amounts of moisture into the atmosphere in this part of the globe. This moisture returns to the earth in the form of the monsoons and rainy seasons so typical for that part of the world.

NOAA Corps Ensign Linh Nguyen catching some sun and reading time during a cool afernoon on near the equator

During an El Niño cycle the Trade Winds and currents weaken allowing the warm western Pacific water to move east across the basin relocating the warm water nearer the South American continent. This rearrangement of ocean water – warm water to the east and colder water to the west – tends to suppress the rainy seasons and monsoons in the western Pacific and brings huge amounts of moisture and storms to the eastern Pacific. Hence, countries, such as New Guinea, India, Indonesia, and others in the region, which depend on the rain and moisture, are left dry and often experience significant drought conditions. These droughts place many people’s livelihoods and even their lives in danger due to starvation and economic loss.

On the other side of the ocean those countries in the eastern Pacific (from Peru north through California) will often have their coasts battered by large storms causing huge amounts of destruction and loss of life. In addition, in the interior they often experience heavy rains in areas that are normally mildly arid. This produces disastrous and lethal flash floods and mud slides. In those areas with little or no sanitation removal, poor or non-existent sewage treatment systems, in combination with compromised drinking water delivery systems can be followed by deadly outbreaks of typhoid and cholera and other life threatening diseases.

With these awful potential consequences, knowing when conditions for an El Niño cycle are in their early stages would be very helpful. The TAO array acts like an early warning system. During the Cold War the United States depended heavily on the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line in northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. This was a series of radar stations that looked north over the pole to identify a launch of nuclear missiles soon after they left the ground from the former Soviet Union. The idea being that it would give the U.S. as much time as possible to prepare for the strike and to prepare a response. In a similar way the TAO array is a distant early warning system that registers the changes in ocean temperature and current direction as the warm water of the El Niño moves east across the Pacific. This information gives the countries affected by an El Niño time to prepare for all the possible problems they might experience. The system is expensive to maintain but, much like hurricanes, if you know it is coming well ahead of time preparations can save millions or billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Personal Log

Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi

Yesterday I spent some time with Tonya Watson (the SST) in the wet lab. She explained the operation of the Autosal and ran a few samples. This machine indirectly measures the salinity of sea water by actually measuring the conductivity of the sample. I hope to explain this in some detail in a future log. Later in the day one of the crew members, Frank Monge, caught a very large and brilliantly colored, Mahi mahi. We are hoping to see more marine life as we get closer to the Galapagos Islands. The water will be shallower and warmer and I hope to be able to spot some whales. The weather conditions have continued to remain cool, mostly in the 70’s, with mixed clouds, wind, and sunshine. I am grateful that the cooler than normal temperatures have been the rule for this cruise.

Beth Spear, July 31, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth A Spear
NOAA Ship: Delaware II

Mission: Shark – Red Snapper Bottom Long Line Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico to North Atlantic
Date: Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gumby suits for safety

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1000 (10:00 am)
Position: Latitude 27 degrees 51’N, Longitude 086 degrees 01’W
Present Weather: Partly Cloudy
Visibility: 11 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 31.1 degrees C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 30.4 degrees C; Wet bulb = 27.8 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1012.8 mb

Science and Technology Log
The first day aboard ship started with a ship orientation meeting presented by the acting executive officer (XO) LT Fionna Matheson. During the meeting the XO covered many shipboard concerns especially safety. LT Matheson suggested you always use one hand for the ship and one hand for you to avoid accidents. We also had some drills in the afternoon. LT Matheson had some really useful ways to remember the signals for drills. Fire is one long whistle, just like someone yelling fire in one long shout. The abandon ship signal is at least six short blasts then one prolonged blast, like yelling get-the-heck-off-the-ship-nooooow. During the abandon ship drill we had to put on survival suits, called “Gumby” suits by the crew. They were hot and very awkward.

Personal Log
We have about four days to steam to the location we will begin fishing. I am using these days to get myself adjusted to the night watch hours, midnight to noon. I am trying to tell myself it’s a good thing because I’ll be working during the cooler evening and morning hours, still hot is hot! The staterooms are quite cramped, it is a good thing I am not claustrophobic. I am still learning names of crew and the other scientists. There is a mix of NOAA volunteers, students, and professors. The food has been excellent, but I’m trying not to overindulge since there is not much activity during these first four days. The ship has a large selection of current movies loaned by the US Navy which I am taking advantage of during our downtime.

New Terms – Shipboard Terminology
Bulkheads = walls.
Ladderwells = stairs or stairwells.
Passageways = hallways.
Deck = floor.
Bow= front of ship.
Stern = back of the ship.
Port = left side of ship while facing bow, remember this because port is a shorter word than starboard or right, ship lights are red on this side.
Starboard = right side of ship while facing bow, remember this because starboard is a longer word than port or left, ship lights are green on this side.
Aft = direction meaning toward the stern (rear) of the ship
Fore = direction meaning toward the bow (front) of the ship

(figure ref.  http://www.sailingcourse.com/primer/port-starboard-bow-stern-html.jpg )

Steven King, July 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Steven King
R/V Kilo Mauna
June 30, 2010 – August 2, 2010

Mission: Ocean Atmosphere Dynamics
Geograpical Area: Hawaii
Date: July 30,  2010

On the Night Shift



For the past two nights I have been on watch from 9 pm to 5 am. I helped out with the implementation of the CTD Rosette which measures conductivity, temperature, oxygen anddepth of the ocean. The Rosette is also used to take water samples at different depths in the ocean. The Rosette descended to 500 meters below the surface of the ocean to take measurements and collect water samples. That is about 1,640 yards, or the same as lining up about 16 football fields end to end. This is a picture of me taking a water sample from the Rosette. One reason why the water samples are taken is that the water can be analyzed on land with tools to give precise measurements. These measurements are then compared to the measurements taken by the electronic equipment that is submerged in the water. Consequently, the two sets of measurements are compared to make sure the electronic equipment is accurately measuring the different elements of the water. Scientists also use the water samples to test for phosphorus as well as examining the samples for organisms living in the water.It is really quite phenomenal how the entire process occurs. On the side of the Rosette is a series of bottles which we set opened to a trigger system. The entire Rosette is attached to a cable on the crane. If you look at the bottom of my blog, you will see the crane and its operator. The netting, which you see behind me, is taken down and set aside. The crane picks up the Rosette, and two people tag it, or help it into the water using guide lines. The purpose of the tagging is to prevent the Rosette from spinning or careening into the side of the boat.

Yesterday, when the Rosette came back up, it was covered in a clear, viscous material. The gel appeared to have small black spheres suspended in it which makes me theorize that it could have been some sort of egg spawn that the Rosette collected when it was in the water. One scientist believed it could be also have been some sort of bacteria.

Last night I also went to one of the upper decks to see what it was like, and was it ever dark out. Dr. Weller explained to me that there are no lights on at that time so that the captain and his crew can see at night. Man-made lights make it hard for the pilot of the ship to navigate at night. This would be similar to keeping the dome light in your car off during nighttime driving so that your night vision is not affected.

So here I am in the picture taking the water sample. We had just brought the Rosette back in from the ocean. This was all done in the darkest of nights. Sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? Actually, it was kind of exhilarating seeing the waves crashing against the stern of the boat while the Rosette descended into the surf. Of course, there were plenty of people supervising me and making sure I was safe and sound. I was also wearing a life jacketwhich also has a light attached to it in case I should fall overboard. It is important in science and in life to always take the necessary precautions from danger.

Obed Fulcar, July 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:Tuesday ,July 30, 2010

Weather from the Bridge:
Time:11:47 am
Latitude:58.47 North
Longitude:178 West
Wind Speed:2.9 knots
Wind Direction:270 West
Sea Temperature:9.7 C (49.46 F)
Air Temperature:7.2 C (44.96 F)
Barometric Pressure:1008 millibars

During this cruise the tech crew has been very busy working on getting to work the prototype for a new Camera Trawl. This new camera array is designed to be deployed independently from the trawl and able to take pictures and footage of the fish down below. The pictures then can be analyzed to determine if the size of the Pollock is the rights one, thus reducing the need to launch the trawl net unnecessarily. So far the camera has not worked as expected and the team has done countless adjustments to it. They suspect that there is a bug in the software causing the problems. This is an example of how technology has to be tested many times in labs and in the field in order to become available for use. I always tell students in the class that many of the technology that we use today, such as cell phones, laptop computers, flat screen TVs, and even microwaves, we owe it to the scientists and technicians that developed them originally for the astronauts in the aerospace program.


Camera Trawl

Camera Trawl

Camera Trawl

Coming to the ship on this cruise I was very excited because I had seen on the Oscar Dyson website pictures of an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) underwater robot been deployed, and was really looking forward to see it in action. I was a little disappointed when I learned that the ROV was not on board, because it was part of a test done the year before. This gave me the inspiration to implement in September a technology project i have been meaning to do with my students:to build a student ROV, using NOAA’s “Rov in a bucket” activity. The students will incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) as part of the process of learning to design, create, and build the ROV. This project will be built during/after school and once assembled and operational it can be used to broadcast pictures or even underwater footage. We could use it during our community events on the Harlem River to create awareness amongst residents that the river is cleaner than ever, and that many aquatic species inhabit the waters.

“Camaras Aquaticas a Robot Sumergibles” 
Durante todo el crucero los tecnicos de la nave han estado muy ocupados en hacer funcionar una Camara Sumergible, que a diferencia de la Camara de Arrastre, que se lanza junto a la red para tomar fotos, esta tomaria fotos y video de los peces a diferentes profundidades sin necesidad de tener que lanzar la red de arrastre. El beneficio seria que esta camara usaria un programa especial que permitiria analizar en tiempo real las dimensiones de el tipo de pez expecifico. El personal tecnico realizo incontables ajustes, sin ningun exito hasta el momento. Se cree que es un malfuncionamiento del program de computadora. Este es un ejemplo de como la tecnologia es probada y examinada tanto en el laboratorio com en el campo antes de estar disponible al publico. Siempre le digo a los estudiantes que mucha de la tecnologia que usamos como el telefono celular, el microndas, y el ordenador laptop, han sido fruto de la investigacion del program aeroespacial para los astronautas. Antes de yo venir al Oscar Dyson estaba muy entusiasmado en poder ver en accion al robot sumergible ROV, o Vehiculo de Control Remoto, que yo habia visto en fotos del website. El desencanto que recibi cuando me dijeron que el ROV no estaba abordo, y que las fotos eran de una vieja mision, no fue poco. Esto me ha inspirado a en Septiembre a hacer un proyecto de STEM (Ciencia, Tecnologia, Ingenieria y Matematicas), donde los estudiantes armaran un ROV sumergible. ellos usaran estrategias similares a las que usan los technicos y cientificos en la creacion de un robot. El ROV tendra la capacidad de tomar fotos y video bajo el agua, y posiblemente ser usado en exhibiciones ambientales de la comunidad.

Story Miller, July 29, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 29, 2010
Time: 1922 ADT
Latitude: 59°47N
Wind: 5 knots (approx. 5.8 mph or 9.3 km/h)
Direction: 9.8° (N)
Sea Temperature: 10.1°C (approx. 50.2°F)
Air Temperature: 8.7°C (approx. 47.7°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1015
Wave Height: 0 – 1 feet
Swell Height: 1 – 2 feet
Scientific Log:
I decided that it would be beneficial to provide some information regarding some of the animals I have seen over the past week.
Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)
Yesterday morning during breakfast, one of the NOAA Corps Ensigns came down to tell me that there was a Short-tailed Albatross off the port side (left side) of the boat. This was a very special event, especially if you are an avid birder because currently there are about 2000-2500 in the world. The short-tailed albatross is one of three species of albatross living in the North Pacific Ocean and is the largest of all seabirds in this location. This bird has a wingspan of approximately two meters. One could conclude that the bird I saw was younger because young short-tailed albatross have “chocolate brown” feathers when young and as they grow larger they turn white. This bird likes to eat squid, small fishes like pollock, and zooplankton. The albatross population dwindled because the birds were very easy to access due to them only nesting on a couple islands in Japan and they were not afraid of humans. As a result they were really easy to kill and because there was a high market value for their feathers, hunters pursued them to near extinction. In fact it is said that in 1953 there were only about 10 pairs left in the world.
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

This species of bird has been consistently following our ship since we left Dutch Harbor. They are primarily a pelagic bird which means that unless they are breeding, they are living out at sea throughout the year. The Northern Fulmar can be found in a range of different colors depending on where they were born. Generally, the darker birds are found in the southern parts of Alaska and the white are found farther north. However, if you are on the Atlantic side of the US the pattern is just the opposite with the darker birds originating in the high Arctic and the light are found farther south! These birds typically feed on squid and small fish.  One fact that I find fascinating about the Northern Fulmars is that they have the ability to launch their puke up to 6 feet as a defense mechanism! I shall now remember it as the projectile vomiting bird!
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-legged Kittiwake

Black-legged Kittiwake

One interesting fact about this bird is that it has only three functional toes, hence the tri prefix in its scientific name. These birds are white and their wings are gray. Because I grew up in the desert, my untrained eye mistakenly identified them as a seagull but thanks to USFWS scientists Marty Reedy and Liz Labunski, I am now informed of the differences! This bird is also pelagic and their breeding season is during this time. These birds feed on small fish and they are found around the coasts of Alaska, the Bering Sea, and in the northern Canadian Atlantic Coast. When the black-legged Kittiwake feeds, it usually catches its prey on the surface of the ocean but it has been known to plunge underwater. Typically they feed on zoopankton.
Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris)
As stated in its name this bird has bright coral red legs and is typically shorter than the Black-legged Kittiwake. These birds are most commonly found mostly in the Pribilof Islands and there are only about five or six places in the world where they breed, all of which are in the Bering Sea.
Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris)
These birds are known to breed off Australia. In the summer they migrate to Alaska, a trip of about 9000, and have been known to take as little as six weeks! In Australia they are important in the Aboriginal culture in Tasmania and are commercially harvested for food, feathers, and oil. These birds usually eat crustaceans but are also known to eat fish and squid. To catch their prey, they will plunge or dive into the water. One interesting adaptation is that they are able to convert their food to oil and the benefit is that oil does not have as much weight as an ingested animal which allows the birds to travel long distances.
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma furcata)
When I first saw these birds I thought a bat was flying over the water due to a slightly more erratic flight pattern than the smooth flights of the other birds I have observed. These birds typically feed at the surface of the water. Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels are also pelagic, living approximately 8 months at sea and when they do return to their breeding grounds in late-spring, they will dig burrows in the soil or find ideal nest locations in rock crevices. The baby chicks are thought to have a unique adaptation for survival. Sometimes the parents leave the baby alone for many days to look for food. During this time the baby’s body head drops into a state of torpor until the parents return and raises its body temperature.
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
These birds are capable of backward somersaults in the air and take part in acts of piracy as they have been known to harass other birds until the lesser bird gives up its food. The Pomarin Jaegers primarily feed on lemmings and even have a reproductive period that is dependent on the brown lemming! According to the USFWS they are “the only avian predator that digs for lemmings.”
Smooth Lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)

Smooth Lumpsucker

Lumpsuckers live in cold waters in the Northern Hemisphere. They have a disk underneath their body that allows them to cling to rocks. “All but a few lumpsuckers have spiny tubercles on the head and body” (2002).  There are 27 species of lumpsuckers and 10 are confirmed to occur in Alaska with 3 more species are known to be near Alaska. These fish can be found on the bottom of the sea, usually on the continental shelf.
Personal Log:

The suction disk of the Smooth Lumpsucker

After my shift ended yesterday, I hung out on the bridge and looked at seabirds and tried to find evidence of land (Russia) since we are so close. The day was clear and sure enough, right after supper, Russia was spotted! While I have not been out to sea that long, the idea of land coming into view was an exciting feeling. Perhaps the feeling was because the land belonged to Russia and I had never been there before or that the sighting of land broke up the monotony of the never-ending stretch of moving water. I feel that the feeling was derived from a little bit of both. While I was searching for Russia, I had the opportunity to observe a Fin Whale about one mile (~1.5km) ahead of the boat. A few times, it came out of the water enough so that you could see its total back and dorsal fin! For me, Fin Whales have been the most commonly spotted.
This morning, after repeatedly launching the experimental Cam-Trawl with no results, we finally snagged a picture of a fish early this morning! The picture was very dark and the fish, mostly a blur but it was obvious that the image was a fish! This is yet another example of how a scientist must be patient as it is common in real-life experiments, as opposed to structured labs in the classroom, to have tests fail multiple times before useful results occur!

The first fish photographed by the Cam-Trawl!

In the evening, I decided to spend time on the bridge again and watch for whales. I was in luck yet again as I was able to see two Humpback whales! They were swimming very close to the ship, but not close enough for the zoom on my camera! I was able to watch them for a good twenty minutes before they “fluked” (showed their tail) and dove deep underwater!
Overall it was a very interesting couple of days!
Denlinger, L.M. 2006. Alaska Seabird Information Series. Unpubl. Rept., U.S. Fish and  Wildl. Serv., Migr. Bird Manage., Nongame Program, Anchorage, AK
Mecklenburg, C.W., Mecklenburg, T.A., & Thorsteinson, L.K. (2002). Fishes of alaska. Bethesda, MD: American Fisheries Society.
USFWS scientists Liz Labunski and Marty Reedy
Animals Viewed:
Walleye Pollock
Pacific Herring
Smooth Lumpsucker
Shrimp (unidentified) but they looked like what I have for dinner!
Fin Whale
Humpback Whale
Short-tailed Albatross
Northern Fulmar
Something to Consider:
Many people, including myself, enjoy watching animals but never learn what their common names are! We take for granted the wonders of Mother Nature that we see everyday and sometimes disregard them as being “normal.” However, what you see may not be normal for other people, such as seeing high populations of bald eagles in Dutch Harbor and Unalaska! It is never too late to learn and if, for example, you move to a different location with different flora and fauna, you can share with your new friends the environment from which you came! I find when traveling to other countries or other locations in the “Lower 48” that they assume Alaska is always cold, snowy, and that penguins live there (which they don’t)! When I take my pictures with me, it is exciting to see other people’s reactions and the conversations afterward are always engaging!
Now would be a great time to photograph the animals and plants you see inhabiting the land surrounding your home. You never know when you may bump into an avid “birder” or other animal specialist that could tell you their names. Or, if you are feeling particularly enthusiastic on a foul weather day, there are many identification books available in your local library.

Obed Fulcar, July 29, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:July 29, 2010

Weather from the Bridge:
Time:05:56 am
Latitude:61.05 N
Longitude:178.51 W
Wind Direction: 300 N
Wind Speed:12.5 knots
Sea Temperature:8.0 C (46.4 F)
Air Temperature:9.5 C (49.10 F)
Barometric Pressure:1008 mb
Foggy skies

Foggy Skies

Wednesday, July 28: after a cloudy and foggy day, (Picture of a ship on Russian waters)the weather finally changed and the afternoon became sunny and clear, very pleasant to be on deck. For the past several days we have been navigating in the Russian territorial waters of the Bering Sea, for which we have permission, as testified by a letter in Russian posted on the bridge. Alaska used to be a possession of Russia, until October 18, 1867 it became a territory of the United States.

We can still see Russian Orthodox churches still open today in some islands of Alaska. Pretty soon the direction of the current transect or line course, will bring us as close as 12.6 miles from land. At one point we were close to 14 miles off  Cape Navarin, but there was fog in the distance and without notice the beautiful afternoon disappeared and I was not able to see Russia. Later on during the afternoon trawl, while sorting the catch of Pollock, a big fish came out on the conveyor:it was a Chum Salmon or Dog fish” said Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko, a Russian scientists working with his colleague Elena Gritsay, from the Vladivostok School of Fisheries, collaborating in the Walleye Pollock survey to help improve the management of Russian fisheries. According to Mikhail it was most likely that the chum salmon had been born in Japanese waters, and had migrated to spawn near Cape Navarin.

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon

After I measured it then I dissected the fish to see if it was male or female. The organs were slightly different in size and location than the Pollock, but basically the same. The pillora seca was very large, engulfing the long stomach and liver, and the kidneys were right behind the swim bladder. The presence of an organ called gonads or testes confirmed that it was a male. I tried to locate the otolith, for my classroom collection bu could not locate it. There was also a very interesting fish in the catch: a Toad Lump sucker, a very cute looking fish that resembled a blow fish because it was swollen like a balloon. It had a suction orifice in the underbelly too.

Toad Lumpsucker

Toad Lumpsucker

Animals Seen Today: 
Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), Toad Lump sucker(Eumicrotemus phrynoides)

Cape Navarin, Gonads, Pillora Seca, Orthodox, Swim Bladder

I noticed that in this cruise there is an atmosphere of professional collaboration between scientists and the crew. There is also a sense of collegiate amongst all the scientists working on board the Oscar Dyson. The Pollock Survey is the primary mission, but there are other parallel missions going on: the seabird survey, done by Marty and Liz, and the marine mammal survey, done by Patty, Paula, and Ernesto. To do research on the Bering Sea is very challenging due to the remote locations, and the storms, winds, large waves, and extreme weather. The need for oceangoing vessels to work in these extreme conditions makes it very expensive, so when ships like the Oscar Dyson are deployed, different missions are planned to “piggyback” along. I was very impressed by the international collaboration in the mission, with the two Russian scientists on board conducting research on the Pollock fisheries, since part of the transects done by the Oscar Dyson covered Russian territorial waters as well. The fact the one Mexican scientist, a Filipino cook, and a Dominican teacher at sea were part of this cruise added more countries to the mission. Just like us, fish travel in different waters, local and international, and they too are citizens of the world’s oceans. I wanted to commend NOAA’s administration for providing career opportunities to minorities, Latinos, and women to work as scientists, technicians, Corps officers, and crew.

“Una Cooperacion Internacional” Durante todo el trayecto de este crucero de Monitoreo del Pollock he notado un ambiente de profesionalismo entre el personal cientifico y la tripulacion, asi tambien como un ambiente de colegiatura enter los diferentes cientificos trabajando a bordo del Oscar Dyson. La mision primaria es el Monitoreo del Pollock, pero a su vez hay otras misiones paralelas a la mision principal, como son el Estudio de las Aves Marinas,por Liz y Marty, asi como el Estudio de los Mamiferos Marinos, por Patty,Paula, y Ernesto. Hay que entender que hacer investigacion cientifica en el Estrecho de Bering es una tarea logistica complicada por lo remoto del lugar, lo extremo del clima, asi como gigantescas olas. Solo se pueden usar barcos de navegacion oceanica que son muy costosos, por lo que cuando embarcaciones como el Oscar Dyson son lanzadas, multiples misiones son planeadas al mismo tiempo tambien. Me llamo mucho la atencion la cooperacion internacional, especialmente los dos cientificos rusos a bordo, que tambien relizaban estudios del Pollock, lo cual tiene mucho sentido, debido a que gran parte de la investigacion cubria aguas territoriales rusas. El hecho de que un biologo Mexicano, un filipino (Ray el cocinero), y un Maestro en el Mar dominicano tambien forman parte de este crucero le agregan mas paises a la mision. Yo quiero felicitar a la administracion de NOAA por proveer oportunidades de carreras profesionales tanto a minorias, como a Latinos, y a mujeres para trabajar como cientificos, tecnicos, Cuerpo de Oficiales o como tripulantes. Yo creo que esto es un gran incentivo para que mas jovenes estudiantes de escuela intermedia y secundaria puedan perseguir carreras profesioanles en Conservacion Ambiental.

Obed Fulcar, July 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: August 7, 2010

Weather from the Bridge:

Time:04:42 am
Latitude:61.04 North
Longitude:178.06 West
Wind Speed:10.74 knots
Wind Direction:50 degrees North
Sea Temperature:8.99 C (48.02 F)
Air Temperature:8.2 C (46.76 F)
Barometric Pressure: 1010.1 millibars
Cloudy Skies


Me with a pollock

Me with a pollock

Friday, July 23: The Walleye Pollock survey has been conducted since 1979, every summer by MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) part of the Alaska Fisheries Science center (AFSC). The sea was quite calm compared to the last days, giving us a break from sea sickness. The other day I missed the trawl, but I will not today. As soon as we saw the fish in the Acoustic sonar screens I knew it was trawling time, so I ran up to the bridge to witness the whole thing. The started deploying an Aleutian Wind Trawler or AWT net that was attached to a giant winch with huge ropes and chains. The long net had a front orange section with smaller openings compared to the back. I was invited to come to deck by deckhand Buddy Gould. He is a veteran New england fisherman from Rhode Island, now living in Florida.

Buddy Gould

Buddy Gould

I asked permission from Commanding Officer CO Mike Hashlyck , and went on deck wearing a PFD, and a hard hat. After trawling the net behind the ship for what felt like an eternity, it was finally hauled back, the catch of Pollock was then spilled into a box leading to the wet labfor slicing and dicing. I went inside an put on rain boots, a plastic jacket and a jumpsuit, plus elbow high plastic glove and got down to slice and measure Pollock. While sorting out the fish we found a Pacific Flounder and a Rock sole fish, both flat bottom fish. For the next several days while conducting the survey, I kept dissecting the content of the stomachs of everal fish to find out what they have been eating. I learned that the main diet of Pollock was made up of animal plankton called Euphasiids, also known as krill. 



These small organisms are arthropods or segmented invertebr ates (without internal skeleton), and just like shrimps, and crabs, their bodies are covered by an exoskeletonor shell, with paired antennae, pincers, and legs. They were present in the stomach of all the specimens in a pink color mass. There was one large maturity level 4/5 Pollock that when I opened its stomach, a large Northen Pacific shrimp came out of it. Then in later catches I observed that all the stomachs were very dark-blue looking. When I opened the stomach of one fish there was a dark purple mass of another arthropod called Pelagic amphipods, or sea fleas. Amphipods swim drifting in the water column and are larger than euphasiids or krill, wich instead formed massive swarms swimming at great depths by day but heading to suface by night. I was able to witness this pattern when once the echogram from the acoustic radar showed a swarm of krill drifting from the surface to the bottom as the sun was rising.

Pelagic amphipods

Pelagic amphipods

Animal Species observed:

Arrowtooth Flounder (Atheresthes stomias), Northern Rock Sole fish (Lepidopsetta polyxystra), Northern Pacifi Shrimp

VOCABULARY: Amphipods, Arthropods, Ecograms, Euphasiids, Exoskeleton, Invertebrates, Krill


I realized that this tiny organism (the krill) is crucial for the survival not only of many animals in the ocean, but ultimately of us humans. We have historically harvested the rich waters of the Bering Sea for food, and most recently as a source of cheap protein to feed cattle and even pets. Disasters such as the recent massive oil spill from the tracgic explosion of the Deep Horizon oil platform, own by giant multinational BP, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska during the 80’s are examples of how fragile the marine ecosystem is. But the number one threat to ocean fisheries is actually overfishing exploitation of the ocean resources. I heard stories about the foreign fleets that come to Russian waters and overfish with impunity, while at the same time processing, canning, and packing all their catch aboard their ships, taking it all back to their countries, without sharing any jobs opportunities with the local communities. Historically local fishing fleets have fished sustainably, bringing back to local ports the catch, allowing canneries, and fish markets to also benefit from it. We have to spread the word about this injustice and begin to question our own habits, to see what can we change in our consumption that will have a positive impact in this urgent matter.

“Echando la Red en Alta Mar” El mareo de ayer no me permitio participar en la pesca del Pollock, pero no hoy! Tan pronto me entere, subi al puente para observar lo todo. Mi buen amigo del personal de cubierta, Buddy Gould pescador de Rhode Island radicado en la Florida, me invito a bajar a cubierta. Despues de ahbe asegurado permiso del Oficial Comandante Mike Holshyck, baje a la cubierta con chaleco flotador y casco de seguridad a cuestas. La anaranjada Red de Arrastre fue lanzada al mar por unos gigantescos rollos de cables y cadenas pesadas. Luego de lo que parecio una eternidad, la red fue traida a bordo y la pesca fue depositada en una rampa en la cubierta por una grua pesada. Yo fui adentro rapidamente y me vesti con guantes, poncho, pantalones, y botas de plastico y me puse las manos a la obra: a picar los pescados! Durante el proceso note que los estomagos de los pescados cambiaron de color rosado a color purpura. El contenido de los estomagos incluia un plankton-animal llamado Euphasiid o Krill, un artropodo (invertebrados parecidos al camaron y el cangrejo), asi como otro llamadoAmphipods, los cuales constituyen la dieta primaria de especies de peces como el Pollock, y el Salmon, asi como de las ballenas jorobadas. El krill no solo es primordial para estas especies marinas sino para la raza humana, que depende de las reservas alimenticias del Estrecho de Bering como gran fuente de proteina. Es lamentable que este fragil recurso natural no sea celosamente cuidado, cuando vemos como el desastre del derrame de la Plataforma Petrolera Deep Horizon en el Golfo de Mexico, y en los 80’s del Exxon Valdez en Alaska, puede facilmente hacer desaparecer la pesqueria. Pero el enemigo numero uno de este recurso natural es realmente la pesca desmedida por parte de flotas pequeras extranjeras que viene a las aguas del Estrecho de Bering, pescando indiscriminadamente. Estos barcos no solo pescan, si no que procesan y empaquetan todo a bordo sin dejar si quiera oportunidad a las comunidades locales de participar del beneficio sostenido. Tenemos que hacer eco de esta injusticia y autoanalizar nuestros habitos a fin de ver que podemos cambiar para poder hacer un impacto positivo.