Kimberly Lewis, July 9, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 9, 2010

Scientist first, Teacher at Sea second

Kim with members of the science team
Here I am with two other volunteers working the FSCS station. I am measuring shrimp. You can see the other two identifying one of the many species we caught.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1630 (4:30 pm)
Position: Latitude = 28.20.93 N; Longitude = 095.58.98 W
Present Weather: Could cover 100%
Visibility: 4-6 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 18 knots
Wave Height: 6-8 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.9 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 27.2 C; Wet bulb = 25.3 C
Barometric Pressure: 1011.56 mb

Science and Technology Log

As you can tell from our previous blogs, we spend a lot of our time on the Oregon II counting, measuring and weighing our catch and loading the data into FSCS. These data are critical to NOAA and the states in managing fish stocks and the Gulf ecosystem. In addition to knowing population size, weights, and lengths of individuals it’s also important to know the sex of the organisms. Information on the male:female ratio helps NOAA and the states assess the ability of the population to reproduce, and to establish sustainable catch levels.

But how do you determine the sex of marine organisms? For most fish and invertebrates you can only tell the sex by internal anatomy, which of course requires cutting the animal open. This is time consuming and not always practical when we have a large catch to process and other tasks take priority, such as preparing samples to be analyzed for contamination from the oil spill which is our top priority right now.

For some organisms, however, sex can be determined externally. One of the things we’ve learned in the past week is how to determine the sex of shrimp, flatfish, crabs, sharks, skates and rays. Here’s how:

Shrimp: the males have a pair of claspers (called petasma) on their first set of legs. The petasma are absent in females. The males use the petasma during mating to grasp the female and transfer the sperm sac.

Male – arrows show the petasma
Female – petasma are absent

Crabs: On most crab species females have wide plates curving around the rear of the abdomen, while males have a long narrow plate or plates. On females, the eggs develop under the curved plate.

Female with eggs
Flatfish: When you hold a flatfish up to the light you can see through it, which enables you to do an internal examination without cutting it open. On female flatfish, the gonad extends in a dark red, curved wedge which is absent in the male.

Personal log:Thursday was slow for the scientists on board as the waves continued to rock the boat too much to drop our nets. The rest of the crew followed their normal duty schedule. It is hard going from night shift to day shift for meetings and then back to nights. I feel like I have spent too many hours in my bunk trying to get back on schedule. Trying to do Yoga on a ship doesn’t work so well, I will be glad to get back to that when I get home.Chef Walter did another fine job with dinner. Prime Rib and scalloped potatoes. I am usually not a prime rib person, but this was excellent. I also found where the ice cream drumsticks are stored…mmmmm.

One of the scientists I work with on night shift said, “we think of you guys as scientific volunteers first, then teachers at sea second”. I will say that is the job I feel like I have been doing. The first few days I barely got my camera out b/c we were so busy. We collected a sea horse one night and I missed taking the photo before the catch was dumped. I was in the next room doing a titration and forgot to tell the rest of the shift to save it for me. 🙁 Since then I have kept my camera close by in a drawer in the wetlab. I am learning and seeing many new things…….. if anyone is a zoology teacher this is the trip for you!

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