NOAA Teacher at Sea: Annmarie Babicki
NOAA Ship Name: Oregon II
Mission: Bottom Longline Survey 2010
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date August 20, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 28.52 degrees North
Longitude: 85.52 degrees West
Clouds: partly cloudy
Winds: 10.37 kts.
Waves: 2-3 Feet
Air Temperature: 31.3 degrees C or 88 degrees F
Water Temperature: 29.7 degrees C or 85 degrees F
Barometric Pressure: 1014.28
Science and Technology:
There have been a couple of times when we have worked through a station and have not caught a fish. That has been very discouraging and rather boring. However, we had several stations that made up on it and we could barely keep up with bringing in the catch. One catch, we caught seven sharks that needed to be put in the cradle because they were so large.
Bull sharks can be dangerous in the Gulf area because they swim in shallow waters where recreational activities take place. They are one of the most abundant species of sharks, so you do have to be watchful of them. It is fairly easy to recognize them because of the width of their midsection is and by their rounded nose. The bull shark was a big male weighing 130 lb. The black lines you can see just behind his head are the gills slits. It’s amazing to think that he was enticed with a three inch piece of mackerel. This was only second bull shark we have caught on our trip thus far. The night shift also caught one and they were as excited as we were.
We also caught three sandbar sharks, which is the most common large shark we are catching out here. They ranged in weight from 82 lb. to 136 lb. Their colors vary from being a light sandy color to a grayish brown. We had one fighter that thrashed around in the cradle. The scientists was able to calm it down, so that it did not hurt itself. I made a video of one of the catches and it took the scientist and his assistants three min. to weigh, measure, tag and get the hook out of that shark. I did tag a sandbar shark, but generally do not handle the really big ones. This expert shark scientist is so skilled at handling sharks and the collecting of data he needs without stressing the sharks. I am in awe of his work and I very much admire the work he is doing to protect the shark populations in the Gulf.
We have caught several little sharks from the dogfish family that are not easily identifiable just by observing them. In order to identify them, the scientist takes a biopsy punch, which takes a small piece (approx. .8 cm.) of skin just below the dorsal fin. It doesn’t hurt the shark and does not go deep into the muscle tissue. When the DNA testing is completed, the scientist will have the correct genus and species of the shark, which they can then enter into their data base. Having accurate data is a must. Without valid data, the shark populations will not be managed properly, which impacts sharks and fisheries.
Another small shark that we caught was the sharpnose shark, which we dissected a few days ago. Once again it was dissected and the data was collected on the female and her embryos. They were measured and were old enough that the sex could be determined. That was amazing to me as they were so small and translucent. I will be bringing two of the embryos home with me. I am sure my students will be excited them because you really can see their shark features.
In addition to the scientists on board, we have two contracted bird watchers, who have come to observe birds in the Gulf. What has brought them here is in part the impact of the oil spill on the birds in open waters. The other reason is that there have been few studies of Gulf birds, so at the very least they have begun to set a baseline for the species and populations. Early on in our trip, we saw a very small bird called a cliff swallow that was migrating south to Argentina, which is its home. It was fun to watch how they glided as they circled the ship. It was aerodynamics at its best. I was told that in February or earlier, it flies to North America where is mates and bears its young. These birds travel this distance every year, which may account for why they live only 2 or 3 years.
I have interviewed many of the officers and members of the science team since I arrived. They come from diverse backgrounds and their journeys coming on the Oregon II are also very different. Everyone has been very helpful and kind, even though I have so many questions that are both personal and professional in nature. I look forward to sharing their stories with my students.
Sleeping has been a little more difficult for the past couple days. I think it is the constant running of the engines. I have not experience any soundless time, which I often have at home. It will be nice to get home where it is quiet. The crew has informed me that the lack of noise may bother me because it does them whenever they return from a trip. They also stated that I will need a couple of days to adjust to land life. I hope not since I start school on Thursday!
I will complete one more blog
“Animals Seen Today” blacktip shark tiger shark, sharpnose. yellow wedge grouper, golden tile fish, king snake eel.
“Did You Know” that if a hook is left in a shark’s mouth, it will rust out and the shark will expel what is left.