NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011
Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Saturday, July 16, 2011
Weather Data from NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature: 28.5 C (83 F)
Water Temperature: 27.2 C (81 F)
Relative Humidity: 82%
Wind Speed: 9.58 knots
Preface: Scroll down the page if you would like to read my blog in chronological order. If you have any questions leave them for me at the end of the post.
Science and Technology Log
Question of the day: When I view your travels aboard the Oregon II on NOAA’s Ship Tracker website it looks as though you go as far as the continental shelf and then turn back towards the shore again. Why don’t you go into the deep water?
Answer: If you were studying animals in the rainforest you would want to make sure to stay in that specific area. You wouldn’t want to include Arctic animals in your report which are from a completely different biome. The same goes for ocean life. As depth, temperature, and amount of light change in the ocean so do the habitats and the animals that live in them. On this groundfish survey we are focusing on offshore species that live in “shallow” waters up to 60 fathoms (361 feet). If we were to go out into the deep water then our reports wouldn’t be as accurate.
Topic of the Day: Science
What is science? Can you come up with a good definition? Difficult isn’t it. There are many definitions that refer to science as the study of the natural world, systematic knowledge, etc. but something that’s often left out of the definition is that it can be used to make predictions.
We have all been conducting scientific experiments since we were old enough to formulate questions about our environment: “Will this ball bounce?”, “Can I get it to bounce higher?”, “Will ball #1 bounce higher than ball #2?” The knowledge we have collected from these experiments allow us to make accurate predictions. “I think ball #2 would be better for playing tennis than ball #1.” Now keep in mind, the more we know about a subject, the better our predictions will be.
Did you know that the ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface but more than 95% of it remains unexplored. This means we have a lot to learn if we want to accurately predict the relationships between the ocean, the atmosphere and the living things on our planet. To address these gaps in our knowledge, thousands of people working for the government, universities and private industries, are trying to collect the information we need to make the most accurate predictions possible. Perhaps by expanding our knowledge we will be better equipped to formulate some solutions to the problems we have created in the seas such as pollution (particularly plastics), climate change and overfishing. These issues are drastically changing oceanic ecosystems which in turn affect the life on our planet.
One thing that sets science apart from other arenas is that is it based on verifiable evidence. We are not talking about video footage of bigfoot or pictures of UFO’s here, we are talking about evidence that is easily confirmed by further examination or research. I don’t think many people consider all of the expertise that goes into collecting this kind of scientific data–it’s not just scientists.
Onboard the Oregon II there are engineers that make sure the ship and all its parts are functional, skilled fishermen that operate the cranes and trawling equipment, officers from the NOAA Corps that navigate and assist the captain in commanding the ship, cooks that feed a hungry crew and the scientists. Conducting scientific research is a team effort that requires a variety of skilled personnel.
Too often people underestimate the amount of time and labor that actually goes into collecting the information we have about our planet and its inhabitants. In fact, many people dismiss scientific evidence as unimportant and trivial when in actuality it is based on the most technologically advanced methods that are available. Scientific data, and conclusions derived from the data, are peer-reviewed (looked at by others in the field) before it is published or presented to the general public.
This is why it is so important to take heed to the reports about the changes taking place in the ocean’s waters. Without the data from NASA’s satellites in the sky, NOAA’s ships on the sea and other sources too numerous to mention, we wouldn’t know the extent of the damage that’s being done to the ocean.
NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program has clearly demonstrated how good science is done. I experienced first hand the importance of random sampling, scientific classification of organisms, repeating trials to ensure the accuracy of results, team work, safety, publishing data for the public to review and always having backup equipment. I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences with my students. Thank you NOAA!
My time aboard the Oregon II is coming to an end. We have finished up our last stations and cleaned up the workrooms. Now its back to Pascagoula, Mississippi. It has been a wonderful experience! For those of you that are wondering what I did each day on the ship it was pretty routine.
9:00 AM : Go to the galley for some juice and coffee. Hot breakfast ends at 8:00 AM but they always have cereal and fresh fruit to eat. In the galley there are two tables that each seat six people. At the end of each table is a small TV so we can watch the news, our anything else that happens to be on DirectTV.
9:30 AM: After some coffee, juice and conversation I head upstairs to the lounge so I can check my e-mail and work on my blog. The lounge has some comfortable seats, a big TV, lots of 8mm movies, two computers for the fishermen, and an internet cord for laptops. Usually David, the ornithologist (bird scientist), is here working when I arrive so we usually chat for a while.
11:00 AM: Lunch time! everyday the chefs make amazing food for us to eat. They’ve served bbq ribs, prime rib, turkey, quail, crab cakes, shrimp, mahi-mahi, ham, crab legs, pork loin, steaks and lots of other amazing side dishes and desserts. Both chefs are retired from the Navy where they were also cooks.
12:00 noon: Head to the dry lab to start my shift. At the start of every shift Brittany, our team leader, writes down all of the stations we will be going to as well as how many miles it takes to get there.
5:00 PM: Supper time! Back to the galley for some more excellent food!
12:00 midnight: Night crew comes in to relieve us from our 12 hour shift. I quietly enter my room so I don’t wake up my roommate and hit the shower. Then it’s to the rack (my bunk bed) with some ear plugs to block out the sounds of the engine. The slow rocking of the waves makes a person fall asleep quickly after a long day at work.