Maureen Anderson: Data and Measurement, July 31, 2011 (Post #4)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maureen Anderson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II (NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 25 — August 9, 2011

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude:  30.39 N
Longitude: -080.41 W
Wind Speed: 13.67 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.50 C
Air Temperature:  29.10 C
Relative Humidity: 78 %
Barometric Pressure:  1016.43 mb
Water Depth: 37.10 m

Science and Technology Log

A part of any good experiment or survey is the careful collection of data. We know that without a good data collection plan, our results may have error or be open to wide interpretation. The shark longline survey has been going on for the past 17 years in order to understand the abundance of shark species in this area.  It has standard procedures and protocols that we must follow so that each survey is consistent.  Hmm…that sounds similar to what we do in science class!

Every time we reach a “station” (a pre-designated spot) our team collects data on the characteristics of that area. One piece of technology we use to do this is called a CTD (which stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth). This instrument is placed overboard with the help of a winch and takes measurements for several minutes. Conductivity tells us information about the salinity (amount of salt) of the water. The device also reads the temperature, depth, levels of  chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, and can give us water samples. This is important because every time we change stations, we want to know about the conditions of that area. The data from the CTD is then sent electronically to a data room and graphed.

Here is the CTD which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth

We also collect data on the color of the ocean water, the wave height, and the percentage of cloud cover. This last one is a bit tricky because it is so subjective.

It is also important to collect data consistently. There are two shifts aboard the boat – the day shift (which I am on) and the night shift. Each shift is 12 hours long. We collect data even in the middle of the night. What do you think would happen if we only collected data on sharks during the day time?

CTD graph
This is a graph of data from the CTD. The temperature is in blue, salinity is red, and depth is on the left vertical axis.

There are several measurement tools we use. The measuring board allows us to place a small shark on the board and read its length in millimeters. We take two readings – one for the length from the snout to the fork where the tail splits, the other for the entire length of the shark from end to end. The spring scale is used to measure the shark’s weight in kilograms. If the shark is too big for either of the above tools, we will take measurements in the cradle. We use a flexible tape measure for length, and record weight through a scale on the cradle. We know the cradle’s weight, so all we have to do is record the total weight of the cradle with the shark in it and subtract (see kids, math in the real world!)

cloud cover
Can you guess the percentage of cloud cover here?
We tag some sharks with a Roto clip and/or an identification marker.  All of the data is written down on a clipboard and then entered into a database.  Pictures are also taken with a camera so that we can photo-document the catch.  Each picture is renamed with the corresponding ID number of the tag so that we have a database of images.

Personal Log

I mentioned earlier that we have satellite TV access on the  boat.  Actually there are three – one in the lounge and two in the galley.  Funny enough, we have the perfect program to watch this week on the Discovery channel…happy Shark Week everyone!  Yesterday, we had to postpone doing our longline survey at one station due to a distress call from a small boat that was 10 miles away.

spring scale
In this photo, I'm using a spring scale to weigh a sharpnose shark.
The crew aboard our ship got ready to perform a search and recovery operation by getting the Zodiac rescue boat ready.  But as it turned out, another vessel was able to aid them faster, and we resumed our work.  I was amazed to see the crew jump into action and be ready so fast.

Species Seen Today
Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
Sandbar Shark
Mutton Snapper
Tiger Shark

cradle with sandbar shark
This sandbar shark is too large to bring on deck. It is measured in the cradle.
Rescue boat
This is the Zodiac rescue boat ready for deployment.
fin tips
These fin tip samples will help with shark identification.
Tools to Tag
This roto tag (small yellow clip) and identification marker are used to tag the shark.
Tiger shark with Roto tag
This very small, young Tiger shark now has a Roto tag on its fin
half sharpnose
Something was hungry for the other half of this Atlantic sharpnose.

3 Replies to “Maureen Anderson: Data and Measurement, July 31, 2011 (Post #4)”

  1. Your shark week is a great deal sharkier than mine! Thanks for sharing your adventures. Can’t wait to see even more pictures when you get home.

  2. Love this insight into the data you’re collecting and how it’s done. And the rescue mission sounded like an exciting time too. Great pics!

    1. Thanks, Guthrie! It is such an important part of the survey. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to collect and record the data.
      Thanks for reading!

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