NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011
Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: December 15, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 23.6 degrees C
Wind Speed: 15.8 knots
Relative Humidity: 56%
Science and Technology Log
Let’s talk about the flurometer! The flurometer is a piece of equipment attached to the CTD which is being used on this cruise to measure the amount of chlorophyll (specifically chlorophyll_a) in the water being sampled. It works by emitting different wavelengths of light into a water sample. The phytoplankton in the sample absorb some of this light and reemit some of it. The flurometer measures the fluorescence (or light that is emitted by the phytoplankton) and the computer attached to the CTD records the voltage of the fluorescence.
The flurometer can be used to measure other characteristics of water, but for this research cruise, we are measuring chlorophyll. As you know, chlorophyll is an indicator of how much phytoplankton is in the water. Phytoplankton makes up the base of the marine food web and it is an important indicator of the health of the surrounding ecosystem.
At the same time that our cruise is collecting this information, satellites are also examining these components of water quality. The measurements taken by the scientific party can be compared to the measurements being taken by the satellite. By making this comparison, the scientists can check their work. They can also calibrate the satellite, constantly improving the data they receive.
Combined with all the other research I’ve written about in previous blogs, the scientists can make a comprehensive picture of the ecosystem with the flurometer. They can ask: Is the water quality improving? Degrading? Are the organisms that live in this area thriving? Suffering?
Collecting data can help us make decisions about how better to protect our environment. For example, this particular scientific party, led by Nelson Melo, was able to inform the government of Florida to allow more freshwater to flow into Florida Bay. Nelson and his team observed extremely high salinity in Florida Bay, and they used the data they collected to inform policy makers.
Today is my last full day on the Walton Smith. The week went by so fast! I had an amazing time and I want to say thank you to the crew and scientific party on board. They welcomed me and taught me so much in such a short time!
Thank you also to everyone who read my blog. I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse of science in action!
Answers to Poll Questions:
1) In order to apply to the Teacher at Sea program, you must be currently employed, full-time, and employed in the same or similar capacity next year as
a. a K-12 teacher or administrator
b. a community college, college, or university teacher
c. a museum or aquarium educator
d. an adult education teacher
2) The R/V Walton Smith holds 10,000 gallons of fuel. By the way, the ship also holds 3,000 gallons of water (although the ship desalinates an additional 20-40 gallons of water an hour).