NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012
Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 9, 2012
With the morning light, the island’s landscape came into view. Looking back toward land was the single road, a variety of buildings, consisting of numerous churches, restaurants, schools, and hotels. I have come to learn that each small village has its own church and outdoor meeting hall. Behind the buildings the topography extended upward forming a steep hillside covered with green, lush tropical plants, including a variety of palms and fruit trees laden with mangoes and papayas.
After a hearty Samoan breakfast with ten of the scientists that will be on the research vessel, we met with representatives from the local marine sciences community at the American Samoan government building. Chickens, chickens, and a small clutch of baby chickens happily pecked on the lawn in front of the building which put a smile on my face.
The chief scientist, Dr. Donald Kobayashi, began by introducing the team of scientists and gave a brief overview of the upcoming mission aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette.
The variety of investigations that will be conducted during these next 2 weeks which include:.
- Midwater Cobb trawls: Scientists, John Denton, American Museum of Natural History, and Aimiee Hoover, acoustics technician , Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, will conduct nighttime tows that will focus on epipelagic and pelagic juvenile reef fish and bottomfish species.
- Bot Cam: Using a tethered camera that is later released to float to the surface, and using acoustics–a.k.a. sonar readings–scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center , Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow , Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will collect samples of fish at selected sites during the cruise.
- CTD experiments: “Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.” At predetermined locations scientists Evan Howell, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Megan Duncan, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, will collect water samples called “profiles” taken of the water column at different depths. This data is very important in determining the nutrients, chlorophyll levels, and other chemical make-up of the ocean water.
- Plankton tows: Using plankton and Neuston nets, scientists Louise Giuseffi, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Emily Norton,University of Hawaii, Manoa, Biological Oceanography department, will conduct day and nighttime plankton tows focusing on plankton and microplastic marine debris. Scientists will be looking at a specific species of plankton called the copepod. This study will also be collecting microplastic pieces, some of which are called “nurdles” which are small plastic pellets used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately most plastic debris will never degrade and just break into smaller and smaller pieces potentially working their way into the food web, making this research and its findings very important to environmental studies.
- Handline fishing using a small boat, the Steel Toe: Scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will conduct daily fishing expeditions obtaining scientific data on bottomfish, grouper and snapper species. They will be focusing on life history factors including age, growth, male/female ratios, length and weight. This is very exciting research since the last data collected from this region was from the 1970s and 80s.
I am very excited and fortunate to be part of this important scientific research project, and the significant data collected by the scientists.
Did You Know?
American Samoa pronunciation: The first syllable of “Samoa” is accented.
Pago Pago (capital of American Samoa): The “a” pronunciation uses a soft “an” sound as in “pong.”
Animals Seen Today
“Flying Foxes” Fruit bats
Brown tree frog