NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012
Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday June 15, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28 degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius, calm seas.
Science and Technology Log
The scientific device for this blog entry is called the Bongo net. This apparatus is actually two nets which are mounted on a metal frame. Each net has a diameter of 60 cm and is 305 cm long with a cod end which is the narrowest part of the net to catch the plankton (both plants and animals). At the opening of each net is a flow meter which records the amount of water that passes through the net in liters. This allows the scientists to calculate the total population of each type of plankton without having to collect all the plankton in the area. This is done by first finding out how many individuals there are of each species in the sample. Then you calculate the number of liters in the transect (sample area) by multiplying the length of the transect by the width of the transect to find the area in square meters. To find the volume, you multiply the area by the depth which will give you the amount of water in cubic meters. Lastly you have to take the volume in cubic meters and convert it to cubic liters. Now that you have found the amount of water in the transect you are ready to find the number of each species of plankton in that amount of water. To do this you take the number of individuals in the entire sample and divide it by the amount of liters which flowed through the net during sampling to find the number of the species per liter. Then you multiply that number by the total amount of liters in the transect which gives you an estimate of how many of that species exist in that part of the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA personnel aren’t the only scientists on board. There is also a volunteer named Marshall Johnson, who just finished his master’s degree at the University of South Alabama where he was working on a project involving larval fish and what they eat. He chose to come on this cruise in order to help a fellow student collect samples for her Master’s degree. Thus far he has been amazed by the vast array of sea life that have shown up in our nets and have been seen swimming around our ship. He has almost finished his Master’s degree and his dream job would be to captain a charter boat so he can share his love of sea life and fishing with other people. His advice for middle school students, “Dream big and follow your goals”.
We also have a NOAA intern on board named Francis Tran who is going into his junior year at Mississippi State University where he is studying electrical engineering. He found out about the internship through his university and applied by submitting an essay and references to the coordinator of the program. His advice for middle school students, “do something you love, don’t settle”.
We have been at sea for one whole week and honestly it is going better than I expected. I was uncertain if I could live on a ship for this amount of time due to my intense independence. I’m not used to giving up control of where I am and what I am doing so I feared I would be tempted to jump overboard and start swimming to shore by now. However I have found that I’m quite content to stay on the ship and am enjoying my time at sea immensely. However, I do miss my workouts. There is some exercise equipment on board but finding the time to use it is impossible. I also miss my daily yoga practices but with the ship pitching from side to side unpredictably I’m afraid of giving it a try because it is quite possible I would be doing downward facing dog pose and the ship would pitch me head first into a wall.
In order for a ship to stay at sea for an extended time it must have a well-stocked galley (kitchen) and serve excellent food. As I have mentioned before, the shifts are long and don’t exactly match up with normal meal times so it is important for the crew to be able to grab a little something in between meals. For example since my shift starts at midnight I’m hungry for breakfast at about 2 a.m., not the normal breakfast time, but I’m able to pour myself some cereal so that I am working with a full stomach and am able to concentrate on my work. However, we do have three wonderful meals prepared for us each day. Paul and Walter are the men who work to make sure the crew and scientists are well taken care of when it comes to mealtimes.