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: Sunday June 17, 2012
Weather Data from the bridge:
Sea temperature 28 degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius, calm seas.
Science and Technology Log
The last piece of equipment I’m going to discuss is the trawl net. This is a very large net which is towed along the bottom for thirty minutes collecting all of the fish and invertebrates in its path. At the end of the time allotment a crane is used to pull the net off of the bottom and ropes are pulled to bring it on deck. The bottom of the bag is tied very tightly to keep it from coming open during the run and also to keep the dolphins from pulling it open so they can steal the catch. I have often seen dolphins swimming alongside the ship. I always thought it was just because they were friendly, but I learned today that it is because they want to get our fish. Once the bag is on deck the bottom is untied and the creatures are released into baskets so the total weight of the catch can be measured. Once the catch has been weighed it is taken into the wet lab and sorted by species. Each species is then weighed and measured so the health of the population can be determined.
Alonzo Hamilton is the watch leader for my shift and has been a NOAA employee for the last thirty years. He studied science in college and currently holds an Associate arts in science degree, a bachelor of science degree in biology, and a master of science degree in biology. His role at NOAA is chief scientist for the deep water survey and chemical hygiene officer for the Pascagoula lab. He enjoys his job but sees places for improvement. For example he wishes that NOAA would implement a whole ecosystem management plan instead of the current plan of managing one species at a time. The part of his job he enjoys the most is when he talks to a group of people about his work and witnesses the light of understanding pass across their faces. He finds that so rewarding because his real joy comes from sharing his knowledge with other people and leading them to a love of the natural world. When asked what his advice for a middle school student would be he replied, “Figure out what you love to do and find a way to get paid for it. You don’t have to make a lot of money to be successful, just pick something you love and make enough so you can support yourself.”
I recently spent some time talking to LT Sarah Harris about her position in the NOAA Corps. This part of NOAA is responsible for supplying each ship with a bridge crew whose officers are charged with protecting the ship and all crew members. Lt. Harris graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science and after a couple of years looking for the right position she decided to look into joining the NOAA Corps. Luckily for her, one of their requirements is that applicants have to have a college degree in science or engineering, so with her marine science degree she was set. She was accepted to the program and set off for the three-month officer training course which is held at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York. During the training the recruits learn maritime and nautical skills, shipboard operations and management, small boat handling, marine navigation, ship handling, seamanship and related subjects. Toward the end of training each student is given a list of possible placements and allowed to choose their top three assignments. The NOAA officials then look through the choices and assign each student based on need and student choice. Sarah was really lucky because she received her first choice which was a ship that sailed out of Hawaii. In the NOAA Corps your sea assignment lasts between two and two and a half years. After that first assignment you are given a land assignment which lasts for three years. During land assignments you are expected to help with administrative duties and training. After the land assignment you are given another sea assignment and the cycle continues.
Today is Father’s Day so I would like to take a moment to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day. While it is necessary for these scientific cruises to take the scientists and crew out to sea for weeks on end it is difficult for them to be away from the people they love. So if you are at home and your dad is nearby let him know how much he means to you.