NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 6 – 19, 2012
Mission: Marine Protected Areas Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Subtropical North Atlantic, off the east coast of Florida
Date: July 7, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 29.2C (84.5F)
Wind Speed: 6.07 knots
Wind Direction: from the SSW
Relative Humidity: 76%
Barometric Pressure: 1016.8
Surface Water Temperature: 30.82C (87F)
Science and Technology Log
Today we made our way about 50 nautical miles off shore to the North Florida Marine Protected Area (MPA) accompanied by dolphins and flying fish. The North Florida MPAs were closed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to bottom fishing in order to sustain and repopulate the following species of fish: snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, Warsaw grouper, speckled hind grouper, misty grouper as well as golden and blueline tilefish. A second part of our science team is looking at the benthic invertebrates such as corals and sponges as they provide a habitat for the grouper and tilefish to live in. The types of corals and sponges we expect to see in this area include: black coral, whip coral, purple gorgonian, Tanacetipathes, and the stink sponge.
We did three Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives with the Phantom S II. Each dive was between one and two hours long depending on the bottom conditions. The winch from the Pisces would lower the ROV to the bottom of the ocean approximately 50-60 meters deep (164 to 196 feet). The area in the MPA we were looking at had been mapped the night before using the ship’s Multibeam Sonar to give the scientists a better idea of where to look and what type of bottom features they will see. The current at the bottom for a couple of the dives was about 1.5 knots. This made it pretty difficult to spend quality time looking at the species. The Scientists will take this data back to the lab where they can spend more time with each video to fully catalog each species we saw today.
Once the ROV’s cameras were rolling, the science team was able to begin logging all of the different species that they saw. Each part of the transect line is carefully documented with a date and time stamp as well as a latitude, longitude and depth. Also mounted on the ROV is a small CTD to collect the temperature and depth every 15 seconds. This will help the scientists match up all of the details for each habitat that we saw with the video on the ROV. While the ROV is at the bottom collecting data, there are several different stations going on in the lab at the time.
John Reed and Stephanie Farrington are looking mostly at the benthic invertebrates, Stacey Harter and Andy David are cataloging all of the fish they are able to see and identify, and Lance Horn and Glenn Taylor are manning the ROV. There is also a fourth station where one of the scientists uses a microphone to annotate the video as it is being recorded onto a DVD. Today John, Stacey and Andy all took turns at the video annotation station. Basically they are verbally describing the bottom features and habitat they see as well as all the different species of fish and corals. This will make it easier for the scientists when they get back into their home labs as they process their data. For each one hour of video taken it will take Stacey between four and eight hours to catalog each fish found as the ROV passed by. This information is compiled into a report that will be shared with the South Atlantic Council to show if the targeted species are actually making a comeback in these MPAs.
Today some of the species we saw include reef butterflyfish, vermillion snapper, filogena coral, blue angelfish, purple gorgonian,yellowtail reef fish, black corals, bigeye fish, squirrelfish, wire corals, scamp grouper, hogfish, ircinia sponges as well as a couple of lobsters and a loggerback sea turtle.
Tomorrow we will make several more dives at another site outside the North Florida MPA so we can compare this data with the data taken today inside the MPA.
Life on the ship is really different in some ways compared to life on land. There is the constant rocking of the ship, which my inner ears are not very fond of. The bedrooms are not the biggest and we each share with one other person. I am rooming with Stephanie Farrington and she is very easy to get along with. The food has been great — it would be very easy to gain weight while working on the Pisces. The stewards do a fantastic job preparing meals for everyone on the ship. Meal times are the same each day, breakfast is from 7-8 am, lunch is from 11am to noon, and dinner is from 5-6pm. If someone is working the night shift, they can request that a meal be set aside for them so they can eat later.
Ocean Careers Interview
In this section, I will be interviewing scientists and crew members to give my students ideas for careers they may find interesting and might want to pursue someday. Today I interviewed Stacey Harter, the Chief Scientist for this mission.
What is your job title? I am a Research Ecologist at NOAA Fisheries Panama City Lab.
What type of responsibilities do you have with this job? My responsibilities are to acquire funding for my research, as well as plan the trips, go on the cruise to gather the data, and analyze the data when I get back. I am also collaborating on other projects with NOAA Beaufort in North Carolina and St. Andrew Bay studying the juvenile snapper and grouper populations in the sea grass found at this location.
What type of education did you need to get this job? I got my Bachelors degree in Biology from Florida State University and my Masters degree in Marine Biology from University of Alabama.
What types of experiences have you had with this job? My best experience I’ve had was getting to go down in a manned submersible to a depth of 2,500 feet to study deep water corals and the fish that live there.
What is your best advice for a student wanting to become a marine biologist? Do internships! This is the best way to get your name out there and to make connections with people who might be able to get you a job after college. I had an internship at the NOAA Panama City Lab while I was in graduate school which helped me to get my job with NOAA when I graduated.