Sarah Boehm: Preparing for Sea, June 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sarah Boehm
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 23 — July 7, 2013

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 9, 2013

Personal Log

Summer vacation is right around the corner – just one more week of school! Students and teachers alike are busy wrapping up the school year and dreaming of that long, delicious vacation. While summer is a vacation from the classroom, it is hardly a vacation from learning. That learning may look a whole lot different than the school year; it takes place at summer camp, your grandmother’s kitchen, or even the beach. This summer I have the fabulous opportunity to join scientists aboard the NOAA research ship Oregon II as they conduct surveys of the fish in the Gulf of Mexico. I am excited to learn more about this ecosystem and the organisms that live there. I am equally excited to participate in real scientific research and to learn more about how scientists gather and use information. That’s right – even teachers have new things to learn.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks
Last summer’s learning adventure: kayaking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Last summer my travels took me to the Great Lakes region where I camped, hiked, and explored. In the process I learned about the ecology and geology of the region (and swam in each of the Great Lakes). I also spent two weeks working on an organic farm, learning how to take care of vegetables and animals.

Checking on the bees
Last summer’s learning adventure: checking on the bee hive at Three Roods Farm
wolf track
Last summer’s learning adventure: hiking with wolves on Isle Royale

I discovered my love of teaching while working as an outdoor environmental educator, leading school groups on field trips to explore forests, ponds, and beach habitats. Kids are natural scientists out in the field, full of curiosity, with an ability to see things adults often miss, and a willingness to jump in and get their hands dirty. I made the transition into classroom teaching, bringing with me elements of that hands-on learning. I started out teaching 4th grade in Guilford, Vermont and then Brunswick, Maine. I currently teach at Community Day Charter Public School in Lawrence, Massachusetts and am thrilled to be the 4th – 6th grade science teacher. I also lead our Adventure Club, taking 6th – 8th grade students out hiking and camping in the nearby forests, mountains and coastlines. One of my goals is to make science more “real” for students by incorporating actual research into lessons and encouraging their own inquiry and exploration.  I am hoping my time with the Teacher at Sea program will give me new tools, knowledge, and inspiration to bring back to my students.

While on board the Oregon II I will be assisting the scientists as they gather data about the organisms and water quality of the Gulf. Their tools will be more sophisticated and the body of water larger, but I imagine it is much like one of my favorite science lessons – pond scooping. Just last week I had my 4th graders out exploring a pond habitat. As we approached the pond they all noticed the bigger animals like the birds calling overhead and the frogs along the pond’s edge. But hidden underneath the water is a whole other world rarely seen. With nets and buckets we set out to explore, finding salamander larvae, tadpoles, water beetles, caddisfly larvae, isopods, copepods, snails and so much more. The ocean is much the same; we are drawn to the organisms easily seen like the shells on the beach or playful dolphins. But hidden out there beneath the waves are all sorts of living things, each with an intriguing story and an important role in the ecosystem. So in two weeks I will be standing on the deck of the ship, with nets and buckets, alongside a team of knowledgeable scientists and crew, ready to learn all about the ocean ecosystem.

Pond Scooping
Scooping in the pond on a 4th grade field trip.

CDCPS science students:

Can you name the 5 states and 2 countries that border the Gulf of Mexico?

What questions do you have about living on a research ship?

193 Replies to “Sarah Boehm: Preparing for Sea, June 9, 2013”

  1. Some questions from the 4B class:
    Is it cold on the ship like it was when Jaelene was on a ship in Connecticut?
    Saury wants to know if they have delicious food.
    Taina want to know how long the boat is.
    Jacob is curious about how big the nets are that we will use.

    1. 5 states that border the Gulf of Mexico are Texas,Mississippi,Florida,Louisiana,and Atlanta.2 contries that border the Gulf of Mexico are Mexico and the USA.Aramis is wondering what type of specific fish you are looking for on the ship?

      1. Aramis -you got most of the states, but Atlanta is a city, not a state. Check on a map to get the last one. It does start with A.
        One type of animal we will look for is shrimp.

      2. Hi Mariana! Aramis wasn’t actually the first to get an answer in, but he was quick. I will give you a few days after each post to answer the question before I reveal the other answers. Make sure to get your answer in quickly!

      3. We pulled up some impressive red snapper, Atlantic sharpnose sharks, and smooth dogfish.

      4. Louisiana, Alabama,Mississippi, Texas , Georgia and for countries Mexico, and Cuba

      1. Most fish we see weigh less than a kilogram. Some of them are so small they weigh only a few grams.

  2. It is Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Florida. The country that borders Gulf Mexico are Mexico and the US.

    1. We spent most of the trip between 20 and 100 miles off the coast. We didn’t see land at all for the first week, but then did some sampling in close enough to see land.

  3. The 5 states that border the Gulf of Mexico are Texas,Louisiana,Mississippi,Alabama,and Florida.The 2 countries that border the Gulf of Mexico are Mexico and North America.

    1. Thankfully not.The officers steer the boat in a more graceful fashion so you don’t fall down.

  4. are you going to have roomates
    are you going to work with people all over the world
    are you going to have a lab coat

  5. are you separated when you sleep?
    Like boys with boys and girls with girls or boys with girls?

  6. Would you get stuck in a hurricane since there are lots of hurricanes in the gulf of Mexico?

    1. Great question Kiara. I hope the answer to your question is no. Hurricane season starts in June and lasts until November, but most storms happen in August and September. It is possible, but I sure hope we don’t get a big storm.

    1. Now that I am back from the trip I can answer this question. Yes! I would love to go to sea again and help with scientific research.

  7. Thanks for all the questions. What an inquisitive group of students you are! Check back once I get to the ship and find out the answers to your questions.

    1. I was a little scared of all those bees. I was wearing a special suit that covered my entire body including my face and hands, so bees couldn’t really get to me. We also moved slowly so we didn’t anger the bees.

  8. The five states that border the Gulf of Mexico are Mississippi,Louisiana,Texas,Alabama,and Florida.The two countries that border the Gulf of Mexico are Mexico and The United States of America.

  9. if there Is 30 people and 25 of people were picked that means there are only 5 people who work there

    1. Sabrina – there certainly will be more than 5 people on the ship. You must be remembering some of the numbers I mentioned in class.
      The ship has space for 31 people including the officers, crew, scientists and me. 25 was the approximate number of teachers who take part in the program (actually a bit higher this year) – but we are all out on different cruises.

  10. I forgot to answer the states and countries 😋

    States: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida
    Countries: United States of America, Mexico

  11. Very cool Ms. Boehm. My wife just returned from her own three week research cruise; it will be interesting to compare the experiences. I hope you have a lot of fun and can bring back some great stories.

    My question is: How is this region/ecosystem affected by farming along the Mississippi River?


    1. I finally got around to answering your question in my post about the Dead Zone. The short answer is that we noticed less dissolved oxygen and fewer organisms in the water near the Mississippi River.

    1. Giselle – I don’t know anyone yet. But I’m sure I’ll get to know people quickly while living and working together on the ship.

  12. What if the boat engines stop?

    Do you get to go under water and observe some of the sea creatures?

  13. Do you know any of the people you are going to be traveling with? Are you going to be keeping any of the creatures you find?

    1. The wolves are very secretive. I heard them one night howling and saw prints and scat. But I didn’t see a wolf.

  14. Several students got the 5 states that border the Gulf, but there is one country no one got yet. It is an island nation. Can you find it?

  15. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are the states that border the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico and Cuba are the countries that border the Gulf of Mexico.

  16. 2 countries that border the Gulf of Mexico is Mexico and the USA.5 states that border the gulf o Mexico are Texas, Louisiana,Mississippi,Alabama, and Florida. 😁

    1. Nice work. Next time try to get your answers in before I reveal other students’ answers. I’ll give you a few days.

  17. States: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida
    Countries: United States of America, Mexico

    1. Nice work. Next time try to get your answers in before I reveal other students’ answers. I’ll give you a few days.

  18. hi are you scared if some thing happens to the boat like if it tips over P.S I want nothing happening to you because I want you to be my science teacher next year

    1. Jhailyn – I hope it is smooth sailing too. And I very much look forward to having you as a student again next year.

  19. The states are Texas,Florida,Louisiana,Alabama,Mississippi. The two countries are the U.S.A and Mexico.

  20. will you see any other bouts from the same program? P.S:sorry for turning in my comment late

    1. Hi Lisbel – questions are never late. It’s just the answers to my questions (especially those with only one correct answer) that can be late. I really don’t know how many other boats we will see or if any will be other NOAA ships. I’ll let you know.

  21. Texas,Mississippi,Louisiana,Florida and Alabama are the states that border the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico and Cuba border the Gulf of Mexico

      1. I did some shopping today for little things like sunscreen and motion sickness medicine (just in case). I have started a pile of clothing and books to bring, so my packing is in pretty good shape. I still have a few days until I leave.

  22. Alabama, Flordia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas ,and the 2 countries are the united states of America and Mexico.

    1. Not yet Diandra – I’m still at home. Check back in a week for a more exciting update.

    1. None yet Mariana – I’m still at home. I head out this weekend, so check back in a few days.

    1. The isopods we found are flat little critters that live on the bottom of the pond. They are a type of crustacean and have 7 pairs of legs. Some other isopods live on land (some people call them sow bugs and pill bugs) and some live in the ocean.

  23. i have not answered the question.5 STATES that border the gulf of mexico are texas,mississippi,florida,louisiana,and alabama.2 COUNTRIES that border the gulf of mexico are mexico and usa

    1. Doranny – we did not swim in the ocean from the boat. Our boat tended to attract sharks, so that was a safety rule that made sense to me.

  24. There are lots of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico,so what would you do if you get stuck?

    1. Hi Nick! Did you know that Mexico is broken into states too? Yucatan is a state on the gulf, a Mexican state. There are 5 other Mexican states along the Gulf. Georgia is real close to the Gulf, but the panhandle of Florida blocks it. Good job finding Cuba.

  25. hey!Are you on the ship yet?If so,are you unpacking your things.Hope you have a great time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. what is you favorite type of fish or animal you saw there can you tell me some facts about it .

    1. You are correct. Next time get your answer to a factual question in before I reveal the other responses!

  27. HI its Julie, on the 4th grade trip did you see any weird or cool animals? If you did what did the animal look like?

    1. Julie we did find some cool animals. One of my favorites was the caddisfly larvae which makes a little case out of sticks and hides in there. Another interesting find was the water scorpion, which is not really a scorpion at all. But it is a large insect with a long breathing tube that looks like a tail.

  28. Ms. Boehm so it a bad idea to plant, plants in sandy soil?(is it ok or a bad idea?) (soil is part sand, part dirt !!!!) if you want to know what was planted it was eggplant and tomatoes.

    1. Hi Clairie, I used to have a garden in very sandy soil, too. I needed to add fertilizer because without a lot of humus in the soil there are fewer nutrients. Sandy soil also dries out quickly, so make sure you water regularly. Enjoy those tomatoes and eggplants!

    1. Brayan, I luckily have not been seasick at all. For the first two days I took some preventative ginger pills which are supposed to help settle your stomach. I packed stronger motion sickness medicine, but have not needed it.

  29. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your discoveries!
    I wonder what creatures you are investigating there that we wouldn’t see in New England. When you do scientific studies on them how do you keep them safe?

    1. Hi Ms Schardin,
      Check back soon for my next post with more information about what we are up to. Most of the fish we are finding are only found in warmer waters. We have seen creatures off the boat like dolphins, sharks and birds that are also in New England waters. Most creatures we pull out of the water to study do not survive because the pressure difference between the bottom of the Gulf and surface is too great. Some heartier specimens, like crabs, make it. When we pulled up a sting ray the other night we quickly measured it so we could release it unharmed. The goal of the study is to better understand and protect the fish populations of the Gulf, but some fish are sacrificed in the process.

    1. The boat is not so big, so I haven’t gotten lost on board. The boat hasn’t gotten lost at sea either. The officers keep close track of where we are and where we are headed.

    1. Edlyana, picking a favorite is hard. Last night we found a big hermit crab with 5 sea anemones on its shell that was pretty cool. Check back for photos in a few days. I also have loved seeing sharks and dolphins swimming in the water off the boat.

    1. I’m not the one who actually catches the fish. The deck hands run the nets at locations that were randomly selected ahead of time. I deal with the fish once they are up on deck.

    1. Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are 4 of the states, and there is one more. Cuba is one of the countries.

    1. It is humid here. There is a lot of water evaporating from the warm sea into the air making it quite humid.

    1. Hi Jaylin, the next few blog posts should tell you more about the fish surveys we are doing out here.

    1. We have pulled up a little trash like pieces of plastic or metal, but not very much. We get a lot of seaweed sometimes, too. We don’t use our nets over coral reefs because the reefs are delicate environments, but occasionally a little piece of coral does end up getting caught.

  30. How long was the fish that you caught and is there some days that you dont catch anything?

    1. We have caught tiny fish that are almost too small to see and we caught a shark that was about a meter long, and fish of all sizes in between. We have brought up fish every time we put the nets down.

  31. When you fallowed wolf tracks did you see wolves? If you did what type? Also are you on the boat or are you still flying or driving to the boat? When you saw the bees what kinds of bee where they? Also where you nervous to get close to the bees at first because I know I would have?

    1. I didn’t see a wolf, but I did hear one howling at night. They were gray wolves on the island. The bees were honey bees, and I was nervous to be so close to so many. But that suit I had on protected me head to toe and we moved very slowly so that we didn’t upset the bees.
      I am still on the boat for 2 more days. Having a great time!

  32. Do you really sleep on that small tiny bed and where do you put all your stuff that room is really tiny? Have you found any interesting things that you haven’t said anything about yet and I hope your having a fun time on sea yet?

    1. I really do sleep on that tiny bed- and it is surprisingly comfortable. The rocking of the boat puts me right to sleep. You can’t see it in the photo, but on the left side there are drawers and a closet space to put your things. I am safely back home now, but there are two more blog posts in the works, so check back for more photos and videos.

      1. Oh that’s right I didn’t see the drawers and I didn’t know you came back from your trip at the sea and was it wonderful at the sea when you did all the research.

  33. Has there been any trouble with the boat yet you had not work for a couple of days? Do you have a roommate or any one you met that you get along with a lot that you talk to a lot or any fish that you think is very interesting or rare or going to instinction?

    1. Despite all my students’ concerns, there were not any problems on the boat. Winds, rain and waves slowed us down a bit at the end, but it didn’t stop us. I did have a roommate who is pretty awesome, but we didn’t see each other much because we worked different shifts. I spent most of my time with the science day team, who are a fun group. My last blog post should be up soon and it has photos of the team as well as some cool critters we saw.

    1. I am actually a little stumped on this question, because both are fun, just in different ways. Part of the fun here is that being at sea and working with fish is all new to me. The people are awesome and fun in both places.

    1. If by “fat” you mean round, then the puffer fish and toad fish would be our fattest. If you mean the largest fish, then I would say the red snapper, dogfish and sharpnose sharks, which were longer and heavier.

    1. The smallest ones we caught were tiny, baby fish in the plankton nets. We couldn’t identify them on board because they are so small you need to use a microscope to see details. There are pictures on the blog post about plankton.

    1. Hi Lily,
      Safety is very important on the ship, so we didn’t do really dangerous things. At first I was a little nervous when there were sharks (small ones) in the nets.

  34. were you nervous that he ship was going to break down and how much did the biggest fish did you or someone else caught weighed.

    1. Hi Shay,
      I was not worried about the ship breaking down. There were several engineers on board with us who could fix mechanical problems if there was an issue. We also had a few different ways to call for help and plenty of food on board in case we were stuck for a while.
      We were not trying to catch big fish, but sometimes we pulled one up in the nets. We got a few red snapper and sharks that weighed about 5 kg (11 pounds). They use different fishing gear, a long line with hooks, when they are researching large fish. That is when they get really big fish like, like sharks that are twice your size.

    1. The largest creatures we saw were dolphins and sharks swimming near the boat. They were great fun to watch. The weirdest creatures were some very simple animals that just looked like blobs.

    1. Hi Kiaralis,
      Learning to identify and name fish species was one of the hardest parts of working on board. Each species has a common name and a two part scientific name. The first one I learned was the longspine porgy (Stenotomus caprinus). I learned to recognize and sort maybe a hundred different species, but I only learned the full names for about 15 species.

      1. We did our fishing with large nets, not a fishing pole. The deck crew are the ones who really caught the fish, because they operated the nets. I was very lucky because I didn’t get sea sick at all. I slept great even with, or maybe because of, the rocking of the boat, the engine noise and the narrow bunks.
        See you in school on Monday!

    1. I did see sharks! We caught a few small ones in our nets that I got to touch. We also saw them swimming in the water around the boat. Check out a video of the sharks on my last blog post “Home Again”.

    1. Yaslyn,
      I really didn’t know what types of fish we would find before I set off, so there was no disappointment.

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