NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time: 21:30 (9:30 pm)
Longitude/latitude: 40.50289N, 68.76736W
Barrometer 1017.35 mb
Science and Technology Log:
After several ship issues, we were able to finally head out from Newport, RI on June 9th after 4 extra days in dock. We have started the survey and are using two main types of equipment that we will deploy at the various stations: CTD/Bongo Nets and CTD Rosette Stations. We were originally scheduled to visit about 160 stations, but due to the unforeseen ship issues, these may have to be scaled back. Some of the stations will just be the Bongo and others only the Rosette, but some will include both sets of equipment.
A bongo net is a two net system that basically, looks like a bongo drum. It is used to bring up various types of plankton while a CTD is mounted above it on the tow wire to test for temperature, conductivity and depth during the tow. The two nets may have different sizes of mesh so that it will only filter the various types of plankton based on the size of the holes. The small mesh is able to capture the smaller phytoplankton, but the larger zooplankton (animals) can dart out of the way and avoid being captured. The larger mesh is able to catch the zooplankton but allows the phytoplankton to go through the openings. There are regular bongo nets and also baby bongo nets that may be launched at the same time to catch different types of plankton.
The Rosette CTD equipment is a series of 10 cylinders that can capture water from different depths to test for nutrient levels and dissolved inorganic carbon, which provides a measure of acidity in the ocean. These are fired remotely via an electronic trigger that is programed by a computer program where each cylinder can be fired seperately to get 10 samples from different depths. It also has several sensors on it to measure oxygen, light and chlorophyll levels, as well as temperature and salinity (salt) from the surface to the bottom of the water column.
Our first station was about 3 1/2 hours east of Newport, RI and it was a Bongo Station. I am on the noon to midnight shift each day. So on our first day, during my watch, we made four Bongo stops and two CTD Rosettes. Today we completed more of the Bongos on my watch. We are bringing up a variety of zooplankton like copepods, ctenophores, krill, and some fish larvae. We have also seen quite a bit of phytoplankton on the surface of the water.
Being on a ship, I have to get used to the swaying and moving about. It is constantly rocking, so it can be a little challenging to walk around. I have been told that I will get used to this and it is actually great when you want to go to sleep! Luckily I have not had any sea sickness yet and I hope that continues! We completed several safety drills that included a fire drill and abandon ship drill where we had to put on our survival suits – now I look like a New England Lobster!
Today was an amazing day – was able to see Right Whales, Blue Sharks and Common Dolphins – with the dolphins surfing off the ship’s bow! The Northern Right Whale is one of the most endangered species on the planet with only 300 left in the wild. One of the reasons there are so few left is that swim on the surface and were excessively hunted and there feeding areas were within the Boston shipping lanes, so they were frequently hit by ships. Recently these shipping lanes have been moved to help protect these animals. So I feel very privileged to have been able to see one!
Did you know? Plankton are the basis for the ocean food web. They are plentiful, small, and free floating (they do not swim). The word plankton comes from the Greek word “planktos” which means drifting. “Plankton” from the TV show SpongeBob is actually a Copepod – a type of zooplankton.
Question of the day: Why do you think it is important that the scientists study plankton?