Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 15.5 Degrees Celsius
ind Speed: 7 – 12 Knots
Water Temp: 8.8 Degrees Celsius Water Depth: 10 Meters
Science and Technology Log
As I mentioned in my previous blogs, there are many layers of science that are happening simultaneously that support the AMAPPS project (see April 9th blog). One of these layers is monitoring the ecosystem with oceanography. In the April 9th blog I explained all about the Bongo Nets, and in April 15th blog I explained about the VPR and it’s plankton picture data. While the rest of the ship slept, the night time oceanography team – Betsy Broughton (scientist from NEFSC in Woods Hole), John Rosendale (lab technician from NOAA Fisheries Howard Labratory in Sandy Hook) and Brian Dennis (volunteer) were busy conducting Benthic science with the Beam Trawl and Van Veen Grab Sampler.
Although this equipment was not used every night, I was lucky enough to have stayed up some of the night to see these two in action. The Benthic Zone, in a body of water, like the ocean refers to the very bottom of that aquatic ecosystem. The night time science team use a Beam Trawl or a bottom fishing net that is towed along the bottom of the ocean to take a sample of the organisms that live there. The Beam Trawl is attached to a winch that is on the stern of the boat, that one is much larger than the winch that is used to lower the Bongo Nets. The trawl is lowered down until it touches the bottom and then towed along the bottom picking up whatever is in its path. The trawl is then brought to the surface and the sample is sorted in the wet lab and preserved in formaldehyde just like the other samples. The Van Veen Grab Sampler is lowered into the water by the same smaller winch that is used for the Bongo Nets along the port side of the ship. The grab is rigged so that when it touches the bottom of the ocean, two arms open up and grab a large sample of the sediment at the bottom of the ocean. To me it looked just like the suffer muck I know as “clam flats.” Once the Van Veen Grab is brought up to the surface, the arms of the grab are released and the sediment is dropped into a bucket. From there the soil is washed over and over using several sized sieves until all of the muck is washed away and just the organisms, shells and assorted bottom treasures are left. This sample, once cleaned, is also brought back to the chemistry lab for processing in formaldehyde. The scientists worked at a much faster pace to get all the sediment removed and the samples processed. It was fun to be able to watch and help out.
For most of the trip, my “assigned” task has been to work with Jerry Prezioso as the day Oceanography team. Jerry and I are in charge of the mid-day Bongo Nets (see April 9th blog). Sometimes we are up early and timing is such that our morning Bongo Net overlapped with night crew’s scheduled time. Sometimes they would start the morning Bongo and Jerry and I would take over and finish the work, or we would just all work together to get it done twice as fast. Since there were more people to help in the morning, Betsy Broughton (see April 15th blog) was available to help teach me how to run the computer software that was attached to the Bongo called a CTD Sensor.
CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth and it sits above the Bongo Net collecting this data that it sends back to the computers. Generally one scientist is in charge of running the software that turns on the CTD and gets it to start collecting data as it is dropped down into the deep water. The person on the computer is in charge of knowing how deep the Bongo Net should go and telling the winch operator when to pull the Bongo Net back up to the surface. They are also responsible for letting the NOAA Corps officer on the Bridge know when the equipment is ready and telling the winch operator the speed at which the Bongo should be dropped. If this information is not relayed correctly the Bongo Net could go crashing into the bottom of the ocean. It took a couple of days of Betsy overseeing what I was doing, but in no time at all, Jerry felt confident enough in me to leave me at the helm and let me run the software on my own. From net washer to computer software operator, I was moving up!
Weather Data from the Bridge Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind: 12 knots
Swell Waves: 2 feet
Air Temperature: 72.1ºF
Seawater Temperature: 71.0ºF
Science and Technology Log
The water wasn’t as smooth today as it was yesterday, but the divers still were very successful. One fish survey was completed today. A few dives were made to check shackles on the anchors of a receiver and to retrieve a railroad tie at one of the receiver sites. The divers also began the Marine Debris Surveys today. A total of 6 surveys were conducted. Five of the six groups were able to find the marking pin. Those sites had no marine debris. The sixth site could not find the marking pin and therefore were not able to fully complete the survey. The divers did find a lot of fishing line at this site, which they removed.
The weather is forecasted to start turning tomorrow. The divers are scheduled to complete morning dives, but most likely will not be able to complete afternoon dives due to poor weather. In the morning, Lauren and Hampton will complete one fish survey and one marine debris survey. The second boat will have Katie, Richard, Sarah Webb, and Randy. This group will conduct two marine debris surveys. Hopefully they will be able to get the dives in tomorrow, but safety comes first.
Over the past week I have been talking to all the crew members learning about their different jobs. There are basically several groups on the ship. There is the scientific party. This group conducts different research on the ship. These groups are constantly changing and are the guests of the ship. The permanent groups are the Commissioned Officers, Engineering Department, Deck Department, Survey Department, and the Stewards. All the departments are incredibly important and play vital roles in the operation of the ship. The Commissioned officers are in charge of the movements of the ship. The Engineering department controls the mechanical aspects of the ship. The Deck Department operates the cranes and maintains the small boats. The scientific and electronic equipment is controlled by the Survey Department and the Stewards keep all the crew well nourished. (For a more detailed description of these roles, please visit the GRNMS website at: http://graysreef.noaa.gov/science/expeditions/2014_nancy_foster/log_04242014.html )
Today I want to focus on the Commissioned Officers. The Commissioned Officers are members of the NOAA Corps. NOAA Corps members can be found on the 19 NOAA Ships and 12 NOAA Aircraft. They can be found working on projects on the land, in the air, and at sea. The NOAA Corps was originally established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807 with the responsibility of surveying the coasts. Today the NOAA Corps works in a variety of fields including oceanography, fisheries, engineering, earth sciences, and meteorology. NOAA Corps provide the leadership and operational support to meet NOAA’s mission of surveying the Earth’s oceans, coasts, and atmosphere to ensure the economic and physical well-being of the Nation.
All NOAA Corps officers hold at least a baccalaureate degree, preferably in science or engineering. All officers must have completed at least 48 semester hours in science, math, or engineering coursework and must have completed college level calculus and physics. Other requirements include passing a mental and physical as well as a background check. You also must be able to complete 20 years of active commissioned service before your 62nd birthday.
Each new NOAA Corps officer must complete an initial training program that lasts about 5 months. The NOAA Corps now conducts this program with the US Coast Guard. During this training officers learn about maritime activities such as navigation, ship handling, and emergency and rescue procedures. The training also teaches the officers about military procedures such as marching, drills, and the military ranks, structures and protocols. After completing the training, NOAA Corps members continue their training aboard a ship. This training lasts around 12 to 15 months. During this time the new officer is trained by the experienced officers. After the training period, the new officer must pass a test to demonstrate mastery of the necessary skills. Some ships do this as an oral test format where the officers ask the new officer how to they would handle certain situations. On the Nancy Foster, a life ring is thrown overboard and the new officer has to retrieve it. This simulates a Man Overboard. After the new officer passes the test they earn a permanent position on the ship. This position will last between 2 to 3 years. Officers are reassigned positions every 2 to 3 years. They rotate between ship and land based positions. Land based positions can include working at NOAA Labs, Marine Sanctuaries, and NOAA Administrative offices.
I honestly did not know that the NOAA Corps existed until this trip. I really wished I had known about it earlier, not only for myself, but for my students. I do hope that my former and current (as well as future) students consider looking
into the NOAA Corps. It is a wonderful way to serve your country while still working with the sciences.
Did You Know?
There are seven uniformed services in the United States. These include the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, NOAA Corps, and the Public Health Service.
I had one of the most fun experiences last night. I went up to the bridge to get the weather data as well as watch the sunset. Executive Officer LCDR Mark Blankenship and Junior Officer Ensign Conor Maginn were on duty. The ship was recording acoustics for the Fish Acoustics project. To do this, the ship makes several short passes over a specific area. The ship was set on autopilot to complete this task. ENG Maginn would make small adjustments to keep the ship on the desired path. As soon as the acoustics survey was complete, XO Blankenship asked if I wanted to drive the ship. They took the ship off autopilot and I drove for an hour. I had to steer it into the wind for a while so that the survey technician could fill the dive compressor which is used to fill the SCUBA tanks and then I had to steer around some sailboats. I ended by getting the ship back to the site that they ended the sonar mapping from the previous night.
It was very difficult. When driving the ship, you cannot rely on simply looking out the window (this is especially true in the dark). There are many tools and computers that you need to utilize. There are five different monitors you have to look at plus the rudder position and the compass. The rudder is controlled by a switch. It took me a while to learn how to keep the ship in a specific position. It is not like a car that will keep in a straight line. You constantly need to be move the rudder. Luckily, I had ENS Maginn guiding me. He was an excellent teacher.
Driving the ship was the one thing that I told my students I really wanted to do. When I told them that, I thought that there would be a steering wheel. I was very shocked not to find one. Rather, the ship feels like you are controlling a video game. It is controlled using switches, knobs, and joysticks. You move the rudder with a switch that rotates almost 180°.
The duty of the right eye is to plunge into the telescope, whereas the left eye interrogates the microscope” ― Leonora Carrington
WHERE I’LL BE:
Have you seen the video from the ship Okeanos? The Okeanos Live Feed is astounding and will draw you in, so give yourself a little time to absorb the privilege of ‘swimming’ 6000 feet below the ocean’s surface. You will hear in real time, biology/geology experts on the ship and scattered around the globe, sharing their opinions regarding the HD footage from miles below the surface. We live in such an amazing world that can be put under the microscope, telescope, replayed, enlarged and viewed ad infinitum. We have instant access to ultrasounds from our unborn babies, the slow motion HD replay of that Stanley Cup winning goal, the frivilous youtube video, the Hubble, and swipes through a loved one’s phone pictures. The fact that we can sit in our landlocked cubicles and watch as the Okeanos scientists discuss and decipher the unexplored underwater canyons is mesmerizing. There are so many times in our lives that the promises of technological advances are useless and unfulfilled, but the wealth of knowledge aboard the Okeanos and the instantaneous sharing of the science via the ship’s telepresence is a dream realized. I will be aboard the Okeanos Explorer during most of the month of May. Our mission will include using the ship’s multi-beam deep water sonar capabilities to map some exciting Atlantic Canyons off the coast of Florida, making a long transit all the way up the East Coast, and working with scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service on potentially discovering new spawning grounds for the threatened bluefin tuna.
WHAT I’LL MISS:
The desire to explore is deeply woven into the fabric of all people, especially children. It is a privilege to spend my days teaching and exploring with 30 of the best ten and eleven year olds to ever walk the face of the earth. They work hard and are kinder than necessary. I am fortunate to teach with a phenomenal staff in the wonderful supportive community of Hampshire Elementary School. Hampshire, Illinois is a small town (population 5600) surrounded by an ocean of corn and bean fields. After a 30 minute drive east on a clear day you can just make out the top of the John Hancock Building and the rest of the skyline of downtown Chicago.
There is a combination of old and new at Hampshire Elementary. Many of the students’ parents attended this school and that lends an attitude of trust and support between faculty and parents. We as teachers appreciate that and there isn’t any desire to transfer to other schools in the district. On these warm spring days, the bike racks outside the school fill up and parents may let their children walk up town to Chicken Dip for a cone. While there are many “old school” attributes to our school, we also keep up with the new technologies. All of our classrooms have interactive white boards and teachers have personal laptops. The students have nearly constant access to two computer labs and a high percentage have internet access in their homes. I teach fifth graders; actually, we teach each other and I try to facilitate that. I have taught for a few years now. . . . since 1980! My favorite thing about a classroom is watching the students solve problems. One of the problems that I hope to help them solve is how our actions in the Midwest affect our planet’s oceans. I want them to see firsthand how things we put in our streams and atmosphere in Illinois can eventually affect the reefs and spawning grounds of organisms thousands of miles away. It is my hope too that one of these Hampshire Whippurs might someday be one of the NOAA scientists who make a key discovery that allows economic development without destroying fragile habitats.
I will also miss my four children during the busy month of May. I will miss Mollie moving out of her dorm and arriving home from Hope College, Sophie’s role in Prairie Ridge High School’s performance of “Sixteen and More”, Izzie’s performances in Spoghtlight Theater’performance of “Willy Wonka”, and (hopefully) a lot of Chicago Blackhawk’s playoff games with my son, Owen.
WHERE I’VE BEEN:
Living a thousand miles from the ocean is not where I thought I’d live when I was a boy. I loved the sea and always thought I’d live on the shore. When I was young, my family traveled back to my birthplace in Ireland by ship. I was quite happy to stand at the stern for hours and watch the wake disappear into the horizon. During the summers, when we’d go camping in Florida or Cape Cod, it was always the ocean that drew my interest. When teaching in Coventry, England on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange, I went to the coast in Eastbourne or Wales as often as I could afford. Now, camping with my own children along the shores of Lake Michigan at Pentwater and Warren Dunes has to suffice for a “seaside experience” though there is something so much more intoxicating about the salt water breezes. It is a lifelong goal to spend an extended time out at sea. To combine that with teaching is an incredible privilege. Thank you to NOAA, my family, and my WONDERful students and friends.
Weather Data from the Bridge Visibility: 6-8 nautical miles
Wind: 12 knots
Swell Waves: 0-1 feet
Air Temperature: 71.1ºF
Seawater Temperature: 70.2ºF
Science and Technology Log
The dive operations on the Nancy Foster have continued to progress. The Fish Telemetry Project has been very successful. All the receivers that needed replacing have been replaced and Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman has downloaded the data. She has run into a small delay in identifying many of the fish because the database with the microchip numbers has not been updated. Right now we know that there have been several mystery visitors to GRNMS. Hopefully the identities of these fish will be revealed soon. It is exciting to see where these fish have traveled from. The dive team continues to work on this project by servicing the other receivers in the water. They dive to the receivers and try to clean off any organism growing on receivers as well as make sure that the receivers are still securely attached to their anchors. There are currently 18 receivers in GRNMS. The receivers are replaced every 4 to 6 months, depending on the location.
The Fish Acoustics project is also progressing very well. Lauren Hessemann is the team’s fish ID expert. She continues to make about 4 dives a day to six specific sites. She needs to record each site twice. The ship than travels to these sites and records the acoustics (fish noises). Lauren is always accompanied by a second diver who is tasked with filming the fish. A scientist will use Lauren’s data and the video to compare it to the acoustics that were recorded from these sites.
The divers have reported seeing many interesting animals. The team has observed seven sea turtles, all floating at the surface. Many curious black seabass have been seen. These fish like to investigate and will swim very close to the divers. The divers have reported that if you look behind you while swimming, many times a small school of black seabass are following. Some usual sightings have included several guitarfish and many Jackknife fish. So far there have not been any Lionfish sightings. It is believed that the cold winter has prevented their migration to GRNMS.
I have been able to go out on two different dive boats. I am not able to get in the water, but I have been able to assist from the surface. At the surface I help the divers get in and out of the boat, keep the dive and projects logs, as well as assist with the site markers. Site markers are small anchors attached to a buoy with a long rope. These markers need to be dropped at precise GPS locations. They are used by the divers to find the specific location for the assigned tasks. It is very important to have accurate drops. Many times divers are looking for specific objects or very precise locations. The marker is what they use to find these items.
I have had the opportunity to sail with two different coxswains. A Coxswain is a person who is in charge or steers a boat. Yesterday I was with coxswain Jim Pontz. Jim is an Able Seaman on the Nancy Foster. Today I was with Junior Officer ENS Carmen DeFazio. Carmen has been a NOAA Corps member for a year and a half. Both Jim and Carmen explained the role of the coxswain during dives. The coxswain will drive the divers out to their dive site, but their role does not end there. They need to accurately place the dive marker. They then assist the divers getting into the water. Once the divers are in the water, the coxswains must be extremely vigilant. They need to keep a constant eye on the diver marker buoy. This lets the coxswain know the general area that the divers will be located in. If it is a calm day with small waves and low currents, this part is easy. However, most days there is a current or there are waves which cause the dive boat to drift making it difficult to stay in a specific location. The coxswain needs to also keep constant watch of the divers. You are able to “see” where the divers are based on the air bubbles that reach the surface. By tracking the bubbles, you know the path of the divers. The coxswain needs to make sure the boat is close to the divers, but not on top of the divers. While the divers are in the water, the coxswain serves the important role of being the diver’s lookout and ultimately their protection at the surface. They need to stand watch for any hazards such as other boats or dangerous wildlife and they need to be ready to get the divers out of the water in the event of an emergency.
The dives all have gone very well and the team has been progressing. Tomorrow they will finish the receiver dives and will begin the Marine Debris Surveys. The purpose of these surveys is to analyze the types of debris in GRNMS as well as the location of the debris. There are nine sites that have been marked for debris surveys. The sites have been marked with metal pins. The survey will occur over a 50 meter distance. The divers will swim the 50 meters and will look 2 meters to the right and left of the line. As the divers swim they will be recording the types, amount, and the specific locations of the debris. The normal types of debris found in GRNMS are fishing line, beer bottles, and cans. Hopefully the divers will not see a lot of debris.
Did You Know?
In order to dive on a NOAA mission, divers must be NOAA Dive Certified. This is a lengthily process that includes having a minimum of 25 previous open water dives, completing NOAA diving coursework and passing a series of tests. NOAA has different classes of divers. There are scientific divers and working divers. Scientific divers can perform only scientific tasks including making observations and collecting data. Working divers can complete construction and troubleshooting tasks under the water.
Life on the ship is always interesting. I am constantly learning and am having a great time. Today was particularly exciting. At lunch time one of the dive boats was brought to the side of the Nancy Foster and was raised to the hip (the side of the ship, even with the deck, but not onboard). The boat was being held out of the water by the crane. Junior Officer ENS Carmen DeFazio NOAA Corps Officer with GRNMS Jared Halonen were in the boat while Sarah Fangman and I were standing on the Nancy Foster. We were loading the dive boat with our equipment when someone spotted a large dorsal fin right next to the Nancy Foster. The fin belonged to a shark that we estimate to be 14 feet long. We are not certain of the species. You can see the photo below. It was shot through polarized sunglasses, so there is a bit of a glare. People on the ship are guessing that it is a Great White or Bull Shark. Photos have been sent to fish experts and we are waiting for confirmation.
Our shark friend decided to stay next to the ship, swimming back and forth hovering many times under the dive boat. He was at the surface for about 10 minutes when it was decided to move the Nancy Foster so that the dive boat could safely be deployed. Once we were away from the shark, the dive boat was deployed. The four of us set off to our dive site. We made it to the site and dropped the dive marker. We were leaving that site to drop a second marker when we noticed a dorsal fin heading toward the first marker. We drove toward the dorsal fin to get a better look at the shark. It was an 8 foot long hammerhead. After some discussion the divers, Sarah and Jared, did get into the water. They had safe dives and did not see any more sharks. The initial sightings of the two different sharks was exciting.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to not only return to sea for the first time in twenty years, but to do so as part of a scientific research team. With two days remaining before I fly to meet the NOAA shipHenry B. Bigelow in Providence, RI, I am busily packing and checking over my to-do lists. My fifth grade students at Mark Twain Elementary in Westerville, OH gave me a heart-warming send-off, as did my colleagues. I look forward to sharing this experience with them.
My family and I live in Mount Vernon, OH, a small town about an hour northeast of Columbus.
I enjoy reading (favorite authors include Patrick O’Brian, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck, and George R.R. Martin), running, photography, and playing guitar. My wife, Amy, works for the Philander Chase Corporation at Kenyon College in Gambier. My daughter is in fifth grade, and is both an avid reader and an athlete, participating in competitive gymnastics and softball. She plays the piano, and has chosen the viola as her instrument for middle school orchestra. My son is in kindergarten, loves books and anything related to dinosaurs and Mario Brothers. He also enjoys soccer and banging away on his drum set.
As a member of the 2014 Teacher at Sea field season, I am honored and excited to work with scientists and maritime professionals in their effort to survey marine species indigenous to the Gulf of Maine fisheries. Having taught science to fifth graders for the past seven years, I feel that this experience will be invaluable in helping me understand how scientists actually engage in their work, knowledge that I will put to good in use upon returning to my classroom. I can hardly wait to get underway!
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 10.5 Degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 15 -20 Knots
Water Temp: 8.8 Degrees Celsius ater Depth: 10 Meters
Science and Technology Log
One of the other groups of scientist that have not received as much attention so far are our Birders. We have two Sea Bird Observers on this trip; Michael Force and Nick Metheny . The work of the birders supports the AMAPPS project by giving addition information about the health of the ecosystem the Marine Mammals live in. Many people don’t realize that out on the open ocean Sea Birds are the top predators. They are a good indicator as to the health of the ecosystem because they are closely linked with the sea holding most of the bird’s vital food source. If there is a change in the birds food sources the birds are likely to be affected. Birds are easy to see and can be used as a quick and easy indicator without having to get into the ocean. What they mainly do during the day is rotate watching for birds between the two birders every 2 hours. Once they are up on the Flying Bridge with the Marine Mammal Observers, they will choose one side of the ship and watch for birds in quadrant or arch that stretches from the bow of the ship to the beam which is 90 degree to the side out 300 meter, they call this a strip transect. They will use this know area to calculate populations of birds in entire area. The birders are not using the “big eyes” like the Marine Mammal Observers; they spot bird with the naked eye. The birding team really needs to be able to identify every bird they see, they need to be expert birders. The data they collect will go the scientist at the NEFSC and be linked to the physical oceanography to better understand the birds use of the ocean and quantify their habitat. In different places in the ocean the birders will find very different species of birds depending on what is underneath. On this trip The Sea Birds Observers had a very exciting bird watching day because they spotted a rare Bermuda Petrel. This bird was thought to be extinct for over 300 years but because of intensive conservation efforts the Bermuda Petrel is making a comeback. The sighting was the first for Canada, as we were in Canadian waters and it was the most northerly sighting. The birder team was very, very excited.
Science Spot Light
Science Spot Light: Meet Michael Force. Michael is a Canadian native. Mike refers to himself as Contract Sea Bird Observers for NOAA, which means he doesn’t work out of a specific office; he is just hired by contract for the duration of the cruise. He has been contracting with NOAA as a Sea Bird Observer on ships for 26 years. He has been one 26 different ships all over the world in places like Antarctica, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and of course the Atlantic. During this trip Michael exceeded 3700 days at sea!!! His hobby is also birding, which means that Michael works his hobbies into his career. He never thought he would be able watch birds and get paid for it!
On this trip we had some pretty rough weather. There were several days were we just had to hunker down and ride it out, or make a run from a storm and secure the boat in a protected place like Cape Cod Bay. This gave the scientist and sometimes the crew extra time on their hands to hang out and make friends, do computer work, watch movies, or participate in the ships cribbage tournament. I didn’t make it very far as I have not played seriously in several years, but it was fun to see the tournament continue for the entire trip. Our resident birder mentioned earlier, Michael Force, was the one who organized the entire tournament and was the one who really kept the momentum going. Mike was nice enough to play me in a few practice rounds where he taught me a good moto “pegging wins games!” Mike and his fellow birder Nick were in the top three spots, along with one of the mammal observers and professional photographer Todd Pusser. It was a very entertaining way to pass the time in bad weather or off duty before bed.
Much like the the lab reports we do in class, hydrographers have a tremendous amount of work to do prior to going into the field. As we make the transit from Rainier’s home port of Newport to our charting location of Kodiak Island, hydrographers are working long hours in the plotting room planning their season’s work. Today’s log is about a software program called CARIS that hydrographers use to plan their project and guide data collection through the season. This morning, Ensign Micki Ream planned her season’s work in the Plot Room on CARIS. This afternoon, she walked out the plot room door and onto the bridge where she navigated Rainier through the narrow Blackney Passage of the Inside Passage. Prior to taking over the bridge, I watched as Ensign Ream as she plotted her project area for the season. She has been assigned Cape Uganik, an area of North Kodiak Island in the vicinity of Raspberry Island. The area was chosen to survey due to boat traffic and because the last survey completed was in 1908 by lead line. Here you can see the original survey report and an image of how data was collect at that time (1908 Survey of Ensign Ream’s Survey Area). Ensign Micki Ream explained that the charts were called “sheets,” because originally, they were sheets of paper, sent out with the surveyor into the field. While we still call them sheets, they are now in electronic form, just like the sheet below representing one of two project areas ENS Ream will most likely work on this summer.
Why make polygons instead of sending several launches out to your work area and tell them to start on opposite ends and meet in the middle? The polygons are a way for hydrographers to break a large amount of work into manageable tasks. Commander Rick Brennan, the Commanding Officer, explains “polygons are designed based upon the depth of the water, the time it will take to complete, and the oceanographic condition, particularly speed of sound through water. Areas that are suspected to have a higher variability in sound speed will get smaller polygons to manage errors from sound speed.”
Also, imagine sending several launch boats out into a large area to work without telling them where to go. Polygons provide a plan for several boats to work safely in an area without running into each other. It allows areas to be assigned to people based upon their skills. The coxswains, boat drivers, with a lot of experience and skill, will take the near shore polygons, and the newer coxswains will take less hazardous, deeper water.
Another reason to break your sheet into polygons is to maintain team moral. By breaking a large task into small assignments people feel a sense of accomplishment. As she divided her large polygon into 30 smaller polygons, Ensign Micki Ream kept in mind many variables. First, she considers the depth of the water. The sonar produces a swath of data as the survey vessel proceeds along its course. As the water gets deeper, the swath gets wider, so you can make a bigger polygon in deeper water. As she drew her polygons, she followed contour lines as much as possible while keeping lines straight. The more like a quadrilateral a polygon is, the easier it is for a boat to cover the area, just like mowing a rectangular lawn. In her polygons, she cut out areas that are blue (shallow), rocky areas and kelp beds, because those areas are hazardous to boats. While the hydrographer in charge and coxswain (boat driver), should use best practices and not survey these areas by boat, sometimes they rely on the polygon assignment.
Once she has drawn up her plan, Ensign Micki Ream roughly measures the average length and width of her polygons and puts that data into a Polygon Time Log form that a co-worker created on Rainier last season. The form also takes into account the depth and gives an estimate of time it will take to complete the polygon. This Time Log is just one of the many pieces of technology or equipment that crew invents to make their lives and jobs easier.
The fun part of this process is naming your polygons so that hydrographers in the field can report back to you their progress. Traditional alphabetical and numerical labels are often used, but Ensign Micki Ream is naming some of her polygons after ’90s rock bands this year. Once the polygon is named, the sheet manager, Ensign Ream, develops a boat sheet for a hydrographer in charge (HIC): this is their assignment for the day. Typically, they send out three to four people on a launch, including the HIC, coxswain and an extra hand. There are always new people aboard Rainier, so there are often other people in the launch being trained. There are enough immersion suits for 4 people but ideally there are three people to help with launching the boat and completing the day’s work. Communication between the HIC and coxswain is essential to get data for ocean depths in all areas of their polygon as they determine the direction to collect data in their work area. Now, at least, the hydrographer and coxswain know where to start and stop, and are confident that their sheet manager has done her best to send them into a safe area to collect the data needed to make new charts.
Since Ensign Ream’s polygon plan is an estimate, the time to complete each polygon may be longer or shorter than estimated. Variables such as the constantly changing depth of the ocean, weather, experience and equipment of the crew collecting data, and a myriad of other variables, known and unknown, make scheduling and completing surveys a constantly moving target. There are two guarantees however: flexibility is required to work on the crew and ultimately winter will force a pause to Rainier’s work.
Spotlight on a Scientist
Although I have been on Rainier for only several days, I am blown away by the incredible skills crew members acquire in short amounts of time. Ensign Micki Ream is the perfect example: In January, 2013, she joined the NOAA Corps which provides operational support for NOAA’s scientific missions. During a six month officer training, she was trained in the basics of navigation. On June 2, 2013, she joined Rainier crew. In February, 2014 NOAA sent her to a one month Basic Hydrography School where she learned hydrography principles and how to use various software programs. Throughout her short time at NOAA, she has had significant and varied on the job training with scientific, managerial and navigational work.The rest of her skills are on the job training with an end goal of Officer of the Deck (similar to a mate in commercial sailing) and Hydrographer in Charge.
Ensign Micki Ream does have a background in science which she is putting to use every day. Originally from Seattle, she started her career with NOAA in June, 2009, after obtaining a Marine Biology degree at Stanford University. Her first position was with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Program, which provided her with an internship and scholarship to acquire a Master’s Degree, also from Stanford, in Communicating Ocean Science. Just a little over one year after coming to NOAA Corps, she is a hydrographer in training and safely navigating a very impressive ship as part of a bridge team, including highly skilled navigational experts such as Ensign J.C. Clark and Commander Brennan. Where else could you get training, experience and on the job support in so many diverse areas but with NOAA Hydro?
The food is absolutely amazing on board. Tonight’s dinner options were roast prime beef, cut to order, au jus, creamy smoked salmon casserole, farro vegetable casserole, baked potatoes with fixings, asparagus and several different kinds of cake and fruit. In the evenings, snacks are also available. My biggest challenge has been to pace myself with the the quantity of food I eat, particularly since taking long hikes after dinner is not an option. I feel very well cared for aboard Rainier.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Denise Harrington Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier April 21 – May 2, 2014
Project: North Coast of Kodiak Island
Weather Data from the Bridge at 15:20
Wind: 11 knots
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Depth in fathoms: 66.1
Temperature: 9.8˚ Celsius
Latitude: N 48˚13.15 Longitude: W 123˚21.04
Science and Technology Log
My first log will be mostly about setting sail and the breadth of skills which each crew member is required to possess when working in hydrography, which is the science of surveying and charting bodies of water or seafloor mapping. Later, I hope to zoom in on the crew, scientists, and tools they use. Meetings….a time to get together with co-workers and catch up, and get a little work done. Not at NOAA: at 8:00 a.m. on April 21, Lieutenant Commander Holly Jablonski, Executive Officer called a meeting to let junior officers know the ship would be sailing at 12 p.m. Originally scheduled to depart on March 28, Rainier could not leave unless positions of highly qualified crew were filled, and difficult to replace parts were found and installed. Potentially hazardous ocean conditions would have delayed the departure another day so Officers were pleased the ship would depart. Members of the Junior Officer team proceeded to list off work they must complete to have the ship ready to sail in the next two hours, equipment to deliver, test and secure, and inspections to complete. Not a word was wasted. Within five minutes the meeting ended and each officer quickly returned to their many collateral duties. Ensign Katrina Poremba gave me a tour of the ship as we updated emergency billets, critical information that informs crew of their responsibilities during drills and actual emergencies. Before long, we were underway. Families of crew members wished them farewell, fair winds and following seas. As the ship pulled away, I entered the bridge, where Commander Rick Brennan, the Commanding Officer, and others were sailing the ship out of Newport Bay.
On the bridge, officers eyed a crabbing boat in “The Jaws,” the jetties at the entrance to Yaquina Bay, and mentioned that it did not appear to be making progress. With twelve foot swells, at 13 second intervals, the bar is a bit rough and it seems to me to be a risky place for a boat to turn around, but this is what the crabber did. Maybe it was too rough for them today, but now we had to pass them in a narrow passage with shifting depths. Lieutenant Junior Grade Bart Buesseler mentioned that Rainier’s hull is 16 feet deep and that a 2.5 million dollar piece of multi-beam sonar equipment sits at its lowest point of the hull. This is some of the best mapping equipment in the world. On the bridge, about seven officers and helmsmen maneuvered the ship around the crab boat in the narrow passage. An alarm sounded, signaling a low depth warning. I wondered about the wisdom of placing such expensive equipment in such a vulnerable position. Later I learned that the sonar equipment is protected by a steel shell called a gondola, but also that the equipment must be placed at this deepest location of the hull to maximize smooth sonar transmission and reception. Like the sonar equipment, I feel protected in the capable hands of Rainier crew. As each alarm sounded, several of the six officers moved to a variety of locations on the bridge to collect data about all variables, water depth, the distance to the crab boat, angle and speed of travel, swell and breaking waves. The crabber passed us uneventfully, and within seconds, we had breaking 12 foot waves on both sides. Avoiding hazards as we passed safely though the bar reminded me why accurate nautical charts, based upon reliable data, are necessary tools for all vessels. Gathering the data to create accurate charts is Rainier’s project this season.
After navigating us through the bar, several officers left and Starla Robinson, a senior survey technician joined us on the bridge to make sure we were collecting new information about the ocean depth as we travel north.
Rainier has a Multibeam Sonar System and a Rolls-Royce Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP) 200 sound speed acquisition system used to collect large amounts of data and make high resolution maps of the ocean floor. The sonar equipment gathered information represented on two screens on the bridge and multiple screens in the plot room, sending down pings through the water that bounce back up. Based upon the time it takes for the sound to return to the ship, the equipment measures the ocean depth. As a senior survey technician, it is Starla’s duty to coordinate between Field Operations Officer Quintero, “FOO,” and the crew on the bridge to follow a track line measuring ocean depth. She invited me into the plot room where many large computer screens display rainbow colored images of the ocean floor. There were divots in the rainbow image which Starla explains could be thermal vents, and blue dots, which could be schools of fish. Another unexplained change in the ocean floor caught her attention. She market that spot on the chart with a caption, “look later.” She said with a smile it might be a shipwreck that she planned on checking out that evening.
As we travel north on the map, the yellow swaths indicate areas already surveyed. Rainier’s current survey data is represented in black. This surveying is much like mowing the lawn, you want to travel in a track that matches the edge of a previous route and does not overlap significantly. All surveyors and officers spent time focusing on the collection of this data until the afternoon of our second day of travel, when we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the route is heavily traveled and well surveyed making additional data collection unnecessary.
In the past, ocean depth was measured with a lead line dropped into the water until it hit bottom.
Now, scientists use sonar or sound pings reflecting off the ocean floor, to measure depth much more efficiently. Several years ago, the Rainier crew surveyed an area of the Columbia River Bar in 1 ½ months might have taken 50 years worth of work under the old, lead line methodology. In addition, with the sonar method, scientists see the ocean floor in much greater detail, which no longer appears like dots, but instead comes back in a three dimensional image.
The track line survey on our route north is ancillary to the crew’s primary mission: to collect hydrographic data around Kodiak Island. This map shows where the crew will work this year, collecting depth measurements and reviewing data for accuracy.
I will be telling you more about sheet assignments and the review process later. Then survey technicians and officers file a report which becomes part of a new nautical chart, including areas identified as dangers to navigation.
Every conversation on board seems to include math and science. Johnny Brewer, a junior engineer who helps keep the ship moving forward, spoke of the need for everyone on board to have a good understanding of Algebra and Trigonometry, for anything from mixing paint to ship stability. A half hour later, on the bridge, the officers are discussing trigonometric formulas relevant to the length of anchor line. Many crew spoke of the training, testing and sea days NOAA provides so that crew members continue to develop a broad range of skills and move forward in their careers whether they are Stewards, Engineers, Survey Technicians or Officers. It is clear that math, science, technology and cross training for everyone play an important role in the daily lives of this NOAA crew.
Several crew spoke of the transit as an opportunity for some down time. Yet seeing how the crew multitasks constantly, all day and night, I wonder what the day will look like when we begin our hydro work in Alaska. Okay, maybe there is a little down time: here is a shot of me, Engineer Patrick Price and Starla Robinson, surveying by kayak the nooks and crannies of Canoe Island in the San Juan Islands. DID YOU KNOW? Newer ships hold effluent but because Rainier is a relatively older ship, it has a marine sanitation device (MSD) that separates sodium and chloride, making a chlorine solution from our waste, and sanitizing the effluent for discharge. To learn more about what happens in the MSD, here is a fun chemistry experiment you can try: http://integratedscienceathome.blogspot.com/2011/04/splitting-saltwater.html .
Weather Data from the Bridge Weather: Clear
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 10 knots
Swell Waves: 2-3 feet
Air Temperature: 71.2ºF
Seawater Temperature: 69.1ºF
Science and Technology Log
Last night the dive team arrived. The team consists of Jared Halonen, Hampton Harbin, Lauren Heesemann, Richard LaPalme, Katie Mahaffey, Randy Rudd, Sarah Webb and of course Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman. The divers quickly settled into the ship. We then had a science meeting where diving safety and the diving tasks were discussed. The divers than had to have their gear checked and it was loaded into the dive boats.
The dive operations began this morning. The beautiful, calm waters from the past 2 days changed into choppy water with up to 3 foot waves. The divers reported strong currents and a relatively large thermocline as they descend. A thermocline is where there is a change in the temperature. The divers reported a noticeable change in the temperature of the water as they descended. These conditions gave the divers a bit of a challenge.
The divers were very successful today. They completed 2 fish acoustics surveys. Lauren and Randy dove to two different sites. At each site, Lauren had to identify and count all the different species of fish. Randy had the task of filming the site and capturing images of the different fish, especially any predator-prey relationships. They were able to see many different species of fish. The data gathered by Lauren and Randy will be used to compare to the acoustic data that is being recorded from the ship at this location.
The other dive group was tasked with replacing the Telemetry Receivers. In the morning this group consisted of Sarah Fangman, Randy, and Hampton. In the afternoon, Hampton and Jared completed this task. Together, the different dive teams were able to replace 5 receivers.
The receivers were brought on the ship and the data was downloaded to a computer. Every time a microchipped fish swam past these receivers, the receiver recorded the information. When the data is downloaded, you are able to see the number of the microchip from those fish and the date and time that they swam by the receiver. Using a database of microchip numbers generated by a group of scientists along the East Coast of the United States, we are able to identify the fish that have been in the area. From today’s data, we learned that Gray’s Reef had two visitors, an Atlantic Sturgeon in early March and Sand Tiger Shark in early April. Both were originally tagged in Delaware.
While the dive teams were out I kept busy on the Nancy Foster. In the morning I helped prepare logs for the Acoustics dive team. I also spent time at the bridge learning about the ship’s systems. Operations Officer, Lieutenant Colin Kliewer, and Junior Officer, Ensign Conor Maginn showed me the different systems in the bridge and explained how they are able to keep the ship in a precise location using the two thrusters on the ship.
In the afternoon I assisted Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman with the receivers that were brought on board. Using Bluetooth, she was able to download the data from the receivers to her computer. We then used the Microchip Data table and identified the tagged fish. We finished the project by cleaning the receiver and preparing them to be placed back into the ocean tomorrow. We prepared them by wrapping them in electrical tape and then placing them in nylon stockings. This is to protect the receiver from the organisms that will grow on them. Please see the “Before” and “After” photos below.
We finished our day with a science meeting. We discussed the dives that occurred today. Issues, tips, and advice were shared. We also shared the data that was discovered on the receivers as well as the animals that were seen. Additional tasks for the diving teams were discussed including the sea turtle identification, the removal of the lionfish, and fish surveys. After the meeting concluded the group prepared for tomorrow’s dives by filing the SCUBA tanks, programming the GPS in the boats, and finishing preparing the receivers and logs.
Did You Know?
There is a fish called the guitarfish. This fish is a cartilaginous fish closely related to sharks and rays. One was spotted today at GRNMS.
As of 5 pm tonight, I have been a board the Nancy Foster for one week. I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by. It feels like it was just yesterday that I boarded in the pouring rain, afraid to move around the ship. It took me a while to become comfortable walking on the ship. I am doing pretty well now, but every once in a while we hit a swell and I go flying toward the wall. Luckily the ship has railings all over allowing you to catch yourself. There is the rule on the ship to always have one free hand. I completely understand this rule and use it all the time. The most difficult places to move are going up or down in the ship. The stairs are a combination of stairs and a ladder. They are incredibly steep. The most difficult part is descending. I am getting much better at them. I am having a wonderful experience aboard the Nancy Foster. I have met many great people and am constantly learning. I cannot wait to see what this next week brings.
While the scientist do their work there is a very important group of folks that take care of getting the ship where it needs to be and ensuring the scientists have the best opportunity to get their work done. That group is the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. NOAA has roots as far back as 1807 as the Survey of the Coast under president Thomas Jefferson, and then a branch called the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey during WWI & WWII eras. The current NOAA & NOAA Corps came into existence in 1970 and has been providing leadership and support necessary for the day to day operations associated with the various NOAA Research Platforms. The NOAA fleet is comprised of 19 ships and 12 aircraft. One of the most important requirements for joining the NOAA Corps is that each officer has to have have a college degree in science, math or engineering. NOAA Officers go through an intense demanding fast paced training that includes formal classroom instruction as well as approximately 5 months of officer candidate school that focuses on officer bearing and leadership development as well as marine and nautical skills training at U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Once they have completed their training, the NOAA Corps Officers will be assigned to a NOAA ship for 2 years of sea duty where they learn how to operate the ship. After the officer’s sea duty they are assigned to a 3 year land assignment where they get to apply their degrees doing more hands on scientific work like working in a fisheries lab, weather service, or doing atmospheric studies.
Meet some of the NOAA Corps Officers that are assigned to NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.
Meet Ensign, or first officer rank, Roxanne Carter! Roxanne join the NOAA Corps in 2012 because she wanted to learn how to drive a ship, conduct more field work, and legally follow marine mammals. Prior to joining, Roxanne was the director of a small environmental company for 7 years working in the Marine Endangered Species division. She also worked in fisheries at the NOAA Marine Operations Center – Atlantic or MOC-A as an Operations Manager in Norfolk, VA. where she assisted with all the marine center’s activities. Roxanne has also done a lot of volunteering with various marine mammal agencies. She has a Masters Degree in Biology and Marine Ecology. Although Biology was not her favorite subject, she knew that once she got her degree, there would be many cool opportunities in that field. Roxy as she is called on the ship, is in charge of the ship’s store along with her regular ship duties. Just last week Roxy also earned her OOD or Officer of the Deck Qualification Letter, by conducting several practical and oral exercises which she has to successfully pass. Earning her OOD means her fellow officers feel comfortable with her up on the bridge unsupervised maintaining the operation of the vessel and the safety of the people on board.
Meet Operations Officer Lieutenant Marc Weekley! Marc join the NOAA Corps in 2006. He has been stationed on the Gordon Gunter for one year. Marc’s job as Operations Officer on the ship is to communicate between the crew and officers and the scientist coming on to the ship. He mainly needs to work out any questions or details before the ship gets under way. He also organizes port logistics which means he makes port arrangements in various locations between the ships cruises. Before Marc was assigned sea duty on the Gordon Gunter he was vessel operations coordinator for the Manta which is a small boat for one of NOAA’ s sanctuary offices. Although his position was similar to this one he also tracked the overall cost of the vessel, making sure that it met safety requirements. Prior to joining NOAA Marc worked full time at an Environmental Lab, part time at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and was a Dive Instructor in both the Caribbean and West Coast of Mexico. He decided to join NOAA Corps because he wanted the opportunity to operate research vessels at sea and in the air. He likes the idea that being a NOAA Corps officer incorporates science, math or engineering and ship operations. Because of his scientific background and training as a ship driver in the NOAA Corps, he is better able to maximize the scientists’ time while on the ship and further facilitate their research efforts.
Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Reni Rydlewicz! After interviewing Reni, I can tell you that Fisheries is her love. Reni Joined the NOAA Corps in 2009. Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Reni had a variety of jobs working as a seasonal field biologist. She worked with state and federal government programs and contractors including NOAA Fisheries as a Federal Observer, dockside Monitor, Area Coordinator dockside monitor, fisheries observer and coordinator. She also worked with birds deer and fish anywhere from the east Coast, Mid-west to Alaska. Reni became interested in joining the Corps after meeting a retired NOAA captain at the local American Legion who told her “The Corps is perfect for you”. Reni had heard of the Corps years before, but after speaking with the retired captain, she decided to apply as it gave her the flexibility to rotate every few years to new roles but still give a sense of permanency. Since she has been in the Corps, Reni has worked as a Navigation Officer aboard the Miller Freeman and Oscar Dyson. She currently is serving her land tour as Communications and Outreach Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region. In 2015, Reni expects to be Operations Officer on the Oregon II.
Meet Ensign (ENS) David Wang! David joined NOAA Corps in 2013. Prior to joining NOAA, Ensign Wang was working as a real estate agent while looking for career opportunities in the marine science field. Ensign Wang also pursued an opportunity to start a mussel aquaculture company in, RI , as well as worked as a deckhand aboard the lobster fishing vessel. David graduated from Long Island University, Southampton with a undergraduate degree in Marine Science. David completed his Masters in 2010 in Fisheries Biology at California State University, Northridge. David joined the NOAA Corps after hearing from a friend who joined about the opportunities to travel all over the world, change jobs every 2-3 years from ship to land, while also still being involved in science. Before David was assigned to the Gordon Gunter, he worked at a NOAA port office in Pascagoula, MI, at a marine support facility taking care of the needs of 3 ships, the Pisces, Oregon II and Gordon Gunter.
The beginning of this week was completely amazing! While in Canadian waters we had warm, sunny, calm seas perfect for seeing lot of mammals. During the stint of nice weather we had multiple days where we saw many sightings. On the top two days we had 97 and 171 sightings of whales and dolphins! That doesn’t even count the cool birds we saw like my favorite the Puffins. The birders were also lucky enough to see a rare bird called a Petrel, the only one of 4 recent sightings in the U.S and the first recent in Canada. I spent most of those days on the fly bridge from breakfast to sunset trying to take in as much as possible. Although it is difficult to get good pictures with a regular camera there are several folks that have very nice cameras or are professional photographers who have taken some great shots. Towards the end of the week the weather turned again and found us in a storm that was predicted to be mild getting bigger and stronger. The NOAA Corps Captain and crew navigated our ship to safely, but the storm did damage to one of the generators forcing us back to Cape Cod Bay for some repairs. I actually spent a few days in my cabin feeling a bit sea sick which was very surprising given my Island upbringing. Now I am feeling better as we are on anchor and patiently waiting for repairs and notification about what we will do next.
Weather Data from the Bridge Weather: Clear
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 7 knots
Swell Waves: 1.3 feet
Air Temperature: 68.5ºF
Seawater Temperature: 67.6ºF
Science and Technology Log
Today was our third day at sea. We again were very fortunate to have had beautiful weather. We are continuing to “mow the lawn” and are creating the seafloor map.
Since it was a relatively quiet day, the crew decided to practice launching and running two of the dive boats. As they were lowering the first dive boat into the water one of the guide ropes snapped. The crew worked quickly to reattach a new rope. Once the boat was under control, the passengers boarded and they sailed away to practice marking dive locations. A few minutes later the crew launched a second dive boat. The boat was lowered into the water with no problems and the passengers boarded. Right before they unhooked from the crane, the line carrying the hydraulic fluid on the crane popped off. Hydraulic fluid shot all over. (The hydraulic fluid is biodegradable so it is safe, but a mess to clean up).
The engineers were able to work quickly to repair the crane. Meanwhile, both dive boats went on their practice missions. The second boat was the first to return and was reloaded onto the Nancy Foster without any problems. The first boat, however, did not return on its own. It ended up having engine problems. The Nancy Foster had to stop mapping the seafloor and go retrieve the dive boat and its passengers. What was supposed to be a quiet morning turned into an eventful one, but fortunately no one was injured. The only causality was a boat.
We are now down to only two dive boats. This means that a third of the planned worked might not be able to get accomplished. Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman had to revise the mission’s plans to try to accomplish as much as we can with only two boats. She first had to prioritize the different projects. It was determined that the Fish Acoustics and Telemetry projects would be completed first. The Fish Acoustics study involves two divers going to 6 specific sites. One diver will identify and record the fish species that are present. The other diver will be filming the animals seen. The Telemetry teams will be replacing the receivers that are currently positioned throughout the sanctuary. These receivers record information from micro chipped fish that swim past. New receivers will be placed in the water and the old ones will be brought on board and the data will be uploaded onto a computer. While these projects are being conducted, the divers will also be looking for sea turtles and Lionfish. Data will be gathered about the sea turtles and photos will be taken. If Lionfish are located, they will be speared and brought on board the Nancy Foster where information such as length and weight will be gathered. Lionfish are an invasive species and need to be removed from the ecosystem. For a detailed description of Lionfish, please visit the Mission’s Website at: http://graysreef.noaa.gov/science/expeditions/2014_nancy_foster/welcome.html Once these projects are complete, the Marine Debris Survey will begin.
Today we did prep for the different missions. Sarah and I organized all the supplies that will be used. This included filling a dive bag with the receivers and tools needed to secure the receivers under water as well as tools to remove the current receivers. Yesterday we had prepped the receivers. Sarah replaced the batteries and then we wrapped the receivers in electrical tape and then placed them inside nylon stockings. This is to protect the receivers and to keep them clean. When they are under the water different organisms will start to grow on them. When we retrieve the receivers, we can cut away the stockings removing any organisms growing there and then unwrap the tape and the receivers will look brand new.
We also gathered the supplies for the Lionfish removal. These included dive bags to hold the lionfish, gloves for removing the fish, and placing the spear guns into the dive holsters (designed by a GRNMS member made out of PVC pipes). We copied all the dive logs onto waterproof paper and organized the paperwork for the dives. We also prepared all the underwater cameras. Hopefully we are all set for when the divers arrive tomorrow.
Today’s lesson was flexibility. It is so important to be flexible. On a ship, no plan is going to work out perfectly. There are many uncontrollable factors such as the weather or mechanical issues. It is important to always have backup plans and be able to adjust if problems arise.
Did You Know?
You can identify sea turtles using the scales on their neck. This pattern is unique to each individual sea turtle. Just like how fingerprints can identify humans.
Animals Seen Today
Hammerhead Shark – spotted from the bridge; estimated to be 10-12 feet long; it is very uncommon to see one in GRNMS (sorry no picture)
I am truly having a wonderful time on this trip. I am meeting so many amazing people and learning a lot from everyone. The crew and all the scientific party are really nice people with many interesting stories.
Every day Keith Martin, the Electronics technician, makes Cuban coffee. I was teasing him today about the cups he uses to pass out the coffee. Cuban coffee is incredibly strong so you do not drink it like typical coffee. You drink only a tiny amount. Keith was using coffee cups to pass out the coffee. I asked him where are the tiny cups (plastic cups about the size of the paper cups you use at fast food restaurants to get ketchup)? He said that you can only find them in Miami. That led to a conversation about Miami. It turns out that he is a graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High. (Ms. Evans taught him Biology, Coach Delgado was his Drivers Ed teacher, Mr. Moser taught him weight training, and he was a member of TVP). It really is a small world!
I do not know if I will be posting tomorrow, so I want to give an early shout out to my Seniors. I hope that you have a wonderful time at Grad Bash. Make sure to ride the Hulk for me (I prefer the 1st row). Have fun!!
Weather Data from the Bridge Weather: Clear
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 12 knots
Swell Waves: 1-2 feet
Air Temperature: 66.2ºF
Seawater Temperature: 64.8ºF
Science and Technology Log
Due to rough seas, we were not able to depart on Sunday. We waited until yesterday when the waves were only 3 feet at times (much better than 8 feet on Sunday). It took us 5 hours to travel from Savannah to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS). Once we arrived at the sanctuary, machines were calibrated and we began mapping the seafloor. The mapping will take 3 days running 24 hours a day. We are currently “mowing the lawn.” We started at one end of the sanctuary and are traveling in a straight line across to the other side of the sanctuary. Once we reach the edge of the sanctuary the ship turns around and we return to the other side slightly overlapping the previous path. The goal is to map the entire Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS).
The seafloor is being mapped using a multibeam sonar. Multibeam sonar involves sending out 512 sound waves at once at different angles. The sound waves bounce off of the seafloor and are reflected back to receivers on the ship. There are a series of computer programs that uses the information to calculate the distance the wave traveled (depth of the ocean) and generate an image.
The scientists and technicians need to avoid errors while mapping and therefore need to account for the tides, the differences in the temperature and salinity of the water as well as sound velocity. There are several tools and computer programs used to avoid errors and adjust any differences. One of these tools is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Density). The CTD is deployed off of the back of the ship. It is sent down a cable to the seafloor. As it descends it is gathering data and sending the data to a computer in the lab. The scientists and technicians make adjustments to the computer programs using this data and can compensate for again changes in the water column.
Several other projects will be conducted on this mission as well, but most will not begin until Thursday when the dive team arrives. These will include Marine Debris Surveys, Lionfish Removal, Sea Turtle data collection, and Fish Telemetry. In preparation for these projects, a small dive boat was just deployed off the ship. Chief Scientist, Sarah Fangman, with a few crew members went in the boat to test the marker drops. The divers will be looking for very specific sites. It is important to precisely mark the sites from the surface so that the divers will easily be able to find the spots or objects that they are looking for.
The Nancy Foster carries 3 small dive boats. The boats need to be lowered into the water using the crane located at the back of the ship. It is a group effort to deploy these boats. A member needs to operate the crane and four others use guide ropes to assist in lowering the boat. Once the boat is in the water, members need to crawl aboard using a rope ladder that is connected to the Nancy Foster.
I have quickly learned that the most important skill on the ship is teamwork. One person cannot do it all. From safety procedures to gathering data to the general functioning of the ship, you need to work together.
Did You Know?
When using Sonar, extra sound waves are generated. This was once thought to be background noise. Scientists now call this Backscatter and can analyze this data and determine that type of seafloor bottom or the sediment that is present (sandy, rippled, hard bottom).
Happy Earth Day!!! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this beautiful planet than sitting out on the deck enjoying the vast ocean. Or by submitting a Selfie to NASA to participate in their Global Selfie Project to create an image of the earth using selfies from around the world.
I have been aboard the Nancy Foster for four days now. I arrived in pouring rain on Friday night so I did not really get to explore the ship that night. On Saturday, I assisted with an Open House on the Nancy Foster where the public was able to tour the ship. Members of the GRNMS including Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman, Acting Superintendent George Sedberry, and Communications and Outreach Coordinator Amy Rath led the tours. Financial and IT Coordinator Debbie Meeks, volunteer Marilyn Sobwick and I signed people up for the tours and discussed GRNMS, NOAA, and the upcoming mission with the public. It was a wonderful experience being able to meet new people and introduce them to the Nancy Foster and Gray’s Reef.
I was all ready to set sail on Sunday, but the weather had different plans. We were all boarded on the ship and the crew was making the final preparations when it was decided to postpone the trip. The waves were 8 feet tall at Gray’s Reef. The rough water would have made it impossible to create an accurate seafloor map. Since that was the only task we had, the trip was postponed.
We were able to set sail yesterday. It was a beautiful day, as it is today. It is gorgeous outside with warm weather and calm waves. I have found several wonderful spots to sit outside and enjoy the ocean.
Many of my students had several concerns about life on the ship. Living on the Nancy Foster is quite comfortable. I am staying in a four person stateroom. Right now I am
sharing it with Amy who is a great roommate. We each have our own bunk with a curtain for privacy. The bathroom, or Head as it is called on a ship, is down the hall. I do feel like I’m back in college sharing a bathroom. The Galley (or kitchen) and Mess (dining room) is directly across the hall. As for my students who were very concerned about food – I am eating VERY well. The Nancy Foster has 2 amazing stewards, Lito Llena and Bob Burroughs, who are wonderful chefs. Yesterday they made a Ginger Chicken Soup that was honestly the best soup I had ever had. Many crew members tell me that the Nancy Foster is one of the best fed ships. I can agree. As for entertainment, the ship has a gym, tv and games in the galley, and a Movie Room!
Some of my students were very concerned about my safety. NOAA Ships want to make sure everyone is prepared for any situation. They are required to conduct weekly drills and all members aboard must participate. We practiced what to do in a blackout situation or how to find your way if you have chemicals in your eyes. We did this by being blindfolding and finding your way out of ship or to an eyewash station. We also practiced an Abandon Ship drill. We had to put on our survival suits and get to our life rafts. I am glad we are prepared.
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 6.2 Degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 33.5 Knots
Water Temp: 10.1 Degrees Celsius Water Depth: 2005.4 Meters ( deep!)
Science and Technology Log
As I explained in an earlier blog, all the scientist on the ship are here because of the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species, or AMAPPS for short. A multi-year project that has a large number of scientists from a variety of organizations whose main goal is “to document the relationship between the distribution and abundance of cetaceans, sea turtles and sea birds with the study area relative to their physical and biological environment.” So far I have shared with you some of the Oceanography and Marine Mammal Observing. Today I am going introduce you to our Marine Mammal Passive Acoustics team and some of their cool acoustic science. The two acoustic missions of the team are putting out 10 bottom mounted recorders called MARUs or Marine Autonomous Recording Units and towing behind the ship multiple underwater microphones called a Hydrophone Array to listen to the animals that are as much as 5 miles away from the ship. The two different recording devices target two different main groups of whales. The MARU records low frequency sounds from a group of whales called Mysticetes or baleen whales: for example, Right Whales, and Humpback Whales. Once the the MARU has been programmed and deployed, it will stay out on the bottom of the ocean collecting sounds continuously for up to six months before the scientist will go retrieve the unit and get the data back. The towed Hydrophone Array is recording higher frequency sounds made by Odontocetes or toothed whales like dolphins and sperm whales. The acoustic team listens to recordings and compares them with the visual teams sighting, with a goal of getting additional information about what kind and how many of the species are close to ship. Even though the acoustic team works while the visual team is working during the day, as long as there is deep enough water, they can also use their equipment in poor weather and at night.
Science Spot Light: The two Acoustic team members we have on the Gordon Gunter are Genevieve Davis and Chris Tremblay. Genevieve works at Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) doing Passive Acoustic research focusing on Baleen Whales. She has worked there 2 and a half years after spending 10 weeks as a NOAA Hollings Intern. Genevieve graduated from Binghamton University in New York. She is planning on starting her masters project looking at the North Atlantic Right Whale migration paths. I have been been very lucky to have Genevieve as my roommate here on the ship and have gotten to know her very well. Chris is a freelance Marine Biologist. Chris recently helped develop the Listen for Whales Website and the Right Whale Listening Network. He also worked for Cornell University for 7 years focusing on Marine Bioacoustics. Chris is also the station manger at Mount Desert Rock Marine Research Station run by the College of the Atlantic in Maine. He actually lives on a sail boat he keeps in Belfast, Maine. Chris also intends of attending graduate school looking at Fin Whale behavior and acoustic activity.
So while most adults were worrying about their taxes on April 15th, I was having fun decorating and deploying Drifter Buoys. Before I left for my trip Jerry Prezioso had sent me an email letting me know that two Drifter Buoys would be available for me to send out to sea during my time on the ship. Drifter buoys allow scientists to collect observations on earth’s various ocean currents while also collecting data on sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, as well as winds and salinity. The scientists use this to help them with short term climate predictions, as well as climate research and monitoring. He explained that traditionally when teachers deploy the buoys, they will decorate them with items they bring from home and that we would be able to track where they go and the data they collect for 400 days! The day before I left, I had my students and my daughter’s class decorate a box of sticky labels for me to stick all over the two Drifter Buoys. I spent the morning of the 15th making a mess on the lab floor peeling and sticking all of the decorations onto each of the buoys. Around mid-day we were at our most south eastern point, which would be the best place to send the buoys out to sea. Jerry and I worked together to throw the buoys off the side of the ship, as close together as we could get them. A few days later we heard from some folks at NOAA that the buoys were turned on and floating in the direction we wanted them too.
If you would like to track the buoys I deployed, visit the site below and follow the preceding directions.
From the site, select “GTS buoys” in the pull-down menu at the top left. Enter the WMO number (please see below) into the “Call Sign” box at the top right. Then, select your desired latitude and longitude values, or use the map below to zoom into the area of interest. You can also select the dates of interest and determine whether you’d like graphics (map) or data at the bottom right. Once you’ve entered these fields, hit the “GO!” button at the bottom. Shortly thereafter, either a map of drifter tracks or data will appear.
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 14.1 degrees Celsius
Wind Speed:32 knots
Water Temp: 5.7 degrees Celsius Water Depth: 24.5 meters
Science and Technology Log
Today’s blog is about a piece of equipment called a Video Plankton Recorder or VPR for short. The VPR is attached to the bottom of a yellow V-fin that helps it stay under water when it is being towed. Scientists would want to use a VPR instead of a Bongo Net because the Bongo Net is very rough on the creatures that are captured in it as it is towed through the water, especially the very, very soft and fragile ones. The VPR allows the scientists to capture pictures of the creatures in their natural habitat. It also allows them to get close-ups of these creatures so they can really see what their body structures look like. The VPR also allows the scientist to collect data on many creatures are found in a given area in the body of water they are looking at. The VPR has two arms, one on each side about 2 feet apart. One arm has a camera and the other arm has a strobe or flash. The camera and strobe focus on taking pictures between the arms at a rate of 20 pictures a second. The VPR captures all the images as it goes through the water and stores them on a disk drive that the scientists can then upload to their computers. The VPR is generally towed at a speed of around 2-3 knots , or 3-4 miles per hour.
Science Spot Light
The scientist in charge of running the VPR here on the Gordon Gunter is Betsy Broughton. Betsy is an Oceanographer who works on the night crew here on our ship. Betsy has been working on ships for 31 years and has been to sea for close to 1300 days on 18 ships including 3 international ships! When she isn’t on a ship she works at National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Betsy primarily studies baby Cod and Haddock. She is trying to understand how they survive when they are really little, before they look like a fish, what they eat, where they live and what eats them. If you want to learn more you can visit the Fish Facts on the NMFS webpage. Betsy also works on designing the sampling gear that will work faster and give scientists more accurate information. In her spare time, Betsy is an International Challenge Master for Challenge A with Destination Imagination.
We have been on the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter now for 8 days. It’s really hard to believe how much I have learned in a little over a week. It’s been a crash course in a whole bunch of cool science, as well as life on ship. It’s been a little crazy with the weather, it has not been very cooperative, especially the wind. Even though the weather has forced us to make changes in our original plans, the scientists have been very flexible and have done what they can to get their jobs done. Today we have come back from Georges Banks and we are going to be passing through the Cape Cod Canal and spending some time in Cape Cod Bay. Luckily there are a lot of Right Whales known to be there. It’s been really fun getting to know all the scientists, NOAA Corps folks and the crew. Everyone is very nice and it’s amazing how quickly I feel like I have known these people for a long time in just over a week. It is nice to be around like-minded folks who also love science. Yesterday was one of the nicest days, it was warm enough that we didn’t have to wear the mustang suits. I was also able to decorate and deploy a drifter buoy, but more on that later!
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 10.3 degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 10.5 knots
Water Temp: 8,2 degrees Celsius Water Depth: 145.65 meters
Science and Technology Log
In the last blog I talked about all the different scientists who are working on Gordon Gunter. Today I am going to explain why. First, all of the scientists are here working under a program called the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species, or AMAPPS for short. It is a multi-year project that has a large number of scientists from a variety of organizations whose main goal is “to document the relationship between the distribution and abundance of cetaceans, sea turtles and sea birds with the study area relative to their physical and biological environment.” The scientists are here working under the AMAPPS because of several government acts: the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act require scientists to do periodic checks of the populations of the protected species and the ecosystems they live in to make sure there have been no major human activities that have affected these species.
The National Environmental Policy Act also requires scientists to evaluate human impacts and come up with new plans to help the protected and endangered species. Finally the Migratory Bird Treaty requires that counties work together to monitor and protect migratory birds. The project has a variety of activities that need to be conducted which is why all the different scientists are needed from the different groups like NOAA,Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM),Navy, and NOAA Northeast and Southeast Fisheries Science Centers. The variety of activities that are being done over multiple years under the AMAPPS include: aerial surveys, shipboard surveys, tag data, acoustic data, ecological and habitat data, developing population size and distribution estimates, development of technology tools and modes, as well as development of a database that can provide all the collected data to different users. The AMAPPS project is also collecting in depth data at a couple of areas of special interest to NOAA & BOEM where there are proposed Offshore Wind Farms to be built in the ocean.
Science Spot Light
Let me introduce the Chief Scientist, Jen Gatzke and the Marine Mammal Observer Team. Chief Scientist Jen works with the Protected Species Branch at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). She primarily studies right whales.
Her main job here on the ship is to coordinate the teams of scientists so that each team is able to accomplish what it needs most efficiently while meeting the goals of the research mission. In this case the goal is to survey a large number of transect lines in a variety of marine habitats, both inshore and offshore.
She started sailing on NOAA ships 24 years ago in Pascagoula, Mississippi! Even thought Jen oversees all the science going on here on the Gordon Gunter, she is also part of the Marine Mammal Observer Team that does a rotating watch for mammals. The observer team starts its day at 7AM and works until 7PM except for the 1 hour break at lunch when the daytime Oceanography team can conduct some of their sampling.
When they start their day observing it is called “on effort.” This means that the observer team and NOAA Corps are all ready to conduct the shipboard surveys the way they have determined would be best. This means a group of scientists that are all at their stations are ready to go and the NOAA Corps makes sure the ship stays on a particular designated course for a particular amount of time. When the team is “on effort” they have 4 rotating stations. There are two on the very upper deck, called the fly deck that watches with 2 very large (25×150) binoculars they call the “big eyes” on each side, port (left) and starboard (right) of the ship Then there is another station on the lower starboard (right) side deck that also use the “big eyes” to scan for marine mammals as well. The last station is the recorder who is located on the Bridge, or wheelhouse, where the NOAA Corps man the ship. The recorder is entering valuable data into a computer program designed specifically for this activity. Not only is the recorder keeping track of the different mammals that are spotted on the “big eyes,” they are also keeping track of important information about the weather, glare of the sun, and conditions of the ocean.
I learned the teams use some cool nautical terms during their observations and recordings. The first one is the Beaufort Scale for sea state, or basically how calm or rough the seas are. Beaufort is measured by a numerical system with 0 being very calm and with no ripples to a 5 which is lots of white caps with foamy spray. Beaufort numbers go higher but it is very difficult to spot any sort of mammal evidence in seas that are rougher than a Beaufort 5. The team also measures the distance of the sighting using another measurement tool called a Reticle. The reticle is a mark on the inside of the “big”eye” binoculars. Its scale goes from 0 -20 and the 0 is always lined up with the horizon and allows the observer to give a quick reference number that can be used in a hurry to provide distance with a simple geometry equation.
Although there are several other pieces of information the observers are looking for and giving to the recorder, the positive identification of the particular species of mammal is the most important. There are some species like the North Atlantic Right Whale, that is of particular interest to the team because they are the most endangered large whale in the North Atlantic Ocean. Not only is it exciting for the team and the rest of the ship as well to see sightings of them, their detected presence in particular areas could mean the implementation of tighter rules, like speed limits for ships that might be in the areas these animals are seen frequently. When the teams sights one of these whales, the ship is allowed to go “off effort” and follow the swim direction of the whales in order to get pictures with very large cameras that will allow the scientist to positively identify the particular whale. Some of the other species seen frequently are humpback whales, fin whales, sei whales, minke whales, pilot whales, striped dolphins, common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, gray seals, harbor seals, loggerhead sea turtles, sharks and ocean sunfish.
So far for the first leg of the trip we have taken one very rough trip offshore and because of the weather we have been doing a string of transect lines that are close to the shore off Martha’s Vineyard, which is one of the areas of special interest to NOAA due to the projected offshore wind farm.
The day before yesterday, at just about dusk, the Chief Scientist Jen was the first to spot one of the North Atlantic Right Whales. I was in the lab at the time that Jen came running through yelling “we have right whales!”
She very quickly came back with a huge case which held the team’s camera used for close-ups of the whales. By the time I was on deck, so were many of the off duty scientists and the ship’s crew. Everyone was very excited and joined the frenzy of following, tracking and getting some good shots of the group of right whales. There ended up being 4 whales in all, which mean that there are enough to trigger a Dynamic Management Area (DMA), a management zone designed to provide two weeks of protection to three or more right whales from ship collisions. Ships larger than 65 ft are requested to proceed through the designated area at no more than 10 knots of speed.
One of the observers, Todd Pusser also had a large camera and was able to get a good head shot of one of the whales to send back to the lab. Allison Henry, another right whale biologist at NEFSC, was able to positively identify the whale as an adult male known as “Thorny”, aka EGNO (Eubalaena glacialis number) 1032, who has been seen only in the northeast since the 1980s! (click on “Thorny” to see the New England Aquarium Right Whale Catalog which houses and handles the identifications for all North Atlantic right whales.) It’s pretty cool that I actually got to see him too. Even thought it’s not the warmest job, it makes it all worth it just to see something as amazing as that!
Did you know?
Did you know you can listen to Right Whale sounds and see where Right Whales are on the East Coast? Check out this page! Click on this link for The Right Whale Listening Network. NEFSC even has an Apple APP for seeing where the Right Whales are on the east coast and explains how to avoid them 🙂 Go to the app store – its free!
Hello. My name is Jamie Morris. I grew up on a Dairy Farm in Wisconsin. Beyond a love for animals and an appreciation for where our food comes from, I learned many lessons from the farm. I have always had a great love of nature and respect for the environment. Life on the farm has taught me how interconnected we are to all parts of the planet.
Growing up over a thousand miles from the ocean, I was never exposed to marine life. I knew about freshwater from the time I spent on the lake fishing and boating with my grandfather, but I had no idea all the wonders that the ocean has to offer. All that changed when I was in sixth grade. My English and Science teachers assigned us a project to research a marine animal. We were given a list of animals to choose from. I read through the list and being the farm girl that I am, I chose the seacow. I assumed I would like that animal since it had COW in its name. I learned that the seacow was actually the manatee. I fell in love with the manatee and that simple report sparked my interest in the ocean.
After falling in love with the manatee, I wanted to learn more about the oceans. I researched on my own, read books, and even attended Marine Science camps during the summers. I did not have the opportunity to see the ocean until I was in High School, but as soon as I saw it, I was drawn in. I knew that I had to study Marine Science. After graduating High School, I moved to Miami, Florida to study at the University of Miami. I was very fortunate to have amazing professors who taught me different aspects of the oceans. My professors and the University of Miami provided me with many field experience opportunities including snorkeling trips to conduct reef fish counts, studying sharks at the Shark Lab in Bimini, and conducting climate change assessments around the Straights of Florida. All these experiences further inspired my love of the ocean.
Even though I truly love the ocean, I realized my passion was for teaching. I enjoy working with students and teaching them how to apply the knowledge that they have and how to think for themselves. It is very important to teach students how to analyze the world around them and to become problem solvers. I strive to inspire my students and to ignite their curiosity in science. I am a Science Teacher at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. This is my ninth school year teaching. I am currently teaching Marine Science to 175 wonderful students. I am very lucky to have a job where I can combine my two loves – the ocean and teaching. This course allows me to introduce the students to the wonders of the oceans. I especially enjoy teaching my students about conservation issues. I like to teach my students how our actions here on land can directly impact the oceans. I also like to teach them ways we can help the oceans and I hope to inspire them to make changes to help improve not only the oceans, but all parts of our planet.
I am completely honored to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I am so excited to embark on this adventure. I know that the experiences I will gain will enhance my lessons and will allow me to inspire my students while providing insight into some of the current research projects in the oceans. I am a strong believer that we should never stop learning. I know that this is going to be the ultimate learning experience and will be an experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait to begin this adventure and be able to share it with my family, all my students, and anyone reading this blog.
I will be sailing on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster and will be assessing the health of the Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary. Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary is a marine protected area off the coast of Georgia. The research will involve investigating fish and invertebrate abundance and distribution, habitat and human impacts, and invasive species.
As my students were counting down the days until Spring Break and now the days until graduation, I have been counting down the days until I set sail. My excitement and anticipation are sky high. One week! All I have left to do is pack.
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temp: 5.5 Degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 9.0 Knots
Water Temp: 4.6 Degrees Celsius ater Depth: 41.2 Meters
Science and Technology Log
If Science at Sea is what I wanted, this is the ship for it! The evening of our departure from Newport, R.I. on Monday, April 7th, the group of scientists met in the staff lounge for a meeting of the minds. I soon found out that there was an array of scientist on the ship all with different goals and science they wanted to conduct. On this ship we have two teams of Oceanographers, a day team and a night team. The Oceanographers are generally taking underwater tests and samples using a variety of equipment. We also have the Marine Mammal Observer Team who are on the look out for any sort of mammals that may poke head out of the water such as whales and dolphins.
There is also a group of Birders collecting data on any bird sightings. And lastly we have our Acoustics, or sound team, that is listening for the sounds of marine mammals. I also learned at that meeting that it would take a lot of teamwork and collaboration on the part of each of the Scientist crews, as well as the NOAA Corps and crew to make it all happen.
Every day the representatives from each team have to get together to coordinate the timing of each of the events that will happen throughout the day. The Mammal and Birding Observer teams are on the same schedule and can collect sighting data throughout the day from 7 AM to 7 PM, only stopping for lunch, as they need daylight to conduct their work. The daytime Oceanographers plan their work of collecting samples around the observer teams, sending off their collection equipment before 7AM, at lunch, and then again at 7PM when the observers teams are done. The nighttime Oceanographers are not working during the same time as other scientists so this gives them the opportunity to to do as many test and collections as they can without interrupting anyone else’s work. The Acoustic team can work anytime of day or during any kind of weather without conflicting with anyone as long as the water is deep enough to drop their equipment. It sounds like an easy schedule but there are many things, like weather, technology and location, that could disrupt this carefully orchestrated schedule of science. When that happens, and it has, everyone must be flexible and work together to make sure everyone can conduct the science they need.
Since there is so much science happening on the ship that I am doing every day, I am going to have to share just one thing at a time or I would be writing for hours! Today’s science spotlight is about scientist Jerry Prezioso and the Bongo nets. Jerry is an Oceanographer who works at the NOAA Lab in Narragansett, R.I. Jerry primarily studies plankton distribution. He has been on many trips on NOAA ships since he was 18!
Today Jerry taught me how to do a Bongo net sample that is used to collect plankton from the various water columns. At the top of the net there is a piece of equipment called a CTD (Conductivity Temperature & Depth Unit) that communicates with the computers in the lab on the ship. The scientists in the lab use that piece of equipment to detect how far down the net is going and when it is close to the bottom, as well as collect data on the water temperature and salinity.
Once the CTD is set and turned on, the Bongo net can be lowered into the water. The nets have weights on them to sink them close to the bottom. Once the nets are close a scientist at the computer has the cable operator pull the nets up and out of the water. Once they are on deck they have to be washed down so all the organisms that were caught in the netting go to the cod end of the nets. The cod ends of the nets are opened up and the organisms are rinsed into a sieve where they will carefully be transferred into glass bottles, treated with formaldehyde and sent to a lab for sorting. There were lots of organisms that were caught in the net. Some that we saw today were: Copepods, Comb Jellies or Ctenophora, Herring Larva, aquatic Arrow Worms or Chaetognaths and tons of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton. The Bongo nets are towed several times a day and night to collect samples of plankton.
The start to the trip has been a little rough. It feels like this is the first day we have been able to do anything. Monday we had to sit in port and wait for a scientist to calibrate some equipment before we left so we didn’t get underway until bed time. When we awoke, the weather was bad and the seas were very rough. Several people were very sick and some still are. We were only able to drop one piece of acoustic equipment all day (more on that in another blog). We also had to change the plans on where we were going and move closer to shore due to the weather.
On a ship you need to be very flexible as things are changing all the time! Today was the the first day we were able to do any real science for a sustained amount of time and there were definitely lots of bugs and kinks that needed to be worked out. On top of dropping the BONGO nets with Jerry, I was also able to spend some time and fill in some shifts on the the decks with the Marine Mammal team watching for whales and dolphins. We had a few cool sighting of Humpbacks, Minke, and a Right Whales! (More on them and what they do in another blog too.) On another note, the state rooms are huge and I am sharing a room with one of the acoustic scientists, Genevieve. She is very nice and helpful. The food on the ship is spectacular! I am very surprised how good it is and how many choices there are every meal. All and all things are off to a good start and there is so much more I have to share with everyone about what all these scientist do and it is only our first “real” day!
Did You Know?
Did you know that North Atlantic Right Whales have a V- shaped blow. Their blow holes (two) are separated which gives them the characteristic blow shape.