NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 6 – 21, 2014
Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Gulf of Mexico
June 10-11, 2014
South wind 10 to 15 knots
Seas (waves) 3 to 4 feet
Science and Technology Log
On June 9th we arrived at our first station. There are over 120 stations on this survey in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in the first station. (More on that later)
When we arrive at the station the ship’s crew is very busy. The deck crew put trawling nets into the water and down to the bottom to catch fish, shrimp, and other organisms. Once these nets are back at the surface the crew uses cranes to lift them to the deck where the scientists can work on the catch. When the nets are in the water the ship must slow down, so the nets do not rip.
After the nets are raised the organisms collected in the nets are emptied into buckets. The scientists then weigh the buckets on a scale. To make sure they are only weighing the organisms, they first weigh the bucket when it is empty.
Next everything goes into the “wet” lab. It is called a wet lab because this area has water available and it is where the organisms are poured out on to a long conveyor belt, sorted, and washed off.
First, everything is sorted by species. Then everything is counted, measured, weighed, and sometimes the gender and maturity are calculated. All of this is recorded into computers.
Some of the species are very tiny and others are large, but everything is counted. Many of them look alike so the scientists need to be careful when sorting everything.
The scientists on the Oregon II know many of the names of what they catch, but they also use books, charts, and the computer to look up information to make sure.
Sometimes someone in the lab back on shore may be doing research on a certain species and if that species is found it will be tagged, bagged and sent back to the lab.
The CTD’s and bongo net tows are conducted from the forward well deck (check the first blog if you forgot what those do).
The bongo nets are used to collect ichthyoplankton and so the mesh on these nets is very tight, sometimes as small as 0.333 millimeters. These samples are placed into jars and will be examined back in the lab on land later.
By time everything is finished, it is time for the next station and everything starts over again.
The work that the Oregon II does is very important. This survey has been conducted twice a year since the early 1970’s and the information collected can show the scientists what is happening under the surface of the water.
The survey helps to monitor the population and health of everything, plus shows any interactions with the environment that may be happening.
You may have noticed that I mentioned I could not participate in most of the first day’s work, I was seasick and I spent a lot of time in my stateroom.
Thank goodness for the medics and Chief Steward on the ship. Walter, the Chief Steward, sliced up fresh ginger for me to suck on, while Officer Rachel Pryor gave me sugar coated ginger to chew on.
The two trained medics, Lead Fisherman Chris and Fisherman James, both were great help and were all very concerned. Kim, the lead scientist, and my bunk mate, Chrissy, checked in on me throughout the night. I am so grateful for everyone that helped. I am now drinking a lot of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated.
As soon as I felt better I was able to help in the wet lab by sorting, counting, weighing, and measuring organisms that were pulled up. We found some really cool things, like this Atlantic Sharpnose shark that Robin Gropp is holding.
The Atlantic Sharpnose Shark can grow to be 3.9 feet long and can live 10-12 years. It is a relatively small shark, compared to others.
The Common Terns (seabirds) follow the ship when we are trawling hoping to find a free meal. They sit on the ship’s rig that holds the nets waiting for food. The Common Tern is the most widespread tern and can be found by many large bodies of water. They are mostly white with a little black.
Taniya Wallace and Andre Debose are the two scientists on the night shift (midnight to noon) and they are extremely knowledgeable and explain everything to me. I am learning a lot of new words and I am even getting better at telling one fish from another.
The Southern Stingray that Andre is holding is just one of the amazing creatures we caught. We also brought up a Blackedge moray, a Texas Clearnose Skate, a sea hare, red snapper, jellyfish, pufferfish, sea horse, and many more. I can’t wait to share all of my photos next school year!
I am working the midnight to noon shift and it is strange to “wake-up” at midnight and eat supper (the cooks save a plate if you ask) and then go to work. Again, the food is wonderful. Last night I had the best prime rib and mashed potatoes!
Everyone on the ship is so helpful and friendly. I enjoy listening to where everyone is from and why they decided to make the Oregon II their home.