Carol Schnaiter, Science is Not Always in a Lab! June 18, 2014


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

sunrise
Thursday morning!

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 18, 2014

Winds: 20 knots

Waves: 3-4 ft

Latitude: 2804.78N

Longitude: 09440.95W

 

Science and Technology Lab:

Well, by the title you probably guessed that we will be discussing the reason we are on this ship. The NOAA Ship Oregon II is involved with SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) which is a state/federal program to collect, manage, and disseminate fishery independent data. This program has been around for a very long time and the commercial fishermen depend on the information to plan where they will sail.

NOAA Fisheries does surveys of sharks, groundfish, plankton, and reeffish in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA uses the data collected on the ship and it is sent to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. This information is sent out to everyone that would like to see it. To see the first preliminary data for the 2014 SEAMAP summer shrimp go to this site:

http://www.gsmfc.org/default.php?p=realtime/smr_t.htm

The real-time plots on the website show the station locations and total catches for the pink, white, and brown shrimp . The number of shrimp found and the size of the shrimp is important data that goes out to the public.  The stations that are tested are randomly selected by the depth strata (<20 fathoms, and >20 fathoms) and by statistical zone (aka:area).

map reading
Taniya showing me where the stations are on the map.

There are many species of shrimp. The three species of Penaeid shrimp that NOAA collects data for are the white, pink, and brown shrimp. Shrimp is one of the most valuable products, with 97% of brown shrimp harvested in the Gulf.

All of the shrimpers are waiting to hear when the shrimp season will begin. The date will be determined based on the data collected here on the NOAA Ship Oregon II and from the State vessels.

 

 

Scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II:

There are five scientists aboard the ship, two are NOAA scientists and three are contractors. They work 12 hour shifts, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon, seven days a week

Kim Johnson
Lead Scientist Kim Johnson at work.

Kim Johnson is the Chief Scientist, which means she is the one in charge of the other scientists. She is a residential fishery biologist for NOAA. Chief Scientist Johnson graduated with a degree in Marine Fishery, which focuses on fish, and has her Master’s Degree in Marine Biology, which focuses on everything in the water.

scientists on the NOAA Oregon II
Andre, Kim, and Taniya in the “dry” lab.

She started as a contractor for NOAA in 2001 and was hired by NOAA in 2003. At the beginning of her career she would spend up to 200 days out at sea, but now goes out for groundfish survey only.

As the Chief Scientist, she is responsible for all the data that is being collected. She needs to know what is happening at each station and sometimes she needs to “clean” up the data. That means Kim looks for any errors in entering the data and checks to see what it should be. Her job requires her to have a vast knowledge of computer programs to enter the information and be able to work with people under all types of situations. (She was my main nurse while I was seasick!)

Kim's children
Here are three of Kim’s children before we sailed.

Kim said the important parts of her job are checking the health of the environment and the fish, and the population of many different species. The best part of her job is the fishing time and the worst part is leaving her husband and wonderful four small children. (I had the pleasure of meeting Kim’s family before we sailed and her children are ADORABLE!)

Taniya Wallace is the NIght Shift. She works for Riverside and is a contractor worker for NOAA. She has been doing this for four years. Taniya  graduated with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She enjoys the adventure of this job and likes to try new things. In the future she hopes to advance in this field. Taniya is great at identifying fish, crabs, and shrimp. She uses her computer skills to enter information and must be able to read a map to know where the stations are located. During her watch she is in constant communication with the Bridge and the Lead Fisherman on duty.

Taniya Wallace
Taniya entering data into the computer.

Andre DeBose is a NOAA employee. He graduated with honors with a Major in Biology. Right after college he worked for a company called Sea Chick for six months in the aquaculture business before being hired as a contractor for NOAA. After four years as a contractor, Andre was hired full-time by NOAA. He came on to the reef fish team and worked with them for three years. He then moved to the trawl team and is happy where he is now.

 

Andre and Robin
Andre and Robin on deck.

Andre said the best part of the job is working with people, and the worst part is being away from home. Andre said for his job you need science, math, English and good writing skills in order to communicate with others. He feels that in his job he is using every aspect of his biology degree.

Andre is a great singer and has entertained us with songs when the night gets long.

I only see the day team for a few minutes at noon or midnight as we switch jobs, but they all seem to work well together.

the day crew
Lee, Trisha, Rebecca, and my bunk mate, Chrissy.

Personal Log

working in the chem lab
Here I am working in the chem lab. Photo by Robin Gropp

Each day on the ship I am learning more and more. Taniya and Andre are very encouraging and patient with me asking a million times, “What is this again?”

The deck crew all have been very helpful explaining how and why everything is done the way it is. You really can not believe how much team work there is on this ship!

It is hard to believe that in just a few days I will be leaving the ship. I am already missing the people that I have met and the wonderful learning experience that NOAA Teacher at Sea has allowed me to experience. What a great learning adventure this has been….from learning to identify fish, crabs, shrimp…to measuring species….to doing transfers… I have learned so much!

ear of salmon
Fish ear’s, called an Otolith, can be used to age the fish.
Lion fish
I’m not lying, this is a Lion Fish!

One Reply to “Carol Schnaiter, Science is Not Always in a Lab! June 18, 2014”

  1. Carol, you have been a real sport through all of this. I am very glad you took this adventure and came with us! You are a fantastic sport, and a true pleasure to work with. And, you are welcome to come by and sail with us ANYTIME! Please keep in touch and let me know if you ever need anything!!

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