NOAA Teacher at Sea
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 19- July 22, 2014
Mission: Annual Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 1, 2014
Greetings from Dover, Delaware, the first state to ratify the United States Constitution! My name is Mary Murrian and I teach math and science to a wonderful group of fifth grade students at William Henry Middle School. My journey will begin early in the morning on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. My son, Robert–an upcoming junior at the University of Delaware, is driving me to the Philadelphia airport at 3:00 am in the morning. After transferring planes in Chicago, Illinois and then again in Anchorage, Alaska, I will finally make land at my final destination, Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
If you are a Deadliest Catch fan you will recognize Dutch Harbor as the home base for the popular television show on the Discovery Channel. I will be aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship. I have the wonderful opportunity to work with the crew and scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson to research and determine the abundance and health of walleye pollock, one of the largest fisheries in the world. If you have ever eaten fish sticks or imitation seafood, most likely you have tried pollock!
Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I am afforded this wonderful opportunity to work hands-on, learning the science involved in research aboard a NOAA ship. I currently teach a unit on ecosystems, where my students learn about the ecosystem around them and the interrelationships between organisms in an environment focusing on food chains, food webs, and environmental factors that play a role in an ecosystem. This experience will enhance my knowledge of marine ecosystems and the important role the fish play in supporting a healthy and sustainable environment. I look forward to learning and growing through my participation with experts in their field. I want to gather as much information as possible, in order to bring it back to my classroom and share my real life experience with my students this upcoming school year and years to come. What a wonderful way to bring real-life data and experiences to my students.
I have been asked numerous times if I am scared or nervous to be aboard a ship sailing on the Bering Sea. My response, NO! I am thrilled. I cannot wait for my journey to begin. I have cruised to Alaska before, however not as far north as the Dutch Harbor area and I was on a recreational cruise ship. It was beautiful and the scenery was amazing. I never saw ice as blue as I did when we crossed Tracy Arm fjord. A fjord is a typically long, narrow valley with steep sides that are created by advancing glaciers (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/media/supp_estuar04_fjord.html). The trip, although freezing, was amazing. I also found out that glacial ice often appears blue because of years of compression gradually making the ice denser over time, forcing out the tiny air pockets between the crystals. When glacier ice becomes extremely dense, the ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in the reflected light (http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/quickfacts.html). Super cool!
I look forward to my upcoming experience, a trip of a lifetime. There is more to come, I hope you will continue with me on my journey across the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea! Watch out Alaska, here I come!