NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 4 – 22, 2014
Mission: Annual Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Bering Sea South of Russia
Date: July 15, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Speed: 10.84 kt
Air Temperature: 10.2 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1023.0
Latitude: 5822.3417 N
Longitude: 17253.5563 W
Science and Technology Log:
Deploying a CTD
I learn new operations each day I am aboard the Oscar Dyson. There are numerous people aboard the ship that make the whole operation of working on a research vessel possible. Survey technicians, Alyssa Pourmonir and Walter (Bill) Potts, help the scientists with the survey process and communicate between the bridge, deck crew, and the science team during a trawl. Each day, sometimes twice daily, the survey techs, will deploy a CTD (conductivity temperature depth) device to the bottom of the ocean floor. The device measures salinity (how much salt is in the water), temperature, fluorescence (chlorophyll content of plankton), oxygen, and turbidity (how clear or murky the water is) of the ocean water. The CTD sends this information electronically to a computer program which then displays the data and graph for scientists to evaluate.
As with trawling for fish, this process requires collaboration among crew members. The NOAA Corps Officers control the position of the ship from the bridge, and members of the Deck Department control the winch that lifts the CTD device off the deck and into the sea. It takes two deck hands to help the survey tech navigate the device attached to the winch (the two deck hands are firmly attached to the boat by a rope attached to a belt) off the side of the boat and into the sea, and one deckhand to run the winch from the deck above.
Once the device has been deployed into the sea, the survey tech, using a computer program, will record the data as the CTD is lowered and raised. When the device surfaces and is returned to the side deck of the ship, the survey tech takes a sample of the water, which is collected in one of the bottles attached to the CTD device. This water is then sealed and brought back to the lab in Seattle, Washington for further testing. Although the device reports the salinity of the water while deployed in the ocean, the scientists want to calibrate the salinity of the water sample to check for accuracy. They can perform more detailed tests on the water in their labs.
So why does NOAA want to collect this data? Analyzing and comparing the data against previous year’s data will assist in checking the health and welfare of the ocean. It also helps scientists discover more information about the different layers (depths) of the oceans. It lets us know how the ocean is changing over time and gives us more information about how our climate changing.
How do scientists organize their data?
You probably deduce that scientists mainly use a computer to organize their data and you would be correct. However, they also record data in a journal. Journals are extremely essential and include appropriate headings, such as what the scientists are working on, the date and the time. Time and dates are imperative to keeping accurate records and some scientists draw pictures with labels to help describe their findings. This journal does not leave the Acoustics Lab during time at sea. My experience, working with the scientists, aboard the Oscar Dyson, allows me to easily relate “real world applications” into my daily curriculum and lesson planning. I have my students journal in both their math and science classes. And now I can show my students, proof that scientists actually do the same thing. Thanks NOAA and the crew of Oscar Dyson!
I finally experienced a day with little cloud coverage. The sunrise is breathtaking. It has been rising around 6:40 am each morning. The crew does not see the sun very much on the Bering Sea as it is mostly cloudy in this area. The sea has been relatively calm. Thankfully, I have not felt any signs of sea sickness. The boat has a gentle rocking motion that, if I sit still long enough, can lull me to sleep. I miss my family, friends, and my dog, however, I know I will be home soon. I empathize with the crew whom work on the boat full-time and seldom see their loved ones. Three weeks is plenty of time for me, although this is truly a voyage of a lifetime. Twelve hour shifts are not bad as long as I keep busy. After my shift is over, I have been playing cards or Farkel with some of the science crew, mostly Nate, Emily, and Alyssa. I even learned how to play Cribbage. Dinner is at 5:00 pm and then I will watch a movie, visit the bridge, or work on my next blog. My self-appointed bed time is 7:30 pm, as the morning comes quickly.
Each day while at sea, the ship continues to trawl the Bering Sea, as the scientists search for pollock using the sonar screens. Trawling is like mowing the yard; we cover the ocean in the same manner, moving north and south covering a large expanse of the Bering Sea starting at Dutch Harbor and by the end of the third leg, possibly ending in Russia territory. When the ship trawls north, I cannot access the internet due to the position of the receiver on top of the ship. When the ship trawls south, the internet is available. The crew, myself included, looks forward to southbound trawling across the Bering Sea. Internet access opens up communication with both family and friends, not to mention the World Cup standings. Maybe next time, USA!
Each day, “News for the day” is posted in the hallway on the galley level. It includes weather, happenings aboard the ship, and usually a funny cartoon or riddle. The following is a riddle I thought you would enjoy:
Each morning I appear to lie at your feet. All day I follow no matter how fast you run. Yet I nearly perish in the midday sun. What am I?
Scroll to the bottom of my blog for the answer!
Getting to know the Crew:
Over the past week and a half, I had the opportunity to talk to several crew members aboard the Oscar Dyson, including the NOAA Corps Officers. Recently, I talked with the Commanding Officer and the Chief Bosun .
The Commanding Officer (CO), CDR Arthur Stark, is in charge of everyone and everything on the boat. He and his family currently live in Port Angeles, Washington. During college he worked on the Coho Ferry, which ferries from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, Canada, a 22 mile trip each way. A year after graduating from college, with a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management, he secured a job as a deck hand aboard the NOAA Rainier. While working at sea, he learned about the NOAA Corps, and their officer training program. He applied, was accepted, and completed the 90 day program. He started out as a junior officer and worked his way up to the Commanding Officer position. He has been with NOAA for over 17 years. All NOAA Corps Officers rotate two years at sea and three years on land. He had the opportunity to help with the aftermath of the Deep Water Horizon incident, which occurred in 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. He remembers that day, since it was the same day his daughter was born. He offered some good advice to students that want to pursue a career with the NOAA Corps or ocean related careers; look for volunteer opportunities and summer camps that deal with marine life. He said to make sure to spend time outdoors and be involved.
The Chief Bosun or head fisherman is Kirk Perry. He lives in California and has been with NOAA for over ten years. Before his work with NOAA, he worked on fishing boats, with the fire department, and worked in construction. He has a lot of interesting stories about his adventures at sea. If you need help on deck, he is the man to ask. Recently, we caught about three dozen Pacific Ocean Perch otherwise known as Rockfish. Kirk entered the wet lab, while we where processing the catch, took out a large cutting board and his personal, very sharp, filet knife, and started filleting the rockfish like a professional. He told me he has been fishing and filleting fish since he was 10 years-old. When finished, Kirk delivered the rockfish filets to the head galley chef, Kimrie Zentemeyer, to use for dinner. She is going to make fish and chips. Scrumptious, fresh fish, from the sea—to my table!
More to come, in my next blog, about other crew members and NOAA Corps Officers I spoke with during my journey aboard the Oscar Dyson. Thank you for following me!
Meet the Scientist: Nate Lauffenburger
Title: Scientist III—Contracted by Ocean Associates (working with NOAA)
Job Responsibilities: Help develop software to automatically process images from Cam-Trawl, a camera that gets hooked to the trawl net and takes pictures of fish as they are being caught. Completes acoustic analysis of fish near bottom of the sea and participates in fishing surveys.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Math & Physics, State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo; Master’s Degree in Oceanography, University of Washington
Hometown: Buffalo, New York
Current Residence: Seattle, Washington
Why pursue this career? Math and science always came easy to him; he participated in an internship at the University of Rhode Island in oceanography and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wanted to continue on that path.
Long term goals: He is 27 years-old and is just starting his career. He wants to continue to learn his trade and work in the field of ocean and fisheries.
Did you know?
Did you know the Smooth Lumpsucker is a different family from the Pufferfish but uses a similar defense mechanism? It fills itself up with water so that it cannot be easily swallowed by a predator.
Did you know that the Pacific Ocean Perch is not a perch? Perch are freshwater fish. The Pacific Ocean Perch is a type of Rockfish.
Stern-back of the boat
Bow-front of the boat
Port-left of the boat (red light flashing)
Starboard-right of boat (green light flashing)
Mess Hall- Eating area for crew
Bridge-control room where NOAA Corps Officers navigate the ship
Answer to the Riddle: A shadow