Janelle Harrier-Wilson: T-8 Days and Counting – It’s Almost Time to Set Sail! September 14, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janelle Harrier-Wilson
(Soon to Be) 
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 3, 2014 

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean from the Mid-Atlantic Coast to S New England
Date: September 15, 2014

Personal Log

Janelle Harrier-Wilson with husband, Neil, and golden retriever, Devon, as a puppy.
With my husband, Neil Wilson, and my dog, Devon. He was a puppy at the time and graduating from training classes.

Hello and welcome! I am so excited to be a part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea experience. I currently teach chemistry, engineering, and technology at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, GA (outside of Atlanta). I am part of an awesome project based learning (PBL) program called CDAT (Center for Design and Technology), which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Lanier High School opened in 2010, so this is our fifth year as a school; however, this is my first year teaching here. Before transferring to Lanier High School, I taught sixth grade Earth science at Lanier Middle School for eight years. Now, I have the awesome privilege of teaching many of my students a second time. It’s really fun to see how much they have grown up and matured since they were sixth graders.

I am looking forward to sharing what I learn with my students as I think my engineering students will gain insight into shipboard careers they may have never considered, especially as it relates to engineering. I think my technology students will get a chance to see how scientists collect and organize data using technology tools.

Although I teach chemistry and this research cruise is focusing on fisheries, I know my students will gain a new understanding of our oceans. Sampling the health, age, and quantity of different fish species with the NOAA scientists help us to measure the health of the oceans. Some of the big issues with the health of our oceans concern overfishing, human pollution, and ocean acidification. Ocean acidification refers to how the oceans take some of the extra carbon dioxide from the air and dissolve it into the water. This lowers the pH of the water making it more acidic, which can affect the health of the ocean’s inhabitants.

I applied to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea so I could learn more about our oceans in order to share this knowledge with my students. I have always been a hugely passionate about space and space exploration. I’ve had so many cool space opportunities like seeing shuttles and rocket launches, going to Space Camp, floating in microgravity, and most recently, helping our students talk to Reid Wiseman on the International Space Station via amateur radio.

Space is awesome and amazing, but we have an equally amazing frontier right here on own planet, our oceans. I want to be able to share with my students about the oceans with as much confidence and enthusiasm as I do about space, so I am extremely happy to be a Teacher at Sea so I can begin to glimpse all the science our oceans entail. I was also inspired to apply after hearing the stories from two Teacher at Sea Alumni Jennifer Goldner and Kaci Heins, who I met at Advanced Space Camp and now call dear friends.

Experimenting in microgravity with Kaci Heins photo from NASA
Experimenting in microgravity with Kaci Heins photo from NASA
Janelle Harr-er-Wilson on the water in Florida as a child
Me as a child in Florida

I grew up on the west coast of Florida near the Gulf of Mexico. Just two miles from my house was a tiny commercial fishing village, Cortez. My childhood best friend lived in Cortez, so I spent many days running up and down the docks and sampling the fresh caught seafood. (Fresh smoked mullet was my absolute favorite!) This gave me a unique look at the importance of fishing to a community. I even had a chance to go out on a small boat with a commercial fisherman and a few of my friends one night and catch fish via nets. So even though space has always been my passion, I feel a connection to the ocean as well.

Teacher at Sea goodies
Teacher at Sea goodies

My cruise is on the Henry B. Bigelow, a NOAA ship outfitted for fisheries research. You can take a virtual tour of the Henry B. Bigelow including the science labs, and track the ship here.

I am part of Leg II of the Autumn Bottom Trawl. We will be taking samples of fish and other species of marine animals from the Mid-Atlantic to Southern New England to measure the abundance, health, and age of certain fish species. As part of the science team, I will work a twelve hour shift everyday – either from noon to midnight (day shift) or from midnight to noon (nigh shift). I will find out my assigned shift when I arrive to the ship.

Right now I am working on getting everything I need ready and thinking about packing. Since space on the ship is very valuable, I am trying to pack as lightly as possible. Some of the things I plan to bring with me are earplugs (I hear the engines are loud so it’s good to have these while sleeping), anti-nausea aids so I don’t get seasick, and cameras to document my trip. A couple of weeks ago, I received this cool package of items from the Teacher at Sea program. I’ll definitely be bringing the water bottle, shirt, and hat with me. The good thing is there are laundry facilities on board, so I don’t have to pack too many outfits. I also plan to bring a companion along with me. At my school, we are the Lanier Longhorns, so I will be bringing one of the plush longhorns along with me for this adventure. My question for you is which one? Toro or Tyson? You get to decide!

Who should join me at sea: Toro or Tyson?
Who should join me at sea: Toro or Tyson?


At Lanier, our motto is Learn.Lead.Succeed. I cannot wait to learn new things on this trip and share them all with you! What things to you hope I will learn and share with you? Please leave your ideas in the comments. Until next time!

65 Replies to “Janelle Harrier-Wilson: T-8 Days and Counting – It’s Almost Time to Set Sail! September 14, 2014”

    1. @Anthony, sorry but you can’t come this time. However, I’m hoping to bring back info on cool NOAA careers!

  1. Nick- Great post! This thing looks fun!!! ::–))) P.S. if tyson wins, can i keep him?
    Dillon- Will they have pie there M8.
    Justin- Hello, have fun at New England.

    1. @Nick-Thanks! I am excited. And sorry, but you can’t keep Tyson. He lives on my desk, so you can visit him!
      @Dillon-I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted.
      @Justin-Thanks – although most of the time I will be off the coast of New England.

  2. I hope that you will come back with a better understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants that you can share with all of us.

    1. Thanks @Ryan. I can’t wait to share what I learn with all of you. Maybe I’ll bring back some new engineering design challenges, too!

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  4. I could use a cruise right now! You are lucky you get to be part of such a cool scientific excursion. Don’t let the fishies bit you!

  5. I think it is really cool that out of all the people you were chosen for this opportunity. It is going to be a lot of hard work though. I mean twelve hours day or night!
    P.S. Don’t forget to bring some power snacks to get you through the day.

    1. @Kent – True 12 hour days will be long, but it will be a new kind of challenge. As far as snacks, I hear the food on board is amazing. I can’t wait to find out for myself!

    1. @Danny, I have never thought of working at sea over being a teacher. However, I am super excited for this opportunity to get a small idea of what life at sea is like. A floating science lab is a pretty cool thing!

  6. I think its really cool you were chose. Oceans cover most of the earth, but there is still a lot we don’t know about them. I don’t like boats though, so my chances of exploring the ocean are quite low.

    1. @Garrett, I wanted to learn more about our oceans. I feel like a space expert but not an expert on the oceans. I want to learn!

    1. @Nilson Good question. The ocean is big! It’s the pH of the local area sample that is used. Lots of measurements from different areas can be used to find the average pH of the ocean. Maps can be made of different areas, too.

  7. Take some good footage so we can see how fun it is, because I would like to do something like this. Also, i picked Toro!

    1. @Nathan Thank you! Mr. Reilly said I could take CDAT’s Go Pro camera, so I should get some cool video, and I’ll have my camera, too.

  8. I think that this trip sounds really interesting. I can’t wait to hear all about all the things you find out!

  9. Are there specific tasks that must be completed during your twelve-hour shift? Make sure to get some rest before your shift, so that you’re not falling asleep! : )

    Leisiris R. Period 03

    1. @Leisiris I’ll find out my assigned jobs next week when I get on the ship and meet the crew and scientists. I think I’ll be helping with the sorting and counting of the fish species.

    1. @Gina I am not sure yet what my specific job will be. I know that we will be sorting and counting fish species.

    1. @Henry From what I’ve learned so far, it’s by looking at the inner ear of the fish. It’s kind of like tree rings. I should have more details for you soon.

    1. @Ali I’m not entirely sure yet. I know I will get to help scientists with the fish sampling. I hope I’ll learn a lot more about the ocean and the abundance of fish species.

    1. @Keith What do you want to know about different types of fish? The types we will catch and sample? Look for updates next week with more details!

    1. @Taujha It was amazing. Have you ever had a dream that you could fly or jump without falling? It felt like that.

  10. This sounds like lots of fun!!! I hope you learn a lot, find some information for us to look at, and take tons of pictures! 😀

    1. @Matthew, lots and lots of fish! So far, we’ve seen lots of different kinds of flounder like summer flounder, yellowtail flounder, and four spot flounder. We’ve also measured a lot of scup. I’m already learning a lot about identifying different kinds of fish and gender/development of the fish. I don’t know what the coolest thing I will see will be yet!

  11. Mrs.wilson, are you having fun on your adventure? and was there a change of balance in your body as you settled onto the boat?

    1. @Taujha, So far, I haven’t had any trouble adjusting to being on the ship – or getting my sea legs as they say. We did two hauls yesterday which involved sorting through the fish and then taking their measurements. I have learned a lot already!

    1. @Emily, I didn’t either. It’s pretty cool to see all the different types. So far, I have seen winter flounder, summer flounder, windowpane flounder, yellowtail flounder, and gulfstream flounder.

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