June Teisan, Ichthyo-WHAT? Ichthyoplankton! May 6, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
June Teisan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
May 1 – 15, 2015

Mission: SEAMAP Plankton Study
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge:
12:00 hours; Partly cloudy skies; Wind 080 (WNW) 9 knots; Air temp 25.8C; Water temp 25.7C; Wave height 3-4 ft.

Science and Technology Log:

From my very first shift the day we left port at Pascagoula, I’ve been out on the ship’s deck deploying nets and processing samples. Samples of what, you ask? Ichthyoplankton! Ichthyo-What? Ichthyoplankton are the eggs and larvae of fish, and are typically found less than 200 meters below the surface, in the “sunlit” zone of the water column. We have 40 testing sites or “stations” ahead during this cruise, as shown below.

The blue area holds the SEAMAP Plankton stations we plan to sample on the first leg of the spring cruise. The other stations will be sampled on the second leg May 17-31.


With my noon to midnight teammates Pam Bond and Jonathan Jackson, and the invaluable Oregon II deck crew to operate the winches, I’ve learned to draw samples from the Gulf with specially developed equipment: the Bongo net, Neuston net, MiniBongo net, and S-10 Neutson net, and the CTD sampler.

The Bongo and its smaller cousin the MiniBongo are designed with funnel-shaped nets that collect samples into a cylinder at the end of the net. Once the nets are sprayed down to chase the last of the biomass into the PVC cylinder or “codend”, we take the cylinders to the processing table to sieve the biomass, transfer that to the glass lab jars, and fill with preservative solution.

The Neuston net is affixed to a large metal rectangle and is pulled along the surface of the water for a ten minute time segment. The mesh of the Neuston is not as fine as the Bongo, so smaller plankton slip through and larger organisms are gathered.

 Once the samples are gathered they must be sieved, transferred into lab jars, and preserved. Immediately after collecting the samples, we walk the buckets holding the codend cylinders to the back deck where the processing table holds the equipment and solutions we need for this part of the process.

Personal Log:

I’ve been on board the Oregon II for five days, and I am deeply impressed by many facets of this scientific journey.

  • The level of dedication, professionalism, and passion of the NOAA science team: This work is high caliber data gathering in sometimes grueling conditions, with monotonous waiting periods in close quarters; but the good humor, dedication to best practice field science, and mutual respect and support among the team is always evident.
  • The complexity of running a working research vessel: From the Commanding Officer down the chain, each crew member has their jobs and each person is vital to the success of the excursion.
  • The importance of the work: Our fisheries are a vital food source; to manage the stocks and avoid overfishing we need data to make management decisions that ensure a healthy ecosystem.
  • The beauty and jaw-dropping magnificence of the Gulf: This vast expanse of water – teeming with life, driving weather patterns, supplying us with food and fuel – is a sight beyond words.

Finally, here’s a shout out for Teacher Appreciation Week! Kudos to all my colleagues across the country and especially to the teaching staff at Harper Woods Schools in Harper Woods, Michigan for all you do everyday!

And a special hello for the students in Mrs. Wesley’s class all the way from the Gulf of Mexico!

4 Replies to “June Teisan, Ichthyo-WHAT? Ichthyoplankton! May 6, 2015”

  1. Woo Hoo!! Hello from Room B106 at Harper Woods Middle School! Everyone is so excited!

    Questions from the class:
    * Do you ever see dolphins?

    * Are you in the same time zone as we are?

    * We are curious about the weather patterns. Are weather patterns easier to predict from the
    cloud types and cloud formations? (something we attempt each day with our weather reporting)

    * We notice the weather data from the bridge. Is data kept to study patterns in climate?

    * We LOVE the beautiful pictures!!

    We will be investigating ichthyoplankton. Cannot wait to read more. 🙂

    1. Hello Room B106! Thanks for reaching out across the country and the Gulf to get in touch!

      You have asked some terrific questions and I’ll try to answer them before we get to the next testing station, so here goes…..

      Questions from the class:
      * Do you ever see dolphins?
      I have seen dolphins twice, but it was when we were in the harbor. I was sitting on deck and heard a loud puff out on the water. It was a dolphin coming up for air – the loud puff was the dolphin exhaling before grabbing a deep breath. There was a series of three ‘surface-exhale-inhale-dive’ appearances, then I didn’t see the dolphin again.

      Out at sea, the crew members say dolphins often “bow ride”, which means they like to swim alongside the front of the boat (the bow) and sort of ride in the fast stream of water as the ship cuts through the seas. I hope to see this while I’m here! If I do, I’ll try to take pictures to share with you.

      * Are you in the same time zone as we are?
      The Oregon II sailed from Mississippi, which is on Central Time, so I set my watch back one hour from Michigan time. So when I post to say my work shift is noon to midnight, it’s really 1pm to 1am on my internal clock, so I was super sleepy the first few days!

      * We are curious about the weather patterns. Are weather patterns easier to predict from the
      cloud types and cloud formations? (something we attempt each day with our weather reporting)
      Our science crew doesn’t rely on clouds for weather prediction. I just enjoy the beauty of the clouds and the fact that I can literally see them for miles and miles!

      * We notice the weather data from the bridge. Is data kept to study patterns in climate?
      Great question!! The weather data that the ship collects is shared within NOAA, so the National Weather Service has real-time information from each of the NOAA vessels as part of the data they use.

      Keep up those ichthyoplankton studies! I hope to bring a sample of these incredible organisms back to share with Mrs. Wesley so you can see them up close under a microscope in your classroom!

  2. Sounds like a great experience!! Hope all is well — look forward to lots of stories when you get back!

    1. Calm seas, talented, supportive science team, and incredible wonders all around me so, yes, all is well! Count on plenty of photos and stories when I return!

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