NOAA Teacher at Sea
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.
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.
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!