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: Friday, May 15, 2015
Science and Technology Log:
Bluefin tuna are incredible creatures. Remarkably fast predators, they can swim at speeds up to 40 miles per hour and dive deeper than 3000 feet. They hunt smaller fish and invertebrates, and grow to between 6 to 8 feet long and weigh in at 500 pounds on average. Bluefin tuna are prized for their meat in the US and in other countries. Because bluefin tuna are relatively slow-growing, they are more vulnerable to overfishing than species that are faster growing or more productive. Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn in the western Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. Since the early 1980s, NOAA has worked to conserve and manage the stock of bluefin tuna by monitoring stock in the Gulf of Mexico.
The data collected on plankton cruises provides one piece of the complex puzzle of the regulation of commercial and recreational fishing. Ichthyoplankton data is added to findings from trawl teams catching juvenile sizes of certain species, analysis of gonads and spawn from adult fish caught on other cruises, and other stock assessment information. Data analysis and modeling examine these information streams, and serve as the basis of stock assessment recommendations brought to policy makers.
Below is how we collect the plankton:
Spring ichthyoplankton surveys have been conducted for over 30 years, and my Teacher at Sea time has been an amazing glimpse behind the scenes of NOAA’s critical work maintaining the health of our fisheries.
I expanded my career queries beyond the NOAA science team to interview a few of the ship’s crew members aboard the Oregon II and heard some terrific stories about pathways to STEM careers.
ENS Laura Dwyer – Navigation Officer, Oregon II
Path to a STEM Career: Laura’s career path began with a bachelor’s degree in International Business. After college she spent time as caretaker for her aging grandmother, then moved to Bali and certified as a scuba instructor. When she returned to the states, Laura investigated the NOAA Corps, and took more university courses for the science credits she needed to apply. In doing so she earned her Master’s in Marine Biology. Laura began her Basic Officer Training in NOAA Corps in January 2013, graduated, and now serves her country as Ensign on the Oregon II.
Best Part of Her Job: Laura knows she has a ‘cool’ job: she gets to pilot a 170 foot vessel.
Favorite Teacher: Mrs. Coppock. Laura’s 3rd grade teacher…She was in her late 60s or early 70s but every year Mrs. Coppock would start the school year by doing a head stand in front of the class. The inspirational lesson behind this gymnastic move was two-fold: Women can do anything they set their mind to, and age is just a number.
Path to a STEM Career: Larry earned a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. He worked as a fisheries observer out of NOAA’s Galveston, Texas lab, and volunteered as a guest biologist on NOAA vessels Gordon Gunter and Oregon II. Larry was raised in a military family with both parents serving in the Army, but had not known about the NOAA Corps until he met Corps officers during his time on NOAA vessels. Larry graduated with BOTC 116 in June 2010 and serves as Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG)on the Oregon II.
Best Part of His Job: Larry appreciates that his work allows him to do and see things most people don’t experience, like being up close with 8-10 foot tiger sharks brought in on long line survey cruises or a rare encounter with sea turtles that have been tagged and released.
Favorite Teachers: Frank Ramano and George Cline, both college professors who were passionate about their work and helpful with any questions, offering guidance when Larry needed it.
Olay Akinsanya – Junior Engineer, Oregon II
Path to a STEM Career: Olay chose a career in the military because it was a great combination of hands on work and potential for training and further education. He served 8 years in the Navy, earning a GSM certification (Gas turbine Systems Mechanic). After his military service, he took exams with the Coast Guard to certify to be able to stand engine watch, which means qualified to be responsible for entire engine room. Olay then found out about NOAA through a friend and now works as a junior engineer on the Oregon II. He enjoys the work and finds it a good fit for his schedule; the shorter trips allow him to visit on shore with his daughter regularly.
Best Part of His Job: The opportunity to continue to build his skills and experience, to advance his career. And the food is good!
Favorite Teacher: Adrian Batchelor, a teacher at Mid-Atlantic Maritime School. “Mr. Batchelor is retired military, holds a GSM, and spent a lot of time with me, explained the job, encouraged me to reach out at any time. He’s been a great mentor.”
Classroom Fish ID Activity:
Correctly identify the “by catch” fish we brought up in our plankton nets. (Hint: we netted Flying Fish, Mahi Mahi, Half Beak, Little Tunny, File Fish, Sargassum Trigger Fish, Chub, Burr Fish, and Sargassum Fish). Enter your answers as a comment to this post!
Shout out to the students in Ms. Meredith Chicklas’ classes at in Troy, Michigan, and in Ms. Kelly Herberholz’s classes at Dakota High School in Macomb, Michigan!
A BIG thank you to the NOAA Fisheries Staff in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to the officers and crew of the Oregon II, and the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Staff for this incredible adventure.