Christopher Tait: Catch of the Day, March 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: March 21, 2017

 

The Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey will be conducted in 2 legs between San Diego and Cape Mendocino, CA.  The ship will have a port call in San Francisco, CA between survey legs.

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Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 4:38 PDT,

Current Location: near San Clemente Island, Latitude 32.9 N Longitude -118.96 W

Air Temperature 15.3 oC  (59.5 oF)

Water Temperature 14.8 oC  (58.6 oF)

Wind Speed 13 kts

Barometric pressure 1021.15 hPa

Science and Technology Log

Trawling

                The ship trawls for schooling coastal pelagic fish from sundown to sunrise. This is because, under the protection of darkness, the zooplankton come up toward the surface to feed on phytoplankton and the planktivorous fish, in turn, follow the zooplankton.  Before the trawl net can be deployed, you have to go to the bridge, or the upper floor on the ship where all navigation and operations occur, to do a marine mammal watch for 30 minutes.  A marine mammal watch is a lookout for dolphins or other marine mammals that might be in the vicinity of the ship to avoid catching them in the trawl.  It is difficult to see any dolphins or sea lions in the inky blackness of the night ocean, but this is important to prevent incidental catch.  My first time up to the bridge at night was a surprise.  Walking up the lit stairs, you open the door to the bridge and the whole area is in darkness with just faint red lights so you can see.   After a while your eyes adjust and you make you way to the port or starboard sides of the bridge to start the watch. After you determine that the coast is clear, it is time for the deck crew to start deploying the net.  There is big overhead rigging with winches to help lift the net, ropes, chains, and buoys up to lower them down into the water.  We drag the net behind the boat for 45 minutes and then haul it in, hopefully full of fish!  When the fish are on the boat there is an elaborate process to gather information about the catch.

 Catch of the Day

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Pelagic Red Crab (Pleuroncodes planipes)

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Sorting buckets filled with Pelagic Red Crab

 

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Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)

 

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Pyrosome (colonial tunicate)

 

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Greater Argonaut (Argonauta argo)

 

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King of the Salmon (Trachipterus altivelis)

 

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The Wet Lab where the catch is sorted.

Personal Log

3/21/17

Today is the first day at sea and everyone is busy setting up their labs and calibrating their equipment.  The goal of the research is to survey the distributions and abundances of the coastal pelagic fish stocks, their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environment in the California Current Ecosystem.  The Reuben Lasker is a state of the art research vessel with many specialized research laboratories.

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NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

Coronado Bridge out my window.                                                      My State Room

3/22/17

I’m getting used to the 24 hour nature of the expedition. Everyone is assigned a 12 hour shift and I’m working 12 pm to 12 am.  During the day I am currently observing the methods and trying to assist where I can.  At night there are multiple trawls.  2 to 5 trawl are planned each night.  We caught a variety of different organisms, which are weighted, measured for length, and some saved for further studies such as genetic analysis.

 

3/23/17

Today I woke up to rough seas with waves about 8 feet, which made it very difficult to get moving!  As I moved around the ship everyone smiled because we know how each other are feeling.  The seas calmed later in the day and everyone felt much better.  Looking forward to doing our trawl tonight!

 

Did You Know?

The King of the Salmon got their name from the Makah people who believed the fish lead salmon to their spawning rivers.

The Argonaut looks like a nautilus, but they are really an octopus in which the female creates an egg case that wraps around the body.

 

Emily Sprowls: The pressure is on! March 23, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard Oregon II

March 20 – April 3,2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

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NOAA Ship Oregon II

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 23, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

13:00 hours

28°03.9’ N 89°08.3’W

Visibility 10 nm, Haze

Wind 3kts 100°E

Sea wave height <1 ft.

Seawater temp 25.1°C

 Science and Technology Log

The past two days have been devoted to setting extremely deep longlines. Each of these sampling lines take many hours, as we have to slowly reel out over 3 miles of line, give it time to sink, soak, and then reel it back in.   The line that we put out today is even a bit longer than usual, because I got to be in charge of “slinging” the hooks onto the line and I was not very fast at getting the four different sizes of hooks ready

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A Mexican grenadier fish

. Have I mentioned how patient everyone is with the “Teach” aboard?

This morning we pulled up 97 empty hooks from 1250 meters before we caught the amazing grenadier fish! It suffered barotrauma, which is a nicer way of saying that its eyes and swim bladder inflated like balloons from the inside as it was hauled up from the high pressure depths.

One of the scientists onboard studies ocean food chains by examining the contents of fish stomachs. The stomach of the Mexican grenadier fish contained a fully intact armored shrimp!

Personal Log

Today I took advantage of the calm, calm seas to try the workout equipment onboard. They have all kinds of gear to help folks stay active and work off the delicious food in the galley. There is a rowing machine, stationary bike, weight bench, Jacob’s ladder, and elliptical. I used the elliptical machine because it was way too hot on the upper decks to use the exercise bike. Even with the very calm seas, there is a little bit of rolling, which made it an extra challenge for me keep it going!

Kids’ Questions of the Day

These questions about the Oregon II are from Harmony elementary students:

  • How big is the boat?       How tall? How long?

The boat is 175 feet long and 80 feet tall.

  • How much does the boat weigh?      

The boat weight is 800 tons. This is not how much the boat would weigh if you put it on a scale, but how

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TAS Emily Sprowls dons a survival suit

much weight the boat can carry if it were loaded full of cargo. We are not carrying nearly that much weight because a lot of the space on the boat is for equipment and for scientists and crew to live aboard.

  • How fast can it go?

Typically, the boat can go about 10 nautical miles per hour using both engines. She can go a little faster if the wind and current conditions are just right.

  • What is the boat made of?

The boat is made of steel and aluminum.

  • What are the white balloon things on top of the boat?

The white domes cover satellite dishes for the internet and phone.

  • What are the poles on the boat for? Are there sails?

The two yellow poles on either side of the boat are the outriggers used to

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This array houses the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth probe.

pull a wide trawling net, much like a shrimp boat. Scientists trawl the bottom to study benthic organisms, including shrimp, but also sponges, crabs and bottom-dwelling sharks.

  • What new technologies does the boat have?

The Oregon II turns 50 years old this year!   It has been sailing the Atlantic Ocean since before I was born, but the crew is constantly fixing and replacing equipment on the boat. Even though she is old, she is very safe and reliable. Nevertheless, we still have to prepare for emergencies, including the possibility of needing to abandon ship while wearing the goofy-looking, but life-saving survival suits.

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Styrofoam Cup Test!

Scientists have brought new technology on board, including plenty of computers to collect, sort, store and analyze all the data we collect. One of the computers is connected to a device called the “CTD” with a set of sensors for Conductivity, Temperature, Depth and Dissolved Oxygen. Today the CTD went all the way to about 1100 meters (3700 ft.), and we tethered some styrofoam cups to the outside to subject them to the extreme pressure at that depth.

 

Emily Sprowls: It’s a shark eat shark world down there! March 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 22, 2017

Science and Technology Log

This first leg of the Oregon II’s research for the season is an experimental longline survey. This is an exciting cruise for everybody, as we are all anxious to see what comes in on each line, and we hope to find some rare and little-studied species.

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Reeling in a shark caught on one of hook of the longline

A longline is a type of fishing gear that deploys one very long and very thick fishing line with many hooks attached. A fisheries survey is a systematic sampling of the ocean to assess fish populations. This mission is experimental because we are testing the longline at extreme depths and we are using different kinds of hooks in order to catch as wide a variety of species as possible.

Things have been busy onboard from the very first day, as we have been setting out and hauling longlines around the clock. We are headed deeper and deeper into the Mississippi canyon of the Gulf of Mexico with each station, starting at 100m and have worked our way down to 750 m, where we currently have a line “soaking” before we haul it up to record what we caught.

Personal Log

Life on the ship is divided into night and day watch. I’m “on days,” which means I’m work noon to midnight. I am so lucky to be a cruise with a lot of seasoned marine scientists and a great, hard-working crew. Shark scientist Kristin Hannan is the Field Party Chief and has taken me under her wing to get me settled and teach me as much as she can (without making me feel like the newbie that I am)!

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Oil rigs on the horizon

The seas have been calm and the water is the most beautiful color of blue! We are pretty far out to sea, and I have been amazed to see so many oil rigs off in the distance. They glow like small cities at night, and I think they look like strange robots walking on the horizon during the day.

 

Kids’ Questions of the Day

These questions are from the 1st-2nd grade and multi-age classes at Harmony School.

  •  How do you catch the sharks?

We catch the sharks by setting out 100 baited hooks at a time on a very long fishing line. A winch reels in the 3 miles of line after a couple of hours, and we record what is on every single hook.

  • How do you find the sharks?

We rely on the sharks finding our baited hooks. We put weights on the line so that it will sink all the way down to the bottom. We are fishing so deep that it takes almost an hour just for the line to sink! The sharks find the bait using their incredible sense of smell.

  •  What do sharks eat? Fish? Squid? Cookies? Other sharks?

We are baiting the hooks with pieces of squid. The process of baiting hundreds of hooks has left my clothes covered with squid ink!

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Hooks baited with pieces of squid

Sometimes they catch sharks with fish (mackerel), but squid bait stays better on the hooks, and deep-sea sharks clearly like squid, which also live in deep water. While this mission is experimental, the scientists onboard do not think we will have much luck baiting a hook with a cookie – it will just dissolve in the sea (besides the cookies in the galley are so delicious that there are no leftovers)! One type of deep-sea shark makes their own cookies… cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius) bite “cookies” out of other fish with their amazing jaws. Maybe we’ll catch one!?!

Last night we hauled in one hook with only a shark head on it…. What do you think happened to the rest of the shark?

 

Mark Wolfgang: Are the fish listening to us? March 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: March 22, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Although I have not boarded the Reuben Lasker yet, there are 446 bridges in Pittsburgh – the most in the world.  Here is the weather, according to the National Weather Service) from the Roberto Clemente Bridge:

Lat: 40.36oN   Long: 79.92oW

Becoming Sunny

36oF, Wind speed: N 12mph, Barometer 30.31 in, Visibility 10.00 mi.

Introduction:

Greetings to everyone from the city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania (the franklin_regional_logo_2c_goldhome of Arnold Palmer and Mr. Rogers).  My name is Mark Wolfgang and I have taught biology and zoology for the past 16 years at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, a community just east of Pittsburgh.  I am excited to share with you my adventures on the Reuben Lasker as a 2017 NOAA Teacher at Sea.

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker_Photo by Paul Hillman

NOAA ship Reuben Lasker

Personal Log:

Ever since my 4th grade class with Mrs. Kerr, I wanted to be a teacher.  I entered the teaching profession right after college, so my scientific experience outside of the classroom and in the research world is limited.  In college, I became enthralled with the world of insects and worked a summer in the department of invertebrate zoology at the Carnegie Natural History Museum where I got a small taste of scientific research.  When I had the opportunity to create a new course at my high school, my thoughts automatically went to Zoology.  I quickly discovered that although I knew a lot about the bugs crawling around us, I knew very little about the animals that live in our oceans.  Over the past years of teaching this course to our juniors and seniors, I developed an appreciation for all the animals living on our earth and a drive to learn more about them.  This is what led me to NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program – an exciting opportunity to combine my love for animals and quest for knowledge with the research opportunity and to share those experiences with my students.

I am incredibly excited to experience the oceans outside of my classroom full of videos, pictures, and preserved specimens and to help my students realize the career opportunities they have in the world of zoology.  I want my students to see the importance of caring about the health of our oceans and gain an appreciation for animals they will probably never encounter.  My interest in zoology did not start until I was in college, so it is never too late to produce this passion in my high school students.

Outside of the classroom, I am also the director of our school’s spring musical.  This March, I directed my 15th show, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Admittedly, it is a little odd to go from the producing a musical to researching sardines in the ocean in 6 weeks, but I love the diversity of the experiences I have as a teacher.  I have an incredible wife and two daughters (age 8 and 10) who are supporting me on this exciting adventure.  In my spare time I love experiencing the richness of life with the three of them.  I enjoy music and theater, hockey (Let’s Go Pens!), golf, kayaking, listening to podcasts, reading, and exploring our National Parks.

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My family at Yellowstone National Park.

Scientific and Technology Log:

Our Mission:Capture

I will soon leave spring in Pittsburgh to fly 2,300 miles to the west coast where I board Reuben Lasker to begin my journey along the coast of central California.  I am excited to see the city of San Francisco since I have never been here before.  Before I return home, I hope to try some sourdough bread.

I will join the second leg of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Study, where we will be surveying the distributions and abundances of coastal pelagic fish stocks, their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environments in the California Current.  We will be using acoustic sampling and trawling to investigate the Northen Anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and the Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax).  Research will also include sampling pelagic fish eggs, plankton, and conducting unmanned aircraft surveys.

Acoustic-trawl method (ATM) is used to estimate the distribution and abundance of certain organisms.  The ATM transmits sound pulses beneath the ship and receive echoes from animals and the seabed.  The intensities of the echoes provides indications of type of organism and behavior.  I hope to share more information with you after we get underway.

Did you know?

As of March of 2015 there are 228,450 known species in the ocean, ranging from seaweeds to blue whales.  Scientists estimate that between 500,000 and 2 million more multicellular ocean organisms are still unknown.  We have quite a lot to still learn about ocean ecosystems.

Christopher Tait: “What Do They Do When Out to Sea?” March 18, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weather Data

Current weather at home in Wingdale, New York is 39F and we just had 3 snow days in a week after 24 inches of snow.

Science and Technology Log

I will be joining the team aboard the Reuben Lasker to do the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey.  The goal of the survey is to determine the distributions and abundances of the planktivorous (plankton eating) fish such as Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and the Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus) in the California Current between San Diego and Cape Mendocino, California.  This will be achieved using multi-frequency acoustic backscatter (sonar), sampling the fish with trawls, sampling spawned fish eggs in the water column, aerial surveys using UAS (unmanned aircraft system), sampling plankton, and measuring the abiotic environment such as temperature, salinity, oxygen levels.

Personal Log

TaitFebruary 1st I walked into work, opened up my email and saw a message from NOAA. I opened the message and saw “On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea Selection Committee, we are pleased to inform you that you were selected to participate in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) Program – 2017 Field Season!”  I couldn’t believe what an opportunity to learn from scientists and to enrich the classroom experience for my students!  I teach AP Environmental Science at New Fairfield High School, in Connecticut, Biology at Western Connecticut State University, and teach field research and study the community structure of fish in Candlewood Lake, CT with Project CLEAR supported by the Candlewood Lake Authority and EdAdvance.

Growing up my family would go to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to visit my uncle.  I remember always feeling this sense of awe about the ocean as my uncle would drive us around to his favorite beach spots, as I would learn about the amazing way the sea shaped the culture in this place.  I went back after finishing up graduate school in Earth and Planetary Science and writing countless papers using NOAA resources. I went to Woods Hole to see this hub of marine research and the NOAA ships sitting in their docks.  I remember wondering “what do they do when out to sea?”

A couple of weeks after I got my acceptance message and medical clearance, I got a research cruise placement on the Reuben Lasker out of San Diego, California!  With three weeks to prepare, I did everything I could to cover my bases at home, school and prepare for the experience of a lifetime.  I don’t think I have the words right now to express the gratitude I feel toward NOAA to have a program that allows a teacher to embed within their scientific community for a moment to experience what happens on those ships and bring my students behind the scenes of world class science.  I look forward to going to San Diego soon and meeting everyone from NOAA that I have been corresponding with!

 

 

Emily Sprowls: Sharknado?!? March 16, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 16,2017

 

Introduction

SprowlsHello, my name is Emily and I am a science teacher at Harmony School in Bloomington, Indiana.   I teach mostly environmental sciences to mostly high schoolers, but because we are a small school, I also get to teach some middle schoolers and cover other life and physical sciences, too. To graduate from our school, our 12th graders complete a senior project where they try out a career or a passion for a semester. I consider this opportunity to participate as a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea to be like my senior project, where I get to try out being a marine biologist for a few weeks.

 

Weather Data

Here at home in Bloomington, Indiana, the snow is melting in the spring sunshine. The ship has spent the winter in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the National Weather Service website informs me the weather is mostly cloudy and 62°F (17°C).

Science and Technology Log

In just a few days, the Oregon II will embark on her first research trip of 2017. Scientists on board will be deploying experimental long-lines to see what sea creatures are down deep in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll be out at sea for 15 days starting on Monday, and I think everybody is excited to see what we will find on this first cruise!

Personal Log

I have started to pack, starting with lots of layers for fickle spring weather and the windy conditions at sea, and lots of old clothes that I don’t mind getting fishy and salty. I am also packing lots of seasickness remedies, with lots of different ideas shared by many friends: ginger, citrus, seabands, Bonine, Dramamine, patches, etc. I’m really hoping that I gain my “sealegs” after a few days and can just enjoy the ginger candy in my med kit!

Did You Know?

Did you know that NOAA provides many services to all of us, even in Indiana? NOAA includes the National Weather Service, which forecasts our weather. Here in the Midwest, they provide life-saving tornado warnings in time for us all to seek shelter. NOAA also helps planes navigate wind patterns and keeps air travel safe, they chart hurricanes and help coastal communities prepare for storms and flooding, they keep track of fish populations so we can enjoy healthy seafood, and NOAA also monitors the Great Lakes in addition to our oceans and atmosphere.

Kids’ Questions of the Day

I collected questions about sharks and marine research from students and teachers at my school. Look for the answers to the kids’ questions here in the days to come, but there is one I can answer already, without the help from the scientists and crew onboard the Oregon II.

  • What is the risk of a SHARKNADO?  While we are hoping to find sharks, and NOAA does pay very close attention to tornado threats, the chance of a fictitious Hollywood-inspired weather event is 0% (unless the crew shows the terrible movie in the galley for fun!)