Mark Wolfgang: What Does It Take? April 18, 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: April 18, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Lat: 36o 52.3’N         Long: 121o 53.9’ W

Temperature: 12.62oC (54.7oF)

Wind speed: 4 knots (4.6 mph)

Barometer:  1016.96 mbar

Conditions: Blue skies with a few clouds, smooth seas

Scientific and Technology Log:

I have been blessed to work with a great science team and I hope I have been helpful.  There is a mixture of talents and strengths, but a common love for the oceans.  Since there is always a need for reliable data, the entire team does their job with precision.

4.16 Otolith12

Fishery biologist Bev Macewicz teaches me to remove the otilith from an anchovy

I have enjoyed my conversations with them as we wait to get to a trawl location or for the nets to come in.  There are all possible careers available on the oceans.  From the NOAA Corps of officers, to the deckhands and fishermen, to the guys who work in the acoustic labs, to the engineers that make sure the ship is running properly, to the chief steward and second cook, to the science team, there are so many different potential careers if you love a life at sea.  I interviewed a few members of my science team.

Sue Manion, Chief Scientist:

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Chief Scientist, Sue Manion, watches the deployment of a bongo net.

Sue has a B.S in Fisheries Biology from Michigan State University and worked with an aquaculture program with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.  When she was in elementary school, she loved the outdoors and animals, both domestic and wild.  She
always knew she would become a wildlife biologist.  Her first position with NOAA was a temporary job as a Marine Mammal observer on a tuna fishing boat.  Sue told me that she loves the outdoor, physical work and never imagined she would get a permanent position as a sea-going fisheries biologist on the ocean.

Favorite part of the job:

“The most enjoyable part of my job is the outdoor, physical work.”

Dream job:

“I would be raising horses and running a wildlife sanctuary.”

I asked Sue, what advice would you give to a student who wanted to pursue a career in marine sciences?

“Take all the science, math, computer, and writing classes available. Learn all you can about working with hand tools and small electrical tools.”

Ed Weber, Research fisheries biologist

Ed has a B.S in Biology from the University of Michigan, M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University, and a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University.  Ed told me he knew he wanted to do some type of

DSC00164

Ed Weber preserves specimens collected from a pairovet

biology work, but never considered a career in academia and became interested in fisheries after doing a work-study position at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center.  Most
of his experience was with freshwater fisheries and he never expected to be working in oceanography.  He was hired because of his skills in statistical analysis and programming and is “still learning a lot of oceanography.”

Favorite part of the job:

“I like the days when I finish an analysis and go home feeling like I know something that I didn’t know the day before, and neither did anyone else. Most of these are very small incremental research advances that won’t change the world, but it’s still a lot of fun.”

I loved his advice for interested students:

“I think the most important and valuable skills are those that make you a good scientist in any discipline. I suggest early-career scientists focus on critical thinking, the ability to read and synthesize information from a variety of sources, and the ability to write well. Specific tools and techniques can always be learned later. A final piece of advice is something I learned by example from one of the best fisheries biologists I know. That is to approach research with a sense of humility. Never hesitate to admit what you do not know, even if you become a world expert in your area. Then go out and find the person who does know and ask that person about the problem. An honest and humble approach to science will make you a much better than you might have thought you could be.”

Personal Log:

I think I am finally “getting my sea legs.”  I am not referring to sea sickness or getting around the ship.  The last few days, I committed myself to experiencing as much as I can since my time aboard the Reuben Lasker is ending.  I have had a lot of moments where I looked around and smiled because I never thought I would experience something like this.  I hoped for a little more biodiversity in the trawls, but that is science field work.  You get the data that you get.  As I was sorting through seemingly endless pyrosomes, I had to take a moment and realize all that I have seen.  I saw fish and marine invertebrates I only have read about.  I saw a drone take off from a ship (I will share more about that later).  I saw humpback whales swimming in pods from the bridge.  I saw Pebble Beach golf course from the ocean.  How many teachers get that opportunity?  I am a lucky guy and am committed to “soaking it all in.” I am looking forward to seeing my family soon, but I will live for each day.

Did you know?

Phronima is a genus of amphipods that live throughout the world’s oceans.  These semitransparent animals attack salps.  They use their mouths and claws to eat the animal and hollow out its gelatinous shell.  The females enter this cavity and lay their eggs inside.  Phronima propels the salp through the water as the larvae develop which provides them fresh food and water.  Hollywood used this animal as the model for the queen alien in the 1979 science fiction horror film, Alien.

 

4.13 Phronima

Phronima sp.

 

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