NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship the Reuben Lasker
June 19 – July 1, 2017
Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast
Date: June 29, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: June 29, 2017 Wind Speed: 7.7 kts
Time: 6:15 p.m. Latitude: 4805.5N
Temperature: 12.7oC Longitude: 12520.07W
Science and Technology Log
The technology present on this ship is amazing and at the same time quite overwhelming. These systems allow for data to be collected on a wide range of variables both continuously and simultaneously. Below are a couple of photos of the acoustics room where multiple sensors are monitoring the feedback from sonar systems placed below the ship’s hull. One of the acoustic probes sends out sound waves in a cone-like formation directly below the ship. Another unit emits sound waves in a horizontal pattern. The ship was designed to run as quietly as possible so as to not disturb the marine life present in the waters as the ship passes by and also to reduce the interference of the ship’s sounds with the acoustics feedback.
Acoustics technician Dan Palance managing the multiple computers that are constantly collecting data.
Multiple programs help to eliminate the “noise” received by the probes until all that remains are images that represent schools of fish and their location relative to the ocean floor.
The images above were taken from a poster on board the Reuben Lasker. They illustrate the range of the water column surveyed by the various acoustic systems.
The “soundings” are received by the ship, processed and “cleaned up” using a series of program algorithms. The image below shows the feedback received from one of the systems.
Once the background “noise” has been eliminated, the resulting image will show locations of fish, school size, and the depth (y axis) at which they can be found.
Extension question for my students reading this: Approximately how deep are the schools of fish being picked up by the sonar at this location?
Acoustics aren’t the only tools used to try pinpoint the locations of the fish schools. As I wrote about on an earlier blog, the CUFES egg sampler is used to monitor the presence of fish eggs in the waters that the ship passes over. Water samples are analyzed every half hour. If egg samples appear in an area where there is also a strong acoustics signal, then that may be a location the ship will return to for the night’s trawl. The main focus of this trip is to monitor the anchovy and sardine populations, so extra attention is paid to the locations where those eggs appear in the samples.
Each time we drop the net for an evening trawl it is always retrieved with a bit of suspense: What’s going to be in the net this time? How big is the haul? Will we capture any of the key species or haul in something completely different?
I can honestly say that while on board there were no two hauls exactly the same. We continued to capture large quantities of pyrosomes – unbelievable amounts. Check out the net-tearing load we encountered one night. We literally had to weigh them by the basketful!
Here I am getting ready to help unload this large catch.
Above is the codend of the net filled with pyrosomes and fish. A 5-basket sample was pulled aside for analysis. The remainder was simply classified and massed.
While I was certainly don’t need to see another pyrosome any time soon, there were plenty of other times when some very unique species made an appearance!
Did you know?
The dogfish shark (pictured above) was one of about 50 or so that were caught in the same haul. We had trawled through a school that was feeding on the small fish found at the ocean surface during the evening hours. This is the same species of shark that is commonly provided to students for dissection. Use the search terms “dogfish shark dissection” and see what you find!