NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker
July 17 – 30, 2017
Mission: West Coast Pelagics Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast
Science and Technology Log:
I had my first opportunity to get a look at the Reuben Lasker when I arrived at the Exploratorium on Pier 15 in San Francisco (SF) on the 16th of July. My first impression was, this is a big, incredibly sophisticated research vessel. The boat has been in port for a few days as it prepares to leave for the 2nd leg of the West Coast Pelagics Survey. The first leg of the survey was conducted over the previous three weeks starting off of the coast of Vancouver Island and working down to the coast of Oregon. The vessel will be steaming out tomorrow (7/18/17) back to where the first leg was completed to begin the 2nd leg of the survey. The 2nd leg will begin near Newport, Oregon and continue down the coast of California finishing in San Diego on/or about August 11th.
I am beginning to get to know the crew, which is made up of members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, civilian mariners and a science team. All of the crews are under the NOAA umbrella and work closely together. The NOAA Corps, and civilian mariners are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the boat while the science crew’s role is to design the survey, collect samples, record, and analyze the data for the project.
There are 32 people on the boat, and I am amazed at the diversity of skills, education and background that is represented by everyone that is on-board. It is encouraging to know there are so many talented people involved in this type of research. In just the short time that I have spent on the ship I have gained a better understanding of the many opportunities that are available for students in marine science.
As you might expect on a modern research vessel the technology is everywhere. There are multiple sonar systems, numerous sensors that record continuous environmental information, and the wheelhouse is equipped with an array of navigational systems and computers that link to sensors throughout the vessel. There are also the major mechanical components necessary to deploy and retrieve nets, gear, and various sensors. I am eagerly anticipating seeing how all of these pieces fit together once we begin sampling.
Over the past 2 days while we have been in port, I have had a chance to explore the area around the dock and have found that NOAA is making a big impact on a global scale. As I was walking up to the ship I noticed a buoy in the harbor that was labeled with PMEL-CO2 (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory). Upon closer inspection I saw the NOAA symbol above the lettering and found an information plate on the rail describing the data the sensors on the buoy were collecting. This buoy and others like it moored across the world’s oceans are collecting information about CO2 levels in our oceans. The information is relayed to a satellite and then to a data center for analysis. The data collected by these buoys will help provide a better understanding of how rising CO2 levels are affecting our oceans. As I walked through the area surrounding the dock I found several more examples of research and educational programs that NOAA was supporting. NOAA’s commitment to sound science and support for educational programs like the Teacher at Sea program is making a difference in how people interact with the planet.
My journey to join the crew and scientist aboard the Reuben Lasker has been a rewarding experience in and of itself. After arriving in SF I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring the area around the bay. There is a great interactive facility near Pier 15 called the Exploratorium that is a designed to provide an enriching, educational experience featuring science and art displays. As I wondered through the facility it reminded me of why I love science and how creative approaches can inspire and bring out the child like curiosity and joy of learning in all of us. I also had the opportunity to tour the impressive Aquarium of the Bay that had fantastic exhibits featuring marine invertebrates, numerous species of saltwater fish (including lots of sharks) and river otters. NOAA’s fingerprint can be found here too, with a display explaining how NOAA is providing educational support for a program called The National Estuary Research and Reserve System that emphasize the importance of protecting and restoring estuaries. It has been a very busy and fulfilling 3 days. As I am writing, the ship is steaming toward Newport, Oregon and is already collecting data for the survey using a continuous underway egg sampler (CUFES). The CUFES sampler collects plankton and fish egg samples that will provide important data used by NOAA scientists to better understand the abundance and distribution of pelagic fish species in the California Current. Once we arrive on location we will start using the acoustic trawling method (ATM) to sample for coastal pelagic fish species. I can only imagine what wonders might lay ahead as we continue our journey,
I recently attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (KATS) conference and listened to a very good presentation by Jeff Goldstein. One the things he said struck me as particularly important. He said, “Evidence based conclusions are important.” It is important that we don’t disregard and ignore information that is based on good scientific principles and analysis. My experiences over the last several days has given me a greater appreciation for critical role that NOAA plays in providing us with that information. The photos above are representative of my first few days in SF and on-board the Reuben Lasker.
FYI: sometimes it seems like NOAA has its own special language, here is a small sample of some of the acronyms that I have picked up on so far…
CO – Commanding Officer
XO – Executive Officer
OO – Operations Officer
ATM – Acoustic Trawl Method
CTD – Conductivity, Temperature and Depth
CUFES – Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler
CPS – Coastal Pelagic Species
SWFSC – Southwest Fisheries Science Center
NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service
Links to Explore:
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
The Exploratorium in San Francisco
Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco
The National Estuary Research and Reserve System