Susan Brown: Adventure Awaits, August 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 2 – 15, 2017


Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 24, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge

I’m currently at home in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a typical, monsoon season morning coming in at 11.6 degrees C (53 degrees F) at 7:12 am with humidity at 92%. I’m about 1,700 miles away from Pascagoula, Mississippi, where I will be joining the team on our ship, NOAA Ship Oregon II, in just a few days!

NOAA Ship Oregon II Sunset_NOAA Photo
NOAA Ship Oregon II. Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA Ship Oregon II Photo Credit: NOAA

Weather Data from my desk at school:

Latitude: 35.190807
Longitude: -111.65127
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 2 Mph
Wind Direction: NW
Air Temperature: 11. 6 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 29.84” falling Rapdily
Sky:  scattered clouds


Science and Technology Log

Once on board, I will be assisting the science crew with the third leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey and will be fishing from Brownsville, TX to Galveston, TX. The mission of this survey is to monitor interannual variability of shark populations of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Map of the survey area: the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

My understanding is that we will be working a 12-hour shift using longline gear to capture specimens and measure the length, weight and sex of the animal. The longline is baited with Atlantic Mackerel and will sit in the water for one hour. Here is what longline gear looks like:



Illustration of longline gear. Credit: NOAA


The larger animals will require landing slings! I can’t even imagine. The science crew will also be tagging the animals as well as retaining a few for research. Finclips, like taking a nail clipping, will be gathered for DNA analysis. I am most excited to get up and close with these wonderful creatures tagging them to monitor their movement and health.


Measuring a tiger shark. Photo credit: SEFSC


Measuring a shark. Photo Credit: SEFSC


As part of the survey we will be gathering CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) data that provides a surface to bottom profile of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity and depth. As a class, we will be learning about these in depth in the classroom when we reach our unit on water quality in relation to our local watershed.

Personal Log

I am getting excited for this adventure and happy to have you along for the journey. I look forward to your questions and can’t wait to learn about these beautiful creatures while working with scientists. Please makes sure to check out the “Question of the Day” and other activities that will be posted on this blog. Your current research on sharks will come in handy while I am out here and will be crucial to learning about ocean food webs and current threats. Remember to check in daily for new posts while you are working on your projects.


Did You Know?

That I have never been to the Gulf of Mexico!


Question of the day

What species of shark live in the Gulf of Mexico?

49 Replies to “Susan Brown: Adventure Awaits, August 24, 2017”

    1. Christian, on board research fishery biologist, states the reason sharks like this area because there are a lot a resources here — food, habitat, nursery areas, temperature of the water — especially in the Southern Gulf as the water temperature doesn’t fluctuates so much.

    1. Christian says that the 6 and 7 gills could possible belong to a more ancestral line. It’s a hard question to answer scientists don’t know sure.

    1. Sharks are opportunistic. Whale sharks are constantly eating where are other species can go days or weeks without eating. Most predators in the wild are not terribly successful catching it’s prey. They work hard and are constantly burning energy. The most effective predator in the world is the seahorse!

    1. There isn’t much surfing in the Gulf of Mexico due to no wave action unless there is a storm. Swimming advisories may be issues for harmful marine life that may include jellyfish, Tigers, Hammerheads, Bulls, Blacktips.

    1. Absolutely…a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing animals. Thanks for asking : )

    2. Absolutely…a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing animals. Thanks for asking : )

    1. Brett, parasitologist, states that you would want to find out what’s wrong with it instead of releasing it.

    1. Lisa, the Chief Scientist on board, says there have been two in the past twenty years and the injuries were minor. There are more injuries due to things that happen on the ship like closing doors on fingers, items falling on you in rough seas, and knocking shins into doors.

  1. Diego: How do you remove the hooks from the sharks mouth? what kind of line do you use? Is it a fishing rode, or do you reel them in using some device thats more attached to the ship?

    1. They either use their hands or a set of pliers. We are using something called a longline that we attach 100 baited hooks to and deploy it from the stern of the ship so that the bait rests on the bottom. The bait is allowed to rest for one hour before we haul up the longline from the bow of the ship.

    1. I tagged my first shark last night! It was a large sandbar shark that we brought up using a cradle. It was amazing to be so close to a shark.

    1. I will be back in the classroom September 18th! I can’t wait to talk to everyone about this adventure.

    1. Look at my second blog post and you will see my room with the bunk bed. The ship is about 175 feet long.

    1. The sharks that came up dead will be used for outreach and research – sharpnose, blacktip and spinner sharks

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