Cindy Byers: Off to Alaska! April 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cindy Byers
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 29 – May 13, 2018

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast, Alaska

Date: April 15, 2018


In two weeks I will be embarking on my first ocean science experience aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.  After having several friends become “Teachers at Sea,” I just knew that I wanted to have this experience so I could become a better ocean educator and bring this knowledge back to my students.

I am a seventh and eighth grade teacher from Rosholt Middle School, a small school district in rural Wisconsin.  Our pre-Kindergarten through 12 grade building has 650 students.  As a middle school teacher my duties include earth science, health, language and reading.  I also work with small groups of gifted students two hours a day.  It makes me flexibility and a “jack of all trades” as they say.

My real passion is science and environmental education, and I have found ways to teach my other subjects often using these as topics.

My students would tell you I like boats and working with scientists!  I have spent time working with Sea Grant on the Great Lakes.  Sea Grant is a network that is a partnership between 33 university-based programs and NOAA.  They are in every coastal and Great Lakes state.  I have attended and taught workshops for teachers through Sea Grant. In 2011, at the invitation of Sea Grant, I spent 9 days on Lake Superior with 16 other teachers and 3 scientists aboard the Environmental Protection Agency’s R/V Lake Guardian studying near and offshore environments.

In 2016, I was aboard Wisconsin’s Flagship, Denis Sullivan , with Sea Grant and a group of teachers on a six day journey up Lake Michigan and across Lake Superior.  This is the same tall ship that my seventh grade students sail on each fall.



I am so excited to be working on an ocean vessel.  I have always dreamed of going to Alaska, and I can not think of a better way to do it.

I will be on a hydrographic survey to collect data that will be used to produce maps for safe navigation. The instruments onboard include multibeam echosounders and side sonar that work to image the ocean floor.  Four small boats are also used to set up tide measuring stations. The data is also used for other scientific and environmental prediction purposes such as tsunami displacement measurements and mapping of fish habitat.

NOAA Ship Fairweather

NOAA Ship Fairweather (Courtesy of NOAA)

I am very excited to share how all of the science equipment is used and how the data is organized.  I would like to find a way to have my students be involved in science labs that use some of the techniques and data used by the scientists on the ship.  I would also like to learn more about careers in NOAA that some of my students may be interested in pursuing!


Did you know?

NOAA’s mission is: Science, Service and Stewardship

1. To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts;

2. To share that knowledge and information with others; and

3. To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.




Tom Jenkins: A Day in the Life of a Teacher at Sea, April 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Jenkins
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast
Date: April 15, 2018

Personal Log


A ladder well on Henry B. Bigelow

The ladder wells.  On the Henry B. Bigelow these sets of steps will take you everywhere that you need to go throughout the day.  Life on a ship is interesting in the fact you don’t ever leave while on your mission.  This is where you sleep, where you eat, where you work and where you hang out with your friends.

One of the most frequently received questions from my students back home is about life on the ship.  Since the past couple of days have been relatively slow in terms of fishing (due to inclement weather), I have decided to highlight the areas of the ship where I spend the most of my time.

My room (likely about the size of your own room at home) happens to be a quad which means I share my room with 3 other people.  In addition to two bunk beds, we have a work area (w/a small TV) and a compact bathroom.  While it is definitely a bit cramped, the 4 of us are split between the 2 shifts (My shift is 12am-12pm.).   The end result is that there are no more than 2 people in the room at any time, so it ends up working out quite well.  Notice the handle in the shower.  This comes in handy when you are trying to clean up and not wipe out as sometimes the ship can move around quite a bit!  You may also notice the emergency billet  on the door.  This tells each member of the crew where to go and also what to do during emergency situations.


The food on the ship has been amazing.  As students in my classroom will attest, I swore I was going to go on a diet during this cruise .  While that would be possible, given there are always tons of healthy options, it’s not everyday when there is a BBQ spare rib option for lunch!  Additionally, when you are working off and on over the course of your 12 hour shift, eating food is sometimes a good way to pass the time.  While I don’t think I have gained weight, I definitely do not think I will lose weight over the final 12 days of the cruise.


The labs where the scientists work are obviously where we spend a large part of our day (or my case, night).  The picture to the left is where many of the fish are cataloged and processed.  The photo in the top right are where some of the specimens are preserved for later examination in not only NOAA facilities, but also other other research facilities around the world.  The area in the bottom is a planning/observation space where the science team goes to gather, plan and share information related to their research mission.


Finally, there is the lounge and fitness area.  The lounge is really nice with large recliners which are a wonderful way to relax after a long shift.  There is Direct TV which is nice for both sports and news and the ship also has an impressive collection of movies for the crew to enjoy.  The fitness area in the bottom right is my favorite space on the ship.  While neither expansive nor pretty, it is a great place to go to burn off steam.  There is a TV and enough equipment to break a sweat.  Although I must admit, its extremely challenging to use an elliptical during a storm with rough seas.  Especially with low ceilings! 🙂


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  As always, if you have any questions and/or comments, please feel free to post them below.

Dana Kosztur: Science Lab at Sea, April 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Kosztur

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

April 5-18

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 15, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Lat: 29° 35.5335′ N Long: 084° 19.8126′ W
Air Temperature: 18.2°C (64.76°F)
Water Temperature: 20.43°C (68.77°F)
Wind speed: 28.11 knots (32.35 mph)
Conditions: stormy, Seas 7 to 9 feet

Science and Technology Log

While I have been at sea,  I have spent time exploring Pisces and getting to know the people on board. This research vessel is 209 feet long, 50 feet wide, and it has a draft of 20 feet.  It is large enough to hold 39 passengers. The crew of the vessel during my sail consists of 5 NOAA Officers, 5 deck crew, 5 engineers, 4 technicians, 2 stewards and 5 scientists.

NOAA Ship Pisces

NOAA Ship Pisces

Pisces is loaded with science equipment. It has the capability to run acoustic surveys, marine mammal surveys, and various fish surveys. The onboard wet lab is used to process the marine life brought in on trawls, long lines, or bandit reels. In the dry lab, the mission data is stored and processed by the scientists and survey technicians on the ship.  There is a side sample station on the starboard deck where the cameras and ROVs are launched and the trawls are deployed on its stern. The centerboard, on the hull underneath the ship, has mounted sensors that send back various types of data for the scientist to use. This vessel was also engineered to be quiet while underway so it won’t scare marine life. The ship shares the oceanographic, hydrographic and weather data it gathers daily to the outside world.

The Commanding Officer gave me a tour of the bridge.  The bridge is the navigation center. The vessel can be operated from one of four different stations. The science that is being conducted determines where the officer will navigate from. The technology on the bridge is quite amazing.  The dynamic positioning system allows the vessel to stay within certain parameters when supporting science missions. It functions almost like an auto-pilot to keep the ship in the proper position.

Bridge Center Navigation

Bridge Center Navigation

"Moo"ving the ship

“Moo”ving the ship


NOAA Ship Pisces is like a floating city.   I had the opportunity to explore the engine room with the ship’s first assistant engineer to see how this mini-city works.  He showed me how they process sewage and garbage aboard the vessel. I learned how the vessel creates its own water and power.  I saw the huge engines. This ship has two 8 cylinder engines and two 12 cylinders engines that power the ship. I also learned how the bilge/ballast system keeps the ship stable and how the bow thruster aids in steering


one of four engines on Pisces

one of four engines on Pisces

Personal Log

Most of the days pass quickly and I lose track of time.  I can’t believe I have been at sea for 10 days. Having a different type of workday is very unusual to me.  I have taught for almost 18 years so school days are what I know. It is different to work with adults all day instead of children.  It is a definite change of pace. Today is a slow day. We are currently standing-by due to a weather delay. We have moved closer to shore and are riding out the storm.  Hopefully, we will be able to be back up and running tomorrow.

I will surely miss the trips to the galley when I get home. I have probably gained five pounds on this trip. The stewards that cook on this ship do an amazing job.  It is nice to have already prepared meals. I have gotten spoiled by not cooking too. I know will miss the view when I get back to land. Watching the waves never gets old.  I could stare at the water all day. Even when it is stormy the ocean is beautiful.

Being away from home is hard.  It’s difficult not to harass my team teachers about my classroom while I am gone.  I know that my students are well taken care of but it is hard not to worry. The letters from my students, emails from family,  texts from my husband, messages from friends, and sweet videos from my granddaughter help me combat homesickness.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is home to 21 marine mammals and 5 sea turtle species

Student questions

How many species of sharks are in the gulf?  There are approximately 49 shark species in the gulf.

Tom Jenkins: Teacher at Sea, Not at Sea. Yet… April 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Jenkins
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast
Date: April 14, 2018

So…What to do when you are a NOAA Teacher at Sea, you are at the port and you are not yet out to sea?  You leverage your NOAA connections within the scientific community to learn more about things related to various aspects of NOAA’s mission.

On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to be part of a NOAA group that toured UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology.  This recently opened, cutting edge facility provided a wonderful insights into the study of marine life.

School for Marine Science & Technology

UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

Tom at UMass Dartmouth

Me touring UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

Lab at UMass Dartmouth

Lab at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

While on our special tour, members of the NOAA Fisheries team were able to exchange knowledge with the team that helped build and is currently getting this amazing research space up and running to full capacity.

We learned about some of the various aquatic species that are indigenous to the region (see below) and the current research surrounding these impressive life forms.

Inside a Tank

Tank at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

Tom and specimen

Me holding a specimen from the tank at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

Inside of Tank 2

Tank at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology

And I also learned about some of the technologies that are utilized by fisherman including those similar to what we will use by the Henry Bigelow on our upcoming research mission.

Example net

Technologies that are utilized by fisherman including those similar to what we will use by the Henry Bigelow

More tech examples

Technologies that are utilized by fisherman including those similar to what we will use by the Henry Bigelow

While spending time around the dock, I took time to explore and learn more about some of the equipment that is used to gather data at sea.  Notice the NOAA environmental buoy to far left and the crane aboard the Henry Bigelow. While watching a Coast Guard Ship (with a similar crane) effortlessly load and unload these massive buoys, I couldn’t help but to start brainstorming an engineering design lesson that would help capture this really cool process.  Hopefully, ideas similar to these will continue to be developed over the next couple of weeks and will result in all kinds of new curricula for my classroom.

Tom on Buoy

Me on a NOAA environmental buoy

Crane on Bigelow

The crane aboard the Henry Bigelow

Tom and other buoys

Me in front of a row of navigational buoys

Tomorrow, we are once again set to sail out.  The past few days have allowed me to learn about the marine life that we will be gathering, the ways in which we will be doing it and has also allowed me to get to know the wonderful people I will be working with during my research mission.  To say that I am excited would be an understatement.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  As always, please feel free to leave any comments below.

Victoria Cavanaugh: Newport, Oregon Bound!, April 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Victoria Cavanaugh
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 16 – 27, 2018

MissionSoutheast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: April 12, 2018

Weather Data from My Classroom at School

Latitude: 42.3306° N
Longitude: 71.1220° W
Sea Wave Height: N/A
Wind Speed: 16 km/h
Wind Direction: SW
Visibility: 14.5km
Air Temperature: 5.6oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Personal Log

Greetings from Brookline, Massachusetts!  I am a 7th grade math teacher at the Edward Devotion School, where I have the wonderful opportunity to work with 80 creative and enthusiastic students each day.  I applied to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program as I’m eager to bring real-world math to the classroom, or maybe to bring my classroom to the real-world math. 🙂 The 7th graders are currently in the midst of our data and analysis unit, and I can’t wait to learn more firsthand about how NOAA scientists gather, graph, and analyze data.  I look forward to sharing my learning with my class, and I’m excited about to what future class projects this opportunity may lead.

Math Class Fish

Our 7th Grade Math Class Fish, Swim Shady, & the Inspiration for Our Aquaponics Garden Design Project


Previous to teaching 7th grade math in Brookline, I taught for nearly a decade in El Salvador.  I’m happy to be able to share this adventure with students there as well.

El Salvador group photo

Visiting with Some Former Students & Family along the Ruta de Flores, El Salvador

In just a few days, I will fly from Boston, MA to Portland, OR, and from there I’ll board NOAA Ship Fairweather in Newport, OR.  It was a nice surprise to learn I’d begin my journey in Newport as I first visited Oregon when I was in seventh grade myself.  From there, we’ll sail towards Southeast Alaska.

Newport beach

My Brother and I (as a 7th Grader) Visiting the Beach in Newport, OR

While aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather, I’ll be participating in a hydrographic survey, which entails working with scientists to measure and describe oceanic features that can affect maritime navigation. According to NOAA,  “Alaska’s charts are in need of updating, especially in the Arctic region where some soundings date back to the work of Captain Cook in the 18th century.”  Conducting a hydrographic survey of the region is especially important because many towns and villages in Alaska are reachable only by boat or plan, so accurate and updated navigational charts will benefit all who live and travel through the area.

One aspect of the Alaska Hydrographic Survey Project, I’m eager to witness is the way in which scientists, technicians, and cartographers utilize some of  the same geometry and algebra concepts we’ve been studying in seventh grade math this year in their work aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.


Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Fairweather’s home port is Ketchikan, Alaska, which will also be where I’ll disembark at the end of my trip.


NOAA ship Fairweather, in front of its namesake, Mt. Fairweather. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Dana Kosztur: Unexpected Visitors, April 11, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Kosztur

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

April 5-18, 2018

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 11, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Lat: 29° 54.7331′ N Long: 087° 12.1562′ W
Air Temperature: 22.5°C (72.5°F)
Water Temperature: 21.29°C (70°F)
Wind speed: 5.8 knots (6.7mph)
Conditions: blue sky, flat seas

Science and Technology Log

This week I have learned a lot about the reef fish studied in this SEAMAP survey. I have learned how to weigh the fish and take various length measurements. I have also learned how to examine the gonads and distinguish a male from a female.  I can now properly remove the otolith bones from the otic capsule that is located at the base of the fish’s skull.


We have had some unusual catches that have provided great learning experiences as well.  The bandit reel caught a sharksucker on the line as it returned. This fish belongs to the Remora family.  It attaches to sharks and other marine animals. This was a really unusual creature to observe.

Dana and shark sucker

TAS Dana Kosztur displays a sharksucker captured on the bandit reel.

The camera arrays had fireworms hitch a ride to the deck from the bottom of the gulf. These guys look like large spikey caterpillars. They have venom in their bristles that can cause a painful sting.  


This fireworm hitched a ride on a camera array.

Personal Log

Today was a beautiful day.  The water is such a beautiful blue.  The sky was cloudless last night so I finally got to look at the stars.  The night sky seems much more vast and bright away from the light pollution on land.  The stars are amazingly bright. I am enjoying life on the ship but I do miss home. I have a greater respect for those that work away from home for long periods of time.  Teamwork and a positive attitude seem to be the lifeblood of this NOAA vessel and that makes it much easier to adjust.

Did You Know?

Many birds will often land on the vessel to rest during their migration route across the Gulf of Mexico.     

Barn swallows

Migrating barn swallows

Waves transmit energy, not water.

Cow at sea

Cow at sea

Questions from students:

Why do scientists need to know what types of fish are on the reef?  

It is important to manage and maintain the reef fish species because they are often over-fished.

Scamp grouper

Scamp grouper


Tom Jenkins: Introductory Post, April 6, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Jenkins

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey

Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast

Date: April 6, 2018


Now that word is out about my NOAA Teacher at Sea selection, I am being asked many questions about my upcoming research mission.  The truth of the matter is that I am unsure exactly what to expect. While the administrators of the program have done a great job of communicating information, NOAA has many different objectives.  Even the missions, which are annual events, appear to be unique experiences as there are so many variables involved when doing research at sea.

One thing I know for sure is that almost 3 weeks out at sea seems like a long time, especially for someone that has lived in Ohio for his entire life.  Clark County, Ohio (where I teach 8th Grade Science and STEM at Greenon Jr./Sr. High School) is probably what most people think of when they think of “Midwestern living.” A mixture of agriculture and fading industry, we are a close-knit community, which is something John Cougar Mellencamp would find familiar.  While we have plenty of creeks and lakes, many of my students have never seen the ocean. I have been fortunate enough to go on a handful of cruises, but have never been at sea for more than 10 consecutive days, and those included stops along the way.  I am fairly confident I will do fine, but I am also packing motion sickness medication to be on the safe side. Fingers crossed!

Greenon Jr/Sr High School

Greenon Jr/Sr High School

I will live aboard the NOAA research vessel Henry Bigelow (Follow this link for additional information).  This 209 feet long, state-of-the-art, research vessel is likely a giant step up from what you may have seen on “Deadliest Catch.”  While it is definitely built for collecting fish and other biomass, it conducts trawl sampling (think of a long, specialized net that is dragged behind the ship).  NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow is equipped with many advanced features including a modern wet lab which allows scientists (and me!) to sort, weigh, measure, and examine the catch.  This information is then added to NOAA’s extensive database which provides our country’s scientists with valuable information regarding the status of the organisms that reside within the ocean.


NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

Another question that I am frequently asked is, “What about your students?”  The best part about this arrangement is, not only will I be immersed in authentic scientific research (which will add value to my educational practice), but the use of Google Classroom will allow my students to share my adventures from the field.  In addition to frequent online updates where I will answer questions and discuss ongoing research and associated phenomena, my students will use NOAA educational resources to learn more about our oceans and the life within them.

As I prepare to leave in a few days, I am full of emotion.  I am obviously very excited to be afforded this unique opportunity.  I love travel, adventure, and learning, so this research cruise will be a perfect fit.  I will work alongside 37 people (sailors, fisherman, scientists, and engineers to name a few) who are very good at what they do for a living.  I can’t wait to pick their brains to learn how I can incorporate their knowledge into my classroom. All of that being said, I will definitely miss both my family and my students.  I look forward to returning home and sharing my experiences with them.

Please check back over the next few weeks as I will write additional blogs regarding my NOAA Teacher at Sea adventure.  I would love to make this blog series interactive, so if you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below.