Jennifer Dean: Routine and Regulations, May 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jennifer Dean

Aboard Pisces

May 12 – May 24th, 2018

Mission: Conduct ROV and multibeam sonar surveys inside and outside six marine protected areas (MPAs) and the Oculina Experimental Closed Area (OECA) to assess the efficacy of this management tool to protect species of the snapper grouper complex and Oculina coral

Geographic Area of Cruise: Continental shelf edge of the South Atlantic Bight between Port Canaveral, FL and Cape Hatteras, NC

Date: May 13th, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 30°25.170’ N
Longitude: 80°12.699’ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: 8.4 knots
Wind Direction: 55°
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 25.9°C
Sky:  Scattered Cloud Cover

Science and Technology Log

A team on deck working to get the Mohawk, a Remotely Operated Vehicle ready to deploy
A team on deck working to get the Mohawk, a Remotely Operated Vehicle ready to deploy

It isn’t real science if it works the first time.  Isn’t this what we try to get our students to understand as they start an original long-term project or design their first experiment?  I hope as a teacher to give my students opportunities to experience set-backs, struggles, even occasional failures and develop characteristics of resilience and persistence.  Today I got the privilege to see collaboration in action, between scientists, NOAA corps officers, engineers and deck hands to overcome problems and do science. On Saturday I observed how a team worked to get the Mohawk, a Remotely Operated Vehicle, in the water and tracking correctly.  After a quick recovery from the tracking issue, the flash on a camera system became temperamental on the next deployment. These challenges reminded me that, in real science, additional troubleshooting is an on-going part of the adventure.  I watched firsthand how working on a team with multiple skill sets and ideas can make the difference in the success or failure of a mission’s goals.


Mohawk, the Remotely Operated Vehicle

Mohawk, the Remotely Operated Vehicle
Mohawk, the Remotely Operated Vehicle

This ROV carries on it both a high definition camera for video footage as well as a low definition camera that is used to overlay information about the site such as water depth, latitude/longitude and the time a photo is taken.  There is the capability to take still shots from one meter up that capture an area of approximately 7 square meters every 2 seconds.  For additional information on this ROV and to see what kind of video the instrument can capture visit the links provided. 

Stacey Harter, the chief scientist and fisheries ecologist, along with LT Felicia Drummond, seen from behind in this image, monitored the video footage and recorded and observed species such as barracuda, lionfish and gag fishes.
Stacey Harter, the chief scientist and fisheries ecologist, along with LT Felicia Drummond, seen from behind in this image, monitored the video footage and recorded and observed species such as barracuda, lionfish and gag fishes.

As the video footage streamed in the fisheries ecologists worked to identify fish species, corals and sponges.  I  liked these special keyboards that were modified for quicker entry of more commonly found species.  As the ROV dropped onto the ocean floor a variety of fish from Gags to Scamps to angelfish came into view.  While two scientists identified fishes others distinguished between corals and sponges. Names were being called out like “Red Finger Gorgorian” coral, “Clathrididae” and “Tanacetipathes.”



these special keyboards that were modified for quicker entry of more commonly found species

Stacey Harter, the chief scientist and fisheries ecologist, along with LT Felicia Drummond, seen from behind in this image, monitored the video footage and recorded and observed species such as barracuda, lionfish and gag fishes.  I was amazed by the clarity and color in the images.




Personal Log

My first day on Pisces began with a beautiful sunrise and a chance to take a quick picture before we left the dock.  I was also able to explore the Skybridge and spotted several pods of dolphins on our way out to the Marine Protected Areas.  Images below are captioned to explain the Welcome Aboard meeting and other events of the morning and early afternoon on my first day at sea.  Most of the morning involved learning some of the safety features of the ship including practicing for three types of emergencies- fire, abandon ship and man over-board.  Although I have a smile on my face in the picture, I realize the serious nature of practicing for the unexpected and it reminded me of our school shooting drills; that although rare and unlikely to happen, are still a necessary drill to routinely engage in and practice for, in order to expect quick responses that can make the difference in saving lives later.

The canister I am holding provides enough air for two to three minutes to escape from a situation that involves fumes from fire.  I now know where my survival suit, life jacket and my assigned life boat is located and have practiced getting into both my life jacket, survival suit and can quickly navigate to the location of my assigned life boat.  This task may seem simple, but I still find myself confused on whether to turn right or left after coming down stairs and looking at doors and walkways that all resemble each other.


LT Jamie Park delivers the Welcome Aboard meeting in the Galley on Pisces
Safety training involves finding and putting on your assigned survival suit and finding a life boat


Sunrise at Mayport Naval Station, May 12th
Pisces at Mayport Naval Station May 12th right before departure


Fact or Fiction?

Lionfish consume over 50 other species of fish and have spines that can sting releasing a venom into a person’s bloodstream that can cause extreme pain and even paralysis.

To find out more and the answer visit the link below

Mr. Todd Walsh explains how the multibeam bathymetry works

What’s His Story?  Mr. Todd Walsh

The following section of the blog is dedicated to explaining the story of one crew member on Pisces.

What is your specific title and job description on this mission?
Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician

How long have you worked for NOAA?  What path did you take to get to your current position?
10 years. Todd took classes that gave him a strong background in math and science in high school. This foundational work allowed him to continue into college in the medical field.  He later became interested in land management and dendrology which led him to take more STEM related classes at night school exposing him to a variety of engineering content and hydrology.  Later he was recruited by NOAA and accepted his first position with NOAA out of Alaska.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
He likes being able to integrate a group’s (like scientists) needs with his ability to satisfy their aims and missions.  His least favorite is being away from his family.

What science classes or other opportunities would you recommend to high school students who are interested in preparing for this sort of career?  Todd recommends being strong in your physical sciences and that taking your math classes are key to doing well in this sort of career.

What is one of the most interesting places you have visited?
Midway Island, Johnston Atolls and being up on the Arctic circle

Has technology impacted the way you do your job from when you first started to the present?
He gets to play with fun tools.  He noted that automation has really changed the requirements and skills needed for the job.

I want to say a big thank you to Todd for answering all my questions and even playing some classic rock and roll during my mapping lessons that went till midnight.



41 Replies to “Jennifer Dean: Routine and Regulations, May 13, 2018”

  1. So what IS the difference between corals and sponges and what’s the difference in how they look?

    1. ROV has collected coral and sponge samples. It is used to gather video footage for data that will be processed later. everything is coded and timed. Collections are done based on finding certain species of coral or sponge of interest to the deep coral ecologists on the team

    1. nice youtube clip- it felt a bit like that last night when we hit stormy weather- my roommate commented that ‘this must have been what it felt like in the TItantic’ …think it was probably a bit more extreme but..

    1. Two ROV operators- and I will be interviewing them soon for a future blog- Jason White and Eric Glidden

  2. That’s great Ms. Dean! I find the ROV quite interesting as it can take pictures and videos as well as take in the depths and latitude and longitudes. That is also quite a beautiful sunset you took a picture of. I hope you are having fun and learning a lot. Have you seen any changes in the coral reefs since you have been there?

    1. The relief and amount of porosity in them varies; some areas have more or less of certain coral species that they are interested in- we collected Swiftia- which is very pretty underwater. There seems to be a big difference in the color appearance underwater vs. when it is brought topside to the lab. Texture is also difficult to guess….one coral brought up looks wispy and soft underwater and more like clipping off a spruce tree when out of water. These are deep water reefs….about 50 meters on average..

  3. What was the condition of the MPA when you were looking at the footage from the Mohawk ROV? Was there a lot of life, or did it seem to be lifeless?

    1. Lots of life- but at one site it was kind of interesting that there was more right outside of it vs. inside- and other anomalies that may or may not be significant where there was lots of fishing line debris- in the MPA and not outside it- apparently enforcement of the MPA areas is a huge issue

  4. While looking through the footage from the Mohawk, the Remotely Operated Vehicle, what was the range of fish species and other species that you saw? Did the species have a large variety of appearances, like color, shape, etc.

    1. I haven’t looked at total species numbered- or diversity- but I will ask the data manager- her ability to process data and her use of Access by Microsoft to create organization out of information is amazing. in 2 dives we created 24,000 records- the video footage taking on this 2 week trip will take- according to Stacey Harter the chief scientist- about a year to go through. I took pics out of the field guides of fish I wanted to learn the names of that I saw on one dive- and there were at least 20…all colors and sizes- i would say for certain species there are more juveniles. the equipment is relatively noisy – so larger critters like sharks and sting rays – that hang out in the sand aren’t seen very often- because we are going along the rubble rock bottom. We are seeing fish such as white grouper, graysby, coney, hog fish, tons of Tomtate- and the list goes on.

  5. Wow, the footage from the Mohawk looks amazing! Is it controlled automatically or does someone directly control it? Also, does Mr. Todd Walsh think that physics or chemistry is a more important science class?

    1. They control it topside- I will take better pictures and have arranged to interview the two ROV operators- they just have been really busy but today when are spending the entire day in travel- so I should be able to ask them more questions. If you look at the pics in the blog carefully- he has a joystick like device that he navigates with a four screens giving him information on topography and the path chosen by the scientist. Todd works nightshift – so I will ask him when he is awake- but for his position he’d probably say physics- but that is in college. In high school they are all overwhelmingly saying to get a broad and deep knowledge of the science basics- biology, chemistry and physics

    1. My favorite part is learning all this new information and hearing the vocabulary word and even some of the APES laws being used in every day conversation- last night Dr. John Reed brought up the Magnusen-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act in explaining the requirements of the research and decision making to be based on science. Currently I am looking forward to our next stop at Oculina near Cape Canaveral…because the swaying boat and huge waves last night left me feeling queasy this morning…..I like it when we are anchored and the ROV is out getting footage- love seeing what is under the surface on the ocean floor.

      1. That’s so cool and I’m glad that some APES terms are coming up! It looks like you’re having a lot of fun but the seasickness doesn’t sound too great.

      2. No sea sickness anymore….and never got sick…just queasy the first few mornings.

  6. This project work seems very interesting and fun spending time with other scientists. I have one question, How is the Mohawk moved around underwater?

    1. The ROV operators are topside with a joystick like controller; Mohawk is tethered to the ship. I am going to be interviewing the two ROV operators today or tomorrow–see details from them soon under the blog I think I am calling ship operations; he has 4 windows up- one with video of ocean floor live feed; one with topography from the multibeam sonar that he is following a particular path outline by the chief scientist; another with gyroscope and other depth/salinity/etc type info- all in front of him

  7. Looks amazing! In the case of an accident, how long are you expected to live in the survival suit while floating in the water before help comes?

    1. Well it depends upon the ocean temperature you get immersed in-hypothermia protection up to 6 hours is what I found on a website- and found this quote on NOAA’s site
      “When tested on a thermally insulated manikin, the OC8001 and OC8001 HR exceeded 0.96
      Immersed Clo in stirred water. This level of immersion protection provides approximately ten
      hours of survival time in 32º
      F water temperatures.” at this link
      But it depends on other factors- like the body weight, fat content, exercise and actions prior to immersion as well.

  8. Wow! The ROV is fascinating and reminds me of those remote operators they send to outer space. It’s insane how much technology is being used nowadays; for science and leisure. My question is , have you worked with any of these peers on other science investigations? If so, what was the investigation for?

  9. That sunset looks amazing! I just wanted to let you know that the AP tests went smoothly. The FRQ was easier than I expected but I wish that I had more time on the multiple choice section. On the pisces, what time does the research start, and do you follow the same schedule every day?

  10. Is there ever a condition where they tell you to not grab your survival suit when the ship sinks? Or is it one of those things where you need to grab it at all costs?

    1. you only grab survival suit if the ship is going done- better to be on the ship then not for survival; with that said there are always exceptions- i imagine if you are in a warm water location and close enough to the shore- you wouldn’t need one

  11. This seems really fun! Just wondering, do, do you ever get seasick? Also, while you were looking through the video footage that was taken from the ROV, did you see any creatures that you haven’t seen before?

  12. How long did safety training take? I would imagine that it was fairly extensive, but couldn’t take that much time because of how long you were there.

  13. Is adjusting to life on the ship difficult? Was there anything on the ship drastically different from what you are used to at home?

  14. I know that the latin root pisc- means fish, so I am guessing that that is where the name of the ship originated. Do you know the backstory to naming the ship?

  15. Beautiful sunrise Ms. Dean! How long does it take you to get into the survival suit?

  16. The survival suit looks like it was engineered to be the most well equipped suit you could have if there was an emergency! Do you know what features were in it to keep you and others safe?

  17. Very interesting! One thin I am curious about though, have NOAA researchers ever had an emergency that would warrant using emergency protocol before?

  18. I like how you connected your practice drills to our own practice safety drills. Also, how long do these drills take? Our school ones are put into action pretty quickly, is it the same kind of quickness and panic?

  19. What would be the plan if the ROV got dissconected? Would you just leave it or is it possible to get it back?

  20. I understand you have only interviewed a few people, but what would your ideal job be if you were forced to work on the boat?

  21. How confusing is the ship to navigate through (with all the hallways and doors), and how well do you know it?

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