NOAA Teacher at Sea
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.