Emily Cilli-Turner: One Fish, Two Fish….Pollock Counting Techniques July 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Cilli-Turner

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 24 – August 11, 2018

 

Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date: July 29, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 57° 10.46 N

Longitude: 171° 58.29 W

Wind Speed: 11.16 knots

Wind Direction: 77.54° (NW)

Air Temperature: 10.1° C (Manual Reading from the Bridge)

Barometric Pressure: 992.7 mb

Visibility: 6 nautical miles

Sea Wave Height: 3 feet

Sky: Overcast

 

Science Log:

How do the scientists aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson estimate the number and biomass of pollock in the Eastern Bering Sea? By using the science of statistics, of course! When political strategists want to determine what percentage of voters support a specific candidate or issue, they take a sample from the population of all registered voters. Voters in this sample are then asked about their preferences and statistical techniques are employed to extrapolate the results from the sample to the entire population and measure the margin of error.  Similar statistical techniques are employed by the scientists on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, but as you can imagine it is more difficult to sample pollock than voters that can be called on the phone!

Before each pollock survey begins, a set of transects is created for the Eastern Bering Sea.  These transects are paths for the ship to follow along which the scientists sample the pollock.  As you can see below, the transects for this survey are a fixed distance apart and cover the entire area of interest.  Generally, the transects are straight lines created to be perpendicular to the ocean depth grade. This allows for the scientists to encounter a variety of species as well as different ages of pollock to gain a robust picture of the ocean life in the area.

transect

The transects for this survey leg can be seen as the straight lines. The other markings are places where the trawls have been done and other scientific instruments have been deployed.

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson follows the transects during daylight hours, continuously recording water column acoustic backscatter data using EK60 instruments mounted on the bottom of the centerboard.  Scientists monitor the backscatter images, and when they observe sufficient pollock or other fish aggregations they  use the trawling nets to take a random sample of the fish and other ocean life they observed.  The trawling net is 140 m long with a vertical mouth opening of 25 m and horizontal mouth opening of 35 m. The net is deployed from the back of the ship and dragged at a fixed depth for an amount of time determine by the lead scientist to ensure a large enough sample. Once the trawling net is hauled in, the sample of marine fish and invertebrates is processed in the wet lab and entered into a database. Later the pollock numbers and weights by length are combined with  recorded acoustic data to create a robust estimate of the pollock population in the Eastern Bering Sea.

After the catch comes in, the first job in processing the sample is to sort the specimens from the trawling net.  The first part of the net to come in is called the pocket net. This small net, also called a recapture net,  has a fine mesh and is designed to capture small species such as krill, age 0 pollock and jellyfish which slip through the meshes of the large trawl.  After the pocket net is processed, we process the codend, the closed end of the net and the main section where larger fish enter and are captured.  The fish in the codend are sorted by species.  The scientists can choose to measure the length of all the pollock in the haul or, if it is a particularly large catch, split the haul and measure length of a subsample of pollock.  Other species are also identified and their length is measured for later estimates of the total biomass that pollock make up as compared to other species.  Smaller species such as krill are weighed in aggregate instead of individually.

codend

The codend of the trawling net.

Sample analysis consists of measuring the lengths of approximately 200-400 adult pollock in the catch using the magnetic length board.  This is just one of the numerous software and instruments created by the MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) group at NOAA in Seattle to make analysis easier and more automated.  The length distribution of the adult pollock helps scientists determine the approximate age distribution of pollock in the sample and it also helps them compare this distribution to other samples taken in the Eastern Bering Sea.  A subsample of about 50 pollock from the haul is taken to get more in-depth measurements. From these pollock, we measure both the length and weight and a subsample from the 50 is taken to determine the gender, measure maturity (i.e. what stage in the life cycle the pollock is at), and collect the otolith (ear bone), which gives a more accurate measurement of the pollock’s age.

Personal Log:

At this point, I am getting used to life at sea and have a nice routine.  The beginning of my shift, from 4am to a little past 7am, starts at sunrise and during which we resume our path along the transect.  No trawling operations are conducted at night, but there is still excitement.  If the underwater acoustics show that the pollock are at an appropriate depth, we can go pole fishing off the boat.  NOAA scientist Mike Levine is interested in post-capture mortality of pollock and the feasibility of tagging pollock.  Thus, he would like to catch pollock using a fishing pole, which puts much less stress on the pollock and increases the chance of their survival after the catch, instead of the trawling nets.

fishing

NOAA scientist Mike Levine with a pollock caught with a fishing pole.

As an instructor of mathematics, I have little knowledge of fish biology, but the scientists are great teachers!  I have been given a crash course on fish anatomy using specimens from the catch and I have learned how to sex the fish as well as how to collect the ovaries and the otoliths (ear bones).  If you asked me a week ago if I ever thought I would know so much about pollock after just a couple days on board, I would have laughed.  It has been great being the student and being able to learn so much in such a short time with real hands-on experience!

Did You Know?

Most of the personnel that are responsible for piloting and maintaining the ship are part of NOAA Corps, which is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

Meredith Salmon: CTDs and Cribbage! July 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.34°N

Longitude: 64.14°W

Air Temperature: 28.16°C

Wind Speed:  17.34 knots

Conditions: partly sunny  

Depth: 5060.32 meters

Science and Technology Log

Understanding the physical properties of seawater such as temperature, salinity, and depth are important parameters for studying ocean processes. Fortunately, A CTD is an acronym for an electronic instrument that is used on research vessels to measure three important factors: conductivity, temperature, and depth. These data points are key exploration components used aboard the Okeanos Explorer.

 

Conductivity is a measure of how well a solution conducts electricity and it is directly related to salinity. When salinity measurements are combined with temperature readings, seawater density can be determined. This is crucial information since seawater density is a driving force for major ocean currents.

 

The CTD itself is housed in a steel container and is surrounded by a ring of plastic bottles. These water sampling bottles can be individually triggered at various depths to collect water samples allowing scientists to analyze water at specific depths at a particular place and time. The entire structure is connected to a rosette that is lowered by a hydrographic winch crane, and this rosette is capable of making vertical profiles to depths up to 6,800 meters.  

ctd 3

CTD unit aboard the Okeanos Explorer

 

Features in the deep ocean such as hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes are associated with changes in chemical properties of seawater, so CTDs are used to measure chemical and physical properties associated with these structures. For instance, changes in water temperature may indicate the presence of hydrothermal vents or volcanoes. Since these features are located in deep waters, a CTD will be raised and lowered throughout the water column as the ship moves over the survey area. Although a CTD cast has not been completed on our expedition, these procedures require effective communication between scientists in the lab and the hydrographic crane operator. Scientists in the lab can monitor the CTD measurements in real time in the lab, and communicate depth for water capture in the rosette bottles to the crane operator. Once back on board, scientists can retrieve the water samples from the bottles and take them into the lab for further analysis.

ctd1

CTD rosette complete with water sampling containers

Personal Log

We have continued to map the survey area, load XBTs, and take sunphotometer readings throughout the course of the week. Since they are few and far between, everyone looks forward to turns. The entire turning process requires effective communication with the bridge and survey team and can take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

SISTurn

A turn pictured in the Seafloor Information System (SIS) program

Aside from waiting for turns, we have been playing daily trivia or bingo as well as card games including cribbage! Since the cribbage tournament is underway, we have been practicing, playing, and watching other games. There have been some serious upsets and victories so the finals are going to be interesting for sure.

Okeanos Cribbage Tournament Bracket

Okeanos Cribbage Tournament Bracket

cribbage tournament

Savannah vs. Charlie!

cribbage 6

Fernando vs. Christian!

We learned that we are heading back to Norfolk for dry dock towards the end of July so we will need to stop surveying soon to transit back to Virginia. It is crazy to think that we only have a couple more days at sea!

double rainbow.jpeg

A double rainbow seen from the boat deck!

 

Double Rainbow

Savannah, Sally, and I enjoying the view!

Did You Know?

Some CTD instruments are so fast that they measure the conductivity, temperature, and depth 24 times each second! This provides a very detailed description of the water being tested.

Resources: 

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/ctd.html

https://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Water/CTD.html

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard The Okeanos Part I, July 23, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

 

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.34°N

Longitude: 64.14°W

Air Temperature: 28.16°C

Wind Speed:  17.34 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5060.32 meters

 

Brian Caldwell

Brian has a true passion for exploration and science, so being part of the NOAA Corp is a perfect fit for him. Brian has an extensive educational background and enjoys advancing his knowledge about the ocean. Prior to NOAA, Brian worked as a civilian mariner for a sail training program. He served as both a captain and educator and taught non-traditional education courses about the ocean. In addition, he worked on the NOAA ship Rainier as a wage mariner.

 

Brian began his schooling at Miami Dade College and earned an Associate’s degree in Biology. He then attended Georgetown University and majored in Biology with a minor in Physics. During his time at Georgetown, he was the captain of Georgetown Sailing Team. Upon graduation, Brian continued his schooling and started his graduate degree abroad at the University Of Wales School Of Ocean Sciences.

 

After 9/11, Brian honorably served in the United States Army for ten years. He completed eight combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and even conducted additional graduate work in Military History and a program in Italian Studies. After his commendable involvement with the military, Brian applied and was accepted to the NOAA Corp. Once he graduated from Basic Officer Training at the Coast Guard Academy, he began his career with NOAA. He is now working on the Okeanos and continues to be fascinated with ocean exploration and discovery. Brian loves adventure and travel, so he considers himself very fortunate to be able to experience both while working at sea. Brian has learned that it is important to be flexible in life and never stop learning.

brian interview pic

ENS Brian Caldwell

 

Angela Hung: Fortitude, July 23, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Angela Hung

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 27-July 5, 2018

 

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 23, 2018

 

Weather Data from Home

Conditions at 2101

Latitude: 41.54°N

Longitude: 87.53°W

Temperature: 21° C

Wind Speed: N 3 mph

 

Science and Technology Log

Back at home but there’s still so much to share! I’ll wrap up my amazing experience as a Teacher at Sea by introducing three more members of the NOAA Ship Oregon II family: Alonzo Hamilton, Executive Officer Andrew Ostapenko and Commanding Officer Captain Dave Nelson. At the start of my adventure, I wrote about flexibility. The Teacher at Sea Program also stresses that cruises “require high-intensity work that demands physical adeptness, endurance, and fortitude”. These three exemplify how fortitude, the ability to endure through life’s challenges and change, brings rewards throughout life.

 

Fishery Biologist Alonzo Hamilton

Alonzo Hamilton, left, and Taniya Wallace, right, enter species into FSCS.

Alonzo Hamilton, left, and Taniya Wallace, right, enter species into FSCS.

Alonzo Hamilton has been a fishery biologist for 34 years! He likes to say that he stumbled into NOAA. He graduated from community college before enrolling at Jackson State University, a historically black university in Mississippi with a full scholarship. Actually, he was offered two scholarships, one for minority biomedical researchers to become a surgeon and the other for general studies. He arrived on campus to discuss his options in the science department. It turned out that the biomedical research scholarship was given to another recipient. On the bright side, it made the decision to accept the general studies funding much simpler. Now he had to make a choice of which field to pursue. As he explored the halls of the science building, he happened upon the office of the head of the marine science program and popped in to ask some questions. After learning about the program, he decided to apply his scholarship toward coursework in this field.

After college, he began working on a research project for the Navy which paid for a master’s degree. Soon after, President Reagan froze research funding for the Navy. Fortunately, Alonzo was tipped off that NOAA did very similar research with an active, albeit smaller budget. So began a 34 year career as a NOAA fishery biologist.

Being an African American scientist in the deep south came with challenges, but he reminded his supervisors and others around him that, “I won’t limit myself to your box”, which has carried him through a long and storied career. Today, he is happy that he gets “paid to play in the ocean”, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

 

Executive Officer (XO) Andrew Ostapenko

Andrew Ostapenko

Andrew Ostapenko

Most of the NOAA Corp officers you meet have a degree in science. I had the fortune of sailing with one of the few who doesn’t— the XO, LCDR Andrew Ostapenko. XO has a degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. His goal was to become a lawyer, but after considering the job prospects and the lifestyle—”no one ever calls lawyers when they are happy”, and they never retire —he looked into some other options. In 2005 he applied for the NOAA Corps. Although he didn’t have a science degree, the general education requirements at the University of St. Paul, which included calculus, chemistry and physics, met the NOAA Corps requirements.

Since joining NOAA, LCDR Ostapenko has held a variety of assignments. In Maryland he managed budgets and projects for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Weather Service that provides forecasts for the nation. He worked in small boat life cycle management as a Port engineer/small boat officer in Norfolk, Virginia, disseminating policies across the NOAA fleet.

His sailing experience began on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson which performs hydrographic surveys that map the oceans to continuously update and improve nautical charts. He was a member of the first crew on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, accompanying her from Wisconsin where she was built to her homeport of San Diego. Last but not least, XO has been an augmenting officer for three months on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, another fisheries survey vessel based in Alaska where high seas and storms are a part of a normal day’s work.

NOAA assignments are three years for shore tours and two years for sea tours. LCDR Ostapenko currently has about a year left with Oregon II. As XO shows, there is no danger of getting stuck in mundane office job as a NOAA Corps officer.

 

The Captain

Captain Dave Nelson of NOAA Ship Oregon II

Captain Dave Nelson of NOAA Ship Oregon II

“Lunch is on me!” invites the captain if you arrive to the galley after him. Captain Dave Nelson is the commanding officer (CO) of NOAA Ship Oregon II, and he’s gone a long way to realize that title. This is his 10th year as the captain of Oregon II, but he’s worked onboard since 1993. He refers to himself as a “hawsepiper”, urging me to look it up on the internet. Informally, it means to have started at the bottom as a deckhand and working up to becoming a captain. Captain Nelson is a Mississippi native and grew up shrimping and fishing with his dad. After high school he went to work on commercial boats that bring supplies to oil rigs. After over a decade, he felt that he needed a plan for the future– a stable pensioned job. He serendipitously stopped into the NOAA office as he was driving by on a day that someone had just quit and there was an opening to fill. The rest is Oregon II history.

The progression as a civilian begins with being a deckhand and progressing to Chief Boatswain. It takes 750 days at sea to qualify for the first license, the 3rd Mate license administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. It then takes 1100 more days to be eligible to test for the Masters license to become a captain. In 2008 the prospective captain lived in Seattle on a NOAA ship for 12 weeks for a prep course for the Masters exam. At this point, it’d be almost 30 years since he had been a student; not only did he have to learn the material for the test, he also had to learn how to study again.  Soon-to-be Captain Nelson committed seven days a week for the entire 12 weeks to study and reviewing material to pass. He knew he wanted it.

CO Nelson’s joking attitude belies the pressure of being the captain of a ship. It’s a tremendous responsibility because he is accountable for everything, particularly the safety of everyone onboard. Every decision is made or approved by the captain and he sends reports to his supervisors every day.

He is one of a few captains in the NOAA fleet who is a civilian; most NOAA Commissioned officers rotate between boats every two years. This means that he is always training the new officers joining Oregon II from ensigns like Andy Fullerton and Chelsea Parrish to XO’s like Andrew Ostapenko. It takes a lot of patience; everyone comes in with different strengths, weaknesses and of course, personalities. The key, he says, is to “treat people like people” no matter who they are.

 

Personal Log

I somehow made it through almost three weeks living on Oregon II without falling down any stairs or tripping and landing on my face over a bulkhead door. Sure enough, it was hard to fall asleep at home without the rocking of the boat, but I’m happy to have my own shower again.

I’m so excited to show my students photos of so many of the things that I cover in class, or that they ask about, such as starfish regenerating lost arms and a video of wiggling tube feet on a severed arm (I accidently broke it off). I imagine they’ll also get to see critters they haven’t imagined-arrow and calico crabs, triggerfish, batfish…

A sea star that is regenerating its lower right arm.

A sea star that is regenerating its lower left arm.

I can’t believe how much I learned in such a short time about life and work at sea, careers, seafood, NOAA and its online resources. What I’ve shared in blogs is such a small fraction of everything I’ve experienced. I’m extremely grateful to everyone on Oregon II for being so welcoming and friendly, and for being so willing to speak with me. Although there were some setbacks, I got the chance to visit the lab and meet the wonderful scientists who showed me around. It’s hard work, but everyone agrees that it’s meaningful, rewarding and exciting.

Since coming home, my colleagues have commented that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity; that thought has crossed my mind as well. But watching everyone work, this is the everyday life of NOAA crew. I can’t help but think how few decisions it might have taken, maybe only 2-3 different choices, that might have made this my regular life too.

 

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Oregon II earned the Gold Medal Award for rescuing three people off the coast of Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast. (This is where NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is located.) In 1998 when Captain Nelson was still a deckhand, he was woken from sleep between his watches. At about 2:30pm, a small overturned boat was spotted with a man, woman, and young girl on top. Captain Nelson was a small boat driver then; he launched a boat from Oregon II to rescue them and bring them to the Coast Guard.

NOAA Ship Oregon II earned the Gold Medal Award in 1998 for rescuing three people off of the coast of Florida.

NOAA Ship Oregon II earned the Gold Medal Award in 1998 for rescuing three people off of the coast of Florida.

Captain Dave surmises that they left port in Miami almost 200 miles south and got swept up in the Gulf Stream, a strong current of water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows to Canada, affecting the climate even to Europe. It can create choppy conditions that capsized their boat.

The Gulf Stream is visible in red as it carries warm water from the south into the northern Atlantic. Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Stream#/media/File:Golfstrom.jpg

The Gulf Stream is visible in red as it carries warm water from the south into the northern Atlantic. Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Stream#/media/File:Golfstrom.jpg

They were extraordinarily lucky; the ocean is vast so the chances of Oregon II coming by and being spotted were slim. Their boat was too small to be detected by radar; if it had been dark, they might have been run over. Those are three people who are alive today because of NOAA Ship Oregon II.

David Knight: Musings from Mission Viejo, July 28, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Knight

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 10-23, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey

Geographic Area: Southeastern U.S. coast

Date: July 28, 2018

Weather Data from Mission Viejo, California:

Latitude: 33.64°
Longitude: 117.62°
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft
Wind speed: 4 kts
Wind direction: 90
Visibility: 10 nm
Air temperature: 29.0
°C
Barometric pressure: 758 mm Hg
Sky: Clear

The past few days back home have given me a chance to share my experiences as a NOAA Teacher at Sea with family and friends and to enjoy some slime and scale free days in southern California. I no longer have the picturesque sunrises and sunsets, but I don’t have to climb down a ladder to get out of bed anymore. I am so grateful that I was selected to be a Teacher at Sea this season and that I had an opportunity to learn from and work with some fantastic people.

SEFIS 2018 Leg 2 Track Line

NOAA Ship Pisces route for SEFIS Survey, July 10 – 23, 2018 (image from Jaime Park)

My experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea greatly exceeded my expectations and has reinvigorated me as a teacher. From the first full day on NOAA Ship Pisces, I was having fun learning about and collecting data that are used to create models of fish populations.  The techniques the NOAA scientists taught me not only allowed me to contribute to their research in a small way, but it gave me an opportunity to collect data that I can immediately integrate into my classroom.  My students will be able to analyze salinity, temperature, and pressure changes as depth changes, as well as biological data such as fish length, weight and age using tissue samples I was able collect while a Teacher at Sea.  Furthermore, I was also able to learn about the men and women that serve as officers in the NOAA Corps, engineers, and deck crew, without whom the scientists would be unable to gather the necessary data. Meeting these dedicated men and women and learning about the mission of NOAA will allow me to help my own students know about career opportunities in marine biology and STEM fields. Every day was an opportunity to learn and I am eager to share my experience and knowledge with my future students as well as my colleagues in Irvine.

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I want to thank Nate Bacheler and the entire NOAA science group for not only teaching me how to extract otoliths and ovaries, but for answering my many questions and including me in everything. Whenever I asked if I could help out in some way I always got a, “Sure, let’s show you how to get that done.” I truly had a blast getting slimed by flopping fish.  I also would not have learned so much about the NOAA Corps and the mission of NOAA without being able to freely go to the bridge and engage with the officers on duty. They too were willing to tell me the story of how the came to be NOAA Corps officers and answered my questions ranging from navigating and the propulsion of NOAA Ship Pisces to college majors and family-life.

IMG_6706

View from a bow hawsehole. (photo by David Knight)

 

 

 

 

Michelle Greene: Acoustics Team…Do You Hear What I Hear?

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Michelle Greene

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

July 19 – August 3, 2018

 

Mission: Cetacean Survey

Geographic Area: Northeast U.S. Atlantic Coast

Date: July 24-25, 2018

 

Latitude: 40° 2.629″ N

Longitude: 67° 58.954″ W

Sea Surface Temperature: 23.3° C (73.9° F)

Sailing Speed: 1.80 knots

 

Science and Technology Blog:

Today I had the opportunity to shadow the acoustics team in the dry lab.  The acoustics team uses a linear array or a prototype tetrahedral array of hydrophones to listen to the sounds that whales and dolphins make under the water.  So far in this journey, the team has only used the linear array.  The array has been towing behind the ship with the “line” of hydrophones parallel to the surface of the water about 10 meters below the surface.

Linear array of hydrophones

Linear array of hydrophones

The hydrophone is the black device in the cable

The hydrophone is the black device in the cable

When the array is deployed, the acoustics team uses a computer software called PAMGuard to record the sounds and track the clicks and whistles of whales and dolphins.  PAMGuard can be programmed to record sounds in any frequency range.  On this cruise, acoustics is looking at sounds up to about 100,000 hertz.  A human being can hear from about 20 Hz to about 20 kilohertz with normal human speech frequency between 1,000 Hz and 5,000 Hz.  The optimal hearing age for a person is approximately 20 years of age and declines after that.

Beaked whales click at a frequency too high for human hearing; however, PAMGuard can detect the clicks to help the acousticians possibly locate an animal.  PAMGuard produces a real-time, time series graph of the location of all sounds picked up on the array.  A series of dots is located on a continual graph with the x-axis being time and the y-axis being bearing from the ship. The array picks up all sounds, and PAMGuard gives a bearing of the sound with a bearing of 0° being in front of the ship and a bearing of 180° being behind the ship.  The ship creates noise that is picked up by all the hydrophones at the same time, so it looks like a lot of noise at 90°.  The acousticians must sift through the noise to try to find click trains.  Rain and heavy waves also create a lot noise for the hydrophone array.  The acoustician can click on an individual dot which represents a sound, and then she can see a Wigner plot of the sound which is a high resolution spectrogram image of the sound.

A screenshot of a spectrogram from PAMGuard

A screenshot of a spectrogram from PAMGuard

Scientists have determined what the Wigner plot image of a beaked whale sound should look like.

Wigner plot of a True's beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) or a Gervais' beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)

Wigner plot of a True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) or a Gervais’ beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)

 

Wigner plot of a Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

Wigner plot of a Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

When a Wigner plot image looks to be a possible Mesoplodon, the acoustician starts tracking a click train on the time series graph in hopes of getting the sound again.  If the acoustic signal repeats, the acoustician then adds it to the click train.  Each time the acoustician adds to a click train, the bearing to the new click is plotted on a graph.  The array cannot calculate the actual location of an animal, so a beam of probability is plotted on a chart.  Then the acoustician uses the angle of each click in a click train to determine a possible location on the port or starboard side of the ship.  If the click train produces a sound that can be localized with the convergence of beams to a certain point, the acoustician can call the visual team to look on a particular side of the ship or ask the bridge to slow down or turn in a certain direction.  Mesoplodons have average dive times of between 15 and 20 minutes and foraging dive times of up to 45 minutes, so there is a time delay between getting the clicks and seeing an animal.

PAMGuard map of a sighting of a beaked whale

PAMGuard map of a sighting of a beaked whale

The objective of this cruise is to find the occurrence of beaked whales, but PAMGuard does not record just beaked whale clicks, so several other whales and dolphins are heard by the array.  Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have clicks that can be heard by the human ear with an average frequency of 10 KHz.  Sperm whales have a synchronized click train.  It can be thought of as “click click click click…” with about 0.5 to 1.0 second between each click.  Scientists believe the clicks are used for echolocation.  Since it is very dark in the ocean and light does not travel far underwater, sperm whales use their clicks as sort of flashlight for locating food which usually consists of squid.  When a sperm whale senses the location of food, it produces a rapid series of clicks called a buzz.  After the buzz, the animal makes a dive.  If the dive is not successful, in other words the whale did not get food, then clicks return to their normal pattern until another attempt is made.  Clicks are also used for social interaction between sperm whales.  Sperm whales have been very vocal on the cruise so far.

Personal Log

I have been spending my days rotating between the visual sighting team and the acoustics team.  Even when I am not scheduled to be there, I am in acoustics.  I find listening to the sounds very interesting.  I had no idea whales made clicking sounds.  I knew dolphins whistled, but clicking is not a term I was familiar with until this cruise.  We have had several episodes where many dolphins will go by the ship.  When that happens, the whole plot in PAMGuard almost turns black from all of the dots on the screen.  It is amazing to hear all of the clicks and whistles from the dolphins.  My favorite whales right now are sperm whales.  I can now look at the screen and see the clicks and know it is a sperm whale.  I get so excited.

Getting a Mesoplodon click train is like watching a whale lover’s version of Storm Chasers.  When a possible Mesoplodon click train is detected, everybody gets excited in hopes of seeing a beaked whale.  I can really understand how the visual sighting team relies on the acoustics team to find a location.  We have two people on big eyes and two people on binoculars, and the ocean is all around us.  We have a high probability of missing a Mesoplodon, so having the acoustics team getting a click train with convergence in a certain direction helps to focus the visual sighting team in sighting an animal.  The reverse idea is also true.  When the visual sighting team sees a Mesoplodon, they call down to acoustics to see if a click train can be detected.

Life aboard the Gordon Gunter has been a real classroom for me.  I think I learn something new about every five seconds.  Since I have been out of college, I have not dealt with biological sciences much, so this math teacher is relearning some key information about marine animals.  I have really enjoyed seeing the passion in everyone’s eyes for the beaked whales.  When we get a sighting of a beaked whale on the flybridge, everyone rushes to that side of the ship in hopes of just getting a glance at the elusive creature.  When we get a Mesoplodon click train, the acousticians get really excited.  One evening, we got a sustained click train for a Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens).  One of the acousticians was not in the dry lab, so I went to try and find her with no luck.  She was really upset when she returned, because she had not been there to see it.  I hope to develop that kind of passion in my students, so they can become great thinkers about life in their futures.

Did You Know?

  1. Even though Moby Dick was a fictional sperm whale, real life event inspired Herman Melville to write the novel.  Check out this page on those events:  https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mobydick.html.
  2. Sperm whales use an organ in the front of their head, something called the spermaceti organ, to make their clicking sounds.  Check out this PBS article: http://www.pbs.org/odyssey/odyssey/20010809_log_transcript.html.

Animals Seen

  1. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)
  2. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)
  3. Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
  4. Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus)
  5. Manta ray (Manta birostris)
  6. Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)

Vocabulary

  1. (Ocean) Acoustics – the study of how sound is used to locate whales and dolphins and how whales and dolphins communicate
  2. Bridge – the room from which the boat can be commanded
  3. Click train – a series of whale clicks
  4. Dry lab – a lab that primarily uses electronic equipment such as computers
  5. Echolocation – a process used by whales and dolphins to locate objects.  A whale will emit a pulse, and the pulse then bounces off an object going back to the whale.  The whale can then determine if the object is food or something else.
  6. Flybridge – an open platform above the bridge of a ship which provides views of the fore, aft, and sides of a ship
  7. Hertz – a measure of sound frequency.  For example, when you hear someone singing in a low (or bass) voice, the frequency of the sound is low.  When someone is singing in a high (or soprano) voice, the frequency of the sound is higher.
  8. Hydrophone – a microphone that detects sound waves under water
  9. Spectrogram – a visual representation of a sound
  10. Wigner plot – a high resolution spectrogram

Meredith Salmon: Tour of the Bridge, July 20, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

 

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 29.01°N

Longitude: 61.56°W

Air Temperature: 27.7°C

Wind Speed:  13.91 knots

Conditions: Sunny  

Depth: 5288.3 meters

Science and Technology Log 

The NOAA Corps is composed of professionals trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines. Corps officers are responsible for operating NOAA’s ships, flying aircraft, managing research projects, conducting diving operations, and serving in leadership positions throughout NOAA. Officers are trained for effective leadership and command whether it be at sea or on land. After successfully completing NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Program, the newly trained officers report for their first two-year sea assignment aboard one of  NOAA’s 16 ships. Upon reporting aboard their ships, they will be assigned watch standing responsibilities and tasked with various collateral duties (i.e., Damage Control Officer, Imprest Officer, Navigation Officer, Morale Officer, etc.).

A typical navigational bridge watch consists of two four-hour shifts (ex. 0800-1200 and then 2000-2400) with eight hours in between to work on collateral duties. While on watch, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) is stationed on the bridge (vessel’s room from which the ship can be commanded) and accompanied by an able-bodied seaman acting as lookout or helmsman, and often times a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) who is training for their OOD qualification. The OOD has earned the trust of the Command and is a direct representative of the Commanding Officer, having responsibility for the ship while the CO is not on the bridge.

The Bridge

The Bridge aboard the Okeanos Explorer

Safe navigation is the top priority. Before each change of the bridge watch, it is essential that clear, specific communication has been passed to the oncoming OOD and watchstanders to ensure the oncoming watch are aware of changes regarding navigation, traffic, weather, operations, etc.

Weather Log

Hourly position, weather, and sea conditions are logged aboard the Okeanos Explorer to show trends in meteorological conditions.

Charts

Nautical charts used to record hourly location coordinates (a.k.a. fixes)

The marine radar equipment located on the bridge of the Okeanos Explorer is crucial for carrying out safe navigation operations while underway. Radar instruments are mandatory systems for collision avoidance. The bridge watch rely on radar to successfully identify and track the precise positioning of vessels and aids to navigation out at sea. Radar uses rotating antennas that transmit and receive electromagnetic waves.

S and X Band Radars

Marine radars on the Okeanos Explorer are either X (10GHz) or S (3GHz) band frequencies. Since X-band radars have higher frequencies, they are used to generate a sharper image and resolution; whereas, the S-band radars are used for long-range identification and tracking. The X-band radars pick up weather conditions and small targets and are best used for close ranges (12 mile or less). The S-band radars are very useful in rainy or foggy weather conditions and help identify objects that located farther away (24 mile range or greater). It is especially important to use these radar systems to determine if impending vessels are in the area. The radars are equipped with an AIS (Automated Information System) feed. The AIS tool allows the user to acquire additional information about vessels in the vicinity about the size and type of the vessel, speed, course, distance of the closest point of approach (CPA) and time to CPA.

Steering Stand

The steering stand is used to direct the ship by controlling the rudder and can be put in different modes such as autopilot or manual. This piece of equipment has two gyrocompass inputs (or feeds) to provide accurate heading by determining “true north”. The gyrocompass is an instrument that relies on the use of a continuously driven gyroscope to accurately seek the direction of true (geographic) north. It functions by seeking an equilibrium direction under the combined effects of the force of gravity and the rotation of the Earth.

Steering Stand

Steering stand on the Okeanos Explorer

A magnetic compass is an instrument containing a magnetized needle that reacts to the Earth’s magnetic field by pointing to magnetic north. The magnetic compass on the Okeanos Explorer is housed in a binnacle that uses mirrors to project the compass that is located on the flying bridge. It is important that the magnetic compass is far away from electronics to prevent interference from occurring.

Magnetic Compass

Magnetic compass binnacle

Gyrocompass

Master gyrocompasses

The gyrocompass repeater (pictured below) is mounted on the bridge wings and displays directional information on the basis of electrical signals received from the master gyrocompass. Repeater compasses are designed to receive and indicate the true heading transmitted electrically from the master gyrocompass.

Repeater for gyrocompass

Repeater for gyrocompass

ECDIS

Electronic Chart Display and Information System, known as the ECDIS, is a computer-based navigation system that requires the use of electronic charts, sensors, and radars to offer an alternative to paper charts. ECDIS is an effective tool that allows navigators to plan and monitor routes that even include waypoints and tracklines. On this expedition, we use ECDIS along with a computer programming system known as Hypack to plan survey lines 180 nautical miles in length. Once the precise lines are created on Hypack, they are saved on a flash drive and transferred to the bridge so the person navigating the ship has the exact lines and coordinates necessary to steer the ship and obtain accurate data and overlap. ECDIS eases navigators’ workloads due to its automatic capabilities such as route planning, route monitoring, and automatic ETA.  ECDIS provides many other sophisticated navigation and safety features, including continuous data recording for later analysis. 

Propulsion controls

The propulsion controls located below the ECDIS computer monitor are known as the “sticks”. These throttles control the two fixed pitch propellers under the hull. In case of an emergency, control can be shifted to the engineers in the main control space, and the engine order telegraph (E.O.T) can be used to communicate desired speed.

ECDIS

ECDIS (pictured on the computer screen) is used to view lines created in Hypack

 

Dynamic Positioning System

Although this system is not being used on this particular cruise, the dynamic position system is designed to hold the ship in a precise position exclusively using thrusters. This system is used primarily for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) casts, and during Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) cruises when the “vehicles,” Deep Discoverer and Seirios, are in the water.

Dynamic Positioning

Dynamic Positioning (DP) System

Marine Propulsion equipment

Okeanos Explorer is equipped with bow and stern thrusters to help maneuver the vessel and hold station while in DP. In its raised position, the bow thruster is used in tunnel mode, but it can also be lowered to allow it to rotate 360 degrees for better control. The two stern thrusters are in fixed positions and work simultaneously in tunnel mode.

bridge 4

 

Generator Mimic

This screen displays information about the four diesel generators that are used to power the Okeanos Explorer. Three generators are online while the remaining one is used as a backup in case of emergencies. This system provides information about which generators are currently being used, the cylinder temperatures to ensure that the engines are not overheating, and alarms that indicate any potential malfunctions. The engineers abroad conduct daily maintenance to keep these engines in tip-top shape.

Generator Mimic

Generator Mimic

 

Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)

The GMDSS is a distress and radio communication system that can relay a variety of important information. This system reports weather forecasts for the navigation area approximately every six hours and includes tsunami alerts, boat reports, and ship to ship messages to ensure the safety of all vessels out at sea.

GMDSS

Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)

 

Personal Log

Cribbage is a card game that can be traced back to the 18th century and has been popular in the U.S. Navy since World War II. Traditionally, the game is played by two players and each player tries to form various counting combinations of cards to earn points. Score is kept by inserting pegs into holes arranged in rows on a cribbage board and the first person to reach 121 points wins. Since there is going to be a cribbage tournament aboard the Okeanos Explorer, we learned the rules of the game tonight and completed a bunch of practice rounds. We are going to make a winners and losers bracket and start the tournament this week!

Cribbage

Cribbage champions

Cribbage

Practicing Cribbage!

 

Did You Know?

Compasses are affected by nearby ferrous materials or electromagnetic fields. When they are placed on the vessels that have high metal contents, they have to be corrected and calibrated. That is done with the use of built-in magnets fitted within the case of the compass.

Resources: 

https://www.google.com/search?q=cribbage+navy&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS759US759&oq=cribbage+navy&aqs=chrome..69i57j0j69i60j0l3.6401j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

http://www.historyofcompass.com/compass-facts/interesting-facts-about-compass/