Justin Garritt: Preparing to Sail, September 1, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Justin Garritt

(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

September 2-15, 2018

Geographic Area of Cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 1, 2018

About My School and I:

My name is Justin Garritt and I teach mathematics in Baltimore City at KIPP Ujima Academy. KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program and is a nationwide charter school network. Most of the 224 KIPP schools serve in communities that have been historically left behind. My awesome middle school serves the best 750 5th through 8th graders in the world. Sadly, due to recent budget cuts throughout our city, science programs have been cut. Three years ago, our school reduced our students’

KIPP Ujima Academy
2017 Day 1: KIPP Ujima Academy in Baltimore

access to science in half. Students now only receive science for half the year. Many of our world’s most important problems require amazing and informed scientists and our kids have to be a part of those solutions. As a mathematics teacher who has the privilege of having my students for double the time of our science team, it is crucial that I make cross-curricular connections to science in my classroom. As a lifelong learner, I can’t wait to get on board a National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) ship so I can investigate new and creative ways to infuse all the research I will be doing into my curriculum. I can’t wait for students at my school to see me working among the most talented scientists in the world. I can’t wait for my students at my school to picture themselves someday working as scientists with NOAA and solving our world’s most important problems that involve our precious environment. I can’t wait for my future students to get excited when learning statistics, scaling, and ratios with actual data I collected while sailing in the Pacific.

 

To My Baltimore and New York Supporters:

For those of you reading from Baltimore or my hometown, let me tell you a bit about what I am doing.

Last Fall I was sent information about a program called the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association Teacher at Sea Program (NOAA TAS) from a friend and mentor of mine, Amy Wilson. She knew how much I loved ships, water, and exciting adventures and thought I would be interested in this unique experience that could benefit my students and school. NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program gives K-12 teachers across the country insight into our ocean planet & increases understanding of earth system science through real research projects. Teachers are paired with wonderful scientists across a variety of ecosystems across the planet in order to learn from them so they can take back their knowledge gained to their school communities. Fast forward six months and here I am sailing aboard a NOAA ship named Bell A. Shimada. It sails from Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon and conducts scientific experiments throughout its journey. I will be writing about these over the next few weeks. Throughout the trip we will be using scientific equipment and techniques that I never knew existed. I will be studying and learning about things I never heard of. I will be working side by side with scientists to learn their exact roles. I will be interviewing people throughout the ship about what a career is like on board a NOAA ship. The whole time I will be posting updates and pictures on this blog. I hope you will join me on this journey.

When I return to KIPP Baltimore, I hope that I will be better equipped to create epic math lessons that are grade level and common core aligned but infuse the data I collected on board Bell A. Shimada. I hope my ratios and proportions unit and my statistics unit come alive for my future scholars. I hope that I can teach my students about the incredible careers involving science with the NOAA so that a few consider it for their life path. Personally, I hope I can be more educated on some of the most pressing environmental issues the future of our world faces.

Although I am nervous about my lack of scientific knowledge, I am so excited to participate in this once in a life time opportunity for myself and my future students back in Baltimore.

The next time you will hear from me, I will be off the coast of Seattle surrounded by water, scientists, and fish.

Justin

 

Stephen Kade: Shark On! August 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: Southeastern U.S. coast

Date: August 29, 2018

 

Scientific Journal

Shark On!” was the shout from the first person that sees a shark hooked to the long line that was being hauled up from the floor of the ocean. I heard this phrase often during the first leg of the long line Red Snapper/ shark survey on the NOAA ship Oregon II. We began fishing in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida. We traveled north to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and back south to Port Canaveral over 12 days this summer.

hauling in the long line
Oregon II scientific crew, Chief Boatswain, and skilled fishermen hauling in the long line.

During our long line deployments each day, we were able to catch, measure, tag and photograph many sharks, before returning them to the ocean quickly and safely. During these surveys, we caught the species of sharks listed below, in addition to other interesting fish from the ocean.  This blog has scientific information about each shark, and photographs taken by myself and other scientists on board the Oregon II. The following information on sharks, in addition to scientific data about hundreds of other marine wildlife can be found online at the NOAA Fisheries site: http://fisheries.noaa.gov.

Great Hammerhead Shark-  Sphyrna mokarran  Hammerhead sharks are recognized by their long, strange hammer-like heads which are called cephalofoils. Great hammerheads are the largest species of hammerheads, and can grow to a length of 20 feet. The great hammerhead can be distinguished from other hammerheads as they have a much taller dorsal fin than other hammerheads.

Great hammerhead
Great Hammerhead in cradle for data collection and return to sea.

When moving through the ocean, they swing their broad heads from side to side and this motion provides them a much wider field of vision than other sharks. It provides them an all around view of their environment as their eyes are far apart at either end of the long hammers. They have only two small blind spots, in front of the snout, and behind the cephalofoil. Their wide heads also have many tiny pores, called ampullae of Lorenzini. They can sense tiny electric currents generated by fish or other prey in distress from far distances.

 

The great hammerhead are found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide, and inhabiting coastal areas in and around the continental shelf. They usually are solitary swimmers, and they eat prey ranging from crustaceans and squid, to a variety of bony fish, smaller sharks and stingrays. The great hammerhead can bear litters of up to 55 pups every two years.

Nurse Shark- Ginglymostoma cirratum Nurse sharks are bottom dwellers. They spend their life in shallow water, near the sandy bottom, and their orangish- pinkish color and rough skin helps them camouflage them. At night they come out to hunt. Nurse sharks have short, serrated teeth that can eat through crustaceans such as crabs, urchins, shrimp, and lobsters. They also eat fish, squid, and stingrays. They have two feelers, or barbels, which hang from either side of their mouth. They use their barbels to search for prey in the sand. Their average adult size is 7.5- 9 feet in length and they weigh between 160-230 lbs. Adult females reach a larger size than the males at 7- 8.5 feet long and can weigh from 200-267 lbs.

Nurse Shark
Nurse Shark- Ginglymostoma cirratum

Nurse sharks are common in the coastal tropical waters of the Atlantic and also in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This species is locally very common in shallow waters throughout the Caribbean, south Florida to the Florida Keys. Large juveniles and adults are usually found around deeper reefs and rocky areas at depths of 10-250 feet during the daytime and migrate into shallower waters of less than 70 feet deep after dark.

 

Juveniles up to 6 feet are generally found around shallow coral reefs, grass flats or mangrove islands in shallow water. They often lie in groups of forty on the ocean floor or under rock ledges. Nurse sharks show a preference for a certain resting site, and will repeatedly go back to to the same caves for shelter or rest after leaving the area to feed.

Tiger Shark- Galeocerdo cuvier  Adult Tiger sharks average between 10 -14 feet in length and weigh up to 1,400 lbs. The largest sharks can grow to 20 feet and weigh nearly 2,000 lbs. They mature between 5 and 10 years, and their life span is 30 years or more. Tiger sharks are named for the brown stripes and patches they have on their sides when they are young. As they get older, they stripes eventually fade away.

 

They will eat almost anything they come across, and have been referred to as the “garbage cans of the sea”. Their habitat ranges from shallow coastal waters when they are young, to deep waters over 1,500 feet deep. They swim in shallow waters to hunt lobster, squid, fish, sea turtles, birds, and smaller sharks.

tiger shark
10.5 foot Tiger shark caught and returned by NOAA ship Oregon II. photo by Will Tilley

They migrate with the seasons to follow prey and to give birth to young. They swim in cool waters in the summer, and in fall and winter they migrate to warm tropical waters. Their young grow in eggs inside the mother’s body and after 13 months the sharks hatch. The mother gives birth to a litter of 10 – 80 pups. Their current status is currently Near Threatened.

 

Stephen Kade
TAS 2018 Stephen Kade returning sharpnose shark to ocean.

Sharpnose Shark- Rhizoprionodon terraenovae Atlantic sharpnose sharks are small for sharks and have a streamlined body, and get their name from their long, pointy snout. They are several different shades of gray and have a white underside.  Atlantic sharpnose sharks can grow to up to 32 inches in length. Atlantic sharpnose sharks have been observed to live up to 18 years. Females mature at around 2 years old in the Atlantic when they reach approximately 24 inches in length. Atlantic sharpnose sharks are commonly found in the western Atlantic from New Brunswick, Canada, right through the Gulf of Mexico. They are commonly caught in U.S. coastal waters from Virginia around to Texas.

Sharpnose shark
Sharpnose shark

Atlantic sharpnose sharks eat small fish, including menhaden, eels, silversides, wrasses, jacks, toadfish, and filefish. The lower and upper jaws of an Atlantic sharpnose shark have 24 or 25 rows of triangular teeth. Atlantic sharpnose sharks mate annually between mid-May and mid-July in inshore waters, and after mating, they migrate offshore to deeper waters.  They also eat worms, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks.

 

Sandbar Shark- Carcharhinus plumbeus.  The most distinctive feature of this stocky, grey shark is its huge pectoral fins, and long dorsal fin that increases its stability while swimming. Females can grow between 6 – 8.5 feet, and males grow up to 6ft. Its body color can vary from a blue to a light brown grey with a pale white underside. The sandbar shark lives in coastal waters, living in water that is 20 to 200 feet deep. Rarely is its large dorsal fin seen above the water’s surface, as the sandbars prefer to remain near the bottom. It commonly lives in harbors, lagoons, muddy and sandy bays, and river mouths, but never moves into freshwater. The sandbar shark lives in warm and tropical waters in various parts of the world including in the Western Atlantic, from Massachusetts down to southern Brazil.

Sandbar shark
Sandbar shark tagged, measured, weighed and ready to go back after photo.

The sandbar shark spends the majority of its time near the ocean floor, where it looks continuously for prey, such as small fish, mollusks, and various crustaceans. Their main diet consists largely of fish. Sandbar sharks give birth to between 1 and 14 pups in each litter. The size of the litter depends on the size of the mother, with large females giving birth to larger litters. Pregnancy is estimated to last between 8- 12 months. Females move near shore to shallow nursery areas to give birth. The females leave coastal areas after giving birth, while the young remain in the nursery grounds until winter, when they move into warmer and deeper water.

 

 

Fun Fact- Remoras, or shark suckers, live in tropical oceans around the world. They have a rigid oval- shaped sucker pad on top of their head that it uses to attach itself to sharks and rays. It is symbiotic relationship where both animals gain something from their temporary union. Remoras mouths are at the top front of the body so while attached to a shark’s body, they do their host a favor by nibbling off skin parasites. They can also eat scraps of leftover food the shark leaves behind while they also enjoy a free ride. The shark gains a day at the spa for a body scrub, and can rid itself of parasites in a way it couldn’t have before!

Personal Journal

It was certainly an unforgettable experience being able to work with the scientific and fishing team for this shark survey. The opportunity to see and handle these sharks up close for two weeks has informed me of so many interesting things about these wonderful and vital members of the ocean.  I can now take this information and share it first hand with students in my classroom, and members of my community. I also want to work to bring a positive awareness to these vital members of the ocean food web so they can thrive well into the future. As an artist, this trip has been invaluable for me, as now I’ve seen the how colorful and varied sharks are and other various anatomy details you just can’t see in books or television. This new awareness will help to make my future paintings more accurate than before.

Michelle Greene: Meet the Beakers, July 26, 2018

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 26, 2018

 

Latitude: 40° 0.989″ N

Longitude: 67° 30.285″ W

Sea Surface Temperature: 22.1° C (71.8° F)

Sailing Speed: 4.65 knots

 

Science and Technology Log

Premier marine ecologist Dr. Robert Pitman is a member of our cruise.  He works at the NOAA Fisheries at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division.  He has traveled the world in search of cetaceans, turtles, flying fish, and seabirds.  Currently he is doing extensive work with killer whales.  Dr. Pitman has viewed almost all of the 80 plus species of whales known to man; however, seeing some of the Mesoplodon beaked whales in person has been elusive… until now.  Dr. Pitman gave an excellent presentation on the different species of beaked whales that we might to see in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)

Blainville's Beaked Whale
Blainville’s Beaked Whale

The Blainville’s beaked whale was first identified by Frenchman Henri de Blainville in 1817 from a piece of a jaw.  The average length of a Blainville’s beaked whale is 4.4 meters.  The most prominent feature of the whale is a high arching jaw. Blainville’s beaked whales have scars from raking which heal white.  Males are very aggressive and proud.  Dr. Pitman stated, “They want a pair of horns but only have a pair of teeth.”  They leave deep scars with their pairs of teeth, because they will savagely charge each other.  Sometimes barnacles will settle on their teeth.  The head of a Blainville’s beaked whale is flat to expose the teeth.

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

Cuvier's Beaked Whale
Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

The Cuvier’s beaked whale was first identified by Frenchman Georges Cuvier from a skull in 1823.  The skull had a large cavern in the head which was the reason for the name cavirostris (cavi means hollow or cavernous in Latin).  Cuvier’s beaked whales also go by the name of goose beaked whale.  The whale can grow to a length of seven meters.  Cuvier’s beaked whales have the most variable coloration.  Some Cuvier’s will be grey in color while others may be reddish brown in color.  They have white sloping melons.

Gervais’ Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)

Gervais' Beaked Whale
Gervais’ Beaked Whale

The Gervais’ beaked whale was first identified by Frenchman Paul Gervais in 1855.  The average size of a Gervais’ beaked whale is 4.8 meters.  The prominent feature of the Gervais’ beaked whale is the vertical striping along its back along with a dark band just behind the melon.  A white circular spot is located just below the melon.  The dorsal fin is dark.  The male Gervais’ beaked whale has one set of teeth located about one-third of the way back from the tip of the beak.  Males turn dark and lose their striping with age.  Males also rake each other; however, scars from the encounters re-pigment a darker color.

Sowerby’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon bidens)

Sowerby's Beaked Whale
Sowerby’s Beaked Whale

The Sowerby’s beaked whale was first identified by Englishman James Sowerby in 2804.  The average size of a Sowerby’s beaked whale is 5.5 meters.  They are one of the few whales that have a long beak.  Males have one pair of teeth that are located about two-thirds of the way back from the tip of the beak (or rostrum).  Males have make scratch marks along their backs; however, since the teeth are positioned so far back, scratch marks are from just one tooth and not a pair which would create parallel tracks.  Scientists believe the scarring is due to male competition.  The dorsal fin is located approximately two-thirds of the way along the back.  These whales are not very aggressive and more than one male will be seen in a group.  These animals do not usually travel alone unless it is a male.

True’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon mirus)

True's Two
True’s Beaked Whale Photographed on Our Cruise
True's Beaked Whales
True’s Beaked Whales

The True’s beaked whale is the dominant subject of study of this cruise.  The True’s beaked whale was first identified by American Frederick True in 1913.  Due to his excitement over his discovery of the marine mammal, he named it mirus, which means wonderful in Latin.  A True’s beaked whale can grow to be about 5.4 meters.  The identifying features of a True’s beaked whale include: a dark band behind the melon, a large light spot behind the dark band, a pale melon, two tiny flippers, dorsal fin that is small and triangular,  and for males two tiny teeth at the front of the rostrum.  These whales will have paired parallel scarring because their teeth are so close together.

 

Personal Log

First and foremost, I am in awe every day at the different things I see in nature on this cruise.  I have seen so many birds that I cannot remember one from the other… not to mention the dolphins.  I did not know there were so many kinds of dolphins.  I watched the television series “Flipper” when I was a little girl, and now I can say I have seen a bottlenose dolphin in person.  I think the scientists get almost as excited as I do about seeing an animal even though they have probably seen them hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  Nature is always amazing no matter how many times you see it.

During Dr. Pitman’s presentation, I was captivated by the way he spoke about the whales like they were his best friends he had known forever.  I found out why.  He has spent most of his life studying them.  Dr. Pitman is an amazing resource for me on this cruise.  Being a marine mammal observer newbie, Dr. Pitman took the time to answer all of my questions about whales.  I really value the conversations I have had with a famous whale lover.

The weather has not been ideal for marine mammal observation for several days.  If the swell is too high, it makes it hard to see the animals, because they can breach in the waves where we cannot see them.  The fog also makes it difficult to see the animals, and it is not safe on the flying bridge if it is raining.  During times of foul weather, the scientists are busily working on projects except for the seabirder.  The seabirder sees several birds during foul weather.  The chief scientist, Dr. Danielle Cholewiak, has assembled an international crew of scientists who are as passionate as she is about beaked whales.

During the foul weather when people are not working on other projects, the galley is place to be.  The scientists have taught me how to play a card game called Peanut.  It is a wild version of a multiplayer solitaire.  I am usually pretty good at catching on how to play card games, so learning another game was fun.  It gets fast and furious, and you cannot be faint of heart.  The first person to 100 wins, but the person with the lowest score which can be negative also gets to be the winner of the lowest score.  Sometimes even a NOAA Corps officer will join in on the excitement.  All kinds of fun happens on board the Gordon Gunter!

One of the best experiences I have had so far on this cruise is talking with the crew.  They are from all over the country and take their work very seriously.  As different NOAA Corps officers on board get promoted, they may not stay with the Gordon Gunter and may move to other ships.  Most of the crew, however, sticks with the Gordon Gunter.  I thought when we went on the cruise that we were basically going on a “fishing” trip to watch whales and dolphins and no machinery would be on board.  Oh how I was wrong!  There are several pieces of heavy machinery on board including a crane and a wench.  The boatswain is in charge of the anchors, rigging, and other maintenance including the heavy machinery.  Boatswain is not a term I was familiar with before this cruise.  The word is pronounced like “Bosun” not “Boat Swain.”  Boatswain Taylor is the first one I see in the mornings and last one I see at night.  He works tremendously hard to make sure the “work” of the ship is done.

 

Did You Know?

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Marine Mammal Program created a beaked whale identification guide.  Check out the website: http://vertebrates.si.edu/mammals/beaked_whales/pages/main_menu.htm

Animals Seen

  1. Audubon’s Shearwater Bird (Puffinus iherminieri)
  2. Barn Swallow Bird (Hirundo rustica)
  3. Blue Shark (Prionace glauca)
  4. Brown Booby Bird (Sula leucogaster)
  5. Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
  6. Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
  7. Cory’s Shearwater Bird (Calonectris diomedea borealis)
  8. Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
  9. Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
  10. Great Shearwater Bird (Puffinus gravis)
  11. Leach’s Storm Petrel Bird (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)
  12. Parasitic Jaeger Bird (Stercorarius parasiticus)
  13. Pilot Whale (Globicephala)
  14. Pomarine Jaeger Bird (Stercorarius pomarinus)
  15. Portuguese Man O’war (Physalia physalis)
  16. Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps)
  17. Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus)
  18. Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus)
  19. Spotted Dolphin (Stenella frontalis)
  20. South Polar Skua Bird (Catharacta maccormicki)
  21. Sowerby’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon bidens)
  22. Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
  23. Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
  24. True’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon mirus)
  25. White-faced Storm Petrel Bird (Pelagodroma marina)
  26. Wilson’s Storm Petrel Bird (Oceanites oceanicus)

Vocabulary

  1. Barnacles (balanus glandula) – sticky crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters that permanently stick themselves to surfaces
  2. Blowhole – similar to “nostrils” in humans which sits on top of the head to make it easier for cetaceans to breath without breaking their swimming motion.
  3. Dorsal fin – a fin made of connective tissue that sits on the back of a whale believed to be used for balance, making turns in the water, and regulating body temperature
  4. Fluke – a whale’s tail is comprised of two lobes made of tough connective tissue called flukes which help it move through the water
  5. Melon – an oil-filled sac on the top of a beaked whale’s head that is connected it vocal chords.  The melon helps the whale to make clicks which help it to find food.
  6. Rostrum – snout or beak of a whale
  7. Winch – a machine that has cable that winds around a drum to lift or drag things

 

Photograph References

“Beaked Whale Sets New Mammalian Diving Record.” The Guardian. 27 March 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/27/beaked-whale-new-mammalian-dive-record

“Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon denisrostris).” NOAA Fisheries: Species Directory.  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/blainvilles-beaked-whale

“Gervais’ Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon europaeus).” NOAA Fisheries: Species Directory. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/gervais-beaked-whale

“Sowerby’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon bidens).” Ocean Treasures Memorial Library: The Legacy Continues.   http://otlibrary.com/sowerbys-beaked-whale/

Photographs of True’s beaked whales taken by Salvatore Cerchio.  Images collected under MMPA Research permit number 21371.

 

Martha Loizeaux: Cool Science Tools and Drifter Buoy! August 26, 2018


Meredith Salmon: An Incredible Adventure! July 31, 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

Date: July 31, 2018

Latitude: 36.85°N

Longitude: 76.28°W

Air Temperature: 28°C

Wind Speed:  4.2 knots

Conditions: Cloudy

Personal Log 

We returned to Norfolk this morning and successfully completed our expedition! It is definitely bittersweet to be concluding our work at sea since our team aboard the Okeanos was comprised of such wonderful people. We grew to be really close and truly enjoyed each other’s company.

 

Norfolk
Returning to Norfolk!
norfolk 1
Headed under the draw bridge on our way to the shipyard.

 

These past couple weeks at sea have been an incredible experience and I am excited to share what I have learned with the Peddie community. Being aboard the “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration” and mapping a region of the seafloor that has not been studied yet was a very exciting opportunity as both a scientist and educator. I plan on creating and teaching a Marine Science elective during the Spring of 2019.  Data collected from the expedition will be utilized to design classroom activities, laboratory experiments, and cross-curricular materials that directly relate to the research completed. Students will understand the importance of exploration and be encouraged to discover, inform, and educate others about the ocean. Since the Okeanos is equipped with telepresence capabilities, I will be able to stream seafloor images, ROV dives, and interviews from sea in my classroom. Having students directly engaged with those completing research in real time will enable them to make associations between the ocean and their local ecosystems to put the research into context.

I really enjoyed meeting everyone aboard and listening to their stories. Since these vessels require 24/7 operations, many people worked very hard over the course of the expedition to ensure that everything was going as planned. The crew, stewards, engineers, NOAA Officers, scientists, and explorers in training were very willing to share their knowledge, insights, and experiences.  I respect their dedication and flexibility while at sea and I am very grateful to have met such awesome people! This experience was definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career and I am very inspired to know that no matter where in the world the Okeanos is located, everyone aboard is committed to understanding the wonders of the unknown ocean.

Okeanos MAPPING TEAM!
The Okeanos Explorer Mapping Team
norfolk 3
Some of the Mapping Team navigating the shipyard!
Okeanos at Norfolk
This photo of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was snapped by the mother of one of the Senior Survey Techs! She was waiting for us to arrive the morning of the 31st and got this shot on the drawbridge!

 

Okeanos inbound Norfolk
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer inbound to Norfolk, VA. [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN] [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN]

Meredith Salmon: Deciphering the Data! July 30, 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

Date: July 30, 2018

Latitude: 35.27°N

Longitude: 73.24.°W

Air Temperature: 27.5°C

Wind Speed:  18.17 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny  

Depth: 3742.65 meters

Qimera is a hydrographic processing software that was used during this expedition. This computer program allows scientists to edit and process the survey line data as it was being collected. 

Qimera Survey Area
The survey area 200 nautical miles off the coast of Bermuda projected in Qimera. Warmer colors indicate depths close to 4,000 meters while the cooler colors represent deeper regions up to 5,500 meters.

To successfully edit incoming multibeam data, it was necessary to isolate a specific section of the line and use Qimera’s 3D Editing Tool. The 3D Editing Tool was utilized to remove outliers that skew the data.

Essentially, each colorful point in the diagram below is a sounding from the multibeam sonar. The soundings are return signals that bounce back and reach the receivers on the sonar. When scientists are previewing and editing data, certain points are considered outliers and are rejected. The rejected points are shown as red diamonds in the diagram below. Once the edits are made, they are saved, and the surface is updated.  

3D editor qimera
Examples of a data set being processed by the 3D Editing Tool in Qimera. The red dots are rejected points that will not be included when the data is completely processed.

It is especially important to ensure that we are collecting as much data as possible as we continue to survey this area. In order to accomplish this, factors such as required resolution, sea state, water depth and bottom type are used to determine line plans.  By partially overlapping lines, we ensure there is quality data coverage on the outside beams. More overlap tends to mean denser, high quality coverage which will allow our team to develop accurate maps of the seafloor.

Qimera Survey Area
Side view of a section of the survey area projected in Qimera. The warmer colors indicate depths around 4,000 meters while the cool colors indicate depths closer to 5,500 meters.

Another program that was used to process data was known as Fledermaus. This interactive 4D geospatial processing and analysis tool is used to reproject Qimera projects as well as export the Daily Product that was completed and sent onshore where it is publicly available. We also projected the edited data on Google Earth (see below) and would include this in the Daily Product that was sent to shore as well.

Google Earth view
The survey and transit lines are displayed in blue, while previously mapped areas of the seafloor are shown in green.

 

Personal Log

Now that we have left the survey area, we are transiting back to Norfolk and still collecting and processing data. We are scheduled to arrive early on the 31st and a majority of us will depart that evening. Since we are still collecting return transit data, it is still necessary for processing to occur. Although we’ve been working diligently, we still like to make time for fun. On Friday night, we hosted a Finer Things Club Gathering complete with fancy cheese, crackers, sparkling apple juice, and chocolate! It was great! On Saturday, we played the final cribbage tournament game as well as other board games, and on Sunday we had an ice cream party!

Finer Things Club
The Mapping Team hosts a Finer Things Club Meeting complete with sparkling apple juice, crackers, cheese, and chocolate!
Finer Things
Our fancy spread of gourmet snacks!
final match
Charlie and Mike in the FINALS!
ice cream social
Sundaes on Sunday!

 

View of calm seas
Super calm seas on the way home!
Calm Seas
Calm Seas

 

Did You Know?

One of the first breakthroughs in seafloor mapping using underwater sound projectors was used in World War I.

Resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/03fire/background/mapping/mapping.html

Meredith Salmon: Remarkable ROVs, July 25, 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

Date: July 25, 2018

Latitude: 28.37°N

Longitude: 63.15°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  9.7 knots

Conditions: partly sunny  

Depth: 5236.01 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

Since the Okeanos Explorer is known as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration,” it is equipped with two important vehicles that allow scientists to study normally inaccessible ocean depths. Deep Discoverer (D2) is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that is mechanically designed with software and video engineering programs that generate precise images and videos. A total of nine cameras, including a Zeus Plus camera with impressive zoom capabilities, produce high-definition images that give scientists and those on shore insights about deep-sea ecosystems. The 9,000 pound ROV contains approximately 2,400 feet of intricate wiring as well as specially designed Kraft predator hand that can hold up to 200 pounds. The hand is especially useful for deep-sea sampling and allows scientists to bring certain organisms to the surface for further analysis. D2 can dive up to 30 meters per minute and is designed to withstand pressures almost 600 times that at sea level.  

Deep Discoverer
Front view of the Deep Discoverer featuring the Zeus Plus Camera
Side view of D2
Side view of D2 (Check out the intricate wiring and size of the circuit board!)
Rear view of D2
Rear view of D2

D2 does not operate alone during the eight-hour dives. Instead, it relies on assistance from Seirios, another 4,000-pound machine known as a camera sled. This device is powered and controlled by the Okeanos Explorer and offers the pilots and scientists a wide-angle perspective as they navigate the ocean floor. Seirios is tethered to the Okeanos Explorer and illuminates D2 from above to allow for increased visibility. The frame of this machine is relatively open which increases the distance cameras can be separated from the mounted lighting. This design reduces the light that reflects off particles in the water (optical backscatter) and results in high-quality images.

rov7
This camera sled, known as Seirios, is used to illuminate D2 during ROV dives.

All of the deep ocean images and video collected by D2, Seirios, and the Okeanos, can be transmitted to the rest of the world by satellite. The Okeanos is fitted with telepresence technology that enables everyone involved in the operation to provide scientific context to the public. The ability to broadcast this exciting information requires effective collaboration between the Engineering Team, NOAA ship crew, and scientists both onboard and onshore. It is amazing that anyone with Internet connection can be involved the expedition and science in real time.

Mapping Team
The Mapping Team learning about Seirios!

 

Personal Log

In order to make it back to Norfolk on time for dry dock, we will have to finish our mapping our survey area on the 27th. In the meantime, we have been continuing to process data, collect sunphotometer readings, launch XBTs, and play cribbage. Our cribbage tournament will conclude on Friday night! Everyone aboard is excited about the data we’ve collected and looking forward to a successful end of the expedition.

bow picture 1
The Mapping Team was on the lookout for dolphins!
Dolphins!
Dolphins playing on the waves near the bow!
sunset photo
Another fantastic end to the day!

 

Did You Know?

The first fully developed ROV, POODLE, was created by Dimitri Rebikoff in 1953. However, it was not until the US Navy took an interest in ROVs that this unique technology became very popular. In 1961, the US Navy created the Cable-Controlled Underwater Research Vehicle (CURV).

Resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/technology/subs/deep-discoverer/deep-discoverer.html

Deep Discoverer and Seirios

Roy Moffitt: Headed Home, Cruise Summary, August 25-26, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 – Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 25-26, 2018

Past – Current – Future locations/conditions:

72.5 North latitude: This past week we had 3-4 days of below freezing temperatures (27) with snow showers

Nome, Alaska: (8/25/18) Departing temperature 51 and cloudy

Contoocook/Hopkinton, NH: First day of school Tuesday (8/28/18)- Forecast 94 degrees Mostly Sunny (did I mention we don’t have air conditioning in New Hampshire?)

 

Ashore and I am headed back to NH

After completing our work in our most Northern point stop, we steamed back to Nome with just one more set of measurements on the way back, then had one final day of travel. It was sunny on the first day back but rougher seas than we had experienced thus far.

Rough Seas
Rough Seas

There were estimated 8-12 ft waves and some even larger that crashed over the Healy. To the right is a picture that I captured of the bow during this portion of our trip and the rocky seas.   Keep in mind that for most of the day we were lucky enough to be on the front deck of the boat! After the waves calmed we were in the fog for most of the way home so spotting more whales and seals was difficult.

 

 

Cruise Summary

In short, the trip was a success with the tremendous amount of data collected. This data will now be analyzed by scientists and students and I hope to see some scientific papers on this research in the future. Here is a list of what was done on this trip:

  • 31 mooring deployments and 24 mooring recoveries

(To review what the work involved in this see my blog: Moorings all day

  • 142 CTDs (that’s a lot of up and downs!)

(To review what a CTD see my blog: Measuring Ocean Properties with the CTD)

  • 51 Bongo samples

(To review what a bongo see my blog: Bring in the Bongos)

  • There were several Methot net tows.

To review what a Methot net tow is see my blog: Catching the Tiny Fish in the Big Sea

  • There was constant monitoring for birds and marine mammals with all sightings recorded. This experience was my personal favorite of the trip.

To review, see my blog: Walrus and Polar Bears on Ice

Van Veen cup of catch
Van Veen cup of catch

In addition to the above, there were many (I don’t have the exact count) Van Veen Grabs.  I did not get to explain these in a blog so here is a quick overview. Scientists that study the sea floor, including the top layer of soil called the benthic zone, use a VanVeen Grab Sampler pictured below. It is lowered to the sea floor and then the scissor-like arms close the catch capturing a hunk of the sea floor and everything that was living on it. Once on shore the catch is rinsed through a sieve until all the clay is rinsed away leaving just the organisms that were living there (such as mollusks, clams, starfish, worms and more) and a few stones.

van veen process
Van Veen Grab Sampler process

The scientists on the team also took HAPS core samples. I did not get to explain these in a blog so here is a quick overview. The HAPS corer, pictured below, is a gravity corer. This is a device that is lowered to the sea floor and then the weight of the device settles into the sea floor. When the HAPS corer is lifted, the bottom of the tube containing the cut into sediment closes, trapping the sample. These samples are then stored in clear tubes as shown in the picture. Scientists can examine sentiment layers to gain a better understanding of the sea floor at that location by studying the sedimentary layers.

 

All this above data has been copied and specimens are stored. The primary focus of this trip was to gather data and now the long process of analyzing and communicating the results will begin.

Cruise Reflections

This was such a great opportunity for me to meet so many different scientists and to both observe and assist the varied scientific studies occurring all at once. I needed all three weeks to get a handle on it all. I am looking forward to sharing what I have learned with my Maple Street School students back in New Hampshire and following the scientific studies as they move forward. Thanks to NOAA, Maple Street School, everyone else that allowed this learning opportunity to happen. It was a summer I will not forget experiencing a ship crash through ice in August! I leave you with some of the reflections of the birds I captured on those calmer days at sea.

The tufted puffin is not all that graceful at taking off. (below)

tufted puffin take off
The tufted puffin is not all that graceful at taking off.

The Common Murre (below)

The common murre
The common murre

Three male Eider Ducks

Three male eider ducks
Three male eider ducks

Martha Loizeaux: Salp Confidence, August 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Martha Loizeaux

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

August 22-31, 2018

 

Mission: Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: August 24, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40.15 N

Longitude: 68.71 W

Wind direction: NE

Wind speed: 14 knots

Water temperature: 23.8 degrees C

Air pressure: 1023 millibars

Air temperature: 24.2 degrees C

Water depth: 165 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

What an exciting first full day out at sea!  I have been so grateful that our science team has allowed me to be completely hands-on and take responsibility for some of the science happening on the ship.  In addition to checking the Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB) periodically, I am very much involved in the data collection at each of our stations.

There are specific stations along our course where scientists need to collect data.  The crew announces when we are close to the station.  At that time, along with another volunteer on watch, I don my foul weather gear to head out to the deck.  We get pretty splashed as we are working with the equipment so the gear is a good idea.  We help the crew as they lower “bongo nets” into the water using a cable and pulley system.  Can you guess why they are called bongo nets?  These nets have a very fine mesh that helps collect, you guessed it, PLANKTON!

bongos on deck
bongo nets waiting on the deck to be deployed
bongos in water
The bongo net and the “baby” bongo net being deployed.

We also help raise the bongo nets after several minutes dragging them through the water.  We rinse all of the plankton down to the bottom of the net and then open up the end of the net to allow all of the plankton into a sieve where we will collect it.  I have been surprised by the amount of jelly-like animals that have shown up in the nets!

Then it’s time to use special liquids (ethanol or formalin) and water to wash the plankton into collection jars. These chemicals will preserve the plankton so scientists can study it back in the lab!

It has been so much fun working with this equipment, asking the scientists questions about the plankton, and being a part of it all.

Harvey, our chief scientist, explained to me that many scientists can use the plankton samples for all different studies.  Some of the samples can be used to study larval fish (baby fish) otoliths, the tiny ear bones that can verify the identification of larval hake using genetics.  Knowing this, scientists can do research to determine where the larval fish were born!  What a great example of the beginning of a scientific

Hake larvae
Some examples of larval hake. Photo courtesy of Harvey Walsh

experiment!:

Question – Where are most larval red hake fish born in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean?

Research – Scientists might research currents in the area, wind patterns, and other things that would push plankton from place to place.  They also would research what other scientists have already learned about larval red hake.

Hypothesis – Most larval red hake fish are born in the Southern New England and Georges Bank regions in the northeast US shelf.

Didn’t I tell you plankton were amazing?

At some of the stations, we also lower Niskin bottles and CTD instruments into the water to collect a lot more data!  More on that to come!

Martha and bongos
Here I am getting ready to deploy the bongo nets.
rinsing nets
Jessica and I rinsing the bongo nets.
plankton on sieve
Plankton looks tiny when we filter it into a sieve.
plankton samples
Our plankton samples after being rinsed into the jars.

 

NOAA Corps Corner

Today I spoke with Lola Ajilore, Officer with NOAA Corps, and asked her a few questions about her important work.  A pod of humpback whales off the bow stole the show! Here’s what we got in before the exciting interruption…

Me – Tell me more about your roles on the ship.

Lola – I am the Navigation Officer, Medical Officer, Environmental Officer, Ship Store Officer, and Morale Officer.  As you can see, we all have multiple roles on the ship.  As Navigation Officer, for example, I plot charts, track directions, and coordinate with the Operations Officer and Commanding Officer on track lines and routes that are requested by the scientists.

Me – Where do you do most of your work?

Lola – I am always with NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  The ship’s home port is in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  Our missions often take place in the Gulf of Mexico but we also run these Northeast Shelf cruises for Ecosystem Monitoring every year.

Me – What kind of training is needed for your line of work?

Lola – We undergo an application process that includes several interview steps.  We then train at the Coast Guard Academy.  Much of our training parallels that of the Coast Guard, but we also do our own NOAA Corps training as well.

Me – What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

Lola – Radar!  [Radar aids navigation by detecting things that are far away such as an island or another ship]

Nav officer
Lola as Navigation Officer.
humpback from afar
Can you see the little black dot in the middle of the picture? It’s a humpback whale! It looked a lot closer in real life.

 

Personal Log

 

sunset view
Sunset on NOAA ship Gordon Gunter

I cannot believe the amazing views that we have on this ship 24 hrs. a day!  The water has been super calm and the sunrise, sunset, breaching whales, and pods of dolphins have taken my breath away.

Yesterday was emergency drill day!  Libby, our Operations Officer, had given us directions on how to respond to emergencies prior to leaving the

Mustering on the deck
Mustering on the deck during the emergency fire drill.

dock.  There are emergency drills for a fire (just like at school!), abandon ship (in the case that we had to immediately leave the ship in an emergency), and man overboard.

We practiced a fire drill and an abandon ship drill.  The Officers on the ship sounded the alarm, using a different number and duration of blast based on the type of emergency.  For a fire, we all “mustered” (got together in one place) in assigned areas.  All of the science team members mustered together.  For abandon ship, we all mustered near the life boats along with our life jackets and immersion suits (suits that can help you survive if you end up in the water).

Martha in immersion suit
Here I am in my immersion suit!

 

The fun part of the abandon ship drill was donning our immersion suits in one minute or less!  This was a great thing to practice so if there ever was a real emergency, we would know how to put on the suit.  I thought I looked pretty cool in my immersion suit.

 

Did You Know?

Salps are barrel-shaped planktonic tunicates.  Our plankton bongo nets always contain some jelly-like salps. Where I live in the Florida Keys, we see mangrove tunicates growing on mangrove roots.  Here in the open ocean, salps stick together in long colonies and drift!  Sometimes there are so many salps in our nets, we have to filter them out with sieves and put them back in the water.

salps from web
An example of a colony of salps. Photo courtesy of NOAA

 

Something to Think About

We have been finding up to 4,000 phytoplankton in 5 mL of water.  A gallon of water is equal to about 3785 mL.  There is about 352,670,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water in the Atlantic Ocean.  How much plankton is in the Atlantic?  You do the math.

plankton from web
This is what some plankton look like under the microscope. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Martha Loizeaux: Plankton Palooza, August 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Martha Loizeaux

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

August 22-31, 2018

 

Mission: Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: August 22, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

  • Latitude: 991 N
  • Longitude: 590 W
  • Water Temperature: 22.3◦C
  • Wind Speed: 1 knots
  • Wind Direction: WSW
  • Air Temperature: 23.3◦C
  • Atmospheric Pressure: 66 millibars
  • Sky: Mostly Cloudy

 

Science and Technology Log

Haven’t you always dreamed of having your own Imaging Flow Cyto Bot (IFCB)?  What an interesting scientific instrument that I am lucky enough to be taking care of while on this cruise!  Before we even left the dock, Jessica Lindsey (volunteer from the Maine Maritime Academy) and I were trained by Emily Peacock, research associate at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, on how to run this amazing piece of equipment!

The IFCB is a computer, microscope, camera, and water flow controller all in one.  Emily describes it as “plumbing combined with electronics”.  It uses a water intake system from the ship to run a constant flow of water into extremely tiny hoses. As the water flows through these hoses, a laser beam of light shoots at every tiny particle that is in the water.  The tiny particles in the water, mainly phytoplankton (microscopic drifting plants), react to the sudden burst of light.  The phytoplankton scatters the light and also can react by fluorescing (reacting to one wavelength of light by giving off a different wavelength).  The computer detects this scattering and fluorescing to determine where the phytoplankton is in the water flow.  The microscope focuses in on each phytoplankton cell and the camera takes a picture!  Scientists simply get the IFCB going and at the end of the day they have hundreds of pictures of plankton!  Isn’t that incredible?!

Martha IFCB
Here I am learning how to use the IFCB! It is SO COOL!

One thing I’ve learned about this particular cruise is that it’s all about plankton!  We are collecting samples and data for scientists at the University of Rhode Island, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and NOAA’s own Narragansett Lab, just to name a few.  What are all of these scientists studying?  Plankton!  Why?  Plankton is the microscopic lifeblood of the ocean.  The word plankton comes from a Greek word, oikos, meaning “drifter.”  Plankton refers to all the living things of the ocean that are drifting with the currents.  They are present throughout the water column and consist of two types:  phytoplankton and zooplankton.  Can you guess the difference?  Phytoplankton is like a plant.  It has chlorophyll and does photosynthesis.  Zooplankton is an animal.  There are many zooplankton species that hunt, hide, and do other things that larger animals do.  Most plankton is microscopic or close to it.  Phytoplankton does at least half of all the photosynthesis in the WORLD.  So you can think that every other breath you take contains oxygen created by phytoplankton.

Both types of plankton are the base of the marine food chain. If major changes happen in the community of plankton in the sea, these changes will impact the entire food chain all the way up to the apex predators (top predators).  So, as you can see, plankton is SUPER important.  If plankton populations are healthy, it indicates that much of the rest of the ecosystem is healthy too.

Some scientists use equipment, like the IFCB, to study samples of phytoplankton.

plankton on screen
Associate Researcher Emily showing us the program that allows you to see pictures of the phytoplankton sampled.

We also are collecting zooplankton in nets (called “bongo” nets) and preserving samples for scientists to analyze in the lab.  More on that to come soon!

My students have been learning that scientists always start an experiment with a question.

Scientists on this mission are not exactly leading an experiment, but they are responsible for monitoring.  The monitoring of an ecosystem tells us WHAT is happening there.  Scientists from all over the world can then use the monitoring data that we find to research and experiment WHY things are happening the way they are.  This is where the scientific method will come in and an experiment will start with a question.

For example, through the plankton samples that we take on this monitoring mission, scientists may notice a change in the amount of larval hake (tiny baby hake fish).  They can then ask the question, “Why are larval hake populations decreasing?” which may lead them to a hypothesis such as, “larval hake populations are decreasing due to climate change”.  They can test this hypothesis by comparing the plankton data to other types of data (such as pH and water temperature) in the same areas over time.  Thus, an experiment!

So our job now is to collect the important data that can help scientists understand what’s happening and think of ways to investigate “why” and “how”.

Bottom line, I really love plankton.  And you should too.  That breath you just took?  Thank plankton.

screen shot of plankton
Pictures of glorious plankton!

 

Scientist Spotlight – John Loch – Seabird Observer

Enough about plankton!  During all of this plankton excitement, I have also spent some time on the fly bridge (the top level of the deck of the ship), asking questions to our two seabird observers, John and Chris.  Their job is to stand watch all day, looking for and identifying seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles, and any notable (large) animals.  Here’s a little interview with John Loch, Seabird Observer:

 

Seabird observer
John observing seabirds from the fly bridge

Me – Why is your job so important?

John – My job is to monitor seabird populations to help detect changes in numbers or distribution of species.  We estimate a 300 square meter area around the ship and record all birds seen within that area.  We enter our data into a computer, noting species, life stage, number seen, and direction of flight.  Over time, we may notice trends in numbers and distribution which is important to understand this ecosystem.

 

Me – What do you enjoy most about your job?

John – I enjoy seeing anything new or rare.

 

Me – How could scientists use your monitoring data to lead an investigation (using the scientific method)?

John – Our data has shown, for example, that some populations of birds, such as the gannet, have steadily declined over the last 20 years.  Researchers can ask “Why are gannet populations declining?” and can use oceanographic data in combination with bird observation data to come up with a hypothesis to test.

 

 

Personal Log

I was excited to get underway this afternoon!  Although many of us slept on the ship last night, we have been on the dock until 2:30 this afternoon, when we finally watched the crew release the lines and the ship cruise through the harbor and out to sea!

bow in harbor
A view of the bow as we head out to sea!!

We began our day with a scientist meeting where Harvey Walsh, our Chief Scientist, explained our route and the “stations” where we would be slowing down or stopping the ship to take our data.  He explained our 3am-3pm/3pm-3am shifts that we alternate so that whenever a station is reached, day or night, data can be collected.  I’m lucky to intersect these shifts and work “on watch” from 8am-8pm!  This means that I will support and assist scientist in their data collection during this time, and generally be present and available.

Scientist showing route
Chief Scientist Harvey explaining our route on the Northeast Shelf.

We also heard from Libby, our Operations Officer, who explained our state rooms, bathrooms, shared spaces, and general “do’s and don’ts” of the ship.

Safety briefing
Libby, our Field Operations Officer, explaining the safety procedures of Gordon Gunter

I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by our living quarters aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  I have my own state room with a shared bathroom, small closet, sink, and even a desk.  It is quite spacious!  I’m also excited about the food options on board, but more about that later!

view from room window
The view from my state room…not bad!

Tonight is our first night out at sea!  Luckily, I’m not feeling seasick, but rocking and rolling as I type this does feel pretty strange!  Everyone says we’ll get used to it and it will feel normal in no time.

I am so excited for our first morning and sunrise out at sea!  Stay tuned!

 

Did You Know?

Phytoplankton come in all different colors, just like the flowers in your garden.  Since they are so tiny, we don’t see the colors unless there is a lot of plankton all together.  They also contain more than one color in their cells, similar to leaves that change from green to brown, red, or orange.

noaa phytoplankton
Colorful phytoplankton, photo courtesy of NOAA

Question of the Day

Do you think the amount and type of plankton in an area can affect how many sharks live there?  Why?

NOAA shark
Do sharks rely on plankton? Photo courtesy of NOAA

 

 

 

 

Tom Savage: Farewell Fairweather and the Drifter Buoy, August 23, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 23, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  87  43.9 N
Longitude – 152  28.3  W
Air temperature: 12 C
Dry bulb   12 C
Wet bulb  11 C
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind speed: 2 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1011.4  millibars
Cloud Height: 2000 K feet
Waves: 0 feet

Sunrise: 6:33 am
Sunset: 11:45 pm

 

Science and Technology Log

Today we deployed the drifter buoy off the stern of the Fairweather off the southeast coast of Kodiak Island Alaska, at 3:30 pm Alaskan time zone. The buoy will be transmitting its location for approximately one year. During this time, students will be have the opportunity to logon and track its progress.

This project is very exciting for many of my students at the Henderson County Early College and elementary students at Atkinson Elementary (Mills River, NC) and Hillandale Elementary (Henderson County, NC) that have participated in my “Young Scientists” program.  Prior to my journey to Alaska, I visited those elementary schools introducing them to the mapping that we were going to collect and the important mission of NOAA.  As part of this outreach, students designed stickers that I placed on the buoy prior to deployment yesterday.  In addition, Ms. Sarah Hills, a middle school science teacher from the country of Turkey, is also going to track its progress.

An interesting note: my “Young Scientists” program was inspired in 2015 after participating in my first Teacher at Sea trip on board NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow. I would like to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni coordinator Jenn Annetta and Emily Susko for supporting this effort!

 

Drifter buoy
Deploying the drifter buoy off the stern of the Fairweather – Photo by NOAA

All schools are welcome to track its current location. Visit the following site  http://osmc.noaa.gov/Monitor/OSMC/OSMC.html. In the upper left hand corner enter the WMO ID# 2101601 and then click the refresh map in the right hand corner.

The last day at sea, crew members had the opportunity to fish from the ship in a region called the “Eight Ball,” which is a shoal just of to the southwest of Kodiak Island.  Within ten minutes, the reels were active hauling in Halibut.  I have never seen fish this big before and Eric reeled in the biggest catch weighing around 50 lbs! Alaska is a big state with big fish!

Halibut
Eric hauling in his catch! Photo by Tom

Personal Log

This is my last day on board the Fairweather. For three weeks I witnessed a young NOAA Corps crew orchestrate an amazing level of professionalism and responsibilities to ensure a productive mission. While on board and I met new friends and I have learned so much and will be bringing home new lessons and activities for years to come.  The crew on board the ship has been very warm, patient and very happy to help answer questions. I am very honored to be selected for a second cruise and have enjoyed every minute; thank you so much!  As we sailed into Kodiak Island, witnessed an eye catching sunrise, wow!

Kodiak Sunrise
Sunrise, Kodiak Island – photo by Tom

 

I wish the crew of the Fairweather,  Fair winds and happy seas.

Tom

Roy Moffitt: Walrus and Polar Bears on Ice, August 20, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 20, 2018

 

Current location/conditions:

Evening of August 20 – North west of Barrow Canyons, Beaufort Sea

Air temp 28F, sea depth 1914 m, surface sea water temp 31F (72.5N are furthest point north)

 

Walrus and Polar Bears on Ice

In the last couple of days we have seen two of the Arctic’s most notable mammals on the ice, the walrus and the polar bear.  Below is a picture that I took of a large group of walrus that floated near the ship on the evening of August 19th.

These walrus were just the beginning of an even larger group floating up on the ice.  Walrus like to rest on the ice in between feedings off the ocean floor.  Walrus will eat many items off the shallow sea floor, this location is about 60 meters deep.  Their favorite foods are bivalve mollusks, including clams.  The walrus will not break the clams’ shells but suck out the food with their powerful suction capabilities.  More terrifying is that the walrus will occasionally do the same to some sea birds and seals.  Walrus have relatively few teeth besides their tusks.  If they catch larger prey such as a bird or seal, they will suck out the good parts just like a clam.  Male walrus can grow up to be over 4,000 lbs.  Add these facts together and these cute animals become a little more frightening.

Walrus on Ice
Walrus resting on sea ice

Walrus are common in the northern Chukchi Sea this time of year and typically have been known to migrate south in the winter. In a science presentation held onboard our ship, marine mammal scientist, Catherine Berchok, shared acoustic data from her moorings that documented recordings of walrus in the northern Chukchi Sea in the winter. Previous surveys have not typically recorded a presence of walrus in this region as usually these mammals need a mix of ice and open water for feeding, though they can break through winter ice for breathing.  Scientists now have additional questions for further investigation. Why are these walrus here in the winter? Have the walrus changed to a seal diet?  These are questions that are still unanswered.

 

Counting Walrus

 

Walrus dot the seascape
Walrus dot the seascape
The bridge of USCGC Healy
The bridge of USCGC Healy

On the evening of August 17th, we came across a large group of walrus (see image above).  Scientists specializing in mammal and bird observation were estimating the amount of walrus we observed.  Each of the dark blotches on the ice in the fog were all groups of walrus.  The larger groups contained 50-80 walrus while the smaller ones were around 20.  Standing high up on the bridge with cameras and powerful binoculars mammal observers, Jessica Lindsay and Jennifer Stern, estimated the total number to be around 1200 walrus!

 

Finding Polar Bears

 

Polar Bear
A polar bear stands on sea ice

From high up on the ship’s bridge (shown in the above picture), mammal observers and bird observers armed with binoculars are always present in daylight hours when the ship is moving. Bird observer Charlie Wright has quite the trained eye for spotting birds and also polar bears.  A couple days ago he spotted a polar bear approximately 4-5 miles away.  While looking through binoculars, all I could see was a tuft of fur, and then only when I was told where to look.  To me it was like, finding a polar bear in a snowstorm.  Last night Charlie spotted another one. The polar bear pictured above was much closer, perhaps a mile away.  At first, we observed the bear curled up on the ice, but then it stood up and walked around.  The light was dim and the weather was foggy during my observation, but if you look closely at the picture you will see that the bear looks quite plump after a spring and summer of feeding.

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

Snow on Healy
Snow on the bow of the Healy

Normally I would focus on a bird, fish, or mammal in this section, but since I focused the entire blog on mammals I want to take this opportunity focus on snow sightings.  We are now actually in one of the drier places on earth. Even though it seems like it is always cloudy and foggy usually only small amounts of precipitation fall here.  Temperatures have been below freezing for a couple days and we have experienced some snow showers but they do not last for long.  Overnight it was enough to dust the Healy with snow as shown below.  Either way I cannot say I experienced snow in mid August before!

 

Now and Looking forward

We will be leaving the deep Arctic shortly and heading south through shallow seas towards our last study area.  Along the way the number of whales, walrus, and birds may increase along with the increased food supply from the shallow sea floor.

On a sad note that means we are leaving the ice and headed south.  So I leave the ice by sharing with you this picture.  Though it was dim light and a bit fuzzy I saw a walrus on its back soaking in the Arctic weather by its ice beach umbrella.

Walrus Ice Umbrella
Walrus relaxing on its back beneath an ice “umbrella”

Roy Moffitt: Measuring Ocean Properties with the CTD, August 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 19, 2018

 

Current location/conditions:

Evening of August 19 – Edge of the Barrow Canyons in the Beaufort Sea

Air temp 32F, sea depth  185m , surface sea water temp  32F

 

Measuring Ocean Properties with the CTD

Scientists have a tendency to use acronyms to refer to select processes and measures.  The acronym heard the most, if not constant, on this trip has been CTD.  So here is my best attempt to give you a brief overview of what that “CTD” means and some of the measurements scientists are taking.

CTD Deployment
Deploying the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) probe, which is suspended in a metal “package” with Niskin water bottles

The acronym CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth of the ocean water. This instrument, which takes a measurement 24 times a second, is attached to a large frame that includes big plastic bottles know as Niskin bottles. Nearly every time we stop the ship the CTD package (shown in the image above) is slowly lowered to just above the sea floor (or less depending upon the scientific interest at the site).   On the way back up, the Niskin bottles are filled with seawater from different pre-determined depths.  An electronic switch is triggered for each bottle at different depths so that the containers are sealed closed trapping water from that depth.  Once the package is back on board the scientists measure various properties of the water, including its salinity and oxygen content which will be used to verify and calibrate the electronic sensors on the CTD.

The three main measurements of the CTD represent fundamental characteristics of seawater. Conductivity (C) determines the salinity or the amount of salt in the water.  Electrical conductivity or how well an electric current can flow through the water gives an instant real time measurement of water salinity.  When combined with temperature (T) and depth (D) this gives a measure of the density of the water, and even tells us something about how the water is moving.

In addition to these physical properties, other sensors attached to the CTD provide information on the underwater marine life.  Phytoplankton is the base of the underwater food web and is an important indicator for the overall health of the local marine environment. Phytoplankton is too small to be seen individually without the aid of a microscope; however, scientists have found a way to test for its presence in water. Phytoplankton gets its energy, as all plants do, from the sun using the process of photosynthesis. One of the sensors on the CTD tests for chlorophyll fluorescence, a light re-emitted during the process of photosynthesis.  The amount of fluorescence measured can be used to determine the amount of living phytoplankton at different depths in the ocean.  Another sensor measures the levels of sunlight in the water.

The water samples from the Niskin bottles are used to determine many other properties of the water. One such property is dissolved carbon dioxide.  Just like the atmosphere, the ocean has its own carbon cycle.  We might hear of increased atmosphere CO2 levels associated with global warming.  Some of this CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere at the surface of the ocean and some of the carbon from the ocean is also exchanged into the atmosphere. This carbon exchange rate between the air and sea helps regulate the pH of the ocean.  Tracking dissolved carbon dioxide measurements over time gives scientists additional physical measurements to track the overall health of the marine environment.  Scientists have been seeing increasing amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean which can decrease pH levels making the ocean more acidic.  Small changes in the ocean pH can affect some marine life more than others upsetting the balance in the marine ecosystems.

 

The Exiting Pacific Ocean

At the moment scientists are doing even more CTD casts with a focus on ocean currents.   We are at the edge of the Chukchi Sea where the Pacific-origin water exits the shelf into the deep Arctic Ocean. Much of this happens at Barrow Canyon, which acts as a drain for the water to flow northward. Scientists are still uncertain what happens to the water after it leaves the canyon, so the survey we are doing now is designed to track water as it spreads seaward into the interior Arctic.

 

The Pressure of the Deep Sea

Most of the CTD casts during our time on the Healy have not exceeded 300 meters.  Lowering and raising the CTD from deeper depths takes a lot of precious time, and on this cruise the emphasis is on the upper part of the water column.  However, on August 18, we completed a cast 1000 meters deep.  In addition to collecting data, we were able to demonstrate the crushing effects of the deep ocean pressure by placing a net of styrofoam cups on the CTD to the depth of 1000 meters.  Styrofoam cups contain significant amounts of air. This is why the styrofoam cup is such a good insulator for a hot drink.  At 1000 meters deep, much of the air is crushed out of the cup. Since the pressure is equivalent around the cup, it is crushed in a uniform way causing the cup to shrink. Here are some images demonstrating the crushing power of the sea.  *Note: The big cup with no drawing is the original size.  This will be a great visual tool to bring back to the classroom.

shrunk cups
Styrofoam cups shrunken by the increased pressure of the deep ocean

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

A highlight today was not seeing but hearing.  I was able to listen in live on Beluga whales with the help of  deployed sonobuoys.  The sonobuoys  are floating hydrophones that transmit back what they hear with their underwater microphones.  Today they picked up the Beluga whales and their short songs.  I thought their calls sound like the songbirds from home and little did I know, this is why they are called the canaries of the sea!

 

Now and Looking forward

Tonight we saw 100s of Walruses mostly on the ice.  On Monday we will have a presentation about walrus from one of the scientists on board.  I look forward to sharing pictures and what I learned in the next blog.

Tom Savage: What Other Scientific Data is Collected Besides Ocean Floor Mapping? August 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  55   44 N
Longitude – 165  23.04  W
Air temperature: 8 C
Dry bulb   8 C
Wet bulb  8 C
Visibility: 0 Nautical Miles
Wind speed: 9 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1008.4  millibars
Cloud Height: 0 K feet
Waves: 1 feet

Sunrise: 7:10 am
Sunset: 11:01 pm

 

Science and Technology 

There are other data being collected besides ocean floor mapping using the Bottom sampler.  Ocean floor samples are collected at many positions along the track line.

This is quite a gizmo, at the end is a metal scoop that collects soil samples once it hits the ocean floor. On both sides of the pole near my right hand, there is two underwater lights that is activated prior to deployment and a GoPro placed in a waterproof compartment.  The camera is operated from a wireless connection and the remote control device  is attached by Velcro to your wrist, just like a watch.  The device weighs around 35 pounds.

Bottom Sampler
Bottom Sampler – photo by Megan Shapiro

Once the sample is retracted and emptied on the deck, the size of the aggregate is measured using a scale and recorded. Why is this information useful ?  This data will be used used by mariners when assessing the best place to deploy an anchor. An ocean bottom containing a muddy composition is preferred as it helps to keep in place both the anchor and chain. Below is a sample we retrieved off of Point Hope, Alaska.   Using the bottom sample below, what are your thoughts, is this an ideal located to drop anchor?

Ocean Sample Scale
Bottom sample compared to Ocean Sample Scale ~ photo by Tom

 

Dropping an anchor for a ship is not a 5 minute job.  I recall fishing with my cousin in his small boat when I was in elementary school; we would arrive at an ideal location to catch lake bass and toss our anchor overboard. It was nothing fancy, a large plastic bucket filled with sand.  With the rope attached, we lowered the bucket “anchor” tie it off with some slack and for the most part it kept us from moving.  Anchoring a large 1,500 ton ship requires around 30 minutes to secure and the ocean depth would determine the amount of chain to use.  The anchor weighs 3,000 lbs and 400 – 700 feet of chain is deployed; this depends on the ocean depth. This brings the total weight of anchor and chain to around 48,000 pounds.  The anchor itself does not secure the ship, it is the combined weight of the chain and anchor.  After the chain is deployed, officers monitor the ships movement to ensure the anchor is not dragging using ECDIS, which uses a GPS feed that tracks the ship’s movement. Interesting fact, the Fairweather can hold 100,000 gallons of fuel, for ship stability purposes the fuel supply never gets below 40,000 gallons.

Personal Log

During the past few days, the sea has been a bit rough, but I love it especially at night, falling asleep is so much easier. It looks like Wednesday, I will be deploying the drifter buoy, stay tuned there will be an entire blog dedicated to it, including how to login and track its movement!. So far on this cruise I have not been able to view the constellations at night, the big obstacle is the fog.  Remember, the sun sets at around 11:30 pm and because of our latitude, it does not get very dark at night.  The other big issue has been the weather the past few days, mostly overcast and fog. As we transit to Kodiak Island, the weather forecast does not mention much about the sun, though we are in Alaska on the water!

Something else interesting to note; recall a few blogs ago I discussed relative humidity as a comfort gauge? It is the dew point temperature that meteorologist use for predicting rainfall, if the dew point temperature is 75 and the air temp is 76 F near the surface rain is almost guaranteed. Cruising in the Unga Strait within the Aleutian Islands today, the cloud deck is roughly currently at 1,000 feet. It is at that location where the dew point and air temperature match and cloud formation begins. This is what we call the LCL, lifting condensation level.

Last night I was talked into played the bass guitar for the first time, playing with the band on board.  They brought me up to par quickly, it was fun! I left the singing to the professionals, our deck hand Kyle and the XO (Executive Officer) Mike!

Until next time, happy sailing !

Tom

Emily Cilli-Turner: Back on Land, August 13, 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: August 13, 2018

 

Weather Data for Claremont, CA from National Weather Service:

Latitude:  34.1368º N

Longitude:  117.7076º W

Wind Speed: 12 mph

Wind Direction: SSW

Air Temperature:  29.4º Celsius

Humidity: 36%

Personal Log 

Well, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson docked in Dutch Harbor on August 11th from the 19-day journey in the Eastern Bering Sea.  During our time at sea, I learned so much and got to know both the NOAA scientists and the crew and officers on the ship.  When I applied for the Teacher at Sea program, I knew that it would be an invaluable experience, but it far exceeded my expectations.  I learned about the work of the NOAA scientists pretty much non-stop and any question I had was answered in detail, which allowed me to have a robust picture of the work the NOAA scientists do, the different types of scientific instruments they use and the underlying principles behind them as well as the day-to-day operations of a scientific vessel such as NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Additionally, I also ate the best food of my life made by the stewards; there was always amazing entrees and dessert at every meal!

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

After we came into port, I was able to explore the town of Dutch Harbor as well.  Along with other NOAA Scientists and the ship’s medic, I explored the Museum of the Aleutians in town and learned about the native people of the island and their traditions as well as the military encampments that were built on Unalaska (the island where Dutch Harbor is) during WWII.  The next day we went up Ballyhoo mountain and saw the ruins of one of the WWII bases.  The view from there was amazing and we saw all around Unalaska.  I was surprised in Dutch Harbor to see so many bald eagles everywhere!  The next day I said goodbye to the many people I got to know aboard the Oscar Dyson, many of whom were staying aboard for the next leg or for a long time thereafter.  I was surprised how easily I transitioned to life aboard the boat and it still feels a bit weird to not be moving all the time!

 

Emily Cilli-Turner: Journey’s Coming to an End, August 9, 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: August 9, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 60º28.02 N

Longitude: 175º25.19 W

Wind Speed: 8.77 knots

Wind Direction:  236.54º (SW)

Air Temperature:  8.8º Celsius

Barometric Pressure: 1010.7 mb

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 feet

Visibility: less than 1 nautical mile

 

Science Log

I had a chance to interview the chief scientist aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, Taina Honkalehto, and ask her about her career path to working at NOAA as well as recommendations she has for anyone interested in an ocean career.

Taina knew that she wanted to pursue a career in science ever since she was a child as she has always been interested in the outdoors and collecting and observing things.  During college, she took an oceanography course as a junior and knew she wanted to work with the ocean.  Her college advisor recommended that if she wanted to pursue science she needed to do a field program.  As a junior, she was able to secure participation at a marine lab in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which inspired her choice to go to graduate school and study invertebrate zoology.

At NOAA, Taina really enjoys her colleagues and the field work, which includes the pollock counting work she is currently doing on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  She feels that her work at NOAA is an opportunity to contribute to the preservation of our planet.  Additionally, she enjoys doing outreach at NOAA and talking to people about her work and answering questions about the ocean.  Often, discussions with the public involve balancing what they have heard about fisheries and overfishing in the news versus the reality and experiences Taina has had in the field counting pollock in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

The advice that Taina has for those wanting to work for NOAA is to get an internship.  Students can find internship opportunities through the NOAA website and there are avenues into NOAA experience for students at the middle and high school level as well as college students.  These internships are a great way to get hands-on experience (as I can attest!) and some of them are even paid if students apply for the Hollings scholarship. Taina also recommends reading some of the following books to get an idea about what it is like on a field placement: “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” by John Steinbeck, “Moby Duck” by Donovan Hohn, and “Cod” by Mark Kurlansky.

Taina Honkalehto
Chief Scientist aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, Taina Honkalehto

 

Personal Log

The wet lab aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson is where most of the action happens during my shift.  When a haul comes in, we are responsible for processing the catch and obtaining the needed measurements so that the MACE team can put together their report on the health of the pollock population.  The catch is released from the trawling net onto a hydraulic table that can be dumped onto a conveyor belt.  The first job to be done is to sort the catch, where all species that are not adult pollock are separated out.

Pollock on belt
Adult pollock from a haul on the sorting belt

The next task is to measure the length of a subsample of about 300 of the adult pollock in the catch.  This helps the NOAA scientists to create histograms of pollock lengths to compare between hauls.  Finally, about 30 pollock are separated to measure length, weight and to determine gender and maturity and another 30 have length and weight measured, otoliths taken, and ovaries weighed and collected if the pollock is a spawning female.  During my shift, there are six of us in the fish lab and we are working like a well-oiled machine!

Today we are starting the long transit back to Dutch Harbor.  It is bittersweet since I feel like we have a nice routine down in the fish lab and I finally feel used to the motions of the ship.  However, I am grateful for this opportunity and for all the great people that I have gotten to know during my time on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Also, we finally saw some blue sky again and a rainbow even came out for a moment!

rainbow
A small rainbow over the Bering Sea

 

Did You Know?

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson was launched on October 17, 2003. It is named after Alaskan fisherman Oscar Dyson and there is a smaller boat on board named after his wife, Peggy Dyson.

Anne Krauss: The Oregon II Trail, August 16, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 16, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Conditions at 1106

Latitude: 25° 17.10’ N

Longitude: 82° 53.58’ W

Barometric Pressure: 1020.17 mbar

Air Temperature: 29.5° C

Sea Temperature: 30.8° C

Wind Speed: 12.98 knots

Relative Humidity: 76%

 

Science and Technology Log

Before getting into the technology that allows the scientific work to be completed, it’s important to mention the science and technology that make daily life on the ship safer, easier, and more convenient. Electricity powers everything from the powerful deck lights used for working at night to the vital navigation equipment on the bridge (main control and navigation center). Whether it makes things safer or more efficient, the work we’re doing would not be possible without power. Just in case, several digital devices have an analog (non-electronic) counterpart as a back-up, particularly those used for navigation, such as the magnetic compass.

 

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To keep things cool, large freezers are used for storing bait, preserving scientific samples, and even storing ice cream (no chumsicles for dessert—they’re not all stored in the same freezer!). After one particularly sweltering shift, I was able to cool off with some frozen coffee milk (I improvised with cold coffee, ice cream, and milk). More importantly, without the freezers, the scientific samples we’re collecting wouldn’t last long enough to be studied further back at the lab on land.

Electricity also makes life at sea more convenient, comfortable, and even entertaining. We have access to many of the same devices, conveniences, and appliances we have at home: laundry machines, warm showers, air conditioning, home cooked meals, a coffee maker, TVs, computers with Wi-Fi, and special phones that allow calls to and from sea. A large collection of current movies is available in the lounge. During my downtime, I’ve been writing, exploring, enjoying the water, and learning more about the various NOAA careers on board.

To use my computer, I first needed to meet with Roy Toliver, Chief Electronics Technician, and connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi. While meeting with him, I asked about some of the devices I’d seen up on the flying bridge, the top deck of the ship. The modern conveniences on board are connected to several antennae, and Roy explained that I was looking at important navigation and communication equipment such as the ship’s GPS (Global Positioning System), radar, satellite, and weather instrumentation.

I was also intrigued by the net-like item (called a Day Shape) that communicates to other ships that we are deploying fishing equipment. This lets nearby ships know that the Oregon II has restricted maneuverability when the gear is in the water. At night, lights are used to communicate to other ships. Communication is crucial for safety at sea.

When I stopped by, Roy had just finished replacing some oxygen sensors for the CTD (that stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth). For more information about CTDs click here: https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/ctd.html

Without accurate sensors, it’s very difficult for the scientists to get the data they need. If the sensors are not working or calibrated correctly, the information collected could be inaccurate or not register at all. The combination of salt water and electronics poses many interesting problems and solutions. I noticed that several electronic devices, such as computers and cameras, are built for outdoor use or housed in durable plastic cases.

On this particular day, the ship sailed closer to an algal bloom (a large collection of tiny organisms in the water) responsible for red tide. Red tide can produce harmful toxins, and the most visible effect was the presence of dead fish drifting by. As I moved throughout the ship, the red tide was a red hot topic of conversation among both the scientists and the deck department. Everyone seemed to be discussing it. One scientist explained that dissolved oxygen levels in the Gulf of Mexico can vary based on temperature and depth, with average readings being higher than about 5 milligrams per milliliter. The algal bloom seemed to impact the readings by depleting the oxygen level, and I was able to see how that algal bloom registered and affected the dissolved oxygen readings on the electronics Roy was working on. It was fascinating to witness a real life example of cause and effect. For more information about red tide in Florida, click here: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/redtide-florida/

Chief Electronics Technician Roy Toliver in his office on the Oregon II.
Chief Electronics Technician Roy Toliver in his office on the Oregon II. The office is like the ship’s computer lab. When he’s not working on the ship’s electronics, Roy enjoys reading out on the stern. It’s a great place for fresh air, beautiful views, and a good book!

Personal Log

Preparing and packing for my time on the Oregon II reminded me of The Oregon Trail video game. How to pack for a lengthy journey to the unfamiliar and unknown?

A video game screenshot
I had a hard time finding bib overalls and deck boots at the general store.

I didn’t want to run out of toiletries or over pack, so before leaving home, I tracked how many uses I could get out of a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, shampoo bottle, and bar of soap, and that helped me to ration out how much to bring for fifteen days (with a few extras, just in case). The scientists and crew of the Oregon II also have to plan, prepare, and pack all of their food, clothing, supplies, tools, and equipment carefully. Unlike The Oregon Trail game, I didn’t need oxen for my journey, but I needed some special gear: deck boots, foul weather gear (rain jacket with a hood and bib overalls), polarized sunglasses (to protect my eyes by reducing the sun’s glare on the water), lots of potent sunscreen, and other items to make my time at sea safe and comfortable.

I was able to anticipate what I might need to make this a more efficient, comfortable experience, and my maritime instincts were accurate. Mesh packing cubes and small plastic baskets help to organize my drawers and shower items, making it easier to find things quickly in an unfamiliar setting.

berths on ship show blue privacy curtains
This is where we sleep in the stateroom. The blue curtains can be closed to darken the room when sleeping during the day. On the left is a sink.
My own shark cradle
Reading and dreaming about sharks!

Dirt, guts, slime, and grime are part of the job. A bar of scrubby lemon soap takes off any leftover sunscreen, grime, or oceanic odors that leaked through my gloves. Little things like that make ship life pleasant. Not worrying about how I look is freeing, and I enjoy moving about the ship, being physically active. It reminds me of the summers I spent as a camp counselor working in the woods. The grubbier and more worn out I was, the more fun we were having.

The NOAA Corps is a uniformed service, so the officers wear their uniforms while on duty. For everyone else, old clothes are the uniform around here because the work is often messy, dirty, and sweaty. With tiny holes, frayed seams, mystery stains, cutoff sleeves, and nautical imagery, I am intrigued by the faded t-shirts from long-ago surveys and previous sailing adventures. Some of the shirts date back several years. The well-worn, faded fabric reveals the owner’s experience at sea and history with the ship. The shirts almost seem to have sea stories to tell of their own.

Sunset over water showing orange, pink, and blue hues.
As we sail, the view is always changing and always interesting!

Being at sea is a very natural feeling for me, and I haven’t experienced any seasickness. One thing I didn’t fully expect: being cold at night. The inside of the ship is air-conditioned, which provides refreshing relief from the scorching sun outside. I expected cooler temperatures at night, so I brought some lightweight sweatshirts and an extra wool blanket from home. On my first night, I didn’t realize that I could control the temperature in my stateroom, so I shivered all night long.

A folded grey hooded sweatshirt
It’s heavy, tough, and grey, but it’s not a shark!

My preparing and packing didn’t end once I embarked (got on) on the ship. Every day, I have to think ahead, plan, and make sure I have everything I need before I start my day. This may seem like the least interesting aspect of my day, but it was the biggest adjustment at first.

To put yourself in my shoes (well, my deck boots), imagine this:

Get a backpack. Transport yourself to completely new and unfamiliar surroundings. Try to adapt to strange new routines and procedures. Prepare to spend the next 12+ hours working, learning, exploring, and conducting daily routines, such as eating meals. Fill your backpack with anything you might possibly need or want for those twelve hours. Plan for the outdoor heat and the indoor chill, as well as rain. If you forgot something, you can’t just go back to your room or run to the store to get it because

  1. Your roommate is sleeping while you’re working (and vice versa), so you need to be quiet and respectful of their sleep schedule. That means you need to gather anything you may need for the day (or night, if you’re assigned to the night watch), and bring it with you. No going back into the room while your roommate is getting some much-needed rest.
  2. Land is not in sight, so everything you need must be on the ship. Going to the store is not an option.

Just some of the items in my backpack: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, sweatshirt, a water bottle, my camera, my phone, my computer, chargers for my electronics, an extra shirt, extra socks, snacks, etc.

I am assigned to the day watch, so my work shift is from noon-midnight. During those hours, I am a member of the science team. While on the day watch, the five of us rotate roles and responsibilities, and we work closely with the deck crew to complete our tasks. The deck department is responsible for rigging and handling the heavier equipment needed for fishing and sampling the water: the monofilament (thick, strong fishing line made from plastic), cranes and winches for lifting the CTD, and the cradle used for safely bringing up larger, heavier sharks. In addition to keeping the ship running smoothly and safely, they also deploy and retrieve the longline gear.

A pulley in front of water
Pulleys, winches, and cranes are found throughout the boat.

Another adjustment has been learning the routines, procedures, and equipment. For the first week, it’s been a daily game of What-Am-I-Looking-At? as I try to decipher and comprehend the various monitors displayed throughout the ship. I follow this with a regular round of Now-What-Did-I-Forget? as I attempt to finesse my daily hygiene routine. The showers and bathroom (on a ship, it’s called the head) are down the hall from my shared stateroom, and so far, I’ve managed to forget my socks (day one), towel (day two), and an entire change of clothes (day four). With the unfamiliar setting and routine, it’s easy to forget something, and I’m often showering very late at night after a long day of work.

Showers and changing stalls on ship
I’m more than ready to cool off and clean up after my shift.

One thing I never forget? Water. I am surrounded by glittering, glistening water or pitch-black water; water that churns and swells and soothingly rocks the ship. Swirling water that sometimes looks like ink or teal or indigo or navy, depending on the conditions and time of day.

Another thing I’ll never forget? This experience.

A water bottle in the sun
In case I forget, the heat of the sun reminds me to drink water all day long.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is home to five species, or types, or sea turtles: Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley.

Recommended Reading

Many of my students have never seen or experienced the ocean. To make the ocean more relevant and relatable to their environment, I recommend the picture book Skyfishing written by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Poly Bernatene. A young girl’s grandfather moves to the city and notices there’s nowhere to fish. She and her grandfather imagine fishing from their high-rise apartment fire escape. The “fish” they catch are inspired by the vibrant ecosystem around them: the citizens and bustling activity in an urban environment. The catch of the day: “Flying Litterfish,” “Laundry Eels,” a “Constructionfish,” and many others, all inspired by the sights and sounds of the busy city around them.

The book could be used to make abstract, geographically far away concepts, such as coral ecosystems, more relatable for students in urban, suburban, and rural settings, or as a way for students in rural settings to learn more about urban communities. The young girl’s observations and imagination could spark a discussion about how prominent traits influence species’ common names, identification, and scientific naming conventions.

The cover of the book Skyfishing
Skyfishing written by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Poly Bernatene (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017)

 

Roy Moffitt: Viewing Sea Ice on an Icebreaker, August 17-18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 17-18, 2018

 

Current location/conditions:

Evening of August 17 – North East of Point Barrow, Alaska

Air temp 27F, sea depth  60m , surface sea water temp 30.6F

 

Viewing Sea Ice on an Icebreaker

 

breaking the ice
USCGC Healy breaking through sea ice

The USCGS Healy was designed to break through ice and it has had that opportunity to do so on this trip.  Breaking into the ice is a first time experience for myself and for many of the science crew and USCG crew who are pictured above.  It’s an amazing experience.

We are now entering the edge of the polar ice cap in the Beaufort Sea.  The polar ice cap is an area of the world around the North Pole where the sea surface stays mostly frozen year round.  The sun angle here is low in the summer with endless nights in the winter.  This spring and summer, the ice off the shore of Barrow, Alaska was thicker than normal.  Thicker ice is multi-year ice where the freezing has exceeded the melting over successive years causing the ice to progressively thicken.  This thicker ice was not formed here; it drifted from farther north where it broke off the pack ice and traveled south to where we are now.

Drift Ice
Drift Ice

Pack ice is primarily a continuous piece of ice with little open water.  Pictured here and above with the Healy is drift ice.  The drift ice is broken up into large pieces due to warming seasonal temperatures and rough seas.  The drift ice in the second image has reconnected with a thin clear layer of ice made possible by the calm seas and cold temperatures that we experienced on August 17th.

Ridge Ice
Ridge Ice

The ice is not normally flat. Wind and internal forces cause the ice to collide and create ridges both above and below the water line. In the winter, the snow that falls can also drift into piles.  The image below shows where two pieces of ice once collided on a small scale.  When pack ice builds over time these processes create a variable landscape with protruding ice ridges.  When ice breaks off from the pack ice the thickest ice will take the longest to melt and will eventually float alone.  These pieces of ice are called “growlers”.

These have been amazing to observe popping up along the seascape.  The first one I saw had birds flying overhead in the distance. The birds were using the using the growler as a place to land. To me it looked like a big white whale.  Another piece looked like a sea dragon.  See these growlers in the images below.

 

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

 

Bearded Seal
Bearded Seal

Above is an image of a bearded seal seen on the morning of August 17. The water was very calm and the seal popped up right in the front of the bow of the ship.  Later in the evening I saw one sitting on a piece of drift ice.  Bearded seals like to eat clams and fish and are a favorite prey of the polar bear. Polar bears also live in the area we are sailing through now.  Both walrus and seals use ice for resting places.  In the spring, the bearded seal will use drift ice as a place to give birth to their young (called pups). Polar bears will then hunt on the ice for its prey.

 

Now and Looking forward

As Healy sails in this area with a daily satellite image showing ice coverage, it’s easy to forget what a dangerous place the Arctic can be for ships. When ice first appeared during this trip, we were north of Wainwright, Alaska–a location not far from a historic whaling disaster in 1871.  During August of 1871, the wind changed direction and blew pack ice towards the shore trapping 33 whaling ships.  All of the ships had to be abandoned and most were eventually crushed by the ice.   On the morning of August 17, 2018, we were also sailing between ice and land. There was an eerie calm sea with both fog and some larger pieces of ice.  At times the sun, ice, and fog created an illusion that appeared as if we could sail off the end of the world.  Below are some pictures that I thought captured the eerie calm Arctic of August 17th.

Picture below: Clouds on a calm sea off Healy‘s bow as we travel north. I call this picture “going off the edge of the world”.

the Edge of the World
“Going off the Edge of the World”

Picture below: Glaucous gull on the edge of a fog bow. A rainbow formed from a thin fog layer of suspended water droplets at the surface.  The calm Arctic Ocean feels like a mystical place.

Fogbow
Glaucous gull on the edge of a fog bow.

 

Stephen Kade: What is Long Line Fishing? August 19, 2018

Longline Fishing infographic

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 30 35’ 34’’ N, 80 56’ 48’’ W, 20 miles off the coast of Jessup, Georgia

Date: August 2, 2018

Weather Data from Bridge: Wind speed 14 knots, Air Temp: 27c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 2 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Longline fishing is a technique that consists of one main fishing line with many baited hooks that come of that line on shorter lines, (like branches off a tree) attached at various distances. Long lines are used in both coastal areas and the open ocean and are often placed to target specific species. If the long line is suspended in the top or mid depth water, it is called pelagic longline fishing. If it is on or near the ocean floor by weighting it down to the sea floor, it is called bottom longline fishing. A high-flyer buoy is placed at either end to mark the position of the line in the water so boats can see it while submerged, and so it can be found when it needs to be retrieved. Weights are placed on each end and the middle of the line to hold the line down to a specified depth.

Longline_KadeTAS2018
Computer created infographic of long line fishing process by NOAA TAS 2018 Stephen Kade

On board NOAA Ship Oregon II, the mission is a red snapper/shark longline fishing survey in the Gulf of Mexico and the Western North Atlantic coast. I was on the first of four legs of the survey that left Pascagoula, Mississippi, rounded the bottom of Florida and stopped for 44 stations between West Palm Beach FL, up to Cape Hatteras, NC, and back down to Port Canaveral, FL. NOAA’s mission is to research current shark and snapper populations in specific areas as determined by NOAA shark scientists and related state Fishery Departments.

The Oregon II has a large spool of 3mm monofilament fishing line on deck. For our survey, we used a line that was one mile long, and had 100 baited hooks approximately 50 feet apart. The hooks are attached to the line by gangions. Gangions are 12 foot long monofilament lines with a hook on one end and a manual fastener at the other end that can be taken on and off each time the line is deployed. All 100 hooks on the gangions are baited with Atlantic mackerel.

numbering gangions
The team attaches the gangion numbers and hands over for deployment

To deploy the line into the water, it takes a team of 6 people. The first person strings the line from the spool and through various pulleys along the length of the ship moving toward the back of the boat before tying it to the high flyer buoy and returning to the spool control to deploy the mile long line into the water. A team of two works to attach a specific number tag onto each gangion, and then to retrieve the 12 foot long gangion from a barrel. The numbered, baited, gangions are handed one by one to the next team member who attaches the gangion of the main long line every 60 feet as the line descends into the water. This crewman also places three weights on the line to hold it onto the ocean floor, one at each end, and one in the middle. When all hooks are deployed, the line is cut from the spool and the high-flyer buoy is attached to mark the end of the line in the water.

deploying high-flyer
Deploying the high-flyer buoy after all 100 gangions and weights are attached.

The last member of the science team is at a computer station on deck and they are in charge of inputting data into the computer. Each time a buoy, weight, or gangion goes into the water, a specific button is pushed to mark the items place in the water. This is done so when a shark comes up on a numbered hook, NOAA scientists know exactly the latitude, longitude and depth of where that specific shark was caught. Scientists upload this important data immediately to NOAA servers for later use so they can assess average populations in specific areas, among many other data points.

Input
Each time a gangion, weight, or high-flyer buoy is deployed, its location is input in the computer.

The bait stays down on the ocean floor for about an hour before the boat returns to retrieve it. The retrieval process is similar to deploying the line except that it takes longer to bring it in, as there are now some fish and sharks attached to the hooks. If the hooks are empty, the number is taken off the line, and the gangion is placed back in the barrel until the next station. If there is a shark or fish on the line, it is pulled onto the deck and data is collected before the shark is safely placed back into the water. The first step is unhooking the fish, before it is measured. The shark is measured from the tip of the nose to various parts of the body to determine the size in those areas. The gender of the shark is also determined, as well as the maturity. Finally, the shark is weighed on a scale and most are tagged before being photographed and released. The process only takes about two minutes to safely ensure the shark survives. The data is recorded on a data log, and after the retrieval, the data is input into a database.

Removing Gangions
Gangions are taken off the long line, de-baited, de-numbered and put back in barrel.

 

Personal Log

Before coming on the Oregon II, I knew only about the fishing process on a larger scale from what I’d read about, or seen on television. I was slightly intimidated that without experience, I’d likely be slowing down the experienced team of professionals from their difficult job. As we headed out to sea, I found out it would take a few days before we reached our first station and that gave me time to get to know the crew, which was very valuable. There are two crews, each work 12 hours a day, so fishing was happening around the clock. I was able to listen to their advice and explanation of the techniques used in the long line process, and also some fantastic stories about their lives and families. Their patience with me and the other volunteers during those first few stations gave us time to get up to their speed, and from then out it was like clockwork. It was certainly hard to work outside all day, but the passion, skill, and humor of the crew made it quite fun work each day and night. It was impressive and amazing to see how this efficient process is used to help NOAA scientists and fishermen collect data from vast areas of the ocean for two weeks. I am proud to say I helped a great team to get information that can help us understand how to help populations of sharks and fish for long into the future.

Stephen removes shark
TAS 2018 Stephen Kade taking shark off gangion, ready to measure, weigh, and put back in ocean

Ashley Cosme: Medusa and Loggerheads, and Sharks, OH MY! – August 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ashley Cosme

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 31 – September 14, 2018

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 19th, 2018

Weather: The weather in Crown Point, IN is 80 degrees and sunny!

 

Introduction:

According to Greek mythology, coral first originated in the Red Sea.  The story has been told that after Perseus, a Greek hero, beheaded Medusa, he set her head down on a clump of seaweed to wash his hands.  The blood from Medusa’s head soaked into the seaweed forming what we know today as coral. Ironically, coral polyps contain tentacles reminiscent of the snakes consuming Medusa’s head.  I am lucky enough to have my own piece of Coral.  Three and half years ago my husband and I had our first child and named her Coral.  The only aspect of Coral’s life that is even a slight resemblance of Medusa is her crazy curly hair!   As we know, coral in the ocean is a beautiful animal that houses thousands of marine organisms.  Similarly, my daughter has an enormous heart for living creatures, and her curiosity for the natural world inspires me every day.

We also have a son named Kai.  In Hawaiian, Kai means ‘the sea’, and in Japanese one of its meanings is ‘ocean.’  I love watching Kai grow daily, and learn new ways to survive having Coral as his big sister. Although I will have to say a heartbreaking temporary goodbye to Coral and Kai, I will be embarking on a journey of a lifetime.  My expedition starts in Pascagoula, Mississippi on August 31st aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II, where I will participate in a shark/red snapper longline survey in the Gulf of Mexico.

CoCo and Kai
Coral (CoCo) and Kai on the 4th of July 2018
NOAA Vessel
NOAA Ship Oregon II (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

I have always been fascinated by the water.  Growing up near Lake Michigan, family trips consisted of going to the beach and searching for “seashells” along the shore.  My passion for the ocean also began during my childhood, which was sparked by my interest in turtles.  I was a captivated 15 year old when I saw a sea turtle for the first time as I snorkeled on a patch reef near Key Largo.  The speed at which the juvenile loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) glided through the water was astonishing.  I was fortunate to capture a few pictures of the critically threatened animal as it sped by, which was then painted onto a beautiful canvas by a dear friend of mine.

That moment inspired and motivated me to study the ocean, and I went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. During my time at Eckerd College, I had the opportunity to intern for the University of Florida’s Cape San Blas sea turtle surveying program.  It was during this internship that I had my first indirect encounter with a shark.  Well, not really an actual shark, but Yolanda, a nesting loggerhead sea turtle.  I first met Yolanda in the summer of 2004.  She was a healthy adult sea turtle and a regular nester on Cape San Blas, as her tag had been recorded since the 90’s on the exact same beach that I first saw her.  What I have failed to mention is that she had an enormous shark bite through her carapace and plastron just above her right rear flipper.  Remarkably, the shark missed all major organs and the bite had healed completely into a perfect mandible mold.  Besides Yolanda’s shark bite, and small reef sharks that I’ve seen diving, I never thought I would experience an up close meeting with a shark.  For two weeks straight I will be assisting NOAA scientists with catching and tagging a variety of different species of sharks.

leatherback
I stumbled upon on this endangered nesting leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriaceaone) one morning on Juno Beach, FL.

I am most excited for the impact that the Teacher at Sea adventure will have on me personally, and as an educator at Crown Point High School.  I hope to take what I learn while aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II and aide my students in better hypothesis-generation, experimental testing, and presentation skills to cultivate major changes in their approach to scientific research.  Ultimately, I can’t wait to share my experience with the Crown Point community, and continue to create an atmosphere where kids are excited about learning science!

Martha Loizeaux: Sea You Later!, August 18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Martha Loizeaux

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

August 22 – August 31, 2018

 

Mission: Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: August 18, 2018

 

Welcome

Hello from the Florida Keys!   I am so excited to be embarking on my Teacher at Sea excursion in just 4 days.  I will be joining the crew aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter to participate in a Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey in the Northeast Atlantic, departing from Rhode Island and returning to port in Virginia.  I am looking forward to working side by side with NOAA scientists, sharing knowledge with my students, and having the experience of a lifetime!

My students at Ocean Studies Charter School are prepared to follow me along on my journey via this blog and our online classroom.  They have even practiced their own Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey of the Hardwood Hammock forest surrounding our school!

I hope you’ll join us in this adventure and check back here for more blog posts in a few days!

20517
The view from my kayak as I lead Ocean Studies Charter School students on a seagrass investigation.

 

Weather Data from the NOAA weather station at Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys

Molasses buoy
The NOAA weather station at Molasses Reef off of Key Largo. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
  • Latitude: 25.130 N
  • Longitude: 80.406 W
  • Water Temperature: 85.6◦F
  • Wind Speed: 11 knots
  • Wind Direction: ESE
  • Air Temperature: 84.4◦F
  • Atmospheric Pressure: 30.13 in
  • Sky: Partly Cloudy

 

Science and Technology Log

 I am very much looking forward to participating in the Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  At Ocean Studies Charter School, we do projects to monitor the seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecosystems each year while out in the field.  It will be interesting to see how NOAA scientists conduct these surveys; what tools and equipment they use, what animals and plants they will find, and what aspects of water quality they will measure.

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The ecosystem we will be monitoring on the mission is called the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (NES LME).  You can just call it the “Northeast Shelf.”  This ecosystem spans the coast and out to sea from North Carolina up to Maine.  Scientists want to know a lot about this part of the ocean because it is very important for something we love to do here in the Keys:  FISHING.  Fishing is fun, but it’s also the way that many people in our country get their food and make money to live.  Fishing is a major industry along the east coast, so the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem is considered a very important natural resource that we need to protect.

Northeast Shelf Ecosystem
A map of the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem. Image courtesy of NOAA.

How can scientists understand and protect this resource?  It starts with Ecosystem Monitoring.

An ecosystem is a place where living things and non-living things work together like a big machine.  Each part of the machine, both living and non-living, is important for the whole system to work.  For example, in an ocean ecosystem, every type fish is needed for the food web to function.  Clean water and plenty of sunlight is needed for the ocean plants and phytoplankton to be healthy.  The ocean plants are needed for the invertebrates that the fish eat… and the cycle continues!  In order for scientists to understand the fish that are important to us, they need to understand EVERY piece of the ecosystem since it is all connected.  That’s why we will be measuring lots of different things on our mission!

ocean ecosystem
An ocean ecosystem has many important parts and pieces. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Monitoring means “observing and checking something over a period of time”.  NOAA scientists observe, measure, and check on this ecosystem 6-7 times per year.  Monitoring an ecosystem lets people know WHAT is going on within the ecosystem.  Scientists can use this information to research WHY things are happening the way they are.  Then, they can use modeling to find out WHAT might happen in the future.  This helps the government make decisions about our precious resources and make plans for the future to keep our oceans healthy and our fish populations strong.

Rosette deployment
There are many types of tools scientists use to monitor ecosystems. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

On our mission, scientists will collect plankton, invertebrates, and fish with special nets to count and measure them.  They will look and listen for marine mammals and sea birds.  They will take measurements of the water such as temperature, salinity (amount of salt), nutrient levels, and ocean acidification.  These measurements will help them understand the quality of water and changes of the climate in this area.  What other aspects of the ecosystem do you think are important to measure?

Bongo net deployment
Special nets are used to collect and study plankton. Photo courtesy of NOAA

I can’t wait to see how we will take all of these measurements and what we will see out there!

 

Personal Log

I am proud to call myself the Marine Science Teacher at Ocean Studies Charter School in Tavernier, Florida Keys.  We are a small public charter elementary school, focused on the surrounding marine environment and place-based learning.  I teach science to all grades (K-5) and lead our weekly field labs.  I even drive the school bus!  We use the term “field labs” instead of “field trips” to highlight that we are not simply visiting a place.  We are using the outdoors as our learning laboratory, working on projects, collecting data, and partnering with local organizations on our excursions.  We study the local habitats of the shallow seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and coral reefs that we are so lucky to have in our backyard.

students at beach
Taking students to the beach to study shallow water ecosystems.

Upon my return from my Teacher at Sea mission, we will be hosting the grand opening of our new Marine Discovery Laboratory in the center of our school!  After teaching marine science in an outdoor classroom for the past 7 years, I am excited for the opportunities that our state-of-the-art indoor lab will bring (no more visits from the local iguanas)!

Lionfish
Learning about lionfish in the lab.

My students impress and amaze me every day with their ideas and discoveries.  I have watched them create and present model ecosystems, examine hurricane protection ideas by studying animal survival, and help scientists tag sharks to learn more about their populations.  At the start of this new school year, I cannot wait to see what ideas they will come up with next!

Everglades
Leading students on a tour of Everglades National Park.
Students fishing
Sustainable fishing with students in the field.

It will be hard to be away from my family, especially my two awesome sons, ages 6 and 9.  I hope they enjoy following along with Mom’s blog and that they are inspired by my experience!

I originally hail from New Hampshire but have lived in Florida for all my adult life.  Prior to teaching, I worked on boats as an environmental educator and earned my captain’s license along the way.  I have been a SCUBA instructor, marine aquarist, and guide for summer travel adventure camps.  As a teacher, I have been lucky enough to also participate in “Teacher Under the Sea” through Florida International University.  In this program, I assisted scientists under the ocean at the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory right here in the Florida Keys.  Throughout my life, I have loved the ocean.  One day, I hope to sail out to sea and travel the world on my own boat.

diving
Diving outside the Aquarius Undersea Lab during “Teacher Under the Sea”.

But for now, I’m not sure exactly what to expect in terms of living aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  I look forward to sharing adventures and stories of life at sea!  Stay tuned to this blog and check for my updates in a few days.  Sea you soon!

 

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter was named after an American marine biologist and fisheries scientist who was considered a pioneer in the field of fisheries ecology.

The ship was originally built in 1989 as the U.S. Naval Ship Relentless and was transferred to NOAA in 1993.

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.
NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

 

Word of the Day

 Ichthyoplankton – The planktonic (drifting) eggs and larvae of fish.

When scientists tow for plankton, studying the icthyoplankton helps them understand fish populations.

Fish Egg
An example of icthyoplankton. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

 

Tom Savage: What is Life Like aboard the Fairweather? August 17, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 17, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  64   42.8 N
Longitude – 171  16.8  W
Air temperature: 6.2 C
Dry bulb   6.2 C
Wet bulb  6.1 C
Visibility: 0 Nautical Miles
Wind speed: 26 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1000.4  millibars
Cloud Height: 0 K feet
Waves: 4 feet

Sunrise: 6:33 am
Sunset: 11:45 pm

 

Personal Log

I was asked yesterday by one of my students what life is like aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather?  So I thought I would dedicate this entry to address this and some of the other commonly asked questions from my students.

Life on board the ship is best described as a working village and everyone on board has many specific jobs to ensure the success of its mission; check my “Meet the Crew” blog.  The ship operates in a twenty four hour schedule with the officers rotating shifts and responsibilities. When the ship is collecting ocean floor data, the hydrographers will work rotating shifts 24 hours a day. With so much happening at once on a working research vessel, prevention of incidents is priority which leads to the ship’s success. A safety department head meeting is held daily by the XO (executive officer of the ship) to review any safety issues.

During times when the weather is not conducive for data collection, special training sessions are held. For instance, a few days ago, the officers conducted man over board drills.  Here, NOAA Officers practice navigating the ship and coordinating with deck hands to successfully rescue the victim; in this case it’s the ship’s mascot, “Oscar.”

(Fun fact:  at sea, ships use signal flags to communicate messages back and forth [obviously, this was more prevalent before the advent of radio].  For example:  the “A” or “Alpha” flag means divers are working under the surface; the “B” or “Bravo” flag means I am taking on dangerous cargo [i.e. fueling]; and the “O” flag means I have a man overboard.  The phonetic name for “O” is, you guessed it, “Oscar” … hence the name.  You can read about other messages here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_maritime_signal_flags).

Precision and speed is the goal and it is not easy when the officer is maneuvering 1,591 tons of steel;  the best time was 6:24. This takes a lot skill, practice and the ability to communicate effectively to the many crew members on the bridge, stern (back of boat), and the breezeways on both port and starboard sides of the ship.  Navigating the ship becomes even more challenging when fog rolls in as the officers rely on their navigation instruments. Training can also come in the form of good entertainment. With expired rescue flares and smoke grenades, the whole crew practiced firing flares and activating the smoke canisters.  These devices are used to send distress signals in the event of a major ship emergency. I had the opportunity of firing one of the flares !

 

Flares
Practicing the release of emergency smoke canisters ~ photo by Tom Savage

 

What are the working conditions like on board? 

At sea, the working environment constantly changes due to the weather and the current state of the seas. Being flexible and adaptive is important and jobs and tasks for the day often change Yesterday, we experienced the first rough day at sea with wave heights close to ten feet.  Walking up a flight of stairs takes a bit more dexterity and getting used to.  At times the floor beneath will become not trustworthy, and the walls become your support in preventing accidents.

NavigatingFog
View from the Bridge in fog. ~ photo by Tom Savage

 

Where do you sleep? 

Each crew member is assigned a stateroom and some are shared quarters. Each stateroom has the comforts from home a bed, desk, head (bathroom & shower) sink and a port hole (window) in most cases. The most challenging component of sleeping is sunlight, it does not set until 11:30 pm. No worries, the “port holes” have a metal plate that can be lowered. It is definitely interesting looking through the window when the seas are rough and watching the waves spin by.  Seabirds will occasionally fly by late at night and I wonder why are they so far out to sea ?

Stateroom
My stateroom – photo by Tom

Generally, when sharing a stateroom,  roommates will have different working shifts.

Meals are served in the galley and it is amazing! It is prepared daily by our Chief Steward Tyrone; he worked for the Navy for 20 years and comes with a lot of skills and talents !  When asking the crew what they enjoy the most on board the ship, a lot of them mention the great food and not having to cook.

Fairweather's Galley
Fairweather’s Galley ~ photo by Tom

 

Are there any activities? 

Keeping in good physical shape aboard any vessel out at sea is important. The Fairweather has a gym that can be used 24 hours a day. The gym has treadmills, elliptical, weights and a stair climber.

ExerciseRoom
The exercise room – photo by Tom

 

There is the lounge where movies are shown in the evening. Interestingly, the seats glide with the motions of the waves. Meetings are also held here daily, mostly safety briefings.

The lounge
The lounge

 

What are the working hours like?

During any cruise with NOAA, there is always things that come up that were not planned, staff and schedules are adjusted accordingly. On this leg of the trip during our transit back to Kodiak Island, we stopped by Nome, Alaska, to pick up a scientist from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab PMEL office.  One of their research buoys separated from its mooring and went adrift in the Bering Sea (it drifted over 100 miles before we were able to catch up to it.  The Fairweather was dispatched to collect and store the buoy aboard, after which it will eventually be returned to PMEL’s lab in Seattle Washington.

 

Buoy Retrieval
Retrieval of NOAA’s PMEL (Pacific Marine Environmental Lab) buoy. photo by NOAA

 

The place with the most noise is definitely the engine room.  Here, two sixteen piston engines built by General Motors powers the ship;  the same engine power in one train engine ! It is extremely difficult to navigate in the engine room as there is so many valves, pipes, pumps, switches and wires.  Did I mention that it is very warm in the room; according to the chief engineer, Tommy, to maintain a healthy engine is to ensure that the engine is constantly warm even during times when the ship is docked.

Tom in Engine Room
Navigating the engine room …… I did not push any buttons, promise! Photo by Kyle

 

Until next time,  happy sailing !

~ Tom

Roy Moffitt: Bring in the Bongos, August 16, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 16, 2018

 

Current location/conditions:

Evening August 16 – Due west of Barrow, Alaska within sight of the coast

Air temp 35F, sea depth  40m , surface sea water temp 41

 

Bring in the Bongos

Bongo Nets ready for deployment
Bongo Nets ready for deployment

In a previous blog I showed the Methot net that catches very small (1-5cm) fish. However, if we want to catch sea life even smaller, we bring in something called a “bongo net.”  The bongo nets have very small openings–the larger nets are 500 micron (1/2 a millimeter) and the smaller nets are 150 micron.   In the picture below, you will see the back tail fin of the Healy with the bongo nets suspended from the hydraulic A-frame.  The A-frame supports a system of pulleys that are used to deploy and retrieve equipment (such as nets and moorings).

 

 

 

 

bongo canister
Organisms caught in the bongo net are washed down into this canister attached at the end.

The net looks and feels more like a tough nylon fabric, however, the water freely flows through the opening trapping the tiny organisms of the sea.  These organisms are pushed into the canister at the end of the net as shown in the picture on the right. While most of them are pushed into the canisters, many are stuck on the side of the net in a sticky goop.   The gelatin like goop is sprayed off the net with seawater by using a hose.  The process takes just a few minutes. Since I was the net holder and stretcher I got little wet!

 

 

Copepods in a Jar
Copepods in a Jar

The main organisms that we caught today were copepods. They are shown in the jar appearing pink.  Copepods are small crustaceans only 1-2mm in size that drift in the sea and feed on phytoplankton. Copepods are an important bottom of the food chain member of the ecosystem and serve as prey for fish, whales, and seabirds.

 

 

 

Flowmeter
Flowmeter suspended at the top of a bongo net

On the front of each net there is a flow meter as shown in the picture. It looks like a little torpedo with a propeller.  When the net trawls behind the ship, water flows through the net.  The amount of water that passes through the net can be calculated.  Using this calculation and the amount of organisms in the net, scientists can calculate the density of living microorganisms at a certain heights in the water column.  With annual samples scientists will be able to determine any changes over time including changes to the overall health of the regional ecosystem.  Today’s samples will also be sent out to a lab for further analysis.

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

Today I had unique experience– listening to wildlife.  This was a highlight.  Marine mammal acoustic scientists, Katherine Berchok and Stephanie Grassia, released an acoustic buoy this afternoon.  On top of the ship they put up an antennae and listened in for whales and walrus.  They were able to hear the constant underwater chatter between walruses.   As I wore the headphones and listened in, I was in awe at the grumbles and the ping sounds the animals were making back and forth underwater.  While we don’t know what the walrus were communicating back and forth to each other, to eavesdrop on these conversations, miles away, in real-time, was a pretty special experience.

 

Now and Looking forward

We did not see any ice today. I am looking forward to getting out of the fog and rain and returning back to the ice in the coming days.

Roy Moffitt: Life on a LEGO, August 14-15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 14-15, 2018

 

Current location/conditions:

Evening August 15 – North- Northwest of Wainwright, Alaska

Air temp 35F, sea depth  47m , surface sea water temp 32.2F

 

Life on a LEGO

The LEGO is a nickname given to the large green plastic pallet-like mooring. Their retrieval from the sea floor is pictured here.  This equipment was retrieved after being deployed for a year on the sea floor in about 40 meters of water.  The mooring is called a DAFT (Direction Acoustic Fish Tracker).  On the DAFT there are instruments that measure ocean temperature, salinity, and pressure.  The primary instrument is an echo sounder that records any schools of fish that may pass overhead.

Lego Retrieval
Retrieval of the “Lego,” a large plastic mooring that has spent the past year collecting data at the ocean bottom

What the DAFT was not designed to do, but does well, is catch sea life. The fiberglass pallet has 1 1/2″ square holes in it that allow water to pass through on retrieval and it also catches sea life as if it were a net. Yesterday we pulled two of these “Legos” from the sea and they were covered with marine life. The most remarkable sight were the large blue king crabs, (around half dozen on one pallet). Here I am holding one of the bigger ones– such awesome looking creatures!

Roy and crab
TAS Roy Moffitt holding a blue king crab

On the smaller size, we found a hermit crab (shown here hiding in a shell).

Hermit Crab
Hermit Crab

Also on board were many sea stars. Most were the Brittle Stars. This is the picture of the sea star with the small legs. I think they are called the Brittle Stars because when I tried to gently remove them from the mooring, sadly their legs kept breaking off. There were dozens of these on the mooring.

Sun Star
Sun Star

There was another sea star with nine legs. It was very pretty and looks like a drawing of the sun. Not surprising, I found out this one is called the “Sun Star.”

Some not-so-pretty items on the moorings I like to call “mooring acne” are called tunicates. These are filter feeders and come in many different forms.

The one on my hand looks like a giant pimple and when you try to take it off the mooring it squirts you in the face. Not surprisingly this tunicate is called the “Sea Squirt.”

 

Think about it…

All of the life on the Lego mooring was sent back to the sea to hopefully find a new home.  The Lego pallet mooring mentioned above is not large, about 4 ft by 6ft.  The mooring in this story was only in the ocean one year and became the home of the above mentioned marine animals – crabs, sea stars, tunicates, and also thousands of barnacles!  One tiny piece of the sea floor contained all this life! Imagine how rich in life the entire unseen ecosystem is in the Chukchi Sea!

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

For the last two days, I saw several walruses. Pictured below is one that popped up by a piece of ice.   Teaser – look for a future blog focusing on walrus and their habitat.

Walrus by ice
A walrus pops its head up above water near a piece of ice

 

Now and Looking forward

We are now seeing small bands of pack ice and individual pieces of ice called “growlers”.   Sea ice has not interrupted science operations, as of today. There is plenty of open water so far. We should see ice of different concentrations for the rest of the trip as we continue to head north.  Look for future pictures and some of the science on sea ice coming soon. For now here are a couple pictures from August 15.

Growlers in fog
“Growlers” – the view looking from the deck of USCGC Healy down into the fog
Walrus broken ice
Another view of the walrus, swimming near broken up ice

 

Anne Krauss: All at Sea (But Learning Quickly), August 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Conditions at 0030

Latitude: 25° 22.6’ N

Longitude: 84° 03.6’ W

Barometric Pressure: 1017.4 mb

Air Temperature: 28.8° C

Wind Speed: 9.1 knots

 

Science and Technology Log

For the first few days, we steamed, or traveled, to our first station. Each station is a research location where several activities will take place:

  1. Preparing and setting out the longline gear.
  2. Letting the line soak (fish on the bottom) for one hour while other tasks are performed.
  3. Deploying a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Salinity) to collect samples and information about the water.
  4. Hauling back the longline gear.
  5. Recording data from the longline set and haulback.
  6. Collecting measurements and samples from anything caught on the longline.
  7. Depending on what is caught: attaching tags and releasing the animal back into the water (sharks) or collecting requested samples for further study (bony fish).

This is a very simplified summary of the various activities, and I’ll explore some of the steps in further detail in other posts.

During these operations and in between tasks, scientists and crew are very busy. As I watched and participated, the highly organized, well-coordinated flurry of activity on deck was an incredible demonstration of verbs (action words): clean, rinse, prepare, gather, tie, hook, set, haul, calibrate, operate, hoist, deploy, retrieve, cut, measure, weigh, tag, count, record, release, communicate

Last night, I witnessed and participated in my first longline station. I baited 100 hooks with mackerel. I recorded set and haulback data on the computer as the gear was deployed (set) and hauled back in (haulback). I attached 100 numbered tags to the longline gangions (attached to the hooks). I recorded measurements and other data about SHARKS!

We caught, measured, sampled, tagged, and released four sharks last night: a silky, smooth-hound, sandbar, and tiger shark! I’ve never seen any of these species, or types, in person. Seeing the first shark burst onto the deck was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life!

A sandbar shark being measured with a measuring tape in a rope sling.
A sandbar shark being measured on the cradle or sling used for measuring larger, heavier sharks.

Sometimes, we didn’t catch any fish, but we did bring up a small piece of coral, brittle sea stars, and a crinoid. All three are marine animals, so I was excited to see them in person.

In between stations, there was some downtime to prepare for the next one. One of my favorite moments was watching the GoPro camera footage from the CTD. A camera is attached to the device as it sinks down through the depths to the bottom and back up to the surface again. The camera allowed me to visually ‘dive along’ as it collected water samples and data about the water temperature, salinity, pressure, and other information. Even though I watch ocean documentaries frequently and am used to seeing underwater footage on a screen, this was extremely exciting because the intriguing ecosystem on the screen was just below my feet!

Personal Log

Perhaps it is sea lore and superstition, but so far, the journey has been peppered with fortuitous omens. One of my ocean-loving former students and her Disney-bound family just happened to be on my flight to Orlando. Yes, it’s a small world after all. Her work samples were featured in our published case study, reminding me of the importance and impact of ocean literacy education. Very early the next morning, NASA’s promising Parker Solar Probe thunderously left the Sunshine State, hurtling toward the sun. New York’s state motto: Excelsior. Later that morning, a rainbow appeared shortly before the Oregon II left Port Canaveral. Although an old weather proverb states: “rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning,” we’ve had very pleasant weather, and I chose to interpret it as a reassuring sign. Sailing on the Oregon II as a Teacher at Sea is certainly my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

According to seafaring superstition, women on board, whistling, and bananas are supposed to be bad luck on a boat. On the Oregon II, folks do not seem to put much stock into these old beliefs since I’ve encountered all three aboard the ship and still feel very lucky to be here.

A fruit basket and a bunch of bananas
The rest of the fruit seems to think that bananas are bad luck…the crew doesn’t!

In another small-world coincidence, two of the volunteers on the Second Leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey recently graduated from SUNY Potsdam, my undergrad alma mater. What drew us from the North Country of New York to Southern waters? A collective love of sharks.

These small-world coincidences seemed indicate that I was on the right path. Out on the ocean, however, the watery world seems anything but small. The blue vastness and unseen depths fill me with excitement and curiosity, and I cannot wait to learn more. For the next two weeks, the Oregon II will be my floating classroom. Instead of teaching, I am here to learn.

As a fourth generation teacher, education is in my blood. One great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in 1894. My other great-grandmother was also a teacher and a Potsdam alumna (Class of 1892). As we traverse the Atlantic Ocean, I wonder what my academic ancestors would think of their great-granddaughter following in their footsteps…whilst studying sharks and snapper at sea. Salt water equally runs through my veins.

 

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As we steamed, or traveled, to our first station (research location), I wondered about the unfamiliar waters and equipment around me. Before I could indulge my questions about marine life, however, I first needed to focus on the mundane: daily life at sea. In many ways, I was reminded of the first day at a new school. It was junior high all over again, minus the braces and bad bangs. At first, those long-forgotten new school worries resurfaced: What if I get lost? Where is my locker (or, in this case, my stateroom)? What if I forget my schedule? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch? To combat these thoughts, I draw upon a variety of previous travel and life experiences: studying abroad, backpacking, camping, meeting new friends, volunteering, working with a marine science colleague, and sailing on other vessels. Combined, those experiences provided me with the skills to successfully navigate this one.

The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy
The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy

I’ve spent the first few days getting acquainted with the layout, personnel, safety rules, and routines of the Oregon II. My students wondered about some of the same aspects of life at sea.

Where do I sleep on the ship?

The staterooms remind me of a floating college dorm, only much quieter. I’m sharing a small stateroom with Kristin Hannan, a scientist. We are on opposite work shifts, so one of us is sleeping while the other is working. I am assigned to the day shift (noon to midnight) while she is assigned to the night shift (midnight to noon). Inside the stateroom, we have berths (similar to bunk beds), a sink, and large metal storage cabinets that are used like a closet or dresser. Space is limited on the ship, so it must be used efficiently and sometimes creatively.

A view of water, a pier, and a pulley
The view as we leave Port Canaveral.

Do you know anyone else on the ship?

No, but I’m meeting lots of new people. They have been welcoming, offering interesting information and helpful reminders and pointers. Those first-day-of-school jitters are fading quickly. I didn’t get lost, but I got a bit turned around at first, trying to figure out which deck I needed for the galley (like the ship’s cafeteria), where we eat our meals. And I only had to eat lunch by myself once. On the first day at sea, I made a PB & J sandwich. Eating that, I felt like a kid again (only without my lunchbox), but it was nice to be at a point in my life where I’m confident enough to be all by myself and feel a bit out of place. That’s how you learn and grow. Everything is new to me right now, but with time, it’ll start to make sense. Pretty soon, the equipment and unfamiliar routines will start to feel more familiar. Hopefully, the sharks will like me.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is home to approximately 200 orcas (scientific name: Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales).

Recommended Reading 

As an introduction to biographies in grades 4 and up, I recommend Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman. Ruth and her stuffed shark explore a maritime history museum, learning about the important roles women have held at sea. Inspired by female sea captains, explorers, and naturalists, Ruth imagines herself in the photographs and paintings, part of an actual exhibit in the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. For more information about the intrepid women featured in the book, brief biographical information is provided at the end. Ruth would no doubt be impressed with the seafaring women (and men) aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.

A children's book about women at sea
Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman; published by Mystic Seaport (2004)

Tom Savage: The Physical Geography of the Aleutian Islands, August 16, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 16, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  68   38.8 N
Longitude – 166  23.8  W
Air temperature: 10 C
Dry bulb   10 C
Wet bulb  8.9 C
Visibility: 8 Nautical Miles   (8.8 miles)
Wind speed: 26 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1007  millibars
Cloud Height: 2 K feet
Waves: 6 feet

Sunrise: 6:33 am
Sunset: 11:51 pm

Physical Geography of Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian Islands are a product of a subduction zone between the North American and the Pacific Plate and known as the Aleutian Arc. Along this boundary, the Pacific Plate is being subducted underneath the North American Plate due to the difference in density.  As a result, the plate heats up, melts and forms volcanoes.  In this case the islands are classified as volcanic arcs.  As a result of this collision, along the boundary the Aleutian Trench was formed and the deepest section measures 25,663 ft!  For comparison purposes, the deepest point in the ocean is located in the Mariana’s Trench at 36,070 feet (6.8 miles)! Through the use of radioisotopic dating of basalt rocks throughout the Aleutians, geologists have concluded the formation of the island chain occurred 35 million years ago. (USGS). Today, there are 14 volcanic islands and an additional 55 smaller islands making up the island chain.

ConvergentBoundary
The Aleutian Islands – yellow line indicates subduction boundary (Courtesy of US Geologic Survey)

On the map above, the Aleutian Islands appear small. However, they extend an area of 6,821 sq mi and extend out to 1,200 miles!  In comparison, North Carolina from the westernmost point to the Outer Banks is 560 miles, half of the Aleutian Islands.  It takes roughly ten hours to drive from Murphy NC (western NC)  to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Since this region of the North American plate and the Pacific Plate are both oceanic plates, Island Arcs are formed.  This is the same classification as the Bahamas, located southeast of Florida.

North American and Pacific Plates
Convergence of North American and Pacific Plates – Image courtesy of US Geologic Survey

 

Oceanic-OceanicPlate
Convergence of two Oceanic Plate – Image courtesy of US Geologic Survey

The image above depicts a cross section of the geological forces that shaped the Aleutian Islands.  As the two plates collide, the oceanic crust is subducted under the lithosphere further offshore thus generating the island arcs.  Unlike the west coasts of Washington, Oregon and California,  there is an oceanic/continental collision of plates resulting in the formation of volcanoes further on the continental crust, hundreds of miles inland.  Examples are Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helen’s which erupted in 1980.

Alpine Glaciers are prevalent throughout the mountainous region of Alaska. What about the Aleutians Islands? Today there are a few small alpine glaciers existing on Aleutian Islands. Alpine glacier on the Attu Island is one example, which is the western most island.

 

Personal Log 

One truth about being at sea is don’t trust the wall, floor or ceiling. Sometimes, the wall will become the floor or the ceiling will become the wall 🙂 Lately, the seas have become this ongoing amusement park ride.  Although the weather has been a bit rough, data collection continues with the ship.  The weather outside is more reflective of fall and winter back in North Carolina, though we have not seen any snow flakes.  After surfing the waves yesterday while collecting data, today the hydrographers are processing data collected over the past few days.

Yesterday was whale day!  Early afternoon, humpbacks were spotted from the port side of the ship (left side).   As the afternoon went on, humpbacks were spotted all around the Fairweather, at distances of 0.5 miles to 5 miles.  Humpbacks are considered the “Clowns of the Seas” according to many marine biologists.  Identifying whales can be tricky especially if they are distances greater than a few miles. Humpbacks are famous for breaching the water and putting on a show,  Yesterday we did not witness this behavior, however they were showing off their beautiful flukes.

Humpback whale fluke
Humpback whale fluke, photo courtesy of NOAA

 

Question of the Day:    Which whale species, when surfacing, generates a v shape blow?

Until next time, happy sailing!
Tom

Stephen Kade: How Sharks Sense their Food & Environment, August 9, 2018

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 30 19’ 54’’ N, 81 39’ 20’’ W, 10 nautical miles NE of Jacksonville, Florida

Date: August 9, 2018

Weather Data from Bridge: Wind speed 11 knots, Air Temp: 30c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 3 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Sharks have senses similar to humans that help them interact with their environment. They use them in a specific order and rely on each one to get them closer for navigational reasons, and to find any food sources in the area around them. The largest part of the shark’s brain is devoted to their strong sense of smell, so we’ll start there.

Smell– Sharks first rely on their strong sense of smell to detect potential food sources and other movement around them from a great distance. Odor travels into the nostrils on either side of the underside of the snout. As the water passes through the olfactory tissue inside the nostrils, the shark can sense or taste what the odor is, and depending which nostril it goes into, which direction it’s coming from. It is said that sharks can smell one drop of blood in a billion parts of water from up to several hundred meters away.

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils
Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils of a sharpnose shark

Sharks can also sense electrical currents in animals from long distances in several ways. Sharks have many electro sensitive holes along the snout and jaw called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. These holes detect weak electrical fields generated by the muscles in all living things. They work to help sharks feel the slightest movement in the water and sand and direct them to it from hundreds of meters away. This system can also help them detect the magnetic field of the earth and sharks use it to navigate as well.

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils
Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils of a sharpnose shark

Hearing– Sharks also heavily use their sense of smell to initially locate objects in the water. There are small interior holes behind their eyes that can sense vibrations up to 200 yards away. Sound waves travel much further in water than in the air allowing them to hear a great distance away in all directions. They also use their lateral lines, which are a fluid filled canal that runs down both sides of the body. It contains tiny pores with microscopic hairs inside that can detect changes in water pressure and the movement and direction of objects around them.

Sight– Once sharks get close enough to see an object, their eyes take over. Their eyes are placed on either side of their head to provide an excellent range of vision. They are adapted to low light environments, and are roughly ten times more sensitive to light than human eyes. Most sharks see in color and can dilate their pupils to adapt to hunting at different times of day. Some sharks have upper and lower eyelids that do not move. Some sharks have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane, which is an eyelid that comes up from the bottom of the eye to protect it when the shark is feeding or in other dangerous situations. Other sharks without the membrane can roll their eyes back into their head to protect them from injury.

dilated pupil of sharpnose shark
dilated pupil of sharpnose shark

Touch– After using the previous senses, sometimes a shark will swim up and bump into an object to obtain some tactile information. They will then decide whether it is food to eat and attack, or possibly another shark of the opposite gender, so they can mate.

Taste– Sharks are most famous for their impressive teeth. Most people are not aware that sharks do not have bones, only cartilage (like our nose and ears) that make up their skeletal system, including their jaw that holds the teeth. The jaw is only connected to the skull by muscles and ligaments and it can project forward when opening to create a stronger bite force. Surface feeding sharks have sharp teeth to seize and hold prey, while bottom feeding sharks teeth are flatter to crush shellfish and other crustaceans. The teeth are embedded in the gums, not the jaw, and there are many rows of teeth behind the front teeth. It a tooth is damaged or lost, a new one comes from behind to replace it soon after. Some sharks can produce up to 30,000 teeth in their lifetime.

Personal Log

While I had a general knowledge of shark biology before coming on this trip, I’ve learned a great deal about sharks during my Teacher at Sea experience aboard the Oregon II. Seeing, observing, and holding sharks every day has given me first hand knowledge that has aided my understanding of these great creatures. The pictures you see of the sharks in this post were taken by me during our research at sea. I could now see evidence of all their features up close and I could ask questions to the fishermen and scientists onboard to add to the things I read from books. As an artist, I can now draw and paint these beautiful creatures more accurately based on my reference photos and first hand observations for the deck. It was amazing to see that sharks are many different colors and not just different shades of grey and white you see in most print photographs. I highly encourage everyone that has an interest in animals or specific areas of nature to get out there and observe the animals and places firsthand. I guarantee the experience will inspire you, and everyone you tell of the many great things to be found in the outdoors.

Animals Seen Today: Sandbar shark, Great Hammerhead shark, Sharp nose shark

Roy Moffitt: Calling in the Drones, August 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 13, 2018

 

Current location/conditions: Evening August 13 – northwest of Icy Point Alaska

Air temp 34F, sea depth 45 m , surface sea water temp 42F

 

Calling in the Drones

We have not seen another ship or any other sign of civilization since we left Nome, until today when NOAA scientists coordinated an at sea meeting between the Healy and two saildrones.  Saildrones are remotely piloted sailboats that roam the seas without anyone on board.  A given route is programmed for collecting data and changes to the sailboat’s survey area can be given directly by satellite through the Internet.   After not seeing anything on the horizon for many days when the sail drone came into view it was quite eerie for me.  It was like a random floating traffic cone dropped in the Arctic.  I was amazed that it did not tip over.  The saildrone has a relatively large keel (the fin part of the boat you cannot see under water) to help it from tipping over.  The boat itself is about 7 m long (23 ft)  x 5 m tall ( 16.3 ft) x 2.5 m wide (8.2 ft) with a traveling speed of 3 to 5 knots.

Saildrone on the ocean
The saildrone is a remotely piloted sailboat that contains many scientific instruments.

We collected surface water samples near the drone that will be tested to verify the accuracy of the drones reporting instruments.

The instruments on a saildrone measure weather conditions and ocean conditions and properties.  The ocean data includes measurements for temperature, wave height, sea depth, currents, pH, salinity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.  Underwater microphones listen for marine mammals and an echosounder can keep track of fish that pass by.   This is a wealth of information in an area of the world where there are so few ships to report back weather and sea observations to civilization.

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

We caught Thysanoessa inermis in the big Methot net today. I had to have Nissa Ferm, a fisheries biologist from Lynker Inc working under contract for NOAA, spell that word out for me. She wrote it down without hesitation. I found this amazing because even spell check doesn’t recognize those words.  Nissa identifies many specimens we catch by eye and then verifies identification under a microscope. In general terms, Thysanoessa inermis is a type of organism often referred to as krill and is only about a centimeter in length.

Thysanoessa inermis, a species of krill
Thysanoessa inermis, a species of krill

Thysanoessa inermis is a vital member of the bottom of the food chain and an animal that eats phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is a microscopic plant that lives in the sunlit layers of the ocean and gets energy from the sun.  As with all plants, this is done through the process of photosynthesis. In the case of phytoplankton being an underwater plant, it uses carbon dioxide dissolved in the water in its photosynthesis process. Thysanoessa inermis helps gather this energy in by eating the phytoplankton and then becomes the prey of much larger creatures in the marine food chain such as fish and whales.

 

Now and Looking Forward

Although it was short lived, we saw our first snow flurry today.  It was incredible to see snowflakes in​ August! I am looking forward to more snowflakes and continued cool weather. ​

Thomas Savage: Meet the Crew, August 14, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.8
Dry bulb   8.8 C
Wet bulb  7 C
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles   (10.5 miles)
Wind speed: 23 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 999 millibars
Cloud Height: 10K feet
Waves: 2 foot

Meet the Crew

It takes a lot of personnel to ensure a successful mission. There are over forty personnel onboard this ship. During the past week, I have had opportunities to get to know them.

 


LT Stephen Moulton at the helm
LT Stephen Moulton at the helm

Stephen Moulton Operations Officer (in training) LT – NOAA

How did you first get involved in NOAA?

I was in the Coast Guard Reserves for eight years with some active time and trying to go back for active duty.

While working in Silver Spring, MD working as an industrial hygienist for an engineering company, I walked by NOAA Administration and inquired about jobs, applied for NOAA Corps and was accepted into training at the Coast Guard academy in 2012.  Processed out of Coast Guard into NOAA Corps as an Officer in Training.

What is your job on board the Fairweather?

Operations Officer (in training). My job is to setup ships daily plan. This includes making sure we have the equipment, personnel and a good idea as to what the weather conditions will be for successful operation. Once we collect the data at sea, my job is to ensure the data is processed and meets NOAA’s standards and that it gets compiled into the correct format for distribution to our NOAA Pacific Hydrographic Branch. This data primarily gets converted into nautical charts which is used by mariners such as cargo ships, the US Coast Guard and recreational cruise passenger ships

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I love being on the water and love driving the ship, making a 200-ton vessel do what you want by using the wind and seas, and navigating around other ships.

Where do you spend most of your time?

Most time is now spent in operations, training for what the ship needs to being doing with its time and funding, keeping us on the ship’s mission, which is surveying.

How long have you been on board?

3 months

When you were in high school did you have any vision of working at sea? 

No,  I attended Assumption College and graduated with degree in global and environmental studies.   It was tough finding a job with that degree, the only types of jobs with that degree is being a foreign officer .

What do you enjoy most abut living on board?

It makes a lot things convenient, commute to work is a walk upstairs, gym is down the stairs and meals are cooked and you have no dishes to clean. Everything you need is on board. Being able to explore the mountains and wild life in Juneau while the ship was under repair is another bonus.

What is the most challenging?

Being far from my family who are in Rhode Island with two adopted kids.

Which other NOAA ships have your served?

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, an east coast hydrographic survey from 2013 -2015 as an ensign. Spent 3 years on land as a CO-OPS handled tide gauge stations and operated small boats and traveled 4 weeks at a time for tide gauge maintenance along east coast team. Locations included Great Lakes and Puerto Rico.

Where do you see yourself in NOAA in the future?

Finishing up land assignment in Silver Spring Maryland and going out as an XO on a fisheries vessel in the Northeast such as NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.

 


 Simon Swart
Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Simon Swart in the plot room

Simon Swart – Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician

Where did you attend college and what was your degree in?  

Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. BA in Environmental Science.  Originally from the Cayman Islands and lived in San Francisco for ten years.

How did you get involved with NOAA?  

Found out through scientific papers and knew I wanted to work with maps and applied science.  I have been working aboard the Fairweather for five months.

Where is home?  

San Francisco where my dad resides.

Describe your job?

It changes a lot depending on what is currently occurring.  Six hour shifts on six hours off it simply depends on what is occurring in a day. While the boat launches are collecting data you are reviewing information and then process the data when it returns.

What do you enjoy most about being at sea?

Everything, love being on the water, that has a lot to do with growing up near the ocean. Every time I step outside on deck, it never ceases to amaze me with the beauty.

What are some challenges with ship life? 

Living in close proximity with forty people living in close quarters.

What is your favorite place you have visited while working for NOAA?

Traveling through the Aleutian Islands.  I still felt we were out far in the ocean with these beautiful islands.

Do you want to stay in the Alaskan region?

Yes, I have been wanting to traveling around Alaska since I was in high school.  When I originally applied for NOAA, it did not specify Alaska.

What do you enjoy doing while you are off the ship, off duty? 

It depends where the ship is located, hiking and fishing is what I enjoy most. Enjoy meeting and getting to know the local people at different ports.  When returning to these ports, it is nice to get together with them and go hiking.


Sam Candio
Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician Sam Candio

Sam Candio- Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician

What is your primary role?

Oversight of all the data, including the quality control and training new personnel.

Where are from?

New Jersey and attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington. And majored in BS Marine Biology.  Cape Fear Community College associates degree  Marine technology. This program is very good and this program has 95% job placement success. Got a job almost immediately after graduation

How did you get involved with NOAA

I saw a job online and applied for it, always wanted to work for NOAA.

How many ships have you worked?

Have worked on board the Fairweather for three years.

What is your favorite place you have visited while on board?

Yakutat, near Juneau. There is an incredible glacier there, one of the only advancing glaciers in south east Alaska. There are eighteen thousand foot mountains in this region. It is also home to the northern most surf shop. You enjoy surfing in Alaska.

What do you enjoy the most about living on a ship?

I enjoy visiting all these remote places that few people get to see. For instance seeing the sun never setting and going to remote islands to set up remote GPS base stations.

What is your advice for anyone interested in cartography or marine biology

Attend Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, North Carolina. As mentioned earlier, they have a great employment success rate of 95%. Start interning / volunteering as soon as you can. The community college also has a good research vessel with lots of hands on training. I traveled on two cruises, one to Baltimore and one to Bahamas.  Each cruise has a different focus such as fish identification, mapping, bottom profiling and navigation.


Oiler Kyle in the Engine Room
Oiler Kyle Mosier in the Engine Room

Kyle Mosier – Oiler

Where are you from?

Grew up in Federal Way, Washington and moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, after high school to attend college.

What is your degree in?  

AA degree from Pierce College, Lakewood, Washington. Then attended Seattle Maritime Academy with a focus of Engineering.

What is your primary role on the ship? 

Maintain and repair equipment on engines and clean air filters for ships air supply and staterooms, and oil changes on our generators. Also, work on a lot of special projects on board with the engineering team.

How did you you get involved with NOAA?

I heard about it during maritime school and my Port Captain had worked for NOAA and heard good things about it and then applied. They called me back for an interview over the phone and then sent me to Newport Oregon for a pre-employment physical. Then traveled to Norfolk Virginia for orientation.

What do you do while you are off duty?

I love to write and passionate about stories and writing books. First I start by brainstorming ideas from the places I have gone to and the experiences I have and the people I meet. It helps for plot and settings. This job helps me with that as we travel all over the northwest region. In one of my books I used my experience seeing glaciers and used that as an awesome setting. The types of books I write are science fiction, mystery and adventure. I have over twenty books that have been published and a series of books entitled Katrina the Angel.  My newest one, Natalie and the Search for Atlantis, is a Science Fiction which is the ninth one in the “Katrina the Angel” series. It is my most proud book that I have written and the longest. Writing makes me happy and hope one day to make it a career.

What do you enjoy the most about being at sea?  

What I like most is the places we have gone to such as traveling around Alaska with a great crew. Juneau, Alaska, is my favorite. It has great people and everything is within walking distance. There are many places to go hiking and places that have Karaoke.

If someone wants to go out and buy one of your novels where can they purchase one?

Kindle device or Amazon.

What do you find most challenging about being on board the ship? 

Unable to go home often

Do you have any plans as to working on another NOAA ship

No, I enjoy it on the Fairweather


JO Cabot Zucker
JO Cabot Zucker pilots a launch vessel

Cabot Zucker – Junior Officer

Where are you from?

Coastal town called Jupiter, Florida

Where did you attend College?

Went to the University of Florida and studied Wildlife Ecology and Sustainable Development

How did you first get involved in the NOAA Corps? 

I was on vacation in North Carolina and saw a job posting regarding the NOAA Corps.

What are the requirements for getting accepted into the NOAA Corps? 

You need a four year degree and they like to see experience in marine science or physical science preferably and being well rounded. There is a physical and medical screening pretty much the same as the military.

What are your responsibilities? 

My main responsibility is to drive and safely navigate the ship and support its mission.  Other collateral duties include, damage control, small boat officer assist with ship fleet inspection and inventory management on the ship.  Included with this is other administrative paper work and tasks.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

I really like how dynamic, challenging and a lot of responsibility. and I love the challenging work environment and how I continually learn new skills. I have been on this ship for two months.

During these two months, what is the most amazing view you have seen?  

The transition through the Aleutian Islands, the scenery there includes snow covered volcanoes, intense scenery of jagged cliffs. Saw lots of whales, puffins and other sea birds.

What is some of the challenges with working on a ship?

There is constant distractions and its such a dynamic environment.  Plans are constantly changing and you have to adapt and get the work done. Being away from my wife has been challenging and I will see her in December for three weeks.

What place have you visited while serving the ship that you enjoyed the most? 

I enjoyed Juneau, hiking the mountain and snow fields. Visited the Mendenhall Glacier and enjoyed fishing. We caught Pinks and Chum which are both types of Salmon.

 

Personal Log

I have now been at sea for over one week. The weather for the most part has been remarkable, sunshine.   Last night we sailed into a sheltered area south of Point Hope, Kotzebue Sound, as the remnants of a tropical storm spun by. The wind gusts were recorded at 30 knots and the seas peaked around 8 feet.  The Fairweather handled the rough seas well and rocked me to sleep. We are sailing back to the Point Hope area to conduct more surveying during this remainder of this week.  At Point Hope, the sun rises at 6:20 am and sets at 12:04 am. As each day passes, the daylight is getting shorter by 10 minutes as we head into fall.   On December 21st,  the sun will be directly overhead at 21 degrees south Latitude and marks is the winter solstice. Using the image below, notice that the sun is shining a 90 degree angle directly above the Earth at 21 degrees south latitude. Locate the Arctic Circle and imagine the globe spinning, what do you see or not see at the Arctic Circle during the Winter Solstice?

Diagram of Earth at Winter Solstice
Diagram of Earth at Winter Solstice. Image from thenorthwestforager.com.

Question of the Day How much sunlight will Point Hope receive December 21st during the Winter Solstice?

 

Answer from yesterday  Answer is 74% relative humidity.

Relative humidity measures how much water vapor the atmosphere can hold at a specific temperature.  Relative humidity is really a measurement of comfort and that is why meteorologist use this especially during the summer months.  At warmer temperatures, the atmosphere can hold large amounts of water vapor.  In the south, we always relate high humidity with hot temperatures. As the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, water will cling to the nearest object, you; thus it becomes uncomfortable.  However, at cooler temperatures, the atmosphere cannot hold that much water vapor, so the atmosphere can reach 100%, but it is comfortable as there simply is not a lot of water in the atmosphere.

Until next time, happy sailing!

Tom

 

 

 

 

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part V, July 27, 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

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

Sid Dunn

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Although you would never guess it, Sid is the newest member of the Okeanos Explorer and has been working on the vessel since June 7th. He recently retired after sixteen years as an insurance agent specializing in business claim adjustments. Since his wife’s family is involved in the maritime industry, he thought it would be interesting to research potential post-retirement careers in this field.

Sid began a 5-week training program at the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy. This institution is a highly respected, state-of-the-art maritime training center established for individuals who seek to enter a maritime profession. After his training period, Sid completed a two-month internship on the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry in Rhode Island. Sid sailed from Newport, Rhode Island down to Galveston, Texas while on the Oliver Hazard Perry.

Once he completed his training and internship, Sid was hired as part of the permanent crew aboard the Okeanos Explorer. Sid is a General Vessel Assistant (GVA) and performs work in the deck and engine departments. He is responsible for standing watch two times per day. These watches are four hour time periods and aboard this cruise, he is scheduled from 0800-1200 and 2000-2400. During his watches, Sid performs rounds throughout the entire ship to ensure the safety of the vessel, completes routine maintenance, and stands watch on the bridge. Sid really enjoys being out to sea and is excited to continue his new adventure on the Okeanos Explorer.

Sid Dunn
Sid aboard the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry

Mark Van Arsdale, How Big is Alaska Anyway? August 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Van Arsdale

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

September 3–14, 2018

Mission: Bering Sea Juvenile Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Date: August 13, 2018

Latitude: 61.3293° N
Longitude: 149.5680° W
Air Temperature: 56° F
Sky: Rain (typical weather for August in AK)

Cascade Glacier
Me standing in front of the rapidly melting Cascade Glacier, Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound.

Personal Introduction

My name is Mark Van Arsdale.  I am a high school teacher in Eagle River, Alaska.  Eagle River is a bedroom community just outside of Anchorage.  At ERHS, I teach AP Biology, Forensic Science, Oceanography, and Marine Biology.  I will be aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as a participant in the 2018 NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

It’s raining right now, and I am sitting in my kitchen contemplating the start of the new school year next week and the start of a new adventure next month.   In three weeks I will fly from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to join the scientists and crew of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Even though I will never leave the state, I will fly 796 miles, the same distance as flying from New York to Chicago.  Alaska is an incredibly large state, almost 600,000 square miles of land and 34,000 miles of coastline.  My adventure will take me into the Bering Sea.  Although I have never been there, I have a connection to the Bering Sea.  Like many other Alaskans’, much of the salmon and other seafood my family eats spends all or part of its lifecycle traveling through the rich waters of the Bering Sea.

Alaska map
At 591,000 square miles, Alaska is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. Copyright Alaska Sea Adventures.

Alaska and Alaskans are highly dependent on the oceans. Commercial fishing in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea produces more groundfish (pollock, cod, rockfish, sablefish, and flatfish) than any other place in the country, close to 2 million metric tons per year. In 2013 that was valued at over $2 billion.  Fishing is consistently Alaska’s top non-government employer and after oil, seafood represents our largest export.  Thousands of residents participate every year in subsistence fishing, and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Alaska each year, many with the hopes of catching a wild salmon or halibut (facts from the Alaska Sea Grant).

My classroom is less than five miles from the ocean (Cook Inlet Estuary), yet many of the students I teach have never seen the ocean.  They may not know the importance of the ocean to our state.  When I teach Oceanography and Marine Biology, I work very hard to connect my students to both the science and industry of the oceans.  Not just so that my students can understand what kind of work that scientist and fishermen do, but also so that they will understand the value of the work do.

I have been in the classroom for twenty years, and in the last few years I have seen more and more students entering my classroom who see no value in science.  Science matters!  The oceans and our relationship to the oceans matter!  I am hopeful that working on board the Oscar Dyson with a team of scientists is going to help me make those connections better.

Have I mentioned yet that I love fish?  I love to study fish, teach about fish, catch fish, cook fish, eat fish, watch fish.  So I am pretty excited about spending two weeks on a research cruise dedicated to fish research, and working with some of the Scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

IMG_8559
A Quillback rockfish caught in Prince William Sound.

 

Tom Savage: Surveying the Coastline of Point Hope, Alaska, August 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 12, 2018

Weather data from the Bridge

Wind speed 8 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Barometer: 1010.5 mB
Temp:  8.5 C     47 F
Dry bulb 8   Wet bulb 6.5
Cloud Height: 5,000 ft
Type: Alto Stratus
Sea Height 2 feet

Science and Technology

Why is NOAA taking on this challenging task of mapping the ocean floor?  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the ocean temperatures worldwide are warming and thus the ice in the polar regions are melting. As the ice melts, it provides mariners with an option to sail north of Canada, avoiding the Panama Canal. The following sequence of maps illustrates a historical perspective of receding ice sheet off the coast of Alaska since August 1857.  The red reference point on the map indicates the Point Hope region of Alaska we are mapping.

This data was compiled by NOAA using 10 different sources. For further information as how this data was compiled visit https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/mar14/alaska-sea-ice.html. 

The light grey indicates  0-30% Open Water – Very Open Drift.  The medium grey indicates 30 – 90 % Open drift – Close Pack.  The black indicates 90 – 100% very close compact.

Sea Ice Concentration August 1857
Sea Ice Concentration August 1857
Ice Concentration August 1957
Ice Concentration August 1957
Sea Ice Concentration August 2016
Sea Ice Concentration August 2016

Ships that sail this region today rely on their own ships sonar for navigating around nautical hazards and this may not be as reliable especially if the ships sonar is not properly working (it’s also problematic because it only tells you how deep it is at the ship’s current location – a sonar won’t tell you if an uncharted hazard is just in front of the ship). Prior to mapping the ocean floor in any coastal region, it requires a year of planning in identifying the exact corridors to be mapped. Hydrographers plot areas to be mapped using reference polygons overlaid on existing nautical charts.  Nautical charts present a wealth of existing information such as ocean depth, measured in fathoms(one fathom is equal to six feet) and other known navigation hazards.

As mariners sail closer to the shorelines, the depth of the ocean becomes increasingly important.  Because of this uncertainty in the depth, the Fairweather herself cannot safely navigate safely (or survey) close to shore.  In order to capture this data, small boats called “launches” are used. There are a total of four launch boats that are housed on the boat deck of the Fairweather. Each boat can collect data for up to twelve hours with a crew of 2-5. Depending on the complexity of the area, each daily assignment will be adjusted to reasonably reflect what can be accomplished in one day by a single launch. Weather is a huge factor in the team’s ability to safely collect data. Prior to deployment, a mission and safety briefing is presented on the stern of the ship by the Operations Officer. During this time, each boat coxswain generates and reports back to the operations officer their GAR score (safety rating) based on weather, crew skills and mission complexity (GAR stands for Green-Amber-Red … green means low risk, so go ahead, amber means medium risk, proceed with caution; red means high risk, stop what you’re doing).  In addition, a mission briefing is discussed outlining the exact area in which data will be collected and identified goals.

 

Safety Briefing
Safety Briefing by LT Manda – photo by Tom Savage

 

Deploying a launch boat
Deploying a launch boat – photo by Tom Savage

The sonar equipment that transmits from the launch boats is called EM2040 multi beam sonar. A multi beam sonar is a device that transmits sound waves to determine the depth of the ocean. It is bolted to the hull that runs parallel to the boat, yet emits sound perpendicular to the orientation of the sonar. In the beginning of the season, hydrographers perform a patch test where they measure the offsets from the sonar to the boat’s GPS antenna, as well as calculating any angular misalignments in pitch, roll or yaw. These measurements are then entered in to software that automatically corrects for these offsets.

deploying CTD
TAS Tom Savage deploying the conductivity, temperature and density probe ~ photo by Megan Shapiro

The first measurement to collect is the ocean’s conductivity, temperature and depth. From this information, the scientists can determine the depths in which the density of the water changes. This data is used to calculate and correct for the change in speed of sound in a given water column and thus provide clean data. The boats travel in pre-defined set lines within a defined polygon showing the identified corridor to be collected. Just like mowing a lawn, the boat will travel back and forth traveling along these lines. The pilot of the boat called the Coxswain, uses a computer aided mapping in which they can see these set lines in real time while the boat moves. This is an extremely valuable piece of information while driving the boat especially when the seas are rough.

Coxswain
Coxswain Zucker – photo by Tom Savage

The coxswain will navigate the boat to the position where data collection will begin inside a defined polygon. Since the multibeam echosounder transmits sound waves to travel through a deep column of water, the area covered by the beam is wide and takes longer to collect. In such stretches of water, the boat is crawling forward to get the desired amount of pings from the bottom needed to produce quality hydrographic data. The reverse is true when the boat is traveling in shallow water. The beam is very narrow, and the boat is able to move at a relatively fast pace. The boat is constantly rolling and pitching as it travels along the area.

 

 

 

 

Hydrographer Megan analyzing the data
Hydrographer Megan analyzing the data

As the boat is moving and collecting data, the hydrographer checks the course and quality of the data in real time. The depth and soundings comes back in different colors indicating depth. There is at least four different software programs all talking to one another at the same time. If at any point one component stops working, the boat is stopped and the problem is corrected.  The technology driving this collection effort is truly state of the art and it all has to operate correctly, not an easy feat. Every day is different and provides different challenges making this line of work interesting.  Troubleshooting problems and the ability to work as a team is crucial for mission success!

 

Personal Log

I have found the work on the Fairweather to be extremely interesting. The crew onboard has been exceptional in offering their insights and knowledge regarding everything from ship operations to their responsibilities.  Today’s blog marks my first week aboard and everyday something new and different is occurring. I look forward in developing new lesson plans and activities for my elementary outreach program. Prior to arriving, I was expecting the weather to be mostly overcast and rainy most of the time. However, this has not been the case. Clear blue skies has prevailed most days; in fact I have seen more sun while on the Fairweather than back home in Hendersonville in the entire month of July!  For my earth science students, can you make a hypothesis as to why clear skies has prevailed here? Hint, what are the five lifting mechanisms that generate instability in the atmosphere and which one(s) are dominant in this region of Alaska?

Question of the day.  Can you calculate the relative humidity based on the dry and wet bulb readings above?      Data table below……    Answer in the next blog

What is the relative humidity?
What is the relative humidity?

 

Until next time, happy sailing !

Tom

Roy Moffitt: Moorings All Day, August 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 12, 2018

 

Current location/conditions: mid day August 12  Northwest of Icy Point Alaska

Air temp 34F, sea depth 43 m , surface sea water temp 43F

 

Moorings all day

Moorings are essentially anything left tied to an anchor at sea. In this case, moorings hold many different types of scientific instruments that have been anchored at sea for a year. We are only here in the Arctic for a couple weeks. In order to monitor the ocean when people are not here, many different kinds of underwater instruments that have been designed to record ocean conditions are left under the ocean attached to moorings.  To service these moorings they must be retrieved. This is one of the main tasks of this trip.  When we arrive at a mooring station, one would not know it as the mooring is underneath the ocean, hidden from sight.  A audio signal is sent to the underwater release and a buoy (a large yellow float) is deployed. Then, the Coast Guard steps into action.  This picture below shows a Coast Guard crew fishing for a buoy in a not-so-calm sea.  When they hook the buoy they will tie it to a rope that is hooked into the Healy‘s on board winch.  The winch will pull in the buoy as the rope is wrapped around a turning spool.

Moffitt_Mooring Retrieval_small
The Coast Guard crew fish for a buoy in a not-so-calm sea

When the buoys and attached instruments come out of the ocean they can be covered with sea life, such as barnacles which you may be able to see as small white shell looking creatures in the picture below. The buoy in the picture is mostly covered in bryozoans.  Although it looks like seaweed, bryozoans are not plants, but tiny sea filtering animals chained together.  Either way it has got to go.  This was my job today.  I washed all the buoys and cleaned the instruments.  For the sensitive parts on the instruments, this meant using a sponge and toothbrush. For the rest of the instrument, I used a power washer.

Mooring retrieved from the ocean
A mooring retrieved from the ocean, covered in marine life – mainly bryozoans.

 

cleaned instrument
A close-up of the mooring instrument, post-cleaning

Once this instrument is in the science lab, the sound recorder (as mentioned in the August 8th blog post) was taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.  It will be reused at another station during this trip if all is functioning well.  In the next picture, this equipment is now shown cleaned and sitting in the lab. Much of the cleaning was done with toothbrushes and a wire brush.  So another important role for a scientist is spending a lot of time cleaning equipment! Not exactly glorious!

 

The Mustang Suit

In my life, I have power washed many things, but aboard the Healy in the Arctic, for safety reasons, I have to wear a Mustang suit.  Essentially the Mustang is an oversized orange snowsuit designed to save a life if anyone falls overboard into the near freezing Arctic waters.  It has a light beacon and a whistle attached for rescuers to find you and it is designed to keep body heat in for a longer amount of time than plain clothes.  This is to try to keep anyone from immediately getting hypothermia and hopefully provide the additional few minutes it would take to rescue a man overboard.  I prefer to call the Mustang a big fluffy orange sweat suit– even though it was 34 degrees out I was sweating in it!

NH dudes
Teacher at Sea Roy Moffitt (left) and UNH researcher Anthony Lyons (right) wearing Mustang Suits

Here I am, in this picture, looking like an orange Pillsbury doughboy with fellow New Hampshire resident Anthony Lyons.  Anthony is from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and is a Research Professor at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. Anthony is retrieving and deploying moorings with passive acoustic devices that record animal sounds and rain from under the ice. The instruments also measure the density of plankton and fish in the water, both food sources for marine animals.  With data over time, changes in density of these populations with changes of ice cover can be found.

 

Today’s Wildlife Sightings

Sometimes life clings on to the moorings.  These basking starfish were attached to a mooring we pulled in yesterday.  Then, the next picture is an Anemone curled up in a ball that was also attached to another mooring.

  

Now and Looking Forward

Air temperature has dropped to 34 degrees F, and although the surface sea temperature is 43, lower in the water column the temperatures are actually near or below freezing. It looks like we may see some pieces of ice as soon as next mooring stations tomorrow.  Those changing conditions will have to be monitored for mooring retrieval, as a buoy cannot pop up through ice!

Roy Moffitt: Catching the Tiny Fish in the Big Sea, August 10, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 10, 2018

 

Current location/conditions: mid day August 10

Air temp 45F, sea depth 59 m , surface sea water temp 44F

 

Catching the Tiny Fish in the Big Sea

For the past two days, I helped out Robert Levine, PhD Student of Oceanography at the University of Washington, working with NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.  We sent out a Methot net to catch juvenile fish today. In the below picture, taken yesterday, I am helping Robert assemble the Methot net.

assembling Methot net
Teacher at Sea Roy Moffitt helps assemble the Methot net

For catching fish a centimeter or two long, the net seems huge.  The opening of the net is approximately 2.2 meters by 2.2 meters or 5 square meters.  The net itself is approximately 10 meters long.  The holes in the net are only 2 mm. This means anything bigger than 2 mm will be caught up in the net.

 

Echogram
Example of an Echogram

Before sending the net into the sea Levine takes an echogram survey.  He lowers the recorder overboard and the attached cable sends the results back to the computer on board.  Two different wavelengths are sent out and bounce off anything in the sea column.  The smaller wavelengths will show where any of the smaller fish are hanging out.  The results give an accurate depth measurement of the ocean and shows small organisms at about 28 meters in depth.  The net is then lowered into the sea and trawled at that depth for about 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Inclinometer
Inclinometer

My task during the net deployment was to measure the angle of the cable entering the water by using a hand held inclinometer.   It is important to keep the angle around 45 degrees to keep the proper depth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

today's catch
Photos of today’s catch: at top left, a view of the unsorted bucket; top right, a petri dish with fish sorted by species; bottom, juvenile fish displayed on measuring tape

Today was not considered a high population area, but we were still able to catch some fish and more marine life.  All contents end up in a canister at the end of the net in a big slurry of sloppy stew.  In the picture of the bucket the fish are hidden within moon jellyfish and all the little black dots that are crab megalopa.  Crab megalopa is the second life stage of a crab before transformation into juvenile crabs to start their life on the sea floor. For fish today what was caught in the net were juvenile Cod, juvenile flat fish, and Sculpin.  (Shown in picture with the round dish.)

The goal of this fish collection is to verify the presence of juvenile fish and better understand the geographic range of fish during their life cycle. The exact identification of each will take some time and many of the tiny fish are frozen and sent out to labs for further identification. Levine will also be releasing several bottom-moored echo sounders during the trip.  These instruments will be able to monitor the presence of fish and record that data over the year.

 

Now and Looking forward

Future specimen collections on this trip will be happening using the Methot net to verify distribution and seasonal movement of fish population in the Chukchi Sea.

Eric Koser: Concluding Matters, July 17, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22-July 9, 2018

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 17, 2018: 900 HRS

 

Weather Data From the Front Porch
Lat: 44°9.48’          Long: 94°1.02’
Skies: Clear
Wind 6 knots, 50°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: no seas!
Water temp: no precip to measure
Air Temp: 22°C Dry Bulb

 

Science and Technology Log

Hydrography matters. It allows mariners to travel safely. It allows many of the goods that arrive here in Minnesota to get here! Containers of goods arrive in Minnesota by truck and train from both coasts as well as the great lakes and by barge on the Mississippi river. Right here in Mankato, we often see shipping containers on trucks and trains. But I wonder if many people stop to consider what it takes to assure that the goods they desire arrive safely.

 

These trains carry containers that likely come from one of the coasts on a ship. The containers often transfer to semi trucks to go to their final destinations.

Intermodal Truck
Shipping containers like this one are very common on Minnesota roadways and railways!

In Minnesota, it’s very common to see containers on trucks. The more I am aware, the more often I realize there are shipping containers all around. I wonder how many people stop to consider that trip that some of the containers here on trucks have taken. I would guess that many of them have traveled on the ocean and many across international waters.

 

 

 

Intermodal Truck
Many carriers distribute merchandise via the intermodal system.

 

Seafood matters. People enjoy Alaskan fish, even here in the Midwest. Fishing boats are successful in part due to safe navigation made possible by current charts. The ledges and shoals identified by the hydro scientists on Rainier keep mariners safe, and ultimately support the commerce that many enjoy around the world.

Salmon isn't native to Minnesota!
This looks like a tasty ocean treat!

Navigation matters in many areas! All mariners in the US have free access to the latest navigational charts for inland and coastal waterways, thanks to the work of NOAA’s hydrographers aboard ships like Rainier. The updates we made in Alaska that are most pertinent to safety will be posted in a matter of weeks as “Notice to Mariners.” Here is an example. The general chart updates made by the team will be in the online charts within a year.

——-

It’s been both exciting and rewarding to be a part of this work. I’ve developed a good understanding of the techniques and tools used in basic ocean hydrography. There are so many great applications of physics – and I’m excited to share with my students.

One of the key take-aways for me is the constant example of team work on the ship. Most everywhere I went, I witnessed people working together to support the mission. In the engineering department, for example, Ray, Sara, Tyler, and Mike have to communicate closely to keep the ship’s systems up and running. More often than not, they work in a loud environment where they can’t speak easily to each other. Yet they seem to know what each other needs – and have ways to signal each other what to do.

On the bridge, one way the teamwork is evident in the language used. There is a clearly established set of norms for how to control the ship. The conn gives commands. The helm repeats them back. The helm reports back when the command is completed. The conn then affirms this verbally. And after a while, it all seems pretty automatic. But this team work is really at the heart of getting the ship’s mission accomplished automatically.

Hydro Team
Here the hydrographers work together with the cox’n to assure our launch captures the needed data.

The hydrographers aboard Rainer sure have to work together. They work in teams of three to collect data on the launches – and then bring that back to the ship to process. They need to understand each other’s notes and references to make accurate and complete charts from their observations. And when the charts are sent on to NOAA’s offices, they need to be clear. When running multibeam scanning, the hydrographer and the cox’n (boat driver) have to work very closely together to assure the launch travels in the right path to collect the needed data.

Even the stewards must be a team. They need to prepare meals and manage a kitchen for 44 people. And they do this for 17 days straight—no one wants to miss a meal! The planning that happens behind the scenes to keep everyone well fed is not a small task.

Ocean Sunset
Sunset on the ocean is an occasion in itself! Its easy to be captivated by such beauty at sea!

I look forward to sharing lots about my experiences. I have been asked to speak at a regional library to share my story and photos. I also will present at our state conference on science education this fall. And surely, my students will see many connections to the oceans!  Kids need to understand the interconnectedness of our vast planet!

Finally, I’m very appreciative of NOAA both for the work that they do and for the opportunities they provide teachers like myself to be involved!

Teacher at Sea
This Teacher at Sea has had a great experience!

 

Roy Moffitt: Observing Whales Today and for the Next Year, August 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Healy 1801 –  Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 8, 2018

Current location:/conditions Evening of August 8th: Near King Island, AK the most southern part of the trip – Air temp 49F, sea depth 50 ft, surface water temp 52F

 

Mammal and Bird Observations

Up on the observation deck formal bird and mammal observations are taking place for the extent of the trip. When recording sighting of birds, observers observe an approximate 300m square area in the front of the ship.  Any seabird that flies or swims through that zone is counted and recorded. Doing these observations over time can give approximations on bird population trends. Here is a picture I took of a Crested Auklet who floated close by to the ship. Crested Auklets eat primarily plankton and breed in the number of millions in nearby islands of the Bering Sea.

Crested Auklet
Crested Auklet

The same can be done for whales. In this case the visible range is used.  With the low angle sunlight, it is easy to see the whale spout from a whale on the horizon, however closer range views of whales is needed for identification. That’s most effectively done on the long range by taking pictures of the whale’s tail.  Here is a picture I took today of a gray whale’s tail.

Gray Whale tail
Gray Whale’s tail

Gray whales frequent the area for its shallow sea and dive to the bottom to eat bottom dwelling sea life such as crustaceans by scooping up the bottom of the sea and filtering out the seabed leaving the food.  But how do you observe whales when you are not in the Arctic?  You eavesdrop on them…..

 

Observing whales acoustically for the next year.

Today I was observing with help of binoculars and a camera to see whales that were in view of the ship.  But how do you know if a whale visited when you where gone?  Record their voices.

Primary investigator Katherine Berchok assisted by Stephanie Grassia are retrieving and replacing acoustic (sound) monitoring devices suspended above the sea floor.  Today one of these instruments that was placed on the sea floor a year ago is now being retrieved.  Within the retrieved equipment is a recording of acoustics that have occurred in the last year.  The sound waves were recorded in a pattern of 80 minutes every 5 hours for an entire year.  That is a lot to listen to, so recordings will go through processing through different software to see if any sound wave patterns are close to those created by different whale species.  Though this data cannot give an accurate count of how many whales are in an area at a particular time, it does allow scientist to verify what species of whales and also walruses visit the study area.

Acoustic Mooring
Acoustic Mooring

This picture here shows the new underwater microphone or hydrophone (the white tube) being prepared to be lowered into the sea to be retrieved next year.  Once lowered in the area pictured here it will be covered in about 30 meters of ocean.  So how will it be found next year?   There is transmitter (the small gray tube) that will allow scientist to find it, send a signal and have the instruments released from the weight and float to the surface.  This year’s instrument will be cleaned up and reused next year.

 

Looking forward

As we move northward the species of mammals (whales, walruses) and birds being observed will change, look for updates in the coming weeks! ​

Roy Moffitt, 40 Scientists Embark from Nome, August 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018


Mission: Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 6 – 7, 2018

 

All Gather in Nome for the Expedition Launch

August 6th:

All of the science party arrived in Nome and gathered for a science briefing before departure. In the evening there was a public presentation by Jackie Grebmeier the missions Co-Chief Scientist and Primary Investigator of the Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory – Northern Chukchi Integrated Study (DBO-NCIS). Jackie presented on what researchers have found. In brief, there is a shift northwards of the bottom dwelling Arctic ecosystems in the Bering Sea. This is due to the lack of winter ice in the southern Bering Sea causing a lack of a deep-sea cold pool of water during the rest of the year. This colder water is needed for some bottom dwelling organisms such as clams. Those clams are the favorite food choice of the Spectacled Eider Duck. When the bottom of the food chain moves north the higher in the food chain organisms such as the Spectacled Eider Duck need to adapt to a different food source or in this case move with north with it. The reason for the lacking cold pool of seawater is the lack ice being created at the surface during the winter, this process creates cold saltier water. Colder water that is also higher in salinity sinks and settles to the bottom of the ocean. So essentially the effects of less southern sea ice are from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the ocean. Grebmeier will be leading the DBO-NCS science team during this expedition so look for a future blogs focused on this research.

August 7th Evening:

We are currently anchored off the Nome Alaska Harbor and have only been on the ship for a few hours. Scientists are preparing their instruments for deployment. These instruments will measure a wide range of non-living and living members of the ecosystem. These scientific measurements will be taken from the sea floor into the atmosphere, the measurements will use a wide range of equipment. Stay tuned to future blogs with focus on different research groups, their data, specialized equipment, and their findings. We are off!

There is no place like Nome, Where the Land Meets the Sea

We are departing from Nome, Alaska. Here are some pictures around the city of Nome. Roadways to the rest of Alaska and beyond do not connect Nome. You must get here by boat or plane.

Nome from Anvil Mountain
Nome from Anvil Mountain

 

Healy anchored off Nome
The USCG Healy is anchored off the coast of Nome.
Healy at anchor
Another view of USCGC Healy anchored off of Nome

 

The Chum salmon were running in the Nome River, they leave the ocean and go up the river to spawn.

salmon jumping
Chum Salmon jumping up the Nome River

I found someone who traveled farther to get here than me: Arctic Terns who travel from the Antarctic to Arctic every year. In this picture, an Arctic Tern is seen with this year’s offspring. The juvenile here can now fly and will stay with its parent for the first 2 to 3 months.

Arctic Tern and offspring
Arctic Tern and its new offspring

 

This is the same variety of seagull that you see in New England, but in Alaska, this one was not so nice. As I was walking on busy road way, this gull caught me off guard and dive-bombed me, almost knocking me into incoming traffic. After several more passes, the gull decided I was not a threat to its offspring. This nest was over 200ft away. Many seabirds use the coast of Alaska to breed and raise the next generation. The common seagull, or Glaucous Gull, and Arctic Tern are only just two.​

Seagull on the roof with nest
Seagull on the roof with nest

Emily Cilli-Turner: Plenty of Fish in the (Bering) Sea, August 6, 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: August 6, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 58 04.81 N

Longitude: 174 06.88 W

Wind Speed: 6.88 knots

Wind Direction: 275.19 (NW)

Air Temperature: 10.0 C

Barometric Pressure: 1013.2 mb

Visibility: 6 nautical miles

Sea Wave Height: 4 feet

Sky: Overcast

 

Science Log

While the techniques written about in the previous blog post ensure that when we use the trawling nets we mostly catch pollock, there is usually a small amount of by-catch in each haul.  By-catch means ocean life other than pollock (the desired catch) that we bring up in a haul using the trawling net.  This post will focus on some of the creatures that I have seen in the catches during my time on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.

 

Principal species of interest:

Pollock: The scientific name for these pollock (known as Alaska pollock or walleye pollock) is Gadus chalcogrammus.  We often catch many different ages of pollock, from age 0 pollock up to large adult pollock and these range in length from a few centimeters up to about 62 centimeters. Pollock is most of what we catch, and they are easy to identify by their three dorsal fins and speckling.  Pollock mainly eat euphausiids and copepods, but also sometimes eat the age 0 pollock.

Adult pollock
Adult pollock

 

By-catch species:

Chum Salmon: Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) is one of the five types of salmon and lives for about 6 years on average.  Like all salmon, they are spawned in freshwater and then migrate out to the ocean.  Once they return to the freshwater and spawn, they die about two weeks later. They mostly eat zooplankton and insects, but have been known to eat comb jellyfish as well.

chum salmon
Student intern Liz Allyn with a chum salmon from a haul.

 

Jellyfish: We see several types of jellyfish in each catch, but we mainly see the Northern Sea Nettle (Chrysaora melanaster).  We have also seen Northern Sea Nettle swimming near the surface before sunrise when we are pole fishing for pollock.  The word melanaster translates to “black star,” which you can identify in the pattern on the bell of this jellyfish. The bell diameter can reach up to 12 inches and the tentacles can grow as long as 10 feet. As climate change has warmed the surface temperatures of the Bering Sea, the population of Northern Sea Nettle is increasing.  Northern Sea Nettles mostly eat zooplankton, but sometimes also eat pollock!

Chrysaora melanster
Chrysaora melanster

Smooth Lumpsucker: Smooth lumpsuckers (Cyclopterus lumpus) are named so because of an adhesive disc on their underside that helps them suction onto the ocean floor.  These fish spend most of their time on the bottom of the ocean and are not particularly good swimmers. The roe (eggs) of the lumpsucker is a delicacy in Scandinavia.

Flatfish: Alaska Plaice & Yellowfin Sole: We have also caught two types of flatfish during my time aboard the ship: yellowfin sole (Pleuronectes aspera) and Alaska Plaice (Pleuronectes quadrituberculatus). These peculiar looking fish can be identified by having both eyes on top of their head.  When they are spawned, these fish have eyes on either side of their head, but as they get older the eyes migrate to be on the same side. These fish mainly reside on the ocean floor, where they eat polychaetes and amphipods, such as worms and mollusks.

Capelin: The capelin (Mallotus villosus) is a small fish in the smelt family reaching a length of about 10 inches.  It feeds mainly on plankton and krill.  The most interesting thing about capelin is their smell; if you put their scales close to your nose you will smell cucumbers!

Capelin
Capelin

 

Personal Log

While the weather since boarding the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson has largely consisted of some high winds and big swells, there have been one or two nice days in the Bering Sea. On these days, we have taken the opportunity to go outside.  On one particularly nice day where the sun was shining, there was a mini corn-hole tournament on the deck.  After thinking that my time on the ship was the least amount of time spent outside during the summer, this was a nice way to spend the after-dinner time.

corn hole
Operations officer LT Carl Noblitt and student intern Grace Workman playing corn-hole on the deck.

I am also grateful for NOAA scientists Mike Levine and Darin Jones, who have made me feel like an expert in the fish lab.  At this point, I know more about pollock than I ever thought I would.  In the fish lab, I primarily am responsible for measuring the length of the pollock sample.  However, Mike and Darin have also taught me about pollock anatomy and how to tell if a pollock is male or female.  I have also become good at extracting the otoliths, which involves a precise cut of the pollock.  For a person with almost no experience working with biological specimens, much less fish, I finally feel like a useful part of the team.

Did You Know?

The Bering Sea is an extremely important fishing location and the United States catches over $1 billion of seafood here each year.

Thomas Savage: Which radars are used on the bridge? August 6, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 6, 2018

Weather data from the Bridge

Wind speed 14 knots
Visibility: 5 nautical  miles
Barometer: 1007.5 mB
Temp:  8.5 C     47 F
Cloud Height: 10,000 ft
Type: Alto Stratus
Sea Height 2 feet

Science and Technology 

The focus of the NOAA ship Fairweather is to generate and update existing maps of the ocean floor called hydrography. The ship is outfitted with state of the art mapping equipment which uses single and multibeam sonar in capturing the physical topography of the ocean floor (more on this in a future blog).  The region we are mapping is located off the coast of Point Hope in north west Alaska.  It takes an amazing amount of technology especially navigational tools located in the bridge to navigate the ship within this challenging region called the Chukchi Sea.  There are two types of radar on the bridge used to navigate the ship using different radio frequencies, the X band and S band.

The X Band radar generates radio waves with 3 cm and 9 GHz, respectively. The radar is positioned high above the bridge and has the ability to pick up ships up to 40 miles in the distance. During the best weather conditions, officers on the bridge can see the horizon at a distance of 6 miles with the highest powered binoculars and make out other vessels out to about 14 miles. This radar extends the visual range of officers especially identifying ships that are not visible through the use of binoculars. This radar is useful for detecting smaller objects such as small boats in the vicinity of the ship, due to its ability to better resolve smaller objects.

The S Band radar generates radio waves with 9cm and 3 GHz … for context, a microwave oven operates at around 2.5 GHz; a car radio receives at 0.1 GHz (though most people think in MHz… e.g. “You’re listening to The Mountain on 105.9 (MHz)”… the lower frequency of the radio means it’s even less affected by rain and can travel even farther – both good things if you’re running a radio station). This type sound wave have longer distances between each crest. As a result, the sound wave can better track larger objects than the X band and objects at greater distances. In addition, this radar can be used to detect ships through walls of rain. This radar is used by weather forecasters to track types of precipitation, direction and severity and to identify possible rotations that could develop tornado. Another unique property of this radar is its ability to track precipitation on the other side of mountains. In this region of Point Hope, the Brooks Range is visible to the east and knowing the precipitation and direction is important for planning ship operations.

 

X Band Radar
Ensign Tennyson operating the X Band Radar

Another vital role of these radars is to track current position of the ship when anchored. By using four known coordinates of physical objects on land, in our case, the Brooks Range, located to our east, and known peninsulas are targeted. Officers will use the alidade (and compass rose) located outside the bridge to get their bearings and confirm the ships geographic coordinates. This information reveals whether the ship’s anchor is being dragged.

Alidade
Ensign Tennyson operating an alidade

 

Geography – Point Hope is located just above the Arctic Circle; why is NOAA mapping this region?  The sea ice in this region of Point Hope continues to disappear as a reflection of increased global temperatures. This has generated an opportunity for merchant ships to sail north of Canada instead of using the Panama Canal. The mapping of the ocean floor will provide mariners accurate maps resulting in safer passage.

Personal Log

My journey began at 6 am as my plane from the Asheville airport departed. Traveling over Alaska viewing the Rockies and glaciers from the window has been inspiring and reveals how big Alaska really is.  As soon as I landed in Nome, Alaska, around 1 am eastern time, I was reminded again how important it is to be flexible when participating in any NOAA research. After meeting up with the junior officer at the airport, he informed me that the ship is leaving in two hours due to an approaching storm. Scientists conducting research on board a ship at sea are always at the mercy of mother nature. Everyone on board NOAA’s hydrographic ship Fairweather has been exceptionally welcoming and nice which made my transition to life at sea smooth. The tradition of excellent food on board NOAA ships continues!!

Flying out of Asheville
Flying out of Asheville

 

I am looking forward to learning as much as I can during this three week adventure and bring back inspiring lessons and labs to the classroom. It is always my hope and vision to provide real world science in action to excite and encourage our students to explore and possible explore careers in science.

Until next time, happy sailing !

~ Tom

 

 

 

 

Stephen Kade: The Shark Cradle and Data Collection, August 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 31 41 010 N, 80 06 062 W, 30 nautical miles NE of Savannah, North Carolina

Date: August 8, 2018

 

Weather Data from Bridge:

Wind speed 11 knots,
Air Temp: 30c,
Visibility 10 nautical miles,
Wave height 3 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Normally you wouldn’t hear the words shark and cradle in the same sentence, but in our case, the cradle is one of the most important pieces of equipment we use each day. Our mission on the Oregon II is to survey sharks to provide data for further study by NOAA scientists. We use the long line fishing method where 100 hooks are put out on a mile long line for about an hour, and then slowly hauled up by a large mechanical reel. If a shark is generally three feet and weighs 30lbs or less, it is handled by hand to carefully unhook, measure and throw back. If the shark is much larger and cannot be managed safely by hand, it is then held on the line by the ships rail until it can be lifted on deck by the cradle to be quickly measured, tagged, and put back into the ocean.

The shark cradle
The shark cradle

The shark cradle is 10 ft. long, with a bed width of roughly 4 feet. It is made from thick aluminum tubing and strong synthetic netting to provide the bed for the shark to lie on. It is lifted from the ship’s deck by a large crane and lowered over the ships rail into the ocean. The shark is still on the line and is guided by a skilled fisherman into the cradle. The crane operator slowly lifts the cradle out of the water, up to the rail, so work can begin.

A team of 3 highly skilled fishermen quickly begin to safely secure the shark to protect it, and the team of scientists collecting data. They secure the shark at 3 points, the head, body and tail. Then the scientists come in to take 3 measurements of the shark. The precaudal measurement is from the tip of nose to the start of the tail. The fork measurement is from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail (the place where the top and bottom of the tail meet). Finally there is a total length taken from the tip of the nose to the furthest tip of the tail.

When all measurements are complete, a tag is then placed at the base of the first dorsal (top) fin. First a small incision is made, and then the tagger pushes the tag just below the skin. The tag contains a tracking number and total length to be taken by the person who finds the shark next, and a phone number to call NOAA, so the data can recorded and compared to the previous time data is recorded. The yellow swivel tags, used for smaller sharks, are identical to ones used in sheep ears in the farming industry, and are placed on the front of the dorsal fin. The measurements and tag number are collected on the data sheet for each station. The data is input to a computer and uploaded to the NOAA shark database so populations and numbers can be assessed at any time by NOAA and state Departments of Natural Resources.

removing hook
A skilled fisherman removes the hook so the shark can be released.
longline
The longline is mile long and carries up to 100 hooks.

The shark is then unhooked safely by a skilled fisherman while the other two are keeping the shark still to protect both the shark and the fishermen from injury. The cradle is then slowly lowered by crane back into the ocean where the shark can easily glide back into its environment unharmed. The cradle is then raised back on deck by the crane operator, and guided by the two fishermen. All crew on deck must wear hardhats during this operation as safety for all is one of NOAA’s top priorities. This process is usually completed within 2 minutes, or the time it took you to read this post. It can happen many times during a station, as there are 100 hooks on the one mile line.

 

 

Personal Log

It is amazing for me to see and participate in the long line fishing process. I find it similar to watching medical television shows like “ER” where you see a highly skilled team of individually talented members working together quickly and efficiently to perform an operation. It can be highly stressful if the shark is not cooperating, or the conditions aren’t ideal, but each member always keeps their cool under this intense work. It’s also amazing to see the wealth of knowledge each person has so when an issue arises, someone always knows the answer to the problem, or the right tool to use to fix the situation, as they’ve done it before.

Animals Seen Today: Sandbar shark, Tiger shark, Sharpnose Shark, Sea Robin, Toadfish, Flying Fish

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part IV, July 27, 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

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

LT Rosemary Abbitt

Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, Rosemary spent much of her childhood around the ocean. She was fascinated by the sea and had a strong desire to learn as much as she could about marine ecosystems. During her high school career, Rosemary participated in a summer travel program at the Forfar Field Station in the Bahamas on Andros Island. This experiential learning opportunity allowed Rosemary to be directly involved with field-studies that focused on scuba diving and exploration. Thanks to that unique experience, Rosemary was hooked on marine science.

After Rosemary graduated high school, she earned her Associates Degree in General Studies of Science at a local community college, then transferred to Coastal Carolina University (CCU) to continue studying marine science. During her undergraduate career, she completed an independent research project in Discovery Bay, Jamaica and focused her studies on coral ecology. After she earned her degree at CCU, Rosemary was interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer. Since a few of Rosemary’s family members worked for NOAA, she was exposed to the Corps mission and impact from an early age. She applied and did not gain admittance; however, that did not set Rosemary back.

Rosemary started working as a Physical Scientist intern at the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, Virginia and sailed aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson for two field seasons. After this experience, she reapplied to the Corps, was accepted, and began her Basic Officer Training Class at Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy in February 2012. Officer training school was an intense program that emphasized leadership, teamwork, seamanship, and navigation. Once Rosemary graduated, her first sea assignment was on the hydrographic research vessel, NOAA Ship Rainier in Alaska. After this assignment, Rosemary’s land assignment was at the Florida Marine Sanctuary in Key West. She worked as a support diver to assess coral health and completed grounding assessments for three and half years before rotating to her current position as the Operations Officer aboard Okeanos Explorer. Now, Rosemary is involved with deep sea exploration and loves being on a ship that is dedicated to discovering more about the unknown parts of the ocean. Rosemary is enthusiastic about supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship. She believes that it is incredibly important to set goals, remain determined, and push yourself out of your comfort zone to experience success.

Rosemary Abbitt
LT Abbitt plotting a fix at the charting table on the bridge of the Okeanos Explorer. Image courtesy of Brianna Pacheco, LTJG (Sel.)/NOAA Corps

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part III, July 27, 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

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

Commanding Officer – Commander Eric Johnson, NOAA Corps

Hometown: Maryland but currently resides in D.C

 

Ever since Eric was young, he had been fascinated by the ocean. After reading about Eugenie Clark’s contributions to marine science and shark research, he was hooked on learning as much as he could about the sea. Eric began his studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; however, he made the decision to take a six year sabbatical and work in a variety of fields to gain practical experience. During this time, he found employment as an apprentice for a deep sea salvage company and completed electrical work on ROVs for the Navy. This job granted him the opportunity to go to sea and encouraged him to apply what he learned in the field.

 

After this six year period, Eric returned to college at the University of Maryland, majored in Marine Biology, and earned his scuba certification. Upon graduation, he was a manager at REI in College Park and volunteer diver at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. As an exhibit diver, Eric was responsible for feeding the animals by hand in the tanks, maintenance of tanks and scuba equipment, as well as educational outreach.

 

Although Eric learned a great deal about customer service and public speaking during his time at REI and the Baltimore Aquarium, he was interested in researching a more permanent marine science career. While researching potential employment opportunities on the NOAA website, he discovered the NOAA Corps. Eric was very interested in the mission of this Uniformed Service and decided to apply. Eric was not selected the first time since he did not have direct experience working in a related field; however, he was not discouraged. Instead, Eric secured a job working at a Biotech company, reapplied to the NOAA Corps, and was selected. Once he graduated from Basic Officer Training at the Coast Guard Academy, Eric began an extensive and impressive career with NOAA.

 

Eric’s first sea assignment was as navigation officer on the Oregon II.  He was responsible for operations focused on diving, navigation, and safety aboard this vessel. After spending two years at sea, he began his first land rotation as the Executive Officer of the NOAA Dive Program before advancing to the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai. Eric kept track of scientific diving operations aboard the Hi’ialakai, which amounted to approximately 3,000 to 4,000 dives per year! Then, Eric served as the NOAA Recruiter for a year and a half before becoming Chief of the Recruiting Branch. He found the recruiting positions to be incredibly rewarding and enjoyed encouraging those who were looking to make a difference while serving their country to apply to NOAA. Eventually, Eric returned to his original ship, the Oregon II, as Executive Officer before beginning as Commanding Officer on the Okeanos Explorer. Although serving as the Commanding Officer is a major responsibility, Eric is dedicated to supporting NOAA’s mission in regards to science, service, and stewardship. He finds is assignment on the Okeanos very exciting since this ship’s main purpose is ocean exploration.

 

Throughout his career, Eric has learned that it is especially important to pursue your true interests and not be afraid to explore the unknown. Eric believes that stepping outside your comfort zone and learning how to adapt to new situations enables you to construct a skill set that will help you experience success in a variety of situations.

CDR Johnson and wife
CDR Johnson and his wife, Angela, at his Change of Command Ceremony last year

 

Fun Facts about CO Eric Johnson

Eric continues to be an avid diver and has completed over 1,000 dives during his career.

– If you added up all of the hours Eric has spent diving, it would be about one month underwater!

– In Eric’s opinion, the best spot to dive is south of Hawaii at Palmyra Atoll.

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part II, July 25, 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

Date: July 25, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.37°N

Longitude: 63.15°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  9.7 knots

Conditions: partly sunny

Depth: 5236.01 meters

 

Ensign (ENS) Anna Hallingstad

Hometown: Anacortes, Washington

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is built on three principles: science, service, and stewardship, and ENS Anna Hallingstad embodies all of these core values. Anna is currently immersed in her first sea assignment aboard the Okeanos Explorer and has many different responsibilities as a NOAA Corps Officer.

Anna has always been fascinated by the outdoors and enrolling in a Marine Science course in high school set her on a science track in college. After graduating high school, Anna completed an undergraduate and graduate career at Stanford University. She majored in Earth Systems and focused particularly on ocean systems. Earth Systems was a unique interdisciplinary major that investigated the interactions of different ecological, geological, and human systems.

Anna extended her learning outside of the traditional classroom environment by completing a quarter of classes at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California. She spent the fall quarter of her junior year studying abroad in Australia in collaboration with the University of Brisbane and Stanford. During the summer before her senior year, Anna participated in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) through the National Science Foundation. Anna continued her studies at Stanford to earn her Masters in Earth Systems and focused on the human relationship with the ocean.

Upon graduation, Anna did an AmeriCorps term by working for an urban forestry non-profit and was a volunteer for Salish Sea Stewards in Washington. Anna also worked as the Harbor Porpoise Project Coordinator before applying and being accepted into NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). Anna had a desire to work for NOAA since she was young and began her 19-week training in January at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Officer training school was an intense program that emphasized leadership, teamwork, seamanship, navigation, etc. After graduating in May, Anna was shipped off to her first assignment in Honolulu, Hawaii and reported to the Okeanos Explorer in 2017. She will spend two years on the Okeanos Explorer until her three-year land assignment in Washington state.

Anna wears many different hats aboard the Okeanos Explorer as the Morale, Safety, and Property Officer as well as a Purchase Card Holder and Diver. As the Morale Officer, she organizes events on aboard such as ice cream socials, cookouts, and cribbage tournaments. She really enjoys seeing everyone having a great time onboard. It can be very busy balancing all of these important responsibilities, but Anna believes that you shouldn’t shy away from difficult things. Having the confidence to tackle the unknown is a valuable life lesson and one that she abides by while at sea.

 

ENS Anna Hallingstad
ENS Anna Hallingstad

Jeff Peterson: The Work in the Eastern Gulf, July 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jeff Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 9 – 20, 2018

 

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 19, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: 2018/07/19

Time: 16:34:47

Latitude: 29 57.6 N

Longitude: 087 02.60 W

Speed over ground: 7.3 knots

Barometric pressure: 1014.49

Relative humidity: 84%

Air temperature: 26.8 C

Sea wave height: 1 m

 

Science and Technology Log

We arrived off the coast of Florida on the evening of Sunday, July 15, and sampled stations in the eastern Gulf until the afternoon of Thursday, July 19. We used the same fishing method during this part of the cruise (bottom trawling), but added a step in the process, deploying side scan sonar in advance of every trawl. This measure was taken both to protect sea life on the ocean floor (sponges and corals) and to avoid damaging equipment. The sea bottom in this part of the Gulf—east of the DeSoto Canyon—is harder (less muddy) and, in addition to coral and sponge, supports a number of species markedly different than those seen in the western Gulf.

 

Side Scan Sonar

In contrast to single-beam sonar, which bounces a single focused beam of sound off the bottom to measure depth, side scan sonar casts a broader, fan-like signal, creating nuanced readings of the contour of the ocean floor and yielding photo-like images.

Towed Side Scan
How side scan sonar works: The harder the object, the stronger the image returned. See: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/how_sidescansonar.html#

 

Side scan sonar device
Side scan sonar device in its cradle.

 

 

Rigged and ready for deployment.
Rigged and ready for deployment. Signals from the sonar are conducted up the cable and picked up by the electrically powered lead on the block.

 

on its way in
Side scan sonar on its way in astern.

 

descending
Side scan sonar just beneath the surface & descending.

 

When we arrive a station in this part of the Gulf, we begin by traversing, covering the usual distance (1.5 miles), but then turn around, deploy the side scan sonar, and retrace our course. Once we’ve returned to our starting point, we recover the sonar, turn around again, and—provided the path on the sea bottom looks clear—resume our course through the station, this time lowering the trawl. If the side scan reveals obstructions, it’s a no-go and the station is “ditched.”

 

Coming about
Coming about before deploying the side scan sonar.

 

 

And Now for Something Completely Different . . . Fish of the Eastern Gulf

Panama City, Florida
Off Panama City, Florida – Tuesday morning, July 17, 2018

We spent the first half of this leg of the survey in the western Gulf of Mexico, going as far west as the Texas-Louisiana border. The second half we’re spending in the eastern Gulf, going as far east as Panama City. From here we’ll work our way westward, back to our homeport in Pascagoula.

Thanks to different submarine terrain in the northeastern Gulf—not to mention the upwelling of nutrients from the DeSoto Canyon—it’s a different marine biological world off the coast of Florida.

Here’s a closer look at the submarine canyon that, roughly speaking, forms a dividing line between characteristic species of the western Gulf and those of the eastern Gulf:

Bathymetric map of the Gulf of Mexico
Bathymetric map of the Gulf of Mexico, with proposed dive sites for Operation Deep-Scope 2005 indicated by red arrows and yellow numbers. Site #1 is on the southwest Florida Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, where deep-water Lophilia coral lithoherms are found. #2 is DeSoto Canyon, a deep erosional valley where upwelling of deep nutrient rich water means greater animal abundances. #3 is Viosca Knoll, the shallowest site, where spectacular stands of Lophelia provide abundant habitat for other species. See: https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/05deepscope/background/geology/media/map.html

 

And here’s a selection of the weird and wonderful creatures we sampled in the eastern Gulf. As this basket suggests, they’re a more brightly colored, vibrant bunch:

Basket of catch
A basket of fish. Upper right: Lane Snapper, Lutjanus synagris. On the left: Sand Perch, Diplectrum formosum. The plentiful scallops? Argopecten gibbus.

 

 

Sand Perch, Diplectrum formosum
Sand Perch, Diplectrum formosum
Razorfish, Xyrichtys novacula
Razorfish, Xyrichtys novacula
A basket of Xyrichtys novacula
A basket of Xyrichtys novacula

 

Angelfish, Holacanthus bermudensis
Angelfish, Holacanthus bermudensis
Angelfish closeup
Holacanthus bermudensis details: tail fins (front specimen), pectoral fin & gill (behind)

 

Jackknife Fish, Equetus lanceolatus
Jackknife Fish, Equetus lanceolatus
Lined Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus
Lined Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus

 

 

Argopecten gibbus
Argopecten gibbus (all 2,827 of them)
Pink Shrimp, Farfantepenaeus duorarum.
Pink Shrimp, Farfantepenaeus duorarum. Note the signature “pink” spot by my thumb.

 

Calamus
Calamus

 

Lionfish, Pterois volitans
Invasive scourge of the Gulf: Lionfish, Pterois volitans
Lionfish, Pterois volitans
Lionfish, Pterois volitans

 

Burrfish, Chilomycterus schoepfii
Burrfish, Chilomycterus schoepfii

 

 

Scorpionfish (aka Barbfish), Scorpaena brasiliensis
Scorpionfish (aka Barbfish), Scorpaena brasiliensis

 

Southern Stargazer, Astroscopus y-graecum (juvenile)
Southern Stargazer, Astroscopus y-graecum (juvenile)

 

Ocellated Moray Eels, Gymnothorax saxicola
Ocellated Moray Eels, Gymnothorax saxicola

 

Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus
Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus

 

 

Video credit: Will Tilley

 

debris
Mysterious debris: A bottom-dwelling payphone?

 

Personal Log

Our move into the eastern Gulf marks the midpoint of the cruise, and we’ll be back to Pascagoula in a few short days. The seas haven’t been as serenely flat as they were in the eastern Gulf, nor has the sky (or sea) been its stereotypically Floridian blue, but I’ve found life aboard ship just as pleasurable and stimulating.

storm
A squall on Monday morning, July 16, 2018. Off the stern there to starboard, Blackfin Tuna were jumping.

 

In my final blog post, I’ll have more to say about all the great folks I’ve met aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II—from its Deck Department members and Engineers, to its Stewards and NOAA Corps officers and inimitable Captain—but here want to reiterate just how thoughtful and generous everybody’s been. The “O2” is a class act—a community of professionals who know what they’re about and love what they do—and I couldn’t be more grateful to have visited their world for a while and shared their good company.

Busy as we’ve been, I haven’t had much time for sketching during this part of the cruise, and, as the selection of photos above suggests, I’ve concentrated more on taking pictures than making them. Still, I’ve begun a small sketch of the ship that I hope to complete before we reach Pascagoula. It’s based on a photograph that hangs in the galley, and that I’m going to attempt to reproduce actual size (3 3/8” x 7”) . Here’s where things stand early on in the process:

IMG_8230 2.jpg
Work in progress: sketch of NOAA Ship Oregon II

 

Did You Know?

Any of the western Gulf fish in the basket from my last blog post? Here it is again:

Basket of Fish from Western Gulf
Basket of Fish from Western Gulf

And here is a visual key to the four species I was fishing for, each figuring prominently in my blog post for July 15:

Basket of fish revision
Basket of Fish from Western Gulf: now color-coded

1: Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus

2: Longspined Porgy, Stenotomus caprinus

3: Gulf Butterfish, Peprilus burti

4: Brown Shrimp, Farfantepenaeus aztecus

A few Stenotomus caprinus and Peprilus burti have been left unhighlighted. Can you find them?

Anne Krauss: Once Upon a Maritime, August 4, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 4, 2018

Introductory Personal Log

I’m thrilled to be joining NOAA Ship Oregon II for the second leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey. The adventure of a lifetime begins in Canaveral, Florida and concludes in Pascagoula, Mississippi. For two weeks, we’ll be studying sharks, red snapper, and other marine life in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Scientists will collect data on fish populations to find out more about their distribution, age, weight, length, reproduction, and other important information. Along the way, we’ll also sample water quality and collect other environmental data. Learning more about these creatures and their surroundings can help to keep their habitats safe and thriving.

This exciting opportunity is the next chapter in my lifelong appreciation for sharks and the sea. During a formative visit to the ocean at age three, I quickly acquired a taste for salt water, seafaring, and sharks. I saw my first shark, a hammerhead, in the New England Aquarium, and I was transfixed. I wanted to know everything about the water and what lived beneath the surface.

After discovering nonfiction in fourth grade, I could access the depths through reading. I was riveted to books about deep-sea creatures and pioneering undersea explorers. The more I learned, the more curious I became. As a younger student, I never indulged my aquatic interests in any formal academic sense beyond prerequisites because of my epic, giant-squid-versus-whale-like struggle with math. Because I was much stronger in humanities and social sciences, I pursued a predictable path into writing, literature, and education.

As a Literacy Specialist, I support developing readers and writers in grades K-5 by providing supplemental Language Arts instruction (Response to Intervention). To motivate and inspire my students, I share my zeal for the ocean, incorporating developmentally appropriate topics to teach requisite Language Arts skills and strategies.

In 2011, I initiated an ocean literacy collaboration with undersea explorer Michael Lombardi and Ocean Opportunity Inc. so that I could better answer my students’ questions about marine science careers and marine life. Our first meeting involved swimming with blue sharks offshore, and I knew I needed more experiences like that in my life. From chumming to helping with the equipment to observing pelagic sharks without a cage, I loved every aspect. This life-changing experience (both the collaboration and the shark encounter) transformed my instruction, reigniting my curiosity and ambition. Our educator-explorer partnership has inspired and motivated my students for the past seven years. After supporting and following my colleague’s field work with my students, I wanted a field experience of my own so that I can experience living, researching, and working at sea firsthand.