NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
April 22-May 5, 2023
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: May 2, 2023
Temperature: 80 degrees F
Wind: 1 kt.
Waves: 1 ft.
Science and Technology Log
The survey technician team collects data on the bathymetric seafloor using a precise timing and ranging system. Multibeam echosounders emit different frequencies to capture different particles in the water (fish, plankton, gases like oxygen), as well as the bathymetry of the seafloor (basically, what the bottom of the floor is made up of.) This will then provide a 3-D picture of the seafloor. A larger version of this, called Kongsberg ME70, was used during the Deepwater Horizon Spill tracking the oil and methane gas. Often, sea floor mapping occurs at night in designated locations.
What is Bathymetry?
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depths of lakes, rivers, or oceans.
What is Sonar?
Sonar (SOund NAvigation and Ranging) is used to not only measure the water’s depth but to also detect objects underwater. This is done by emitting sound pulses under water and measuring their return after being reflected.
Sophie Caradine-Taber, Survey Technician
Sophie got her degree in biology and environmental studies. She got her start at the National Marine Fisheries Service working for NOAA on a hydrographic survey vessel on the Bering Sea in Alaska for four and half years. Her job on Pisces is part of the survey technician team that does seafloor mapping.
Makailyn is on Pisces collecting Environmental DNA (eDNA) for the University of West Florida’s lab under Dr. Alexis Janosik. Makailyn graduated from UWF with a degree in marine biology, and worked as a research technician under Dr. Janosik. She has volunteered for numerous career opportunities, including this trip and sea turtle monitoring. Her goal is to attend graduate school and get a job as a researcher in either lab or field work.
ENS Grace Owen, Junior Officer
Grace is a Junior Officer for NOAA Corps. She is from North Carolina, and didn’t originally start her path on the ocean, but towards the mountains. She went to college in Colorado and worked as a climbing guide. She felt like she needed to do something more, and began looking at the Coast Guard. This is when she discovered the NOAA Corps and she felt like it aligned more with her values. Grace learned that she didn’t have enough STEM credits to join NOAA, so she moved to Florida to attend the University of Miami and got her graduate degree in exploration science. Training for the NOAA Corps takes around 5 months at the Coast Guard Academy. Once training is completed officers can then go to driving and navigating vessels for NOAA. Grace also has her pilots license and her next goal is to attend NOAA flight school with the future hopes to fly for the NOAA Hurricane Hunters. She even says there is a hurricane name in rotation named “Grace” that has yet to be used, and that would be super neat if she was the one who helped find it.
Student Questions of the Day
Jonathan asks: Have you ever found a sunken ship in the ocean?
Sophie works with sea floor mapping, and last year NOAA’s hydrographic ship on Lake Erie found 5 shipwrecks.
Anabelle asks: What is daily life like on the ship?
Sophie calls each ship she is on home, because she spends most of the year on them. She works the 12am-12pm shift 7 days a week. She tries to stay in touch with family, and reads a lot of books on her down time while on the ship. If they port between legs for the weekend she tries to make sure she takes time for herself.
Levi asks: How many years did it take to be able to drive a ship?
Grace states that the NOAA Corps training is 5 months, but once you’re on a ship that is when the real training takes place. Officers will do 2 years on a ship and then usually 3 years off on land assignments.
Ethan asks: What challenges are there when driving the ship?
Grace states that part of the challenges of driving the large ships are learning the physics and maneuvering of the vessel. NOAA is also mostly male dominated, but she feels confident in what she does and it has been an easy fit for her.
I am enjoying learning all the different backgrounds of everyone on this ship. Even though it is predominately men, I am impressed with the determination that the four women of the crew have. Myself and Makailyn are guests aboard Pisces, but it was nice to see how the women fit in on the ship and are respected. Everyone on board continues asking how I am doing, and making sure I am learning as much as I can. Chief Survey Technician Todd Walsh even spent days building up an extravagant event by having me deploy an Expendable Bathythermograph Sensor (XBT). Todd had convinced me that it was going to be like an “explosion” when it went off, and I was in charge of it. He even gave me a training pamphlet that I studied, and he had me convinced that I must be crazy to agree to do this but I am here for the experience… right? Little did I know that the entire ship was in on the joke. After all the hype of how things could go dangerously wrong, training on how it could backfire, and the special safety attire the day of; the device literally just dropped into the ocean falling out of the holder. Todd… I will get you back!
Several on the ship are looking forward to the end of leg 3 to have a few days off before they are back at it to finish the last leg of this mission. Today I heard the countdown, “2 days and a wake up”. The crew spends so much time out here they look forward to a few days off the ship and a chance to see family. The current scientists will go back to their land jobs after this leg and new scientists will finish the last leg of this mission. Today was by far the prettiest day we have had yet. The ocean has finally calmed down and the Sun is shining bright. This evening it was as if the ocean came alive. We saw whales, dolphins, mahi-mahi, a shark and a trigger fish. I was able to do some laundry on the boat which was great because I tried to pack as light as possible so that I didn’t have to check in luggage at the airport. I am trying to do a little grading when I get a chance. There will only be 10 days left of school when I return. I have missed the students and have really enjoyed reading the letters they wrote me to bring along. Below, you will see a drawing that a student did for me to give to the ship. It is amazing and she is so talented!