NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
April 22-May 5, 2023
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: May 4, 2023
Temperature: 74 degrees F
Wind: 4 kt.
Waves: 0 ft.
Science and Technology
NOAA fisheries research vessels often work with colleges to help provide experiences for the students by allowing them to come on the ship to collect data for their research. On this leg, Makaila Hernandez was aboard to collect environmental DNA (eDNA) under Dr. Alexis Janosik for the University of West Florida. Water samples are taken from different sampling sights in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental DNA tells scientists what organisms are in the area of water. DNA can be found in the water when organisms shed materials such as the skin, scales, feces, mucous, and gametes. Once the water is collected, a lab will extract the DNA from the water. The extraction is done in such a way that only the purest form of DNA is obtained. It will then be amplified so that it can go through the DNA sequencing process for organism identification. Collecting DNA for the purpose of knowing what organisms are present is done for several different reasons. It helps check the biodiversity and compare the health of the ecosystem to the previous years.
NOAA Ship Pisces
On this mission we have 28 people aboard Pisces. Without the engineers, technicians, deck crew, and the NOAA corps, the scientists wouldn’t be able to do their job. As most of you know, when things go wrong with a vessel out in the ocean, you have to rely on those within. The engineers work hard and I haven’t gotten to talk with them as much as I would have liked, but after all they have been busy down below keeping the ship going. While touring and visiting the bridge, the amount of technology there and knowledge from the officers on maneuvering the vessel is astonishing. I even had a slight go at it, and with the waves and current my travel line was a bit everywhere and not even close to being as straight as theirs. No worries, they were right by my side the whole time.
Drew Barth, Second Assistant Engineer
Drew grew up in Montana and has been working for NOAA for around 18 years. Drew has worked his way up through the years, and the knowledge he knows about how to keep everything on this ship running is incredible. I had no idea there was so much down below us, and the amount of things that have to be checked and continuously working to keep this working vessel going. Drew tried to summarize all the things he did to me from operating all the equipment (including plumbing, HVAC, engine), maintaining all of the equipment, and every 2 hours all gauges have to be completely checked. At midnight a full report of how much fuel is being consumed as well as other things. Drew said some challenges he has had to deal with are bad weather, flooding, and having to fix multiple things at once. Drew states that working hands-on, growing up with a dad as a mechanic, and taking welding vocational classes really helped him, but training today can be done by attending a maritime school.
Today is our last day at sea. Later this evening we will start working our way towards Pascagoula, MS. We are finishing up our last camera drops and preparing to disembark. I can already tell this morning by looking at the water that we are getting closer to Mississippi. The coloration of the water is more of a brown hue than blue due to the Mississippi River meeting the ocean. Several deck crew are making last minute plans as we prepare to port. I have met so many amazing people from all walks of Earth, and listening to their stories and how they ended up on Pisces is remarkable. There are a lot of hard-working and dedicated people who keep this ship running.
I can’t believe I have been on the ship now for two weeks. I have several more questions from my students back home that I can’t wait to answer when I get back. When I return there are only 10 days of school left, so it will be a whirlwind. I have been blessed to have experienced this, and I have learned so much that I hope to inspire my students to dream big and put themselves out there. I told them before I left how nervous I was and that blogging for the first time ever and doing the unknown was way out of my comfort zone. However, hopefully I have taught them that it is important to take chances and pursue things that they want to do even though they may seem scary. My hopes are to also talk about all the different career paths involved in keeping this mission going aboard NOAA Ship Pisces.