Justin Garritt: I Came, We Fished, I Learned. . . 2 Amazing Weeks Aboard Shimada: September 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 1-14, 2018

Mission: End of Hake Research

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 11-14, 2018: Day 11-14

Location: Off the coast of Newport, Oregon. End of research cruise.

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Throughout my life there have been moments when I recognize I am in the presence of something truly unique and special. Moments when I realize just how beautiful our planet can be. Moments I know will be engraved in my brain as life passes by. Hiking Zion National Park, night boat riding down the beautiful Saint Lawrence Seaway in the heart of the Thousands Islands, the view on top of Whiteface Ski Mountain, climbing the mountain islands in Greece, landing a helicopter on an Alaskan glacier, gigantic waves crashing in on an empty Puerto Rican beach with nothing but the moon in sight, taking a train ride up the gigantic Alps, and color of the fall leaves over the Castleton University skyline in Vermont are just a few of those moments I have been so privileged to have experienced in my short life. Monday evening, I got to add another new nature wonderland experience aboard the NOAA Bell M Shimada.

It was 5:15pm and I was eating a terrific dinner when one of the scientists came in the galley to tell us fishing was on hold because of the abundance of marine wildlife that was surrounding our ship. I immediately ran upstairs to check it out. When I stepped in the bridge (command room of the ship) the first thing I noticed was the beautiful blue skies with a touch of clouds and the sun that set the stage for the spectacle. My ears rang with the crashing waves against the boat and seagulls squawking in the background. As I looked over the side of the boat there were two pairs of dolphins synchronized swimming all around the ship. After a few minutes, three California sea lions came floating by on their backs waving at the passing ship. Another minute later, the dolphins came back for their encore followed by a spray of a Humpback whale spouting directly behind it. As the whale came closer it swam gracefully in an up and down pattern until it bent its massive dinosaur-like body down followed by its tail flipping over as it took a deep dive below the surface. As soon as the whale took the dive another pair of sea lions came floating by smiling as they took in the heat of the sun. Before I could look again, a Pelagic Cormorant landed directly in front of me on the ship. Right after I took a picture of that I looked up and saw at least fifteen spouts surrounding the ship like a spectator would see at the Bellagio Hotel light show in Las Vegas. For the next hour whale after whale surfaced, spouted, and even breached behind the beautiful blue sky backdrop. No matter where I looked I was seeing whales grace our presence. No camera could capture the magic of that hour as I ran from side to side on the viewing tower above the bridge to soak in as much of this experience as possible. I was in awe at the majesty of the sea creatures. As the ship made its way through the evening and to sunset, the whales slowly trickled off beyond sight as the sun came down in the background. Hope that future generations can experience this beauty for centuries to come.

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The reality is the ever growing world’s population consumes large amounts of fish.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that in 2016, the global seafood trade was worth $140 billion. In the US it is estimated that 1.5 million people are employed by the fishing industry. That is a lot of communities and families that rely on the resources in our water systems. Throughout the week I learned that so much of the work of NOAA is not limiting the growth and catch of our fishermen/fisherwomen, but it is to ensure there is a fish population to catch and future generations can experience what I was able to experience these past two weeks. Part of NOAA’s mission is to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. Having the most high tech equipment constantly being researched to seek improvements mixed with “ground truthing (catching and surveying)” to analyze different species is crucial for the future of the world’s fisheries.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the main goals for this research cruise. The first was to gather data to study the impact of the US 32mm net liners and the CANADIAN 7mm net liners. The second was to compare the old acoustic equipment called the EK60 with the new equipment called the EK80. Throughout the last two legs of the trip, scientists have gathered data and will be working on analyzing it over the coming months to make better conclusions on these goals. The vision is for someday to reduce the number of surveying trawls needed to determine the population of fish, and instead, use this highly advanced acoustics equipment instead. If those ships are filled with as curious, hardworking, and focused people as the people I met on this ship, I am confident we will be able to obtain this goal in the future.

Here are some pictures from the final 3 days of fishing and exploring the ship:

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Reading the acoustics for hake

 

Bringing my experience back to the classroom:

Throughout the past two weeks I constantly thought about how I can bring my experience back to my students in Baltimore. My students receive half the amount of hours of science instructional time than math and reading. After much reflection I decided to use the same core standards we are obligated to teach but begin rewriting most of the 6th grade statistics unit. At the start of the unit I will begin with the purpose of NOAA, pictures of my trip, and exciting stories from my adventure. From there I will have investment in the subject from my students which will allow me to dive in to applying data collected at sea to find: mean, mode, range, variability, mean absolute deviation (MAD), and interquartile range (IQR). We will also be able to use real live data to create histograms, frequency tables, box and whisker plots, and dot plots.  I believe it will be exciting for them to have the opportunity to apply required statistical concepts to learning how NOAA (along with others) survey our fish population so species will survive for generations to come. It will also make our school’s 6th grade teacher, Mr. Davis, very happy!

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An example of my change in classroom instructional materials to teach Box Plots with data from the research cruise.


At any given moment, there are thousands of NOAA employees studying our environment across the globe. I had the honor of sailing with incredibly intelligent and hardworking people who are dedicated to the mission. From them, I learned so many valuable things that I will carry with me as I disembark on Friday.

Chief Scientist, Rebecca Thomas was an excellent manager/role model. She taught me that leading through kindness, support, trusting others, and giving people rest will produce better and more accurate results than pushing people past their limitation.

 

Chief Scientist Rebecca Thomas

Scientist Steve de Bluis encouraged me to maintain a hobby outside of work that you love. Steve loves to fly planes and dive and talked about these trips all the time. You can tell how much joy it has brought him and how excited he is to continue to dive well into his retirement in a few years. He was also a BEAST in the wet lab!

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Roommate and Future Scientist Charlie Donahue taught me the importance of accuracy over speed. He constantly pushed me to be sure the data we were collecting was as accurate as possible. He never let speed and efficiency take away from quality. For those of you who know me, this is certainly an important push for me!

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Scientist John Pohl taught me about supporting newcomers. He was the first guy I met aboard and always spent time breaking down complicated science topics for me.

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Scientist John Pohl analyzes the depth of the net vs. the acoustic picture on his screen

Scientist Melanie Johnson taught me about working through chaos with calmness. She has been on both commercial and scientific ships and constantly kept calm during any situation that arose.

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Scientist Dezhang Chu (Super Chu) taught me about focus. No matter what was going on “Super Chu” always kept a clear view of his own goals and purpose aboard and stayed focused on the prize. Chu was also super hard working and was in the acoustics lab at 6:30am when I went to the gym and still in on his computer analyzing data from the day when I returned from yoga at 10pm. I think he could even give KIPP Ujima Resident-Principal Reese a run for it in terms of work ethic!

Volunteer Scientist Heather Rippman  taught me about service and life-long learning. Heather commits herself to volunteering for important science missions across the country. After leaving an executive position with Nike, she now travels and volunteers to learn all she can about marine science and give back to the marine science community. She shared so much knowledge with me and was the first person to teach me how to dissect hake.

Master Chef Arnold Dones reminded me about the power of food bringing people together. At exactly 7am, 11am, and 5pm, roughly 40 people from all over the country with all types of jobs aboard came together to feast. Arnold made that happen because of the pride he takes in his craft.

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Chief Engineer Sabrina Taraboletti spent 3 hours with me on our last day to show me the massive engine room. She explained what every piece of equipment does below deck. I learned the science behind creating freshwater from sea water. I learned the regulations behind sewer and contaminants. The best part was climbing to the bottom of the ship and watching the shaft that makes the propeller turn move. Her team of engineers barely see daylight and work long hours to make sure the ship moves safely and all the amenities and scientific research equipment works flawlessly. She keeps the morale of her team high, keeps an impressively organized work space that is approximately the size of over a dozen typical garages, and is one of the most knowledgeable professionals I ever crossed paths with.


How to apply for the Teacher At Sea Program:

Ms. Ellmauer is a 25 year veteran science teacher from my hometown of Liberty, NY. She was also my high school ski coach. She has been following my blog and reached out about information on how to apply. I am humbled to see so many teachers and school officials reading my blog from across the country so I thought I would pass on the website with information about the program and how to apply for this once in a lifetime experience. Please reach out to me at JAGarritt@gmail.com if you have any questions.

https://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/home/


Tomorrow we pull in to Newport, Oregon, and the research cruise will come to an end. Thank you to the nearly one-thousand readers who have been following my journey. I am grateful for your support.

Good bye for now, until I hopefully sail again a part of the NOAA Teacher At Sea Alumni Program,

Justin

 

Justin Garritt: Paired Trawling, X-raying, and The Galley Master: September 11, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Justin Garritt

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

September 1-14, 2018

Mission: Hake Research

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 9-11, 2018: Day 7-9

Location: West of the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon

 

Where Are We? After fishing off of the Straits of Juan de Fuca on Friday and Saturday, we headed south.  We ended up west of the Columbia River off the coast of Astoria, Oregon and continued to fish for a few days.

 

The fishing and sampling continues: A typical day consists of the scientists waking up before sunrise to begin scouting for fish. We use the information from the acoustic transducer to find fish.

Chief Scientist Rebecca Thomas

Chief Scientist Rebecca Thomas spots signs of fish on the sonar

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The sonar from the acoustic transducer showing signs of fish

Paired Trawling: Last week I wrote about our goals of the cruise. One of them was to perform paired trawls to determine net size impact to evaluate the differences between the US 32mm net liners and the Canadian 7mm net liners. A paired trawl is when we fish approximately the same location and depth two times using two different size liners. Data is collected on the size, characteristics, and species of fish being caught to eliminate the possibility that there is bias in the data between the two liners. Below are pictures of the nets being sent in and brought back based on information from the sonars. This typically happened 2-4 times per day (1-2 paired trawls).

 

Sorting the Fish Aboard:

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A rockfish photo shoot 🙂

How We Collect Data:

When fish come aboard we follow this flow chart to determine what analysis needs to be done on the catch.

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Our instructional chart for how we analyze the hake and other species

Hake is the majority of the fish we catch. It is also the main species we are researching this cruise.

A random sample of 250 are set aside and the rest are sent back in to the ocean. Of the approximately 250 random hake, 30 are dissected for enhanced sampling (length, weight, sex, maturity, and other projects).

220 are set aside for sex/length analysis. All other species of fish must be logged into the computer and some are kept for special research projects. See pictures below:

Male vs. female hake distinction:

Determining the length of the hake:

Enhanced sampling (length, weight, sex, maturity, and other projects):

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Dissecting the hake to enhance sample

Special Projects: There are also a number of special projects going on aboard:

Fish X-ray: Scientist Dezhang Chu x-rays samples of fish occasionally. The x-ray is used to determine the volume of the swim bladders in certain species of fish (see picture below). The volume of different species’ swim bladders affects the observed acoustics. I spoke to him about the purpose of this study. He said that the present acoustic transducers are great to capture whether fish are present below the ship’s surface but are still not able to classify the type of species being observed. He is working on a team that is trying to use x-ray’s from multiple species to solve that problem. When asked how long he thought it may take for there to be an acoustic system advanced enough to better predict the species onscreen, he said, “People have and will continue to spend their entire careers on improving the system.” If we have more scientists like Dr. Chu on this project, I predict it will be much sooner than he leads on.

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“Super Chu” and I with his new apron I made him for x-raying

Filming the Catch: Melanie Johnson leads the science team’s visual analysis. During each trawl a camera is placed securely on the net. The purpose of the net is to analyze approximately which depth and time certain fish enter the net.

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Camera footage of fish entering the net

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Getting to know the crew: As promised in other blog posts, here is another interview from the incredible crew aboard  NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada who continue to make my journey such a rich experience:

Mr. Arnold Dones, Head Chef

Arnold Dones is our head chef or what I like to call him, “Master Chef.” Since the minute I’ve been aboard I quickly noticed the incredible work ethic and talent of our chef. To be clear, every meal has incredible! When I spoke to my mom a few days into the cruise my exact words were, “The food aboard is better than a buffet on a cruise ship. I expected to come aboard for two weeks and lose a few pounds. Well that’s not going to happen!”

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Chef Arnold and his incredible food artwork

Arnold was born in the Philippines and his family migrated here when he was twenty. When he first got here he knew very little English and worked hard to learn the language and the American culture. He worked a few odd and end jobs until he joined the United States military as a chef. During his first years in the military, he showed so much promise as a chef that he enrolled in “A School” which allowed him to learn how to be a master chef in the military. He spent more than a decade working on military vessels. His last ship placement was aboard the USS Ronald Reagan where he and his team prepared meals for 6,000 soldiers per meal. Two months ago he joined the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada family as head chef.  Arnold has two children and a wife who live back in San Diego.

After a tour of the galley with Arnold, I learned how much work it takes to pull 42 meals in 14 days for over 40 crew members without a supermarket nearby. A few weeks out, Arnold has to create his menu for the next cruise leg (typically two weeks). He then has to order the food required to make the meals and do so by staying under a strict budget. When the ship ends a leg and pulls in to port, a large truck pulls up and unloads all his ordered food in large boxes. He then organizes it in the order he plans to prepare it in his large freezer, refrigerator, and store rooms. The trick is to be sure his menu is organized so nothing spoils before it is used.  Arnold’s day begins at 05:00  (5am) and goes until 19:00 (7pm) with a short break after lunch. The only days off he has is a day or two once every two weeks when the boat is in port.

Here is a sample menu for the day:

Breakfast (7-8am)- Eggs benedict, blueberry pancakes, french toast, hash browns, scrambled eggs, oat meal, cut fresh fruit, and breakfast danish.

Lunch (11-12pm)- Bacon wrapped rockfish, chicken wings, Chinese noodles, brussel sprouts, bread, a large salad bar, homemade salads, avocado, bean salad, homemade cookies, and ice cream.

Dinner (5-6pm)-  Stuffed pork chops with spinach and cheese, fine braised chicken thigh, baked salmon, Spanish rice, oven potatoes, peas, dinner rolls, a large salad bar, homemade salads, homemade apple pie, and ice cream.

Snack (24/7)- Soup, crackers, ice cream, and salad/fruit bar

We dock in Newport, Oregon on Friday, September 14, 2018. My final post will be on Friday. Thank you for continuing to follow along in this journey. I am grateful for your support and for the amazing people I have met aboard.

Justin

 

Justin Garritt: Fishing Begins aboard!!! September 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 1-14, 2018

Mission: Hake Research

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 7, 2018

Location: Just South of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Pacific Ocean

Back at Home: To the KIPP Baltimore community. . .  I got this picture from Madison and Anaiyah Alexander the other morning from the first day of school and thought of you all. I hope you are all surviving the heat wave sweeping across the east coast. I hope the first few weeks started off strong! I miss you all!

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Where Are We? Our ship left the Seattle dock on Monday afternoon and calibrated in Elliott Bay for two days. Before leaving the bay, one of our Survey Technicians had a medical issue. He needed to be taken off the ship to get the treatment he needed. Before pulling up anchor to depart, we were able to bring him off the ship and over to the mainland using one of the small tender boats. Once the tender returned, we left the bay on Wednesday at 16:00 (4pm) and started to sail out of  Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet. On Thursday morning we stopped at Port Angeles to pick up Scott, our new Survey Technician. At 11:00am, we departed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the Pacific Ocean. Once we got out of the Strait and into the ocean, the sea got rougher and fog appeared. Throughout the journey, we sailed at about 11 knots until we got to the area Chief Scientist, Rebecca Thomas, gave orders to sail to.

It was impressive how quick NOAA acted in order to get a new survey technician aboard. In less than 24 hours they notified someone from the NOAA augmenting pool (like a substitute teacher pool) and we had Scott aboard. Scott got a call yesterday mid-day and had to drive all the way from Portland, Oregon to a smaller city on the coast of the Pacific Ocean called Port Angeles to meet the ship. The ship pulled close to port, sent in a small tender boat to pick Scott up, and then he came aboard. It was remarkable how quick NOAA had to act to replace our survey technician and impressive how flexible people like Scott (who are in the augmenting pool) have to be to make sure the mission continues.

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How and What We Fish? NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada was delivered to NOAA in 2010. The ship is the fourth Fisheries Survey Vessels (FSV) built by NOAA starting in 2003. FSV’s were built to introduce a low level of sound and vibration in their surrounding waters. The acoustics detect and measure the distribution of fish and other living marine life and describe their habitat. The transducer transmits a sound pulse (ping) which bounces off of different things beneath the ocean.

 

Depending on the ship’s mission, acoustic transducers help determine the abundance of fish and invertebrate species. These readings help derive population estimates of marine life to set harvest rates for commercial fisherman. The acoustic transducer also provides  the chance to study the spatial and temporal patterns of the fish so we can analyze their habitat choice, predator-prey interactions and food web dynamics.  This technology offers our incredible scientists aboard the ability to monitor fish populations without altering their behavior. It also gives biologists and oceanographers the ability to provide analyses to better assist marine resource managers in making more informed decisions without actually catching the fish. This technology could save an abundance of time, energy, and resources. 

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A picture of the acoustic transducer below the ship.

Hydroacoustics also has limitations and is not the solution to all sampling problems. The technique has difficulty differentiating between species, and limited ability to measure fish close to the surface and close to the bottom.  Therefore, hydroacoustics is mostly used alongside traditional trawling.

The main organism we are looking at is the Pacific hake. It is the largest single-species fishery on the west coast (not including Alaska). The United States has made over $40 million annually from Pacific hake since 2008. They prey upon euphasuiids, pandalid shrimp, and many fish such as herring. Hake are prey for predators such as tuna, sharks, and marine mammals. Hake are an essential part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem as shown by this food web.

6122180In the United States hake is most commonly used to make imitation crab, fish sticks, and cat food.  It sells for a very low amount per pound. When I searched “hake” on the Walmart app, no hake filet came up in the United States. However, when I looked at the ingredients label on their seafood salad, hake was listed. Most Pacific hake are exported to Asia and Russia and bring in excellent revenue for our citizens who live on the North Pacific northwest. The scientific work done by people aboard ships like NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada helps to ensure that the population of Pacific hake and other species thrive and can provide food and revenue for future generations to come.

Here is the process the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada goes through when “fishing” and analyzing the catch (pictures of all the steps are below).

  1. The science team, led by the Chief Scientist, analyzes the data being recorded by the acoustic transducers.
  2. They communicate where they want to drop the fishing nets to the captain and officers standing by at the bridge.
  3. The officers communicate to the deck hands to drop the net.
  4. The science team carefully stands by and watches the computer monitors. They give orders to the officers on how far down the net should go and when to pick up the net based on their computer screens.
  5. The deck hands reel in the net.
  6. The deck hands drop the catch in the hopper.
  7. The fish is sorted by species (Pacific Hake, Rock fish, Pollock, etc)  on a conveyor belt by four scientists and scientific volunteers.
  8. Assessments are taken on the hake using the chart below. Some fish are weighed and sent back, ~250 random hake in the batch are assessed by weight and sex, and ~30 hakes receive an enhanced assessment for length, weight, sex, and maturity.

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Getting to Know the Crew: I have been overwhelmed by the kindness, sense of community, and sense of service the crew have had aboard the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. Every professional on board has been willing to answer all the questions I ask and seem eager to share information about their lives with me. Every crew member has welcomed me aboard their home with a smile and willingness to do anything to make my experience the best it can be. I have and will continue to interview a few members of the crew or science team over the next few blog posts. Here are the first two:

Dr. Rebecca Thomas, Chief Scientist

Rebecca is the leader of all the scientific efforts aboard. Her, alongside our ship’s captain help to ensure the primary goals set by NOAA are carried out to the best of their ability. Rebecca is married and has two young girls at home.  She graduated from Duke University and then went on to MIT for her doctorate in Biological Oceanography. She works for NOAA half-time at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and she loves her job. She can even bike to work when she is not researching on a ship. Her first NOAA mission was in 2002 and she has worked mostly with hake during her time out to sea.

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Chief Scientist Rebecca Thomas

While many contemplate for years to figure out what career path they want to head in, Rebecca knew what she wanted to do when she was seven. It is obvious that the most difficult part of her role with NOAA is leaving her kids when she is out at sea researching. I got to witness her having to say goodbye to her kids in port and her kids were devastated and wouldn’t let go. They just love their mom.

Her love for science is obvious and contagious. I asked her what advice she would give middle school science enthusiasts back in Baltimore and she said, “Take lots of math classes. You need that strong foundation, especially statistics.” As a mathematics teacher, this of course made me smile:-)

As my direct supervisor aboard, Rebecca has been an asset to my experience thus far. When I first got aboard her only instruction to me was, “Just ask as many questions as you can.” Even during hectic times aboard she always takes her time to explain to me what is happening. She leads through expertise and she looks out for her team’s safety. She makes sure everyone sleeps and eats despite the long hours and she delegates her team’s strengths well. She has made me feel like a valuable member of the science team, despite my lack of science knowledge, and will stay up a few extra minutes in the evening to proofread my blog. She does all this while keeping her eyes on the goals of the research cruise.

Charlie Donahue, Volunteer Scientist and my Roommate

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Charlie is a volunteer from Oregon State University.  He is a junior biology major with a marine focus. It is Charlie’s first time on a ship.

Both of Charlie’s parents are biologists and teach at Central Washington University. Charlie’s first interest in science began when he was a kid. He loved dinosaurs and thought he would become a paleontologist. As he got older he realized he was most interested in the biological side of science. A few years back, Charlie and his family took a trip to Alaska and visited Kenai Fjords National Park. He described a moment aboard a boat with an abundance of marine wildlife surrounding him. He mentioned the noise and scene of hundreds of birds surrounding him. This is when he realized he wanted to narrow his scientific studies to marine life.

As a current college student, Charlie gave some great advice to future scientists to my class back in Baltimore who may be reading this. He said, “If you know you love science but are unsure of what specific type of science you want to study, then majoring in chemistry, biology, mathematics, or physics are all good bases for which you can explore and then specialize after.” He also said that his father gave him great employment advice which was to get some real life experience under his belt after earning a bachelor’s degree. He suggested to Charlie to get real-life experience before moving on with higher education because it will make him more marketable to future employers.

Charlie is still exploring what type of career path he want to move towards, which is one of the main reason’s he volunteered as a scientist aboard the ship. This is Charlie’s first time on a research vessel and he loves the food aboard and appreciates the structure of the day. Wake up, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are very set every day.

On a side note, Charlie has been a great roommate and is extremely clean and tidy, for a college student 🙂 He is keeping busy on his off time writing a story, writing comics, and working on his artistic side making designs with his latch-hook kit.

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Thank you for continuing to follow along in this journey. I am grateful for your support. My next blog should be posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

Justin

 

 

 

Justin Garritt: Precision in Science is Key. Calibrating Day and Ship Tour, September 5, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 5, 2018

Topic Today: Calibrating the Equipment and ship tour

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Today’s Location and Weather: Beautiful sunny skies calibrating in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington

Date: September 5, 2018

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Today’s blog will focus on calibration and a tour of the beautiful ship.

Calibration is the act of evaluating and adjusting the precision and accuracy of measurement equipment. It is intended to eliminate or reduce bias in an instrument’s readings. It compares the standard measurement with the measurement being made by the equipment. The accuracy of all measurements degrade over time by normal wear and tear. The purpose of calibration is to check the accuracy of the instrument and with this information, adjustments can be made if it is out of calibration. The bottom line is that calibration improves the accuracy of the measurement device which improves quality.

We calibrate many things in life. For an example, many teachers at my school have smart boimagesards or promethean boards. These boards are interactive white boards that allow teachers to teach using more interactive tools. As a math teacher, I have had a promethean board in my classroom which acts like a large touch screen computer that I take notes on, teach lectures on, give student feedback on, and play math games on.

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A teacher calibrating their smart board in a classroom

They have improved the learning experience for students in my class and across the globe. In order for the screen to work most accurately, we must perform routine calibrations on the board. If we don’t, there is often errors and where we touch the screen is not what actually shows up on the board. When these errors begin to occur, we must calibrate the board or else we won’t be as accurate when writing on the board.

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Police officers and military personnel must also use calibration in their work. Officers must routinely calibrate their weapons for accuracy. When at a safe and secure range, officers will “site-in” their weapons to determine if their scope is accurate. They will then make modifications to their weapons based on the calibration tests. This is another form of calibrating that improves the quality and accuracy of the equipment.

On board the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, calibration typically happens at the start and end of most legs. Sometimes the Chief Scientist will also make the decision to calibrate mid-leg. For the past two days we have been spending 12 to 15 hours per day calibrating the equipment to ensure the most accurate research can be completed and we can meet the goals of the leg.

Calibrating the equipment is an interesting process that involves the teamwork of all the scientists on board. The process begins with three scientists setting up down riggers on the outside of the boat. Two are set up on starboard side (right side of the ship) and one is set up on port side (left side of the ship). This creates a triangle which will allow the calibration sphere or what I like to call,  “the magic sphere”  to move in whatever direction needed. This same triangle shaped design is used to move cameras that fly above players in the Superbowl.

 

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The picture above shows how three lines suspended from down riggers that are attached to the sphere.

The pictures (with captions) show the process step by step.

We calibrated for two full days. It was surprising how long the process took. After  explanations from the many scientists on board I learned that the process is so long because we are assessing numerous acoustic transducers under the ship.  Then, for each transducer, we are calibrating the old acoustic system and the new acoustic system.

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All smiles at the end of calibration as we head out to continue our mission at sea:-)  In this photo: NOAA TAS Justin Garritt, Scientist Volunteer Heather Rippman, and Future Scientist Charlie Donahue (and roommate)

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A Tour of the ship

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NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is an incredible vessel that sails for months at a time. It has a crew of over 40 people (who I will be discussing in future blogs). The ship is a science lab with most state of the art equipment and also home for the crew on board that make the boat run 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. Here is a quick behind the scenes look at this remarkable vessel.

The Deck: When you embark the ship, the first thing you see is a huge deck with massive pieces of equipment. Each item has a different purpose based on what scientific study is taking place throughout the leg of the journey.

The Bridge: This is where the captain and his crew spend most of their day. The bridge has all of the most up-to-date technology to ensure we are all safe while on board. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship. The bridge has highly advanced radar to spot obstacles and other vessels. It also is the center of communication for all units on board the ship.

The Galley and Mess Hall: I expected to come on board and lose weight. Then I met Arnold. He is our incredible galley master who makes some of the best meals I have had on a ship. Yes, this better than food on a buffet line on a cruise. Arnold works his magic in a small kitchen and has to plan, order, and organize food two weeks out. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared and everyone eats in the mess hall. Beverages, cereal, salad, and most importantly, ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Every meal has a large menu posted on the television monitor and you can eat whatever you want. Every meal so far has been amazing.

Staterooms: Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As The bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light just in case you and your roommate are working different shifts.

Laundry Room: There are three washer machines and three dryers that crew can use to clean their clothes during off-duty hours

The Entertainment Room:  The living room of the ship. This room has a large screen TV,  comfy recliners, and hundreds of movies, including new releases.

The Acoustics Lab: The acoustics lab is like the situation room for the scientists. There are large computer screens every where that can monitor all of the things the scientists are doing. For the past two days, Rebecca, our Chief Scientist, along with other scientists, lead the calibration from that room.

The Wet Lab: The wet lab will be used to inspect and survey the hake when we start fishing later this week.

I only just began my exploration of the ship. I will have so many more places to share throughout the journey. Later this week I will be asking our Chief Engineer to take me on a behind the scenes tour of “below deck” which is where they turn salt water to freshwater, handle all trash on board, etc. I will also be asking a member of captain’s  officers to teach me a little about the navigation equipment up in the bridge. I will be sure to write about all I learn in future blogs.

Thank you for continuing to join me on this epic adventure.

Justin

 

 

 

Justin Garritt: What is NOAA and Why Are We Sailing? September 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 3, 2018

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
Date: September 3, 2018

Today was day two and my first full day on-board. I learned so much about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I learned about what our ship, Bell M. Shimada’s, mission was this cruise. I started to get acquainted with all the impressive things the ship has to offer. However, what I enjoyed most was meeting all the wonderful people who spend their lives on-board for months (or even years) serving us. Every single professional was warm and welcome and answered the thousand questions I asked today with a smile. It was an amazing day because of the crew and scientists who already made me feel at home.

I was unaware of what NOAA did before joining the Teacher at Sea Program. Today’s post is all about NOAA, the ship I am sailing on, and the mission ahead the next two weeks.

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My home for the next two weeks. . . NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

What is NOAA? Before I can get in to details about my journey, here is some information about the governmental agency that welcomes Teacher At Sea applicants with open arms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an American scientific agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. It was formed in 1970 and as of last year had over 11,000 employees. NOAA exists to monitor earth systems through research and analysis. It uses the research to assess and predict future changes of these earth systems and manage our precious resources for the betterment of society, the economy, and environment.

One component of NOAA studies our oceans. They ensure ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. One of the many ships that are used to study the oceanic environment (which I am fortunate to sail on these next two weeks) is NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. This ship is stationed on the west coast with forty-plus crew who work endlessly to make this ship run so NOAA scientists can perform important environmental studies. Every person I have met the past two days has been remarkable and you will hear more about them throughout my future blogs.

 

Why Are We Sailing? NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is one of dozens of NOAA ships that sail the ocean every day in order to research vital information about our environment. Every sailing has clear objectives that help achieve the goals that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association sets. On NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, hake fish surveys are completed every other year and research is done during off years. Fish surveys determine estimates of certain fish species. This vessel sails the entire west coast of the United States and then works with their Canadian counterparts to provide an estimate of a variety of species. NOAA uses this information to provide the fisherman with rules governing the amount of species that can be fished. During research years, like the one I currently am on, the vessels have different objectives that support their work.

For this leg, the ship has three main objectives:

#1: Pair trawling to determine net size impact: Evaluate the differences between the US 32mm nets and the CANADIAN 7mm nets. The questions being asked are does the differences in size of the two nets affect the size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

The reason this research is needed is because currently the Canadians and the United States have always used different size liners on the far tip of the net while surveying. The purpose of this experiment is to eliminate the possibility that there is bias in the data between the two countries when surveying their respective territories with slightly different net sizes.The hope is that the different liners do not affect the  size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

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#2: Comparing old acoustic equipment with new equipment: An acoustic transducer is a highly technological piece of equipment used on board scientific and commercial fishing vessels around the word. It emits a brief, focused pulse of sound into the water. If the sound encounters objects that are of different density than the surrounding medium, such as fish, they reflect some sound back toward the source. On-board N

OAA Ship Bell M. Shimada these echoes provide information on fish size, location, and abundance. NOAA is modernizing all of their acoustic equipment to a higher range of frequency. This is equivalent to when televisions went from black and white to color. This will hopefully allow scientists to collect more precise and accurate data.

The second goal of this cruise is to determine the differences in the frequency levels of both the new and the old technology. The goal in the long run is to reduce the number of surveying trolls needed to determine the population of fish, and instead, use this highly advanced acoustics equipment instead. It would be a more efficient and environmentally smarter option for the future.

Multibeam Sonar

An illustration of a ship using multi-beam sonar. Image courtesy of NOAA

#3: Using oceanography to predict fish presence: During the night time, scientific studies continue. The ship never sleeps. Depending on where we saw and caught fish during the day time experiments, the captain will bring the boat back to that same area to determine what water characteristics were present. The goal is to find the correlation between increased hake presence and certain water characteristics.

Throughout the next two weeks I will take you behind the scenes on how the ship is collecting data and using the data to create a hypothesis for each goal.

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A beautiful view while calibrating today

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Immersion suit practice during drills

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The beautiful Seattle skyline

Upcoming Blogs through Sept 14:

Life on-board these beautiful ships

The galley is a work of art

Tour of the ship

Careers on-board

Daily tasks and updates on our ship leg’s mission and goals

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