Lindsay Knippenberg: Women are taking over the Dyson! September 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 55.41 N
Longitude: -167.98
Wind Speed: 25.86 kts
Wave Height: 10 – 13ft with some larger wind-blown waves
Surface Water Temperature: 8.7 C
Air Temperature: 8.7 C

Science and Technology Log

Real women aren't afraid of piles of jellyfish.

Real women aren't afraid of piles of jellyfish.

I will admit that before I met the scientists and crew onboard the Dyson I had imagined that the majority of the people on the boat would be men. I had wrongly gone along with the stereotypical view that scientists, engineers, fishermen, and the crew onboard ships were mostly men. Therefore when I finally met the people who I would be sailing with for the next two weeks, I was surprised and very happy to see that women had taken over the Dyson. For example, of the 12 scientists onboard the Dyson for this cruise, 9 are women including the Chief Scientist who is in charge of us all.

The seabird observers looking for birds.

The seabird observers looking for birds.

On the ship there are also NOAA Corps officers. The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers can be found operating one of NOAA’s 18 ships or 12 aircraft to provide support to meet NOAA’s missions. Their duties and areas of operations can range from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, to flying P-3 Hurricane Hunter airplanes into hurricanes. I have met several NOAA Corps officers while I have been at NOAA and they have mostly been men. I was excited to see that of the six officers onboard the Dyson three are women.

NOAA Corps Officers - Rene, Sarah, and Amber taking a break from their duties to pose for a picture.

NOAA Corps Officers - Rene, Sarah, and Amber taking a break from their duties to pose for a picture.

There are also several other women onboard the Dyson and my mission today was to meet some of these amazing women and interview them to see what they do onboard the Dyson and what motivated them to choose this as their career. Let’s meet them:

Name: Ellen Martinson

Hometown: Juneau, AK

Position: Research Fisheries Biologist and Chief Scientist for Leg 2 of BASIS

Ellen showing off a tiny squid that she was measuring on the scale.

Ellen showing off a tiny squid that she was measuring on the scale.

Ellen has always loved solving puzzles and has had a curiosity for nature and how it works. That love of nature and problem solving led her to become a fisheries biologist. She has worked at NOAA since 1995 and she does research to support the management of federally-controlled commercial fisheries. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and is doing her research and dissertation on developing indexes of ecosystem health in the Bering Sea that includes climate and fish growth factors. Pollock is her species of choice and she is looking at the success rate of Age 0 (zero) pollock surviving their first year to become Age 1 pollock as a prediction of the future health of the commercial pollock fishery.

What does she like the best about her job? She gets to work with a variety of people ranging from scientists and fisheries managers to fishermen and even teachers like me. She listens to their problems and ideas and then looks for the important questions to address all of those viewpoints. She also gets to travel to a lot of cool places, learn new things from a variety of topics, and her job is often an adventure. How did she get such a cool job? Going to college is the first step. Ellen has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a master’s degree in Fisheries Resources. She is currently finishing up her Ph.D. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and then she will be Dr. Martinson.

Name: Kerri Curtin

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Position: Able-Bodied Seawoman

Kerri tying up the trawl net after pulling in a big haul of salmon.

Kerri tying up the trawl net after pulling in a big haul of salmon.

Kerri is one tough cookie. All week I have been amazed by her as she shuffled around the back deck pulling in fishing nets, lifting heavy science equipment, and tying all different types of knots. She is the only able-bodied seawoman onboard and her responsibilities include various deck maintenance jobs, setting up the nets for fishing and bringing in the catch, tying and untying the boat when we are at port, serving time on the bridge as an observer, and helping to launch the small boats. Her favorite part about her job is that she gets to go to work at sea and be outside in the fresh air. She also gets to travel to unique places and see the world. So far her favorite place that she has been to are the Greek Isles. How do you get a job like this? Kerri went to school in Maryland at Seafarers International and did an apprenticeship program. Through that program she gained the basic training necessary to get an entry-level position on a boat. Since then, she has continued her training and has taken several other Coast Guard certification tests. All her time at sea and trainings have paid off because she just received her 3rd Mates license.

Name: Amber Payne

Hometown: Fenton, MI

Position: Navigation Officer

Amber is in control of the Oscar Dyson as the trawl net is being brought in.

Amber is in control of the Oscar Dyson as the trawl net is being brought in.

Amber is a NOAA Corps officer onboard the Dyson. Her job as the Navigation Officer is to plot all the routes that the ship takes on paper and electronically. She also updates all the charting publications and she gets to stand watch on the bridge every day for eight hours. When she is on watch she is responsible for driving the ship and is in charge of all the operations. Amber has been onboard the Dyson for a year and a half and has several favorite things about her job. She likes that being on a ship in the Bering Sea is an adventure that many people may not get experience. She also likes the authority and trust that she is given to correctly navigate and drive the ship when she is all alone on the bridge. How did Amber get from Michigan to navigating a ship through the Bering Sea? Amber went to a four-year college in St. Petersburg, FL and studied Marine Biology. While in college she joined the search and rescue team and learned a lot about driving small boats. She knew that she wanted to go into a career that included both boats and science and her college advisor told her about the NOAA Corps. She applied to the NOAA Corps after graduation, was accepted, spent 4 months in basic trainings with the NOAA Corps, and then was placed on a ship. She loves that she gets to be a part of scientific research going on in the Bering Sea and she gets to drive boats all as a part of her job.

Name: Wendy Fellows

Hometown: Liberty Lake, WA

Position: Junior Engineer

Wendy has a lot of screens and buttons to monitor when she is on watch.

Wendy has a lot of screens and buttons to monitor when she is on watch.

When I first met Wendy she was sitting in the galley with the other engineers wearing her cover-ups from working in the engine room and I thought to myself, this girl is pretty cool. There aren’t too many female marine engineers and Wendy has a great story. When she graduated from high school she didn’t know what to do. She wanted to see the world so she took a job working in the kitchen of an oil tanker. She traveled all over the world and learned a lot about the different jobs on the ship throughout her journey. Her dad had been a marine engineer and she liked the work that the engineers did, so she went to school at the Seattle Maritime Academy to learn the trade. As a part of a year-long program she became a qualified member of the engineering department and did an internship onboard the Oscar Dyson. She liked it so much that she decided to stay on the Dyson as a Junior Engineer. Her job on board the Dyson is to basically make sure the ship is working properly. She tests emergency batteries, monitors the generators and pumps, services the small boats, fuels the ship when it is in port, fixes random things that break around the ship, and tests the drinking water. Her favorite part about her job is when she gets to use the welding skills she learned onboard the Dyson to fabricate things for the ship or scientists.

Name: Kathy Hough

Hometown: Kodiak, AK

Position: Senior Survey Technician

Kathy is busy on the hero deck connecting plankton nets to be lowered over the side.

Kathy is busy on the hero deck connecting plankton nets to be lowered over the side.

As the senior survey technician onboard the Dyson, Kathy has the responsibility of working with the scientists to insure that the collection of their data goes smoothly. She helps the scientists to collect their data by lowering and monitoring the CTD, helping with the various nets, and making sure that all of the equipment in the labs are functioning properly. She also collects data of her own. As the Dyson cruises around the Bering Sea, Kathy is in charge of collecting the weather and oceanographic data that is sent to scientists and posted on the NOAA Ship Tracker website. What does she like best about her job? Kathy likes the diversity of operations that she gets to be a part of. The science teams that are doing research onboard the Dyson only stay for 2 – 4 weeks and then another team gets on and might be doing a completely different project. As the science teams constantly rotate, Kathy stays on and helps with a variety of projects and different types of scientists. Does this job sound cool to you? To get an entry-level position as a survey technician you need a bachelor’s degree in science or mathematics. Kathy’s background is in ecology/biology, but a background in engineering, mathematics, or chemistry can be helpful too. If you want to move up to be a senior survey technician like Kathy, you need time and experience working on boats and with the instruments the scientists use for their research.

Name: Rachelle Sloss

Hometown: Juneau, AK

Position: Lab/Research Technician

Rachelle with a huge king salmon from one of our hauls.

Rachelle and I have gotten to know each other pretty well these last couple of weeks as we sorted through piles of fish and did a lot of counting to fifty. Rachelle just graduated from college in May and for the past two summers she has worked in the NOAA labs in Juneau as a lab/research technician. She works in a lab that is studying bioenergetics. While onboard the Dyson, she has been collecting and sorting zooplankton and looking for specific species of krill that will be used for bioenergetic experiments back in Juneau. She has also been collecting juvenile fish species like pollock and herring for similar experiments. While at the lab back in Juneau, Rachelle does lipid class analyses of fish to look at the energy content of their lipids by season. Does this sound like a cool summer job? Rachelle thinks that it is because she gets to work with some really cool people, she is gaining great experience for the future, and she got to spend two weeks on the Bering Sea seeing tons of species of fish. What lies ahead for Rachelle? She got a degree in Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology from Whitman College and is thinking about becoming a high school science teacher. For now she is headed to a much warmer South America and will be traveling around for the next couple of months on her next adventure.

Personal Log

We finally made it back to land and now we are all heading off in opposite directions towards home.

We finally made it back to land and now we are all heading off in opposite directions towards home.

By now I am safely back to my warm living room and I owe all of the women above and the men of the Oscar Dyson my deepest gratitude. I had an incredible adventure on the Bering Sea and I learned so much. Even though we had some rough seas, I still loved seeing all the different fish that we caught in our nets and I loved being a part of a research project that has so much importance to our fisheries. The NOAA Corps officers, crew, and scientists were all incredible teachers and had a lot of patience as they took time out of their day to answer all of my questions. I can’t wait to share my experiences with my students and other teachers and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experiences that I gained as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

Lindsay Knippenberg: Acoustics Day! September 13, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 13, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 56.91 N
Longitude: -169.08 W
Wind Speed: 10.07 kts
Wave Height: 4 – 6 ft
Surface Water Temperature: 6.5 C
Air Temperature: 7.5 C

Science and Technology Log

The Oscar Dyson uses several different types of sonar to get the best image of what is beneath the ship.

The Oscar Dyson uses several different types of sonar to get the best image of what is beneath the ship.

Today I learned about acoustics with Paul. The Oscar Dyson is one of NOAA’s newer ships and has a hull-mounted sonar system which uses sound waves to “see” what is underneath the ship. The Oscar Dyson was also built to have a low acoustic signature and be “quiet” in the water. This is helpful to the scientists using acoustics to study fish onboard the Dyson because the fish don’t hear the ship and swim away. On our cruise the acoustics data is used to get a picture of where there is life in the entire water column. For the most part we have just been trawling on the surface, but the ocean is much deeper and there could be a lot more life underneath our nets that we will never catch. If we get very few fish in our nets, it could mean that the fish are just at a deeper depth and not that there are not any fish in that area. Since the scientists are getting a better picture of what is really going in that ecosystem, they can make more accurate stock assessments. All throughout the cruise I have been curious about the images displayed on the screens in the acoustics room and on the bridge. Today I would finally learn what they were all about.

Since the sonar is attached to the bottom of the boat, the top 14 meters aren't seen in the images. To solve that problem, a sonar transducer is lowered over the side to get the top 14 meters when we at station.

Since the sonar is attached to the bottom of the boat, the top 14 meters aren't seen in the images. To solve that problem, a sonar transducer is lowered over the side to get the top 14 meters when we at station.

Basically how acoustics work is that a sound or ping is sent from the ship and it travels through the water. When it hits something in the water column or the bottom of the ocean it bounces back and the ship’s echosounder records the length of time that it took for the sound wave to travel there and back. Depending on the temperature and depth of the water, the pings are sent at different time intervals and pulses. The pings can also be sent at different frequencies to “see” different types of organisms. For instance zooplankton can be viewed best at one frequency and jellyfish can be viewed best at another frequency. As the sound waves are returning to the vessel, the computer translates the returning sound waves into images for the scientists to analyze.

A sonar image at dawn. The dark red line at the bottom of the screen is the ocean floor. Notice all the greens and blues at the top of the water column. Those are pollock.

A sonar image at dawn. The dark red line at the bottom of the screen is the ocean floor. Notice all the greens and blues at the top of the water column. Those are pollock.

On our cruise Paul is comparing the sonar signatures produced by the different organisms under the boat to what we are actually catching in the nets. The use of acoustics technologies for stock assessments is fairly new and individual species can’t be recognized by the sonar images, but Paul can use the images to detect if an area will have a greater density of organisms. We are also selecting several locations between stations to do mid-water trawls. Paul selects areas that have a high density of organisms underneath the depth that our surface trawl nets reach and we do a mid-water trawl. He then compares what we find in the trawl to the sonar signatures that he saw in the images to see if he can find any patterns between specific species and sonar signatures. It will be amazing if some day fisheries biologists will be able to assess the stock of fisheries by using sonar instead of net trawls which are a lot more work and often result in the death of the fish.

Personal Log

Today's weather after the two low pressure systems had entered the area. The weather was pretty crappy the last two days, but today it is beautiful.

Today's weather after the two low pressure systems had entered the area. The weather was pretty crappy the last two days, but today it is beautiful.

We have had several lo- pressure systems blow through during our cruise and so far we have had two gale warnings. The first one occurred when we had only been out to sea for a day so it was easy to head back in to Dutch Harbor. The last one occurred a couple of days ago and we were too far out into the Bering Sea to turn back. We had no choice but to ride it out. Two low-pressure systems were colliding and the Bering Sea turned into a washing machine. There were consistent 10 – 13 ft waves coming from one direction, large 20ft swells coming from another direction, and the occasional 8 – 10 ft wave coming from a different direction. The ship just kind of bobbed from side to side and up and down and we were all along for the ride. Thank goodness I didn’t get sick, but I definitely didn’t sleep well.

Face to face with some angry seas.

Face to face with some angry seas.

I was also amused by how life went on for everyone onboard the ship. Dinner was hilarious as everyone held onto their dishes and your chair moved from side to side with the waves. Walking around was pretty funny too. There was no way that you could walk in a straight line. I would choose something to grab onto, walk another couple of steps, and then grab onto something else. As I tried to sleep at night I could hear the things that we had thought we had secured roll around the room. Who knew that a roll of paper towels could make so much noise? The curtain on my bed was making me crack up because it would roll open with one wave and close shut with another. It just kept opening and closing all night and there was nothing that I could do about it but laugh. Thankfully by today the seas had calmed down significantly and the sun is actually out.

Francesco was a lost shorebird who found his way to our ship in the middle of the Bering Sea.

Francesco was a lost shorebird who found his way to our ship in the middle of the Bering Sea.

There was one casualty though, and that was Francesco. Francesco was a shorebird, an American Pipit, that was blown way off course during the storm. He ended up cold and hungry on our back deck last night. We were able to catch him and we put him in a warm box with some dead flies, water, and crackers. He managed to eat and drink, but he was a juvenile and had very little body fat. He was pretty much skin and bones. He lasted until this afternoon and when we went to check on him, he was dead. We gave him a burial at sea and were reminded that the Bering Sea is a harsh, harsh environment.

Lindsay Knippenberg: Oceanography Day! September 11, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 11, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 58.00 N
Longitude: -166.91 W
Wind Speed: 23.91 kts with gusts over 30 kts
Wave Height: 10 – 13ft with some bigger swells rolling through
Surface Water Temperature: 6.3 C
Air Temperature: 8.0 C

Science and Technology Log

On a calm day letting out the CTD is easy.

On a calm day letting out the CTD is easy.

Today Jeanette and Florence took me under their wing to teach me about the oceanographic research they are conducting onboard the Dyson. At every station there is a specific order to how we sample. First the transducer, then the CTD, then numerous types of plankton nets, and then we end with the fishing trawl. The majority of the oceanographic data that they collect comes from the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth). The CTD is lowered over the side of the ship and as it slowly descends to about 100 meters it takes conductivity, temperature, and depth readings. Those readings go to a computer inside the dry lab where Jeanette is watching to record where the pycnocline is located.

The results from the CTD. Can you spot where the pycnocline is?

The results from the CTD. Can you spot where the pycnocline is?

The pycnocline is a sharp boundary layer where the density of the water rapidly changes. The density changes because cold water is more dense than warm water and water with a higher salinity is more dense than water that is lower in salinity. So as the CTD travels down towards the bottom it  measures warmer, less salty water near the surface, a dramatic change of temperature and salinity at the pycnocline, and then colder, saltier water below the pycnocline. Once Jeanette knows where the pycnocline is, she tells the CTD to collect water at depths below, above, and at the pycnocline boundary. The water is collected in niskin bottles and when the CTD is back on deck Florence and Jeanette take samples of the water to examine in the wet lab.

Filtering out the chlorophyll from the CTD water samples.

Filtering out the chlorophyll from the CTD water samples.

Back in the lab, Jeanette and Florence run several tests on the water that they collected. The first test that I watched them do was for chlorophyll. They used a vacuum to draw the water through two filters that filtered out the chlorophyll from the water. As the water from the CTD passed through the filters, the different sizes of chlorophyll would get stuck on the filter paper. Jeanette and Florence then collected the filter paper, placed them in labeled tubes, and stored them in a cold, dark freezer where the chlorophyll would not degrade. In the next couple of days the chlorophyll samples that they collected will be ran through a fluorometer which will quantify how much chlorophyll is actually in their samples.

Jeanette collecting water from the CTD.

Jeanette collecting water from the CTD.

Besides chlorophyll, Jeanette and Florence also tested the water for dissolved oxygen and nutrients like nitrates and phosphates. All of these tests will give the scientists a snapshot of the physical and biological characteristics of the Eastern Bering Sea at this time of year. This is very important to the fisheries research because it can help to determine the health of the ecosystem and return of the fish in the following year.

Personal Log

One of the high points for me so far on the cruise has been seeing and learning about all the new fish that we catch in the net. We have caught lots of salmon, pollock, and capelin. The capelin are funny because they smell exactly like cucumbers. When we get a big catch of capelin the entire fish lab smells like cucumbers…it’s so weird. We have also caught wolffish, yellow fin sole, herring, and a lot of different types of jellyfish. The jellies are fun because they come in all different shapes and sizes. We had a catch today that had some hug ones and everyone was taking their pictures with them.

Now that is a big jelly fish.

Now that is a big jelly fish.

Today we also caught three large Chinook or king salmon. Ellen taught me how to fillet a fish and I practiced on a smaller fish and then filleted the salmon for the cook. What is even cooler was that at dinner we had salmon and it was the fish that we had caught and I had filleted. Fresh salmon is so good and I think the crew was happy to get to enjoy our catch.

The catch of the day was a 8.5 kg Chinook salmon.

The catch of the day was a 8.5 kg Chinook salmon.

Salmon for dinner, filleted by Lindsay.

Salmon for dinner, filleted by Lindsay.


What else did we catch?
Walleye Pollock

Walleye Pollock

A juvenile Wolffish

A juvenile Wolffish

Yellow Fin Sole

Yellowfin Sole

 A squid

A squid

Herring

Herring

Lots of little Capelin

Lots of little Capelin

Lindsay Knippenberg: A Tour of the Oscar Dyson, September 8, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 8, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54.14 N
Longitude: -166.57 W
Wind Speed: 27.33kts
Wave Height: up to 17 ft
Surface Water Temperature: 8.4 °C
Air Temperature: 7.7 °C

While hiding from the storm in Dutch Harbor for the past two days, I had plenty of time to explore my new home onboard the Oscar Dyson. The Dyson is 209 ft in length and is like a small city. Everything that I would need during my two-week cruise, including a laundry room, would be available to me onboard. To show you what life is like onboard a ship, I decided to go on a little tour of the Dyson and take some pictures of the different areas of the ship. If you are interested in  more in-depth specifications of the ship, check out the Oscar Dyson’s website.

Science and Technology Log

Let’s start in the scientific areas of the ship. I have been spending most of my time working with the fisheries team in the fish lab. When we are done trawling and the fishermen bring in the net, they dump our catch onto a large conveyor belt. As the conveyor belt slowly moves, we sort our catch by species. Once we are done sorting, we also process the catch by weighing, measuring, and taking samples of the organisms. To learn more about this process, see my blog post from September 4th.

The Fish Lab. This is where the fish are brought in and processed.

The Fish Lab. This is where the fish are brought in and processed.

Next to the fish lab is a wet lab. A lot goes on in the wet lab. Some scientists are identifying plankton under microscopes, other scientists are dissecting fish stomachs to see what the fish are eating, and some scientists are filtering water from different depths of the ocean looking for chlorophyll.

The Wet Lab. Scientists study the ocean water, use microscopes, and dissect fish stomachs in this lab.

The Wet Lab. Scientists study the ocean water, use microscopes, and dissect fish stomachs in this lab.

When you pass through yet another door, you end up in another lab called the dry lab. There are several computers and other pieces of machinery that control the instruments that are lowered over the side of the ship at our sampling stations. This room is where a lot of the oceanography data is collected. I will talk about what they do and the data that they are collecting in another blog.

The Dry Lab. Jeanette is watching the data come in from one of the instruments.

The Dry Lab. Jeanette is watching the data come in from one of the instruments.

The last lab is across the hall and it is called the acoustics lab. This room is mostly composed of computers and lots of large screens to track where the fish are underneath the boat. Stay tuned for more on acoustics later.

The Acoustics Lab. Paul is using acoustics to watch the fish swim under the boat.

The Acoustics Lab. Paul is using acoustics to watch the fish swim under the boat.

Personal Log

I know that many of you have been wondering…Where do I sleep? What do I eat? What do I do when I am not playing with fish? And do I get to take a shower after playing with fish all day? Hopefully these pictures will help you to get a better idea of what life is like on the ship. It is no cruise ship, but I’m not “roughing it” by any means.

Let’s start with my room. The rooms are actually a lot larger than I thought that they would be. Everyone has a roommate and I am sharing a room with the Chief Scientist, Ellen Martinson. Each room has two bunks, a desk with an internet connection, two lockers for storing gear, a refrigerator, drawers for more storage, and a bathroom.

Mine and Ellen's room.

Mine and Ellen's room.

Ahh…the bathroom. Each room has its own bathroom with a sink, shower, and toilet. Before I got here I had imagined having one large bathroom for each floor or group of rooms, so this was a pleasant surprise. Even better was that it was much larger than any bathroom I have ever seen on a boat. The shower even has a bar to hold onto when you are trying to shower in rough seas, which I have found quite useful.

My Bathroom...it's so huge for a boat.

My Bathroom...it's so huge for a boat.

So what do I eat? It is more like what have I not eaten. The food has been excellent and there is always a variety of choices to choose from. Breakfast is from 07:00 – 8:00 and consists of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes or french toast, oatmeal, and today there was even quiche. I’m not a big breakfast person so I have been eating cereal and fruit for most breakfasts. Lunch is from 11:00 – 12:00 and is my favorite meal of the day. The cook makes amazing soups and there is usually a good sandwich to pair it with. If you don’t want soup and sandwich, there is usually burgers, quesadillas, or chicken fingers to choose from. If you don’t think that you can make it until 17:00 (or 5pm) when dinner is served again, don’t worry. There are usually fresh-baked cookies in the galley at around 15:00. If you still are hungry at dinner time, then you are in for a treat. So far for dinner I have had pork chops, spaghetti, leg of lamb, steak, and chicken ala king. Of course you would have to finish dinner with dessert and coffee. How about homemade chocolate cake and a scoop of ice cream? And you can’t just serve a regular cup of coffee. How about a mocha latte made from the espresso machine in the galley?

The Galley. Lots of good food can be found here.

The Galley. Lots of good food can be found here.

What happens if you eat too much and get sick? Don’t worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary if you need medicine. We have had some pretty rough seas during our cruise so it is nice to know that there is somewhere that I can go if I am feeling sick or if I need more medicine.

Not feeling well. Don't worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary.

Not feeling well? Don't worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary.

What do I do when I’m not playing with fish in the fish lab? Well, there are lots of things to do to keep yourself busy. You could workout in one of two workout rooms. You could choose from over 500 movies to watch in the lounge. You could clean your fish-smelling clothes in the laundry room. My personal favorite is to go up to the bridge and check out what is going on outside. From here you can see for miles and there are usually lots of seabirds to see and if you are lucky you can even see a whale or porpoise passing by.

Wash your dirty clothes at the ship's laundry room.

Wash your dirty clothes at the ship's laundry room.

Relax in the lounge and watch a movie.

Relax in the lounge and watch a movie.

Eat too many cookies today? Work off those extra calories in one of the ships two workout rooms.

Eat too many cookies today? Work off those extra calories in one of the ships two workout rooms.

Check out the bridge to look for sea birds and whales.

Check out the bridge to look for sea birds and whales.

Lindsay Knippenberg: Going Fishing! September 4, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

 

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 4, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54.13
Longitude: -166.41
Wind Speed: 24.10kts
Wave Height: 4-6 ft
Surface Water Temperature: 9.0°C
Air Temperature: 8.8°C

Science and Technology Log

The station grid for all of the proposed sampling sites.

The station grid for all of the proposed sampling sites.

Yeah! Today we left Dutch Harbor and began the second leg of the Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS). The purpose of the BASIS Study is to assess the status of marine species in the Eastern Bering Sea and support the decision making process for commercially important fisheries. The scientists on my team are accomplishing this goal by combining their knowledge of fisheries, oceanography, and acoustics. While I am onboard I will be helping out the scientists in all these different areas to get a broad view of all the science going on during our cruise.

There are specific sampling locations called stations that we will be going to throughout the Eastern Bering Sea. The map on the left shows the locations of these stations. The green dots are the stations that we are sampling during leg 1 and leg 2 of the BASIS survey. Leg 1 is already complete and they sampled at all the stations east of Unalaska. We will be picking up where they left off and sampling at all of the remaining green stations. The black dots are stations that will be sampled by another vessel named the Bristol Explorer.

The trawl net being let out behind the ship.

The trawl net being let out behind the ship.

For the first station I got to help out the fisheries team in the fish lab. We did a surface trawl by letting out a large net out the back of the boat with floats on it to keep it at the surface. By adjusting the floats and weights on the trawl, the fishermen can choose what depth they fish at. While the net is out, the OOD (Officer of the Deck) slowly motors the ship for about 30 minutes and the net catches the fish that are swimming in that area and depth. For this station we want to see the fish that are swimming within the top 30 meters of our sampling area. At later stations we might also do a mid level or deep trawl to see the fish that live at those depths.

We found some Salmon!

We found some Salmon!

After the 30 minutes were up, the fishermen slowly brought in the net and we immediately saw salmon caught in the net. Yeah! We caught something! As more and more net was brought in the fish began to pile up on our sorting table. There were a lot more fish than I had expected and the majority of them were salmon. It was now our job to sort the fish by species and I will admit that I am pretty slow at identifying the species. They may all look like fish, but they each have identifiable features like the color of their gums (black for Chinook Salmon), type of gill rakers, or color patterns on their body or tails. At this station we were lucky enough to pull in four out of the five salmon species in Alaska. We caught Chinook, Sockeye, Chum, and Pink Salmon. We also caught several different species of jellyfish and some squid.

That is a lot of salmon to sort.

That is a lot of salmon to sort.

After we caught the fish, we had to process them. In order to learn about the fish and the health of their population, we took samples and collected data from the fish we caught. Here is a description of the data we collected and what the scientists can learn from that data.

Weight and Length – Weight and length are an index of fitness for the fish. The scientists multiply how fat the fish is by how long it is to determine its lipid (fat) content. In cold waters the fish tend to have a higher lipid content than in warmer waters where the fish have to use more energy to metabolize. Additionally, if a fish has a higher lipid content, it might also mean that it is healthy and finding prey easily.

Gill rakers (white hairs on top of the red gills) from two different salmon. Can you see the difference?

Gill rakers (white hairs on top of the red gills) from two different salmon. Can you see the difference?

Axillary Process – We cut the axillary process off the fish we caught for genetic studies. The scientists know the baseline genetic sequence for the salmon that come from different regions of the world. By looking at the genetics of the fish we caught, we can tell where the fish came from and reconstruct their migration and distribution. For instance, the scientists have used the genetics from the axillary processes to determine that a large percentage of chum salmon caught in the Eastern Bering Sea are from Japan.

Sexual Maturity – By looking at the testes and ovaries of the fish, the scientists can determine if the fish were immature or mature and when they were going to spawn. Using this information along with the results from the axillary process genetics, the scientists can determine migration patterns and growth rates.

Determining the sex, stomach contents, and sexual maturity of the fish we caught.

Determining the sex, stomach contents, and sexual maturity of the fish we caught.

Male vs. Female – The scientists also use the testes and ovaries to determine if the fish was a female or male. This is helpful in looking at the ratio of males to females in their population.

Stomach Contents – By removing the stomach of the fish and analyzing its stomach contents, the scientists can determine what the fish was eating. This is can be very helpful when comparing warm years to cold years and the effect that climate change can have on prey sources and the nutrition of the fish.

All of this information can then be extremely useful to fisheries managers who are assessing the stock of the fish that are important to commercial fishermen. One of the species that we hope to collect as we sample at other stations is Pollock. Pollock is the largest US fishery by volume. Each year around 2.9 Billion pounds of Pollock are harvested. To learn more about the Pollock fishery check out this link to NOAA FishWatch. The scientists  on my team are assessing the health of the Pollock fishery by looking at the total lipid content of Age 0 Pollock in late summer. Their lipid content is important at this time of year because winter in coming and they will need lipids to survive the cold winter. By looking at the lipid content of the Age 0 Pollock that we collect, the scientists can predict how many Age 0 Pollock will survive to become Age 1 Pollock and eventually mature to become Age 3 or 4 Pollock that can be harvested.

Personal Log

The fluke of a whale as it dives.

The fluke of a whale as it dives.

Whales! I was hanging out on the bridge getting my last look at land for a couple of weeks when I thought I saw a whale out of the corner of my eye. I couple of minutes later a huge Humpback Whale breached right next to the ship. I have seen whales before, but it was just their dorsal fin of flukes. This was crazy. An entire whale was out of the water and it kept on breaching over and over again like it was playing. I wanted to take a picture, but I was too mesmerized to even take my eyes away from it for a moment. Then as I started to look farther out to sea, I saw even more whales. There were about a dozen whales flapping their tails and rolling on to their sides. It looked like they were having a good time playing on a beautiful day.

The weather forecast for September 4 - 6. It doesn't look good...

The weather forecast for September 4 - 6. It doesn't look good...

That beautiful day, however, did not last very long. We managed to sample at two different stations when the wind started to pick up and the waves began to get a little larger. The forecast was calling for a Gale Warning with gusts of up to 50kts and 20-24 ft seas. Those conditions are far too dangerous to fish in, so we turned around and headed back to Dutch Harbor. Hopefully the storm will pass quickly and we will only have to hide out a couple of days until it is safe to fish again.

Lindsay Knippenberg: I Made It! September 3, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 3, 2011

Weather/Location Data for Unalaska, AK
Latitude: 53°54’0”N
Longitude: 166° 32′ 36″ W
Wind Speed: Calm
Air Temperature: mid 50’s°F

Personal Log

It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.

It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.

Whew…I made it to Unalaska. After an entire day of sitting on airplanes and running through airport terminals, I am finally here. I can’t believe how beautiful it is here. The surrounding mountains are a stunning green color and there have even been some sightings of blue sky between the normal grey clouds. I am also amazed at how warm it is. It almost got up to 60°F today, but I was told that the weather can change here pretty quickly. We have already heard of bad weather coming our way next week. The National Weather Service issued a Gale Warning with predictions of wind gusts of up to 50 knots and waves above 20 feet. I had better take my seasickness medications.

The beautiful town of Unalaska.

The beautiful town of Unalaska.

We don’t ship out until tomorrow, so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and explore Unalaska. Unalaska is much bigger than I thought that it would be. It is a major international fishing port and is one of the larger cities in Alaska with about 4,000 residents. Life in Unalaska revolves around fishing. Most residents are either commercial fishermen, work in the processing facilities, support the fishermen through stores and other services, or work in the ship yards where the seafood is shipped to all parts of the world. The name of the harbor where all of this is going on might be familiar to you. It is called Dutch Harbor and is where the show “Deadliest Catch” is filmed about the commercial crab fishermen. Crab is not the only type of commercial seafood coming out of Dutch Harbor. Pollock, Cod, Halibut, Rock Sole, and Mackerel are just a few of the other commercial fisheries in Dutch Harbor.

A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).

A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).

For those of you interested in history, Dutch Harbor also has historical significance from World War II. Dutch Harbor was the only land in North America, besides Pearl Harbor, that was bombed by Japanese Zeros during World War II. In our exploring around the island today, we saw evidence of Armed Forces’ bunkers, Quonset huts, and barracks still visible amongst the green hills of Unalaska. The National Park System opened a WWII National Historic Area and Visitor Center in 2002 in Unalaska and I hope to have time to visit it either before or after my cruise.

Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill.

Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill

What’s the best place to go on a beautiful, sunny day in Unalaska? The beach, of course. We didn’t go to the beach to get sun tans or to go for a swim. We went to check out the tide pools. I love tide pools! It is amazing how resilient the little creatures are that live in the tide pools. When the tide is in they are completely submerged under water and then six hours later they are above the water level when the tide goes out. To make life even harder, they are also smashed by huge waves crashing on them as the tide goes in and out. It is a tough life, but there was such a diversity of life that they must be pretty tough and have some helpful adaptations. As I explored amongst the rocks, I found sea anemones, barnacles, mussels, and lots of different types of seaweeds. On our way back to the van, we also found a stream leading back to a brackish lake and the salmon were running. They are amazing creatures to watch too. The amount of energy that they exert and the sacrifice that they make to reproduce is incredible.

I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.

I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.

Unfortunately we couldn’t spend our entire day exploring. The plan for the rest of the day is to get settled onboard the Dyson, have a science team meeting to discuss the science that we will be doing and the logistics associated with the different stations and sample sites, and have a safety meeting with the crew of Dyson to discuss life onboard the ship and emergency situations. I am so excited to go out to sea tomorrow and actually start fishing.

Lindsay Knippenberg: An Introduction, August 28, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 28, 2011

Posing with the Albert Einstein statue on my first day as an Einstein Fellow in Washington DC.

Posing with the Albert Einstein statue on my first day as an Einstein Fellow in Washington DC

Before I begin my adventure, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Lindsay Knippenberg and I am currently an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, D.C. You might be asking yourself, what is an Einstein Fellow? The Einstein Fellowship is a year-long professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers who teach science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Around 30 educators are placed within the federal government each year and our job is to inform our agency or office on matters related to education. Last year fellows were placed at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, Department of Education, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and some fellows were even placed within the offices of U.S. senators. To learn more about what I have been working on as an Einstein Fellow check out the video below, or you can go to the NOAA Education website to view some of the resource collections that my office has made for educators this year.

My Freshmen even have energy during 1st Hour.

My Freshmen even have energy during 1st Hour.

Before I came to Washington, D.C., I was a high school science teacher in St. Clair Shores, MI. At South Lake High School I taught Biology, Environmental Science, and Aquatic Biology. As a teacher, one of my goals was to get my students to take risks and make goals that take them beyond the city bus lines. Through my previous teacher research experience as a PolarTREC teacher in Antarctica, moving to Washington, D.C. for a year-long fellowship, and now traveling to Alaska to board a ship for the Bering Sea I hope to show my students that you can challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zones and get big rewards. I am very excited to join the crew aboard the Oscar Dyson to learn about the science that is conducted on board a NOAA vessel and the careers that are available to my students through NOAA.

The Oscar Dyson will be my home for 12 days

The Oscar Dyson will be my home for 13 days

So where am I going and what will I be doing? On Friday I will be leaving hot and humid Washington, D.C. for cool and breezy Dutch Harbor, Alaska. In Dutch Harbor I will board the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. The Oscar Dyson is one of NOAA’s newer vessels and is one of the most technologically advanced fisheries survey vessels in the world. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea I will have the responsibility of learning about the science that is done onboard the ship, helping the variety of scientists that are onboard with their research projects, and then communicating what I learned through a blog and classroom lesson plans. The main research project that many of the scientists will be working on is called the Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS).

Chum Salmon and Walleye Pollock are two fish species that I will be seeing a lot of.

Chum Salmon and Walleye Pollock are two fish species that I will be seeing a lot of.

The BASIS survey was designed to improve our understanding of salmon ecology in the Bering Sea. We will be sampling the fish and the water in the Southeastern Bering Sea to better understand the community of fish, invertebrates, and other organisms that live there and the resources available to them. The survey has been divided up into two legs. The first leg is from August 19 – September 1 and Teacher at Sea, KC Sullivan, is onboard blogging about his experience. To learn more about BASIS and what lies ahead for me check out his blog. I will be sailing on the second leg of the “cruise” from September 4 – 16 and as a Teacher at Sea I will also be blogging about my experiences. I am very excited about lies ahead for me and I hope that you will follow my adventures as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.