Lee Teevan: The Unexpected Happens, July 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1-10, 2018

Mission: Acoustic Pollock-Trawl

Geographic Area of Cruise: eastern Bering Sea

Date: 13 July 2018

View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK

View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK

 

Weather Data from Norfolk, VA

Latitude: 36.8508° N

Longitude: 76.2859° W

Tide Heights: 2.76 ft & 3.35 ft

Wind Speed: 19 km/h

Wind Direction: NE

Air Temperature: 28°C, 82°F

Barometric Pressure: 1028.1 mb

Sky: Clear

Humidity: 76%

“If you’re awake at 6:00 a.m., you’ll get to see the Oculus as I prepare it to glide around in the Bering Sea!”  With this promise from Dr. Chris Bassett, I made sure I was ready at the appointed time on our last day on the ship.

Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.

Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.

The launching of the Oculus was not on Chris’ schedule for that day beforehand; our expedition was ending earlier than expected.  That setback, however, did not diminish the drive to pursue science.  The resilience and perseverance of the science team to readjust was apparent.  Through the mist of  disappointment, the scientists continued to do as much as possible to continue our mission of the pollock survey.

 

Science and Technology Log

Developed at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in partnership with the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean and the University of Washington Seaglider Fabrication Lab, the Oculus is an ocean glider which samples abiotic factors in the ocean such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen at different depths.

Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.

Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.

After setting the Oculus upright, Chris connected it via the Internet to a computer operated by a scientist at the University of Washington.  This scientist is going to be sending coordinates to the Oculus and guiding it at various depths in the Bering Sea.  Chris explained that the Oculus has the ability to adjust its buoyancy quickly and is able to carry out a more reliable survey than other gliders.  Through the data remotely sent by the Oculus, scientists can gather a more accurate picture of ocean dynamics such as water column layers and ocean mixing.

Unfortunately, I was not able to observe the launch of the Oculus as I had to leave for the airport.

Personal Log

View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.

View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.

The week I spent on the ship was a whirlwind of experiences. I was just hitting my stride being completely awake for my 4:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. work shift and efficiently measuring the length of the pollock in each trawl.

Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.

Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.

At the end of the last trawl, I held a pollock, out of its element of water. Its dense, streamlined body shimmered with iridescence.  One eye stared, unfocused on the strange surroundings.   I too would be out of my element were it not for the 208.6 ft. boat on which I was standing.  Being on the boat was a constant reminder that my species is alien to this ocean habitat and that to explore it, we have to use technology such as the Oculus, underwater cameras, and acoustic technology as well as physical trawls.  Together, these different means of exploring combine information so that we can evaluate our interactions with the ocean and its inhabitants.

The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.

The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.

At times, the ocean had a disorienting effect.  When on the deck, I looked out from all directions and saw nothing but ocean capped by a dome of stratus clouds.  Under this lid of heavy clouds, the sun gave no clue to discern our direction or time of day.

Marine Careers

Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.

Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.

With her philosophy of focusing on the positive, Karla Martinez enjoys her time on and off duty on the Oscar Dyson.  As a Junior Engineer, Karla is responsible for ship upkeep and repairs.  On our last day of the trip, I spoke to her as she changed air filters in all of the staterooms.  Karla began working as a NOAA Junior Engineer three years ago after seven years in the U.S. Navy.  Since working for NOAA, she has traveled extensively and makes sure she visits each place the Oscar Dyson docks.  Karla is on the ship for at least 7-8 months of the year, and she makes the ship feel like home by getting to know people.

Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.

Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.

For young people who are interested in a career like Karla’s, she advises asking many questions and studying technology as much as possible. In high school, students should take the ASVAP test before entering the military.  Once admitted to the military, students should get trained. Karla states that students should talk to their counselors and find out all they can.

Lee Teevan: Getting Schooled in the Nature of Science, July 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1 – 21, 2018

Mission:  Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: East Bering Sea

Date: 8 July 2018

Dutch Harbor, AK

This is a view approaching Dutch Harbor, AK.

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 66 N

Longitude:  166 W

Sea Wave Height: 2ft

Wind Speed: 25 knots

Wind Direction: SW

Visibility: 15 miles

Air Temperature: 52°F

Barometric Pressure: 1010.61 mb

Sky: overcast

Science and Technology Log

Although July has just begun, teachers are already anticipating the first day of school.  Like every science teacher, we launch our classes with the “Nature of Science” or the “Scientific Investigation.”  Unlike past years, I plan on contextualizing these topics by showing my students the  “scientific investigation in action”  by describing how scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson studying eastern Bering Sea pollock populations apply the scientific method in their research.

Dr. Patrick Ressler, Chief Scientist

Dr. Patrick Ressler, Chief Scientist

To better understand how scientists “do science,” I had a conversation with Dr. Patrick Ressler, our Chief Scientist, about this topic. Dr. Ressler has been involved with the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey for many years and stresses that this ongoing research is a way to monitor change over time with pollock populations and to set quotas for commercial fisheries.  He shared his ideas about science and how it is a way to understand natural phenomena through testing. In biological research, however, it is harder to assess the outcomes because of the potential effects of outside factors.  That is why scientists refine their experiments to get “closer to the truth.”  Even being “wrong” about some ideas is beneficial because it facilitates opportunities to learn more. Scientists give testable ideas, or hypotheses, the chance to be wrong through repeated trials.

It was a circuitous path that Dr. Ressler took to become a scientist.  He studied environmental science and creative writing as an undergraduate, but after a semester abroad learning nautical science, he decided to study oceanography as a graduate student.  For his graduate studies, Dr. Ressler focused on acoustics and has worked on Pacific hake populations along the west coast of the U.S.  For the past 16 years, he has worked with NOAA as a Chief Scientist whose responsibilities include being a point of contact between the ship’s commanding officer and the management supervisor on land.  He has supported NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program because he feels that a good science teacher can better cultivate and inspire future scientists.

Screen with Acoustics Data

The screen displaying acoustics data is always monitored.

The  scientists on the Oscar Dyson have varied academic specialties, yet they are collaborating on the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey by contributing their expertise.  Dr. Ressler and Dr. Chris Bassett have been monitoring the acoustics on this expedition.  The acoustic system was most patiently explained to Joan and me by Dr. Bassett.

 

Dr. Chris Bassett

Dr. Chris Bassett, Ocean Acoustics Engineer

On the Oscar Dyson, there are 5 transducers producing vibrations on the drop keel of the boat.  Cables are attached that can lower this drop keel to 9.2 meters below so that storms will not interfere with the acoustics. These cables connect the drop keel to the five boxes in the survey room. Voltage signals are sent to the transceiver, which in turn creates a pressure wave.  When the signal is sent into the water, some sound bounces back. The pressure waves reflected back to the transducer are converted to an electrical signal and recorded by the computer. For the sound wave to scatter off something, it must have a density or sound speed different from that of the surrounding water. The larger the differences in the properties of the animals from the surrounding water, the more sound will generally be reflected by an animal. As a result, animals with ‘swim bladders’ (an organ inside their body containing air) will generally scatter more sound than animals without them.

When one of the transducers sends out a wave, the wave spreads out as it moves from the ship and it may encounter fish.  To assess the number of fish present, the total amount of acoustic energy, the volume of water, the range, and the echo expected from a single fish must be measured or estimated.

The acoustics translate into an ongoing screen display which is observed by both Dr. Ressler and Dr. Bassett in the acoustics lab.  The data displayed allows the scientists to decide whether a net sample is needed.

These scientists adhere to the scientific method so that they can make strong conclusions about their data. The acoustics portion is but one part of this ongoing research.  The trawls, after which we measure the length and mass of each fish, is a means of supporting the data from the acoustics portion. There are also cameras attached to the net so that the scientists can verify the type and abundances of fish species at each sampling transect. By corroborating findings in acoustics with the data from the trawls, these scientists can use their combined data to give greater insight on pollock populations and abundances.

Personal Reflection

I am in awe of people who do what they love for a career.  The scientists with whom I spoke convey their passion for their areas of expertise and are willing to share their knowledge.  These scientists have made me aware of outside resources so that I can learn more about the topic. Collaboration is evident among these scientists as each works to illuminate an aspect of the pollock population.  Together, their work sheds light on pollock dynamics.

Marine Careers

 Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center

Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center, holds a bag of pollock ovaries.

Scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson participate in the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey research as well as projects of their own.  Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center, is investigating the reproductive biology of pollock and cod.  According to Sandi, the reproductive biology of pollock is important for assessing the stock. By carrying out data collection of pollock length and otolith analysis, scientists can determine whether 50% of the stock is mature.  For pollock, using the otolith analysis is a good indicator of age. Otoliths are made of calcium carbonate and are found in the fish’s inner ear and otoliths have annual growth rings, which allows for scientists to accurately assign their ages.  Since pollock is a commercial fish, it’s important to know how many of the fish are capable of reproducing and using this data, set quotas commercial fishing.   Another facet in researching pollock populations is determining where and when pollock spawn as well as the frequency of spawning.  Sandi has been studying pollock, in addition to other commercially caught species, for many years as a commercial fishery observer.  Currently, she is sampling pollock ovary tissue to determine fecundity, or fertility, of the population for stock assessment.

Sandi advises high school students who think they’d enjoy this type of career to get a college degree in biology.  She also encourages them to network and apply for internships.  Effusive when recounting her career in research, Sandi is equally enthusiastic discussing her horse and misunderstood dog.

Did you know?

Otoliths aid fish like pollock in balance and acceleration.

 

Something to think about….

What are some factors that might affect the growth of otoliths?

Lee Teevan: Sea Shanties, Anyone? July 2, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1 – 21, 2018

 

Mission: Acoustic Pollock-Trawl

Geographic Area of Cruise: East Bering Sea

Date: 2 July 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 60 N

Longitude: 170W

Sea Wave Height: 2ft

Wind Speed: 18 knots

Wind Direction: 116 SE

Visibility: 7 miles

Air Temperature: 6.4°C

Barometric Pressure: 1028.1 mb

Sky: overcast

Clouds over Dutch Harbor, AK

Stunning cloud formations as viewed from the airplane.

 

Science and Technology Log

Sailing on the East Bering Sea (EBS) may conjure images of a crew roughing it with just the basics.  The captain in the image is steering with a large-spoked wooden wheel while those below sing sea shanties of longing, exploration and discovery.

Here on the Oscar Dyson, it’s a high-tech version of the cruises of days past. On our three-week cruise to track pollock migrations, we land-dwelling mammals have state-of-the-art equipment to assess the focus of our exploration.  We have on-going acoustic surveys which show the movement of organisms around the boat. When we reach our first station later today, we will carry out a trawl and be able to see from 2 cameras on the trawl exactly which organisms are present around the station.  From the trawl, we will evaluate the length and ages of pollock.  There will be more to come on this aspect of the expedition after we reach our first station.

Science was also behind the protocol of our ship’s departure from Dutch Harbor, AK. Before leaving, the Oscar Dyson required at least 4 hours to fill its tank with 55, 000 gallons of diesel fuel. There are no pitstops along the way!

Blair Cahoon is overseeing deck preparation.

Blair Cahoon oversees deck preparation during the safe fueling of the Oscar Dyson. The yellow boom is on the water in the background.

Blair Cahoon, the ship’s wiper, was onboard during the fueling of the ship.  He explained the reasons for the boom, the 1-foot yellow floating barricade which prevents potential oil spills. Aboard the ship, white absorbent plastic was placed over fuels in case the tanks overfilled, and the gas splashed up. In addition, the marine chemist carried out fuel pump testing at certain increments.

After completely fueling the ship, the Oscar Dyson was untethered and set off through the Iliuliuk Bay, passing by pods of humpback whales and uninhabited islands.

Leaving Dutch Harbor, AK

Departing Dutch Harbor, AK through the calm Iliuliuk Bay.

As we left Dutch Harbor, I took in the receding landscape and welcomed the view of the water world which will be our home for the next three weeks. I thought of my fellow land-dwellers, past and present, who have sailed the EBS and imagined joining in their hearty renditions of sea shanties celebrating the exploration and discovery to come.

Personal Log

Before we reach our first station, I am acquainting myself with the labs and the procedures to be carried out.  We also had down time during the ship’s transit to the initial station and I took many photos with several types of cameras. Two of my favorite cameras are the Holga medium format and my dependable Canon AE-1.  The black and white photos I print from film are my attempt to capture stark beauty of the water around me.

Did You Know?

Filling up the gas tank of the Oscar Dyson costs more than $150, 000.00!

Animals Seen Today

Humpback whales

Puffins

Fulmars

 

 

Lenore Teevan: Ready to Go with the Tide, June 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 29 – July 23, 2018

 

Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea

Date: 19 June 2018

 

Weather Data from Norfolk, VA

Temperature:  84 degrees F

Wind: 7 mph NE

Humidity: 79%

Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay

Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay

 

Introduction:

The high tide is beginning its re-entry into the Chesapeake Bay at this moment, signaling a cascade of events among the organisms that call it home.  The periwinkle snails have started their perilous climbs to the tips of the cordgrass while the fiddler crabs scurry along the tideline.  Even the humans at the boathouse take note and launch their boat of 8 rowers and a coxswain to row in an inlet lined with trees sheltering night herons, crown herons and the conspicuous egrets.

This is but a snapshot of the incomparable Chesapeake Bay, which has played an instrumental role in my circuitous path to becoming a science teacher.

 

TAS Lee Teevan and a box turtle

Life in the fast lane with a First Landing State Park resident

 

When I first moved to Norfolk, VA in 1995, I was an English as a Second Language teacher at the local university. In and around the Chesapeake Bay, I became aware of the unfamiliar and fascinating: the live oaks that tolerate brackish spray and are bent like arthritic elders and the “come-back-to-life” fossils called “horseshoe crabs”.  Although my job at that time was teaching language, I become aware of another language, the language of this unique ecosystem, that I wanted to speak.   I then began taking graduate courses in biology and soon got my teaching license. Since 2006, I have been teaching Earth Science and Biology for Norfolk Public Schools.  Being a teacher has allowed me opportunities to be a student of my environment. I was fortunate to attend a NOAA Phytoplankton Monitoring Network workshop in 2008 and my students and I logged in the species and abundances of Chesapeake Bay phytoplankton from 2008 to 2017.

Last year, as a PolarTREC teacher, I was able to be part of the “Jellyfish in the Bering Sea” expedition during which imaging devices were used to estimate ages, abundances and locations of jellyfish.  I’ll return to this location in a few weeks to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea on the Oscar Dyson to be part of the Pollock Acoustic Survey.

 

Science and Technology Log

I will be on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson along with another TAS, Joan Shea-Rogers.  Our mission is to assess walleye pollock locations and abundances using trawls and acoustic surveys.  Stay tuned to this blog to see photos of this in action!

 Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments for me.

 

 

Did You Know?

Alaska Pollock is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

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