Susan Dee: From the Bottom of the Food Chain to the Top, June 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 

May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeastern Coast of U.S.

Date:  June 3, 2018

Weather From Bridge

Latitude: 43°47.1′
Longitude: 068°40.41′
Sea Wave Height: 4-6 ft
Wind Speed:  20 knots
Wind Direction:  NE
Visibility:  10
Air Temperature:  10°C
Sky:  few clouds

 

Science and Technology Log

Birds on water

Sea Birds

As the Henry B. Bigelow traverses the Gulf of Maine sampling the microorganisms at stations, another pair of scientists are observing bird and marine mammal populations. Much of my time between sampling stations, I head up to the flying bridge and join  Nicholas Metheny and John Loch, Seabird Observers, on the lookout for the seabird and marine mammals. The seabirds most commonly observed in the Gulf of Maine are the Wilson Storm Petrel and the Sooty Shearwater.  These two species account for 60% of the birds seen.  These pelagic seabirds live offshore and only return to land to breed, often on remote islands.

birders on deck

Seabird Observers on Observation Deck

 

South Polar Skua

South Polar Skua (photo by Nicolas Methany)

All the samplings taken with bongo nets are samplings of the producers and primary consumers, the small organisms in the food chain.  On the observation deck, the fish and marine mammals that rely on a healthy bottom food chain are observed.  Spotting  marine mammals adds much to the excitement of the day. The bridge will announce a sighting and if possible, one gets to the flying bridge to see the wildlife.   One of the first sightings was of humpback whales in the distance, followed by sperm whale and pilot whale sightings.

Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale (Photo by Nicholas Methany)

 

Short Beaked Common Dolphin

Short beaked Common Dolphins (Photo by Nicholas Methany)

 

The most fascinating sightings were of Mola Mola- Ocean Sunfish.  They were spotted often and very close to the ship.

Mola Mola  - Ocean Sunfish

Mola Mola – Ocean Sunfish (Photo by Nicolas Methany)

 

Blue Shark

Blue Shark (Photo by Nicholas Methany)

 

Personal Log

The science crew is kept busy sampling at each station.  There is some down time steaming from station to station at 12 knots but it is enjoyable. I spend the down time talking to crew and scientists.  Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso has been an awesome mentor and photographer! I am learning so much and am so excited to bring it back into my classroom next year. The seas have been relatively calm but the forecast for the end of the cruise is not favorable for sampling due to high winds. If winds are over 30 knots, the crew has difficulty deploying the nets so sampling is suspended.  The science crew has taken samples from 114 stations.  These samples will be sent off to be analyzed at different labs.

Filled jar samples

Samples collected, boxed and ready to be shipped to analyze

work deck

Science Lab Work Deck

Deck Crew

Andrew and AJ helping deploy instruments

The deck crew and scientist party have been a pleasure to work with. I have learned so much from each of them

Science Party

Science Party Day Crew: Jerry P, Mark, and Chris T

Route map shows path of cruise

Final Day of Cruise Route map shows path of cruise

The cruise was cut short by two days due to high winds.  The last sampling station was in Cape Cod Bay. Tomorrow the ship will  head back to port through the Cape Cod Canal, ending a fantastic cruise.  I am so excited to see the data from  all these samples.  Thanks Teacher at Sea program for a great adventure!

Teacher at Sea Susan Dee

Teacher at Sea Susan Dee

Susan Dee: To the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, June 1, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 

May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeastern Coast of U.S.

Date:  June 1,  2018

Weather From Bridge

Latitude: 41° 25.4′ N
Longitude: 068° 16.3′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Wind Direction: SE
Visibility: Hz
Air Temperature:  12.5°C
Sky:  OVC

Science and Technology Log

After completing a southern route past Long Island, New Jersey and Delaware, the Henry B. Bigelow  headed north to the Gulf of Maine (GOM).  The first sampling stations in GOM were  located on the continental shelf close to the slope. After sampling in  the  Northeast Channel of the GOM, stations will be dispersed throughout the Gulf of Maine. Phytoplankton is continuously imaged through the Imaging Flow Cyto Bot and collection is going well. Below is a recent image taken.  Can you  find Thallasonemia  or Ceratium?  

phytoplankton 3

Image of Phytoplankton taken by IFCB

At various stations instead of  towing  bongo nets  with a CTD attached,  a CTD, Rosette, is deployed with niskin bottles.  CTD contain sensors that measure Conductivity (salinity), Temperature and Depth.   The data gathered provides profiles of chemical and physical parameters of the ocean.

CTD with 12 canisters on deck

CTD on bottom of instrument with 12 Niskin bottles forming a rosette.

 

CTD Rosette entering-water.jpg

CTD, commonly known as Rosette. Note the rosette shape at top of bottles

The great feature of the rosette is its ability to collect water using Niskin bottles as hydrographic instruments.  Opened bottles are lowered into the ocean and at the desired depth a   bottle is closed and brought to the surface without mixing with other water so pure samples can be taken at different depths. Back on board, water is  taken from the Niskin bottles and  nutrient, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide tests are run on the samples.

taking water samples susan

Susan taking water samples from niskin bottles to perform chlorophyll tests at 3 different depths.

chlorophyll extraction

Chlorophyll extraction set up

Georges Bank is  in the southern part of the Gulf of Maine.  The bank separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a huge shoal that is 100 meters higher  than the surrounding ocean floor and is a very productive area of the continental shelf.   The mingling of the Labrador current from the north and the Gulf stream on the eastern edge plus sunlight in shallow waters, creates an ideal environment for phytoplankton and zooplankton. Once a bountiful fishery, it is presently recovering from over fishing. Federal Fishery regulations aim to ensure recovery of the area and future sustainability. The data samples collected will give a good idea of the recovery of this area.    The pink line below shows  the route taken by our ship in the southern Gulf  of Maine and  Georges Bank.

IMG_2518

When  we were near the Northeast  Channel  in the Gulf of Maine, Latitude 41° 53.2′ N and Longitude 65°47.0′ W,  I deployed a  satellite-tracked Drifter Buoy decorated with our school name May River Sharks.  The drifter buoy will send GPS and temperature data to a NOAA website and students will be able to track its path.  This area was chosen to deploy because the Labrador current   from the north meets with the Gulf Stream and hopefully the buoy will get caught up in one of the currents. It will be fun  for students to track the buoy path in the fall. Wonder where it will go???

 

Susan&Buoy

Susan decorating Buoy- May River High School Sharks

 

 

Buoy 1

Buoy READY

 

Buoy Released

Buoy Released

 

DCIM100GOPROG0021640.

Buoy splashing into water

buoy floating

Oh where, oh where, will you go?

 

Personal Log:

So far this trip the weather has been great. Seas have been calm and temperatures good. I have fallen into a nice routine each day.  My shift concludes at midnight; I go to bed till 9:00AM; work out; shower and get ready for next 12 hour shift. I eat lunch and dinner each day and a midnight snack.  The days are long but never boring. The crew aboard the Henry B Bigelow  is awesome.  Internet is sporadic but  I was able to face-time with my daughter. Technology is a big part of this whole operation. All the programs collecting temperature, salinity and phytoplankton rely on computer programs to run. Second  to the chef, the IT person is invaluable.  They are trouble shooting problems all day to make sure the collection  of data is working.   During the longer steams from station to station, I  have the opportunity to talk to crew and other scientists.  Each person is excited about science.  I have never  been involved in real  science research and I  find each day to be fascinating. There is so much time and effort put into collecting the samples.  This cruise  will collect samples from over 100 stations that will be analyzed and supply much data to give a good picture of the state of our Northeast coastline waters and fisheries.

Today was the last day of school for the year for May River High School.  Graduation is Tuesday and my thoughts will be with everyone.  Congratulations to all my students, especially the seniors.

Answers to Phytoplankton Identification:

Thallasonemia- upper left corner

Ceratium- middle top

Susan Dee: Ten Minutes to Bongo: Bongo, Bongo, Bongo, May 30, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 

May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeaster Coast of U.S.

Date:  May 30, 2018

Weather From Bridge

Latitude:  40° 42′
Longitude:  072° 35′
Sea Wave Height:  1-2 feet
Wind Speed:  calm
Wind Direction:  calm
Visibility:  overcast
Air Temperature:  15.5°C
Sky: overcast

Science and Technology Log

At Day 5, I am getting acclimated to life on the sea.  Days are filled with data collection at randomly selected stations.  One of the collections is of plankton, phytoplankton, zooplankton and ichthyoplankton. Plankton sampling has occurred since the early 19th century with simple collecting devices.  In early ocean sampling, it was believed that plankton were evenly distributed throughout the ocean, so a sample taken anywhere would be a good representation for a large area.  This idea is no longer supported. The belief is that there are large scale spatial variations in concentrations of plankton populations, which has lead to random sampling methods using bongo nets. Widely used since the 1970’s, bongo nets are named from their side by side configuration which makes them look like a set of bongo drums.

There are two sets of bongo nets the ship is using: a regular bongo with a diameter of 61 cm and 333 micron mesh and two different sets of baby bongos, 22 cm in diameter, and one set with 333 micron mesh and the other with 165 micron mesh for smaller organisms.  As the station to sample is approached, the bridge announces “Ten minutes to Bongo!” and all scientists and crew get prepared to deploy bongos.  They are lowered into the water with a crane and winch system  and towed for 8 to 25 minutes, depending on the depth, at a speed of 1-2 knots  There is an important communication between the bridge and the scientists during bongo deployment. The ship gets to the correct GPS and slows down for the tow. See video for deployment procedure:

A video of bongo deployment (no dialogue)

Bongo Deployment

Bongos being lowered into the water

When nets are retrieved, the bongos are rinsed to collect all the samples to the cod-end of the net. The baby bongo samples are preserved in ethyl alcohol to be sent to the Narraganset Lab to look for fish eggs and larvae and to the University of Connecticut to get a census of marine zooplankton. The large bongo samples are preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to a lab in Poland to identify species  and count numbers.

Bongo catch

Samples collected in cod-end of bongo net

After nets are washed they are prepared for next station. The cod-ends are tied with the “Taylor” knot shown below. After many attempts and a very patient teacher, I finally learned how to tie this knot.

Taylor knot

The “Taylor” cod-end knot

 

Washing out sieve

Washing out sieve to capture sample to be put into jar

 

Sample jar

Sample preserved and ready to be sent to lab to identify species

The questions scientists are trying to answer with the data from these samples are:

  1. What living plankton organisms does the sea contain at a given time?
  2. How does this material vary from season to season and year to year?

As scientist Chris Taylor reminded me, no sample is a bad sample. Each sample contributes to the  conclusions made in the end.  After samples are examined by the labs, I look forward to seeing the results of this survey.

Personal Log:

I am enjoying every second of this cruise.  We did hit rough seas but I had no effect due to wearing the patch. Hopefully, we will have calm seas as we head to the Gulf of Maine. The food is great. Chef Dennis prepares awesome meals.  I am eating a lot!! Even had an ice cream bar set up last night.  Life is very comfortable on the ship.

 

INTERVIEW: Andrew Harrison and Maddie Armstrong

I choose to interview ship members Andrew Harrison and Maddie Anderson because they are in the process of earning their mariner licenses.  Also, the perspective from a female in a male dominated career is of interest.  I often get questions from students about opportunities in the marine science field.  The marine science field has many paths to take. One path is research and another is earning a Merchant Mariner license.  There are several ways to obtain a Merchant Mariners USCG license. The two most common paths are the hawsepiper and Maritime academy.  The hawsepiper path begins with accumulating sea hours, taking training courses, completing board assessment and passing the USCG exam.  This path can take up to 14 years to complete. In the Maritime college route,  requirements for Merchant Mariner license can be complete in 4 years and earn a college diploma.  The interviews below give some direction to pursuing a career on a ship.

Interviewees role on ship:

Andrew Harrison- assignment on ship- Crew Able Body

Maddie Armstrong –assignment on ship- student and science party volunteer

The connecting link between Maddie and Andrew is they both are affiliated with Maine Maritime Academy.  Andrew graduated in 2015 and Maddie is presently a student.  What interested me the most is that a Maritime degree could be granted through college studies. I had no idea this was an option for students interested in maritime careers. There are 7 Maritime academies across the US. https://www.edumaritime.net/usa/top-maritime-programs, each with their unique specialty.  All programs are USCG approved and students earn license upon graduation through the US Coast Guard.  From talking to Andrew and Maddie I feel attending college to earn a merchant mariners license prepares one better for life at sea.

What degree do you hold?

Andrew: I have a BA Vessel Operations and Technology and a 500 Ton license.

Maddie: I will graduate with double major BA in Marine Science / Vessel Operations and Technology. Presently I have a 200 ton license but the plan is to graduate with a 500 Ton and 3rd Mate license.

Where did your interest in marine science stem from?

Andrew:  Since I was 14, I have been sailing and love the ocean

Maddie: Growing up in the middle of Maine, it was difficult to experience the ocean often.  My parents would take me to the ocean as a reward or holiday gift.

What experiences do students at Maine Maritime Academy get to prepare for maritime license?

Maddie:  The academy has a ship, The State of Maine, which is a moving classroom. Students practice navigation on the ship. There is also the Pentagoet Tug to practice barge pulling. Smaller vessels are available to practice to practice navigation on.  At the academy you can practice on real ships.

Andrew: The Academy gives students a faster way to obtain license than a non collegiate Hawsepiper route. Through a maritime college you also earn a college degree and graduate with a license. The academy route is faster but also more expensive. To obtain a similar license without going to an academy would take up to 15 years. Plus the academy has connections to job opportunities after graduation.

What other ships have you worked on over the years?

Andrew:  I was a deck hand on Spirit of South Carolina; worked on yachts out of Charleston; Space X barge AD- collected rocket after launch

Maddie: I have had some experience on a lot of different vessels through the academy. I started working on the Schooner Bowdoin and Brig Niagara for a summer. Then moved on to charter boats and small cruise ships.

What advice would you give a student who is interested in pursuing a Merchant Mariners license?

Andrew: Volunteer on ships as much as you can. Experience on a Schooner is invaluable.  Be prepared to put in the time.

Maddie: You have to be self driven and want to be on the water. You also have to be self confident and willing to give it your all at a moments notice.

How much time can a merchant mariner expect to spend at sea each year?

Andrew: It varies with the vessel and cruise.  It can be 9 months at sea and 3 months off; 60 days at sea; and 69 days off; 5-7 weeks on and 3-5 off. The bottom line is to be prepared to be away from home for long periods of time.

What are your interests and hobbies when you are on shore?

Andrew:  Fishing, sailing, scuba, reading and video games.

Maddie: I like to read, hike and learn to play instruments. Now I am learning to play a didgeridoo- a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians.

Where do you see yourself working in 10 years?

Maddie: Working on a research vessel with ROV exploration.

Andrew:  In 10 years, I plan to be a 1600 Ton Master Captain working for NOAA or another cruise company.

 

Susan Dee: Microscopic Sea Life – Days 1-4, May 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Dee
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Northeastern Coast U.S.
Date: May 24, 2018
Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 40°32′
Longitude: 070°45′
Sea Wave Height:  1-2 feet
Wind Speed:  12 knots°
Wind Direction: west
Viability: unrestricted
Air Temperature:  13.5°C
Sky: Few clouds

Science and Technology Log

Tuesday, May 22, I arrived at Newport Naval Base and boarded NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to begin my Teacher at Sea journey by staying overnight on a docked ship.   Day 1 was filled with many new experiences as we headed out to sea.  The Henry B. Bigelow is part of a fleet of vessels commissioned to conduct  fishery surveys. To learn more about the Henry B. Bigelow,  check out this website:  Henry B. Bigelow. The objective of this cruise is to access the hydrographic, planktonic and pelagic components of North East U.S. continental shelf ecosystem.  The majority of the surveys we will take involve  the microbiotic parts of the sea –  phytoplankton, zooplankton and mesoplankton.  Plankton are small microscope organisms in the oceans that are extremely important to the entire Earth ecosystem.  These organisms are the foundation of the entire ocean food web. By studying their populations. scientists can get an accurate picture of the state of  larger ocean organism populations.

Susan and ship

Henry B. Bigelow

Leaving Newport Harbor

Leaving Newport Harbor

Before leaving the dock, I met with Emily Peacock from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to learn how to run an Imaging Flow Cytobot instrument that uses video and flow cytometric technology to capture images of phytoplankton. The IFCB was developed by Dr Heidi Sosik and Rob Olsen (WHOI) to get a better understanding of coastal plankton communities. The IFCB runs 24 hours a day collecting sea water and continuously measuring phytoplankton abundance.  Five milliliters of sea water are analyzed every 20 minutes and produces the images shown below.

Imaging Flow CytoBot

Emily Peacock teaching the usage of the Imaging Flow CytoBot (IFCB)

 

Imaging Flow Cytobot IFCB

Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB)

phytoplankton

Images of Phytoplankton taken by IFCB

The science party on board is made up of scientists from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) part of NOAA Fisheries Division. The chief scientist, Jerry Prezioso, works out of Narragansett Lab and the lead scientist, Tamara Holzworth Davis, is from the Woods Hole Lab, both from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Other members of the Science Party are Seabird/Marine Mammal observers and a student  from Maine Maritime Academy.  The Crew and scientist group work together to coordinate sampling stations. The crew gets the ship to the site and aid the scientists in deploying instruments. The scientists collect the data and samples at each station.  The Crew and scientists work together to find the best and most efficient sea route to each  sampling site. Note all the stops for specimen collection on map below. There definitely  has to be a plan!

map of proposed route

Proposed Cruise Track and Survey Locations

 

Personal Log

Because research instrument deployment is done 24 hours a day, the NOAA Corps crew and scientists are divided into two shifts. I am on watch 1200 – 2400 hours, considered the day shift. This schedule is working good for me. I finish duty at midnight, go to sleep till 9:00 AM and rise to be back on duty at noon. Not a bad schedule. Due to clear weather and calm seas, the ship headed east out of Newport Harbor towards the continental shelf and started collecting samples at planned stops.   I joined another group of scientists  observing bird and marine mammal populations from the flying bridge of the ship. Humpback whales and basking sharks breached  several times during the day

It has only been two days but I feel very acclimated to life at sea. I am not seasick, thanks to calm seas and the patch. Finding the way around the ship is getting easier- it is like a maze. Spotting a pod of humpback whales breaching and basking sharks was a highlight of the day. My Biology students back at May River  High School scored great on End of Course Exam. Congratulations May River High School Sharks! Thinking of y’all.

school logo

Love My SHARKS!

Susan Dee: A Thalassophile, May 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Henry B. Bigelow

May 23- June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Northeastern Coast U.S.

Date: May 7, 2018

Personal Log

If I was to describe myself in one word it would be a thalassophile- a lover of the sea. So when I got accepted to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I was totally overwhelmed with excitement. What a great adventure!  From my younger days boating on Long Island Sound in NY to the present day boating on the waterways  around Hilton Head, SC, I have always been drawn to the sea.

Susan on a boat in salt marsh

Me in my Happy Place

In college, I studied biology and education and first taught middle school science.  Then slowly over the years, my passion for the ocean evolved into teaching Environmental Studies and then to teaching Marine Science.  Not being a native southerner, I  took many professional development classes to learn about the unique lowcountry local marine ecosystem along the coastline of South Carolina. The county I now live in, Beaufort County, is 50% saltwater tidal marsh and borders on the Atlantic Ocean.  The marine ecosystem plays a large role in the community.  I presently teach at May River High School, in Bluffton, SC, and appropriately the mascot is a SHARK!   Because we live in a marine environment, teaching students about their sense of place is extremely important. Student take part in numerous field trips directly exploring the local ecosystem – visits to maritime centers, beaches and kayaking on the rivers.   In teaching Marine Science, my goal is to instill in my students knowledge of and love and respect for their beautiful home marine environment.

Lowcountry, SC

Lowcountry, SC

Bluffton, SC Oyster Factory Park

Bluffton, SC Oyster Factory Park

I am a single mother of two adult daughters and their visits include many adventures on the water. Volunteering in local beach /river cleanups and recycling programs is important to me.  After listening to citizens concerns about the local environment, I am so proud to live in a county that recently implemented a plastic bag ban in all grocery stores beginning in October. Being an activist in local environmental causes is important to me.

Kids in Kayaks Program
Kids in Kayaks Program
River Clean Up

River Clean Up

Susan's Daughters on river

Daughters , Alyssa (center) and Deirdre (right), on river at Christmas

I am so excited to partake on this TAS adventure, to work with real scientists, gathering real data, to bring back to my classroom .  Aboard the Henry B. Bigelow, a NOAA state of the art research vessel, I will work along scientists collecting data on the hydrographic, planktonic and pelagic components of the northeast Atlantic.  In two weeks, my journey into the Northern Atlantic Ocean will begin! Leaving 9 days before the end of school, my students will end of year test and graduate without me present. But we will be connected as they follow my experience at sea through the wonders of technology!

 

school logo

Love My SHARKS!