Tom Savage: Introduction, June 1, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: June 1, 2018

Introduction

Greetings from Western North Carolina.  My name is Tom Savage, and I am a high school Science teacher at the Henderson County Early College on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, NC.  I currently teach Chemistry, Earth Science, Physical Science and coach our Science Olympiad Team. This is my fourteenth year teaching and ninth year teaching at the early college.

Science Olympiad team

Science Olympiad team placed first this year at UNC – Asheville, NC !

 

Exactly three years ago, I was preparing for my first NOAA Teacher at Sea voyage aboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow. During that mission, we conducted a cetacean (whale) inventory off the coast of New England in a region called Georges Bank. It was a trip of a lifetime and it had a profound impact on my teaching and my students.  As a result, students in my physical science classes are now identifying whales species based on their sound acoustics. In addition, I began a new elementary outreach program, “Young Scientist.”  Through activities, elementary children are exposed to the many sounds marine mammals produce for communication. Embedded within these lessons is the the marine mammals that reside in our oceans and NOAA’s mission in safe guarding these fragile ecosystems. Collaboration continues today with acoustician scientist Genevieve Davis, from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, located in the small scientific community of Woods Hole on Cape Cod.

Stickers for the Drifter Buoy

“Sounds of the Sea” ~ elementary children designing stickers to be attached to the drifter buoy.

I was very excited and honored to be chosen for another “once in a lifetime adventure,” two in one lifetime! This year I will be assisting with a hydrographic survey in and around the inside passages of southeast Alaska on NOAA Ship Fairweather! The goal of the survey is to map the ocean floor through the use of SONAR for the purpose of updating nautical charts. Using sound waves for mapping will compliment my marine mammal lesson plans. On this mission, we will be deploying a drifter buoy in which students will be tracking during the year as it will be transmitting realtime locations.

I have always had a fascination with the oceans. During the summer of 2013,  I spent a week with eighteen other science teachers from across the county, scuba diving within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This week long program was sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation and NOAA.  This exceptional professional development provided an opportunity to explore, photograph and develop lesson plans with a focus on coral reefs. I also learned about how important the Gulf of Mexico is to the oil industry. I had the opportunity to dive under an abandoned oil platform and discovered the rich, abundant animal life and how these structures improve the fish population.

Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked for six years in the GIS (Geographic Information System) field collecting, developing and designing maps for many purposes; ocean floor mapping is not on the list. I also worked for five years as a park ranger at many national parks including the Grand Canyon, Glacier and Acadia. Working at these national treasures was wonderful and very beneficial to my teaching.

Discover SCUBA

Providing young adults with as many experiences and career possibilities is the hallmark of my teaching. During the year, I arrange a “Discover SCUBA” at the local YMCA. Students who have participated in this have gone on to become certified. In the fall I have offered “Discover Flying” at a local airport, sponsored by the “Young Eagles” program. Here students fly around our school and community witnessing their home from the air. A few students have gone on to study various aviation careers.

Preparing for flight

Preparing for flight !

The most difficult part of being at sea for such a long time is missing my family.  They all enjoy the ocean! I have been diving with my son since he was 12 and this summer my daughter will earn her junior certification.

MacKenzie and Julianna

My children, MacKenzie and Julianna

I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!  Please send any questions that you may have and I will respond in a timely manner.

Until next time; happy sailing!

 

Tom Savage: Meet the Staff and Scientists, June 18, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Meet the Staff and Scientists

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 18, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 15 C
Wind speed: 5 knots
Wind direction: coming from the North West
Relative humidity: 90%
Barometer: 1009 millibars

Personal Log

My journey has come to a conclusion, and we are one hour from docking at the naval base in Newport, RI. What a privilege it is to be a part of this scientific mission. The substantial photos, videos, data and experiences will greatly enhance my physical and earth science curriculum and further my goal of getting students interested in fields of science. This journey has reinforced my position that a nation cannot advance and improve the quality of life without scientific research.

I would like to thank the scientists on board during this cruise, Mr. Pete Duley and Dr. Danielle Cholewiak

 

Teacher & Chief Scientist

Me, Pete Duley and Danielle “Dani” Cholewiak

Science and Technology Log

Every job aboard a research vessel is mission critical, and one is not more important than the other. During this excursion, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the crew and scientists that made this tour a success.

 

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Executive Officer (XO), Patrick Murphy, NOAA Corps

Pat began his career studying Physics at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and earned a master’s degree in oceanography while attending Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When asked how he got involved in the NOAA Corps, he mentioned there were two well defined career paths as an oceanographer: NOAA or teaching. He advises students who are considering the NOAA Corps to build operational leadership skills and to demonstrate that you can work in a team and complete a job when assigned.

A few of his favorite places he has visited while employed with the NOAA Corps: Farallone Islands Ca, Alaska bays and inside passages when hiding from storms, and Dutch Harbor located among the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

 

Yin-AMAPPS-HBigelow-17Jun2015-Julianne-1349

Julianne, Acoustician

Julianne is a recent graduate of Oregon State University and received a BS in zoology, and she is currently working on her master’s degree. Her path with NOAA started as a recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. This program provides students with scholarship money and paid internships with the goal of fostering multidisciplinary training opportunities within NOAA. After graduating from Oregon State University, Julianne worked in Alaska at a remote salmon hatchery, Snettisham Hatchery. She is currently an acoustician with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center as a research analyst focusing on real-time acoustic tracking of baleen whales and the North Atlantic right whale migratory corridor project.

 

Genevieve, Research Analyst

Genevieve was also a NOAA Hollings scholar and worked on North Atlantic Right Whale calling behavior across seasons. Genevieve joined NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries acoustics team as a research analyst focusing on baleen whale acoustics and as an elementary school educational outreach program at the center. She is working on her doctorate in Environmental Biology with a focus on baleen distributions and migrations.

 

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Hillary, whales specialist for Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Hilary became interested in whales at the age of five. “My mom was always super interested in the ocean and we went whale watching often.” She studied marine biology with a focus on seal acoustics. Getting on a boat to see and study marine animals is what she enjoys most about her job.

When asked about advice for students who want to study marine biology. “Get experience whenever you can, especially if you have the opportunity to work in a lab. Having experience is crucial. Volunteering with a professor who is studying seals led me to an avenue in whale biology.”

 

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Dennis, Chief Steward

Prior to joining NOAA, Dennis had a career with the Navy for 20 years. Dennis has one of the most important jobs on the ship, keeping everyone fed. He is absolutely amazing!  While I was on duty on the Fly Bridge, around four in the afternoon, aromas from the galley drifted to the Fly Bridge.  It was a nightly contest to guess what would be served in the galley. His cooking is so unique that all of our guesses were incorrect; we went 0/5 that week. One night, steak was served for dinner and it was the best steak I have ever had.  Thanks Dennis!

 

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Marjorie , Research Fishery Biologist

Marjorie works for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Her job focuses on collecting data from commercial fishing operations. This data provides valuable information on determining if certain fish populations can maintain a healthy marine mammal population.

She earned an undergraduate degree in Natural resources from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She is currently working on a doctorate in Marine Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Best wishes to all !

Tom

Tom Savage: Tuning in to Sei Whales, June 16, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Tuning in to Sei Whales

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 16, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 13 C
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: coming from the North West
Relative humidity: 95%
Barometer: 1004 millibars

Personal Log

Today is my third day at sea and I’m enjoying every moment; time onboard the ship flies. Although time onboard is dwindling, lots of discovery remains. Sunday brought sunny skies and warm temperatures, another perfect day for whale identification. It has been a real joy working with this exceptional group of professionals. Everyone is very supportive of each other and mission focused.

Science and Technology Log

The mission of this cruise is Cetacean research, but what exactly is a Cetacean? Cetus is a Latin word used in the context of biology defined as “whale”. Whales and dolphins are included within this order of classification. As stated in my earlier blogs, we are focusing on sei whales, pronounced ‘say” and beaked whales.

Why study sei and beaked whales? These whales are some of the least studied and scientists know relatively little about them. Information collected so far on sei whales: they have poleward migration trends, feed on small fish, krill and copepods (small crustaceans), and are thought to be populated along boundaries of elevated sea floors such as Georges Bank. Along the border of Georges Bank, upwelling of small prey occur due to ocean currents creating a perfect feeding ground for whales. Sei whales will also skim the ocean surface for food. Unfortunately, due to this feeding habit, many sei whales are struck and killed by large ships.

The other type of whale we are searching for are beaked whales. These whales are extremely difficult to identify due to their feeding and swimming behaviors. They are deep divers and spend a lot of time at depths of more than a thousand feet feeding on squid and fish. When they surface, they are inconspicuous and not acrobatic, and they are very difficult to see. Because they are found offshore in very deep waters, there are few opportunities to study them. Most of what is known about these species comes from individuals that have stranded on beaches where people can find them.

Spectrogram

Acoustician scientist, Chris, analyzing a spectrogram

One method scientists on board use to detect the presence of sei whales is to listen for them using hydrophones (underwater microphones). For this cruise, the acousticians are deploying sonobuoys: short term recorders that can transmit live audio feed through VHF channels. Sei whales generate tonal calls and produce a “down sweep “ from high to low frequency with a range from of 80 – 30 Hz. Sei whales are classified as a Baleen Whale.

Sei whale

Sei whale, photo courtesy Northeast Marine Fisheries, NOAA Whale permit mmpa # 17355

Baleen whales produce tonal calls typically under 1 kHz. For some species, like the humpback whale, song is known to be produced only by males, presumably to attract mates. After deploying the sonobuoy, we quickly began receiving signature tonal calls of sei whales. A sound spectrogram is used to interpret and project these acoustics on a graph with frequency on the y axis (vertical) and time on the x axis (horizontal). The darker plots indicate that the whale is close and lighter plots are weaker signals. Sometimes they will call in doubles or triple sweeps. Below is an example of a sei whale tonal call of the coast of Nova Scotia. Can you find the call?

Spectrograph

Sei whale acoustic sample recorded off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Scientists are not sure at this point what purpose these calls serve; for example, they could be used to maintain contact between individuals, attract mates, or advertise feeding areas.

Atlantic White Sided Dolphin

Atlantic White Sided Dolphin Photo taken by Hillary Moors-Murphy

Scientists are also trying to understand the oceanographic and habitat factors that are correlated with sei whale distribution. One question is what kind of prey are in the areas where sei whales are and are not found. In the evening hours, fishing nets are deployed to take a sample of organisms present in the ocean at that location. Shallow nets, called bongos, are used to take samples of zooplankton in the water down to 200m. Tonight, we are in deeper waters and the mid-water trawl net went down to 650 meters for 45 minutes. The net is then pulled in and fish are identified, counted and entered into a computer database. As mentioned above, sei whales like to feed on copepods and small arthropods. Guess what we pulled out of the bongo nets last night?

Copepod Soup

Copepod soup. A delicious dinner for sei whales!

Until next time, happy sailing!

Tom

Tom Savage: Whales to the Left, Whales to the Right, June 12, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 12, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 18 C
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: coming from north west
Relative humidity: 90%
Barometer: 1015 millibars

Personal Log

Today is my second day at sea and I can finally walk to various places on the ship in less time. I have found sleeping on the ship to be very easy as the ship rocks back and forth. I really enjoy being at sea; it is very tranquil at times and I am not rushed to go anywhere except my assigned duty locations. While on deck observing, the sights and smell of the ocean invokes memories of my former home in Bar Harbor, Maine.

After a full day of observing whales in the sunshine I was very excited to conduct some star-gazing at night. At 2200, as I opened the first hatch outside, I walked into a wall of fog and was reminded quickly that I am miles offshore on Georges Bank in June!

Science and Technology Log

Sighting whales yesterday was very slow, but today made up for it. The weather was perfect, as the sky was mostly sunny with few high cirrus clouds early. Today I was assigned to the Flying Bridge for observations all day. There are three stations and we rotate every thirty minutes. The stations are Big Eyes on port and starboard sides and a computer in the center for data entry. We use different terms for orientation on the ship. For instance, the front of the ship is called the bow. While facing the bow, the left side is called the port and the right side starboard.

DiscussingSightings

Discussing sightings on the “Fly Bridge”

My rotation began on the port side of the ship using the “Big Eyes”. After a half hour, your eyes become tired, strained and shifting to the computer to enter whale sighting helps. At the computer we enter whale sighting data called out by observers.

LookingThroughBigEyes

Looking through the “Big Eyes”. Do you see anything?

In addition to recording the identification of animals; other important attributes are called out by the observers such as bearings and direction headings. Looking through the “big eyes”, a range finder is located from center with a scale from 0 – 24, and is called the reticle. To properly calculate distance, the observer needs to adjust the “Big Eyes” to align zero with the ocean horizon. This is very difficult since the ship is always in motion. The “Big Eyes” in the image above is not correctly aligned. There is a chart we used to translate the reticle values to distance.

An early morning break was followed by an amazing hour of multiple whale sightings. Fin, humpback whales and pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphin sightings were all around the ship. One humpback whale came within twenty feet of the boat. The afternoon was less active but we tracked pilot whales later which were not seen during morning rotations.

ViewFlyBridge

View from the “Fly Bridge” looking down on the “Rolling Bridge”

 

Until next time, happy sailing!

~ Tom

 

Tom Savage: In Search of Whales, June 11, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 15 C
Wind speed: 22 knots
Wind direction: coming from south-east
Relative humidity: 95%
Barometer: 1010 millibars

Personal Log

My first day at sea began at the bow of the ship searching for Sei and Beaked Whales. What a privilege it is to wake up and walk to the front of a research vessel to start your work day. The early morning hours were ideal for sighting whales as we experienced sunny skies and calm seas. The weather conditions deteriorated into the afternoon and made sightings very challenging.  To accurately record the distance from the ship to the marine animals, the observer needs to see the visual horizon. This wind speed also increased during the day causing the ship to move in all directions impacting our accuracy.

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Using the “Big Eyes”

Preparing for a complex research mission is not easy and takes months of planning. Due to the complexity of this mission, we were delayed three days to ensure that all scientific equipment and gear was properly working. During this delay, the mission’s chief scientist, Dr. Danielle Cholewiak, has been exceptional in welcoming me. I took her advice and stayed in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is near Woods Hole. Woods Hole is home to NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Woods Hole is a village in the town of Falmouth with a strong science contingent including Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute which are private research institutions not directly affiliated with NOAA.

During this time, I had the privilege of meeting other scientists who are participating on this mission, Mike and Lorenzo. Mike will be collecting data on sea birds and Lorenzo is an acoustics (sound) specialist from Scotland.

Everyone on board NOAA’s research vessel Henry B. Bigelow has been exceptionally welcoming and nice which made my transition to life at sea smooth.

The food on board the ship is amazing; my Teacher at Sea colleagues were correct.

Science and Technology Log

Although visual whale sightings were difficult today, this did not prevent the scientists from using other technologies to detect the animals. Today, a Sonobouy was deployed for the purpose of detecting a “call” from Sei Whales. Like a human voice, whales produce sounds for communication. Each species of whale has  unique vocalizations with distinctive frequency range and timing characteristics, and the sonobouy is used to detect these sounds and to track their location. The sonobouy contains a single omni-directional hydrophone, particle motion sensors and a magnetic compass.

 

Sonobouy

Preparing the Sonobouy

This device is deployed from stern of the ship. The sonobuoy is configured to drift at a depth of 90 feet and send back acoustic signals to the vessel by VHF radio, where the data are processed using computer software.  The hydrophone is connected to the sonobouy by 90 feet of thin wire. This technology is relatively new in detecting whales for NOAA, but have been used extensively by the Navy for locating submarines. Today, the sonobouy did detect sounds from Sei whales (called “downsweeps”). The acoustics team plan on launching another sonobouy tonight and depending on this outcome will determine our travel plans for tomorrow.

Until next time, happy sailing!

~ Tom

Tom Savage, Introduction, June 2, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
     (Almost)  On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
        June 10 – 19, 2015

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise:  North Atlantic
Date: June 2, 2015

Personal Log

Greetings from Western NC.  My name is Tom Savage, and I am a Science teacher at the Henderson County Early College in Flat Rock, NC. I currently teach Chemistry, Earth Science, Biology and Physical Science. In a few days I will be flying to Rhode Island and boarding NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow, a research vessel. We will be traveling in the North Atlantic region, mostly in Georges Bank which is located east of Cape Cod and the Islands.  The research mission will focus on two types of whales: Sei and Beaked Whales. Our primary goals will be photo-ID and biopsy collection, acoustic recording, and prey sampling.  I am looking forward to learning about the marine life and ocean ecosystem, and I look forward to sharing this knowledge with my students.

This will not be the first time that I have been out to sea.  A few years ago, I spent a week with eighteen other science teachers from across the county, scuba diving within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This week long program was sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation and NOAA.  This exceptional professional development provided an opportunity to explore, photograph and develop lesson plans with a focus on coral reefs. I also learned about how important the Gulf of Mexico is to the oil industry.  I had the opportunity to dive under an abandoned oil platform and discovered the rich, abundant animal life and how these structures improve the fish population.

Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked as a park ranger at many national parks including the Grand Canyon, Glacier and Acadia. Working at these national treasures was wonderful and very beneficial to my teaching.

Providing young adults with as many experiences and career possibilities is the hallmark of my teaching. During the year, I arrange a “Discover SCUBA” at the local YMCA. Students who have participated in this have gone on to become certified. In the fall I have offered “Discover Flying” at a local airport, sponsored by the “Young Eagles” program. Here students fly around our school and community witnessing their home from the air. A few students have gone on to study various aviation careers.

Flying

“Discover Flying”

 

I am very excited in learning about the many career opportunities that are available on NOAA research vessels. It would be very rewarding to see a few of my students become employed with the NOAA Corps or follow a career in science due to this voyage.

Regards,

~  Tom