Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: In port, Charleston
Date: March 28, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday we had a final meeting of “all hands.”  At the meeting, we presented Captain Patrae and Dr. Molly with gifts from our schools.  Students from Searles designed sea-life posters that had their pictures on it, and students from Cabello signed their class photo to be hung on the ship. At this meeting we thanked all the officers, crew and science party.

In closing our logs, we would like to honor everyone we sailed with by presenting a pictorial display (a display of pictures). Thanks for letting us sail with you, we’ve learned a lot, had great conversations with our students, and most importantly you’ve shared with us and our students the love of the sea!

The Engineering Team

The Engineering Team

The Galley Team

The Galley Team

The Mooring Team

The Mooring Team

 “Carlos’s Boys”—The Technicians

“Carlos’s Boys”—The Technicians

  The Winch Operators

The Winch Operators

 The Scientists

The Scientists

Dr. Molly and Carlos

Dr. Molly and Carlos

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Eastern Florida
Date: March 27, 2006

Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 4.44.27 PMScience and Technology Log

Today we had a special treat; we were a part of a “Man Over board” drill! A man overboard drill is held once during a three-month period so the crew is prepared in case someone falls off the ship  into the ocean. The drill starts with a “dummy” which is made of an old Mustang (survival suit) and is named Oscar. Next, the Captain makes a call to the Bridge (where they run the ship), and three bells are sounded.  These three bells are Morse code (a code of lights or bells that spell out words) and they make the letter “O” for Oscar. Everyone responds to a “Man Over Board” to search for the missing person, or in this case the dummy.  Once the dummy was located, the ship traveled to the dummy and brought it on board by means of a large hook.  At this point, LCDR Rodriguez and Chief Scientist Dr. Molly proceeded to practice CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation– to get the heart started and air into the lungs) on the dummy.  Finally, an all-clear signal was given and the dummy was then put away for a drill later on in the year. It was very exciting.

Water was collected from the Bermuda Triangle for Ms. Pratt’s fifth grade class.  This area is known for strange disappearances. The Bermuda Triangle is located between the island of Bermuda, Miami, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Many people have tried to explain what happens to the ships, small boats and planes that disappear and the most reasonable explanation is that there are environmental factors (weather, sea conditions) at play or human mistakes.

Interview with Julia O’Hern 

Julia O’Hern is a graduate student in biological oceanography at Texas A & M  (Agriculture and Military) University. She comes from the Hawkeye State, Iowa.  Julia loves being outside and in the water.  She has an interest in environmental science, and this led her to the ocean. Her parents always promoted science activities.  For instance, Julia recalls her summer, hiking through the prairie, catching bugs and identifying them.  Julia had an environmental science course in her high school boarding school that taught her how to be a field scientist. Julia feels lucky that a creek ran by her home and she could collect big ugly tadpoles.  From fifth grade through college she played softball, ran track, and she swam.  Julia likes chemistry and physics and is working on a degree in biological oceanography but truly loves whales. “Marine biology,” Julia explains, “is different from oceanography,” which studies how some of the physical processes in the ocean (waves, sea floor, and water) affect where the whales live. Marine biology studies the whale itself including its life cycle, its behavior and how it is affected by people.

Ms. Pratt collecting water from the Bermuda Triangle.

Ms. Pratt collecting water from the Bermuda Triangle.

“One of the only times I was out of Iowa, my parents took me on trip off of Maine and we saw whales,” said Julia. This inspired her.  To top everything off, she shared, “The coolest thing to ever experience is to be in the water when a humpback whale is singing.  It doesn’t even matter how far away they are, you feel their music.”  Books she suggested reading are Farley Moats’s, Never Cry Wolf and Jack London’s Call for the Wild as well as anything by Jane Goodall.  Her advice to students is: “If you want to do oceanography and study marine life you have to get past math and computers, and it won’t always be fun.” But, Julia agrees it’s worth it.

Assignment: In your sea logs, write the procedure for a “Man Over Board” drill.  Label each step that happens.  For example:   #1 – Put “Oscar” into the ocean.

Personal log – Kimberly Pratt 

This has been a very exciting trip! I’ve been stretched beyond my wildest dreams.  The correspondence with my students has been meaningful and very educational.  Working with the scientists, officers, crew and my fellow teacher has taught me lessons that I’ll never forget! Thanks to all of you for this unforgettable experience.

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

Thanks to Captain Gary Petrae for welcoming us onboard and sharing so freely resources to help kids understand life at sea. Thanks, too, to Dr. Molly for extending this experience to us through NOAA. Thanks to my principal, Debbi Knoth, and the New Haven Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Pat Jaurequi, for enabling this trip and to Kim Pratt for inviting me along.  Thanks to the crew!  Thanks to Mrs. Riach for substituting for me.  There are so many interesting and exciting happenings on board.  Juliet was a hit and remains with Lt. Commander Priscilla Rodriguez.  As Professor Jochem Marotzke shared, life at sea sensitizes you to put yourself in another’s shoes, simply because the job isn’t done when my own shift is over.  I had the pleasure of getting quotes from many people here.  Robert Bayliss, onboard from the THOMAS JEFFERSON for this cruise, advised anyone interested in life at sea to “Be prepared to spend long times away from home.”  Being one of Carlos’ boys with Rigo, Dallas and Mick was a “bonus.” At an all-hands meeting this afternoon we shared our gifts for the crew and NOAA scientists.

Afterwards those who wished got their picture taken in groups.  Dr. Molly created a centralized computer space for sharing pictures.  I have some CD’s to work with, thanks to Dr. Shari and LCDR Rodriguez. Those kinds of sensibilities make life pleasant.  I understand my Uncle Sam better from this cruise.  I cannot leave without a special hello to my 14-year-old daughter, Alexandria Jo.  When we return, there will be extension activities, such as lesson plans, presentations to prepare and publicity pieces.  My enriched enthusiasm and understanding of ocean science will be shared with every student. I got autographs from world-class oceanographers, modern-day explorers, and stand in awe at the collaborative efforts being made to better understand the ocean and its relationship to climate.  The current issue of Mother Jones is devoted to the state of the seas. Gratitude was my beginning attitude and remains as I prepare to return to land.  What makes a fine sailor also remains: someone who knows their job and gets it done, is dependable, a friendly person to be around, and one who you can trust to watch your back. This applies as a major lesson to those in all walks of life.

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Eastern Florida
Date: March 26, 2006

Mooring team at work

Mooring team at work

Science and Technology Log

Besides deploying (launching) buoys, and doing CTD casts, the RON BROWN also has a group of scientists from the United Kingdom (which consists of the countries England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and a scientist from Germany who are putting moorings in the ocean.  Moorings are instruments that are sent to the bottom of the ocean and are held there with weights. They can weight up to 3000 pounds!

Also attached to the moorings are floats so that when the scientists decide to get the instruments, they send a signal to the mooring to detach from the weight and then it can float to the surface.  After that, the scientists can easily locate the floats in the ocean and then pick the instrument up.  The moorings send information to the scientists about the velocity (or speed) of the deep-water currents.  They also measure temperature, salinity, pressure and tidal heights. Each mooring costs about $200,000 each!

On the RON BROWN, three large moorings were recovered (picked up) and four more were deployed (put into the ocean).  This team has deployed moorings all across the Atlantic Ocean— from west of Morocco, near the Sahara desert region, to east of the coast of Florida (where we are now.)

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LT Liz Jones

Interview with LT Liz Jones, Field Operations Officer  

LT Liz Jones defined herself as Field Operations Officer, or FOO, as “a coordinator of scientific operations between the science party and the ship’s crew to ensure the mission is carried out and the scientific objectives are met.”  While all NOAA Corps Officers have either science or engineering backgrounds, she also had prior seagoing experience before joining the NOAA Corps in 1999. Liz graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1996, majoring in Marine Safety and Environmental Protection.  Maritime academies provide classrooms at sea aboard their training ships.

An interactive program called the “Voyage of the MIMI” sparked her interest in the 5th grade. It sounded similar to the current “Jason Project,” where a scientific team videotapes and teleconferences their work from interesting places in the ocean.  Liz explained to a high school guidance counselor, “I love the ocean; I want to do some kind of work with the ocean.”  Fifteen years later, she is doing just that!

NOAA Corps officers attend three months of Basic Officer Training at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. From there, they are sent to sea aboard one of NOAA’s research vessels. A typical career has one rotating two years at sea and three years on land. “I really like the idea of reinventing myself every few years,” Liz explained.  The RONALD H BROWN is her second sea assignment.  Liz worked at NOAA’s headquarters for her first land assignment  She spent one year there as an aide to Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields, who was the first African American female to head the NOAA Corps.

As the FOO, Liz is always planning ahead. She stays very busy working on the plan of the day for tomorrow or the logistics for the next four cruises.  The most challenging projects to coordinate are the ones where new technologies will be used for the first time.  She is thankful to the crew that can make just about anything happen.  In her spare time, Liz works out, reads a good book or just relaxes.  For interested students, The California Maritime Academy in Vallejo has the Training Ship GOLDEN BEAR, which one day could be your very own classroom at sea.

Assignment: Using a world map, locate Morocco, the Sahara Desert and the east coast of Florida. Draw moorings straight across the ocean to connect these areas.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

We finally finished our CTD casts!  The last job I learned was how to be “Sample Cop”, which means I wrote down information about each water sample that was taken.  When scientists take samples, they need to clean each bottle three times before they fill it with the sample.  This is so the sample is pure and not contaminated (dirty) from the previous sample.  We use a lot of seawater for this purpose.  Thanks for all the e-mails!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

I checked out the drifting buoy-tracking site and found our buoy!  I have been busy responding to your emails and writing logs.  The scientists and crew have been very helpful in helping me be accurate and sensitive in the presentation of the work being done out here. I salute my nephew, in the Navy now.  We are getting excited about coming into port in a couple more days.

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 24, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

SHIP VOCABULARY 

The meaning of common ship terms may help land “lubbers,” (people who love life off the sea), get around this home on the seas.  First, let’s cover directions on a ship.  The front is called the BOW and the back end is called the STERN.  The very back deck over the propellers is the FANTAIL. Facing the bow, the right side is the STARBOARD SIDE and the left side is the PORT SIDE.  The KEEL is under the middle of the boat.  The WATERLINE is where the water meets the HULL on the outside of the ship.  The picture today is of the interior, or inside of the ship.  Use the picture diagram to practice your knowledge of shipboard terms.

A cross sectional view of the RONALD H. BROWN.

A cross sectional view of the RONALD H. BROWN.

The floor of the ship is called the DECK. Stairs to the eight different levels are called LADDERS. The ceiling is called the OVERHEAD and the hallway is called the PASSAGEWAY. When seas are choppy, you hang onto RAILINGS along the passageway and ladders. Railings can keep you from falling.  There is a safety phrase aboard that goes, “One hand for you and one hand for the ship.”  That means it’s safer to always touch some part of the ship.

Let’s go down where food and supplies are STOWED or put away before being brought up to cook and eat. In the HOLD AND TANK TOP, two decks below the MAIN DECK you find the ship’s STORES, or storage area. There are dry stores, a chill box, a freeze box, a room for cleaning supplies, and another for ship’s supplies, including shelves of flags. That’s five different rooms for food or supplies on this bottom floor, the HOLD.  The temperature in the CHILL BOX keeps fruits and vegetables just above freezing, but the FREEZE BOX feels like being turned into instant ice.  Those two lockers have safety latches so you can’t get locked inside. Together they measure about 11 feet wide by 12 feet long by 8 feet high, the size of a medium size moving van.

The DRY STORES keep all the extra cereal, tea and dry foods that do not need to be chilled. It is bigger than the freezer locker, about 110 square feet, the size of a small garden shed.  It has over 60 shelves, each 2 feet by 4 feet by 2 feet, the size of a garment or hanging clothes type-moving box. Michael Moats, the General Vessel Assistant, pointed out the SOPROLE, a milk product substitute that doesn’t need chilling for a long time.  A phone and an elevator are handy outside the supply rooms.  The kitchen areas, “the Galley,” and dining room, “the Mess Deck,” are two ladders up, so the elevator and phone make checking on and moving supplies easier. There is also a HEAD, or toilet, on the MESS DECK. The chief steward, Richard Whitehead, mentioned that in the GALLEY the safety bars on the ship’s stoves are called SEA RAILS.  A great reference for these and many other ship terms and the flag alphabet is http://www.schoonerman.com/sailingterms/. Time for more ship term practice!

The RONALD H. BROWN is 274 feet long and sails worldwide supporting our scientific understanding of the world’s oceans and climate.  The ship was commissioned, at a big birthday-like celebration, on July 19, 1997, in honor of the late Secretary of Commerce, Ronald H. Brown. To commission a ship is to put it into service at sea.  The ship carries six NOAA Corps officers, 20 crewmembers, and a maximum of 33 scientists.  The ship has two monster motors that give power to the ship.  Each one has the power of 3,000 horses pulling a load, or 3,000 hp. Top speed is 15 knots or fifteen nautical miles per hour. That’s a little faster than a car going 17 miles per hour, mph.  The ship makes 5,000 gallons of drinkable water a day just like the rain purifies water, by evaporation and condensation. We use about 4,000 gallons a day here.  Since we can only make water thirteen miles away from shore we need to not waste our water supply.

Interview with Commander Stacy Birk, Executive Officer 

Commander Stacy Birk said, “It’s a tough life at sea,” so she really tries to make life on the RONALD H. BROWN valuable and meaningful for all hands.  Stacy is the Executive Officer, XO. As the captain’s back up, the XO is boss in the captain’s absence.  She manages people, deals with people’s salaries and serves as safety officer while the ship sails from Charleston, SC, for about ten months of the year.  In elementary school Stacy enjoyed the books Island of the Blue Dolphins and I, Nathaniel Bowditch. This California surfer girl completed college and joined the Coast Guard Reserves.  She actually sailed around the Channel Islands.

As a personnel manager, Stacy hires people and evaluates them, like a teacher gives grades. As a safety officer, the XO helps people follow the rules, such as not wearing open toe shoes or not leaving kitchen cups around the ship or showing up at the wrong place for drills. You might compare this to a parent making sure rules are followed. She does everything possible to be fair with people. Stacy’s science background and sailing experience help her make accurate observations.  Her uniformed service as a NOAA Corps Officer and her rank as XO fit with her respect of the sea from childhood.  Not everyone has such a clear direction from youth.  She just celebrated her 19th wedding anniversary and suggested to students, “Visit ships in port in San Francisco, explore the TECH museums or practice flag signals,” to grow in ocean knowledge.

XO, Stacy Birk, during the Port Authority passport-clearing trip at Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas

XO, Stacy Birk, during the Port Authority passport-clearing trip at Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas

Assignment and question of the day:  Use as many of the ship terms in place of the land names.  Example:  Instead of saying, “I’m walking down the hall,” say “I’m walking down the passageway.” BONUS: Check out that website to learn more ship terms.  What is the perimeter of the CHILL BOX and FREEZE BOX together?  Hint: Check the length and width of both boxes.

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

After a great night’s sleep I learned at breakfast that a small shark was sighted during the night as the CTD was at the surface. I also found out about an awesome website, http://www.ngsednet.org/oceans, that has pictures taken by students from my previous expedition to the Channel Islands with National Geographic.  You will see more critters on that site, for those interested.  In addition, over 7,000 living organisms will be under investigation on the RONALD H. BROWN’s next cruise.  I took a tour of engineering today, thanks to Chief Engineer Frank Dunlap.  The engineering department powers and maintains all systems on the ship; something like the Corps Yard does for our District.  Juliet, the flat person, took some pictures with two of our Southampton college graduates and with a few of the people on Stuart Cunningham’s Mooring Team.  Keep up your journal entries and emails.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. Last night I saw two Mahi Mahi fish, which they also call dolphins or dolphinfish.  They were swimming along side of the ship and at first I thought they were sharks!  They certainly are beautiful.  Yesterday the scientists from the United Kingdom worked on moorings all day so I got some time off.  Today we’re busy again doing CTD casts and my job lately has been “cast cop”, which means I log all the data.  The weather continues to be nice, although today we went through a squall (which is a storm) and now it’s overcast outside.  Also today we received a distress call from a Catamaran that was taking on water, so we proceeded to go to help, but the Coast Guard was on their way and they also called a tow service from a nearby island to help them.  It sure added some excitement into our day!  With less than a week to go, things have certainly been busy!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Bahamas, West Indies
Date: March 20, 2006

Deploying the ARGOS buoy!

Deploying the ARGOS buoy!

Science and Technology Log

On Saturday, we deployed two buoys. A buoy is a floating object that sends science information to scientists.  They can have numbers, colors, lights, or whistles on them.  The buoys we sent off are a drifting buoy and an ARGO buoy.

A drifting buoy is the size of a basketball and sends its position in the ocean to a satellite where scientists can measure current speed by using its location and by tracking it around. Because it has a sock on it, it’s a good measure of current and it is not affected by the wind. The buoys can last a long time unless they are damaged or destroyed by a ship, run into land, or are stolen by a pirate. There are currently 1,468 drifting buoys worldwide and they cost more than $1500 each. Cabello, Searles and Key Biscayne Community School jointly adopted two of the buoys deployed. Students signed stickers that were attached to the buoy and sent out to sea. To track the buoy, here.

The second buoy that was deployed was an ARGO buoy. The ARGO is interesting because it acts like a little submarine.  The ARGO is launched off the ship, floats on the surface, then sinks to certain depth, gathering information on temperature, pressure, salinity, latitude and longitude. The ARGO, acting like a submarine, stays at a certain depth for a while, gathering information, then fills its bladder and rises to the surface, collecting information on the way up.  At the surface, the ARGO sends all the information to a satellite for the scientists to use in their labs.  To picture a bladder, think of “Professor” from Sponge Bob. Professor fills up with air and floats (like the bladder filling), exhales his air and sinks (like the bladder emptying). This ARGO was special because it had a large sticker from the New Haven Unified School District. So New Haven is literally traveling all over the ocean! To track the ARGO buoy go here.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

Interview with Lieutenant Commander, Priscilla Rodriguez, US Public Health Service 

On the RON BROWN you will find the Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), Priscilla Rodriguez. Officer Rodriguez actually is a part of the United States Public Health Service that overlooks the public health system for the whole country and sets the standard for health care.  LCDR Rodriguez is a Physician Assistant and her assignment onboard the RON BROWN will last for two years.  The most common illness on board a ship is seasickness and LCDR Rodriguez is on the lookout for crew or scientists who are not showing up for meals or who look a little “green.” She explains that your brain and inner ear need to get used to the movement of the ship and once they do you’re okay. In the meantime you may feel nauseous or tired. LCDR Rodriguez has a lot of responsibility on board the ship. She’s responsible for the health care of everyone and if someone gets extremely ill, she has to advise the Captain on whether to go into shore, or get a Coast Guard helicopter to come out and pick him or her up, which is very expensive.  LCDR Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and presently calls New York City her home where she has just made a cooking video.  When she’s not working on the ship, she enjoys playing the guitar or flute, drawing and making videos. She’s currently developing “podcasts” for the Internet and has been interviewing subjects on the ship.  In the future, she would like to return to work with AIDS patients in underdeveloped countries and do everything she can to help the world.

Success!

Success!

Assignment: Draw a picture of what the ARGO buoy does. (How it acts like a submarine).  Label each movement – sinks, stays at the same level, and rises.  Draw a picture of what you think the ARGO buoy looks like.  (Hint: Long, thin, black tube).

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

It’s good to be writing logs again. I’ve been having amazing conversations with all the scientists onboard. They’ve been very generous with their time.  A special thanks to Dr. Molly for our “up top” chats. Today the scientists from the United Kingdom are working on recovering a sub-surface mooring, so we’ve got time to work on logs, interviews and answer e-mail.  Last night I saw squid in the moonlight: one was approximately 1.5 ft, and another was approximately 2.5 ft.  They were chasing and eating flying fish!  Also fish that look like little swordfish were jumping around.  It was a virtual circus!  Hello to everyone! Students, keep writing!  Make it a good day!

Relaxing after a day of hard work

Relaxing after a day of hard work

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

New Haven Unified School District,  Searles 4th graders and Cabello 5th graders got some press recently.  Thanks to fellow teachers for the article and to the Argus newspaper and Educational Service Center Information Officer, Rick LaPlante, for the favorable text. We’ll have another chance to thank ANG for newspapers in education and for the many businesses that sponsor Book Bucks.  I’m glad so many in the class are participating in this reading reward program.  I also heard the bus is confirmed for our “Reading is Cool” Sharkie field trip to the Hewlett Packard HP Pavilion, home of the Sharks hockey team.  It’s always good hearing from you so keep those emails coming and good luck with Book Bucks!  In my spare time I’m getting pictures with Juliet around the ship and reading John Climatus’, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Deploying the Argos buoy

Deploying the Argos buoy

Lieutenant Rodriguez

Lieutenant Rodriguez

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Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 19, 2006

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

Science and Technology Log: The “Way Cool” Factor 

Today I spoke to Lisa Beal who introduced me to the “Way Cool” factor of the science we’re doing. I kept asking the question… why?… why?…why?… and now I realize how what we’re doing makes sense. This is a physical oceanography trip and it’s easy to get confused by the testing, measuring and chemistry that we’re doing.

So, the Way Cool Factor: The ocean has many currents, or rivers, running through it.  Some vary with the seasons and are called inter-annual (more than one time per year).  What is measured is the circulation and overturning of the ocean. We need to measure this overturning of water because it affects our climate and considering that two-thirds of our planet is covered with water, that’s important to know. Also, water masses have separate identities.  They all have a unique signature that is determined by the salinity (salt content) and temperature.  It’s sort of like a fingerprint.  These water masses travel all over the ocean in both a horizontal flow and a vertical flow.  Scientists track these water masses as they flow around the ocean.

What’s really cool is some of these water masses are over 100 years old.  For instance, North Atlantic Deep Water starts at the North Pole and travels all around the Pacific and even in the Indian Ocean and back again.  It’s sort of like a migration of water.  The colder (measured by temperature) and more dense (measured by salinity) water sinks to the bottom and scientists can then follow it around the globe.

Pretty interesting huh?  It helps make what we’re doing make sense.

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Dr. Molly Baringer, NOAA scientist

Interview with Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist  

Today I had the good fortune to sit and talk to Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist on the RON BROWN. Molly is an Oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based out of Miami, Florida.  She’s been with NOAA for 12 years and is currently working on the Deep Western Boundary Currents (DWBC) project.  The Deep Western Boundary Time Series, take her all over the Caribbean and into the Florida Straits taking measurements to measure the conductivity, salinity, temperature and depth of the ocean.  She is studying the currents, or the rivers, in the deep water of the ocean. This study has been on-going and it will really help the scientists understand the ocean better.

As a child, she always liked science.  She originally had a desire to be a neuroscientist and graduated from Tulane University where she was a premed/math major.  Her minor was in science.  She became a Research Assistant working with numerical models for a professor who was an oceanographer and, behold, her love for science coupled with the environment, became a perfect fit.

What she likes best about being a scientist is that she gets to be creative, learns new things every day, and she is valued for her thinking. She spends most of the day and sometimes nights on board the RON BROWN checking data, supervising casts, problem solving, and overseeing all the science that is happening.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

While at sea she really looks forward to talking to her two children, Anna and John, and her husband (a computer scientist) who are awaiting her return.  While at home, she really likes to spend time with her family helping at their school, checking their homework, and going places and doing things.  Her hobbies are quilting, needlepoint, Bridge, and before she had her children, she and her husband used to golf approximately 3-4 times a week.

She hopes that eventually we’ll have an ocean observing program that will be institutionalized so we can continually monitor the state, or health, of our oceans.  She states that being a scientist is a great profession.  You get to be creative every day, you learn new things, and most of all you are valued for how you think.

Assignment:  Compare the movement of water masses of the Atlantic with the migration of gray whales. In your science logs, draw a picture of both.  Remember Gray Whales migrate (move) from Alaska (their feeding grounds in the summer) to Baja California warmer waters (for mating and calving) in the winter and back again.  North Atlantic Deep Water masses move from the North Pole south, into the Pacific and back again.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. Until now Vince has been writing the scientific logs, but starting today I’ll be submitting them as well.  I’ve really missed discussing the science I’m learning with you.  I was really happy to talk to Dr. Beal who quite simply explained what we were doing.  It can get quite confusing and intimidating learning new things, but I’m adapting slowly.  The weather has been beautiful. Yesterday we deployed the Argo Buoy with New Haven’s name on it so we’ll be able to track it.  And we also deployed the drifter buoy that has been adopted by Cabello, Searles and Dr. Molly’s daughter’s school, Key Biscayne Community School. Today has been beautiful!  Awesome weather, beautiful blue water and we even got cell service!  I miss you all.  Hello students!  Keep e-mailing me and doing all your great work.  Remember you are the brightest, best and most confident fifth graders (soon to be sixth graders)!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

Thank you second grade reading buddies from Mrs. Mares class, for Juliet, the flat person, who has gotten in pictures with the drifter, visited the dining room, the bridge, the science lab and even went with the Zodiac party (speed boat) to get our passports cleared today. I’m sorry to report the laundry bag used to sink our Styrofoam cup mementos was lost at sea after ten years of loyal and faithful service.  We’re here off Abaco Island today. I looked out from the bridge deck into the starry night last night.  In pitch dark the vastness of the heavens is AWESOME!  It reminded me of camping in the mountains away from the city.  Clear views, crystal smooth water and imagine no television and only random music for three weeks.  I like it—very recollective.  Thanks, also to NHTA for the blue shirts showing our dedication to students as our special interest.  Finally, I was glad to call home today and find out in voice conversation all are well.

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Science and Technology Log  

You may recall from the previous log that the package, or CTD, contains “mostly” a rosette of polyvinyl chloride (PVC )bottles that collect water samples on the way up from the sea floor.  We have completed eight casts, which means we have dropped the package to the bottom eight times.  On Cast # 4, on the way up, a piece of equipment on the package broke.  On this Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) expedition scientists want to put as many devices on “the package” as possible. All of the measurements they are taking have some relationship to measuring the current, velocity, or flow of water masses.  Flow in deep water is a little like a river in the ocean, but not like the one in the film, Finding Nemo. Some of the devices measure the same thing as other instruments do, and are redundant, or duplicated, in case some device fails on the unit. A secondary reason for redundancy is to check the precision of calculations to the thousandth or even ten-thousandth place (.002 or .0005).  Other devices measure different things. For example, the altimeter measures distance to the bottom.  It is important because a device lowered from the ship does not necessarily go straight down like a nut dropping off a tree, but moves with the rocking of the ship and shifting of the current in any direction.  While the ship may show the ocean floor at say 5445 meters, the package may be over a sea mound—a big bump upward from the ocean floor—that registers 5300 meters.  Do you see the necessity of having an altimeter to monitor of ocean depth?  What the ship sees below may not be what the package has directly under it. Since it costs so much to send an expedition out, it makes sense to protect the instruments as well as to do as many measurements as possible in each cast.

In the center of the package is the biggest instrument of all, an acoustic current meter fondly nicknamed “Cheesy Poofs.”  Look at the photo… can you see why it has that name? On Cast # 5 Cheesy Poofs went “POOF!” and broke. The ocean is a harsh environment for man-made instruments.  They must be very strong because of the pressure, and very water-tight so they do not spring a leak. Poor Cheesy Poofs sprang a leak and didn’t work anymore.  It measured the speed of the current, or, the “motion of the ocean,” as Dr. Lisa Beal said, the operator of the instrument.  Luckily, Lisa had a spare instrument to replace Cheesy, so she and several technicians worked hard for three hours to remove one instrument and replace it with another.  Just one acoustic current meter costs $50,000!  So, “Cheesy Poofs” visited Davey Jones’ Locker, or the ocean depths. Observation and measurement are essential elements for scientific investigation.

Question of the Day:  What sorts of measurements need to be very precise in your daily life at school or home, and what tools make those measurements?

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Interview with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis Lead CFC Scientist. 

Shari, a true steward of the planet, is the lead CFC Scientist on cruise RB-06-03, aboard the RONALD H. BROWN. She studies Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or more specifically, halocarbons, anything that has carbon and a halogen attached (one column left of inert gases on the Periodic Table). She hails from Chicopee, Massachusetts and grew up there. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and doctoral degree at the University of Miami.

She wanted to use her chemistry not only in a laboratory but was inspired to apply it to natural systems.  Her work on this voyage is all about determining the age of deep water.  We are familiar with how the rings of a tree tell its age, and how the layers, or strata, of rock date the age of the earth. Tree rings are usually horizontal.  Rock strata are thin horizontal layers that show age vertically. Rock layers are more like ocean layers, except ocean layers are fat.  Ocean aging is found in the rising and sinking of warm and cold waters.  Shari is studying when the deep water was last at the surface—the zero age reference.  “Anything that is lower than the surface is older,” she explained.  This is not to be confused with how old the oceans are, an entirely different question.  Rather, if water sinks in one part of the ocean than it has to rise in another place, otherwise the dynamics of the ocean would more closely be like a pond, and it is not a pond. Wind controls the surface currents or water on top of the ocean, and temperature and salt concentrations controls the deep-water circulation.  The scientific name for deep-water circulation is ThermoHaline Circulation, THC, or Meridional Overturning Circulation, MOC.  This particular cruise gives Shari one of the best places to study and prove or disprove that HydroChloroFluroCarbons (HCFCs) can be used as age indicators, or as viable tracers of water mass motion.  If proven, these HCFCs, which are replacement refrigerants (what used to be Freon as in car air conditioning systems), propellants (like in aerosol spray cans) and foam blowing agents (like the material sprayed on ceilings), will help scientists understand the age of deep water from the time it was last at the surface.

What might a person studying such wonders enjoy in her recreational time?  Shari likes to family golf, read Stephen King horror stories and other thrillers, and listen to Barry Manilow.  She loves science and the mysteries of the earth.  She would love to completely know the “feedback” between the ocean and climate change, as science continues to be a motivating force in her life.  She encourages going to the beach and watching the tides ebb and flow, seeing the effect of the ocean and humbly realizing we are powerless against its force.  Shari has judged science fairs from middles schools through graduate school and has mentored graduate students, who are students who after college graduation work on master’s degrees. She has a graduate student, Julia O’Hern, working with her on this trip, who is sharing a cabin with mentor NOAA teacher, Kimberly Pratt.  Shari concluded our discussion by telling me what 4th and 5th graders and everyone can do to get interested in oceanography: “Enjoy the ocean and take care of it,” she said.

Personal log—Vince Rosato 

Hello, everyone. I have been absorbing information from crew, scientists, civilians, and officers and been very busy during my shift helping scientists with getting samples and analyzing them.  I’m learning with Kim ways to put this knowledge into practice in the classroom.  Your email questions about the ship and the science, especially from your ocean books and logs, you’re your tracking our journey are filling my days with variety.  What is especially exciting to me is that misconception after misconception is being laid aside for truer models of what really is.  For example, I never thought of surface flow of water being driven differently than deeper water currents. Another insight was about what seafaring life is really like and the type of teamwork, community, and cooperation it fosters. In fact, it supports Searles’ “cooperation,” as the character education virtue of the month.  In participating in making measurements with so many specialized instruments, my uncle’s statement, “With the right tool you can do any job,” makes so much more sense.

I’d like to share something that I learned as a tribute for all future seafaring enthusiasts.  Officers, crews, and sailors worldwide have rituals not only for proper decorum, as at watch change, but also to inspire cooperation, and lift the spirits for those who live at sea away from family for months at a time.  One of the spirit-lifting rituals from maritime history was for those who were sailing over the equator for the first time.  To “measure” the courage of the sailors, so to speak, each one had to endure a rite of passage that graduated them from “pollywog” to “shellback.” Crewmates waited with fear and trepidation about what the latest rite of passage would entail. Recently, the challenge was for everyone to participate in a talent show.  Once you pass your “trial,” you receive a card of graduation that you have to carry with you.  If you are found without such documentation, you must endure the trial again!  It is reported by maritime historians and confirmed by Chief Boatswain, Bruce Cowden, also an accomplished cartoonist, that wars were interrupted by this longtime tradition.  He also mentioned that long ago, the shellback ritual was not so friendly.

Personal log—Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. It’s been an interesting two days.  First of all, I’m trying to get used twelve-hour working shifts. It’s been difficult! Staying up late has been hard but it’s getting easier.  During my shift I’ve been helping collect water from casts, helping deploy the CTD, running “salts” which means putting water in an auto salinometer machine and testing it for conductivity.  I’ve also been conducting interviews, talking with crew and trying to figure out what’s been wrong with e-mails.  Today, after not hearing from my family for over a week, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly, let me call home.  Apparently my e-mails have been going out, but when people try to answer they are bounced back. Therefore, from now on use my AOL account, grnflea@aol.com, to contact me.  That way I am sure to hear from you.  The weather has been sunny, and yes, I did get sunburned yesterday. I also saw some flying fish and am always on the lookout for marine mammals.  Now with the e-mail situation taken care of, I look forward to hearing from my students and continuing to share more of what we’re learning from the sea!