Elizabeth Warren, July 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 15 2010

A case of the Upy-Downy’s

By breakfast on the last day we had already spotted land.

Land Spotted

Land Spotted

Crew of the Pisces

Crew of the Pisces

I went up to the flying deck and could not have been more disappointed to see the Mississippi Coast. I couldn’t believe how quickly my trip went by. I learned a lot!

Scientists on my cruise

Scientists on my cruise

The crew of the Pisces and the NOAA scientists were some of the nicest (even with all the teasing) people I have ever met. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience. I said goodbye to as many of the crew I could find, many take off as soon as they get into port or go to sleep, and each one told me I should come back again. I would love to! I’ve already asked and plan on applying again for next year.

Now, I’m home in Seattle, Washington. . As I was flying in,  I was greeted by one of the reasons I live on the West Coast.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

As a result of having been aboard a ship,  I have a case of the upy-downy’s (getting my land legs back). The world keeps moving like I’m still on board the ship. The upy downy’s are also affecting my mood.  I’m happy to be home, sleep in a real bed, see my family and my neph-puppy but I’m also sad that my adventure is over. I can’t wait to get back in the classroom and share all that I have learned with my students!

Thank you for reading my blog and again thank you to NOAA and the Pisces!

Elizabeth Warren, July 11-12, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 11-12,  2010

Winding down

NOAA SHIP: Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 11th- Monday July 12th, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Water: 30.4 ℃ (which is 86.9℉ ) Air: 30.5 ℃
Wind: 1 knots
Swell: .2 meters
Location: 27. 51° N, 93.04° W
Weather: Sunny, Humidity 67%, 35% cloud cover

Science/Technology Log:
On Sunday, Anne-Marie and I were given a tour of the Engineering spaces. The Pisces has an integrated diesel electric drive system. There are two propulsion motors on the shaft that generate 1,500 horsepower each that are electric. Chief Engineer Garret explained that it is similar to a little remote control toy boat, except of course that the Pisces is much bigger. The Pisces is 208.6 feet long, 50 feet wide (breadth), and the Captain standing in the bridge is 37 feet above the water.

Propulsion Motor

Propulsion Motor

There are 4 generators on board, two 16 cylinder and two 14 cylinder that runs what the Chief Engineer called the “hotel load”, keeping the lights on. Another really cool thing about the Pisces is that it was designed to be a quiet vessel because underwater noise can influence how fish behave and can limit what the scientists are able to on board, not to mention that a noisy ship is harder to sleep on. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) established standards to improve the noise onboard research vessels and the Pisces was designed to meet those standards.

Electrical Board

Electrical Board

Throughout the engineering room there are giant electrical boards that are constantly kept cool by the air conditioning that is constantly running on the ship. The interesting thing about the air conditioning is that the engineering deck and the labs are kept cool using regular air conditioning methods but the staterooms and other decks are kept cool using cold water! This is also the method used to keep the two propulsion motors cool as well!

Cold Water Air Conditioning

Cold Water Air Conditioning

When we entered into the belly of the ship we were given earplugs because it gets loud and really hot down in the very bottom. Garret showed us that if the bridge ever lost power that there is a secondary way to steer. The crew steers using a hydraulic steering system rather than the electrical one on the bridge. The crew uses a sound powered telephone to communicate with the bridge during any power outages (or drills).

Garret showing the hydraulic steering system

Garret showing the hydraulic steering system

One very important piece of the engineering deck is the Freshwater system. The ship pulls in sea water and uses heat from the engine to make freshwater through distillation. They heat the sea water and catch the evaporation which is fresh water. There are two distillers on board and they can make 1,850 gallons a day.

When we were down there we witnessed Junior Engineer Steve repairing the blown diaphragm that had interfered with the system. When we are in the area that NOAA has labeled as a 95% uncertainty trajectory regarding the presence of oil, we do not take in water as it could be contaminated and damage the system. This is why the first two days and the last two of the cruise we were asked to conserve water.

Steve, Junior Engineer

Steve, Junior Engineer

Personal Log:

Latte = happy

Latte = happy

The tour was very exciting! We began in the galley where Garret made Anne Marie and I lattes. They were beautiful! When we went into the loud part of the deck we put on ear plugs from the ear plug dispensing unit, which I had to take a picture of. Once again I was impressed with how patient the crew can be with us, although I do think we are a source of amusement for many of them.

Going down to the bowels of the ship

Going down to the bowels of the ship

When the tour ended Captain Jerry took us to the very bowels of the ship and showed us the transducer well, this is the part of the ship that keeps the water out and keeps us from sinking.

Transducer

Transducer

Sunday was the last day of this leg of the survey. I did the banana song today in hopes that we would find something in the fish traps, unfortunately it did not work! As the day went on I was able to help more and more. I helped throw in the chevron fish trap, baited the bandit reel, pulled the rope to let the camera array drop. On the last bandit reel though we finally got some action! We were all pretty excited even Watch-leader Joey!

When the reel came up we discovered that we had caught a barracuda on the line! He was huge! We (okay so it was Joey) rushed through all of the measuring so we could throw him back in quickly! We still had a chance to get some pictures of him though. There is a limited amount of time to get all of the camera arrays into the water during a day and we were getting pretty close to running out of time so Captain Jerry and Kevin decided to do a camera array on the “fly”. We had to be ready! As we approached the site we got the camera over the side and as soon as the signal was given we dropped it.

Flexing on the deck

Flexing on the deck

Barracuda

Barracuda

As I said before we have a lot of down time in between drops. I broke out my I-pod touch and we played a bunch of games. For awhile we played Would you rather? My favorite question was: Would you rather be saved by superman or meet Winnie the Pooh? Can you guess which one I picked? Then I introduced Joey to Madlibs. I couldn’t believe he had never played. Finally, Joey and I started a battle with the Bubble Wrap game. The idea is to pop as many of the bubbles as you can within 45 seconds. It got very heated! Right now the record is 254 and I’m sad to say that Joey is the record holder. I still have some time though… it could happen.

Jerry playing a game on my ipod touch

Jerry playing a game on my ipod touch

Playing games on ipod touch

Playing games on ipod touch

It’s a good thing Anne Marie and I had gotten a tour on Sunday because today, Monday, there was a Steering drill. We knew exactly what was going on. The Captain announced the drill and then at the end said the Teachers At Sea should head down so we could drive. The experience is completely different. You are down in the depths of the ship and there is a crew member using headphones to talk to the bridge. Instead of a steering wheel, there are two things with bubbles at the top that you push down to change the angle of the rudder. Each of the bubbles steers the ship either left or right. I have to say we did a fantastic job, especially with all of the help!

Me on the bridge

Me on the bridge

NOAA Corps Officers on the Bridge

NOAA Corps Officers on the Bridge

Something to think about: For me this has been an adventure, but a lot of the people that I’ve met do this all year round. They live and work on ships 264 days a year. When they get off of work at the end of the day, they can’t really go anywhere. A lot of the time they share a room for three weeks with someone they’ve never met before. There are movies, satellite tv, internet, places to work out, and time to fish. Imagine being “lovingly incarcerated” as a class, all 32 of us on a ship for weeks on end? That would be an interesting change. What I have noticed is that everyone seems to love what they do and most have traveled all over the world with various nautical employments (Navy, Exxon, NOAA).

Otoliths

Otoliths

As an outsider, on board for a short amount of time I’m still counting my time here as a once in a lifetime, educational adventure! Although, I wouldn’t mind staying.

Me on the deck

Me on the deck

Yesterday, I left out some rubber ducks for the crew to sign for me! Here they are with Anne Marie’s friend Pascy!

Rubber Ducks

Rubber Ducks

Elizabeth Warren, July 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 10 2010

Another day.. more and more

Footage from the Camera Array

Footage from the Camera Array

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Water: 30.3 ℃ (which is 86.5℉ ) Air: 29.6 ℃
Wind: 2.55 knots
Swell: .2 meters
Location: 27. 51° N, 93.18° W
Weather: Sunny, Humidity 62%, 25% cloud cover

Science/Technology Log:

Chip from Temperature Depth Recorder

Chip from Temperature Depth Recorder

Each time we drop the camera array at a site attached to the aluminum case is a little device called a Temperature Depth Recorder or a TDR. It measures exactly that. As the camera array sinks to the bottom it records the temperature and depth. When the camera array is brought back on board the ship one of the scientists unclip it and bring it into the lab. To get the information off you hit it once with a magnet that communicates with the chip inside telling it you want to download the information. Then the scientist places a stylus on the device and it downloads the information to the computer. The data is saved under the name of the site and then the information is entered into a spreadsheet that converts the information to the psi to meters. To clear the TDR you hit it four times with the magnet and when it flashes red it is clear! This is a picture of Kevin explaining to Anne Marie and I how to work the TDR.

At every site a CTD is also dropped into the water. A CTD (Conductivity Temperature Recorder) gives a hydrographic (use your Greek roots) profile of the water column. The CTD is attached to the bottom of a rosette or carousel that also contains water sampling bottles. Attached to the rosette is also a conductive wire that sends information to the lab. Mike, the survey technician, comes into the lab after every camera array is dropped and runs the CTD process. The CTD is placed in the water and allowed to acclimate for 3 minutes before they begin taking readings. The CTD is dropped to the bottom of the seafloor and Mike monitors from the dry lab. Also, once a week Mike also uses the water bottles. To take a sample they use a remote from inside the dry lab to trigger the bottles to close them. The thing that kept sticking in my mind is that at one point all of this was done by hand, someone had to do the math and all of these tests!
CTD

CTD

Data from the CTD

Data from the CTD

In the morning Kevin goes through the video footage from the previous day and for each site he identifies what is on the bottom of the seafloor “sandy flat bottom”, “rock shelf” and then he identifies briefly any fish that he sees. When he is doing this process being in the lab is necessary because he will call us over anytime he sees a neat fish and explain how he can tell what the species is. Today, we dropped the camera array in 8 different sites within Bright Bank sites. The two chevron fish traps brought up a whole lot of nothing. On the bandit reel we caught one fish. It was a sand tile fish (Malacanthus pulmieri). Anne-Marie weighed and measured him and then we threw him back. I was really proud of her because she doesn’t really like fish, but she put gloves on and did everything! Today was a little frustrating it even got Kevin a little down.
Frustrated Kevin

Frustrated Kevin

Personal Log:
Chief Steward Jessie Stiggins

Chief Steward Jessie Stiggins

Kevin calls living on board being “lovingly incarcerated” beacuse you are stuck here but you are well taken care of. For instance, Ohhh, the food! The Chief Steward, Jessie Stiggins is keeping us well fed. Every morning the meals are posted in the mess for everyone to see. We learned from Captain Jerry that food on the ship is very important and is actually a part of the contract. In the contract it states that lunch and dinner must include a prepared dessert. “Plain cake shall not constitute a prepared dessert but a cake with icing shall.” We have had dessert with every meal! Some of the desserts are Coconut Crème Pie, French Silk Pie, White cake with fluffy whip-cream frosting and strawberries, cookies, and pecan pie to name a few. Plus there is a freezer full of ice cream which oddly enough I haven’t gotten into yet. Right now, I’m in seafood heaven… we have had halibut, calamari, and catfish. Throughout the trip it has just gotten more impressive! We’ve had stuffed chicken breasts, rack of lamb, filet mignon, lobster, a taco bar, the amberjack that Ryan caught, and pulled pork. Jessie is saving the menu’s for us so we can show them off when we get back.
Me piloting the ship

Me piloting the ship

A few nights ago, Captain Jerry let Anne Marie and I drive the ship. He explained that we were driving a 52 million dollar vessel with 30 lives on board, as if I wasn’t nervous already. We were moving to the next days work area so the bridge would be driving there all night. Anne Marie went first and I listened as Captain Jerry and Ensign Kelly Schill explained how to drive and the proper language. Everywhere you go on the ship there is certain etiquette for the way you talk and the way you dress. (No tank tops in the mess and closed toe shoes everywhere but your stateroom.) When you are steering you are following a set course with a gyroscopic compass as well as a digital heading reading, you are steering the rudder by degrees. You state the heading in single digits so 173 would be one seven three. We were driving in the dark so they had all the lights off and they even had red flashlights so they wouldn’t ruin their night vision. Anne Marie and I both got a chance to turn the ship in circles. Anne Marie even did a Williamson turn, which is done when there is a man overboard. You turn 60° to the left and then an equal amount to the other side so you are back on your course but turned around to pick up the person who is overboard. When she was doing this, the ETA to the next way point changed from 6:10 am to NEVER. We both laughed pretty hard! Dynamic Positioning system that is the automatic pilot is called Betty, she talks to the crew on the bridge and is extremely polite. The Captain promised to show us how to turn the DP on and off. Everything on the bridge is electronic. You can click a button and see how much fresh water is on board, how much fuel, which engines are working and even wake someone up! I’m consistently in awe of how much technology goes into running a ship of this magnitude. Tomorrow Chief Engineer Garett is giving us a tour of the engine room. In fact he told me he is going to make us espresso and then take us down! I’m really, really, having a great time!

The water here is so blue! It’s a different shade of blue than the Pacific or Puget Sound. It’s bluer than green that’s the difference, there is no green. Even the seaweed isn’t green it’s a brownish yellow color, it’s called sargassum. The exchange intern Jose used a line and a hook to catch some so I could bring it back to show off. Looking over the side you often spot giant fish swimming along because the visibility is so high. This made me think of a lot of questions to ask Kevin tomorrow: Are there algae/plankton blooms in the Gulf? If so where do they happen? Does the temperature vary depending on the time of year or is it always warm? What do hurricanes do to the sea creatures? Have you noticed a rise or fall after a hurricane?

Being on board a ship makes me feel like I’m 7 years old again and I don’t want to go to bed because I’m sure my parents are making me miss whatever fun thing they are doing at night. I don’t want to go to my stateroom, I wish I could be everywhere at once, on the bridge talking to the Captain and asking questions, listening to the stories of the crew, watching them fish, talking to the birders up on the flying deck, sitting in the lab and listening to the scientists joke or explain how to identify a fish or a coral or an algae. I wish I were able to be out here longer although, I have to say having a shorter cruise does make me appreciate every minute.

Elizabeth Warren, July 9, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 9 2010

Getting into it!

Sunset

Sunset

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Water: 30.5℃ Air: 29.6 ℃
Wind: 2 knots
Swell: .3 meters
Location: 27. 51° N, 91.48° W
Weather: Sunny, Humidity 70%, light clouds

Science/Technology Log
Today we began the SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey.
A little background information: The surveying began in 1992 through now with a few years with no data in the middle where there wasn’t enough funding or boat time. The survey is conducted to show what types of species of fish live around the different types of topographical locations on the seafloor, specifically around the continental shelf (think about the sea floor as if it is a continent, there are mountain ranges, plains, banks, ledges, etc). The survey runs from Brownsville, TX to the Dry Tortuga’s, FL. Currently, I am on the second leg of the survey. The first leg was two and half weeks.

The areas that are surveyed are called blocks they are 10 by 10 nautical miles, these sites are selected randomly from previous bathymetric data, this is the mapping that we did yesterday. At each site an aluminum four stereo camera array and a Seabird 911 CTD is dropped, more information about this tomorrow. The camera pod, which NOAA actually makes in their lab, is composed of specially designed housing units that include two black and white still cameras that take pictures like you would blink your eyes, as well as a color mpeg camera that runs continuously.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Droping the Camera Array

Droping the Camera Array

Attached to the aluminum casing is a Temperature Depth Recorder (TDR), more about this later. At each site the pod is dropped over the side of the ship using a hydraulic side A-frame. The camera is left in the water for 45 minutes, once the camera is at the seafloor it begins to record. Throughout the day the cameras save their data to the 180 GB hard drive, all of the day’s drops are then downloaded onto an 2 TB external hard drive and burned to a blue ray disc during the night. This disc is briefly observed by the chief scientist and then later taken back to the onshore lab to identify and count all species of fish.

Chevron Trap

Chevron Trap

Also throughout the day, 4 sites are randomly chosen to drop either a bandit reel or a chevron fish trap. This random selection is done very scientifically. One scientist asks another to pull up a randomly created number table on the computer, the person at the computer wiggles the mouse and closes his eyes and then calls out one of the numbers that corresponds with the site numbers. A chevron fish trap which is a large wire cage is baited with squid, (Yes!) then left at the site to soak for an hour.

Dropping the Chevron Trap

Dropping the Chevron Trap

A bandit reel is a vertical line with ten evenly spaced hooks baited with mackerel. The line is lowered to the sea floor and soaked in for ten minutes. When these fish are brought on board they are weighed, measured, cataloged, and some are frozen to preserve for further research. On this survey groupers, trigger fish, and snapper are frozen and taken back for baseline testing by National Seafood Inspection Laboratory.

Today we were sampling at Sweet Bank. All together we dropped the camera at 7 different sites throughout this block. Science out at sea is 10 minutes of a lot of excitement followed by an hour of waiting. For the first site I observed from inside the lab, watching as they dropped the camera and brought it back up. The first site was early in the day so when they pulled the camera’s up they found that they couldn’t see anything because the light had not yet penetrated to the ocean floor. At the second site I had my first job, I was to go out after they pulled the camera, turn it off, then turn the other knob to configure then turn the camera back on. I was so nervous that I turned the second knob to configure then back to record! Oops!

Cowboys Hardhat

Cowboys Hardhat

We also dropped the first chevron trap of the day. While the trap was soaking we moved to the third site and dropped the camera. We went back to the fish trap to pick it up. When you go out and there are hydraulic A-frames working you have to wear a hard hat and aPDF (Personal Floatation Device).
Personal Flotation Device

Personal Flotation Device

Bob Carter, the electronics technician lent me his helmet. When Captain Jerry was on deck he took issue with the design on the helmet. Anne-Marie and I got all ready and watched as they pulled up an empty fish trap, something had eaten the bait but they escaped capture. We were all dressed up with no fish to go! When we went back in the labs Kevin explained to us that one of the hardest things to learn as a scientist is that zero is a number. Even though it was disappointing that the trap came up empty it did mean something to the data.
We moved on to pick up the camera at the fourth site. At the fourth site we also did a bandit reel. I have no problem getting a little dirty so I helped bait the bandit reel. You have to put the hook through the bait then turn it and pull the hook through again. I got pretty fishy! We waited with baited breath to see if what we could pull up. The crew pulled up the bandit reel and there were two enormous fish caught on the reel. One was red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) and the other was a red porgy (Pagruspagrus).
Me with a red snapper and a red porgy

Me with a red snapper and a red porgy

We took the fish into the wet lab and measured them. There are three different ways to measure the fish. First you measure the total length which is to the end of the tail. Then you measure the forked length which is to the fork of the tail. Then you measure the standard length which is to the end of the hyplural plate at the end of the vertebrae. Then, the fish is weighed on a scale. All of this is done using the metric system. ( Ahh hah! There is a reason I teach the metric system of measurement! ) Lastly, Joey Salisbury, the watch leader for the scientist crew, checked to see what the sex of the two fish were. With the porgy he could cut him open and check the sex because he wasn’t being kept for Seafood Inspection, another way to tell the sex on some species that are dimorphic ordichromatic, is to look at the color of their lips . For the red snapper, since it had to be kept for inspection we were not able to tell what the sex was.
Dissecting fish in the wet lab

Dissecting fish in the wet lab

After some cajoling Joey also agreed to pull the otoliths (ear bones) of the porgy for me so I could bring them back to my class. You can tell the age of the fish from their ear bones, you stain them and count the rings just like you would for a tree.
Otolith

Otolith

 While all of this was happening on deck, in the lab the bathymetric mapping was noticing an odd mass, that was eating up everything and leaving behind blank space. Kevin decided to run an oil soaking rag down on the bandit reel to test if the mass was oil. Thankfully, when he pulled the rag back up it was oil free! We decided that the mass on the screen must have been a school of fish.
View of bathymetric mapping data

View of bathymetric mapping data

Dry lab

Dry lab

At each site we were able to do a little bit more of the science. I was able to weigh and measure the second set of fish from the last bandit reel. The fish were so heavy, and they move. I did squeal a little but I’m proud to say I did not scream! The spines on the snapper’s dorsal fin could poke holes in you, so I had to be careful when I picked her up. We could tell she was a female because when we pulled her up the change in pressure blew her air bladder and pushed her ovaries came out. (I know , I know, but remember this is in the realm of science so you all should be saying “how interesting” no ewws out there. )
Holding a Red Snapper

Holding a Red Snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Personal Log:
Where to start! Yesterday really felt like three days in one. All of the science is so interesting. I keep asking a billion questions and everyone is a hundred percent willing to answer every one. Their patience is greatly appreciated since for every answer they give me I come up with 50 more questions  to clarify their answers. They were also extraordinary patient when I made a mistake. I was so embarrassed and worried that I had somehow messed up the video feed! They assured me that I hadn’t messed it up, but for the rest of the day Joey, the watch leader, gave me a hard time about knobs, hatches, and doors. The hatches and doors are incredibly heavy so I have to stop and really pull whenever I go into any hallway, and closing the hatches requires me to have nothing in my hands. At one point during the day I got confused as to which way to turn the hatch, and the crew kept telling me to pull the wrong way.
Heavy doors

Heavy doors

Everyone jokes constantly and you have to go with the flow and be a quick. Attempting to come up with comebacks is keeping me on my toes. As most of you know I’m willing to get dirty so any job that dealt with touching things I’m all over it. Baiting the bandit reel and the chevron fish trap were gooey and squishy and I was covered in fish guts and squid parts by the end of the day. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be smelly and gross! It was pretty funny that they put me in the Cowboys helmet, you know cause you know I watch so much football. Captain Jerry threatened to throw it overboard because he is a Saints fan. The first two days we were conserving water while we were in possible oil impacted waters; today we were given the go ahead to take what the captain called “rock star showers”. Boy, was I in need of one today, at the end of the day I even had a streak of grease up my leg!
The crew is hilarious! They are constantly working everywhere you go. I go down one passageway and they are mopping, another they are vacuuming, down the ladder well and I run into someone sweeping. Think about how important it is to keep the ship clean. As we were standing waiting for the bandit reel to come up one of the crew started to fish with a line and a hook right off the side of the boat.
Fishing off the side of the boat

Fishing off the side of the boat

We caught a mackerel

We caught a mackerel

When they threw the fish heads in from the cut up mackerel they caught a bunch of blue runners (Caranx crysos). I even managed to catch one! I was okay trying to kiss the fish..until he tried to kiss back!
Kissing a fish

Kissing a fish

At the end of the day, Anne Marie and I went out to the back deck to try and work on our logs but the crew was out their fishing. One of the crew, Ryan, caught a 55 lb greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) and then turned around and caught another one that was just a little bit smaller! The big one was almost as long as I am tall! The Junior Officer Kurt caught a yellow-edge grouper, which Kevin pulled the otoliths out of for me and Anne-Marie. Every other minute another of the crew would catch another fish. I didn’t get much of my log done I was so distracted by the different fish they kept catching.
55 lb greater amberjack

55 lb greater amberjack

Yellow-edge grouper

Yellow-edge grouper

I’m leaving so much out, but I’ll include more in my next log.

Elizabeth Warren, July 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 8 2010

I’m Here!!!

After a day of travel I’m on the ship! I flew from Seattle in through Atlanta. I went for a walk in the Atalanta airport during my layover, when I finally sat down there were two people laughing about the oil spill. I couldn’t believe it! Of course after they had moved on I thought of all different things I could have said to them.

From Atalanta I flew into the Gulfport Airport in Biloxi. I met the other teacher at sea; Anne-Marie from Los Angeles. Anne Marie teaches 3rd and 4th grade science and language arts at a magnet school. She had spent the previous couple of weeks traveling around the south. We were met by a young marine biologist working on his Master’s degree named Travis.

Travis

Travis

At the Shed

At the Shed

Travis is working with NOAA and getting paid to get his Masters degree. Gotta love the sciences! He is doing research on a specific type of shark. He will be going out on a smaller vessel doing long line fishing technique. As the bottom of the scientist barrel he was sent to collect the teachers and a birder named Scott. Travis took us to a fun little outdoor BBQ place called The Shed. According to Travis, The Shed has been on the travel channel. I can understand why.. it was good and very quirky. I love listening to the people here talk with their southern accents.It’s been “darlin”, “hon”, and “ya-all” all over the place.

Signs indicating the impact of Katrina

Signs indicating the impact of Katrina

Yesterday before the ship left Anne Marie and I went on an adventure in Pascagoula. The town was tiny! We were able to walk the entire down town in under an hour. I was trying to find a rubber ducky to bring with me on the ship so we went in every little store we could find. In one of the antique shops we met a retired teacher and her two little dogs. She told us all about the town and how Katrina impacted their lives. She told us how the water in her store had been up to her waist and how businesses can’t survive int he downtown. Everywhere we went there were signs of the impact Katrina had on this area and also the spill. In the downtown one of the shops had been taken over by BP as a claims office. People could go in and file claims due. As if the community hasn’t gone through enough.

More later today….

Elizabeth Warren, July 7-8, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 15 2010

Here we goooo……

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Dry Bulb 30̊℃, Wet Bulb 26.2 ℃
Wind: 7-9 mph
Swell: 3-4 feet
Location: 28 37.12° N, 89.33° W
Weather: Sunny, Humid, Scattered clouds

Science/Technology Log

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Yesterday, Anne-Marie and I were given a tour of the NOAA facilities in Pascagoula. In the new building they house several different divisions; Southeast Marine Fisheries Unit, Seafood Inspection and Documentation and Approval Center. Kevin Rademacher our Chief Scientist showed us around. The labs in the Marine Fisheries unit take what is being done on the vessels and use it for research. They run many different types of research on the ships. Beside the Pisces, there are two other ships that are run out of Pascagoula; Oregon II,  and The Gordan Gunter.
Seafood Inspection Lab

Seafood Inspection Lab

On one of the floors were the Seafood Inspection labs. They bring in fish from different areas and test it. In one lab they had a set of partitions up which were the tasting areas. An example of what they have done in the past that Kevin gave us was a restaurant bought some red snapper. They brought it to the lab where they cooked in clear Pyrex containers then they smelled, checked the consistency, and tasted the fish. They discovered that the fish was not really snapper! Right now due to the oil spill they are mainly focusing on the fish that we bring in on our survey. We are required to save 10 fish out of every trap we bring up so that they can have a baseline testing of fish from an area before being it has been impacted by the oil spill.

Another floor of the building is the science labs. We walked through the plankton lab, where each person had their own station with a computer and a high powered microscope. They had several different samples out that were labeled. Just like our trip in the 6th grade they used  nets with different size holes to catch different types of plankton. Another lab was called the Age and Growth lab. Here is a picture of shark vertebrae they were preparing for aging.

Plankton lab

Plankton lab

Today we are not working on the Reef Fish survey. Our Chief Scientist Kevin Radechamer wanted to do some mapping of an area called Sackett Bank which is south of Louisiana. The mapping they had done before did not give them an accurate depiction of the sea floor and now they have new technology. They are using an acoustic system called ME70. This system has 27 beams that run in a 120 degree swath. With the technology they had before they were only able to see 1 meter “bumps” on the surface now they can see to within a ½ meter. The white line that you can barely see shows the surface of the seafloor. The red is sand or mud that is on the bottom, as the red gets thinner and darker it is showing the harder rock that is below. As the sound waves go down they bounce back and we are able to see any see critters that are down there. Most of what you can see in the picture is plankton but occasionally you can see fish as well. This is a before and after shot of the two types of mapping. In one the map technology was guessing what was in between the bands. This information will give scientists new information about the seafloor.

Mapping Sacket Bank

Mapping Sackett Bank

    Mapping Sackett Bank

Mapping Sackett Bank

Personal Log:

Sailing Board

Sailing Board

I’m finally here! The last two days were very exciting. When we got to the ship it was 7:00ish and most of the ship’s crew were out and about, so we had the ship to ourselves. We wandered around taking pictures and investigating. I only went on an “adventure” (lost my way) twice. Everywhere you turn there is a doorway, hatch or stairwell. I was awed by the amount of technology that they have on board. There are computer labs on almost every floor. I am envious of the color printer! Ann Marie and I are sharing a state room. It’s fantastic! The crew takes pride in what they do and it is very obvious, our beds even had mints on them. We have a T.V. and an internet connection in our room. I don’t plan on spending a lot of time in there but it is pretty fabulous!

My Stateroom

My Stateroom

We left port yesterday and headed south. The scientists and teachers stayed on the fly deck as we moved closer to the Gulf. As we were leaving you could see what impact the oil spill has had on the Mississippi Coast and on the Barrier Islands.

Impact of Deepwater Horizon

Impact of Deepwater Horizon

As a result of the tropical storm over the weekend there were some pretty high swells. We had waves from 6 to 8 ft. The ship was rocking pretty badly. After our Safety Meeting where we were told about all of the safety precautions and the rules. No matter where you go there are rules. Including.. No wearing tank tops to the galley and NO sitting in the captains chair.  After the safety meeting the rolling was beginning to get to us so Anne Marie and I took to our bunks. I didn’t get sick! I did however go to sleep at 7:30.

Today we have spent most of the day wandering around the ship and talking to the many different crew members on board. Oh.. and we had a fire drill. The fire drill was a lot like having one at school, the bell rang we walked to our area and then we sat for awhile. The next drill was much more exciting. We had an Abandon Ship Drill! We had to grab a long sleeve t-shirt, a hat, pants, our Gumby suit, and a life jacket. It was a lot of stuff to carry with us! Everyone met out on the deck and I was introduced to Chief Marine Engineer Garrett who would be in charge of getting me where I needed to be in an emergency. As a first timer I was required to get into my Gumby suit. Yes, for those of you old enough to remember they are named after Gumby and Pokey. This would definitely not be my choice of a fashionable outfit. To get into it you have to lay the suit down on the ground and climb in like a sleeping bag. Then you zip it up!

In my gumby suit

In my gumby suit

Everywhere you look in the Gulf you see oil rigs or tankers moving away or to an oil rig. We passed the disaster site this morning but we were 9 miles away so we did not see any oil or much of anything. In fact I haven’t seen oil yet, which is a good thing. The interesting thing that has come about for our trip as a result of the spill is the two bird experts, Scott and Ron. The birders were hired to look for pelagic birds, those that spend most of their lives at sea. Fish and Wildlife hired one, and the other is here for BP. They are looking to see if any pelagic birds have oil on them or if they find any dead birds. So far, in the four hour s they watched this morning they saw 11 birds. Listening to them talk has been fascinating!

Sunset

Sunset

This was the sunset tonight. I’m heading in with tea in hand to try and upload the rest of my pictures. I’m ready for tomorrow! Kevin said we will start a half hour after sunrise so I’ll be up bright and early! Let’s do it! Bring on the giant fish and things for me to get dirty with!

Elizabeth Warren, July 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 5, 2010

Getting Ready..

I’m all packed and ready to go. It was hard to do as my practical side was at war with my fashionable side. No you do not need to bring those shoes, no you do not need to bring those earrings… basics here basics. I did decide to leave my rubber boots at home since they don’t fit in my suitcase.

I spent some time over the last couple of days reading the other blogs of the teachers who were on the first leg of the Reef Fish survey. Melinda Story’s blog was very interesting. She saw a tiger shark attack a whale carcass! Check it out on TAS’s website! I’m imagining the many creatures and sights I’m going to see along the way.  After today my blog is going to change a bit to follow the TAS guidelines. I’ll say where we are, give a scientific update on what we are doing, and  a personal update. I plan on posting a ton of pictures!

It’s going to be a great trip. I am so glad it is finally here!