Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/26/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Personal Log: Well I’m back in my home state of Arizona. It is really hot, the forecast is for it to be above 110º, and I miss the cool breezes of the Atlantic Ocean. I am happy to be back in Arizona, but I will miss all the people, the marine creatures and the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life and look forward to sharing this exciting adventure with my students, friends and family.
On the last two days onboard we finished up our EcoMon Survey and had time to add 23 more Bongo Stations. These were completed in two areas with the first just east of Maryland and the second off the coast of North Carolina. As we headed east of North Carolina we went into the Gulf Stream and the water temperature started to increase. At these stations our samples contained more larval fish than previously. We even brought up some deep-sea fish in two of these samples. One was a species of Gonostoma and the second a Hatchet fish. Both were fairly small and black with iridescent colors and had large mouths with many teeth.
Our drifter buoy, WMO # 44932, has been showing some movement since being deployed (to track movement, put GTS buoy for data set and WMO # for platform ID). Currently it is at latitude/ longitude: 38.73ºN, 73.61ºW. It does appear to be moving inland, but hopefully it will catch the current and start moving further into the Atlantic. We will be tracking it at Howard Gray over the next year.
Last day on the Gordon Gunter, Margaret, the chief steward, prepared a special meal for all of us. The spread included: Alaskan crab legs, roast duck with plum sauce, NY loin strip Oscar, grilled salmon, asparagus, red potatoes, Italian rolls, cream of potato and bacon soup (which I had at lunch, delicious) and cranberry cheesecake. I choose the crab, duck, asparagus, potatoes, and cheesecake – heavenly!!! I probably shouldn’t have had the cheesecake as well, but it was just delicious! Margaret always had so many great choices it was really hard to make up your mind.
Our last night on the Gordon Gunter was amazing. We had another unbelievable sunset with fantastic colors. A friend of mine from Arizona said, “It makes our Arizona sunsets look very bland and I think they are some of the best I’ve seen.” Then a group of Bottlenose dolphins visited the bow of the ship, so it was truly a remarkable night I will always remember.
Question of the day? : Why do you think the deep-sea fish have such large mouths?
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/21/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Time: 21.00 (9 pm) Latitude/longitude: 3734.171ºN, 7507.538ºW
Barrometer: 1023.73 mb
Speed: 9.6 knots
Science and Technology Log:
This week we launched a Global Drifter Buoy (GDB) from the stern of the Gordon Gunter. So what is a GDB? Basically it is a satellite tracked surface drifter buoy. The drifter consists of a surface buoy, about the size of a beach ball, a drogue, which acts like a sea anchor and is attached underwater to the buoy by a 15 meter long tether.
Drifter tracking: The drifter has a transmitter that sends data to passing satellites which provides the latitude/longitude of the drifter’s location. The location is determined from 16-20 satellite fixes per day. The surface buoy contains 4 to 5 battery packs that each have 7-9 alkaline D-cell batteries, a transmitter, a thermistor to measure sea surface temperature, and some even have other instruments to measure barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, salinity, and/or ocean color. It also has a submergence sensor to verify the drogue’s presence. Since the drogue is centered 15 meters underwater it is able to measure mixed layer currents in the upper ocean. The drifter has a battery life of about 400 days before ending transmission.
Students at the Howard Gray School in Scottsdale, Arizona designed stickers that were used to decorate the buoy. The stickers have messages about the school, Arizona and NOAA so that if the buoy is ever retrieved this will provide information on who launched it. In the upcoming year students at Howard Gray will be tracking the buoy from the satellite-based system Argos that is used to collect and process the drifter data. You can follow our drifter here, by putting in the data set for the GTS buoy with a Platform ID of 44932 and select June 19, 2013 as the initial date of the deployment.
Why are drifter buoys deployed?
In 1982 the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) determined that worldwide drifter buoys (“drifters”) would be extremely important for oceanographic and climate research. Since then drifters have been placed throughout the world’s oceans to obtain information on ocean dynamics, climate variations and meteorological conditions.
1. Maintain a 5×5 worldwide degree array (every 5 degrees of the latitude/longitude of world’s oceans) of the 1250 satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys to maintain an accurate and globally set of on-site observations that include: mixed layer currents, sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, winds and salinity.
2. Provide a data processing system of this data for scientific use.
EcoMon survey: We are continuing to take plankton samples and this week we started taking two different Bongo samples at the same station. Bongo mesh size (size of the holes in the net) was changed several years ago to a smaller mesh size of .33 mm. However, they need comparison samples for the previous nets that were used and had a mesh size of about .5 mm. They had switched to the smaller net size because they felt that they were losing a large part of the plankton sample (basically plankton were able to escape through the larger holes). We are actually able to see this visually in the amount of samples that we obtain from the different sized mesh.
It’s hard to believe that my Teacher at Sea days are coming to a close. I have learned so much about life at sea, the ocean ecosystem, the importance of plankton, data collection, and the science behind it all. I will miss the people, the ocean and beautiful sunsets and the ship, but I’m ready to get back to Arizona to share my adventure with my students, friends and family. I want to thank all the people that helped me during this trip including: the scientists and NOAA personnel, the NOAA Corps and ship personnel, the bird observers and all others on the trip.
Did you know? Drifters have even been placed in many remote locations that are infrequently visited or difficult to get to through air deployment. They are invaluable tools in tracking and predicting the intensity of hurricanes, as well.
Question of the day? What information would you like to see recorded by a Global Drifter Buoy and why?
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/19/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude/longitude: 3853.256 N, 7356.669W
Barometer: 1014.67 mb
Speed: 9.7 knots
Science and Technology Log:
Even before the plankton samples are brought onboard, scientists start recording many types of data when the equipment is launched. The bongos are fitted with an electronic CTD (conductivity, temperature and density) and as they are lowered into the ocean the temperature, density and salinity (salt content) are recorded on a computer. This helps scientists with habitat modeling and determining the causes for changes in the zooplankton communities. Each bongo net also has a flow-through meter which records how much water is moving through the net during the launch and can is used to estimate the number of plankton found in one cubic meter of water.
The plankton collected from the two bongo nets are separated into two main samples that will be tested for zooplankton and icthyoplankton (fish larvae and eggs). These get stored in a glass jars with either ethanol or formalin to preserve them. The formalin samples are sent to a lab in Poland for counting and identification. Formalin is good for preserving the shape of the organism, makes for easy identification, and is not flammable, so it can be sent abroad. However, formalin destroys the genetics (DNA) of the organisms, which is why ethanol is used with some of the samples and these are tested at the NOAA lab in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
When the samples are returned from Poland, the icthyoplankton samples are used by scientists to determine changes in the abundance of the different fish species. Whereas, the zooplankton samples are often used in studies on climate change. Scientists have found from current and historic research (over a span of about 40 years) that there are changes in the distribution of different species and increases in temperature of the ocean water.
At the Rosette stations we take nutrient samples from the different water depths. They are testing for nitrates, phosphates and silicates. Nutrient samples are an important indicator of zooplankton productivity. These nutrients get used up quickly near the surface by phytoplankton during the process of photosynthesis (remember phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain and are producers). As the nutrients pass through the food chain (zooplankton eating phytoplankton and then on up the chain) they are returned to the deeper areas by the oxidation of the sinking organic matter. Therefore, as you go deeper into the ocean these nutrients tend to build up. The Rosettes also have a CTD attached to record conductivity, temperature and density at the different depths.
Another test that is conducted on the Rosettes is for the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon. This test is an indicator of the amount of carbon dioxide that the ocean uptakes from outside sources (such as cars, factories or other man-made sources). Scientists want to know how atmospheric carbon is affecting ocean chemistry and marine ecosystems and changing the PH (acids and bases) of the ocean water. One thing they are interested in is how this may be affecting the formation of calcium in marine organisms such as clams, oysters, and coral.
New word: oxidation – the chemical combination of a substance with oxygen.
This week we headed back south and went through the Cape Cod canal outside of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I had to get up a little earlier to see it, but it was well worth it. The area is beautiful and there were many small boats and people enjoying the great weather.
We also did a small boat transfer to bring five new people onboard, while three others left at the same time. It was hard to say goodbye, but it will be nice to get to know all the new faces.
So now that we are heading south the weather is warming up. I have been told that we may start seeing Loggerhead turtles as the waters warm up – that would be so cool. We had a visit by another group of Common Dolphins the other day. They were swimming along the side of the ship and then went up to the bow. They are just so fun to watch and photograph.
We have been seeing a lot of balloons (mylar and rubber) on the ocean surface. These are released into the air by people, often on cruise ships, and then land on the surface. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds often mistake these for jelly fish and eat them. They can choke on the balloons or get tangled in the string, frequently leading to death. Today, we actually saw more balloons than sea birds!!! A good rule is to never release balloons into the air no matter where you live!
Did you know? A humpback whale will eat about 5000 pounds of krill in a day. While a blue whale eats about 8000 pounds of krill daily.
Question of the day? If 1000 krill = 2 pounds, then together how many krill does a humpback and blue whale consume on a daily basis.
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/15/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude/longitude: 4234.645N, 6946.914W
Temperature: 15.4ºC, 60ºF
Barometer: 1011.48 mb
Speed: 9.4 knots
Science and Technology Log:
Plankton is everywhere throughout the ocean, so how are the stations chosen and mapped?
Scientists first decide on a specific region or strata that they want to sample. Then within this strata a specific number of stations is determined for sampling. NOAA has developed a computer program that then randomly selects stations in the strata. After these stations are generated, scientists play “connect the dots” to find the best route to get to all the stations. Once the route is generated adjustments are made based on time, weather and the team’s needs. These are plotted on a map and sent to the ship to see if further adjustments will need to be made.
When the ship receives the map from the science party, they plot all the stations and make a track line to determine the shortest navigable route that they can take. Frequently the map that is originally provided has to be adjusted due to weather, navigation issues (if there is a shoal, or low area, the route may have to be changed), or ship problems. Once they come up with a plan, this has to be re-evaluated on a daily basis. For example during our survey we left four days later than planned, so many of the stations had to be taken out. Furthermore a large storm was coming in, so the route was changed again to avoid this weather. The Operation’s Officer onboard (Marc Weekley on the Gordon Gunter) speaks with the science party on a daily basis to keep the plan up to date and maintain a safe route throughout the survey.
Ship Technology: The Gordon Gunter and all other NOAA vessels use many types of equipment to navigate the ship. They have an electronic Gyro Compass which is constantly spinning to point to True North (not magnetic north). This is accurate to a 10th of a degree and allows for other navigation systems on the ship to know with great accuracy what direction the ship is pointing. It also is used to steer the ship in auto pilot. When needed they can switch to manual control and hand steer the ship. They also have a magnetic compass onboard, if all electronics were to go out on the ship. Also on the bridge are two radars, which provides position of all boats in the area and is used for collision avoidance. Underway, the Captain requires the ship to stay at least 1 nautical mile from other vessels unless he gives commands otherwise.
Once a station is reached the ship has to position itself so it will not go over the wire that is attached to the survey equipment. Taking into consideration all of the elements, which includes the wind speed, current weather conditions and the speed of the current, they usually try to position the boat so that the wind is on its port side. In this way the wind is on the same side as the gear and it will not hit the propellors or the hull. The ship’s sonars determine the depth of the ocean floor and the scientists use this information to lower their equipment to a distance just above this depth.
Bow – front of the ship
Stern – back of the ship
Port – left of bow
Starboard – right of bow
Brrr… it’s cold! To avoid the big storm we headed north to the Bay of Fundy that is located between Maine and Nova Scotia. Seas were fairly calm, but was it cold at 9º C (48ºF), but with the wind chill it was probably closer to 5.5ºC (42ºF)! We are now heading south so it is starting to warm up, but luckily it won’t be as hot as Arizona!
Trying to take photos of animals in the ocean is very difficult. You have to be in the right place, at the right time, and be ready. Today we saw several sightings of whales, but they were in the distance and only lasted a second. During this trip, there was also a sighting of a shark attacking a Loggerhead turtle, but by the time I got to the bridge we had passed it by. Lately we have seen a great variety of sea birds including: shearwaters, puffins, sea gulls, and about twenty fiver other types. Even though it can be a little frustrating at times, it is still very calming to look out over the ocean and the sunsets are always amazing!
I can’t believe that there is only one week left for the survey. Time has gone so fast and I have learned so much. Tomorrow we are doing a boat exchange and some people are leaving while others will come onboard. I will miss those people that are leaving the ship, but look forward to meeting new people that will join our team.
Did you know? The ratio of different salts (ions) in the ocean water are the about same in all of the world’s oceans.
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/13/13 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Time: 8:25 am
Latitude/ Longitude: 4200.0122N, 6758.0338W
Speed: 9.1 knots
Science and Technology Log:
Why study plankton? Plankton are at the bottom of the food chain. Remember they are free floating organisms that drift with the currents. That means that they provide food for many other animals and those animals are then eaten by larger animals and so on. Therefore, plankton are important in the fact that if something happens to them, then the whole food chain is affected.
So researchers are interested in learning all about the different types of plankton, their distribution and abundance in the ocean. They want to answer questions such as: Have these factors changed over time? Are we finding different kinds of plankton in different locations? Has the amount of plankton changed? How do the changes in the abundance and species of plankton affect higher trophic (feeding) levels?
Types of Plankton:
Phytoplankton – The plants of the sea. They carry out photosynthesis, so they are found in the water column where light is able to reach. This can vary depending on how clear the water is. If water is very clear, they can be found at deeper levels because the light can penetrate farther. These are the primary producers of the ocean, providing food for the first order consumers – mainly some types of zooplankton.
Zooplankton – Animal-like plankton. These vary immensely by size, type, and location. They are classified by their taxonomy, size, and how long they stay planktonic (some only are planktonic in a larval stage where others are for their entire life) . These plankton are consumers with some eating the phytoplankton and others eating other zooplankton. These are extremely important as larger consumers eat them and then even larger organisms eat these.
Icthyoplankton – Fish larvae or eggs. These float and drift in the water and, therefore, are considered planktonic. Since these are only planktonic for part of their life, they are called meroplankton. Organisms that are planktonic their entire life are called holoplankton.
Plankton – free floating organisms that drift with the current.
Trophic level – position an organism occupies in the food chain.
Taxonomy – how scientists classify organisms.
Holoplankton – organisms that are planktonic their entire lives.
Meroplankton – organisms that are planktonic for only part of their lives.
I interviewed our lead scientist onboard the Gordon Gunter who studies plankton:
Name: Chris Melrose
What is your Position? Research Oceanographer
What do you do? Principal investigator on the Northeast Fisheries’ Ship of Opportunity project. We collect data from merchant vessels that are crossing areas that we are interested in. I also work on the Ecosystem Monitoring Surveys where my main area of interest is primary production and phytoplankton. They are the base of the food web and tell you a lot about the functioning of a marine ecosystem. Much of my work was in coastal regions where there were concerns about eutrophication, the enhanced primary production due to inputs of nutrients from pollution.
Why is your work so important? We are studying the planet we all live on and we are in a period of environmental change. Long term monitoring programs, like this one, allow us to compare data from the present with the past to see how things have changed and also helps us to make predictions about what will happen in the future.
Why did you decide to become a marine scientist and work with NOAA and ocean science? I grew up on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and always had an interest in the ocean. It was a hobby, but now it’s a career.
What do you enjoy most? I like science and being able to be out in the field – it is more of an adventure than just being in a lab.
What part of your job is most unexpected? When you are out in the ocean, there are always surprises – nature, weather or difficulties with ships, so you always have to be ready to adapt.
How long have you worked for NOAA and as a marine scientist? From 1998 to 2004 I was with NOAA as a graduate student, from 2004 to 2010 as a contract employee and in 2011 I became a full-time employee.
What is your favorite type of plankton? Diatoms because they have so many different shapes and geometric designs.
What is your favorite marine animal? Octopus as they are clever and it is amazing how they can change their color and shape.
If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them? Science and math are very important and you would need to attend graduate school.
What type of education do you need? At least a master’s degree to become a research scientist.
I am now getting use to my shift, noon to midnight. At each station we put out the Bongo nets or Rosettes (more often the Bongos) and then we have to wash them down and strain out the plankton in a sieve to be saved later for the research. It gets a little harder and colder towards the end of the shift, but it has been very interesting seeing all the variety of plankton we are finding and how it changes from station to station.
Yesterday was very foggy and a little more rocky. It was very hard to see anything, but still beautiful to look at the ocean around us. Today it is clearer, but still somewhat rocky. Sightings have been few, but we were able to catch some whales in the distance by seeing them “blow” – spirt out water through their blow holes. A Storm is on the forecast and we have had to change our route. We will not be going as far east as planned and will head north to avoid the main barrage of the storm.
The ocean is such an amazing place, with all its life and vastness. It makes you realize just how small you are and how big the world really is!
Did you know? Many types of whales feed exclusively on euphausid (or krill), a shrimp like zooplankton.
Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of plankton?
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/10/13 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Time: 21:30 (9:30 pm)
Longitude/latitude: 40.50289N, 68.76736W
Barrometer 1017.35 mb
Science and Technology Log:
After several ship issues, we were able to finally head out from Newport, RI on June 9th after 4 extra days in dock. We have started the survey and are using two main types of equipment that we will deploy at the various stations: CTD/Bongo Nets and CTD Rosette Stations. We were originally scheduled to visit about 160 stations, but due to the unforeseen ship issues, these may have to be scaled back. Some of the stations will just be the Bongo and others only the Rosette, but some will include both sets of equipment.
A bongo net is a two net system that basically, looks like a bongo drum. It is used to bring up various types of plankton while a CTD is mounted above it on the tow wire to test for temperature, conductivity and depth during the tow. The two nets may have different sizes of mesh so that it will only filter the various types of plankton based on the size of the holes. The small mesh is able to capture the smaller phytoplankton, but the larger zooplankton (animals) can dart out of the way and avoid being captured. The larger mesh is able to catch the zooplankton but allows the phytoplankton to go through the openings. There are regular bongo nets and also baby bongo nets that may be launched at the same time to catch different types of plankton.
The Rosette CTD equipment is a series of 10 cylinders that can capture water from different depths to test for nutrient levels and dissolved inorganic carbon, which provides a measure of acidity in the ocean. These are fired remotely via an electronic trigger that is programed by a computer program where each cylinder can be fired seperately to get 10 samples from different depths. It also has several sensors on it to measure oxygen, light and chlorophyll levels, as well as temperature and salinity (salt) from the surface to the bottom of the water column.
Our first station was about 3 1/2 hours east of Newport, RI and it was a Bongo Station. I am on the noon to midnight shift each day. So on our first day, during my watch, we made four Bongo stops and two CTD Rosettes. Today we completed more of the Bongos on my watch. We are bringing up a variety of zooplankton like copepods, ctenophores, krill, and some fish larvae. We have also seen quite a bit of phytoplankton on the surface of the water.
Being on a ship, I have to get used to the swaying and moving about. It is constantly rocking, so it can be a little challenging to walk around. I have been told that I will get used to this and it is actually great when you want to go to sleep! Luckily I have not had any sea sickness yet and I hope that continues! We completed several safety drills that included a fire drill and abandon ship drill where we had to put on our survival suits – now I look like a New England Lobster!
Today was an amazing day – was able to see Right Whales, Blue Sharks and Common Dolphins – with the dolphins surfing off the ship’s bow! The Northern Right Whale is one of the most endangered species on the planet with only 300 left in the wild. One of the reasons there are so few left is that swim on the surface and were excessively hunted and there feeding areas were within the Boston shipping lanes, so they were frequently hit by ships. Recently these shipping lanes have been moved to help protect these animals. So I feel very privileged to have been able to see one!
Did you know? Plankton are the basis for the ocean food web. They are plentiful, small, and free floating (they do not swim). The word plankton comes from the Greek word “planktos” which means drifting. “Plankton” from the TV show SpongeBob is actually a Copepod – a type of zooplankton.
Question of the day: Why do you think it is important that the scientists study plankton?
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/9/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge: Time – 8:15 am
Latitude and Longitude -41º32N, 71º19W
Temperature – 18º C, 65ºF
Barometer – 1019.5 mb
Science and Technology Log:
Since we have been delayed in sailing, I have had the opportunity to interview several of the crew sailing with the Gordon Gunter to learn more about working at sea and in the marine sciences. Sailing one of the NOAA vessels for scientific research requires personnel from many different disciplines including the: scientists, NOAA Corps officers, engineers, ship stewards, fishermen, deck hands, computer and electronics personnel, bird and mammal observers, and others. I will continue to interview personnel and add them to my future blogs.
1. Name: Cristina Bascuñán
What is your Position? Lab Technician
What do you do? I’m in charge of the Rosette CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) equipment and Sea-Bird equipment. I schedule them for the different surveys and send them out for maintenance.
Why did you decide to work with NOAA and ocean science? As a sophomore in college I started volunteering and loved it, so I volunteered for several more surveys and then went out to sea on a NOAA cruise and loved that. I was doing 2 trips a summer. Around that time I got hold of an oceanography branch chief of NOAA who was in need of a lab technician and the rest is history.
How long have you worked for NOAA? I have worked for NOAA for 16 years. I volunteered for 3 years initially and was 19 on my first trip.
What do you enjoy most? Meeting all the different people on the various cruises
What would you like to change? During long trips I miss the comforts of home.
If not working for NOAA, what would you do? I would be an architect.
What outside hobbies do you have? When out at sea, I like to knit. At home, I’m involved in many water activities like: kayaking, fishing and going out on our skiff (small sailboat).
Where are you from? I have lived on the Cape for 16 years.
What is your favorite marine animal? The Lumpfish – they look like they are made out of rubber.
What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea? While out doing a MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System and is a net system for plankton in the ocean), we brought up a bunch of bones and some carrots. Our group could not figure out where this could have come from or what animal the bones were from. We found out later, that the Steward (meal preparation person) had tossed the slop basket from dinner into the sea and that’s what we brought up!
If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them? Get experience and go out to sea on a research vessel to see if it is something you would like to do for a career.
2. Name: Marc Weekely
What is your Position? Operations Officer onboard the Gordon Gunter
What do you do? I am the liaison between the operational side of the ship and the science party, making sure that what the scientists want to accomplish gets done.
Why did you decide to go into the NOAA Corps and ocean science? I have a B.S. in environmental science. In 2004, 2005 I found out about the NOAA Corps and it was a good way to mix the operational side with the science I already had. All NOAA Corps officers have to do watches and get the ship to where the scientists need to go, which includes ship driving and navigation, which I also liked.
How long have you worked for NOAA? I was commissioned in 2006.
What do you enjoy most? The variety of operations, science, and projects that are available and learning about the different scientific research. The routine is always new and fresh and you can transfer to new ones frequently. For example, in the NOAA Corps you spend 2 years in the field on a ship and 2-3 years on a land assignment. I was in Antarctic in 2009 doing atmospheric research on air quality monitoring.
What would you like to change? Some of the assignments are only once in a lifetime and cannot return to them like going back to the South Pole.
What part of your job was the most unexpected? When I first entered everything took me by surprise because I was not aware of the scope of the Corps. The opportunities to pursue what I was training for came much sooner than I realized. I was on the bridge controlling and driving a ship much sooner than I expected.
How are people chosen for NOAA ships? For many of the officers you fill out a “wish list” of where you want to go and then assigned according to needs and timing.
If not working in the Corps, what would you do? A job on or in the water.
If a student is interested in pursuing a career with NOAA or in marine science, what would you suggest to them? The Corps is looking for individuals with science, engineering and math backgrounds.
What outside hobbies do you have? Scuba diving and anything outdoors. I tried rock climbing in Boulder before going to the South Pole.
Where are you from? Currently I live in Moss-point, Mississippi, but I’m originally from Texas where my parents still live.
What is your favorite marine animal? Sharks because so little has changed in them over time. Even though they are a very frightening animal, I love to be in the water with them.
What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea? Watching a 20 foot humpback whale full breech (entire body) out of the water is one of the most unusual and amazing things I have seen.
3. Chief Steward: Margaret Coyle
What are some of the skills and experiences a person needs to become a ship’s steward? A person needs good cooking skills, organization, to be personable, and dedicated. This is a career, I’m working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. “I live to cook and cook to live”.
What do you like most about your job? The cooking and sailing.
What would you like to change? I hate the paperwork – “If I only had to just cook and order groceries, I would be the happiest person on the planet.”
How long have you been working for NOAA? I have been sailing since I was 20 and cooking for 25 years. I started in the coastguard as an engineer and then went back to school to be a cook. I have been with NOAA for 8 years, 2 months and 7 days.
What do you like most about working on the ocean? The solitude and the lifestyle of just being at sea and having my own space and my galley setup. Having a set schedule is something I like and also the rocking of the ship and the weather.
What part of your job did you least expect to do? When I came here I knew exactly what to expect. Over the years the record keeping requirements have increased, which I did not expect.
How far in advance plan your meals? I have 8 years of menus and keep them all in my computer. I plan my menus by the people we have onboard and how many are going to be at a certain meal. I have to plan and order 7 days in advance and I have to always order dairy and produce when we pull into a new port.
What training or experience would you suggest for high school students if they want to pursue a career as a Steward or other ocean careers? You can go the military route and go through their school for cooking. Take Home Economics in HS and work in a restaurant – that will determine if you like it or hate it.
What advice would you give young people to eat more nutritiously? Eat dinner at a table with your family and have a conversation. Don’t sit in front of the TV or play on a computer. Don’t eat out of a bag instead choose something healthy like an apple.
If you weren’t a ship’s steward, what other career would you like to have? This is my dream job! But if I didn’t cook, I would be a seamstress.
*What’s your favorite meal to prepare? Whatever someone wants to eat, is something I love to prepare.
*Do you ever run out of food? I once ran out of orange juice one year. We were in Mexico and I ordered 100 lbs. of oranges and squeezed 15 lbs each morning for fresh juice.
Do you have an outside hobby? I sew clothes – My husband and I go to Renaissance fairs and I make the costumes for that. I love old movies as well and gardening.
Where are you from? Hurley, Mississippi and I’m married and have 2 children.
What is your favorite marine animal? The edible kind, salmon!
Here is one of her favorite recipes:
Sweet Potato Cheesecake
2 cups Mashed sweet potato
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 lb cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
Beat cream cheese and sugar together till light. Add eggs one at a time. Add sweet potatoes, spices and mix together. Butter a spring-form pan and dust with graham crackers. Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325º till filling is set. Chill and serve with whipping cream.
I can’t wait to try this when we head out to sea!
One thing that I have learned in life is that many things are not under your control and you just have to make the best of each situation and be flexible. So even though it has taken several more days to leave port than had been planned, I have had the opportunity to explore the base, visit another NOAA vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, interview several of the staff, and work on my blogs and photography. I have really enjoyed talking with the others onboard and visiting the areas around the base and in Newport, RI.
Also by postponing the sailing day, it looks like we missed the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Friday it was raining constantly in port, so it most likely would have done the same at sea!
Did you know? The NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers work on one of NOAA’s 19 ships or 12 aircraft in support of the atmospheric and oceanic scientific research that is being carried out on these vessels.
Question of the Day?
What job would you like to have on a NOAA vessel and why?
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 6/5/2013 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time: 1800 (6 pm)
Latitude/ Longitude: 41 degrees 32 N, 71 degrees 19 W
Temperature: 19.5 C or 67 F.
Science and Technology Log:
I am currently onboard the Gordon Gunter, however we have been delayed a day due to an issue with the Automatic Steering Gear. A part was to come in today, but the wrong part was shipped (twice) so we have to remain in port for another day. We are currently at the Naval Station in Newport, Rhode Island and as soon as the part arrives, we will head up to the Gulf of Maine to start our Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. During the survey we will deploy our equipment and gather data at about 120 fixed stations and 25 random ones from the Gulf of Maine down to Norfolk, Virginia. At each station a Bongo Net (phytoplankton) and/or CTD Rosette (salinity, temperature, and density) equipment will be deployed which I will discuss in my upcoming blogs.
The Gordon Gunter: The NOAA ship Gordon Gunter was originally built in 1989 as the U.S. Naval Ship Relentless. When first built it was designed to be used for ocean surveillance mainly hunting submarines. In 1993 it was transferred to NOAA and became the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter in 1998. Because it was built for hunting submarines, it is a very quiet ship. It runs off of four diesel generators that power all the ship’s systems, which includes the ship’s two electrical propulsion motors and bow thruster.
The Gordon Gunter is 224 feet long with five levels above the water line. It can go at a top speed of 10 knots (about 11.5 miles per hour). This does not sound very fast, but it is a good speed for completing scientific surveys (and hopefully avoiding getting seasick). Actually most of the trawling nets (like for phytoplankton) are dispatched at 3 knots (about 3.45 miles per hour). The ship also has V-Sat (very small aperture transmission) satellite to provide connection to the internet and phone communications.
The ship seems to have all the comforts of home! There is the bridge (ship navigation), observation deck, state rooms (sleeping quarters – with a total of 35 bunks), a gym, movie room, TV room, mess hall, store, laundry area, dry lab,and wet lab. The “dry lab” is essentially the computer lab and this is where data from the survey will be entered into the computer. The “wet lab” is the location of where the ocean samples will be processed.
Today we took a tour of the ship and learned about some of the important safety drills that are required onboard. The three main drills are: Fire and Collision, Man Overboard and Abandon Ship. Each one has it’s own set of alarms that we need to be aware of. The day we depart (hopefully tomorrow) we will be doing one or more of these drills to make sure we are ready!
Besides the scientists onboard, there is a NOAA crew that pilots and runs the ship. The Gordon Gunter is involved in many scientific voyages along the Atlantic Coast from as far north as Nova Scotia to down south along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It’s home port is the Pascagoula Laboratory in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Each of these expeditions has a different scientific crew, but the ship personnel usually remains the same. This crew is essential to the smooth running of the ship and includes: Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Navigation Officer, Safety Officer, Junior Officer, Engineering personnel, Deck personnel, Stewards (meal preparation), and Electronics personnel.
I am getting to learn my way around the ship and am all moved into my stateroom. I was really surprised at how large it is! I have a roommate – Kat, a graduate student, for the first leg of the trip and then Sarah, an intern, for our second leg. We will make a stop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on June 16th to drop a few people off and welcome aboard some new ones. So far I have met several marine and bird scientists, a college volunteer, graduate student, and college intern. The science and NOAA crew are all very friendly and welcoming, but it is hard to sit here in port and am really looking forward to heading out to sea and learning all the science that I can share with my students.
Did you know? NOAA has its beginnings in as far back as 1807, when the Survey of the Coast was started as the nation’s first scientific agency.
Mission:Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Date: 5/21/13 Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Hi my name is Sue Cullumber and I am a science teacher at the Howard Gray School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our school provides 1:1 instruction to students with special needs in grades 5-12 and I have been teaching there for over 22 years! In less than two weeks I will be heading out to the Atlantic coast as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I am so excited to have this opportunity to work with the scientists aboard the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter.
I applied to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program for the following reasons:
First, I feel that directly experiencing “Science” is the best way for students to learn and make them excited about learning. To be able to work directly with NOAA scientists and bring this experience back to my classroom gives my students such an amazing opportunity to actually see how science is used in the “real world”.
Secondly, I love to learn myself, experience new things and bring these experiences back to my students. Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to participate in several teacher fellowships. I went to the Galapagos Islands with the Toyota International Teacher Program and worked with teachers from the Galapagos and U.S. on global environmental education. From this experience we built an outdoor habitat at Howard Gray that now houses four tortoises. Students have learned about their own fragile desert environment, animal behavior and scientific observations through access to our habitat and had the opportunity to share this with a school in the Galapagos. I worked with Earthwatch scientists on climate change in Nova Scotia and my students Skyped directly with the scientists to learn about the field research as it was happening. Last summer I went to Japan for the Japan-US Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development. My students participated in a peace project by folding 1000 origami cranes that we sent to Hiroshima High School to be placed in the Hiroshima Peace Park by their students. We also held a Peace and Friendship Festival for the community at Howard Gray.
This year we had a group of Japanese teachers visit our school from this program and students taught them about many of the sustainable activities that we are working on at school. Each has brought new ideas and amazing activities for my students to experience in the classroom and about the world.
Lastly, Arizona is a very special place with a wide variety of geographical environments from the Sonoran Desert (home of the Saguaro) to a Ponderosa Pine Forest in Flagstaff and of course the Grand Canyon! However, we do not have an ocean and many of my students have never been to an ocean, so I can’t wait to share this amazing, vast and extremely important part of our planet with them.
So now I have the chance of a lifetime to sail aboard the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter on an Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. We will be heading out from Newport, RI on June 5th and head up the east coast to the Gulf of Maine and then head back down to Norfolk, Virginia. Scientists have been visiting this same region since 1977 from as far south as Cape Hatteras, NC to the an area up north in the Bay of Fundy (Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). They complete six surveys a year to see if the distributions and abundance of organisms have changed over time. I feel very honored to be part of this research in 2013!
One of the activities I will be part of is launching a drifter buoy. So students are busy decorating stickers that I will be able to put on the buoy when I head out to sea. We will be able to track ocean currents, temperature and GPS location at Howard Gray over the next year from this buoy. Students will be studying the water currents and weather patterns and I plan to hold a contest at school to see who can determine where the buoy will be the following month from this information. While out at sea my students will be tracking the location of the Gordon Gunter through theNOAA Ship Tracker and placing my current location on a map that one of my students completed for my trip.
Outside of school, I love to spend most of my free time outdoors – usually hiking or exploring our beautiful state and always with my camera! Photography is what I often call “my full-time hobby”. Most of my photos are of our desert environment, so I look forward to all amazing things I will see in the ocean and be able to share with my husband and son, students and friends! One of my passions is to use my photography to provide an understanding about the natural world, so I am really looking forward to sharing this fantastic adventure with everyone through my blog and photos!