NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 27, 2014
Mission: South Atlantic Marine Protected Area Survey
Geographical area of cruise: South Atlantic
Date: June 27, 2014
Weather: Hazy sun. 27 degree Celsius. 8.0 knot wind from the southwest.
Locations: North Florida MPA. LAT 30°45’N, LON 80.4.9’W
These have been my finals days aboard the Nancy Foster. We have explored so much, seen so much, yet we didn’t even scratch the surface (or should I say the bottom) of the vastness of the MPAs, the Atlantic, or any of the oceans. It has been said that the entire science community has explored less than 5% of the world’s oceans. I can relate much better to this fact after my TAS experience. In all, we completed 29 separate dives with the ROV.
After our last dive, we were gathered in lab and someone said “I call it a success if the number of launches matches the number of recoveries.” While that certainly is a good measure, my measure of success is the amount of new knowledge I have acquired, the re-kindling of science knowledge I once used more readily, and the many ideas I have acquired to incorporate and advance the earth and water science classes and workshops I design and teach.
Science and Technology Log
Science Part I. Let there be color
Hint: See the pictures LARGER. If you click on any of the pictures in any of my blogs, they should open up full screen so you can see the detail better
I won’t begin to identify everything in these pictures in part because I can’t without the expertise of the researchers and marine biologists I had the honor to be with. So they are here for their sheer beauty and awesomeness. Here are two good websites to checkout for more information: The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council has a good EcoSpecies database to explore and www.marinespecies.org
Science Part II. The ocean floor changes and the habitat moves
Our last three dives with the ROV were in the North Florida MPA – about 100 miles east of Jacksonville. Stacey and the team had explored these reefs and habitats a year ago. We returned to the same areas using the MB maps where they expected to find good to excellent grouper habitat with high rugosity they observed the year before. During the first portions of the ROV dive we just could not find that habitat; it was in fact buried in sand in many places. The Gulf Stream and currents are strong here and they move the sand on the ocean floor. In addition, hurricanes and tropical storm activity probably also lead to shifts in sand and sediment on the ocean floor, exposing and covering areas all the time. This seemingly paled in comparison to erosion and sedimentation I am more familiar with in Minnesota and in places in the Midwest. Another example of how the Earth is always changing the way it appears. In 5-8th grade Earth Adventure programs we often discuss processes that form and shape the planet; plate tectonics, erosion, and weathering are the highlights. Now with my new knowledge, we will add the ideas of the oceans and currents that shape the planet.
Science Part III. What will the scientists do with all the research and information we have collected?
Over the next year, Stacey Harter, Andy David, Heather Moe, John Reed, and Stephanie Farrington will examine the hundreds of digital pictures, hours of HD video, and study the fish, invertebrate, and habitat logs we wrote during each ROV dive. A summary report about the fisheries and health of the MPAs will be written that will help the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council with management decisions for both commercial and recreational fishing in the areas.
The Nancy Foster – a NOAA ship on the seas – what makes her go?
Most of my blog has been devoted to the science of the mission, but to make that happen, the Nancy Foster has to make its way through the ocean. Here is a little about the people and the technology that make that happen.
The crew of the NF and a career with NOAA: The NF has a compliment of 22 crew members including the Commanding Officer (CO), the Executive Officer (XO), and three Junior Officers (JO’s). How does one get the privilege and honor to pilot a 187 foot ship? One career entry point is the NOAA Corps. Here is a great video link about the NOAA Corps. I had a chance to visit with all the officers and spent time with them on the bridge and can’t say enough good things about them. Wish I could include a picture of me with all of them.
Ship Technology and Engineering: There is a team of ~15 engineers, technicians, and crew that make this virtual self-sustaining ship the ability to sail the ocean for up to 14 days at a time without going into port. While at sea, each has their unique and important role. During my last full day onboard, I spent ½ of it up on the bridge and ½ down in the engine room. Here are a few technology tidbits:
- Electronics and computers have a significant role to make the Nancy Foster plow through the ocean’s waters, in addition to its skilled captains and large propellers. I cannot begin to list and describe all the computers and the high technology aboard the NF and all it does. I would consider myself to have a high level of computer literacy, but this was daunting.
- D.P. – Dynamic Positioning. A computer system calculates and performs many of the navigational moves the NF makes. The DP also uses wind and motion sensors to predict how the propulsion systems should respond in order to hold position or make precise movements. The DP can literally put the ship within meters of where the science team requests her to go (of course under the direction of the crew). Simply amazing!
- The D.P. drives the main engine, two Z-drives off the stern that turn 360 degrees and a bow thruster.
- Multiple engines and generators churn away in the depths of her not only providing propulsion, but electricity, compressed air, air conditioning, etc.
- The NF can make 1700 of fresh water daily either through an evaporative process connected to the main engine or through a reverse osmosis system.
NEW – two short videos of the launch and recovery of the ROV
What is next for me –what am I am hoping to do with my experience?
The NOAA TAS experience is a privilege that also comes with some requirements that I am excited to fulfill. Over the course of the next few months I will be developing a classroom lesson plan (K12, grade to be determined) based on my experience. I have at least seven new ideas to work into existing Earth Adventure programs. I will also be preparing a presentation to my peers about the TAS, the MPAs, the research, and my involvement. I will also be highlighting careers in NOAA for young adults. Some of these materials will be posted to this blog – so don’t delete the link just because I am done sailing!
Yes, we were able to watch the USA vs Germans play in the FIFA World Cup. The Nancy Foster does have Direct TV and it so happens we timed our ROV dives to allow us to watch either of the two large screen TV’s aboard the ship.
I finished the The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman. The last quote I will end my blog with
“Water is unpredictable. Water is fickle. But that is water’s nature. The fickleness, the variability, is itself predictable.” (p775)
I watched a number of sunsets (when not playing Mexican Train – a game with Dominos) and I forced myself up a couple of mornings for sunrise, including this one on our last morning sailing back to Mayport.
Glossary to Enhance Your Mind
Each of my logs is going to have a list of new vocabulary to enhance your knowledge. I am not going to post the definitions; that might be a future student assignment. In the meantime, some might have links to further information.
NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch has a great site of definitions at
- D.P. dynamic positioning
- CPA – closest point of approach
- BCR – Bow crossing range