Kip Chambers: Gone Fishing… July 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017


Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: 07/17/2017


Science and Technology Log: 

I had my first opportunity to get a look at the Reuben Lasker when I arrived at the Exploratorium on Pier 15 in San Francisco (SF) on the 16th of July.  My first impression was, this is a big, incredibly sophisticated research vessel.  The boat has been in port for a few days as it prepares to leave for the 2nd leg of the West Coast Pelagics Survey.  The first leg of the survey was conducted over the previous three weeks starting off of the coast of Vancouver Island and working down to the coast of Oregon.  The vessel will be steaming out tomorrow (7/18/17) back to where the first leg was completed to begin the 2nd leg of the survey.  The 2nd leg will begin near Newport, Oregon and continue down the coast of California finishing in San Diego on/or about August 11th.

I am beginning to get to know the crew, which is made up of members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, civilian mariners and a science team.  All of the crews are under the NOAA umbrella and work closely together. The NOAA Corps, and civilian mariners are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the boat while the science crew’s role is to design the survey, collect samples, record, and analyze the data for the project.

There are 32 people on the boat, and I am amazed at the diversity of skills, education and background that is represented by everyone that is on-board.  It is encouraging to know there are so many talented people involved in this type of research. In just the short time that I have spent on the ship I have gained a better understanding of the many opportunities that are available for students in marine science.

As you might expect on a modern research vessel the technology is everywhere.  There are multiple sonar systems, numerous sensors that record continuous environmental information, and the wheelhouse is equipped with an array of navigational systems and computers that link to sensors throughout the vessel.  There are also the major mechanical components necessary to deploy and retrieve nets, gear, and various sensors.  I am eagerly anticipating seeing how all of these pieces fit together once we begin sampling.

Over the past 2 days while we have been in port, I have had a chance to explore the area around the dock and have found that NOAA is making a big impact on a global scale.  As I was walking up to the ship I noticed a buoy in the harbor that was labeled with PMEL-CO2 (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory).  Upon closer inspection I saw the NOAA symbol above the lettering and found an information plate on the rail describing the data the sensors on the buoy were collecting.  This buoy and others like it moored across the world’s oceans are collecting information about CO2 levels in our oceans.  The information is relayed to a satellite and then to a data center for analysis.  The data collected by these buoys will help provide a better understanding of how rising CO2 levels are affecting our oceans.  As I walked through the area surrounding the dock I found several more examples of research and educational programs that NOAA was supporting.  NOAA’s commitment to sound science and support for educational programs like the Teacher at Sea program is making a difference in how people interact with the planet.


Personal Log:

My journey to join the crew and scientist aboard the Reuben Lasker has been a rewarding experience in and of itself.  After arriving in SF I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring the area around the bay.  There is a great interactive facility near Pier 15 called the Exploratorium that is a designed to provide an enriching, educational experience featuring science and art displays. As I wondered through the facility it reminded me of why I love science and how creative approaches can inspire and bring out the child like curiosity and joy of learning in all of us.  I also had the opportunity to tour the impressive Aquarium of the Bay that had fantastic exhibits featuring marine invertebrates, numerous species of saltwater fish (including lots of sharks) and river otters.  NOAA’s fingerprint can be found here too, with a display explaining how NOAA is providing educational support for a program called The National Estuary Research and Reserve System that emphasize the importance of protecting and restoring estuaries.   It has been a very busy and fulfilling 3 days.  As I am writing, the ship is steaming toward Newport, Oregon and is already collecting data for the survey using a continuous underway egg sampler (CUFES). The CUFES sampler collects plankton and fish egg samples that will provide important data used by NOAA scientists to better understand the abundance and distribution of pelagic fish species in the California Current.  Once we arrive on location we will start using the acoustic trawling method (ATM) to sample for coastal pelagic fish species.  I can only imagine what wonders might lay ahead as we continue our journey,

I recently attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (KATS) conference and listened to a very good presentation by Jeff Goldstein.   One the things he said struck me as particularly important.  He said, “Evidence based conclusions are important.”  It is important that we don’t disregard and ignore information that is based on good scientific principles and analysis.  My experiences over the last several days has given me a greater appreciation for critical role that NOAA plays in providing us with that information.  The photos above are representative of my first few days in SF and on-board the Reuben Lasker.

FYI: sometimes it seems like NOAA has its own special language, here is a small sample of some of the acronyms that I have picked up on so far…

CO – Commanding Officer

XO – Executive Officer

OO – Operations Officer

ATM – Acoustic Trawl  Method

CTD – Conductivity, Temperature and Depth

CUFES – Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler

CPS – Coastal Pelagic Species

SWFSC – Southwest Fisheries Science Center

NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service

Links to Explore:

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

The Exploratorium in San Francisco

Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco

The National Estuary Research and Reserve System

Kip Chambers: From the Prairies to the Oceans… July 5, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea 

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker 

July 17 – 30, 2017

Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: July 5, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge: (Pratt, KS)

Date: 07/05/2017
Wind Speed: SE at 6 mph
Time: 16:00
Latitude: 37.7o N
Temperature: 29o C
Longitude: 98.75o W

Science and Technology Log:

Soon I will be aboard one of the most technologically advanced fishing vessels in the world, the NOAA research vessel Reuben Lasker. I will be participating on the second leg of the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) West Coast Sardine Survey. The ship will depart on the 17th of July from San Francisco, CA to conduct a survey primarily focused on Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) populations. The data collected from this survey, and others like it, will be used by NOAA and other federal and state agencies to make decisions about how to best manage the Pacific sardine fishery to ensure that Pacific sardines are harvested in a sustainable manner. The data provided by these types of surveys is critical to ensuring that appropriate regulations are put in place to protect the ecological integrity of our complex, marine ecosystems.

Personal Log:

Hello, my name is Kip Chambers. I am a biology instructor at Pratt Community College (PCC). PCC is a small liberal arts/vocational technical school located in south-central Kansas. I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) program. I first learned about the program from a colleague more than 15 years ago, and it has been something that I have been contemplating for the last several years. After applying in the fall I was ecstatic to find out in early February that I had been accepted to the program. Even though I was born and raised in Kansas, and Pratt, Kansas is more the 600 miles away from our nearest ocean (Gulf of Mexico), I have always been fascinated by the immensity, power and beauty of our oceans. I have often been asked “what do the oceans have to do with Kansas?” For those of you who live near an ocean, or work directly with these precious resources, this may seem like a silly question, but for many of my students and people in my community there can be a lack of understanding of how our oceans affect all of us, and how critical they are to maintaining the biogeochemical cycles and energy flow that make life possible on the planet.

The story of Kansas’ geological history cannot be told without talking about oceans. The map below depicts the 11 physiographic regions that outline the geology of Kansas. Many of the rocks at and below the surface of Kansas were deposited as shallow seas moved into and out of Kansas over millions of years. Because of this, Kansas has a rich marine fossil record that provides insight into the role oceans played in shaping our state. There is an excellent web site that is maintained by the Kansas Geological Survey that provides additional information about our state’s geology and the types of marine fossils that can be found in many areas of the state.

Kansas Physiographic Regions           Figure 1.1 Physiographic regions of Kansas provided by the  Kansas Geological Survey. (

The geology of Kansas is just one way oceans have affected our state; our economy, weather patterns, and ecology are all influenced by our oceans. Helping students to connect to our oceans, and understand that oceans impact the ecology of the entire planet, regardless of where you live is one of the main objectives that I hope to accomplish as I move forward with this project. It is my sincere hope that through my experiences with the TAS program I will become a more effective communicator and stronger advocate for relating the importance of protecting our planet’s most valuable resource, our oceans.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the people that have helped make this opportunity possible. Thank you to the NOAA TAS program, the crew and scientists of the Reuben Lasker that I look forward to joining soon, Pratt Community College, my family and friends and my beautiful wife Janet. See you in San Francisco…

Images from the Sunflower State:


Figure 1.2  Upper left, wind and wheat, lower left, energy production, upper right, generalized flight plan, lower right, Chambers’ family (Sadie, Janet, & Kip).  All photos from DK Chambers, map from Google Earth.


Kip Chambers’ page on NOAA Teacher at Sea Program website:*Chambers/blogs

Kansas Geological Survey’s GeoKansas website:

Pacific Fishery Management Council’s documents on Coastal Pelagic Species assessments: