Lacee Sherman: Teacher Grudgingly Back On Land, June 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

 NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 29, 2018

 

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Weather Data from the Bridge of the California-based whale watching boat Islander on 7/2/18 at 08:29

Latitude: 34° 13.557 N

Longitude: 119° 20.775 W

Sea Wave Height: 2 ft

Wind Speed: 5-10 knots

Wind Direction: NW

Visibility: 15 miles (seems a little off to me, but that is what I was told)

Air Temperature: 65° F (ish)

Water Temperature: not recorded

Barometric Pressure:  not recorded

Sky:  Grey and cloudy

leaving Dutch Harbor

View from the plane leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Reflection

Wow! What an incredible experience! When I was first accepted into this program I knew that it would be great and I knew that I was going to be working on research, but I feel like I ended up getting way more than I had expected. While filling out my application for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program we were given the opportunity indicate a preference for locations and types of research. I indicated that I would have been happy with any of them, but I was honestly hoping to be on a fisheries cruise, and my first choice of location was Alaska. That’s exactly what I got! I could not have picked a more perfect match for myself.

When I first received my specific cruise offer to join NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson it was pointed out to me that 23 days at sea was a LONG cruise, and I was a little bit worried about being at sea for that long when I had never even slept on a ship like that before. What I didn’t realize, was that the hardest part of this research cruise, would be leaving at the end of it. Saying goodbye to the scientists and friends that I had worked closely with for the past 3+ weeks was pretty tough.

 

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The natural beauty of Alaska, and Unalaska specifically, is breathtaking. I kept saying that I can’t believe that places like that existed in the world and people weren’t tripping over themselves to live there. This is a part of Alaska that very few ever see. I loved getting to explore Dutch Harbor and see some of the beaches and do a little hiking while in port, and seeing the different islands and volcanoes while at sea. I also was incredibly excited to see all of the wildlife, especially the foxes, eagles, and of course, whales.

 

Video of a whale swimming and then diving in the distance.

From the moment that Sarah and Matthew picked me up from the airport, I knew that I was in great company. They immediately took me in and invited me to join the rest of the science team for dinner. Bonding happened quickly and I am so happy that I got to work with and learn each day from Denise, Sarah, Mike, Nate, Darin, Scott, and Matthew every single day. I looked forward to (and now miss) morning coffee chats, and dancing in the fish lab together. I have so many positive memories with each of them, but here are a few: sitting and reviewing and discussing my blogs with Denise, taking photos of a stuffed giraffe with Sarah, go pro fishing (scaring the fish) with Mike, watching Scott identify and solve problems, listening to Darin play the guitar, fishing with Nate on the Bridge, and exploring on land with Matthew. These are just a few of the things that I will remember and cherish about these wonderful people.

I know that it happens in all workplaces eventually, but it’s weird to think that the exact same group of people on the ship will never again be in the same place at the same time because of rotations and leave, and whatnot. I feel very grateful that I was on the ship when I was because I really enjoyed getting to know as many people on the ship as possible, and to have them teach me about what they do, and why they do it.

Not only did I learn about the Scientific work of the MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) team, I learned so much about the ship and how it functions from everyone else on the ship. Every single time that I asked someone a question or to explain how something works, I was always given the time for it to be answered in a way that was understandable, and meaningful. I learned about: charting and navigation (thanks Aras), ship controls (thanks Vanessa), The NOAA Corps (thanks CO and Sony), ship engines and winches (thanks Becca), fancy ship knots (thanks Jay), water data collected by the ship (thanks Phil)… I could go on and on.

After landing back in port in Dutch Harbor, I got off of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and turned and looked at it, and my perception of it had changed completely from the beginning of the cruise. It sounds totally cliché, but it wasn’t just a ship anymore, it was somewhere I had called home for a short time. As I looked at the outside of the ship I could identify the rooms behind each window and memories that I had in that space. It was surreal, and honestly pretty emotional for me. On the last day, once we got into port, my name tag was taken off of my stateroom door and it was replaced with the names of the new teachers heading to sea.  It was sad to realize that I really was leaving and heading home.  It’s weird to think that the ship will continue on without me being a part of it any longer.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in port in Dutch Harbor, AK

A valuable part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program was me stepping back from being a teacher, and actually being reminded of what it feel like to be a learner again. I was reminded of the frustrations of not understanding things immediately, and also the exciting feeling of finally understanding something and then being able to show and explain it. I loved learning through inquiry and asking questions to lead to newer and better questions.  These are the things that I am trying to implement more in my classroom.

While on the ship I was able to come up with 3 new hands on activities that I will be trying out in my classes this year.  This is in addition to the one that is directly related to my research.  The new labs that I have created will help me to focus my efforts and give my students the skills that they will benefit from in the future.  I am also even more excited to go and pursue my Master’s Degree in the near future than I was before, even though I am more confused on what to go back to school for.

I love being able to participate in research in addition to teaching.  I really feel like it makes me a better teacher in so many ways.  It really reminds me what is important to try and teach my students.  In the world of Google searches and immediate information, learning a bunch of facts is not as practical as learning skills like how to test out a question, collect data, and share knowledge learned.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and I really hope that I am able to continue to find other research experiences for myself in the future.  I would love to be able to further my research experiences with MACE by visiting them in Seattle, and I would be happy to hop back on the Oscar Dyson, or another NOAA ship, at any time (hint, hint, wink,wink).  Thanks for the memories.

 

Video of TAS Lacee Sherman on the deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
[Transcript: Ok so right now it is 9 o’clock at night and the sun is still way up in the sky. It will not go down until like almost midnight. And that’s why they call it the midnight sun!]

 

TAS Lacee Sherman

TAS Lacee Sherman with her dog, Chloe after getting back home

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Running Out of Witty Blog Titles June 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 27, 2018

Snailfish!!!

TAS Lacee Sherman with an Okhotsk Snailfish

Weather Data from the Bridge at 15:00 on 6/27/18

Latitude: 56° 32.03 N

Longitude: 168° 08.15 W

Sea Wave Height: 2 ft

Wind Speed: 9 knots

Wind Direction: 229° (SW)

Visibility: 8 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 9.8° C

Water Temperature: 8.5° C

Sky:  Broken cloud cover

Water and cloud cover

Water and cloud cover on 6/27/18 @ 15:00

Science and Technology Log

Sometimes the pursuit of scientific knowledge requires very precise scientific instruments, and sometimes it just requires a bucket, funnel, and a coffee filter.  During the CTD casts, a special bottle collects water samples from a specific depth.  The CTD can hold multiple water sample bottles, so a few days ago I was able to choose the location for an extra water sample to be taken.  The required water sample was taken near the ocean floor, and I requested one at about 15 meters below the surface.

On the EK60 we had noticed a lot of “munge” in the water near the surface and we wanted to know exactly what was in the water that was reflecting an acoustic signal back up to the transducers since it did not appear to be fish.  The upper part of the water column that had the munge was expected to have more small and microscopic organisms than the sample taken at a lower depth because of what had been seen on the EK60.

Water Collection Bottle

CTD water collection bottles

The CTD water bottles have flaps on the ends that can be triggered at specific depths.  When the two CTD bottles were brought back on the ship, they were opened to pour out the water samples.  Once the required 1 liter sample from the bottle taken near the ocean floor was put aside for another scientific study, the rest of the water was put into large white buckets to be sampled and inspected as we saw fit.  We had one large bucket filled with water from near the bottom which we labeled “deep” and the water from only 15 meters down, which we labeled “shallow”.

We used coffee filters placed in funnels to strain out any microscopic organisms from the water.  We had one set up for the “shallow” water sample, and another for the “deep” water sample.  When there was a tiny bit of water left in the filter, we used a pipette to suck up the slurry of microscopic organisms and a bit of water and place them in a glass dish.  From there, we took a few drops from each dish and put them under a dissecting microscope.

Filtering Ocean Water

Funnel and coffee filter straining the living organisms out of ocean water

 

Using the dissecting microscope we were able to identify a few things that we were seeing, and even take photos of them through a special part of the microscope where a camera could be attached.  We did not individually identify everything that we saw, but we did notice that there were diatoms, rotifers, crab larvae, and some type of egg.  There was a noticeable difference though between the quantity of organisms in the shallow and deep samples.  As predicted, the shallow water sample had many more microscopic organisms than the deep water sample.

 

Personal Log

Yesterday we did two trawls and one Methot sample.  I understand so much more now about exactly how all of the instruments work and how to operate some of them.  I finally feel like I was getting the hang of everything and able to be more helpful.  Each trawl takes about 3 hours plus processing time, so the days pass much quicker when we are fishing often.

Methot net being brought on deck

Methot net coming on deck after a haul

In our second trawl of the day we ended  up catching a really neat kind of snailfish that isn’t very common.  It’s always exciting to get something other than pollock in the nets, and it was really neat this time since no one else had ever seen one before either!  After spending a lot of time taking photos, looking at identifying features and using books and the internet to help, we finally were able to identify it as an Okhotsk Snailfish.

Today we are steaming back to Dutch Harbor, AK and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about leaving life on the ship behind.  I will miss being a part of research and working with the MACE team.  I love being able to do research, and work closely with scientists and learn more about something that I really enjoy.  I will also definitely miss seeing the ocean every day.  I think it will probably be strange to walk on land now.  Since the ground won’t be moving anymore, hopefully that means that I can stop walking into walls!

All operations stopped on the ship last night so that we can have enough time to make it back to land before 09:00 on June 28, 2018.  Today I will be packing up my things, cleaning up my room for the next person, and then helping to clean and scrub the fish lab. Tomorrow I will return to life as a land dweller, although hopefully not forever.

Did You Know?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The Bering Sea has more than 300 species of fish, including 50 deep-sea species, of which 25 are caught commercially. The most important among them are salmon, herring, cod, flounder, halibut, and pollock.”

 

 

 

Lacee Sherman: Teacher With Fish Scales in Her Hair, June 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6 – 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 22, 2018

rain gear

TAS Lacee Sherman getting in rain gear to process a haul

Weather Data from the Bridge at 19:00 on 6/24

Latitude: 56° 0.7 N

Longitude: 169° 34.5 W

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 ft

Wind Speed: 16 knots

Wind Direction:107° (E)

Visibility: 10 nmi

Air Temperature: 8.1°C

Water Temperature: 7.7° C

Sky: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

With this blog, I will be focusing on the biodiversity in the Eastern Bering Sea. Biodiversity includes all of the different types of plant and animal species in a given environment. All of the species that I will be discussing I’ve seen come up in the trawl net, or have seen from the ship.

Adult Walleye Pollock

Adult Walleye Pollock

Common Name: Walleye Pollock

Scientific Name: Gadus chalcogrammus

Identifying Features: 3 Dorsal Fins, large eyes

Ecological Importance: Polllock influence the euphausiid populations and are food to many larger marine species, and humans.

Interesting Facts:  Walleye pollock produces the largest catch by volume of any single species inhabiting the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.

 

 

Common Name: Krill

Scientific Name:  Euphausiidae (Family)

Identifying Features:  1-2 centimeters in length on average.  They look similar to very small shrimp, and often swim in schools.

Ecological Importance:  Krill are a very important food source for many fish and also larger marine mammals such as whales.

Interesting Facts:  They are filter feeders and eat zooplankton and phytoplankton, which makes them omnivores.

Chrysaora melanaster

Chrysaora melanaster

Common Name:  Northern Sea Nettle, Brown Jellyfish

Scientific Name: Chrysaora melanaster

Identifying Features: 16 lines from the center of the bell to the outer edges of the bell.  Large range in sizes, from very small to very large.

Interesting Facts:  Jellyfish may become a problem for the Bering Sea in the future because they reproduce in large numbers and they can dominate an entire environment easily.

Pacific Ocean Perch

Pacific Ocean Perch

Common Name: Pacific Ocean Perch

Scientific Name: Sebastes alutus

Identifying Features: Bright to light red with brown blotches dorsally near fins, large spines on dorsal and anal fins, knob on lower jaw

Ecological Importance: delicious

Interesting Facts: Pacific Ocean Perch are a type of Rockfish.  Pacific Ocean Perch have a swim bladder similar to that of pollock, so they reflect similar acoustic signals and can sometimes be acoustically confused for pollock if no sample is taken in a specific area.

Yellowfin Sole

Yellowfin Sole

Common Name: Yellowfin Sole

Scientific Name: Limanda aspera

Identifying Features: Black line between body and dorsal and ventral fins, fins may appear yellow in color

Ecological Importance: Yellowfin sole are benthic (live and feed on the ocean floor).

Interesting Facts: Yellowfin sole grow slowly and may be 10.5 years old by the time they reach 30 cm in length.

Magister Armhook Squid

Magister Armhook Squid

Common Name: Magister Armhook Squid

Scientific Name: Berryteuthis magister

Identifying Features: 8 tentacles and two larger feeding arms, dark red in color, but white when damaged

Ecological Importance: Prey on fishes and other squid

Interesting Facts: These are the most abundant squid found in the waters of Alaska.

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon on the conveyer belt with pollock

Common Name: Chum Salmon

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus keta

Identifying Features: Metallic dark blue on the top and silvery on the sides

Ecological Importance:  Chum Salmon have adapted to live in saltwater and freshwater.  They mainly eat copepods, fishes, squid, mollusks and tunicates.

Interesting Facts:  Chum salmon eggs are hatched in freshwater rivers and streams.  They then travel downstream to live most of their life in the ocean.  When it is time, Chum Salmon spawn (reproduce) in the same freshwater stream they hatched in.  Once a salmon spawns, they die.

Pacific Herring

Pacific Herring

Common Name:  Pacific Herring

Scientific Name:  Clupea pallasii

Identifying Features: Large scales that are shiny silver along the sides and shiny blue along the top of the fish.  Tail has a fork and there is only one dorsal fin.

Ecological Importance: Eat phytoplankton and zooplankton.  Herring and their eggs are eaten by fish, birds, marine mammals, and humans.

Interesting Facts: Herring eggs (roe) are considered a traditional delicacy in Japan called kazunoko.

Yellow Irish Lord

Yellow Irish Lord

Common Name: Yellow Irish Lord

Scientific NameHemilepidotus jordani

Identifying Features: Yellowish tan to dark brown, white to yellow bottom, and yellow gill membranes

Ecological Importance: Since they are usually found close the ocean floor, they regularly eat things like fish eggs, isopods and amphipods, worms, and small fishes.

Interesting Facts: There is another species of Sculpin that is similar called a Red Irish Lord.

Fish Lab Gloves

A photo of our fish lab gloves

 

Personal Log

During our hauls, a member of the science team is needed on the bridge to watch for the presence of marine mammals and endangered bird species.  I am one of the people that gets to do this, and I must admit, there is a slight conflict of interest.  I, of course, want to see all of the marine mammals possible, but if they are nearby during a haul, we are required to give them space until they pass so that they are not injured in any way by the ship.  This can definitely slow down the process of hauling if we see them, but of course I don’t mind it if I get to see more whales.  Most of the time I don’t see any marine mammals and just end up enjoying a beautiful view of the open ocean.

I am definitely feeling more comfortable and at home on the ship now. Constant motion from the swells is the new normal, and the creaks and sounds of the ship are a new soundtrack to listen to (on repeat). Sometimes I like to push the limits and see how far forward or backward I can lean during larger swells to maintain balance and have a few superhero moments as I pretend to defy the laws of physics.

I’m getting to know more about the other people on the ship every day and it’s nice to get into a rhythm and start to really work well together and have a good flow, especially in the fish lab. If we are motivated to finish before meal times, we can process a good haul of Pollock in around 45 minutes. That is much quicker than we started at, and it’s because we have really learned how to capitalize on each other’s strengths and just being willing to do whatever job is needed in the lab, even if it is not our favorite task.

Scientists in the Fish Lab

Some of the science team in the fish lab. (left to right) TAS Lacee Sherman, Darin Jones, Sarah Stienessen, Denise McKelvey, Matthew Phillips, and Mike Levine

I have claimed a workspace in “the cave” (acoustics lab) that is perfectly in the way of the phone when it rings, but it’s usually quiet in there and I can focus on these blogs, reading, or planning for next school year. I’ve also been reading the transcripts to a ton of TED talks when we don’t have access to the internet.

Did You Know?

In Alaska, during the summer, they experience what is called “the midnight sun”. It is rarely ever dark enough to see the stars during the summer.  This happens because of how far north it is!

Midnight Sun

This photo was taken just after midnight on 6/21/18 (summer solstice).

 

Bonus!  Cool Photo time!

Cam Trawl image

Cam Trawl image of pollock and pacific ocean perch. Can you tell the difference?

Bird on the fish table

This bird flew into the table where the fish are held before being processed. It was just hoping for a free meal, but ended up getting stuck. After realizing it couldn’t get out on its own, a survey technician helped to get it out and back on its way.

Watertight door

The black bars on the sides of the doors hold it shut and are controlled by the black lever on the left of the photo. Talk about a tough door!

 

 

References:

Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “Yellowfin Sole Research.” NOAA Fisheries, 25 Oct. 2004, http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/species/yellowfin_sole.php.
“Crustaceans.” Crustaceans , Marine Education Society of Austrailasia, 2015, http://www.mesa.edu.au/crustaceans/crustaceans07.asp.
“Facts.” Facts | Pacific Herring, http://www.pacificherring.org/facts.
Jorgensen, Elaina M. Field Guide to Squids and Octopods of the Eastern North Pacific and Bering Sea. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2009.
Mecklenburg, Catherine W., et al. Fishes of Alaska. American Fisheries Society, 2002.
NOAA. “Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus Keta).” NOAA Fisheries, 21 Jan. 2015, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/chum-salmon.html.
TenBrink, Todd & W Buckley, Troy. (2013). Life-History Aspects of the Yellow Irish Lord ( Hemilepidotus jordani ) in the Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Northwestern Naturalist. 94. 126-136. 10.1898/12-33.1.

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Counting Krill June 16, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 16, 2018

 

Scientists on deck

Fisheries Biologist Sarah Stienessen, Chief Scientist Denise McKelvey, TAS Lacee Sherman, and Fisheries Biologist Nate Lauffenburger on the Hero Deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in front of a few volcanoes.

 

Weather Data from the Bridge at 18:30 on 6/17/18:

Latitude: 57° 09.7 N

Longitude: 166° 26.4 W

Sea Wave Height: 3-5 ft

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Wind Direction: 345°

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature: 7.2° C

Water Temperature: 7.8° C

Barometric Pressure:  996.8 mb

Sky:  Grey and slightly foggy

More scientists on deck

TAS Lacee Sherman with Fisheries Biologists Matthew Philips and Nate Lauffenburger on deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in front of nearby Volcanoes

Science and Technology Log

In the fish lab, after the haul is sorted out, a sample of each species are randomly selected to undergo additional measurements and data collection.  One of the primary pieces of information needed is the lengths for about 300 pollock per haul.  The length of the pollock is important because larger fish have larger internal organs.  The internal organ that matters most to this survey is the size of the swim bladder since this is what give us the echo that can be picked up by our acoustic transducers.

According to the NOAA Ocean Service, “If fish relied solely on constant swimming to maintain their current water depth, they would waste a lot of energy. Many fish instead rely on their swim bladder, a dorsally located gas-filled organ, to control their stability and buoyancy in the water column. The swim bladder also functions as a resonating chamber that can produce and receive sound, a quality that comes in handy for scientists locating fish with sonar technology.”

To process a trawl sample, the pollock are put into baskets and weighed. One basket is selected at random to obtain the lengths and weights of individual fish. 30-35 Fish are selected for otolith samples (ear bones) that can be used to age the fish.  These fish are also inspected to look for the sex of the fish and their maturity stages.  There are 5 different maturity stages for pollock:  immature, developing, pre-spawning, spawning, and spent.  Since the fish already needs to be cut open for this process, we will sometimes look at the stomach contents of the fish as well to see what they are eating.  Based off of stomach contents, one of the main food sources for pollock in the Bering Sea this summer are euphausiids, or krill.

Flow meter

Flow Meter used on the Methot Net. This is a calibrated instrument and we use the number of spins to measure the volume of water going through the net. This is an important tool for determining the catch per unit effort.

In addition to trawl samples, we also are taking samples of Euphausiids with a special tool called a Methot net. Four Methot samples will be taken on each leg of this research survey.  A Methot net includes a sturdy metal frame of a set circumference with a net attached to the back. The net is a very fine mesh (small holes), so that the small euphausiids don’t escape.  A flow meter is attached that measures the volume of water that is going through the net.

Methot Net on deck

A photo of the methot net on deck of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

The euphausiids are a very important component of the marine food web in the Bering Sea.  Euphausiids eat very small phytoplankton and zooplankton, so they are omnivores.  Pollock eat the euphausiids, and then the pollock are eaten by marine animals such as seals, orcas, large cod, and even larger pollock.  Humans also eat pollock, often in the form of imitation crab meat and the fish filet sandwiches from fast food chains.

Euphausiids being counted

Euphausiids being separated into groups of 10 so that they can be counted. This only represents a small sample of what was brought in with the Methot. There were 1,110 in total counted.

Once the Methot net has come back on the ship at the end of the haul, a scoop (sub-sample) of them is taken and counted.  Fish larvae and anything else that is not euphausiids is taken out and counted separately and then we go to work counting to get a total number of euphausiids from our sample.  In our small sub-sample of .052 kg, our count was 1,110 euphausiids.  Based off of the total haul weight of 2.12 kg, we are able to estimate the total number of euphausiids for this haul to be 45,251.  This number is calculated based off the total number and weight of our sub-sample, compared to the total weight of the Methot haul.

Personal Log

I finally saw Orcas!!  All of the running around on the ship was worth it!  We always seem to be heading in opposite directions so I have seen mostly just dorsal fins, but I’ll take it!  One morning I finally saw them from a closer distance and was able to see the white patch near the eye.  I feel like I will be remembered by everyone on the ship as the “crazy whale-obsessed teacher,” but I can live with that.

First Orca

The dorsal fin of an Orca spotted from NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

One of the side experiments happening on the ship looks at the survival rate of fish caught on traditional fishing lines versus fish caught in trawl nets.  One pollock had been caught and all of us on the ship decided the name should be Jackson Pollock.  Jackson survived for a few days, but didn’t last past 6/15/18.  The next day six new fish were put into the tank after a trawl catch, and after 24 hours, only two were still alive.

 

NOAA Careers and Unexpected Learning Opportunities

I have been trying to talk to everyone on the ship about how they first got interested in this type of work and exactly what their role is for day to day operations.  There are so many different career options that can allow you to live on ships and be involved with scientific research.

The past few days I have spent time trying to learn as much as I can about everything related to the ship.  I spent time speaking with Commanding Officer (CO) Michael Levine and Ensign (ENS) Sony Vang about their ship and land assignments and the requirements of the NOAA Corps.  ENS Vanessa Oquendo showed me how some of the ship’s controls work.  They are regularly focused on navigation (on a paper chart and electronically), and communication with other ships about positioning, weather, and the speed and direction of the ship.  There is a lot to consider and to maintain 24/7.

Easy button and emergency affirmation

A few of my favorite buttons on the ship.

Getting the nets in and out of the water is a very complicated process and involves many different ropes, chains and weights.  I noticed this really cool type of knot that seemed to undo itself, so I asked one of the Deck Crew members, Jay Michelsen to teach me some cool ship knots.  I learned how to make:  bowline knots, flying bowline knots, cow hitch knots, daisy chains, double daisy chains, and a way to finally wrap up headphones so that they won’t tangle themselves.

Matthew Phillips and Scientist Mike Levine taught me how to fillet a fish which will be useful since I enjoy cooking so much! I will no longer be intimidated to buy fish whole.  We got some practice on a spare cod that we caught and a few rockfish.

One of the licensed engineers, Becca Joubert, gave me a tour of the engine room and I was able to see the engines, winches, rudder, water filtration systems, and the repair shop.  I didn’t realize that fuel was held in different tanks, but it works best that way because of safety and because it helps to distribute the weight all around the ship better.

 

 

Did You Know?

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson was named after a commercial fisherman named Oscar Dyson.   There is a smaller boat on board named the Peggy Dyson after his wife, who would broadcast the weather forecast twice a day every day to local ships as well as personal announcements and important sports scores.

Things to Think About:

Dolphins and Orcas eat a variety of fish, squid, and sometimes other marine mammals, while large whales such as blue whales and humpbacks mostly rely on krill as their main food source. Why would such large marine mammals feed primarily on tiny krill?

Since there is a relationship between pollock and euphausiids, as the number of pollock grows, what is a reasonable prediction about the number of euphausiids?

 

 

Lacee Sherman: Teacher in the Fish Lab, June 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 12, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge on 6/12/18 at 13:00

Latitude: 56° 15.535 N

Longitude: 161° 17.273 W

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Wind Speed: 8.8 knots

Wind Direction: 30°

Visibility: 10+ nautical miles

Air Temperature: 7.7° C

Water Temperature: 7.52°C

Sky:  Blue with scattered clouds

TAS Lacee Sherman and Alaskan Pollock!!

TAS Lacee Sherman in the fish lab with an Alaskan Pollock. Photo credit: Sarah Stienessen

 

Science and Technology Log

There are many different types of samples that are taken on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Some of the samples collected on the ship are for the projects of the scientists that are here currently, and other samples are brought back for scientists working on related NOAA projects.  The scientists that I am working with are based out of NOAA in Seattle, Washington.

CTD through Port Hole

View through a port hole of the Hero Deck on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson of a scientific instrument called a CTD. The CTD is sent to the bottom of the ocean and back at specific locations. The CTD collects information related to conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth. The grey bottle attached to the side collects a water sample that will be analyzed later.

One of the projects that I have been helping with most frequently is processing the trawl samples once they have been collected.  When a trawl sample is collected, a large net is lowered off the stern of the ship that will collect the sample of fish (hopefully mostly pollock)  and other living things. The net also functions as a vessel to hold scientific instruments that collect other types of information. There is a camera (cam trawl) that is attached to the net and this records video that can be watched through a computer to actually see what is being caught in the net.  

Cam Trawl Jellyfish

Picture of a jellyfish captured by the Cam Trawl

Another useful instrument is the FS70, a sonar device that rides above the opening of the trawl net to ping on the fish going into it. Viewed from a screen on the Bridge in real time, this gives the scientists an idea of exactly how many fish are going into the net, so that they can adjust the depth of the net, or change the length of time for the trawl survey.  The goal for each trawl sample is to collect at least 300 pollock.

Pollock on length board

Photo of an Alaskan Pollock on a length board. Photo credit: Sarah Stienessen

Once the net has been brought in after haulback, the opening at the codend (bottom) of the net is released to allow the sample to be put in a metal tub called the table.  The table is capable of holding approximately 1 ton, or 2,000 pounds worth of fish.  Sometimes if there is more than can fit on the table, the crew will split the catch in half so that we are only measuring a portion of what was collected.  The rest of the fish are stored in another tank on the deck.  If we don’t end up with enough pollock on the table, we may need to pick through the other half that was saved on deck until we get enough. Measuring too few of them may not represent the accurate length compositions of the pollock.

On June 11th we collected trawl sample #7.  This haul was filled with mainly jellyfish, with pollock and a few herring.  The weight of this haul was very close to the amount that the table can hold so it was decided to split the catch.  Once we looked at what was put on the table and we realized that it wasn’t going to be enough pollock, Mike and Sarah jumped into the spare tank and pulled out all of the fish (whole haul) so that we would have enough to get as close to that 300 number as possible.

Funny in the fish lab

Photo of Sarah Stienessen and Mike Levine in the fish lab with a recent haul on the conveyer belt. TAS Lacee Sherman can be seen in the background sorting the haul. Photo Credit: Denise McKelvey

When the fish come into the fish lab, we sort out the different species and put them into separate baskets.  Each basket is weighed by species and input into a system called CLAMS (Catch Logging for Acoustic Midwater Surveys).  After all of the species have been sorted, a percentage of each species will be measured by length.  Another percentage of each species will be measured by length and weight.

 

From the pollock sample collected, 30 will be randomly picked to have their otoliths removed.  The otolith is the ear bone of the fish and it can be used to determine the age of that specific pollock.  They have rings, similar to tree rings that can be counted.  For information click here.

Pollock Otoliths

An otolith sample taken from an adult pollock in a glass jar.

Personal Log

I have not been shy with anyone onboard about the fact that I would love to see whales if they are around the ship.  I feel like this has almost turned into a game at my expense, but I don’t mind.  There have been multiple times when there have been “whales” and as soon as I run up the 3 flights of stairs and get to the Bridge, the whales are suddenly gone.  I think they are secretly timing me to see how quickly I can run up the stairs!  The exercise is good for me anyways.

I’ve finished two books already, which has been really nice.  I know that I love to read, but never really take the time anymore because it always seems like there is something else that I should be doing instead.  There’s a bookshelf here in the lounge, so I’ll find another to read after I finish the last one that I brought.

I try to spend some time outside every day, and it is so peaceful.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of waking up and looking at the ocean.  I don’t want to take any bit of this experience for granted.  I am so grateful that I have this opportunity and I want to take in as much of it as I can.  As I get to know more people on the ship I am starting to get to learn more from everyone about exactly what they do and why they chose to make this their profession.

Flying Bridge Selfie 6/10/18

Photo of TAS Lacee Sherman on the Flying Bridge of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

Everyone thinks of scientists, NOAA Corps officers, and engineers as being very serious all of the time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Professionalism is incredibly important and is always the focus, but there is also space for fun.  Every other day there is a photo competition where a picture is taken somewhere on the ship and you need to find out where it was taken and submit your answer.  There are also plastic Easter eggs that keep popping up everywhere filled with positive messages, or candy.  The “Oscar Dyson Plan of the Day” sometimes has puzzles to figure out on it as well as important information such as location, meal times, sunrise/sunset times and any other important information.

Easter Egg return zone

Easter Egg return zone

Did You Know?

There are 6 different species of flatfish found in the Bering Sea.  There are 2 species of Flounder, 3 of Sole, and 1 Plaice.

 

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Getting Her Sea Legs! June 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 8, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge on 6/9/18 at 17:00

Latitude: 55° 34.3 N

Longitude: 162° 39.0 W

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Wind Speed: 12 knots

Wind Direction: 335° NW

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature:  7.1° C

Water Temperature: 8.6° C

Sky:   Blue with scattered clouds

 

What have you done to protect the oceans lately? Picture of Lacee with finger pointing at camera

World Oceans Day! June 8th, 2018. What have YOU done to protect the oceans today?

Science and Technology Log

On Wednesday, June 6th 2018, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson left port from Dutch Harbor Alaska at 08:00 to go and fuel up for the upcoming voyage.  Fueling the ship takes hours and during that time, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson took on over 50,000 gallons of fuel.  After the ship was fueled, it searched for a spot in Captain’s Bay to calibrate the acoustic equipment. In order to calibrate the equipment, a metal ball made of tungsten carbide was suspended beneath the boat under the center board. The ball has known acoustic return values based on density and purity of the metal. It is attached at three points to the boat so that it can be moved under the center board to calibrate each transducer..  The location of the ball is adjusted under each transducer one at a time to the center of each beam.  Adjustments to the equipment will be made if the return from the ball at each transducer is not as it is expected to be.  The scientists had to change the depth of the ball in the water in order to avoid the fish to get an accurate reading.  The calibration can be different depending on the temperature of the water and the salinity (saltiness) of the ocean. A second calibration will be taken at the end of the research cruise and the average will be used in the necessary calculations.  Once calibration was complete and the equipment was retrieved, the ship started heading to the beginning location of the first transect line.

The journey from our calibration point to the start of the first transect line took approximately 23 hours, traveling at 12-13 knots.  The ship reached the northern end of the first transect line at approximately 21:00 (9 pm) on June 7th. The first trawl sample was taken shortly after at sunset, which was approximately 23:30 (11:30 pm).  This is not an ideal time to collect a trawl sample though since the fish move and behave differently at night.  The first trawl sample of the survey that I participated in was on 6/8/18 at approximately 15:30.

Operations on the ship run 24 hours a day, so some members of each team onboard need to be awake and working at all times.  Shifts for the science team are 12 hours long and the day shift runs from 04:00 (4 am) to 16:00 (4 pm) and the night shift is from 16:00 (4 pm) to 04:00 (4 am).  I am assigned to the day shift along with Chief Scientist Denise McKelvey and Fisheries Biologists Sarah Stienessen, Mike Levine, and Scott Furnish. On the night shift for the science team are Nate Lauffenburger, Darin Jones and Matthew Phillips.

 

In order to collect a trawl sample, members of basically every department on the ship are involved.  The NOAA Corps officers are on the Bridge driving the ship, charting the course that the ship will be traveling on as it collects it’s samples, as well as keeping track of the net, and all of the other duties that they regularly hold.  The stewards keep us all fed and happy. The deck crew are in charge of making sure that all of the nets are hooked up properly and are put into the water correctly as well as controlling the winches that release the nets. The engineers make sure that all equipment is functioning properly.  The survey technicians ensure that all of the scientific instruments used for making any type of measurements are attached to the net at different points, mainly on the kite.  The “kite” is a section of the net primarily used for holding scientific instruments. Some of the scientists are preparing the fish lab and getting dressed in waterproof gear, while the Chief Scientist is on the Bridge with the officers giving direction about where and when to start and stop trawling and exactly how deep the nets should be set. Adjustments to the net are regularly made during the sample collection.

The locations for when trawl samples will be collected is not pre-determined before the start of the research cruise.  The sites for samples are determined in real time by looking at the data collected from the acoustic pings being sent out by the transducers.  There are 5 different frequencies( measured in kilohertz) sent out by the ship’s transducers: 18 kHz, 38kHz, 70 kHz, 120 kHz, and 200 kHz.  The acoustic frequency that may best indicate the presence of pollock is 38 kHz. The chief scientist decides when she wants to “go fishing” based off of looking at the results coming back as echoes to the ship.

 

Acoustic data points collected at 5 wavelengths

This is what the acoustic data points look like as the ship is moving on the water. All 5 different frequencies are depicted in this image. The top left is 18kHz, bottom left is 38kHz (best for pollock), top right is 70kHz, middle right is 120kHz and the bottom right is 200kHz. Each dot represents an echo received by the ship’s transducers after the sound hits something in the water. The solid red band near the top of each window is the depth of the sonar transducer sending the acoustic pings, while the heavier red band at the bottom of each window is the sea floor.

On this leg of the research cruise thus far, 3 trawl samples have been collected from the transect lines.  I will include more detailed information and photos of the fish processing protocol in my next blog. In the next three pictures, there are temperature and depth profiles of our sample collection.  The depth (in meters) is shown by the shape of the line as it rises and falls, and the color shows the temperature (in degrees Celsius) that goes with the scale on the right of each figure. More specific details are underneath each image.haul 1 profile

 

haul 2 profile

 

haul 3 profile

Personal Log

Now that the ship is in the middle of the Bering Sea and is moving, I have learned an important lesson:  You can’t trust the floor. I know that sounds weird, but usually you know exactly where the floor is going to be when you are walking, but when the ship is moving in the water, the floor may be higher or lower than expected, causing a lot of wobbling.  This is especially challenging for someone who is as naturally clumsy as I am. There are times when I feel like a toddler learning to walk again, but I am getting more and more used to it already. At night it feels like being gently rocked to sleep.

I’m learning my way around the ship and I am starting to not walk right past the doors that I need to go into a few times before I remember that it’s the right place.  I am also getting more familiar with the people onboard as well as the schedule. Since my shift that I am working on is from 04:00 (4 am) to 16:00 (4 pm), it took a few days for me to adjust and everyone was very patient with me.  Coffee definitely helps! The meal times are as follows: Breakfast 07:00, Lunch 11:00, Dinner 17:00 and there are always some snacks available in the Galley.

Ocean Selfie! 6/7/18

Photo of TAS Lacee Sherman aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in the Eastern Bering Sea.

In my downtime on the ship, I have found a new favorite location; the flying bridge!  The flying bridge is located above the Bridge (where the Ship is controlled).  There is a chair up there that makes the perfect spot on a nice day to sit and read for a little while.  It is windy and cold, but worth it!  The view from up there is pretty amazing!

Did You Know?

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is one of the 7 uniformed services in the United States.  The other 6 include:  Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Airforce, Coast Guard, and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Math Challenges!!!!

If the Dyson regularly travels at 12.5 knots, how many miles per hour is it going?  (Hint: you may want to look at my previous blog before you try this.)

Currently 9 of the people aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson are women.  If there are 31 total people on the ship, what percentage of them are women?

Lacee Sherman: Teacher on Land and Teacher Leaving Port June 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 4, 2018

Unalaska Sign

A sign hanging in the airport when I landed in Dutch Harbor.  If this is where I started and my most recent coordinates are below, which way have I been traveling?

Weather Data from the Bridge on June 7th, 2018

Latitude: N 55° 22.897

Longitude: W 164° 20.546

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Wind Speed: 13 knots

Wind Direction: 270 degrees

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature:  7.5° C

Sky:  Grey and Cloudy

NOAA Ship, Oscar Dyson

Photo of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson at port in Dutch Harbor, AK.

Science and Technology Log

On this leg of the Research Cruise in the Eastern Bering Sea I will be helping a team of NOAA scientists collect data about a fish species called Pollock.  The datum (plural of data) that are collected will help to set the limits for how much pollock the fishing boats are allowed to catch. The data also allow scientists to track the populations of the pollock to look for patterns.  For additional information on Pollock, visit the NOAA fisheries website here.

During the survey, acoustic (sound) signals will be sent into the water by transducers at different frequencies and these acoustic signals will bounce off of the objects in the ocean and bounce back to the ship where the echoes will be picked up by the transducers. The data collected from each echo is presented visually to the science team.  When we reach a spot where a lot of the acoustic signals returning to the boat indicate the presence of fish, a trawl sample will be taken at that location. A trawl survey includes putting a large net into the water and scooping up a sample of all of the living things in that location. Once the trawl haul is brought onto the boat, it is taken to the fish lab where the fish are identified and measured.  

Fish Lab

Photo of the Fish Lab on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

The area being surveyed is the Eastern Bering Sea and for this study is divided up into 28 different transects have been mapped out and are spread 20 nautical miles apart.  We will start at northern point of the first transect and travel south until we reach the bottom of it. Once we reach the bottom of the first transect we will travel 20 nautical miles west to the southern tip of the second transect.  We will then travel north along this second transect until we reach the top and then travel the 20 nautical miles west until we reach transect 3. This will continue throughout my time on the ship, and on the 2 other legs of this journey.  On this first leg of the research cruise, the aim is to survey and sample from 16.3 of the transects which will total a journey of 2627 nautical miles on the transect lines.

According to the NOAA National Ocean Service Website, “A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth, and is equal to one minute of latitude. It is slightly more than a statute (land measured) mile (1 nautical mile = 1.1508 statute miles). Nautical miles are used for charting and navigating.”

Map of Transect Lines

Map of transect lines for NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson over the 3 legs of the Eastern Bering Sea Pollock survey. Current location is shown by the yellow boat. Can you find it?  Hint:  It’s near the vertical lines on the right.  First transect is the farthest on the Eastern (right in this photo) side.

 

Personal Log

TAS Lacee Sherman on Oscar Dyson deck

Photo taken on the stern of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Photo Credit:  Sarah Stienessen

It was a long trip getting to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, but it has already been worth it!  I am on the Island of Unalaska, which is a part of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The main port city is called Dutch Harbor, or commonly just “Dutch”.  This is such a beautiful place that I probably never would have seen otherwise. There are mountains filled with grasses, berry bushes, and wild orchids as well as snow-topped peaks and natural waterfalls.  There are bald eagles everywhere and foxes that are so fluffy they almost appear to be dogs from far away. Looking into the water you can see a few scattered otters floating on their backs and the occasional harbor seal.

 

OSI Morning photo

This photo was taken from the bow of NOAA ship Oscar Dyson at port in Dutch Harbor, AK.


As soon as I landed in Dutch, I was greeted by two of the scientists that I will be working with, Matthew and Sarah.  They took me to NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson to drop off my luggage before we all went out to dinner.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I actually had my own stateroom.  Due to the number of female scientists and us being on the same work shift, we were both able to have our own rooms.  The rooms are so much nicer than I had anticipated them to be! The mattresses are comfortable, I have a desk space, there’s a television (that I will probably never watch) and I have my own bathroom as well.  

      

After we had dinner and returned to the ship, I went on a mini hike with one of the members of the science team and we went to view this amazing natural waterfall.  You wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. There is so much more that you can do when the sun is up for most of the day. At 11:30pm (the latest i’ve stayed up so far) it is still light outside.  There are so many clouds that the sky looks pretty grey, and there are a ton of clouds, often hiding the tops of the mountain peaks.

 

Lacee Sherman Dutch Harbor Waterfall

Photo of TAS Lacee Sherman in front of a waterfall in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

 

The next morning I woke up and went for a nice long walk along Captain’s Bay and sat and had coffee on the rocks and just admired the incredible view.  It is so much more beautiful here than I had imagined. Later a few of us went for a drive around the island and a few people surfed in the ocean, but I wasn’t brave enough to get in the cold water this time.

Unalaska beach

Photo taken on Unalaska

Since we will be on the ship for a while (23 days) we stopped at the grocery store to bring a few things onboard that we want to have in addition to our regular meals prepared on the ship by the stewards.  I decided that I wanted to bring some fresh fruit, not realizing that I would be paying way more than I expected for them! Everything is expensive here!

Expensive fruit

$26 dollars worth of fruit in Dutch Harbor, AK.

Did You Know?

Even though we think of Bears and Moose being found all over Alaska, they are not found on the Island of Unalaska at all!  

Animals Seen

6/4/18 – Bald Eagles, Fox, Otters

6/5/18 – Bald Eagles, 4 Foxes, Otters, Harbor seal, Jellyfish (3 different species)

6/6/18- Bald Eagles, Jellyfish (2 species), Humpback Whales!!

 

Fox in Dutch Harbor

A fox spotted on 6/5/18 in Dutch Harbor

 

Bald Eagles on Crab Pots

These are crab fishing “pots” that are used by Alaskan Fisherman to catch crab.  How many bald eagles do you see in this photo?