Barbara Koch, October 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 40.63
Longitude -72.92
Speed 4.80 kts
Course 293.00
Wind Speed 19.13 kts
Wind Dir. 139.69 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.76 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.62 PSU
Air Temperature 16.20 ºC
Relative Humidity 89.00%
Barometric Pres. 101.44 mb
Water Depth 28.52 m
Cruise Start Date 10/2/2010

Science and Technology Log

In addition to collecting data about fish species in the Southern New England Atlantic Ocean, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is also collecting information about the ocean’s climate and plankton numbers. lankton refers to microscopic plants (phytoplankton), animals (zooplankton), decomposers (bacterioplankton), and the fish eggs and larvae of larger fish (ichthyoplankton). Plankton forms the base of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton is the food source for zooplankton, which in turn is the food source for larger fish. Water salinity and termperature (climate) are directly related to the production of plankton. A change in climate can cause a decrease in the production of plankton, therefore, less food for developing fish species. Low numbers of fish at the bottom of the food web means less food for fish at the top of the food web.

Reviewing Data

Reviewing Data

Plankton samples are taken at random trawl stations during the cruise. I had the opportunity to observe and assist the Senior Survey Technician, Jim Burkitt, during one sampling. Burkitt uses a Bongo Paired Zooplankton net system, which consists of two stainless steel cylinders with instruments that measure water flow, and two cone-shaped, fine mesh nets attached. The nets are lowered into the ocean and dragged alongside the ship for a specified amount of time, and at all levels of the ocean column. Burkitt monitors the location of the nets via computer during the sampling to ensure that the nets do not touch the ocean floor, thus gathering sediment instead of plankton.

Sampling

Sampling

Retrieving the nets

Retrieving the nets

The crew retrieves the nets at the end of the sampling period and places it on the deck of the ship. Once the nets are back on deck, we rinse the plankton from the top to the narrow, tied end of the nets byspraying the nets from the top towards the bottom.

Rinsing the plankton

Rinsing the plankton

Plankton

Plankton

Finished Sample

Finished Sample

When the catch is located at the bottom of the nets, we untiethe bottom and continue rinsing the sample into metal strainers. The top strainer has a large mesh screen to trap jelly fish and other organisms trapped in the net and to allow the smaller plankton to fall through to the lower strainer, which has a very small mesh screen used to collect the plankton sample. Here is what the sample looked like.

Finally, we carry the samples into the lab where we rinse the plankton into jars, add formaldehyde as a preservative, and seal the jars. The jars will be taken to the lab in Woods Hole for further analysis.

Personal Log

Northern Stargazer

Northern Stargazer

Armored Searobin

Armored Searobin

Even though many of our towing days were lost to gale force winds, we did end the cruise by catching some interesting species. First, was the Northern Stargazer (Astroscopus guttatus). The Northern Stargazer is found in shallow waters along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New York. It has a large head, small eyes on top of its head, and a large upward turned mouth. The Northern Stargazer buries itself in the sand on the ocean floor and waits for prey to swim by. Northern Stargazers also have an electrical organ around the eyes that can give us a jolt if we touch it.

Another interesting catch was the Armored Searobin (Peristedion miniatum). This species is bright crimson and is totally covered with bony plates. It can grow to be 13-14 inches long. It is found in the warm waters along the outer edge of the continental shelf in waters from Georges Bank off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts all the way down the Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina.

Monkfish

Monkfish

We also caught Monkfish or Goosefish (Lophius americanus). This fish is found along the eastern seaboard of the United States from Grand Bank down to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Monkfish live on the bottom of the ocean in sand, mud and shell habitats, and feed on whatever prey is abundant. The meat is said to taste a lot like lobster tail, and therefore is often referred to as “poor man’s lobster.”

striped sea bass

striped sea bass

More striped sea bass

More striped sea bass

Our most exciting catch came when we hauled in 212 striped sea bass! Striped bass occur along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence River in Canada all the way down to Florida. They live near the coast, in bays and tidal rivers. Striped bass have been very important to the United States fishing industry for centuries. The largest one we caught was 103 cm long and weighed 11.26 kg!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working and learning during the second leg of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey cruise. It was a great opportunity to see research at work in a real world setting, and I’m sure my students will benefit from everything I’ve experienced. I want to thank the scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, and the crew aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow for allowing me to be a part of your lives for twelve days. If any of you teachers out there are interested in applying to the Teacher at Sea Program, I highly recommend it. Check out their website at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/.

Barbara Koch, October 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2010

Weather from the Bridge

Latitude 39.94
Longitude -73.47
Speed 1.10 kts
Course 22.00
Wind Speed 34.25 kts
Wind Dir. 69.54 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.70 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.85 PSU
Air Temperature 15.80 ºC
Relative Humidity 88.00%
Barometric Pres. 1015.72 mb
Water Depth 45.00 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

The Bridge

The Bridge

I visited the bridge of NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to see how the ship is run. Thebridge sits atop the ship and is the command center for all navigation andcommunications operations during the cruises. Windows surround the entire bridge, giving NOAA Corps officers a 360 degree view of the surrounding ocean. Here, Commanding Officer, Anne Lynch, and Junior Officer, ENS Kyle Sanders stand at the main bridge console of the ship. NOAA Corps officers chart the ship’s course, control the speed, steer the ship, detect other objects in the ocean via sonar, monitor weather conditions, and communicate with others at sea, on the ship, and on shore from this console.

Console for steering the ship

Console for steering the ship

Aft Control Station

Aft Control Station

The Aft Control Station (ACS) is located at the rear of the bridge and overlooks the working deck. The ACS provides control ofthe Auto Trawl System to pull the research net at a constant andstraight trawl. A closed circuit television improves the crew’s visibility while operating the gear from the bridge. Here is a picture of the ACS control panel on the bridge and the research net on the rear deck.

Henry B. Bigelow is also equipped with two scientific SONAR systems used for gathering data on fish and plankton and for collecting oceanographic data, such as water salinity and water temperature. Transducers are mounted at the center of the hull and extend below the ship to take acoustic readings of water depth or the location of schools of fish. One of the SONAR transducers on this ship can work at depths as deep as 5000 meters and can detect objects under water as close as one meter or as far away as 800 meters. It also detects objects on the sea floor, as well as in the water column. This system is controlled from the bridge, as well.

SONAR controls

SONAR controls

A separate control panel is used to monitor and control power and water usage on board the ship. Two generators provide electricity for the ship. There are also tanks in the hull designated for different purposes, such as holding water, fuel, and potable water. This control board monitors all of the tank and power usage levels for the entire ship.

Personal Log

The lounge

The lounge

Today is my birthday! Spending my birthday aboard a NOAA research vessel is a great gift! Today is also the second day spent waiting for the seas to calm down so we can take more samples. Wind speeds are 34.25 kts. and the waves are about 11-16 feet high. The boat is rocking and rolling, and makes it very difficult to move around. The night watch is sleeping, so we cannot go in our staterooms, and we must be quiet everywhere we go. It is too windy to go outside on the deck, as well. The only thing we can do is wait in the lounge. The lounge is equipped with a television, two computers, couches, a conference table, games, movies, and reading material. Since it is my birthday, I have the honor of selecting one of the movies we will watch. That’s a hard thing to do when you are with a group of people with so many different tastes and personalities. . . the “A Team” it is! It’s great that the crew and scientists have a place to go for entertainment, because waiting for so many hours on end can start to get on everyone’s nerves.

Gym

Gym

Luckily, the ship also has a workout room, which I visited briefly. It’s very difficult to lift weights when the ship is rocking, and the elliptical machine seemed to run by itself. The stationary bicycle was a little easier to manage, and it felt good to move my legs after sitting for so long in the lounge.

Galley

Galley

However, I think the biggest morale booster for me, the crew and the scientists is thewonderful food that Dennis and Randy make in the galley. Their menus rival those of some finer restaurants I’ve visited, and we are treated to their artistry every day way out here in the ocean. I’ve truly been spoiled!

Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill

Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit

In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom

My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head

The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.

Sunset

Sunset

Barbara Koch, October 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 41.31
Longitude -71.40
Speed 6.50 kts
Course 192.00
Wind Speed 11.29 kts
Wind Dir. 246.00 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.81 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.87 PSU
Air Temperature 15.90 ºC
Relative Humidity 57.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1014.52 mb
Water Depth 35.81 m
Cruise Start Date 10/2/2010

Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Science and Technology Log

Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts is the Chief Scientist for our cruise. I had a chance to talk with her about her background, experiences, and job while we were waiting to leave port today.

When working onshore, Rowe is responsible for pre-cruise preparations, such as ordering supplies for the trip and coordinating the collection of special samples for in-house and out-of-house scientists. She also works on testing a new version of FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System), which is the system we are using to collect data about the fish populations.

During the cruise, when serving as Chief Scientist, Rowe shoulders a lot of responsibility. She schedules the watch teams, works with both watch teams, and acts as a liaison between the scientists and the ship’s personnel on the bridge (the room from which the boat is commanded). Although the sampling stations are randomly selected via computer before the cruise, Rowe works with the bridge to determine in which order stations will be sampled. On this cruise she has consulted with the bridge often because the weather has impacted our travel so much. Rowe relates that the job of chief scientist is mentally tiring because she is really on call the entire cruise. After the cruise, Rowe works with post-cruise management. She makes sure the samples collected are distributed to the scientists, and she audits data to make sure there were no errors in data collection.

Rowe grew up in Florida and attended the University of Florida where she earned a BS in Natural Resource Conservation with a minor in Wildlife Ecology. During her undergraduate program, she studied sampling, and uses this information extensively in her job now. After she graduated from college, Rowe joined the Peace Corps. She spent over one year working in Congo, Africa on a fresh water project. Then, she spent two years on Palau in Micronesia working in marine resource management. Rowe has been with NOAA for eight years, now. She goes on five to six research cruises a year, which adds up to about sixty days for the entire year. She serves as Chief Scientist on the majority of her cruises, but still enjoys the rare cruise when she works as a scientist processing catches.

Rowe has some advice for young people thinking they might like a career like hers. First, get a degree in any science area. A marine science degree isn’t really necessary. Work experience is the really important key. Second, volunteer as much as you can. Volunteering to work on research cruises not only builds a resume, but it allows students to try it out early on in their school career to see if they like it.

Stacy Rowe has strong interpersonal and organizational skills that are important for her leadership position, and I’ve enjoyed working as a volunteer scientist under her direction.

Personal Log

Newport, Rhode Island is a great place to visit. It was a center for shipbuilding and trade during colonial times, and is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Some of the United States’ wealthiest families built summer homes overlooking the bay, and these homes are open for tours today. I spent a nice afternoon on the “Cliff Walk” which is a trail that skirts around the edge of the estates just above the water. I had been there twenty five years ago, so it was fun to revisit the area.

Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Bay.

After two days in port, we are heading back out to sea. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and the waters are pretty calm. It’s hard to believe that we will be in rough waters once we leave Narragansett Bay. I’m riding up on the weather deck as we leave the bay, and I see many sailboats, two commercial cruise liners, Fort Adams (which has guarded Narragansett Bay since Colonial Times), Clingstone (a famous house built on a rock in the water), and the Newport (Pell) Bridge. I’m definitely putting Newport on my list of places to revisit.

In the Wet Lab

Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish

Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish

Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish

Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish

We have processed Atlantic Spiny Dogfish in the lab this week. This fish isn’t very popular for food in the United States, but it is exported to Europe for “fish and chips.” In 1998, this species was overfished, therefore, there were limits placed on the numbers fisheries could catch. Since that time, catch levels have been rebuilt.

The Atlantic Spiny Dogfish lives a long time: females up to 40 years and males up to 35 years. Females are larger than males and give birth to between two and fifteen live pups. During gestation (18-24 months) the pups have a yellow sack at their necks called a “yolk.” The Spiny Dogfish, processed here by TK, was a female with six pups. You can see the yolk on the two pups in the picture at right.

Barbara Koch, September 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude 41.53
Longitude -71.32
Speed 0.00 kts
Course 58.00
Wind Speed 16.00 kts
Wind Dir. 143.26 º Surf.
Water Temp. 18.79 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.45
PSU Air Temperature 21.50 ºC
Relative Humidity 91.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1014.67 mb
Water Depth 12.53 m
Cruise Start Date 9/27/2010

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is now docked in Newport, Rhode Island due to a deep trough of moisture from the East Pacific and Tropical Storm Nicole in the Atlantic moving up the Atlantic coast towards New England. The National Weather Service has issued a gale warning, because winds associated with this weather system are causing rougher seas, and it is too dangerous for the ship to continue trawling the ocean floor. When ships are at sea conducting research, it is vitally important that NOAA monitors current weather and wave conditions to insure the safety of the crew and scientists aboard their vessels. Actually, NOAA provides current weather information for everyone in America, including commercial fishermen and all of us on land. Visit NOAA’s National Weather Service website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ to see what’s happening today.

Our ship is equipped with instruments that collect weather and water data.Data is collected for wind speed, wind direction, water temperature, surface water salinity, air temperature, relative humidity, and barometric pressure. The information listed above under “Weather Data from the Bridge” is information gathered from the weather station located on top of the ship. Weather information is posted hourly. NOAA also has buoys placed in the waters around the United States, the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans that collect data. Visit the National Data Buoy Center’s website at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/ to see where they are located and to read current data.

Henry B. Bigelow

Henry B. Bigelow

Wind movement in the atmosphere and water movement in the ocean are interrelated. When wind blows across the surface of the ocean, friction causes water molecules to move in a circular motion. Energy built up from friction transfers from one molecule of water to the next as each molecule rotates into the next. This action causes a wave to form. The size of the wave depends on three factors; the strength of the wind gust, the distance it blows (fetch), and the length of time it gusts (duration). NOAA’s buoys and ships collect wave measurements over a twenty minute sampling period for wave height (WHGT), wave period (APD), and the period with the strongest wave energy (DPD). A “gale warning” is issued when wind speeds are expected to measure 39-54 mph causing waves to reach between 18-25 feet in height. So, we are here until the seas calm down, which may be Saturday. While at dock, we’ll have time to explore Newport.

Personal Log

Foul weather gear

Foul weather gear

I’m really sad that we had to go in to port because I was just getting my sea legs and starting to feel comfortable with my work in the wet lab.But, I am glad to have a little time to wash my clothes.Everything I wear in the lab smells like fish! We wear our regular clothes, but put “foul weather gear” on over them before going into the wet lab. Foul weather gear consists of rubber boots, suspendered waterproof pants, and a waterproof rain jacket. Here is a picture of the gear hanging in the room where we get into our gear, and a picture of me in my pants holding a large skate. We store the pants over the boots so we can just step right in and pull the pants up, just like fire fighters. We always spray all the fish remnants off before we come back into this room to take off our gear.

Converyor belt in the wet lab

Converyor belt in the wet lab

We also wear rubber gloves during all of our work. The scientists have been using the blue gloves like the ones John is wearing at right, but scientists from past cruises commented they had a hard time holding onto the fish, so we are testing two other types of gloves on this cruise. The two gloves are rubber, but one is thick like the blue gloves and one is thinner.Both gloves have ridges on all of the fingers to allow for better gripping. I’ve been wearing the thicker orange gloves. So far, these gloves have worked well for me. I am able to easily pick up flat fish like flounder, but the sharp point of a scup’s dorsal fin poked through my glove once. That hurt! I’m just glad I didn’t have the thinner gloves on. A lot of fish slime also collects on the ridges throughout the watch. That’s easily remedied with a quick rinse from the nearby hose. Now, I think I’ll try out the blue gloves, so I can make a valid comparison.I’ll let you know my results at the end of the cruise.

Gloves

Gloves

Barbara Koch, September 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow

Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 41.36
Longitude -70.95
Speed 10.00 kts
Course 72.00
Wind Speed 19.19 kts
Wind Dir. 152.91 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.06 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.91
PSU Air Temperature 19.80 ºC
Relative Humidity 91.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1012.45 mb
Water Depth 31.48 m
Cruise Start Date: 9/27/2010

Science and Technology Log

I have the privilege of working with the science team on Leg II of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow from September 27 – October 7, 2010. We left port on Monday, September 27 and have been conducting the survey in the waters of Southern New England.

Processing Fish

Processing Fish

Fisheries surveys are conducted every spring and autumn in order to determine the numbers, ages, genders and locations of species that are commonly caught by the commercial fishing industry. The surveys are also carried out to monitor changes in the ecosystem and to collect data for other research. The scientists working on this leg of the survey are from Alaska, Korea, and New England. This ship works around the clock, therefore, we are divided into a day watch and a night watch, and we are all under the direction of the Chief Scientist, Stacy Rowe. I’m on the day watch, so my team processes fish from 12:00 noon until 12:00 midnight.

In order to collect a sample of fish, our ship drags a net for twenty minutes in areas that have been randomly selected before the cruise began. After the “tow,” the net is lifted onto the boat, and the fish are put in a large area to await sorting. The fish move down a conveyor belt, and we sort the fish by putting the different types into buckets and baskets. Once, the catch has been sorted, we move the buckets onto a conveyor belt, which moves them to stations for data collection.

Measuring fish

Measuring fish

Two people work at a station. One is a “Cutter” and the other is a “Recorder.” The cutter measures the length and weight of the selected species of fish on a “fishboard.” This data is automatically entered into the computer system. Depending on the species, the cutter might also be required to take an age sample or a stomach sample. Age is determined by collecting scales or an otolith (sometimes called an ear bone), depending on the species. The cutter removes these and the recorder puts them in a bar-coded envelope to send back to the lab for later study. The cutter also removes the stomach, cuts it open, and identifies what the fish has eaten, how much, and how digested it is. All of this information is entered into the computer for later analysis.

The information gathered during this cruise will give NOAA and other organizations valuable information about the health of the fish species and their ecosystem.

Personal Log

I arrived the night before we left port, and I was able to spend the night on the boat. My stateroom sleeps two people in bunk beds, and each person has a locker in which to stow our belongings. The stateroom also has a bathroom with a shower. Right across the hall is the scientist’s lounge. It has two computers, a television, many books, and games. This is where we sometimes spend our time while we are waiting for a tow to come in.

We spent much of the first day waiting to leave port. Once underway, some tests were conducted on the nets, and my Watch Chief showed me pictures of some of the common species we would see, explaining how to identify them. We began processing fish today. The first time the fish came down the conveyor belt, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do with them. It worked out fine because I was at the end of the conveyor belt, so I only had to separate the two smallest fish, Scup and Butterfish, and Loligo Squid. After my first try at processing, I felt much more confident, and I even was able to tell the difference between Summer and Winter Flounders. One faces to the right and the other faces to the left!