Carol Schnaiter, Home Again! June 25, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

Mission: I am back home in Amboy, IL, now so my mission is getting back to a “normal” schedule and getting my land legs back!

Weather: Partly sunny, 82 degrees

Date: June 25, 2014

Early morning work

Early morning work!

Science and Technology:

Hypoxia or low oxygen levels in the water is my final topic. The “dead zone” may seem like it does not relate to me being home, but in reality it really does.

This “dead zone” is affected by many things such as the oceanographic conditions, but a major cause is excessive nutrient pollution from agriculture and waste water. Being from a rural agricultural area I wonder how much of what we are doing here in the north affects the ocean waters far away?

So how does this all start? The nitrogen and phosphorus that flows into the water fuels the growth of algae, later when the algae dies and decays, it sinks to the bottom. At the bottom the bacteria will devour the dissolved oxygen from the water. With little or no oxygen the organisms living there must either move, if they can, or they will die.

Where does this nitrogen and phosphorus come from? Most of this can be found in fertilizers from agriculture, golf courses and suburban lawns, discharges from sewage treatment plants, and even from erosion of soil full of nutrients. Since past spring was very rainy and there were floods near the Mississippi River much of this was taken from the soil into the water. The flood waters then drained back into the river and into the gulf carrying many of these nutrients.

How do we know this is happening and that it is getting worse? On the NOAA Ship Oregon II and other ships there are daily checks of the water oxygen levels. Tests similar to these have been conducted for many years. The results are compared and they show that changes in the oxygen levels are happening and not for the better.

While on the ship the scientist performed these tests using the CTD.  Water taken from the CTD is handled very carefully so no oxygen is added by accident. As chemicals are added, you can see the changes where the oxygen in the water bonds to the chemicals. The results of these tests are compared to the results collected by the computer.  Having both tests generate similar results show more proof of the oxygen levels.

CTD coming up

CTD coming up!

I noticed that when the ship was closer to land, the oxygen levels would be lower and Lead Scientist Kim Johnson said as the ship traveled closer to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the levels would drop even more. (I plan on watching the results as they are posted.)

Can anything be done to stop this? Some scientist say one of the solutions would be to use fewer fertilizers another would be to maybe watch when the chemicals were added, so there would be less runoff.

Of course checking septic systems and sewage treatment plants to be sure they are up to code and working correctly would help. These solutions sound simple, but maybe people do not even realize what happens up north and how it really does affect what is going on at the bottom of the ocean.

Maybe our Amboy Marsh is the beginning, a place where the water can be filtered.

Here is a map showing the levels of oxygen in the water.

https://teacheratsea.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/20140625_051938-1.jpg

Personal Log:

I have been home now for four days. My land legs are back and I only feel dizzy when closing my eyes while washing my hair in the shower. I want to thank everyone for reading my blogs, I hope you enjoyed my adventure and learned something new.

As I look through my pictures, memories of the sixteen days I spent at sea flood my mind. I look at the safety precautions that were taken to make sure everyone on the ship stayed safe. The drills, the posting of where everyone was to go and what they were suppose to do in case of an emergency, and the sign stating how many days the ship had gone without a problem. I always felt safe, everyone was very careful and followed rules to ensure the safety of everyone….just like we do at school!

Accident free days

525 Days without an accident!

Ship's emergency bullets

Emergency bullets

I also think about how what seemed like a tiny space became my home away from home. Everything you need to survive on a mere 178 ft ship! Two showers for everyone to share, three heads (toilets) and one washing machine and one dryer. I thought it would be impossible, but it just proved my husband’s theory that we have too much in our home!

laundry area

Laundry Area!

Shower room

Two showers to share with everyone!

I want to tell you how thankful I am that NOAA has this wonderful program and allowed me to participate. I know many teachers applied for this and I am honored that I was selected. Thank you to the scientists aboard the ship: Kim, for EVERYTHING, the Night Shift: Taniya, Andre, Lee, Chrissy, and Rebeca for all of their guidance and help.

The deck crew: Chris, Chuck and Mike-thanks for your support and for making the night go by so quickly!  Master Dave Nelson and ALL the members of his crew for their help in explaining everything and the tours on the ship!

This survey opened my eyes to what is happening under the water and how fragile life in the deep blue sea really is. It confirmed my thinking that we (the human race) need to look closely at what we are doing everyday and how it affects others. I plan on following the NOAA Ship Oregon II during the rest of the summer groundfish survey and during the fall groundfish survey. I want to see how the oxygen level changes, how the data collected affects the shrimp season, and follow the members of the ship!

Day One

Our first day together! (Photo by Karen Mitchell)

I cannot wait to share with my students and with anyone that will listen! Would I do this again? YES, I would go back to sea in a minute if I had the chance!

Carol Schnaiter, Near the End, June 20, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

Mission: Groundfish Survey

A beautiful day

A beautiful day!

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Friday, June 20, 2014

Weather: Partly cloudy. Winds 5-10 knots. Waves 1 meter

Science and Technology:

Collecting plankton is a very important activity for the scientists on the ship. Everyday and night they collect the very tiny plants and animals we refer to as plankton. Plankton is very important because it supplies the world with oxygen and it is the beginning of many food chains.

Plankton

This is what we collect using the bongo nets.

The bongo nets are used to collect the plankton from the water. There are two bongo drums connected together and lowered into the water. Each one has a cylinder container connected to the end of the net with holes covered with mesh so that the water can flow out, but the mesh catches the plankton.

Tiny plants and animals that drift in the ocean currents flow into the nets. When the nets are brought back onto the ship, they are rinsed so that nothing is lost. The material collected is then rinsed into sieves and into jars with preservatives. The scientists that use the plankton for research decide which preservatives will be added. Sometimes it is in ethanol and sometimes in formalin, it is up to the scientists at the lab. All of these jars are sent to the lab on land and sometimes the material may be sent to labs in Poland to be examined.

To know how far the nets need to be lowered the scientists work with the deck crew and the bridge. Everyone makes sure the nets go very deep into the water, but that the nets do not touch the bottom. If they did touch the ocean floor there is a good chance that the nets would be damaged.

They also need to monitor how much water flows through the nets while the nets are in the water. To do this there are small flow meters connected to the nets. Before the nets go into the water, the numbers on the flow meter are put into the computer. After the nets come back up the numbers are again entered into the computer. Looking at the difference between these two numbers let the scientist know how much water flowed through the nets.

Flow meter on bongo net

Here is the flow meter on the bongo net.

The main reason plankton surveys are conducted is to collect samples for estimating the number and place where fish larvae can be found.

When we are doing the CTD, we must give the weather conditions: cloud cover, height of waves, and the color of the water.

Here I am checking the sky and water.

Careers:  The people behind the scenes

The Chief Steward Walter Coghlan is a delightful person to watch in the kitchen and a lifesaver for me while I was under the weather. Walter has been with NOAA since 2008 and with his 21 years in the Navy, this Saturday, June 21st, will mark the 30th year at sea for him.

In the Navy, Walter was on various ships such as the USS Lexington and USS John F Kennedy. He even was a cook on a mine sweeper during the war. In the Navy he was a Culinary Specialist, he said that while on the USS John F Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan (everyone near Amboy and Dixon knows who that is) came aboard and asked for Walter to make fried chicken.
Walter also completed Finishing School for Chefs and for three years he served as the chef at the White House. This was when President George Bush was in office.

On the ship he has a budget of $10,000 per month to feed over thirty people three meals a day and provide snacks. His day starts around 4:30 AM and ends around 6:30 PM. He is certified as a Chief Cuisine and he is a superb chef. His future goal is to retire in one year and spend time with his family.

Chief Steward and 2nd cook

Chief Steward Walter and 2nd Cook Steve in the kitchen.

2nd Cook is Steve Daley. Steve is on his first trip on the NOAA Ship Oregon II. He is a augmenter, which means he is a sub and fills in where and when he is needed.

Steve is a Army veteran where he was a cook for eleven years. After the Army, Steve worked at the Pennsylvania Dept. of Correction where he taught culinary classes for 20 years.
Steve is also a wonderful chef and working in the small kitchen space must be difficult at times.

You can believe me when I say that eating on this ship was as good as eating at a fancy restaurant at home!

Engineers:
Sean Pfarrer is the Chief Marine Engineer on the NOAA Ship Oregon II. Due to my schedule the only time I saw Sean was when he was eating, so I was not able to interview him.

Richard Brooks

1st Engineer Richard Brooks

1st Engineer is Richard Brooks. He just joined the NOAA team on this trip and will be with NOAA for two years. Before that he was an engineer on the big oil tankers. He talked about being on the big oil tankers and pointed out the differences between them. He explained how some of the tankers are so big they can not go close to land and smaller tankers will either take fuel to them or from them. It is amazing how much information he has about the different ships.

Richard would sometimes make a trip through the wet lab after our catch to see  what we caught.

 

Down in the engine room.

Down in the engine room.

 

David Carlise

2nd Engineer David Carlise

2nd Engineer is David Carlise. David was in the Coast Guard for four years. He has traveled all over the world on ships and had many stories of his adventures to share with us. After leaving the Coast Guard, David was a Commercial Fisherman for 17 years where he was the captain. He was a Merchant Marine and was the engineer for a cargo boat, tub boat, and a tanker. He will be getting off in Galveston and flying to the state of Oregon for his next assignment on another ship.

 

 

Ship's electrical panel

Ship’s electrical

JUE Jerry Britt

Junior Engineer Jerry Britt

Junior Engineer (JUE) Jerry Britt joined NOAA in 2010, He was in the Navy for 20 years in charge of 40 guys as an engineer.On the NOAA Ship Oregon II, Jerry could be called the maintenance man, he fixes everything mechanic. He gave Robin and I a tour of the engine room, it is very noisy and very hot down there, but amazing to see what makes the ship sail! Jerry explained how everything works down below our feet. The electrical board is huge! And seeing the crank shaft of the engine was really cool!

Wiper Otha Hill

Wiper Otha Hill

Wiper Otha Hill, also known as OC, has been with NOAA since 1984. He has worked on the ship Oregon II for 18 years and worked on four other NOAA ships. One of the ships was a weather ship in Chile! He has also worked on Union Ships in the engineering dept., built ships for four years, was a welder and a Junior Engineer and spent six years working on big ships.

As the Wiper, Otha, cleans, paints, and assists with everything that needs something done to it in the engine room area.

These are the people that have very important jobs on this ship. When the shower drain is plugged or the air conditioning goes out, everyone is looking for these men!

Mike and Chuck

Mike and Chuck bringing in the nets.

Personal:

There are signs that my sea adventure is winding down. The water is green, I am seeing more oil rigs, and Ensign Laura Dwyer opened the ship’s store!

Ship's store

Ensign Laura Dwyer opens the ship’s store!

Even on the NOAA Ship Oregon II you can shop!

Today the dolphins were back following the ship. They came right up to the stern of the ship, it was amazing watching them slap the water to let the other dolphins know where the fish were!

 

 

Frigatebird

Frigate bird

The other night and again today we saw Frigate birds flying near the ship. Some say that seeing this bird will bring you good luck….hope so! The Frigate (Fregata) is a seabird that can have a wingspan of over 2 meters. They are a large bird, closely related to the pelicans. For more information check out this website: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/frigatebird/

I cannot wait to share my photos and everything that I have learned. The various species of fish, that you can only tell apart by looking at that one little dot on the bottom of their body or because their eyes are closer together that the other fish (that is the same shape and color and looks just like them) or the shrimp and crabs that are so numerous it has taken me this entire trip to look over the books in the dry lab with their names and information.

Chrissy and me

My bunkmate, Chrissy and me.

Even though my bunkmate, Chrissy Stepongzi and I did not spend a lot of time together (we worked opposite shifts), I can say she was there when I was sick and has a great sense of humor. She graduated with a Major in Biology and worked as a high school sub for two years. For Chrissy the best part of this job is being on the ship and when she is on land she likes to spend time with her cat and dog.

Yes, I have picked up fish of all sizes and shapes. Yes, I can tell if they are a boy or girl. Yes, I have taken the heads off of shrimp. Yes, I have had wet feet for over ten hours everyday. AND yes, I have survived. I do miss my family, my dog (Ginger) and all the students at Central, but I would come back to this ship in a minute!

The Night Shift

The Night Shift-Taniya, Andre, me, and Robin (Photo by Kim Johnson)

I feel so fortunate to have been selected for this and even more fortunate to have been able to sail on the NOAA Ship Oregon II with everyone. Kim Johnson went above and beyond to make sure I was involved and learning something new everyday….thanks! And Taniya, Andre, and Robin will forever make me laugh when I think back on how much time we spent together…the work, the songs, the stories, have all made lasting memories!

Carol Schnaiter, Science is Not Always in a Lab! June 18, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

sunrise

Thursday morning!

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 18, 2014

Winds: 20 knots

Waves: 3-4 ft

Latitude: 2804.78N

Longitude: 09440.95W

 

Science and Technology Lab:

Well, by the title you probably guessed that we will be discussing the reason we are on this ship. The NOAA Ship Oregon II is involved with SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) which is a state/federal program to collect, manage, and disseminate fishery independent data. This program has been around for a very long time and the commercial fishermen depend on the information to plan where they will sail.

NOAA Fisheries does surveys of sharks, groundfish, plankton, and reeffish in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA uses the data collected on the ship and it is sent to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. This information is sent out to everyone that would like to see it. To see the first preliminary data for the 2014 SEAMAP summer shrimp go to this site:

http://www.gsmfc.org/default.php?p=realtime/smr_t.htm

The real-time plots on the website show the station locations and total catches for the pink, white, and brown shrimp . The number of shrimp found and the size of the shrimp is important data that goes out to the public.  The stations that are tested are randomly selected by the depth strata (<20 fathoms, and >20 fathoms) and by statistical zone (aka:area).

map reading

Taniya showing me where the stations are on the map.

There are many species of shrimp. The three species of Penaeid shrimp that NOAA collects data for are the white, pink, and brown shrimp. Shrimp is one of the most valuable products, with 97% of brown shrimp harvested in the Gulf.

All of the shrimpers are waiting to hear when the shrimp season will begin. The date will be determined based on the data collected here on the NOAA Ship Oregon II and from the State vessels.

 

 

Scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II:

There are five scientists aboard the ship, two are NOAA scientists and three are contractors. They work 12 hour shifts, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon, seven days a week

Kim Johnson

Lead Scientist Kim Johnson at work.

Kim Johnson is the Chief Scientist, which means she is the one in charge of the other scientists. She is a residential fishery biologist for NOAA. Chief Scientist Johnson graduated with a degree in Marine Fishery, which focuses on fish, and has her Master’s Degree in Marine Biology, which focuses on everything in the water.

scientists on the NOAA Oregon II

Andre, Kim, and Taniya in the “dry” lab.

She started as a contractor for NOAA in 2001 and was hired by NOAA in 2003. At the beginning of her career she would spend up to 200 days out at sea, but now goes out for groundfish survey only.

As the Chief Scientist, she is responsible for all the data that is being collected. She needs to know what is happening at each station and sometimes she needs to “clean” up the data. That means Kim looks for any errors in entering the data and checks to see what it should be. Her job requires her to have a vast knowledge of computer programs to enter the information and be able to work with people under all types of situations. (She was my main nurse while I was seasick!)

Kim's children

Here are three of Kim’s children before we sailed.

Kim said the important parts of her job are checking the health of the environment and the fish, and the population of many different species. The best part of her job is the fishing time and the worst part is leaving her husband and wonderful four small children. (I had the pleasure of meeting Kim’s family before we sailed and her children are ADORABLE!)

Taniya Wallace is the NIght Shift. She works for Riverside and is a contractor worker for NOAA. She has been doing this for four years. Taniya  graduated with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She enjoys the adventure of this job and likes to try new things. In the future she hopes to advance in this field. Taniya is great at identifying fish, crabs, and shrimp. She uses her computer skills to enter information and must be able to read a map to know where the stations are located. During her watch she is in constant communication with the Bridge and the Lead Fisherman on duty.

Taniya Wallace

Taniya entering data into the computer.

Andre DeBose is a NOAA employee. He graduated with honors with a Major in Biology. Right after college he worked for a company called Sea Chick for six months in the aquaculture business before being hired as a contractor for NOAA. After four years as a contractor, Andre was hired full-time by NOAA. He came on to the reef fish team and worked with them for three years. He then moved to the trawl team and is happy where he is now.

 

Andre and Robin

Andre and Robin on deck.

Andre said the best part of the job is working with people, and the worst part is being away from home. Andre said for his job you need science, math, English and good writing skills in order to communicate with others. He feels that in his job he is using every aspect of his biology degree.

Andre is a great singer and has entertained us with songs when the night gets long.

I only see the day team for a few minutes at noon or midnight as we switch jobs, but they all seem to work well together.

the day crew

Lee, Trisha, Rebecca, and my bunk mate, Chrissy.

Personal Log

working in the chem lab

Here I am working in the chem lab. Photo by Robin Gropp

Each day on the ship I am learning more and more. Taniya and Andre are very encouraging and patient with me asking a million times, “What is this again?”

The deck crew all have been very helpful explaining how and why everything is done the way it is. You really can not believe how much team work there is on this ship!

It is hard to believe that in just a few days I will be leaving the ship. I am already missing the people that I have met and the wonderful learning experience that NOAA Teacher at Sea has allowed me to experience. What a great learning adventure this has been….from learning to identify fish, crabs, shrimp…to measuring species….to doing transfers… I have learned so much!

ear of salmon

Fish ear’s, called an Otolith, can be used to age the fish.

Lion fish

I’m not lying, this is a Lion Fish!

Carol Schnaiter, Water? June 17, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

June 17, 2014

Winds 10-15 knots

Mostly sunny

Waves 2- 4 feet

NOAA Ship Tracker (http://shiptracker.noaa.gov) for our location

Enjoying the waves!

Enjoying the waves on the ship!

Science and Technology Log

You may wonder how a ship with 30 people can have enough drinking water for a cruise for 15 days. The ship leaves port with about 7,000 gallons of fresh water. Each day the ship uses over 1000 gallons of water, which means in about six or seven days the fresh water will be used up.

In order to have fresh water for drinking, washing, and cooking the NOAA Ship Oregon II uses two desalinators in a process called reverse osmosis.  This means it uses pressure to push the water through a very fine mesh that does not allow the salt to pass through.

Simply said, reverse osmosis is removing salt from the seawater. This also takes out the other minerals and chemicals that are found in the water. It changes undesireable water into water free of contaminants and changes it into water we can use.

making fresh water

Here is the machine that makes the seawater safe for us to drink.

This process of reverse osmosis is not only used on this ship, but it is also used in space, at water treatment plants, at ice making plants, in the dairy industry, and even in making maple syrup.

Careers Spotlight today- more on the crew.

CO Nelson

Here is CO Nelson in charge of the ship.

Master Dave Nelson – The NOAA Ship Oregon II is led by Master (same as Commanding Officer) Dave Nelson. He is a Civilian Merchant Mariner and he is the overall commander of the ship, which means he supervises the work of all the other officers and the crew.

There are only two civilian Masters in the entire NOAA fleet. The other CO’s are all members of the NOAA Corps.

Master Nelson has been sailing for the past 35 years. After high school he worked on commercial fishing-shrimping ships, then in the 80’s worked on oil rig supply ships. This is when a ship takes supplies out to the oil rigs.

On Jan. 4, 1993, he joined the NOAA fleet as a fisherman on deck. He has worked nearly every job on the ship, which is a great advantage when anything goes wrong on the ship. With promotions he was able to move up in ranks. He was the 1st Mate (or second in command) for three years.

Master Nelson said studying for the USCG Master’s license was difficult since he had been out of school for a long time, but with his experience and studying he was able to pass the test the first time and earned his Master’s or Mate’s license. This allowed him to move up to be the Commanding Officer.

He said the best part of this job is the security and when things go well. The most difficult part is when there are problems, because everything goes back to being his responsibility.

XO (Executive Officer) LCDR Eric Johnson

XO Eric Johnson

XO LCDR Eric Johnson

We all have heard about the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, but did you know there are two other Active Duty Uniformed services? The US Public Health Service and the NOAA Corps! If you wanted to learn more about the NOAA Corps, LCDR Johnson is the person for you.

LCDR Johnson has a wealth of information about the history of the NOAA Corps and in speaking to him, you can see why he was a recruiter for the NOAA Corps.  He is a NOAA Corps Officer along with three other NOAA Corps Officers on the ship. LCDR Johnson is originally from Maryland, and has been a NOAA Corps officer since 2002. He has a BS in Marine Biology from the University of Maryland and a MPA in Maritime Affairs from American University.

The NOAA Corps has formally been in existence since 1970, but before that it can be traced back to 1807, when it was a civilian organization used to do nautical surveys for President Thomas Jefferson.

The NOAA Corps is one of two uniformed services (other is the US Public Health Service) that have only commissioned officers, with no enlisted members. The NOAA Corps is under the US Dept. of Commerce and focuses on researching the oceans and atmosphere.

LCDR Larry Thomas enjoys the traveling and life onboard the ship and his future goal is to become a CO of a ship.

LTJG Larry Thomas is a NOAA Corps officer. He has gone through basic training and has had over 150 days of training with the CO and XO. He explained that with the NOAA Corps you are assigned sea and land duties. This means you will be at sea for 2-3 years and then be transferred to a land duty for 3 years. After that you are transferred back to sea for 2-3 years and again back to land for 3 years. This rotation happens four times if you stay with the NOAA Corps the full 20 years.

LTJG Larry Thomas has just returned from his land duty which took him to Alaska. He said it was beautiful there, but is glad to be back onboard the ship. He does not know where his next land assignment will be.

In order to be accepted into the NOAA Corps you must have at least a college undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science. LTJG Thomas graduated from college and was working on his Master’s Degree when he decided to apply for the NOAA Corps. He had worked on shrimping ships, which he said was very hot and hard work. He knows what the crew goes through each day.

Ensigns Pryor and Dwyer

The female officers onboard the ship.

The other two NOAA Corps officers on the Oregon II are Ensigns Rachel Pryor and Laura Dwyer. Ensign Pryor has been with the NOAA Corps since January 2013. She graduated from University of West Florida with a Major in Environmental Science and then received a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. Ensign Pryor started working as a Fishery Observer in the NE for one year before applying and being accepted into the NOAA Corps. The best part for her is being underway and driving the ship, while the downside is working everyday-no vacation when you are at sea.

Ensign Dwyer graduated from college with a degree in International Studies. She then traveled and became a scuba diver instructor. When she returned home, she remembered hearing about the NOAA Corps from her father and applied. Ensign Dwyer was one of a small group that was accepted and completed the training. She is working on completing her hours required to be a qualified officer of the Deck (OOD) so she can stand her own watch and enjoys the traveling. She said everyone on the crew is very respectful to the females on the ship, and it feels like they are her big brothers.

Night Crew

There are three crew members that work the night shift with the four scientists. Their job is very important since they help with the recovery of the organisms. It is very interesting to listen to each of them tell where they are from, why they are here, and their future plans.

Night Crew

Mike, Chris, me and Chuck-the Night Crew! Photo by Robin Gropp

Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols has traveled the world on ships. After high school Chris joined the Navy and was active for six years. He then became a Merchant Mariner and has been doing that for the past 15 years. As the Lead Fisherman, he splits the 24 hour shift with the boatswain (Tim) and his duties include operating the machinery on deck: nets, winches, and cranes. He has many great stories of sailing.

Skilled Fisherman Mike Conway was in the Navy for four years and 25 years as a Merchant Mariner (water transportation worker) working with NOAA. He has been on hydrographic surveys, deep ocean surveys, and all over the world. His favorite place so far has been the Antarctica!

Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin graduated from college with a Major in History and earned his Master’s Degree in  Wild Life. He spent 10 years in the Coast Guard and has been with NOAA for 15 years. Chuck has been on three NOAA ships and said the best part of this job is the paycheck and the environment.

These three men have great stories of the sea. They make the 12 hours from midnight to noon go by very quickly!

They spend time discussing the world news, the next meal or what their plans are for the next port.

Personal Log

I really am a people person, I love to hear why people do what they do and this ship is so full of interesting people. The three night shift crew men all sound as if they should be teaching college level classes on world history. They all have great stories to share about the sea and have opinions on world matters that they share each night. The CO and four NOAA Corps officers that I spoke with are also very interesting and unique people. Each one has traveled a different road to be on the NOAA Ship Oregon II, yet they all work so well together. The ship had a minor engine problem today so we had to drop anchor while they worked on it. I sat on the stern of the ship and watched the waves. Funny, just over one week ago I was seasick and could not handle even the thought of waves and now I am loving the rocking motion of the ship.

The lab is so busy, both day and night, I really am learning so much and feel more like a scientist!

Now for the fun part of this blog…. here are so new pictures of what we caught!

Carol Schnaiter, At Sea, June 14, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 6 – 21, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

June 14, 2014

Weather: Partly cloudy. Winds 10 to 15 knots. Waves 1 to 2 feet.

Science and Technology Log:

We have been very busy with stations. The catch on Thursday included a variety of shrimp.  There are many different kinds of shrimp and a lot of them can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Did you know that most shrimp have a short lifespan, maybe only two to three years?

Some of the ones we caught were the Rose Shrimp (Parapenaeus politus), Roughback Shrimp (Rimapenaeus constrictus), Brown Rock Shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris stimpson) and the Spiny Rock Shrimp (Sicyonia barkenroadi). Since the scientist use the proper names for each species, I am trying to learn those names too!

 

shrimp in Gulf of Mexico

Can you identify this species of shrimp?

NOAA is one of the primary agencies that watches over the aquaculture or farming in the water. With surveys such as the one the NOAA Ship Oregon II is conducting they are able to calculate the amount of fish, shrimp, and other organisms that can be taken out each year. It is similar to the hunting season we have for deer at home. This protects the industry and allows for the species to grow and not be overfished.

Red snapper is a species that was being overfished for many years and because of this they were not growing to maturity. Now with limits on how many red snapper can be caught, it is making a comeback.

Red Snapper

Huge red snapper caught in our net. Photo by Chief Scientist Kim Johnson

 

Another way that the scientist collect species on the NOAA Ship Oregon II is by using the Neuston nets. These large nets float half in the water and half under the water. They are designed to collect the tiny organisms that float on the top of the water or live right under the surface of the water.

Neuston tow

Here are the Neuston nets being towed at night.

When the nets are being brought back to the ship, we must rinse everything down into the bottom collection container. The material is then placed into jars and chemicals are added to preserve everything.

neuston net

Me washing the neuston net. Photo by Robin Gropp

 

Plankton transfers

. Photo by Robin Gropp

Later the material collected must be transferred into other chemicals and then sent back to the lab on land to be identified.

In the photo I am helping Scientist Andre Debose prepare the samples for transfer.

 

Careers

It takes many people doing many different jobs to keep a ship like the NOAA Ship Oregon II running smoothly.
One job is the ET or Electrical Technician. The ET is a person that helps maintain and repair the electronic components and equipment or devices that use electricity. The NOAA Ship Oregon II is very fortunate to have Brian Thomas as their ET. Brian is ready to work on anything from the radar of the ship to my laptop that I am using to write my blog.

He has been with NOAA as an independent Federal worker since 2006. Before that he was in the Navy for 20 years working with sonar, so Brian knows his way around the ship! He also worked at the shipyards before joining the crew.

He said he had training for three years to learn his present job and because so much of the ship’s equipment works with electricity, Brian is on call 24 hours a day. Normally he said ships have rotating ET’s, but he is the only one on this ship.

Brian said it is a very interesting job and the best part is when everything is going well!

ET Brian Thomas

ET Brian Thomas ready for his next call.

Internship:

NOAA has two college students doing an internship on the NOAA Ship Oregon II this season. One of them is Robin Gropp who will be a sophomore at Lewis and Clark College in the state of Oregon in the fall.

Robin is a biology major and his future goal is to be a marine scientist and maybe work with alternative energy, mainly tidal power, also called tidal energy. This is a form of hydropower that using the tides to make energy. (Kind of like how we have the wind mills that use wind near Amboy to make energy)

Robin is working for NOAA this summer to learn more about the sea turtles and study why they sometimes get stranded or caught on piers. He is also studying the sharks and rays that we might catch while on the Groundfish Survey.

The best part of being involved with a NOAA internship to Robin is the hands-on research that he is conducting.

Robin Gropp and the CTD

Robin helping with the shrimp net at night.

 

Personal Log:

Today the Lead Fisherman, Chris alerted me to the fact that there were bottlenose dolphin swimming behind the ship. The dolphin were following the nets in hopes of snagging a free meal. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed out to watch the dolphins!

The bottlenose dolphins are the most common and well-known members of the marine family. They can live up to 50 years and can be found in temperate and tropical waters around the world. For more information, go to this link:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/bottlenosedolphin.htm

The dolphins were amazing to watch as they slapped the water with their tails and followed the net right up to the ship. I have included a video and a picture, but this really does not show the true beauty it was to watch them live. I am so lucky to be out here in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II.

Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin following the ship!

 

Click this link to watch my video of the dolphins!

There is such a wide variety of species living in the Gulf of Mexico. I have included some photos of just a few of the ones we have caught in the nets.

anchovies

Sometimes people like these on their pizza…anchovies!

lesser electric ray

Here I am holding the Lesser Electric Ray. Photo by Chief Scientist Kim Johnson

 

The Atlantic flying fish uses its pectoral fins to “catch” the air currents and moves it’s tail back and forth to move forward.

Atlantic flying fish

Atlantic flying fish

 

I am feeling much better now that we have been out to sea for seven days. Walking around on the ship can be tricky somedays, but I am getting better at it everyday!

Carol Schnaiter: Our First Day of Work, June 10, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 6 – 21, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

June 10-11, 2014

South wind  10 to 15 knots

Seas (waves) 3 to 4 feet

Partly cloudy

My home away from home for a few weeks!

My home away from home for a few weeks!

Science and Technology Log

On June 9th we arrived at our first station. There are over 120 stations on this survey in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in the first station. (More on that later)

When we arrive at the station the ship’s crew is very busy. The deck crew put trawling nets into the water and down to the bottom to catch fish, shrimp, and other organisms. Once these nets are back at the surface the crew uses cranes to lift them to the deck where the scientists can work on the catch. When the nets are in the water the ship must slow down, so the nets do not rip.

After the nets are raised the organisms collected in the nets are emptied into buckets. The scientists then weigh the buckets on a scale. To make sure they are only weighing the organisms, they first weigh the bucket when it is empty.

Weighing the catch

The basket must be weighed before we sort it.

Next everything goes into the “wet” lab. It is called a wet lab because this area has water available and it is where the organisms are poured out on to a long conveyor belt, sorted, and washed off.

Catch on the conveyor belt

Everything is poured onto the conveyor belt to be sorted.

First, everything is sorted by species. Then everything is counted, measured, weighed, and sometimes the gender and maturity are calculated. All of this is recorded into computers.

Some of the species are very tiny and others are large, but everything is counted.  Many of them look alike so the scientists need to be careful when sorting everything.

The scientists on the Oregon II know many of the names of what they catch, but they also use books, charts, and the computer to look up information to make sure.

Sometimes someone in the lab back on shore may be doing research on a certain species and if that species is found it will be tagged, bagged and sent back to the lab.

The CTD’s and bongo net tows are conducted from the forward well deck (check the first blog if you forgot what those do).

The bongo nets are used to collect ichthyoplankton and so the mesh on these nets is very tight, sometimes as small as 0.333 millimeters. These samples are placed into jars and will be examined back in the lab on land later.

Material from bongo net

This is what we collect using the bongo nets. Photo by Chrissy Stepongzi

By time everything is finished, it is time for the next station and everything starts over again.

The work that the Oregon II does is very important. This survey has been conducted twice a year since the early 1970’s and the information collected can show the scientists what is happening under the surface of the water.

The survey helps to monitor the population and health of everything, plus shows any interactions with the environment that may be happening.

Personal Log:

You may have noticed that I mentioned I could not participate in most of the first day’s work, I was seasick and I spent a lot of time in my stateroom.

State Room

State Room

Thank goodness for the medics and Chief Steward on the ship. Walter, the Chief Steward, sliced up fresh ginger for me to suck on, while Officer Rachel Pryor gave me sugar coated ginger to chew on.

The two trained medics, Lead Fisherman Chris and Fisherman James, both were great help and were all very concerned. Kim, the lead scientist, and my bunk mate, Chrissy, checked in on me throughout the night. I am so grateful for everyone that helped. I am now drinking a lot of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated.

As soon as I felt better I was able to help in the wet lab by sorting, counting, weighing, and measuring organisms that were pulled up. We found some really cool things, like this Atlantic Sharpnose shark that Robin Gropp is holding.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

The Atlantic Sharpnose Shark can grow to be 3.9 feet long and can live 10-12 years. It is a relatively small shark, compared to others.

The Common Terns (seabirds) follow the ship when we are trawling hoping to find a free meal. They sit on the ship’s rig that holds the nets waiting for food. The Common Tern is the most widespread tern and can be found by many large bodies of water. They are mostly white with a little black.

Common Terns waiting for dinner!

Common Terns waiting for dinner!

Taniya Wallace and Andre Debose are the two scientists on the night shift (midnight to noon) and they are extremely knowledgeable and explain everything to me. I am learning a lot of new words and I am even getting better at telling one fish from another.

Andre and Taniya holding the stingray.

Andre and Taniya holding the stingray.

The Southern Stingray that Andre is holding is just one of the amazing creatures we caught. We also brought up a Blackedge moray, a Texas Clearnose Skate, a sea hare, red snapper, jellyfish, pufferfish, sea horse, and many more. I can’t wait to share all of my photos next school year!

He may not look dangerous, but he could really hurt you!

He may not look dangerous, but he could really hurt you!

I am working the midnight to noon shift and it is strange to “wake-up” at midnight and eat supper (the cooks save a plate if you ask) and then go to work. Again, the food is wonderful. Last night I had the best prime rib and mashed potatoes!

Everyone on the ship is so helpful and friendly. I enjoy listening to where everyone is from and why they decided to make the Oregon II their home.

On the Oregon II

Here I am enjoying the beautiful view from the bow. Photo by Rebecca Rosado

Carol Schnaiter, Our Second Day at Sea, June 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 6 – 21, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey Gulf of Mexico

June 8, 2014

Science and Technology Log

The Oregon II set sail on June 6th and will reach the first station sometime Monday, June 9th, in the evening.

While on the way there the scientists and crew are preparing the equipment and testing everything to make sure it is ready to use when we arrive. One item tested was the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) item. The white round frame protects the delicate, expensive piece of gear that you can see at the bottom of the frame. It allows the equipment to safely travel down without hitting the side of the ship nor the bottom of the ocean. Near the top you see the water sampling tubes.

 

Test run of equipment for titrations

Kim and Andre prepare the CTD.

These tubes are opened up and when they enter the water they are triggered to close and collect water from the depth that the science team has predetermined.

The deck crew uses a crane to help lift it over the side of the ship and then it drops down and collects water. This was a test to make sure everything was working and the CTD was dropped down and collected water in three tubes.

When it came back on deck, Kim Johnson, the Lead Scientist, took three containers of water from one tube. In the lab she used the Winkler Test, to determine the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water samples. This is called doing titrations and they will be conducted once a day or more often if something goes wrong.

Can you think of why scientists would need to test this? They are trying to determine the level of oxygen in the water to see if it is high or low. If it is low or not there at all, scientist call it a “Dead Zone” because everything needs oxygen to live.

Kim Johnson took the three samples to the lab and added chemicals to test the water. It took some time to conduct the test, but Kim explained everything to Robin Gropp (he is an intern on the ship) and to me.

The results that were done by hand were compared to the results collected by the computer and they matched! The oxygen level in the first test were good. This means the equipment will be ready to use!

Sargassum seaweed

Photo I took from the ship

In the Gulf of Mexico there is a lot of floating seaweed called Sargassum. To learn more about this, go to the attached url. In short, this seaweed is brown and floats on top of the water. It has been used as a herb in some areas. It is interesting to see the brown seaweed floating by the ship.  http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sargassosea.html

Do you notice how blue the water is? What makes the water look so blue? According to the NOAA Ocean Facts:

  • “The ocean is blue because water absorbs colors in the red part of the light spectrum. Like a filter, this leaves behind colors in the blue part of the light spectrum for us to see.
  • The ocean may also take on green, red, or other hues as light bounces off of floating sediments and particles in the water.
  • Most of the ocean, however, is completely dark. Hardly any light penetrates deeper than 200 meters (656 feet), and no light penetrates deeper than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet ).”

Pretty neat to see how light and color work together!

Personal Log

The water went from murky brown when we left Mississippi due to the boat activity and the rivers that drain down into the Gulf, to this blue that is hard to describe. I am trying to absorb everything that the scientist are discussing and hoping that when we start working everything will make more sense to me! There is so much to learn!

Today we had safety drills; a fire drill (yes, we practice fire drills even on the ship, you can’t call 911 at sea after all) and abandon ship drill. During the abandon ship drill everyone had to bring long pants, long-sleeve shirt, hat, life preserver and immersion suit. Here is a picture of me in my immersion suit. This suit will float and keep me warm if we need to leave the ship.

Wearing my immersion suit!

Wearing my immersion suit! Photo taken by Kim Johnson

Today the ships’ divers went into the water to check the hulll of the ship and the water temperature was 82 degrees. It would have been refreshing to be in the water, but this is a working ship and safety comes first!

The food onboard the ship is delicious and I am sure I will need to walk many steps after this trip. The cooks offer two or three choices at every meal and the snack area is open 24 hours…not a good thing for me!

While on deck I saw my first flying fish today. I thought it was a bird flying close to the water, but it was not! Amazing how far they can fly over the water.

When I look out from the front of the ship, I see water, water, and more water. There are a few oil rigs in the distance and once in a while a ship passes by, but mostly beautiful blue water!

Last night I saw my first sea sunset and since I will be working the midnight to noon shift starting soon, it maybe the last sunset…but I will get to see some AWESOME sunrises!

2014-06-07 Sunset!

Glad I had my camera with me!

Enjoy the sunset!

Mrs. Carol Schnaiter