Michele Brustolon, July 18, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 18, 2010

Weather Data from descending into Logan Airport, Boston, MA

Time: 1250
Latitude: 42.36N
Longitude: 71.01W
Cloud Cover: 3/8
Wind: 17 mph
Air Temperature: 320 C/ 890 F
Water Temperature: N/A
Barometric Pressure: 29.78 inches

Farewell log
Before I knew it, I was sitting on the deck below the bridge watching the fulmars flying around the boat, seeing spray from a fin whale off the port side, and following boats as they came in and out of my line of sight.

Here I am relaxing after dinner on the Flying Deck

We were heading south back to Dutch so everyone can start their next journey. For some that means two days in port and back on the Oscar Dyson, for others it is home maybe to family and back to their land jobs. For me it means back to New Hampshire where I need to think long and hard about how I can share this experience to do it the justice it deserves.

Laughing… again!

Although I missed home at times, I have never experienced 20+ days where each day we found something to laugh hysterically about. You could say it happened because we were on the Bering Sea, but I say it happened because I was surrounded by phenomenal people. We all left something/someone behind, but I met so many people with different stories that each day I looked forward to the next. Whether it was in the wet lab trying to find something on the table we hadn’t seen yet, Willie Sliney sharing his own volcanic adventures, or hiking Mt. Pyramid in great company once back in Dutch Harbor, I have an immense amount of respect for everyone on the Oscar Dyson.

Ernesto, Paula, and Rebecca hiking Mt. Pyramid

Rebecca, Abby, Katie, and me

…to those I worked closest with, Neal, Abby, Rebecca, and Katie, for giving me the chance to experience being part of an awesome team to understand the processes involved with the pollock surveys and why they are happening.

…to those who took the time to answer my questions and help me better understand the piggy back projects and inner workings of a mission on the East Bering Sea.

…to those who made me laugh daily so I didn’t have to do as many sits up!

Things to bring along to the Bering Sea as a TAS

  • coffee mug (for drinks other than water- less waste) & water bottle (water was fantastic)
  • fleece hat (it was my best friend in the wet lab at 0400)
  • flash drive (thanks Rebecca and Katie)
  • digital camera (I have NEVER taken so many pictures)
  • more workout clothes (or Febreeze- small space in stateroom for workout clothes and shoes)

Final note
One of the most important lessons that I learned was that no matter what your background is or where you come from, your skills, dedication, and hard work are what make the city on the Oscar Dyson on the Bering Sea successful. I respect you all and thank you for an experience of a lifetime. Good luck on future adventures!

Animals Seen
squirrels and seagulls (the bald eagles of the Northeast coast)

New Hampshire- squirrel in backyard;

Rye, New Hampshire one of the many types of seagulls

Word of the Day
prosaic: commonplace, everyday

Michele Brustolon, July 14, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 14, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 57.34N
Longitude: 173.35W
Cloud Cover: 2/8
Wind: 10 knots
Air Temperature: 8.50 C/ 470 F ater Temperature: 8.10 C/ 470 F arometric Pressure: 1021.4 mb

Science and Technology Log

Wish you could join the Oscar Dyson on its next journey? There are a number of ways you could come aboard:

  • Join NOAA Corps – NOAA Corps partake in officer training and complete years of service to earn officer ranks (such as the CO, XO, Operations Officer, etc). Unlike other military branches, NOAA Corps are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and have significant course work in math, science and/or engineering. (http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov/index.html)

    Ensign Amber Payne

  • Become a Deckhand/Fisherman – NOAA employs wage mariners for their deck crew. The Oscar Dyson has both a deck and fishing crew to help keep the boat in order and to support the scientific research (moving the net, bringing the CTD in and out) (www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/wagemarine.pdf)


  • Become a specialist – Beyond the deck crew, the ship needs specialists to help it run smoothly. We have a crew of amazing engineers, two great survey techs, and a Steward department that keeps us well fed (the food is delicious here!) (www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/wagemarine.pdf)

    Survey tech Robert Spina on watch

  • Work for the National Marine Fisheries Service – most employees join a trip to complete field research and to ensure data collection and processing for those back in the lab. The Oscar Dyson works primarily with scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/)

    Chief Scientist, Neal Williamson

  • Work for another marine life service – As mentioned before, there are also birders (from the Fish and Wildlife commission) and mammalian observers (from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory). In addition, we are hosting two Russian scientists who are also studying pollock.

    Birder Nate Jones at Summer Bay

  • Serve as a NOAA Intern – NOAA has a variety of internship opportunities for graduate, undergraduate and even high school students. You can check out more information here: http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/internships_opps.html

    Intern Katie Wurtzell

  • Be like me and join a cruise as a Teacher At Sea – If you work in education (as a K-college teacher/administrator, an adult education teacher or a museum curator), you can apply to serve as a Teacher At Sea. Trust me, its awesome. (more information and application information can be found here: http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/

    TASs Michele & Rebecca

Personal log

Today was our last day of rising for our 0400 hour shift. The echo sounder was already in the water and the readings were being recorded. We were able to do a Methot early in the morning and it allowed us to see isopods and copepods along with the usual critters. It was a gorgeous day as the fog lifted early and the sun was out until the fog rolled back in around 2100 hours.

The perfect day!

While we didn’t use the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl) at all today, we made up for it yesterday since we fished a marathon- 3 times! Although a part of me wanted to fish one more time before this adventure begins to wind down, it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. With the sun out and the calm seas, the cetacean observers got their day. We saw everything from Dall’s porpoises, to fin whales, killer whales, and the new sighting of the day; sperm whales! I didn’t dare move to get my camera and I am glad I didn’t or I would not have seen its fluke gracefully come out of the water before it dove. After the excitement was over, it was time for dinner and the next entertainment of the evening; Taboo. It has been an ongoing competition between generations this entire leg.

Taboo: competition between generations

We started our transit into Dutch Harbor around 0400! It is going to take over 24 hours to get back into Dutch. Everyone that could, stayed up a little later with the excuse that breakfast isn’t until 0700 and we don’t have to get up for our shift at 0400! Helping out to make sure that everyone is ready to get off the boat and things are ready for Leg III is the focus. Robert scrubbed the wet lab for us so we just needed to tackle our foul weather gear and our boots. You have to remember that some people have been on the boat since early June and are going home while others just started with this leg and are continuing on Leg III. Once everything is ready for the next leg, I will probably take some time to swap pictures and contact information so I can keep in touch with people. Why is it that last weekend seemed like the end was never to be seen, but now I feel like I want to fish just one more time?

The long trek back to Dutch Harbor

New Animals Seen
sperm whales

Word of the Day
sagacious: having sound judgment

New Vocabulary- just as a reminder
CO: Commanding OfficerXO: Executive Officer

Michele Brustolon, July 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Michele Brustolon
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 12, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 61.18N
Longitude: 175.22W
Cloud Cover: 8/8
Wind: 16 knots
Air Temperature: 70 C/ 450 F
Water Temperature: 6.90 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1014 mb

Science and Technology Log

The floating city
A modern city has a network of companies that provide us with modern conveniences (water, electricity, sewage, and trash removal). A NOAA research vessel provides those same conveniences to its crew through a complex engineering network. We wouldn’t be able to eat, drink, take showers, or conduct research without the expertise of our engineers.

Jerry (1st Engineer) over the sea chest

Lots of drops to drink

Sea water is taken in by an intake valve about 6 m below the surface. It goes through a variety of cleaning processes to filter, distill and purify the water for human consumption. First, small sea creatures are removed by a filter known as the “sea chest.” Next, the water is distilled using the heat from the engine under a vacuum to remove dissolved ions. The water is then purified using bromine and UV light before it is pumped into the piping system (running throughout the ship in pipes labeled “potable water”). The water is so pure that we have to add salt for the espresso machine to recognize the water level (the science of the espresso machine will have to wait for a later entry).

Contents of the sea chest

Lights, Camera, Acoustics

The Oscar Dyson requires electricity to run the ships instruments, the scientific equipment and the lights which allow us to keep the ship operational 24/7. Our power is generated by the engines which also propel the ship forward. The Oscar Dyson runs on diesel fuel and uses larger, more powerful versions of the engines we find in cars. We use about 110 gallons of fuel each hour to maintain scientific and navigational operations.

One of the Dyson’s engines

Taking out the Trash

Kitchen and food waste are the main sources of trash on the Oscar Dyson. Trash is sorted and disposed of based on how it breaks down. Food, which decomposes, is released into the ocean to re-enter the ecosystem. Combustible items (such as paper, napkins, etc) are burned in the ship’s incinerator which is run every night.  Non-combustible items, such as aluminum cans, are recycled and brought back to land.

The Dyson’s incinerator

And out the other end

Although a less than pleasant topic to discuss over dinner, it is important to remember that a ship must track its human waste as well. Per NOAA regulations, human waste is treated through a complex process before being released into the ocean (to re-enter the eco-system). This process, like those of water treatment plants and septic systems on land, break down the waste through multiple steps involving biological, physical and chemical reactions. Ask me for more information if you really want the dirty details.

Who’s watching the engines?

The Oscar Dyson employs an engineering staff of seven, who have specialized training and job responsibilities to ensure proper functioning and maintenance of the vessel. Like all good engineers, they usually work behind the scenes so it was great to get an inside look at the inter-workings of the ship.

Personal log

Day 13 of my twelve hour shifts; still no rough seas, but we have found the fish! Fishing has definitely picked up over that last few days. Unfortunately we are approaching the last days of Leg II. Both shifts have been fishing more and we are seeing different sizes of pollock in different catches. Although I am not yet an expert, I feel as though I have seen enough fish to determine that the smaller ones (1-2 years old) are much harder to work with because they are not as developed (you can ask me for details later). On the other hand, the larger pollock are smellier and messier. Yesterday after we fished, we immediately did a Methot trawl and found the tiniest squid I have ever seen. It even inked! In the afternoon when we fished, we had 2 herring in our catch. It has become a goal of mine to see something new everyday which happens often in the Bering Sea.

Pollock on the table-ready to be processed

Letting the teacher part of us take over, Rebecca and I decided that we would like to take some samples of otoliths back home with us. After we fished for the last time yesterday, we measured various sizes of male and female pollock and then took their otoliths. (insert picture of otoliths here)Because everyone has been patient with us, this entire trip has been filled gaining experience with different types of equipment and procedures on board a research vessel. This allowed Rebecca and me to actually get what we needed on our own; a small side project if you will. I’m not exactly sure how I will incorporate them into my lessons, but it had to be done. I can figure out the logistics later- I have some ideas!

Taking otoliths (ear bones) from a pollock

After dinner I decided to head up to the Flying Bridge to see what the mammal observers were up to. There are five cetaceans (killer whales, Dall’s porpoises, fin whales, minke whales, and humpback whales) that are typically seen in the Eastern Bering Sea along the shallow part of the shelf. I have only seen killer whales and Dall’s porpoises so naturally I was on a mission to add to my list. While looking through the “Big Eye,” Paula Olson saw spouts from whales in the distance and took the time to help direct me. After watching along the horizon, I was able to see the blow holes of 2 fin whales. Fun fact…fin whales are the second largest mammal on Earth. Like I said…there is always something new to see. It was around 2000 hours at this point, but that means off to bed for a decent night’s sleep because 0315 roles around fast.

Paula looking through the “Big Eye”

New Animals Seen
tiny squid
fin whales

If you look closely, you can see tiny squid in the lower left hand corner

Word of the Day
descry: to catch sight of something in the distance

New Vocabulary
hull: watertight body of a ship
distill: remove impurities
dissolved ions: an atom with a positive or negative charge. Ions are created when elements gain or lose electrons. They can be in the form of a solid or a liquid (dissolved)
UV light: ultraviolet light

Michele Brustolon, July 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 7, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 56.30N
Longitude: 172.05W
Cloud Cover: 100% (8/8)
Wind: 16 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.30 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb

Science and Technology Log

Where am I?
Life aboard a ship is difficult to comprehend until you have experienced it first hand. If you forget something, oh well, and you live with what you have for the duration of your leg. Planning ahead is huge for a mission to the Bering Sea! (Sound familiar students?!) Life at sea can be much slower than I think people believe it to be. On this particular type of cruise, much of the day is spent waiting, watching, and analyzing information. While everyone has their job, some of those jobs require patience and flexibility.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson anchored in Dutch Harbor

What happened?

Ever have that moment when a demonstration fails, the cool lab you worked so hard on doesn’t work, there’s a schedule change thrown into your day, or maybe that special dinner you were planning didn’t taste right? It happens on the boat too! You have to be prepared and understand that it is going to happen. Equipment failure, human error; they all happen on board. I arrived in Dutch Harbor on June 26th and we were scheduled for departure on June 27th. There was a broken crank shaft in one of the large generators so our departure from Dutch Harbor was an educated guess at best. Without the generator, we would be in short supply of fresh water for a ship holding 39 people until July 16th. There wasn’t anything that we could do so we took advantage of being in Dutch Harbor for a couple of extra days until we departed on June 29th. Maybe the copper wire was cut before it reached the bottom on an XBT or there was a hole in the trawl net that needed to be mended. That part of life on board is no different than any other environment.

It’s an albatross, an orca, a tree?

Talk about patience…the mammal observers have lots of it. They are on watch constantly looking along the horizon for blowholes and other signs of mammalian life. When observations are slow, anything in the water can become exciting. Earlier this week while I was on the bridge, the mammal observers called down from their observation deck to the bridge because there was an object in the water that we were getting closer to. You could feel the excitement from everyone growing as this magnificent object grew closer. We got our cameras ready because this could be “the” picture of the trip and positioned ourselves to take the shot of our lives. As we approached this rather large piece of unidentified matter, we realized that it was a piece of driftwood with murres hanging out on it. At this point, the adrenaline rushed out of me and laughter took over. None of us could believe how excited we became and how let down we were to find out it wasn’t a mammal at all. Back to the observation deck!

Looking toward the horizon through the “Big Eye”

You can’t force the fish!

My primary job on this boat is to help with the fish surveying. Using the acoustics helps decide when the trawl nets are deployed for fishing. In order for fishing to occur there needs to be at least 2-3 miles of pollock showing up on the transducer screens. Weather also plays a role on what we see on the transducers. We have been very pleased with the weather so far; although it has been foggy, that usually means calmer seas. Later in the week, the weather is supposed to get dicey. When this happens there is a chance that it will be too rough to fish even if we do see the pollock. Look for my journal on weather after the weekend! Since the start of our journey we have fished three times during my shift and deployed the Methot a few times. When we are not fishing we find other things to keep us busy. Some people are analyzing data, checking equipment, or if you are a teacher at sea, you may be documenting all of your experiences. I have never taken so many pictures! The down time gives me a chance to talk to others on the boat to see what other operations are happening. As my friends and family know, I have a hard time sitting still. This is the perfect place for me to be because I have no choice but to slow my pace! It’s REALLY hard, but I think I am doing a pretty good job!

What shift are you working?

Aside from the flexibility needed to work on the ship, you also need to be flexible and patient just to live on board. Remember, you can’t just leave the ship when you need a break! The boat runs 24/7 so there are lots of shifts on the boat. To give you an idea you may be on watch for 4 hours in the dead of the night, or you may be observing mammals from sunrise to sunset. I was lucky to land the 12 hour shift from 0400-1600, but the other fisheries crew comes on for the remaining 12 hours of the day. I say this because with a full crew of 39 people on board and with everyone working different shifts, there is etiquette on board a vessel. If you and your roommate do not have the same shift, it is the unwritten rule not to enter the room while they are sleeping. That means you need to take everything with you for that shift. Not everyone eats during the allotted times that the mess hall is open so food is often set aside so everyone can have their meals regardless of what shift they work. Taking showers need to be short because everyone would like to take a hot shower after 12 hours of working. Appropriate volume is important because there may be people sleeping in the stateroom next to you and you don’t want to wake them while they are trying to sleep when off shift (remember inside voices!). It makes you very aware of your surroundings. I absolutely lucked out because Rebecca (the other TAS) and I have the same shift and same schedule. We have it much easier than most people on the boat that have opposite shifts.

TAS shift- 0400-1600

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

Can anybody hear me?

Need time away from the hustle and bustle of life back on land? Need to take a break from your TV, cell phone, blackberry, I phone, and the internet…the Bering Sea is the place for you! Even though there is a phone on board that allows you to call off the ship, it is extremely expensive so it is definitely not for everyday use. Phones don’t work here so you can save the batteries in your cell phone or I phone for home. Most of them actually don’t even work on Dutch Harbor either. As far as the internet is concerned, that’s a little trickier. As you may have noticed, my journals took a while to be posted. It is very difficult to send information via internet from the Oscar Dyson. If we are traveling on a northern transect, we may not get internet the entire time. The transect itself could take 2 days to complete running at 12 knots! If we are turning or heading south, we may get lucky for a while. Therefore it takes time to get all the information and pictures sent just to be posted. It is very hard to be patient because I want everyone to know what’s happening and all the cool things we have been doing. Internet is sporadic at best, but keep the emails coming! It is nice to hear from everyone back home!

Transects for Legs I-III for 2010

Animals seen
brittle stars- Ophiura sp.
basket star
sand dollars
hermit crabs
2 types of cockles- Clinocardium sp. and Serripes sp.
Tanner crab
Aleutian moonsnail
Arctic moonsnail
jellies- Chrysaora melanaster
krill- euphausiids
Dall’s porpoises
flounder- Kamchatka flounder
spiny lumpsucker

Basket star

Word of the day
Dupe: to deceive, fool

New vocabulary
Head: bathroom
Mess hall: cafeteria, where you eat your meals

Michele Brustolon, July 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 4, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 57.59N
Longitude: 171.10W
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: 11 knots
Air Temperature: 7.20 C/ 44.960 F
Water Temperature: 5.50 C/ 41.90 F
Barometric Pressure: 1010 mb

Science and Technology Log

Now that I have provided you with information about the importance of pollock and how the Oscar Dyson works to survey the stock in the Eastern Bering Sea, I wanted to answer a few related questions.

What about other species?

In the Bering Sea, pollock are so abundant that our mid-water trawls capture mostly pollock. However, there are a lot of other species in the Bering Sea that scientists are interested in. In addition to the Oscar Dyson, NOAA charters fishing boats (such as the Alaska Knight and the Aldebaron) to trawl on the ocean floor. This allows scientists to see more species in the Bering Sea. These ships trawl all day; sometimes up to 6 trawls a day. The GF boats cover the eastern Bering Sea shelf, extending up to the region around St. Lawrence Island (a wider area than the Oscar Dyson will cover). While the Oscar Dyson focuses on euphausiids and pollock, the ground fishing boats examine everything else found on the bottom.

Euphausiids from Methot trawl

Katie proudly holding a pollock from our first Aleutian wing Trawl

Who owns the water?
International laws provide countries with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within 200 miles of their shoreline. The area we are studying in the Bering Sea can be fished solely by fishing boats operated in the United States. On the other side of the Sea, Russians fish in their own 200-mile zone. However, in the middle there is a “donut hole” which is considered “international waters”. This Donut Hole supported a large pollock fishery in the late 1980’s.

Transects for Leg II on Oscar Dyson

The “Donut Hole” or “Bubleek” in Russian, is shown here in the shaded circular area between U.S. and Russia.

How do American scientists collaborate with scientists from other countries?
The United States works with other Pacific countries to conduct research on the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. For example, the Oscar Dyson, in addition to hosting two Teachers at Sea, is hosting two Russian scientists from the Pacific Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (TINRO) in Vladivostok, Russia – Mikhail Stepanenko and Elena Gritsay.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mikhail the other night and asked him about his experience and how he ended up on the Oscar Dyson. Born and raised in Primorye, Mikhail spent a great deal of time at the Ussuri River. He studied biology at The Far East State University in Vladivostok and began researching at sea soon after his graduation in 1968. After the first USA-USSR agreement regarding marine research, Mikhail visited the United States and worked out of La Jolla, CA starting in 1969. He has spent about 5-6 months at sea per year for the last 40 years, including the last 18 summers on the NOAA summer pollock survey (specifically on the Oscar Dyson and its sister ship the Miller Freeman)

This wealth of experience has made Mikhail an expert and he is a well-respected member of the Pacific marine science community. Throughout the years, there have been numerous conferences between stakeholder countries, and Mikhail has played an active role in recommending action for working together to maintain the populations of pollock and other fish. Mikhail has served on the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee – a six-nation committee that meets biannually to discuss fishing polices in the “donut hole.” In addition, Mikhail worked as a Russian delegate during meetings which led to the creation of PICES (North Pacific Marine Science Organization), an “intergovernmental scientific organization, was established in 1992 to promote and coordinate marine research in the northern North Pacific and adjacent seas.” (Visit their website for more information). Mikhail was elected Chairman of the Fisheries Science Committee (FIS), a branch of PICES, in 2008 and is currently preparing for their next meeting in October.

Each organization is trying to find the best policies to help understand the organisms through reproduction, population dynamics, stock assessments and fishery management. Mikhail’s wealth of knowledge, collaborative scientific research and commitment to the sustainable fishing benefits all members of the international community and we are lucky to have such a science superstar in our midst.

Catch of jellyfish and pollock coming in (Abby: left; Kathy: right)

This is a lumpsucker. Isn’t it cute?

PICES website: http://www.pices.int

Personal Log

The Fourth of July ending up being a packed day! First thing I was able to help with the CTD (remember from previous journals- conductivity, temperature, depth). You definitely wake up standing on the Hero Deck at 0400! My day of adventure continued when we got to fish after lunch. Why was this such a big deal? We hadn’t fished since June 30! We saw 100s of pounds of Chrysaora melanaster (jellies) that were so large we had to struggle to move them. We focused more on the pollock that were 1-3 years old this trawl, but the COOLEST animal by far was the lumpsucker! I was able to help sort the pollcok, sex them, and take the otoliths out for research. After we cleaned up the wet lab, we had a great ending to our day…

We had a cookout on the Boat Deck. Ray, the Chief Steward, with the help of Floyd Pounds, 2nd Cook, made everything you could possible imagine: a variety of kabobs, cheese burgers, salmon, different salads, cake, fruit, and the list goes on. To top the evening off (remember, it’s still light out!), Ensign (ENS) Amber Payne gathered and shot off expired flares for our “light show.” I enjoyed having the time to hang out with some people that I never see now that we are all working our shifts. It is a Fourth of July that I will remember always!

Fourth of July cookout on the Boat Deck

Animals Seen
brown jellies or northern sea nettle- Chrysaora melanaster
pollock- many 1-3 years
smooth lumpsucker
rock sole

Word of the Day
Propiate: appease
New Vocabulary
GF boats: ground fishing boats
“Donut hole”: the area between Russia and the U.S. that was considered International waters” so it did not belong to a certain country

Michele Brustolon, July 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Michele
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 1, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1400
Latitude: 58.19 N
Longitude: 170.01 W
Cloud Cover: 100%, dense fog
Wind: 11.49 knots
Air Temperature: 3.800 C/ 38.840 F
Water Temperature: 3.960 C/ 39.1280 F
Barometric Pressure: 1003.10 mb

Science and Technology Log

Here fishy fishy!
July 1st began by spending time in the Acoustics Lab learning about the equipment used to analyze the data. The Oscar Dyson has 5 transducers on its center board and 1 temporary transducer on the side of the center board that looks horizontally. The transducers allow us to see where the fish are. Because of where the transducers are placed, we can only see the pollock from 16m to the bottom. This means that if there are any fish between the surface and 16m they will not be detected. This is the near surface “dead zone”. Why this happens? The transducers are mounted on the bottom of the centerboard about 9 m below the water line, and near the transducer face (first 7 m), no good data are collected. Why it’s okay? Pollock tend to hang out in mid-water. Although a few baby pollock might be in the near surface “dead zone,” the majority of pollock will be in the area we are watching. There is also a bit of a “dead zone” at the other end near the ocean floor. Yesterday the bottom was around 69.35m.

Transducer data

Why acoustics?
Ideally, the acoustic data collection would allow us to track aggregations of pollock without actually having to fish them out of the water. All parties involved (scientists, fish, bank accounts) would benefit from this change but scientists are still in the process of perfecting this process. The Oscar Dyson is part of a fleet of five boats that was specifically designed for acoustics. Specifically, it is considered a “quiet boat” where the engine noise is decreased to prevent scaring the fish. Other Acoustic projects include: Pacific hake off the coast from California to Vancouver Island (run as a joint project with Canada), herring in the northwest Atlantic, and krill in the Antarctic. Acoustics are used throughout the globe and many countries depend on acoustics for their fish surveys.

A little help from UNH!
Along with the transducers, there is also a multibeam SONAR that produces the same information as the transducers but with a wider angle range. The multibeam ME70 sends its signal out after the transducers information is sent and returned. They alternate about 1.5 seconds apart. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is helping to use the tool and also to analyze the data. To analyze the transducer data collected, a program is in place from Tasmania to help determine what the boat is seeing. The scientists use the program to help separate species in the water column. Scientists utilize the multibeam ME 70 along with the transducers and fish trawling to ensure they are capturing an accurate picture of the mid-waters.

Multibeam ME70 data

How the survey data we collect are used. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson during the summer pollock surveys are used by scientists and policy makers to determine the fishing quota (the “take”) of pollock for the next season. Quotas are important for maintaining the population of pollock (and other species) for this generation and generations to come. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson help ensure that maximum stock can be taken without negatively impacting the Eastern Bering Sea pollock population.

Here I am deploying the XBT (eXpendable bathymetric thermograph)

Personal Log

Although there was no fishing yesterday, I certainly was able to be involved. I launched the XBT off the Hero Deck just as we began our fire drill. Once that was completed I returned to the Acoustics Lab until we were cleared from the drill. We then had our abandon ship drill where we get our survival suits and head to our assigned position. My meeting location is at life raft 3 and 4. Once we learned how to deploy our life raft, we headed inside to the conference/lounge to practice donning our suits. While this is very serious, it is also worth a laugh or two watching people struggle and become orange gumbies! The goal is to be able to don your suit in under 60 seconds!

Zodiac ride into the cove of St. Paul’s Island

Yesterday I had the opportunity to head into St. Paul’s Island; the largest of the Pribilof Islands. St. Paul’s is also called the Galápagos of the north. The Zodiac was driven by Joel Kellogg and Amber Payne, and our CO (Commanding Officer Mike Hoshlyk) allowed Katie, Rebecca, and I the opportunity to take the trip inland. Our mission while on land was to bring science equipment (ice-flow detector) to the airport that needed to be sent to Anchorage. Stepping foot onto St. Paul’s Island seemed eerie and mysterious. There was the lurking fog along with a very industrial feel to the island. Because most of the island consists of coalescing small volcanoes, the sediment’s dark color is due to lava flow which didn’t brighten the land at all. We did not see many people other than those working on dredging the new causeway or the people in the airport. Our taxi driver said that they hadn’t gotten mail since Monday and it was Thursday which explained why the people waiting for flights at the airport seemed a bit anxious. On our way back to the boat, we were able to see sea lions and some puffins hanging out in the water and around the break wall. As we approached the boat, it was like an apparition appearing before us. Just another once in a lifetime chance that I have had this cruise!

Want more information about the Pribilofs? Check out http://www.amiq.org/aleuts.html

Oscar Dyson coming back from Pribilofs

Animals Seen

Murre (2 different types differentiated by bill type)
Sea lions

(but no fur seals…everyone told me I would see them but they were missing. It seems to be a question everyone is asking.)

Word of the day

Desmadre: troublemaker

New Vocabulary

Transducer: instrument used to send out signals that return and show where fish are located
Ground fishing: trawling on the ocean floor

Michele Brustolon, June 30th, 2010 part 2

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 30th, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1600 hrs
Latitude: 57.16 N
Longitude: 169.09 W
Cloud Cover: Dense fog
Wind: 11.56 knots
Air Temperature: 5.30 C/ 420 F
Water Temperature: 5.090 C/ 410 F
Barometric Pressure: 1005.02 mb

Science and Technology Log

Fishy Fish
Why Pollock?
Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) is an important fish for Alaska (and the entire United States). Although you may not know it, you’ve probably eaten Pollock when you have enjoyed fish sticks, a fish sandwich at a fast food restaurant, or imitation crab meat. Walleye Pollock produce one of the largest catch of any single species within US waters and accounts for over half the groundfish catch in Alaska (see:http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/species/pollock.php for more information)

Acoustic Lab with Abigail McCarthy and Neal Williamson

How the Oscar Dyson helps? By surveying the Pollock populations within the Bering Sea, scientists can gather data on these important fish – including size, gender distribution, maturity rates, location, and diet.

How do we find the fish? Scientists work around the clock gathering data through acoustics to identify the locations of populations. The Oscar Dyson has five transducers located across the bottom of the ship on its centerboard. These transducers send out signals and the data are graphed on large computer screens in our Acoustics lab. While on shift, we eagerly await word that a fish population has been identified and await the trawl.

First trawl net to come up on Leg 2

Here I am getting ready to sort the first catch in my foul weather gear!

And the Trawl…
Luckily for me, fish were seen on my first shift and we conducted the trawl in the afternoon. The take varies based on the populations identified and the net may be out for two minutes or an hour. This first trawl was out for 45 minutes before the crew hauled it in. It was amazing how many seabirds were swarming around the net as it was pulled up and how many jellyfish were caught in the lines. The first task once the catch is brought on deck and placed in the fish table, is to sort the specimens. We had Pollock, Pacific cod, and 2 types of jellies. Once the catch was sorted, the fish were weighed and then sexed. After they were sorted into Blokes and Sheilas (males and females), the fish also had to be measured. A small sample was dissected to remove stomachs and otiliths (ear bones of Pollock that are used for aging the fish) for further study.

Abigail McCarthy and Kathy Hough taking samples of Pollock stomachs and otiliths

The wet lab

Personal Log

While this is a continuation of the first log (it was way too long!), it focuses on the why we are studying Pollock and how the first trawl went. No fishing was done until after lunch. When the net did come up, there were five of us in the wet lab where we processed the catch; Abigail McCarthy, Kathy Hough, Rebecca Kimport, Katie Wurtzell, and me. It was very interesting to see all the information that came from a sampling of Pollock: weight, length, sex, stomach contents, and otiliths (ear bones). This brought us to the end of our 12 hour shift at 1600 hours.

Exercise was next…running on the treadmill was by far the weirdest feeling as the boat is rolling you feel as though the incline is moving up and down on its own and you have to hold on at different times. This is with pretty calm seas too! Dinner was fabulous as always. We have been spoiled here on the boat with meals like king crab legs, salmon, prime rib, Jamaican jerk chicken. Now do you see why I have to try to exercise EVERYDAY!!! I think the hardest part right now is trying to get to bed early enough so when 0315 arrives, I can get up and going.

Workout room

Animals Seen on First Shift
Pacific Cod

New Vocabulary
Blokes: male Pollock
Sheilas: female Pollock
Otiliths: ear bones of Pollock that help age the fish (they have rings that are counted much like trees)