Maria Madrigal: Understanding the Sampling Methods: April 4, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Science & Technology Log: April 4, 2012

The goal of the study is to get a better picture of the coral reef fish assemblage using three different sampling methods. Two NOAA research vessels based in Honolulu, Hawaii (Oscar Elton Sette and Hi’ialakai) are working concurrently to assess coral reef fish assemblages around the island of Tutuila in American Samoa.

Three observational methods will be used to assess these reef fish assemblages; stationary point count divers (SPC), baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) and an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

In the shallower areas being sampled (0 – 30 meters), all three survey methods will be used. In the areas ranging from 30-100 meters, only the BRUVS and AUV systems will be used as the divers can not reach these depths. This study will allow for a comparison among all three methods in the shallow-water depth range. The use of the BRUVS and AUV in the 30-100 m depths will also allow comparisons to be made between the shallow and deeper portions of the reef ecosystem to see if the patterns apparent in the shallow areas are similar to or different than those found in deeper waters.

SE12-02 Tutuila Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods for Coral Reef Fish

SE12-02 Tutuila Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods for Coral Reef Fish

The Hi’ialakai will be the base for the SPC (Stationary Point Count) divers.  Teams of two divers will work side-by-side sampling across a 30-meter transect. One diver is centered at the 7.5 meter mark and the other diver is centered at the 22.5 meter mark. Each diver samples a cylinder with a radius of 7.5 meters. Each diver spends the first five minutes noting the fish species present within their cylinder. After noting what fish species are present, the diver keeps a tally of how many representatives of each species are within their cylinder. Divers must work systematically to record additional data including total fish length and habitat type.  For a more detailed description of the SPC method, you may read the procedure as provided by PIFSC.

The Oscar Elton Sette will be the base for the BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations) and the AUV(Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) operations.

BRUVS are deployed from small boats at predetermined locations previously sampled by the SPC divers. They are placed on the seafloor and are equipped with two cameras that allow for accurate measurement of the fish that come into view. The BRUVS are deployed at each site for 20-minutes without bait and again for 60-minutes either with or without bait. The video can be instantly reviewed to ensure successful recording at each site. Captured video is reviewed and analyzed at a later date. Final video processing and data analysis will take place once the scientists return to the lab.

The AUV, named Lucille, is designed to hover 2-4 meters above the seafloor. It is programmed to navigate a predetermined survey track before it is deployed. It is equipped with a pair of forward-looking stereo-video cameras, two still-image cameras, a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) sensor and a SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) unit. It can dive down to 1,500 meters and can go on missions that last up to eight hours. It is programmed to come back to the ocean’s surface at the end of its mission.  The video and still photographs are later reviewed and analyzed. All the data collected by the AUV allows scientists to get a better picture of the ocean floor, what lives there and how many organisms are living within that community.

Comparison of Survey Methods

Comparison of Survey Methods

Maria Madrigal: My Teacher at Sea Adventure: March 31, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-16, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Personal Log: March 31, 2012

Maria Madrigal, Teacher at Sea on Oscar Elton Sette

Maria Madrigal, Teacher at Sea on Oscar Elton Sette

My name is Maria Madrigal and I am one of the lucky few to be selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  I am not a classroom teacher, and I have to admit that I stumbled upon my career. I actually graduated with a degree in Studio Arts. What was I going to do with an art degree? Good question.  I didn’t know myself.  So, I began a search for different AmeriCorps programs where I could gain some work experience.

Luckily, I found the SEA Lab. The SEA Lab is a small aquarium located in Redondo Beach managed by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. My days were spent sharing “cool” and “interesting” facts about the marine animals housed at our facility.  The animals were our ambassadors as we relayed the importance of taking care of our environment to students throughout the Los Angeles area.  However, my teaching was lacking in that I had never explored the marine environment beyond the shoreline.

How can you truly relay the beauty and importance of a kelp forest if you have never explored it? I wanted to experience for myself what it would be like to swim through a kelp forest. It was then that I decided I would face my fears and learn how to swim. That’s right, I didn’t know how to swim but I wasn’t going to let that be an obstacle.

I took some swim lessons and a few months later with my heart racing I dove into the cold waters off Santa Cruz Island. It was a life-changing experience. Naturally, my teaching became greater from my personal experience. The excitement I used to teach was genuine and informed.  Being accepted into NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is providing me with a similar experience. A teacher’s experience can truly enrich the learning of his/her students whether it is in a classroom setting or outdoors.

It is with that same mentality that I embark on this new adventure.

I am traveling to American Samoa where I will join a team of scientists aboard NOAA’s research vessel, the Oscar Elton Sette. I will be working alongside scientists that are assessing the fish populations that inhabit the shallow and deepwater coral reef environments around the island of Tutuila. The project is being lead by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)  which is one of the six regional science centers of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Also aboard are scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Western Australia. Their work is basically to assess fish populations to ensure sustainable fisheries. The study will involve two of NOAA’s Hawaii-based research vessels , the Oscar Elton Sette and the Hi’ialakai.

It will undoubtedly be an enriching experience.  It will provide me with first-hand knowledge of current research that will help me develop new educational activities at the SEA Lab. I also look forward to gaining some insight on career paths to properly guide my current and future corpsmembers.

It has been twelve years since I started working at the SEA Lab. I am currently the Program Manager and my managerial responsibilities typically keep me behind a desk or sitting in traffic, so I’m thrilled to immerse myself again and explore what is beyond the shoreline. I hope you join me along the way. You can track the ship’s journey using NOAA’s ship tracker.

If you want to learn more about the overall mission plan, head over to the mission overview page. There’s one for the Oscar Elton Sette ( and another for the Hi’ialakai (

Jennifer Fry: March 16, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 16, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

The day began on the Oscar Elton Sette with the small boat going  Pago Pago harbor to re-fuel and collect supplies.  That’s about the time I went to sleep. My own day started by waking up at 5:00 p.m. to rougher seas and unfortunately feeling a bit queasy.  I took a walk outside hoping to get a bit of fresh air and relief. A gently rain fell as I peered over the ship’s railings.  Thankfully the strong wind on my face helped my uneasiness.

Midwater Cobb Trawl 5.1

Animals Seen:


Trigger fish juvenile

Morey eel larvae

Pyrosome, various sizes

Puffer fish juvenile

Mola  (sunfish)  juvenile

Data collected Trawl 5.1

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 118 120 135
Non-Myctophids 81 46 60
Crustaceans 5 Negl Negl
Cephalopods:. . 14 32 60
Gelatinous zooplankton 51 114 85
Misc. zooplankton n/a 160 185

Data Collected  Trawl 5.2

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 168 200 254
Non-Myctophids 209 130 125
Crustaceans 14 6 17
Cephalopods: 14 200 230
Gelatinous zooplankton 58 38 35
Misc. zooplankton n/a 366 365

The first trawl began a 9:00 p.m. and the second at approx. 1:30 a.m.

Some very interesting specimens were in the net including:

  • A variety of  squid: the largest measuring approx. 12 inches with out the tentacles,
  • one  juvenile trigger fish
  • 350 mm viper fish
  • Pyrosomes of various sizes
  • One juvenile puffer fish
  • Several Morey eel juvenile
  • Two juvenile sun-fish, Mola

While retrieving the trawl nets a light, warm rain sprinkled on us.  We worked very hard, yet had an amazing amount of fun.  Researchers Emily Norton and Louise Giuseffi joined during the tow.  I think the saying goes, “The more scientists the merrier.” 

While we measured, weighed, collected data, and examined our catch,  songs emanated from the iPod  playing in the wet-lab.  As lengths and weights were recorded, voices sang along  to the tunes into the wee hours of the morning.  The theme  song for tonight was Green Day’s  “Hope you Had the Time of Your Life.”

I certainly am.

Everyone teacher needs to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea to experience first hand the amazing work scientists do each day.

It is now 11 :59 a.m. and time for sleep.

 So much excitement, so many fish, so little time.

Scientist, Aimee Hoover is ready to input data from the midwater Cobb trawl which includes temperature and depth.

Pictured are American Samoan scientist, Sione "Juice" Lam Yuen and a squid found in the Cobb trawl net. Sione is ready to weigh and measure the squid.

Jennifer Fry: March 9, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 9, 2012

Personal Log

Pago Pago

With the morning light, the island’s landscape came into view.  Looking back toward land was the single road, a variety of buildings, consisting of numerous churches, restaurants, schools, and hotels.  I have come to learn that each small village has its own church and outdoor meeting hall.  Behind the buildings the topography extended upward forming a steep hillside covered with green, lush tropical plants, including a variety of palms and fruit trees laden with mangoes and papayas.

After a hearty Samoan breakfast with ten of the scientists that will be on the research vessel, we met with representatives from the local marine sciences community at the American Samoan government building.  Chickens, chickens, and a small clutch of baby chickens happily pecked on the lawn in front of the building which put a smile on my face.

These chickens found their home in front of the Government Building of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Scientific Log

The chief scientist, Dr. Donald Kobayashi, began by introducing the team of scientists and gave a brief overview of the upcoming mission aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette.

The variety of investigations that will be conducted during these next 2 weeks which include:.

  1. Midwater Cobb trawls:  Scientists, John  Denton, American Museum of Natural History, and Aimiee Hoover, acoustics technician , Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, will conduct nighttime tows that will focus on epipelagic and pelagic juvenile reef fish and bottomfish species.
  1. Bot Cam: Using a tethered camera that is later released to float to the surface, and using acoustics–a.k.a. sonar readings–scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center , Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow , Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will collect samples of fish at selected sites during the cruise.
  1. CTD experiments: “Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.”   At predetermined locations scientists Evan Howell, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Megan Duncan, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, will collect water samples called “profiles” taken of the water column at different depths.  This data is very important in determining the nutrients, chlorophyll levels, and other chemical make-up of the ocean water.
  1. Plankton tows:  Using plankton and Neuston nets, scientists Louise Giuseffi, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Emily Norton,University of Hawaii, Manoa, Biological Oceanography department, will conduct day and nighttime plankton tows focusing on plankton and microplastic marine debris.  Scientists will be  looking at a specific species of plankton called the copepod.  This study will also be collecting microplastic pieces, some of which are called “nurdles” which are small plastic pellets used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately most plastic debris will never degrade and just break into smaller and smaller pieces potentially working their way into the food web, making this research and its findings very important to environmental studies.
  1. Handline fishing using a small boat, the Steel Toe: Scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will conduct daily fishing expeditions obtaining scientific data on bottomfish, grouper and snapper species.   They will be focusing on life history factors including age, growth, male/female ratios, length and weight.  This is very exciting research since the last data collected from this region was from the 1970s and 80s.

I am very excited and fortunate to be part of this important scientific research project, and the significant data collected by the scientists.

Did You Know?
American Samoa pronunciation: The first syllable of “Samoa” is accented.
Pago Pago (capital of American Samoa): The “a”  pronunciation uses a soft “an” sound as in “pong.”

Animals Seen Today
Frigate birds
Common Myna
“Flying Foxes” Fruit bats
Brown tree frog
Dogs, various
Chickens, various

Jennifer Fry: March 8, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette arrives in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa

A tropical beach and azure seas in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa.

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 8, 2012

Personal Log

Hawaii to Pago Pago

We arrived in Pago Pago yesterday around midnight.  A fierce storm had just passed through dumping rain everywhere, evidence of which still remained on the tarmac.  Exiting the plane came with a blast of hot, humid air like a furnace on full blast.

Through the thick air, we could barely make out a long string of lights illuminating the single road defining the island’s coastline.

As we queued up with our belongings, we were greeted by the Immigration & Customs agents of American Samoa.  All the officials greeted us with enthusiasm and welcomed us to their island.  Unlike our U.S.customs, each department wore a different colored uniform which consisted of a matching shirt and lava lava, which resembled a wrap around skirt.  Bags were inspected, questions were answered, and we were off to our next destination.

We arrived at Sadies by the Sea, a seaside hotel situated next to a shallow bay.

After settling into the room, I ventured out onto my little porch/ lanai to view the scene only to see giant “flying foxes” of the area. The enormous fruit bats that encircled overhead were common to the island.

I was lulled to sleep by soft lapping sounds of waves as they greeting the shore.  The excitement of the day soon turned to sleepy eyes and happy thoughts of what will come tomorrow and the next adventure.

Karolyn Braun, November 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: November 1, 2006

Plan of the Day: Arrive in Kwajalein, RMI

TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA

TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA

In many of my past journal entries I have talked about El Niño or ENSO, so what is it?  Well El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences is increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. Observations of conditions in the tropical Pacific are considered essential for the prediction of short-term (a few months to 1 year) climate variations.  To provide necessary data, NOAA operates and assists in the TAO buoy project, which measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band. These buoys daily transmit data, which are available to researchers and forecasters around the world in real time.

In normal, non-El Niño conditions the trade winds blow towards the west across the tropical Pacific. These winds pile up warm surface water in the west Pacific, so that the sea surface is about 1/2 meter higher at Indonesia than at Ecuador.  The sea surface temperature is about 8 degrees C higher in the west, with cool temperatures off South America, due to an upwelling of cold water from deeper levels.  This cold water is nutrient-rich, supporting high levels of primary productivity, diverse marine ecosystems, and major fisheries.  Rainfall is found in rising air over the warmest water in the west Pacific, and the east Pacific is relatively dry.

The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise.

The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise (in light blue).

During El Niño, the trade winds relax in the central and western Pacific leading to a depression of the thermocline in the eastern Pacific, and an elevation of the thermocline in the west.  This reduces the efficiency of upwelling to cool the surface and cut off the supply of nutrient rich thermocline water to the euphotic zone.  The result is a rise in sea surface temperature and a drastic decline in primary productivity, the latter of which adversely affects higher trophic levels of the food chain, including commercial fisheries in this region.  The weakening of easterly trade winds during El Niño is also evident.  Rainfall follows the warm water eastward, with associated flooding in Peru and drought in Indonesia and Australia. The eastward displacement of the atmospheric heat source overlaying the warmest water results in large changes in the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn force changes in weather in regions far removed from the tropical Pacific.

Unfortunately, NOAA recently issued an unscheduled EL NIÑO advisory due to El Niño conditions that developed in the tropical Pacific and are likely to continue into early 2007. Ocean temperatures have increased remarkably in the equatorial Pacific during the last two weeks. “Currently, weak El Niño conditions exist, but there is a potential for this event to strengthen into a moderate event by winter,” said Vernon Kousky, NOAA’s lead El Niño forecaster.

During the last 30 days, drier-than-average conditions have been observed across all of Indonesia, Malaysia and most of the Philippines, which are usually the first areas to experience ENSO-related impacts.  This dryness can be expected to continue, on average, for the remainder of 2006. Also, the development of weak El Niño conditions helps explain why this Atlantic hurricane season has been less active than was previously expected.  El Niño typically acts to suppress hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea region.  However, at this time the El Niño impacts on Atlantic hurricanes are small.

So for the past month I have been on the cutting-edge research that assists physical scientists with data that will create ENSO forecast models to improve our understanding of underlying physical processes at work in the climate system.  On our way into Kwajalein, I got to steer the ship.  Didn’t go very straight but not bad for my first time.  I want to give a HUGE thank you to Commanding Officer Mark Pickett; Executive Officer Robert Kamphaus; Field Operations Officer Rick Hester; the Junior Officers, the science team and the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA for the amazing opportunity I’ve had the honor to experience.

Karolyn Braun, October 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: American Samoa
Date: October 31, 2006

Plan of the Day: Transit to Kwajalein, RMI; Science Wrap-up meeting; Celebrate Halloween.

TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.

TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.

Did you know Halloween originated as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain with Irish, Scots, Welsh and other immigrants transporting versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century? Most other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late 20th century. The term Halloween, and its older spelling Hallowe’en, is shortened from All-hallowsevening, as it is the evening before “All Hallows’ Day” (also known as “All Saints’ Day”). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints Day to November 1.

Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent (e.g. Catalan mythology about witches, Irish tales of the Sídhe).  The American tradition of “trick-or-treating” dates back to the All Souls’ Day parades in England. During this time, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes.”  They gave them these cakes if they promised to pray for their dead family members.

Handing out soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits.  The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.  Today, they receive candy instead. So there you have it!

So the day began as usual with breakfast, a work out, and helping the officers on board create their costumes.  Then I went down to the galley and made Halloween cookies, cupcakes and caramel apples with Don and Carrie, the Stewards.  During the afternoon, I packed some then Phoebe, Rebecca and I dressed up for dinner and a little fun of handing out candy to everyone onboard. A good time had by all!