Kaitlin Baird: Did You Know? September 25, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaitlin Baird
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 4 – 20, 2012

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries  Science Center
Geographical Area: Back in port! Newport Rhode Island
Date: September 21st
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Location Data:
Latitude: 41’53.04
Longitude: 71’31.77

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 13.8 (approx.57°F)
Wind Speed: 10.01 kts
Wind Direction:  North
Surface Water Temperature: 19.51 °C (approx. 67°F)
Weather conditions: overcast

Science and Technology Log:
I thought I would end my trip on the Henry B. Bigelow with some fun facts!
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Did you know?
The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) is able to prompt the data recorders with all actions needing to be performed for a particular species. It is coded with unique barcodes for every sample taken. Back in the laboratory all scientists receiving samples can receive all the information taken about the given organism by scanning this unique barcode!
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barcoding for species caught on cruise for further analysis

Barcoding for species caught on cruise for further analysis

Did you know?
Science crew operating on the back deck are required to wear an Overboard Recovery Communications Apparatus (ORCA). This system if it is activated sends a signal by way of radio frequency to a receiver on the ship’s bridge. This system responds immediately to the ship receiver and has a direction finder to help locate the man overboard.

Me getting ready to head to the back deck with my positioning system around my neck

Me getting ready to head to the back deck with my ORCA around my neck

Personal Log:
It would take me hours to go through all of the amazing creatures we caught and surveyed on this trip, so I thought I would write some fast facts about some of my favorites! Enjoy!
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Did you know?
The male spoon arm octopus has a modified arm that passes spermatophores into the oviducts of the female. Pretty neat stuff!
spoonarrm octopus

Spoon arm octopus

Did you know?
Stargazers, like this one, have an electric organ and are one of few marine bony fish species that are able to produce electricity.  This is known as Bioelectrogenesis. They also hide beneath the sand with just their eyes sticking out and ambush their prey!

Stargazer

Stargazer

Did you know?
This fish, the Atlantic midshipman, has bioluminescent bacteria that inhabit these jewel–like photophores that emit light! It also interestingly enough uses this function in fairly shallow waters!

midshipman photophores

Midshipman photophores

Did you know?
Sea spiders like this one have no respiratory organs. Since they are so small gasses diffuse in and out of their bodies, how cool is that!

sea spider

Sea spider

Did you know?
The flaming box crab, Calappa flammea, uses its scissor-like claws that act as a can opener. It has a special modified appendage to open hermit crabs like a can opener!

flaming box crab

Flaming box crab

Did you know?
A female Atlantic angel shark like this one can have up to 13 pups!

angel shark

Angel shark

Did you know?
Seahorses suck up their food through their long snout, and like the flounders I talked about at the beginning of the cruise, their eyes also move independently of each other!!

seahorse

Seahorse

Did you know?
Horseshoe crabs, like this one, have blue blood. Unlike the blood of mammals, they don’t have hemoglobin to carry oxygen, instead they have henocyanin. Because the henocyanin has copper in it, their blood is blue!

horseshoe crab

Horseshoe crab

Last but NOT least, Did you know?
According to the Guiness Book of World Records the American Lobster has been known to reach lengths over 3 ft (0.91 m) and weigh as much as 44 lb (20 kg) or more. This makes it the heaviest marine crustacean in the world! This one was pretty large!!

American Lobster

American Lobster

A big farewell to everyone on the Henry B. Bigelow! Thanks so much, i had a great time and learned a lot! Thanks for reading!

Valerie Bogan: The Journey Ends, June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Valerie Bogan
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012

Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date
: Wednesday June 20, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28  degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius.

 Science and Technology Log:

Well we have come to the end of the cruise so now it is time to tie it all the pieces together.  The Gulf of Mexico contains a large ecosystem which is made up of both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors.  We studied the abiotic factors using the CTD which records water chemistry data and by recording information on the water depth, water color, water temperature, and weather conditions.  We studied the living portions of the ecosystem by collecting plankton in the bongo and neuston nets.  The health of the plankton depends on the abiotic factors such as water temperature and water clarity so if the abiotic factors are affected by some human input then the plankton will be unhealthy.  The trawl net allowed us to collect some larger organisms which occupy the upper part of the food web.  Some of these organisms eat the plankton while others eat bigger creatures which are also found in the trawl net.  Despite what they eat all of these creatures depend on the health of the levels below them either because those levels are directly their food or because those levels are the food of their food.

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

An illustration of how the food web in the gulf works. (picture from brownmarine.com)

The ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico has taken a couple of large hits in the recent past, first with Hurricane Katrina and then with the Deepwater horizon oil spill.  When an ecosystem has undergone such major events it is important to monitor the species in order to determine if there is an effect from the disasters.  Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the people of the Gulf coast but did minimal damage to the biotic parts of the ecosystem.  The effects of the deepwater horizon oil spill are still unknown due to the scope of the spill.

Today’s portion of the ship is the engine room.  I was recently taken on a tour of the engine room by William.  The ship is powered by two diesel engines which use approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel per day.  The ship obviously uses the engines to move from location to location but it also uses the energy to power generators which supply electrical energy, to air condition the ship and to make fresh water out of sea water.

The engines.

The twin diesel engines.

Generators

Generators

There are two vital positions on the Oregon II that I have not discussed, deck worker and engineer.  We could never have collected the samples that we did without the immense help of the deck workers.  They operated the winches and cranes that allowed us to deploy and bring back the nets which captured our samples.  The engineers kept the ship’s engines running, the electricity on, and the rooms cool.  Some of these men started out their careers as merchant marines.  A merchant marine is a person who works on a civilian-owned merchant vessel such as a deep-sea merchant ship, tug boat, ferry or dredge.  There are a variety of jobs on these ships so if you are interested in this line of work I’m sure you could find something to do as a career.  A few merchant marines work as captains of those civilian ships, guiding the ship and commanding the crew in order the get the job done.  More of them serve as mates, which are assistants to the captains.  These people are in training to one day become a captain of their own ship.  Just like on the Oregon II there are also engineers and deck workers in the merchant marines.  Engineers are expected to keep the machinery running while the deck workers do the heavy lifting on the deck and keep the ship in good condition by performing general maintenance.

During this cruise I have met a lot of people who have different jobs all of which are related to collecting scientific data.  The bridge is wonderfully staffed by members of the NOAA Corps.  These men and women train hard to be able to sail research ships around the world.  To find out more about a profession with the NOAA Corps go visit the Corps’ webpage.  There are a large number of scientists on board.  These scientists all specialize in the marine environment and there are many wonderful universities which offer degrees for this field of study.  Go here to get some more information on this scientific pursuit.  The engineers and deck crew keep the ship running. To learn about these professions go to The United States Merchant Marines Academy.  The stewards are instrumental in keeping the crew going on a daily basis by providing good healthy meals.  To learn more about working as a steward read about the Navy culinary school.  The ship could not continue to operate without each of these workers.  Nobody is more or less important than the next–they survive as a group and if they cannot work together the ship stops operating.

Personal Log

Well my journey has come to an end and it is bitter-sweet.  While I’m happy to be back on land, I’m sad to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people on the Oregon II.  When I was starting this adventure I thought two weeks was going to be a long time to be at sea, yet it went by so fast.  Although I’m tired, my sleep and eating schedule are all messed up, and I have some wicked bruises, I would do it again.  I had a great time and in a couple of years I have a feeling I will be once again applying for the Teacher at Sea Program.

It should be no surprise to those that know me best that I love animals which is why I volunteer at the zoo and travel to distant locations to see animals in the wild.  So my favorite part of the trip was seeing all the animals, both those that came out of the sea and those that flew to our deck.  So I’m going to end with a slide show of some amazing animals.

Pelican.

This pelican decided to stop and visit with us for a while.

angel shark

An angel shark

Moray eel

A moray eel

Bat fish

Two bat fishes of very different sizes.

Sand dollar

A sand dollar

Hitchhikers

A group of sea birds decide to hitch a ride for a while.

Brenton Burnett, July 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: July 1, 2006

A hooked pelagic ray swims aside the DAVID STARR JORDAN.

A hooked pelagic ray swims aside the DAVID STARR JORDAN.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 315 degrees
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-4’
Seawater temperature: 19.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1012.5 mb
Cloud cover: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Today’s first run was sharkless but instead we did catch eight pelagic stingrays. In the afternoon we caught two smaller makos and another ray. As I mentioned yesterday, chimera, skates and rays, and sharks make up Class Chondrichthyes.  The chimera are the most ancient grouping of these cartilaginous fish. Later came the skates, rays, and sharks in the Subclass Elasmobranch which make up 96% of the cartilaginous fish species. In general, the rays and skates are characterized by a flattened body with their pectoral fins fully attached to the head. This design is an adaptation to living on the seafloor.  Creatures that live here are described as benthic. This lifestyle is in contrast to sea life that lives in the open ocean, which is described as pelagic.

Which of the toy models is a ray and which is a skate?  Skates have dorsal fins located near the ends of their tails

Which of the toy models is a ray and which is a skate? Skates have dorsal fins located near the ends of their tails

The pelagic stingray is the only stingray that is not benthic. This behavior may be a relatively recent occurrence on evolutionary time scales, however, as it retains a number of characteristics best designed tails. Like all skates and rays, their mouths are located under their flattened body.  In this position, they can swim along the bottom and suck in prey off the seafloor. I recently witnessed such feeding as I fed a bat ray at SeaWorld last week.

The gills of skates and rays (collectively known as the batoids) are located underneath, or ventral, to the body. When resting on the bottom, water flow through the gills is limited and so obtaining oxygen would be a problem if it weren’t for another feature common in cartilaginous fish, the spiracle.  Most sharks also have spiracles, which are small holes on either side of their head. They have a respiratory function. In rays and skates these spiracles are located just behind the eyes up on the top of the head. When the pelagic rays are out of the water, the opening and closing of the spiracles as they breathed was obvious. There are two features most useful in distinguishing a skate from a ray.  Most skates have one or two dorsal fins located far back on their tails, and they never have spines that are typical of rays.

The spine of a ray is often toxic and used as a defense by the ray. When the pelagic rays were brought on board, the first priority was the safety of the humans.  The spine was snipped or if possible, the ray is placed upside down on foam that ultimately will take a spine “hit” and from then on cover the spine. The toxin of a ray’s spine is not delivered in the way a snake’s fangs might inject its poison.  A ray’s spine is serrated and acts like a harpoon or barbed hook, preventing removal in the opposite direction from which it was inserted.  The spine of a stingray has serrated edges but is in the form of a mucous that fills two that make it virtually impossible to remove a grooves on the underside of the spine.

The spiracles of a stingray are located just behind the eyes. The spine, sometimes two or three of them, is found near the base of the tail.

The spiracles of a stingray are located just behind the eyes. The spine, sometimes two or three of them, is found near the base of the tail.

A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam. A puncture made by the spine that may then be infected by the toxic mucous. Telling shark from batoid is not always easy. The order of sharks known as angel sharks bear resemblance to batoids but their pectoral fins are clearly not fully attached to the head, and their mouths are at the front of the head and not underneath as it is in all rays and skates. Other kinds of sharks and rays that can be confused are the sawshark, which is a shark, and the sawfish, which is a ray. Both have a bizarre flattened snout from which teeth stick laterally, or sideways, outwards. They both have a thicker more sharklike body.  Both have two dorsal fins, a set of pectoral fins and a set of pelvic fins.  But they are no more closely related than any shark is to any ray. When two different types of animals (or plants, or other living thing) are faced with similar challenges, they can sometimes independently evolve in a way that arrives at a similar solution.  Bats, birds and butterflies each independently evolved flight.  Triceratops and rhinos evolved head horns.  Mako sharks and dolphins evolved sleek torpedo shaped bodies for rapid swimming.

A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam.

A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly
up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam.

And sawsharks and sawfish have independently evolved a saw shaped snout.  Each is believed to use their snout to capture and kill prey.  But they also retain their sharkiness Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral  fins are distinctly unattached from the head. Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body. There five known species of sawsharks.  They, like most  other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head.  Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head. Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed  appearance. Sawsharks like other sharks have a sensitivity to the electrical disturbances created by moving fish and other prey. Their snout enhances this sensitivity. But the sawfish has no such electrical organ. The sawfish does have pectoral fins that attach fully to the head where the sawshark’s pectoral fins do not. Additionally, the pectoral and pelvic fins of the sawfish are flatter and more flush with the body.  And the gills of the sawfish are underneath the head, but they are found on the side of the head on the sawshark. Lastly, another feature that distinguishes the two are the sawshark barbels that stick out from the middles of their snouts like moustaches—sawfish do not have these.

The spine of a stingray has serrated edges that make it virtually impossible to remove a spine by simply pulling it out the way it went in.

The spine of a stingray has serrated edges that make it virtually impossible to remove a spine by simply pulling it out the way it went in.

I need to address a couple of student questions that I don’t believe I’ve yet answered:

Oxytetracycline (OTC), the dye used to stain the vertebrae for aging studies, is not known to do harm to the shark if given in excess.  However, a table of calculated dosages based on length is used because if too much OTC is used, growth layers other than just the present one will also become stained.

The J-hooks typically used are about four inches in length. The shark abundance survey has been going on since 1994, and to maintain consistent and scientifically comparable data, they continue to use these hooks.

Sharks have few enemies in the oceans.  They tend to be the top predators in their food webs, but as the vast majority of sharks are less than one meter (three feet) long, they can be come prey for other, larger sharks, or even whales like orca. By far the species that poses the largest threat to them are humans.  Mostly humans kill sharks when it is other types of fish that meant to be caught.  The shark would then be referred to as “by-catch”.  At other times sharks are intentionally caught for their meat or as sport—this is often the case for mako sharks.

Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral fins are distinctly unattached from the head.

Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral fins are distinctly unattached from the head.

Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.

Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light.  For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.

The J-hook and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako  and thresher shark lines.

Personal Log 

I continue to have a good time here, if not for the sights and sounds but for the people I am working with.  Lots of interesting, friendly, and fun-loving folks.  And, happily, they have been quite tolerant, and even obliging of me walking around with my video camera catching this and that.

Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body.

Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body.

There five known species of sawsharks. They, like most other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head. Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head.

There five known species of sawsharks. They, like most other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head. Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head.

Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed appearance.

Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed appearance.

Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.

Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.

Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light. For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.

Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light. For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.

The J-hook and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako and thresher shark lines.

The J-hook (right) and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako and thresher shark lines.