Virginia Warren: Introduction, June 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Personal Log:

Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello, my name is Virginia Warren and I live in Theodore, Alabama. I teach 5th grade science and social studies at Breitling Elementary School in Grand Bay. I am really excited to have been chosen by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to be a part of their Teacher at Sea program! I believe that one of my biggest responsibilities as a teacher is to educate my students about the importance of protecting and conserving the earth and its seas so that they will continue to thrive for many generations to come. Both Theodore and Grand Bay are only minutes from the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast has abundance of what I think are the prettiest, sugar-white-sand beaches the world has to offer. Growing up on the Gulf Coast has created a love and passion in my heart for the sea and all the wonder creatures that live in it! I’m so thankful to NOAA for giving me the opportunity to be a real scientist and to learn more about the scientific research behind protecting the seas that I love so much.

Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama!  Courtesy of https://i1.wp.com/dibeachhouses.com/resources/beach_front_condo_rental_on_dauphin_island.JPG

Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama! 

Science and Technology Log:

I will be sailing from Woods Hole, Massachusetts aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp to participate in an Atlantic sea scallop survey. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp was built in 2006, is 146 feet long, and is the newest vessel in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment fleet. You can take a virtual tour of the ship by clicking here. If you would like to follow the ship while I am at sea you can track the ship here (Google Earth is required).

The purpose of a sea scallop survey is to protect this important fishery from being over-harvested. Traditionally scientists will dredge the bottom of the ocean with a scallop dredge to collect samples. NOAA uses the information collected from the surveys to make decisions about which areas are okay to harvest scallops.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is equipped with a relatively new piece of equipment called the HabCam, short for Habitat Camera Mapping System. The HabCam is a less invasive way to survey populations and allows scientists to see what is on the ocean floor. This is an alternative method of surveying, compared to dredging. I look forward to learning how both methods of surveying work.

What I Hope to Learn:

I am so excited to be able to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a real scientist and to be able to participate in a genuine research experience. I hope to learn more about the scientific process and pass the knowledge I learn on to my students. I am also excited to learn about the different types of sea life found in the North West Atlantic Ocean and compare that with what I know of sea life from home on the Gulf of Mexico.

Please follow me on this adventure as I post my experiences on this blog. Let me know what you think by leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of every blog entry.

Eric Velarde: Beginning Seafloor Dredge Tows, June 17, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Velarde
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Wednesday, June 13, 2013 – Monday, June 24, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Cape May – Cape Hatteras
Date: June 17, 2013

Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 40.07°N
Longitude: 73.05°W
Atmospheric Pressure: 1025 mb
Wind Speed: 4.6 knots
Humidity: 85%
Air Temperature: 18.33°C
Surface Seawater Temperature: 18.46°C

Science & Technology Log

Suspending flight of the HabCam V4 & beginning the first of the seafloor dredge tows was the focus of work on June 17, 2013. In order for seafloor dredge tows to occur, the HabCam V4 is withdrawn from the sea to eliminate risk of accidental collision or entanglement.  After the science team raises the HabCam V4 to a safe depth, the engineering team assumes responsibility of HabCam V4 retrieval through winch operation on the loading deck. When not in operation, the HabCam V4 rests on the loading deck for cleaning & maintenance until seafloor dredge towing is complete. While being a delicate scientific recording instrument, the HabCam V4 also possesses the engineered fortitude to withstand the demands of oceanic scientific research.

HabCam V4 Withdrawal

HabCam V4 Withdrawal

Dredges aboard scientific vessels are 8’ wide, New Bedford style commercial scallop dredge frames, fitted with a ring bag and sweep on the bottom.  The ring bag is built from 2” interconnected metal facets.  Additionally, a 1.5” polypropylene liner is installed inside the ring to capture all sizes of Sea Scallops. In contrast, commercial vessels have two 15’ wide dredges with 4” rings so that younger, smaller scallops pass through the net. Once the dredge is lowered to the seafloor, it is dragged behind the vessel for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots before being lifted onto the vessel for sorting, categorization, and measurement. The engineering team assumes responsibility of lowering & raising the dredge while the science team dons foul weather gear for the messy, but detailed analysis of the catch.

Engineering Team Raising Dredge Tow

Engineering Team Raising Dredge Tow

Once the dredge tow catch is aboard, collaboration between the science and engineering teams occurs so that the catch can be quickly, but accurately sorted into species. All dredge tows are focused on analyzing Atlantic Sea Scallop populations at predetermined points on the ships trajectory. In addition, fish, and sometimes sea stars and crabs require subsampling to assess their population as well. Sea Scallops must be weighed and measured en masse before being returned to their seafloor habitat. In addition, subsamples of Scallops are dissected so that the sex, gonad weight, and meat weight can be recorded.

Measuring Scallops with FSCS

Measuring Scallops with FSCS

All scientific analysis of captured specimens occurs in the scientific lab, which houses FSCS (NOAA Fisheries Scientific Computer system) which is a combination of touch-screen computer monitors, electronic measuring boards, and digital weight scales. The scientific lab is portable, loaded with scientific sampling equipment in Lewes, DE by the scientific team before being carefully loaded onto the vessel prior to departure. Working & cleaning in the scientific lab is nearly effortless due to its engineered design, allowing for streamlined operation.

Scientific Laboratory

Scientific Laboratory

Personal Log

One of my favorite aspects of the seafloor dredge tows is the dissection of the scallops. I enjoy dissection because it is slower than the rest of the operations that occur after the catch has been sorted, giving me time to observe and record the internal anatomy of the scallops. I also enjoy dissection as it grants me time to work in systematic symmetry with the luminous La’Shaun Willis, a Bennett College ’98 Alumnus. Her warming energy is radiant, making me feel as if I am back in Greensboro, teaching & learning alongside my students at The Early/Middle College at Bennett. Listening to her speak about her life journey causes me daydream about the scientific possibilities that await my students when I return to Greensboro, North Carolina with this newfound experience to fuel their continued character, leadership, and academic development. I am constantly filled with inspiration as she shares priceless nuggets of wisdom with me.

Scallop Subsampling

Scallop Subsampling

Following each seafloor dredge tow, the science and engineering teams work to shuck the largest of the scallops for closer analysis of meat weights when the science team returns to the lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Admittedly, I am not very adept at shucking, but I am learning quickly from some of the most talented shuckers I have come into contact with. They transform shucking into a scientific art of speed, precision, and accuracy.

Shucking Scallops

Shucking Scallops

One of the benefits of working from Midnight-Noon is that I get to soak in the warmth of the rising sun, which, as expected, is breathtaking. Each new day has been filled with awesome scientific beauty, wonder, and energy. Several days of seafloor dredge tows will succeed today, eventually followed by the return of the HabCam V4 to the sea as the vessel makes its returning voyage to port.

Sea Sunrise

Sea Sunrise

Did You Know?

Atlantic Sea Scallops inhabit the seafloor from Cape Hatteras at their southernmost range, to Newfoundland at their northernmost range.

-Mr. V

Sherie Gee: Preparing for Life at Sea, May 30, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sherie Gee
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 26 – July 7, 2013

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise:  Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:  May 30, 2013

Personal Log:

Hello, my name is Sherie Gee and I live in the big Lone Star State of Texas. I teach AP Environmental Science and Aquatic Science at John Paul Stevens High School in San Antonio, home of the Alamo and the Spurs. I have been teaching for 31 years and I am still thirsty for new knowledge and experiences to share with the students which is one of the reasons I am so excited to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I will get to be a “scientist” for two weeks collecting specimens, data, and using scientific equipment and technology that I plan to incorporate into the classroom.

I am also excited to be on this spectacular voyage because I feel very passionate about the ocean and all of its inhabitants. The ocean is a free-access resource which means it belongs to everyone on Earth so it needs to be taken care of. Overfishing, overharvesting and ocean pollution are global issues that I feel strongly about and feel that there has to be new ocean ethics. Teachers are in the best position to bring about ocean awareness to the students and the public. I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity by NOAA to be part of an ocean conservation program. One of my favorite quotes is from Rachel Carson: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” I truly believe this because in order for people to care for our Earth and environment and not destroy it, they have to understand it and appreciate it first.

For two weeks I will be collecting the Atlantic sea scallop to determine the distribution and abundance of these animals. This survey is conducted in order to assess these scallop populations in certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean and determine if they have been overharvested and need to be closed to commercial fishermen for a period of time. I am very relieved to know that there are such programs around the world that focus on ocean fisheries and sustainability. I will be describing this survey of the Atlantic sea scallop in greater detail in my blogs.

This will definitely be an exciting ocean experience for me. I live three hours away from the nearest ocean (The Gulf of Mexico) and have always managed to venture to an ocean each year. Every year I take my students to the Gulf of Mexico on the University of Texas research vessel (The Katy) to conduct plankton tows, water chemistry, mud grabs and bottom trawls.  I love to see the students get so excited every time they bring up the otter trawl and watch the various fish and invertebrates spill out of the nets.

UT Marine Science Research Vessel, The Katy

UT Marine Science Research Vessel, The Katy

Student sorting through the otter trawl on the Katy

Student sorting through the otter trawl on the Katy

I know I will be just like the kids when they bring up the trawls from dredging. People who know me say I am a “fish freak”. Fish are my favorite animals because of their high biodiversity and unique adaptations that they possess. I am a scuba diver and so I get to see all kinds of fish and other marine life in their natural habitat. I am always looking for new fish that I haven’t seen before. The top two items on my “Bucket List” are to cage dive with the great white shark (my favorite fish) and to swim with the whale shark. I recently swam with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez and would like to do that again in the Caribbean with adult whale sharks.

Juvenile 15 foot whale shark in the Sea of Cortez Photo by Britt Coleman

Juvenile 15 foot whale shark in the Sea of Cortez

Needless to say, I can’t wait to start sorting through all of the various ocean dwellers and discover all the many species of fish and invertebrates that I have never seen before. I hope you will share my enthusiasm and follow me through this magnificent journey through the North Atlantic Ocean and witness the menagerie of marine life while aboard the Research Vessel Hugh /R. Sharp.

R/V Hugh R. Sharp

R/V Hugh R. Sharp

http://www.ceoe.udel.edu/marine/rvSharp.shtml

Sherie Gee holding an Olive Ridley hatchling at the Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C. in Todos Santos, Mexico Photo by Britt Coleman

Sherie Gee holding an Olive Ridley hatchling at the Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C. in Todos Santos, Mexico
Photo by Britt Coleman