Kimberly Scantlebury: Our Neighbors Downstairs, May 6, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Scantlebury

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

May 1-May 12, 2017

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey

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The whale legging were good luck.

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: May 6, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 19:00

Latitude: 2821.0766 N, Longitude: 09228.2796 W

Wind Speed: 3 knots, Barometric Pressure: 1013.0 hPa

Air Temperature: 19.3 C, Water Temperature: 24.13  C

Salinity: 35.6184  PSU, Conditions: 25% cloud cover, little to no wind or waves

Science and Technology Log

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When the Bandit reel lines go down, it becomes a fun game to guess what, if anything, is going to come up. Even at their shallowest, we are dropping thirty baited hooks (ten per reel) down 50 meters, deep enough to not see any action going on. Many times these vertical long lines are dropping over 100 meters to the seafloor.

There is a lot more radio communication than you might expect when we fish. Today, scientists Joey and Kevin swapped jobs and Kevin ran controls inside the dry lab. That person chooses what locations we are fishing and runs the operations when we do. He tells the people outside when to drop their baited lines, when there is a minute left before reeling them back, and when to “take them home.” Each of the three reels has a deckhand who radios when each step is complete such as attaching each hook to the line and lowering it to the bottom. The bridge is also in radio communication. There can also be some playful banter about who is not catching fish lately.

Sometimes you know a fish or two are on. The arc on top of the Bandit reel bends down under the stress of whatever is fighting and the orange top buoy bobs up and down against the normal flow of the waves. James, the deckhand I fish with, usually says, “I hope it ain’t no shark.” (Today we did indeed get three sharks attacking out bait when it hit the water). My reel also got seven fish the first time we tried today. This is much better than how we were doing earlier in the week. Each fish gets a numbered tag that correlates to the hook on its reel and each reel has different colored tags. Everything is written down. So far we have caught the following fish species:

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11.83 kg (26 lb.), female Amberjack

  • Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)
  • Vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens)
  • Greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili)
  • Gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus)
  • Goldface tilefish (Caulolatilus chrysops)
  • Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
  • Sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates)

According to the NOAA Fisheries Economics of the United States (2014) commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico Region landed 1.1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish, earning $1 billion for their harvest that year. In 2013, the red snapper fishery alone brought in a value of over $21 million dockside. On top of that, approximately 2.9 million recreational anglers fished in the Gulf of Mexico Region in 2014 as well. There are also fish-related industries that compound the economic effects of fisheries in the Gulf. The work that is being done is more than just understanding the ecology. Our gilled neighbors downstairs of NOAA Ship Pisces affect a lot of human lives too. It is refreshing to remember everything that is connected to our dinner.

Personal Log

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Practice rescue in action.

Today was a beautiful day on NOAA Ship Pisces. The wind was slight and the water was as close to mirror as I expect to see. Kevin told me that the geography of the Gulf makes for fast changing weather. It may storm up quickly, but it also means it calms down overnight too. No queasiness for anyone today!

After another delicious and varied dinner by the talented stewards we were treated to a Man Overboard drill. It was entertainment to us, but serious practice for the crew. Lieutenant Noblitt and deckhand Junior were lowered in the ship’s Zodiac boat. On the other side of the vessel Ensign Rock was suited in a wetsuit & snorkel and jumped overboard as the person to rescue. After the lookouts on the Zodiac found her, Ensign Brendel jumped in for the practice rescue.  

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Zodiac and crew getting back on the ship.

Quote of the Day:
Kevin: “Joey, don’t go too far.”
Joey: “Where am I going to go!?!”
Life on a boat summed up…

Did You Know?

Sometimes we get other neat things on board. Rhodolith (from the Greek “rhodo=red” and “lithos=stone”) are red algae colonies that build up upon older, dead rhodoliths over time.  We also got dead man’s fingers. This is the common name for Codium sp. 

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Dead man’s fingers.

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Rhodolith. a.k.a. My pet rock

Heidi Wigman: Bandit Reels, CTDs, and Camera Drops . . . Oh My! May 29, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heidi Wigman
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 27 – June 10, 2015


Mission: Reef fish surveys
Geographical area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico (29°38.27’N 087°19.31’W)
Date: May 29, 2015

Weather: 81° @ surface, SE winds @ 8-13 knots, seas 2-3ft, chance of showers, average depth 92m

Science and Technology Log:

The science operations aboard the Pisces is an around the clock event.  For 12 hours each day (0700-1900) we are involved in a series of survey drops at predetermined reef sites, contained within blocks of 100 sq. Nautical Miles.  At each, randomly chosen 0.1sq. Nm site, a set of deployment operations commences.  The first piece of equipment that goes over the side is the camera rig.  This circular housing (diameter/height) contains 4 cameras that take pictures and video.  This rig “soaks” on the bottom for about 40 minutes, capturing the life on the reef, which will later be analyzed by the team, looking for the commercially important species.  One lucky camera is chosen, with the criteria being that there are no obstructions in the frame, and that it is looking at the reef.  From the footage of this camera the scientist will determine the fish abundance and types at the location.  This data is shared with outside agencies for assessment and review of the reef health.

Camera rig waiting deployment

Camera rig waiting deployment

1/4 cameras - 2 lenses for stills and 1 for video

1 of 4 cameras – 2 lenses for stills and 1 for video

A second deployment at the reef site is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) probe (diameter= 1m/ height=144cm).  This probe is lowered over the side, and does a quick calibration soak just below the surface.  After about 3 minutes, it is lowered to within 2m of the ocean floor and captures data on the descent and ascent that measures conductivity (salinity), temperature, depth, oxygen levels, and turbidity.

CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe on deck

CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe on deck

The third, and most fun, of the deployments are the bandit reels.  This is when we try to entice fish to be the test subjects of the reef site.  Baited with mackerel, each 10 hook bandit reel is placed along the starboard side at 3 points (forward, aft, and stern. Each of the reels has a different hook size on (small, medium, large)) and is lowered to the bottom for a 5 minute soak.  Any fish that are caught, are brought aboard, and dissected to determine rate of growth and reproductive cycle.  The otoliths, or ear bone, is extracted to determine the age based on the lines that appear across the surface — much like the rings of a tree to determine its age.

Bandit Reel

getting ready to bait up some mackerel

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Amberjack from the last bandit reel of the day.

Math at Sea: When I was up on the bridge this morning to hang out with am watch we did some math to determine at what distance the Pensacola Lighthouse would be visible to us.  Lucky for us, there is a math formula to determine this! To determine the geographic range (in nautical miles) you would first need to know 2 variables: height of beacon (h1) (above sea level) and observer’s height-of-eye (h2) above sea level. geographic range = 1.17√[(h1)+(h2)] {the product of 1.17 and the square root of the sum of the two heights} Math question of the day: at what distance would a sailor be able to spot  a 119′ high beacon from a 36′ height-of-eye (if weather conditions were clear)? Up next . . . A closer look at the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics of the sidescan sonar

Lesley Urasky: Fish, fish, where are all the fish? June 18, 2012

 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lesley Urasky
Aboard the NOAA ship Pisces
June 16 – June 29, 2012

 

Mission:  SEAMAP Caribbean Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Date: June 18, 2012

Location:
Latitude: 17.6568
Longitude: -64.9281

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Air Temperature: 28.5°C (83.3°F)
Wind Speed:  17.1 knots (19.7 mph), Beaufort scale: 5
Wind Direction: from SE
Relative Humidity: 75%
Barometric Pressure:   1,014.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature:28.97 °C (84.1°F)

Science and Technology Log

Alright, so I’ve promised to talk about the fish.  Throughout the science portions of the cruise, the scientists have not been catching the anticipated quantities of fish.  There are several lines of thought as to why: maybe the region has experienced overfishing; possibly the sampling sites are too shallow and deeper water fish may be more likely to bite; or they might not like the bait (North Atlantic mackerel) since it is not an endemic species/prey they would normally eat.

So far, the night shift has caught more fish than the day shift that I’m on.  Today, we have caught five and a half fish. The half fish was exactly that – we retrieved only the head and it looked like the rest of the body had been consumed by a barracuda!  These fish were in the grouper family and the snapper family.

Coney (Cephalopholis fulvus)

Blackfin snapper (Lutjanus buccanella). This little guy was wily enough to sneak into the camera array and steal some squid out of the bait bag! The contents of his stomach – cut up squid – can be seen to the left between the forceps and his head.

Once the fish have been caught, there are several measurements that must be made.  To begin, the fish is weighed to the nearest thousandth (three decimal places) of a kilogram. In order to make sure the weight of the fish is accurate, the scale must be periodically calibrated.

Then there are several length measurements that are made: standard length (SL), total length (TL) and depending on the type of fish, fork length (FL).  To make these measurements, the fish is laid so that it facing toward the left and placed on a fish board.  The board is simply a long plank with a tape measure running down the center.  It insures that the fish is laid out flat and allows for consistent measurement.

Standard length does not measure the caudal fin, or tail.  It is measured from the tip of the fish’s head and stops at the end of the last vertebra; in other words, if the fish is laying on its side, and you were to lift the tail up slightly, a crease will form at the base of the backbone.  This is where the standard length measurement would end.  Total length is just as it sounds – it is a measurement of the entire length (straight line)  of the fish.  Fork length is only measured if the type of fish caught has a forked tail.  If it does, the measurement begins at the fish’s snout and ends at the v-notch in the tail.

How to measure the three types of lengths: standard, fork, and total. (Source: Australian Government: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population, and Communities)

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) on the fish board being measured for standard length. Ariane’s thumb is on the crease marking the end of its backbone.

Once the physical measurements are made, the otoliths must be extracted and the fish sexed.  You’re probably anxious to learn if you selected the right answer on the previous post’s poll – “What do you think an otolith is?”  An otolith can be thought of as a fish’s “ear bone”.  It is actually a structure composed of calcium carbonate and located within the inner ear.  All vertebrates (organisms with backbones) have similar structures.  They function as gravity, balance, movement, and directional indicators.  Their presence helps a fish sense changes in horizontal motion and acceleration.

In order to extract the otoliths, the fish must be killed.  Once the fish has been killed, the brain case is exposed and peeled back.  The otoliths are in little slits located in the underside of the brain.  It takes a delicate touch to remove them with a pair of forceps (tweezers) because they can easily break or slip beyond the “point of no return” (drop into the brain cavity where they cannot be extracted).

Otoliths are important scientifically because they can tell many important things about a fish’s life.  Their age and growth throughout the first year of life can be determined.  Otoliths record this information just like tree ring record summer/winter cycles. More complex measurements can be used to determine the date of hatch, once there are a collected series of measurements, spawning times can be calculated.

A cross-section of an otolith under a microscope. The rings are used to determine age and other life events. Source: Otolith Research Laboratory, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Because they are composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the oxygen component of the chemical compound can be used to measure stable oxygen isotopes; this is useful for reconstructing temperatures of the waters the fish has lived in.  Scientists are also able to look at other trace elements and isotopes to determine various environmental factors.

Extracted otoliths. Often they are around 1 cm long, although the larger the fish, the slightly larger the otolith.

The final step we take in measurement/data collection is determining the sex and maturity of the fish.  To do this, the fish is slit open just as if you were going to clean the fish to filet and eat it.  The air bladder must be deflated if it isn’t already and the intestines moved out of the way.  Then we begin to search for the gonads (ovaries and testes).  Once the gonads are found, we know if it is female or male and the next step is to determine its stage or maturity.  This is quite a process, especially since groupers can be hermaphroditic.  The maturity can be classified with a series of codes:

  • U = undetermined
  •  1  = immature virgin (gonads are barely visible)
  •  2  = resting (empty gonads – in between reproductive events)
  •  3 = enlarging/developing (eggs/sperm are beginning to be produced)
  •  4 = running ripe (gonads are full of eggs/sperm and are ready to spawn)
  •  5 = spent (spawning has already occurred)

Ovaries of a coney (grouper family). These are the pair of flesh colored tubular structures running down the center of the fish.

Personal Log

Today is my birthday, and I can’t think of a better place to spend it!  What a treat to be having such an adventure in the Caribbean!  This morning, we were on our first bandit reel survey of the day, and the captain came on over the radio system, announced my birthday and sang Happy Birthday to me.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband, Dave, had emailed the CO of the Pisces asking him to wish me a happy birthday.

We’ve had a very successful day (compared to the past two days) and have caught many more fish – 5 1/2 to be exact.  The most exciting part was that I caught two fish on my bandit reel!  They were a red hind and blackfin snapper (see the photos above).  What a great birthday present!

Father’s Day surf and turf dinner

My birthday fish! The blackfin snapper is on the left and the red hind on the right.

I even got a birthday kiss from the red hind!

Last night (6/17) for Father’s Day, we had an amazing dinner: filet mignon, lobster, asparagus, sweet plantains, and sweet potato pie for dessert!  Since it was my birthday the following day (6/18), and one of the scientists doesn’t like lobster, I had two tails!  What a treat!

Our best catch of the day came on the last bandit reel cast.  Joey Salisbury (one of the scientists) caught 5 fish: 4 blackfin snapper and 1 almaco jack; while Ariane Frappier (another scientist) caught 3 – 2 blackfin and 1 almaco jack.  This happened right before dinner, so we developed a pretty good assembly line system to work them up in time to eat.

Dinner was a nice Chinese meal, but between the ship beginning to travel to the South coast of St. Thomas and working on the computer, I began to feel a touch seasick (not the best feeling after a large meal!).  I took a couple of meclazine (motion sickness medication) and still felt unwell (most likely because you’re supposed to take it before the motion begins). My roommate, Kelly Schill, the Operations Officer, made me go to bed (I’m in the top bunk – yikes!), gave me a plastic bag (just in case!), and some saltine crackers. After 10 hours of sleep, I felt much, much better!

I had some time in between running bandit reels, baiting the hooks, and entering data into the computers,to interview a member of the science team that joined us at the  last-minute from St. Croix.  Roy Pemberton, Jr. is the Director of Fish and Wildlife for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The following is a snippet of our conversation:

LU: What are your job duties as the Director of Fish and Wildlife?

RP: I manage fisheries/wildlife resources and try to educate the population on how to better manage these resources to preserve them for future generations of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

LU: When did you first become interested in oceanography?

RP: I’m not really an oceanographer, but more of a marine scientist and wildlife biologist.  I got interested in this around 5-6 years old when I learned to swim and then snorkel for the first time.  I really enjoyed observing the marine environment and my interest prompted me to want to see and learn more about it.

LU: It’s such a broad field, how did you narrow your focus down to what you’re currently doing?

RP: I took a marine science class in high school and I enjoyed it tremendously.  It made me seek it out as a career by pursuing a degree in Marine Science at Hampton University.

LU:  If you were to go into another area of ocean research, what would it be?

RP: Oceanography – Marine Spatial Planning

Roy Pemberton holding a recently caught coney.

LU: What is the biggest challenge in your job?

RP: It is a challenge to manage fisheries and wildlife resources with respect to the socioeconomic and cultural nuances of the people.

LU: What do you think is the biggest issue of contention in your field, and how do you imagine it will resolve?

RP: Fisheries and coral reef management.  We need to have enough time to see if the federal management efforts work to ensure healthier ecosystems for future generations.

LU: What are some effects of climate change that you’ve witnessed in the reef systems of the U.S. Virgin Islands?

RP: Temperatures have become warmer and the prevalence of disease among corals has increased.

LU: In what areas of Marine Science do you foresee a lot of a career paths and job opportunities?

RP: Fisheries management, ecosystem management, coral reef diseases, and the study of coral reef restoration.

LU: Is there an area of Marine Science that you think is currently being overlooked, and why?

RP: Marine Science management that takes into account cultural and economic issues.

LU: What are some ideas a layperson could take from your work?

RP: One tries to balance resource protection and management with the cultural and heritage needs of the population in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

LU: If a high school student wanted to go into the fish/wildlife division of planning and natural resources, what kinds of courses would you recommend they take?

RP: Biology, Marine Science, History, Botany, and Math

LU: Do you recommend students interested in your field pursue original research as high school students or undergraduate students?  If so, what kind?

RP: I would suggest they study a variety of life sciences so they can see what they want to pursue.  Then they can do an internship in a particular life science they find interesting to determine if they would like to pursue it as a career.

Too many interesting people on the ship and so little time!  I’m going to interview scientists as we continue on to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once they leave, I’m continuing on to Mayport, Florida with the ship.  During this time, I’ll explore other careers with NOAA.

Lesley Urasky: Setting Sail from St. Croix, June 16, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lesley Urasky
Aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces
June 16 – June 29, 2012

 

Mission:  Caribbean Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Date: Saturday, June 16, 2012

Location:
Latitude: 17.6395
Longitude: -64.8277

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 29°C (84°F)
Wind Speed: 15.76 knots (18.1 mph)
Relative Humidity: 79%
Barometric Pressure: 1,012.7 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 29°C (84°F)

Personal Log

My trip to meet the Pisces and become a Teacher at Sea was a two-day process.  I traveled from my home in Sinclair, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado to catch the first of three flights.  The first flight was from Denver to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport; after a two-hour layover, I then flew to Miami.  Originally, I was to travel the entire way in one day.  However, I didn’t want to arrive in St. Croix at 10:00 p.m. and have to make my way to the pier, pass through security, board the ship, find my stateroom, and hopefully meet some of the crew and scientists late at night.  Instead, I spent the night in Miami and flew to St. Croix the next morning.

Trip to St. Croix from Sinclair, Wyoming

Google Earth view of my trip to St. Croix.

Once I landed at the Frederiksted Airport on St. Croix, I took a taxi to the cruise ship pier.  The taxi driver was very concerned about taking me there, because no cruise ships were docked; he was doubtful that any ship was there.  After convincing him that a NOAA ship was indeed docked, he moved aside the sugar cane in the back, loaded my bags, and took me to the pier.  Breaking my trip into two pieces turned out to be the best plan because once I got to the security gate, there was no approved members list at security and they wouldn’t accept my travel document.  They called the ship and the Commanding Officer (CO) came down the pier to meet me at the gate and escort me to the ship.  After a quick tour of the ship, I took some time to settle into the stateroom I’m sharing with the Operations Officer, Kelly Shill.  The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring Frederiksted.

The Pisces viewed from Frederiksted, St. Croix

On Friday, June 15th, I went to Christiansted with some of the ship’s crew members.  Kelly Schill, Operations Officer; Chris Zacharias, Junior Engineer; Peter Langlois, 3rd Mate; and I went shopping for souvenirs, had lunch, and fed the resident school of tarpon outside of Fort Christian Brew Pub.  Later that evening, we went to a beachside restaurant and watched a performance by some modern dance fire dancers.

Hungry tarpon waiting for tidbits.

Modern fire dancers

Fire dancers

Today we left port and embarked on the third Leg of the Caribbean Reef Fish Survey.  The first leg was when the Pisces traveled from Pascagoula, Mississippi to San Juan, Puerto Rico; here the ship picked up the scientific crew.  The second leg was from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Croix; during this time period, they collected data about the ocean and the fish along the reef system.  I joined the scientists and crew of the Pisces at Frederiksted, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The Pisces was in port at St. Croix for three days for personnel change, resupply of the galley, and to give the crew a rest. During this leg, we will be traveling back to San Juan, Puerto Rico taking samples around St. Croix and St Thomas islands.  In addition to the reef fish survey, the Pisces will be deploying the base (anchor and chain) for another buoy to collect oceanographic data 3 nautical miles (nm) south of Saba, which is located between St. Croix and St. Thomas.  The University of Virgin Islands is working in conjunction with NOAA to accomplish this goal.  Once back in San Juan, the scientists will leave the ship, returning home with the data.  On the fourth leg, the Pisces will return to Mayport, Florida, retrieving a buoy that is adrift along the way.  Commander Fischel is kindly allowing me to remain aboard during the cruise back to port!

Science and Technology Log

Here is a quick overview of all equipment the survey will use to collect data. There is an array of four video cameras that is baited with frozen squid.  The array is lowered over the side of the ship at each sampling site, and allowed to rest on the bottom for 40 minutes.  The cameras cannot be deployed during the night because there are no lights on the array. Therefore, viewing is dependent upon the availability of sunlight penetrating the water column.  Because of the need for natural light, the cameras are only used during daylight hours; the array cannot be deployed earlier than one hour after sunrise and must be retrieved from the bottom of the continental shelf or shelf edge one hour before sunset.

After the camera array is deployed, a cluster of instruments called a CTD is lowered to collect data on the ocean environment.  CTD is an acronym for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. Conductivity is used to determine the salinity (the amount of salts dissolved in the water).  Water conducts electricity (this is why you shouldn’t use electrical appliances while in or around water, and why the lifeguard tells you to get out of the pool during a thunderstorm).  As the salinity increases, conductivity increases.  Temperature is a very straight forward measurement.  I’m sure you’ve measured the temperature of several different things ranging from air temperature (to see how hot it is outside) to the internal temperature of a roasting chicken.  These measurements are related to specific depths within the water column. The depth the instrument is at in the ocean is calculated from measuring the hydrostatic pressure (how much pressure the overlying water exerts on the instrument).  The CTD instrumentation cluster collects huge amounts of data – 8 measurements per second!  These are averaged and compressed into “bins” covering 1 meter segments.

The CTD and camera array waiting deployment.

In addition, the instrument cluster also measures the amount of oxygen dissolved (DO) in the water column.  As you probably already know, most organisms require oxygen to live (carry out cellular respiration).  The amount of oxygen dissolved in the water is directly correlated to how much life the water can support.  More oxygen = more life.  When water is warmer, it loses its ability to “hold onto” oxygen; cold water will contain more dissolved oxygen.  This is one reason why climate change and warming aquatic environments are of great concern.

Victor, Joey, and Joe deploying the camera array

After both the camera array and CTD have been deployed and retrieved, the final step at each site is to collect fish through the use of bandit reels located at three sites on the ship.  All three are located on the starboard (right hand) side of the ship.  Reel #1 is starboard (S), Reel #2 is starboard aft (SA), and Reel #3 is starboard stern (SS) at the back of the ship.  Reel #3 is where I helped the attempts to collect fish.  Each bandit reel has ten hooks of the same size (8/0, 11/0, and 15/0) attached to a 300-lb test monofilament.  Each of the hook sizes are rotated around the stations throughout the day.  These hooks are baited with slices of frozen Atlantic mackerel.  A 10 pound weight is attached to the end of the line, the baited hooks attached, and the line let out until it hits bottom.  Then, a float is attached and the line is left for five minutes before being reeled back in.

Any fish that are caught are identified and have their length and mass measured.  Afterwards, the fish’s otoliths are removed and it is opened to determine its gender and have its reproductive stage assessed.  More on the fish specifics to come!

Melinda Storey, June 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Melinda Storey
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 19, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 27°34 N, longitude = 096°28 W
Present Weather: mostly clear
Visibility: > 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: SSE Wind Speed: 13 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.4°C, wet bulb = 27.8°C

Science and Technology Log

One of the goals of the SEAMAP Reef Fish survey is to monitor the health and abundance of reef fish to establish limits on how much fish the fishing industry can take out of Gulf waters. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program and is a State/Federal/University program for collection, management and dissemination of fishery-independent data and information in the southeastern United States.

Due to the oil spill in the Gulf, the fish we capture will be weighed, measured, frozen, and delivered to the Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) in Mississippi to be tested for hydrocarbons (oil) or other contamination to ensure that the seafood is safe to eat. Since the oil spill is far to the east of where we are doing the survey, our data will serve as a baseline and be compared to future studies to see what the extent and future impact of the oil will be in these waters.

Dropping the bait

Dropping the bait

Bucket of fish

Bucket of fish

The fish are taken out of the Chevron Trap or off the Bandit Reel and brought into the wet lab.

The first measurement we take is the weight (or mass) of the fish in kilograms (kg) using a motion compensating scale. One scientist will take the measurements while another records the data in a data table.

Weighing fish

Weighing fish

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Next, we take three different measurements of length by placing the fish on a board that has a metric measuring tape attached. All length measurements are measured in millimeters (mm). First, we take the Total Length (TL) measurement which is from the mouth of the fish to the longest point on the tail. Then we measure the Fork Length (FL) from the mouth of the fish to the indention of the tail. The last measurement is the Standard Length (SL) which is from the mouth of the fish to the base of the tail.

Fish Diagram

Fish Diagram

Personal Log

I’m loving the gross and slimy science that we are doing here. The other teacher on board likes logging the data onto the charts and all the numbers. That suits me fine because I like hands-on science! The messier the better.

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Baiting a fish trap

Baiting a fish trap

You can see me holding the squid that we use to bait the Chevron fish trap. I even like picking up the fish and weighing them and measuring them too. Our Chief Scientist, Paul Felts, let me calibrate the scale. This scale compensates for the rolling of the ship so we get a very accurate weight. I think the scientists get a kick out this old woman doing some of the gooey, messy work like baiting the fish trap with the slimy squid and the Bandit Reel with pieces of mackerel, but what they don’t know is that I don’t mind at all!

I have been amazed at the number of oil rigs in the Gulf. Wherever we’ve been – 100 miles out or 40 miles out – we’ve seen oil and gas platforms (rigs). Rigs that are out 100 miles start drilling at 5,000 feet deep. At night the rigs are all lit up and are beautiful but the number just overwhelms me.

Oil Rigs

Oil Rigs

Nautical Chart

Nautical Chart

The CO showed me a chart they were using on the bridge and it looked like someone shook pepper on a white sheet of paper, only each pepper flake was an oil rig. He said that most of those rigs have been built since 1997. At first, ships from oil companies were sent out to map the ocean floor and that would help them decide WHERE to drill. On the nautical chart there were two levels of ocean depths – shallow water and deep water. I was looking at the deep water chart. When I commented on the number of oil rigs, the CO said there were even more rigs in the shallow part. He said that when he “steams” through the shallow water rigs it’s “like driving through traffic.”

There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Brown Booby

New Term/Vocabulary

Bridge – the top level of the ship where the Commanding Officer steers the ship

Steam ahead – to move forward

“Something to Think About”

Nicolle found a moth in her room last night. Now, how did a moth get way out here? I caught him and released him but who knows what will happen to him. It doesn’t look good for the little guy!

“Did You Know?”

Did you know that if you get “pooped on” by an ocean bird, it means you’ll have good luck? Fortunately I’m not lucky!!!
There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Melinda Storey, June 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 26.52.6 N, longitude = 096.46.7 W
Present Weather: 3/8 cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius, wet bulb = 27.5 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

We reached our first research station 40 miles off the coast of Southern Texas sometime in the early morning. To maximize the use of daylight, the scientists begin collecting data one hour after sunrise (around 0730 hours) and work until one hour before sunset (around 1930 hours). At each station, a camera array is lifted and lowered by a crane into the water column, down to the ocean floor.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array being "dropped" into the ocean by a crane

Camera Array being lowered into the ocean by a crane

The depth of the ocean varies at each station but today the depth was somewhere around 68 meters (223.04 feet). The camera array has 4 sets of cameras pointing in each direction. Each set of cameras contains one video recorder and two still-shot cameras that take turns snapping pictures, sort of like closing your right eye, then your left eye, then your right eye, and so on. The purpose of the still-shots is to help the scientists, along with the use of lasers, to estimate the length of the fish in the images. The cameras stay submerged for 45 minutes and then they are hauled back up to the surface.

The next thing that happens at each station is the lowering of a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) into the water column. The CTD measures the changes in salinity (salt level), temperature, and dissolved oxygen as it passes through the water column.

CTD

CTD

CTD being lowered into the water

CTD being lowered into the water

This data is transmitted directly to a computer graph where a technician watches and monitors to make sure the CTD is working properly and stays within 2 meters of the ocean floor.

CTD data on monitors

CTD data on monitors

The camera array and CTD are lowered at every station, but two stations are chosen randomly to drop a Chevron trap and two stations are chosen randomly to lower a Bandit Reel. The Chevron trap is baited with squid and physically picked up and thrown over the deck. The trap is fitted with weights on the bottom to make sure it lands in the right position on the ocean floor and soaks for one hour before being hauled back to the surface. During the first drop of the trap, we hauled in a giant Warsaw Grouper weighing over 16 kilograms (35.2 pounds)!

Chevron trap

Chevron trap

Mackeral bait for chevron trap

Mackerel bait for chevron trap

The Bandit Reel is like a long line sent straight down to the bottom of the ocean. It has 10 hooks that are baited with fresh mackerel and lowered to soak for 10 minutes.

Bandit Reel

Bandit Reel

Luck was on our side again as the first drop of the bandit reel hooked 9 Red Snapper! This was our first look at the fish that is the main subject of our Reef Fish Survey.

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Personal Log

WHOOO HOOOOO! I’ve just done REAL NOAA science!!!!! Today we are dropping the CTD and the camera ray and then dropping the Bandit Reel line that has 10 hooks. The first Bandit Reel drop we caught 9 big red snapper. The largest one was 1.89 kilos (4.15 lbs).

CTD

CTD

Camera Array

Camera Array

This is the camera array – four cameras take footage of the fish down there.

The next time we dropped the line, they let ME take the snapper off the hook, weigh them, and then measure them. I measured the total length, the fork length, and the standard length. Then I bagged them all up and put them in the freezer to take back to the Pascagoula lab.

Measuring a red snapper

Bagging a Red Snapper

Bagging a Red Snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Me and a Red Snapper

Me and a Red Snapper

I also got to hold a sucker fish that accidently got caught on the line. Its sucker was on the top of the head. It looked like someone had stepped on his head and left tennis shoe marks! The sucker fish attaches itself to the bottom of a shark and rides along with him. We saw 2 sharks hovering around as we brought up the line which is baited with mackerel. The next time we deployed the Bandit Line they let me bait the hooks with mackerel and then put the hooks on the line. It was great! I love getting messy!

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

This is a sucker fish that attaches to shark.

This afternoon the crew got out their personal fishing poles and fished off the stern. The XO caught a shark but he didn’t bring it on board. It was impressive to me. Then we threw out the fish trap that was sunk to the bottom of the ocean. We caught a HUGE Warsaw grouper in the trap. One of the scientist said it was the largest grouper he’d ever seen – 16 kilos (35.2lbs). Its eyes were bulging and its mouth was huge! Teeth and all! Nicolle and I were left alone with it in the bay when it started flopping and flipping all over the place. We squealed like little girls!

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

So far we’ve had two “never seen before” experiences! This is GREAT!

New Term/Vocabulary

Camera array

CTD – conductivity, temperature, and depth

Bandit Reel

“Something to Think About”

Why do you think it’s important to take measurements and weights of the fish for NOAA research? What are they doing with all that research?

“Did You Know?”

Boyle’s Law at Sea

Did you know that when the fish are brought up from the deep (60-70 meters) the decrease in pressure causes the swim bladder to expand? That’s because the swim bladder is full of air and if you’ll remember Boyle’s Law, a decrease in pressure creates an increase in volume. Here you see a swim bladder that came out of the mouth.

Nicolle von der Heyde, June 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicolle von der Heyde
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Nicolle von der Heyde
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Dates: Thursday, June 17

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 26.52.6 N, longitude = 096.46.7 W
Present Weather: 3/8 cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius, wet bulb = 27.5 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

We reached our first research station 40 miles off the coast of Southern Texas sometime in the early morning. To maximize the use of daylight, the scientists begin collecting data one hour after sunrise (around 0730 hours) and work until one hour before sunset (around 1930 hours). At each station, a camera array is lifted and lowered by a crane into the water column, down to the ocean floor. The depth of the ocean varies at each station but today the depth was somewhere around 68 meters (about 224 feet). The camera array has 4 sets of cameras pointing in each direction. Each set of cameras contains one video recorder and two still-shot cameras that take turns snapping pictures, sort of like closing your right eye, then your left eye, then your right eye, and so on. The purpose of the still-shots is to help the scientists, along with the use of lasers, to estimate the length of the fish in the images. The cameras stay submerged for 45 minutes and then they are hauled back up to the surface.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array

The next thing that happens at each station is the lowering of a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) into the water column. The CTD measures the changes in salinity (salt level), temperature, and dissolved oxygen as it passes through the water column. This data is transmitted directly to a computer graph where a technician watches and monitors to make sure the CTD is working properly and stays within 2 meters of the ocean floor.

CTD

CTD

Data from CTD on Computer Monitors

Data from CTD on Computer Monitors

CTD

CTD

The camera array and CTD are lowered at every station, but two stations are chosen randomly to drop a Chevron trap and two stations are chosen randomly to lower a Bandit Reel. The Chevron trap is baited with squid and physically picked up and thrown over the deck. The trap is fitted with weights on the bottom to make sure it lands in the right position on the ocean floor and soaks for one hour before being hauled back to the surface. During the first drop of the trap, we hauled in a giant Warsaw Grouper weighing over 16 kilograms (35.2 pounds)!

Chevron Trap

Chevron Trap

Bait

Bait

The Bandit Reel is like a long line sent straight down to the bottom of the ocean. It has 10 hooks that are baited with fresh mackerel and lowered to soak for 10 minutes. Luck was on our side again as the first drop of the bandit reel hooked 9 Red Snapper! This was our first look at the fish that is the main subject of our Reef Fish Survey.

Bandit Reel

Bandit Reel

Bait

Bait

Personal Log:

Before venturing on this journey out to sea, I wasn’t sure if I would experience the dreaded sea-sickness caused by the constant motion of the ship rolling back and forth in the waves. Even the most seasoned of seafarers can suffer from this ailment caused by imbalances sensed by the inner ear bones. Ensign Schill, who has suffered from sea-sickness on past cruises, recommended that I be safe rather than sorry. I took medicine to prevent sea-sickness the first two days and decided to skip it on the third day. The rolling of the ship increased on the third day but as of now, I haven’t experienced anything unpleasant from the motion. In fact, I find it soothing and have slept well since being at sea. I hope this lasts for the rest of the trip!

Me on the Pisces

Me on the Pisces

Thursday morning I woke up early to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything on the first day of the survey. Immediately upon stepping out on the deck, one of the deckhands handed me a hard hat and a life vest. This is necessary anytime the crane is in operatioRaising and lowering the equipment can be dangerous with ropes and cables that quickly unravel and follow the cameras as they sink into the water. I tried to stay out of the way as the deckhands, scientists, and officers on the bridge coordinated to place the instruments in just the right location. Things moved a little slowly at first but after a few drops everyone seemed to get into a rhythm and the pace picked up.

Certainly the most exciting time of the day is setting out the trap or lowering the Bandit Reel. Everyone waits in anticipation to see what rises from the depths of the ocean. When the first trap came up I couldn’t believe my eyes at the size of what was inside! I thought it was a shark at first. The opening to the trap is not very big and I could not believe a fish that large was able to swim inside. It was quite a struggle to get the giant Grouper out of the trap and into the wet lab to weigh and measure. It was even more of a sight to see the fish flip flop itself completely on its side while on the lab table. This was one of the biggest fish I have ever seen – outside of the water that is. It was also exciting to see our first Bandit Reel haul in 9 Red Snappers. Some of them had their air bladders popping out of their mouths because of the drastic pressure change from the ocean floor – a sight I had to quickly get used to as we worked to take weight and length measurements of all the fish we caught.

"Giant" Grouper

“Giant” Grouper

Melinda Storey with Red Snappers

Melinda Storey with Red Snappers

Animals Seen Today:

Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

Warsaw Grouper (Epinephelus nigritis)

Sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates): Caught on Bandit Reel before it sank into the depths. It was released – after Melinda had a chance to kiss it goodbye. The picture on the right is of the top of its head.

Melinda Storey with shark sucker

Melinda Storey with shark sucker

Melinda Storey with sharksucker

Melinda Storey with sharksucker