Sandra Camp: What’s the Most Adorable Fish? June 19, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015


Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 19, 2015

Weather Data: partly cloudy, isolated showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds NE 10-15 KT (knots), seas SE 4-6 ft., air temperature 86° F, water temperature 79° F


Science and Technology Log

So how exactly do marine biologists conduct fish surveys under water? If you are a student in my class, you know that science cannot be conducted all random and willy-nilly. There has to be a standardized procedure in which different variables are controlled in order to ensure the data you collect is meaningful. Some of the variables that are controlled during scientific dives are location, depth, and time.

dive site map

This map shows the survey sites around the island of Hawaii. – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Location: In order to ensure that scientists get an accurate overview of the health of an island’s reefs, sites from around the entire perimeter of the island are chosen. It would not tell scientists very much if they decided to survey, say, only the eastern side of an island, or only two different sites on the island. As an example, here is a map of the areas that will be visited around the island of Hawaii. On this map, daily survey areas around the island are indicated by red rectangles, as seen on the inset map. The larger map shows each individual dive site in one of those areas. Which area is shown on the large map? Each site is given an identifying number and a code for depth.

Depth: Again, scientists would not get a very accurate picture of the health of the coral reefs if they only conducted dives at the same depth. A variety of diving depths are chosen, and these depths are recorded as shallow, moderate, or deep:

shallow: up to 20 ft

moderate: 21-55 ft

deep: 56-80 ft.

Can you tell me how shallow, moderate, and deep are coded on the map above?

Time: After divers descend to their survey sites, they take a benthic photograph so they can later confirm what type of reef habitat it is. Then they count the fish they see in their location for a certain amount of time. It would not be a “fair” count if one diver counted fish for 10 minutes, while another one counted fish for 20 minutes. For this particular research cruise, pairs of divers (you never dive alone) go under water, stand in one spot, and count the fish they see in a 15 meters diameter cylinder for 30 minutes. The Random Sea Survey graphic here shows how these surveys are conducted. This type of survey is called a Stationary Point Count Survey.

DiverMethod

How a Stationary Point Count Survey is conducted – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Form Fail

I was on the boat called Metal Shark. Woops!

Every day, each boat completes a Dive and Navigation Information Form. On this form, the boat crew notes the date and number for each site visited. GPS is used to record the latitude and longitude of the site. Ryan, one of the coxswains, taught me how to use the GPS to identify and record latitude and longitude for dive sites. In addition, after the dive is complete, divers complete some information about the site, such as what kind of benthic (floor) cover it has. Here is a picture of a properly completed form, not to be confused with my team’s form, which was a FAIL today (But it was the divers’ section that was not complete, not mine!). Kevin Lino, the scientist being interviewed in today’s blog, completed this excellent example. He is in charge of this whole operation, so his form should be perfect, shouldn’t it?

Dive Nav Sheet

This is an example of the correct way to fill out a Dive & Navigation Form – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries


Interview with a Scientist

Kevin Lino is a Marine Ecosystems Research Coordinator for NOAA’s CRED (Coral Research Ecosystem Division), and the Project Leader for this cruise, the Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey. He is the man running the show here, and I can vouch that he is very capable and very good at his job.

Kevin Lino

Kevin Lino in his native habitat -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

What are your primary responsibilities? Coordinating operations and logistics for field efforts, primarily conducting reef fish diver surveys. I do pre-planning, documentation, paperwork, certification of divers, surveys, post cruise activities, plus act as dive master and boat instructor.

What do you love most about your job? Fish! I’m a fish nerd, and have been since I was a kid. I was obsessed with sharks as a kid, and loved what Shark Week used to be: real information, not dramatized. Tiko and the Shark was a movie I loved as a kid. I grew up fishing and spending time on boats. Growing up, I had a goal to dive with every species of shark on Earth. I have so far dived with 38. Most of the rest are deep-water sharks, and I would need a submarine to see them.

Hawaiian Morwong

Hawaiian morwong: check out its cute little lips! -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Do you have a favorite fish? Yes! My favorite fish is the Hawaiian Morwong because it is ADORABLE. My favorite shark is the Mako shark. It is like a miniature Great White shark. It is the fastest shark in the ocean. It has perfect aerodynamics because it is built for speed. It hunts the fastest fish in the ocean: the sailfish.

What kind of education do you need to have this job? I studied biology as an undergrad. I took summer classes in ocean environments and elective courses in marine biology. In college, I also took diving courses.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work? Study science and math, get in the water, volunteer and help out at places like the Marine Mammal Center, beach/ocean clean ups, and meet other biologists.


Personal Log

Driving the HI-2

Coxswain Sandra Camp

Today during small boat operations, our coxswain, Rich (possibly the nicest person I have ever met), let me drive the boat HI-2. There is a lot to maneuvering a boat through swells and protectively around divers. Rich makes it look easy, but it isn’t! I am hoping that before I leave, they will let me try talking on the radio and hook or unhook one of the small boats as they are launched.


Did You Know?

Hawaiian Morwong 2

Hawaiian Morwong -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

The Hawaiian Morwong, that adorable little fish, has very strong pectoral fins that they use to prop themselves up on the bottom of the sea floor. They eat by pressing their thick, fleshy lips to the bottom, sucking in sand and detritus, and then filtering out small invertebrates.

 


Kimberly Gogan: Night Crew Oceanography! More than just a Bongo! April 29, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Gogan
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
 April 7 – May 1, 2014

MissionAMAPPS & Turtle Abundance SurveyEcosystem Monitoring
Geographical area of cruise:  North Atlantic Ocean
Date: April 29, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temp: 15.5  Degrees Celsius
ind Speed: 7 – 12 Knots
Water Temp: 8.8  Degrees Celsius
Water Depth: 10 Meters

Science and Technology Log

As I mentioned in my previous blogs, there are many layers of science that are happening simultaneously that support the AMAPPS project (see April 9th blog). One of these layers is monitoring the ecosystem with oceanography. In the April 9th blog I explained all about the Bongo Nets, and in April 15th blog I explained about the VPR and it’s plankton picture data. While the rest of the ship slept, the night time oceanography team – Betsy Broughton (scientist from NEFSC in Woods Hole), John Rosendale (lab technician from NOAA Fisheries Howard Labratory in Sandy Hook) and Brian Dennis (volunteer) were busy conducting Benthic science with the Beam Trawl and Van Veen Grab Sampler.

Although  this equipment was not used every night, I was lucky enough to have stayed up some of the night to see these two in action. The Benthic Zone, in a body of water, like the ocean refers to the very bottom of that aquatic ecosystem. The night time science team use a Beam Trawl or a bottom fishing net that is towed along the bottom of the ocean to take a sample of the organisms that live there. The Beam Trawl is attached to a winch that is on the stern of the boat, that one is much larger than the winch that is used to lower the Bongo Nets. The trawl is lowered down until it touches the bottom and then towed along the bottom picking up whatever is in its path. The trawl is then brought to the surface and the sample is sorted in the wet lab and preserved in formaldehyde just like the other samples. The Van Veen Grab Sampler is lowered into the water by the same smaller winch that is used for the Bongo Nets along the port side of the ship. The grab is rigged so that when it touches the bottom of the ocean, two arms open up and grab a large sample of the sediment at the bottom of the ocean. To me it looked just like the suffer muck I know as “clam flats.” Once the Van Veen Grab is brought up to the surface, the arms of the grab are released and the sediment is dropped into a bucket. From there the soil is washed over and over using several sized sieves until all of the muck is washed away and just the organisms, shells and assorted bottom treasures are left. This sample, once cleaned, is also brought back to the chemistry lab for processing in formaldehyde.  The scientists worked at a much faster pace to get all the sediment removed and the  samples processed. It was fun to be able to watch and help out.

Betsy teaching me how to run the computer software for the CTD.

Betsy teaching me how to run the computer software for the CTD.

Personal Log:

For most of the trip, my “assigned” task has been to work with Jerry Prezioso as the day Oceanography team. Jerry and I are in charge of the mid-day Bongo Nets (see April 9th blog). Sometimes we are up early and timing is such that our morning Bongo Net overlapped with night crew’s scheduled time. Sometimes they would start the morning Bongo and Jerry and I would take over and finish the work, or we would just all work together to get it done twice as fast.  Since there were more people to help in the morning, Betsy Broughton (see April 15th blog) was available to help teach me how to run the computer software that was attached to the Bongo called a CTD Sensor.

The graph on the computer software of the  Conductivity, Temperature and density data the CTD collects as the Bongo drops to it's lowest depth.

The graph on the computer software of the Conductivity, Temperature and density data the CTD collects as the Bongo drops to its lowest depth.

CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth and it sits above the Bongo Net collecting this data that it sends back to the computers. Generally one scientist is in charge of running the software that turns on the CTD and gets it to start collecting data as it is dropped down into the deep water. The person on the computer is in charge of knowing how deep the Bongo Net should go and telling the winch operator when to pull the Bongo Net back up to the surface. They are also responsible for letting the NOAA Corps officer on the Bridge know when the equipment is ready and telling the winch operator the speed at which the Bongo should be dropped. If this information is not relayed correctly the Bongo Net could go crashing into the bottom of the ocean. It took a couple of days of Betsy overseeing what I was doing, but in no time at all, Jerry felt confident enough in me to leave me at the helm and let me run the software on my own. From net washer to computer software operator, I was moving up!

Melissa Fye, April 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island
Date: April 9, 2005

Sonar computers

Sonar computers

Location: Latitude: 28.5 N, Longitude: 49.3 W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 42
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Sea Wave Height: 3 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Water Temperature: N/A
Sea Level Pressure: 1021 mb
Cloud Cover: 3/8 SC, AS, Ci

Science and Technology Log

As survey lines continued through the night, the Chief Scientist Scott Ferguson, Joyce Miller, and Jeremy Jones readied the AHI (Acoustic Habitat Investigator) research boat for deployment. Around 7:30 this morning, the 3 boarded the vessel and to engage in more sonar surveying. At noon a shuttle boat was launched with survey scientist Emily Lundblad aboard, to meet up with AHI so she could be trained in using the sonar system aboard the AHI. Scott Ferguson then returned to the HI’IALAKAI. The afternoon led the ship divers to take out another shuttle boat so that a proficiency dive could be conducted.  Around 5:00 pm the AHI and shuttle boat were brought back into the ship and tied up for the night.

Personal Log

Much of this day was spent interviewing personnel while I began to edit data from the swaths taken by the ship’s multibeam sonar system. It can take an hour or more to edit at noise pollution from just one file of data. An exciting part of the day included seeing a humpback whale in the ocean.  It came very close to the ship.  About every 10 minutes its blowhole (spouting water) would appear at the surface along with its tail. It only surfaced three times until it was too far off to see anymore. I finished editing data until dinner time and then succumbed to doing laundry on the ship!

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Using your science book or another resource, find the definition of a mammal.  Is a whale a mammal? Why do you think it comes to the surface every 10 minutes?

Melissa Fye, April 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island
Date: April 8, 2005

Seabirds on Tern Island

Seabirds on Tern Island

Location: Latitude: 28.5 N, Longitude: 49.3 W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 42
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Sea Wave Height: 3 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Water Temperature: N/A
Sea Level Pressure: 1021 mb
Cloud Cover: 3/8 SC, AS, Ci

Science and Technology Log

The HI’IALAKAI continued running survey lines laid out by scientists across the Pacific Ocean to add to data for the creation of benthic habitat maps. Approximately 10 AM this morning several scientists deployed the AHI research boat with 2 computer engineers aboard from our ship. The engineers were on board to get the new sonar system up and running and correct any glitches as they occurred.  Their services did not require them to be on board for the whole cruise, so they went on the AHI this morning to Tern Island to rendezvous with a small plane to fly them back to Honolulu. I began interviewing Scientist Kyle Hogrefe in the dry lab and he showed me a slide show regarding the GhostNet project and the subtropical convergent zone.  The projects concern the studies of winds and currents converging in the Pacific Ocean, sometimes coming together near the Hawaiian Islands, which entangles and clumps debris from humans (fishing nets, Bic liters, toothbrushes-things littered into the sea) and damages coral reefs and kills marine life, choking or strangling them.

Visiting the seabird sanctuary

Visiting the seabird sanctuary

Many dead sea animals have been found, the cause of death due to their bodies being full of garbage like lighters and plastics, which ends up getting entangled in their organs or choking them. Mr. Hogrefe works as a Marine Debris Specialist and often goes on diving trips which reclaim some of the pollution that endangers ocean ecosystems. An hour later I boarded a shuttle boat with the Commanding Officer (CO), a deck hand, and chief boatswain to also go to Tern Island and take a tour of the bird, monk seal, and turtle refuge, run by the Fisheries Dep’t (Dep’t of Interior)on the island.  Jennifer, the manager of the sanctuary, led the CO and me on a tour of the half mile long island, which is nothing more than a few research barracks, a landing strip, and thousands of birds. The studies they are conducting for Hawaii’s bird population proved to be very interesting.

At this time, a manager and 3 volunteers are stationed on the island for a minimum of 4 months at a time to count bird eggs, tag chicks, and count the adult species.  Tern Island bird sanctuary has the largest collection of data in the world on the species of birds which spend their lives flying over the ocean and which are indigenous to the Hawaiian Island Chain. The data has been collected for over 30 years, the reproductive rates of the birds are improving, and the work there will lead to the Albatross bird being put on the endangered species list. More than 90 percent of Hawaii’s bird population uses the island as a mating area.  The birds which reproduce on Tern, once adult, may spend up to 4 years flying over the ocean without ever stopping and their bodies have a way for the bird to rest or sleep while in flight. We learned about adaptations, like a waterproofing gland at the base of the bird’s body to protect them from ocean water, and we also saw a monk seal, and 5 huge sea turtles. A binder was also given to me about a unit of lessons called “Navigating Change”, involving the Northwestern Hawaiian Island Chain that can be used to teach respect and understanding of the ocean and environment to 4th and 5th graders. It was an invaluable gift! We then boarded the shuttle back to ship for the 15 minute ride across the ocean. Returned to the HI’IALAKAI at approximately 4:30 PM. A CTD cast was made (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth measurement in the ocean) at approximately 6 pm.  Deck hand/Surveyor Jeremy Taylor lead a group of new surveyors through the steps to conducting a cast and retrieving the data sent up through the cable. Survey lines continued to be performed by the ship at 7 knots.

Bird action!

Bird action!

Personal Log

I was very busy today and it was the most exciting day of the trip so far. I arose to eat breakfast and send out my computer logs, answer emails, and send pictures to my class via the internet.  I soon interviewed scientist Kyle Hogrefe aboard the ship and learned a lot about marine debris, as mentioned in the science log above. I then boarded the shuttle boat to Tern Island, watched the computer engineers take off in their small Cessna plane and took a fantastic tour of the place. The bird sanctuary teemed with thousands of birds!  As soon as you stepped foot on the island, you saw thousands of birds flying and roosting below. Literally thousands of birds blanketed the entire island except for the landing strip in the middle.  The entire place is covered with bird feces and I was rightfully inducted as a visitor when a bird pooped on my leg!  Ha Ha!

There are many interesting species of birds living on the island and the 4 people living there are tracking the reproductive rates of the birds. The sounds the birds make are actually the same sound bites used in the movie, “The Birds!” After a great tour of the place, I saw my first monk seals and gigantic sea turtles and took many pictures.  After returning to the island I spent the afternoon learning how to edit data on the survey computers, so I could help the survey scientists, and I told many members of the crew about the trip to Tern Island since only 4 of us had permits to go.  It was quite an informative and exciting day.  It was energizing to ride across the ocean on a raft type engine boat and see the coral reef beneath!

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  If a small plastic bag was found floating in the ocean, and a bird or shark went to eat it, what do you think that small bag looks like to the sea animal (what ocean animal)? After reading the information above, why is it important for humans to recycle?

Melissa Fye, April 7, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island
Date: April 7, 2005

Location: Latitude:43.0 N, Longitude: 20.0 W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 120
Wind Speed: 12 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2-3 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3-5 feet
Sea Water Temperature: 23.5
Celsius Sea Level Pressure: 1022.0
Cloud Cover: 7/8 Cumulonimbus, Ac, Ci

Processing data at the computers

Processing data at the computers

Science and Technology Log

Early this morning the HI’IALAKAI arrived at Shark Island to conduct a 500 m CTD, (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) measuring device, at a location of 50.2 N and 24.8W for about 1 hour. The ship then traveled on towards a launch site for the AHI research boat. In the afternoon the AHI research vessel was lowered into the water so that the chief scientist, Scott Ferguson, and other scientists could run engineering tests on it before using it for a sonar mission.  By mid-afternoon the AHI, which stands for Acoustic Habitat Investigator, was once again lowered into the ocean to begin running survey lines closer into the more shallow, shoal areas surrounding the French Frigate Islands. The surveys were run at 7 knots. The AHI boat looks much like an orange lifeboat but has a metal cabin on top which houses a range of computer monitors and a sonar system to take in data about the ocean floor.

That data was then transported back onto the HI’IALAKAI to be processed. Inside the ship, GIS, or Geological Information Systems scientists, like Emily Lundblad, process saved data on the computers in the drylab on board.  They take one swath of data at a time (think of a swath of data as a line of data -the ship basically runs lines across the ocean much like a lawnmower mows a lawn-trying not to leave any gaps) and edit it on their monitors.  The scientists are looking for errors in data which show up as points or scatters of “dots” for lack of a better word, on the swath. The swath is 3 dimensional on the screen and the scientists put 4 different vantage points of the data on the monitor.  Carefully, outliers of data, or tiny dots of color that lie outside of the more solid path, are deleted.  The outliers, or errors, in this case are usually due to noise pollution.  A school of fish, drilling, or a boat engine can cause extra noise which is picked up by the sonar system, and needs to be edited out of the data. The ship continued to run its own survey lines with its sonar system attached to the hull of the ship.

fye_logsfPersonal Log

Today I awoke after a good night’s sleep.  My stateroom is on the lowest level towards the back of the ship. It is the noisiest room because it is near the cranes that operate, the mess, and engines, but it rides the smoothest.  This means that it rocks the least out of any of the rooms on board because of its location.  Good news to me!  The higher up and more forward you go on the ship, the more the boat sways. There are handrails in all the hallways, bathrooms, decks, etc. so you can hold on while walking on the ship.  I spent the day interviewing more members of the ship, to include the Executive Officer, a deck hand, and a scientist. I stationed myself on the upper deck to watch the AHI research vessel being deployed into the ocean for tests, stood on the bridge for awhile and looked out at La Perouse Pinnacle (23 degrees 46’N, 166 degrees 16’W) a volcanic rock that rises out of the Pacific that is so steep and rugged that it is practically inaccessible. Later, I situated myself in the drylab to observe the scientists editing data.

Then, right before dinner, I gave a presentation to the officers, crew, and scientists in the forward mess about the Teacher At Sea Program and what it entails.  I presented a picture of my class, which is posted on board the HI’IALAKAI, and received a lot of feedback.  Finally, after dinner, I visited the ship’s store for the first time, run by ENS Amy Cox and spent the evening typing logs and watching video from a previous diving cruise, whereas the scientists were studying the ecosystem below the ocean.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  After reading the information under the science log, you need to better understand what an outlier is in data collection.  Ask everyone in the class to write their age on the chalkboard.  Also, include the teacher(s) age in the data, or information, collected on the chalkboard.  Make a graph of the data (remember to include a title, x & y coordinates).  When you are finished you should notice most of the data is close together but a few pieces of data are much different, or lie outside of most of the other ages.  What data is the outlier(s) in the class graph of ages? How can outlier data affect an experiment?

PICTURES OF THE DAY: Scientists processing and editing data on a computer in the drylab/ Research vessel AHI

Melissa Fye, April 6, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island
Date: April 6, 2005

Location: Latitude: 28.5 N, Longitude: 49.3 W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 42
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Sea Wave Height: 3 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Water Temperature: N/A
Sea Level Pressure: 1021 mb
Cloud Cover: 3/8 SC, AS, Ci

Mapping the islands

Mapping the islands

Science and Technology Log

Today’s plan involved running sonar survey lines in a westerly direction en route to Necker Island (14.5 hours). Run at sea speed.  CTD casts were conducted as needed, and I attended one at 1230. The senior surveyor informed me that CTDs are usually cast at least every 12 hours. I also spent the day interviewing various persons onboard to include the senior survey scientist, a deck hand/surveyor/, and the chief medical officer.  At 1530, we arrived at our first point of reference, Necker Island, and the proceeded to continue survey lines westerly towards the French Frigate shoals for the next 9.5 hours.

The scientists on board are creating benthic habitat maps to support the Coral Reef Ecosystem Integrated Observing System under the direction of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Basically, several different plans have been laid out to determine fishing and no fishing zones around the island chain. The additional data collected on this cruise will hope those organizations determine the best plan for unrestricted and restricted fishing areas. Mapping boundaries may help to decide what fathoms (depths) to fish at or a longitudinal system may be used.  Currently, lobster fishing is not allowed at all because they were all but wiped out in the past.  The area around Necker, Brooks Bank, the French Frigate Shoals may eventually be entirely closed to fishing because evidence collected leads scientists to believe that that area may be a genetic gateway for species to the south.

Personal Log

I woke up around 6:30 am and proceeded to eat breakfast and to establish some times to interview people for the day, in between observing CTD casts and popping into the dry lab. Soon after lunch I interviewed the Chief Medical Officer and got a tour of the on board hospital which is equipped to handle many kinds of emergencies. The chief medical officer is LTJG Mike Futch.  While on board he is in charge of handling any emergencies that may occur. Most common emergencies include sea sickness and if someone needs treated for that he can prescribe medication, administer shots, and treat dehydration that may occur from people regurgitating.  He likened sea sickness to the feeling you would get if you were stuck on an elevator going up and down continuously until you got sick. LTJG Futch is authorized to do any lifesaving technique, but he is also in charge of handling medical questionnaires for members of the ship, weekly sanitation and safety checks, and handling inventory in the medical lab. Proximity to a port determines if a ship is assigned a medical officer (if more than 2 days from a port, then a med. officer is assigned), otherwise other members of the ship are trained for medical emergencies as well.

Working in the lab

Working in the lab

LTJG Futch recommends anyone who would like a job like his to major in chemistry or biology in college, attend physician’s assistant school, and specialize in emergency programs.  He is an employee of the United States Public Health Service (the Surgeon General is the leader of this group) which deploys medical personnel to all federal agencies including NOAA, Coast Guard, prison system, Indian affairs, to just name a few. He will spend roughly 200 days at sea this year and he comments that the best part of his job is getting see parts of the world that many others don’t see, the pay is good, and you get to function almost like your own boss because there is usually only one or two at most medical officers assigned to a ship.

I then proceeded to the science lab to get a first hand look at the computer system where data is filtered into from the onboard sonar systems.  The senior surveyor and another surveyor spoke to me about the details aforementioned.  I next interviewed Joyce Miller, Senior Survey Scientist, about her background and duties.  Her job is to plan surveys, train new surveyors, and process data.  She is at sea for 60-150 days a year depending on the projects she is working on. She comments that her most important piece of equipment is the computer and that any students who might be interested in this type of career should study oceanography (physics, biology, chemistry, geology) and heavily concentrate in computers.  She feels a surveyor should be flexible, because things often don’t go according to plan, and that this job offers a lot of challenges and movement.

Eventually I attended the launch of another CTD cast and ate lunch. The ship hasn’t stopped, except for the occasional CTD cast for 30-40 minutes, because our late start has put us behind and there are 2 contractors aboard who need to be dropped off by a certain date at one of the islands to catch a plane. The afternoon was spent writing logs and lesson plans.  Finally, I will go up on the bridge to interview the Operations officer and other officers employed by NOAA so I can give my fourth grade students a sense of the various jobs and people needed aboard a research ship to make it run smoothly. I am happy to report I don’t seem to be sea sick at all, which makes me very happy, because many of the people on board are still trying to get their “sea legs!” To this point the seas have not been very rough though!

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  The scientists on board are compiling data to create benthic habitat maps.  What does the word benthic mean? What could maps like these be used for in the future?

Melissa Fye, April 5, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island
Date: April 5, 2005

Retrieving the CTD

Retrieving the CTD

Location: Latitude: 28.5 N, Longitude: 49.3 W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 42
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Sea Wave Height: 3 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Water Temperature: N/A
Sea Level Pressure: 1021 mb
Cloud Cover: 3/8 SC, AS, Ci

Science and Technology Log

Today’s scientific goals involve running survey lines at Nihoa.  Survey lines will begin at the 12:00 position and run counterclockwise one and a quarter times at Nihoa. The ship will be using its multibeam sonar equipment to do this and it will in turn fill in missing data to complete benthic habitat maps of this area. A formal in-service was given by senior surveyor, Joyce Miller, on multibeam sonar equipment. Some of the interesting facts from that presentation are provided below. There are 3 multibeam sonar devices available for use on the HI’IALAKAI. Sonar concepts from the in-service:  An echo sounder sends sound down to the sea floor and then back up. A single beam echo sounder sends a pulse out that comes back to 1 point on the ship. The center of the beam right under the ship, or swath, is termed nadir.

Nadir is the shortest distance between the sensor and the location of the beam.  Ensonification is energy within the main part of the beam pattern which radiates toward the sea floor.  Decibel is a unit used to measure the relative strength of a signal.  Beam width is an angle that defines the main part of the energy that is radiated within a 3db solid angle. The footprint size beneath the sonar beam changes as the water gets deeper because it comes out of the ship at an angular direction.  The deeper the water, the less accurate the information will be from the beam because the footprint pattern below the beam gets larger.  A narrow beam echo sounder ensonifies a smaller area, so it gets more accurate information because of its narrower angle.  A transducer is a device that converts electrical energy into sound energy and vice versa.  The “ping” is the sound going down the beam.  The frequency is the number of times per second that the same waves of sound repeat itself (vibrations per second). The pulse length, or duration of outgoing pulses of the sonar equipment, in part determines the system’s resolution.

Ready to dive!

Ready to dive!

The shorter the pulse length, the greater the resolution.  Other facts: The transducer range, or how far the sound is effectively transmitting, is determined by a number of factors, including; frequency, transmit power, beam width, transmit pulse length, received bandwidth, absorption, ocean floor composition, and noise level (heavy rain). In summary, high frequency sonars with narrow beam widths provide the highest vertical resolution.  If you need both range and resolution, pick a medium frequency sonar to do the job. What is being measured then?  The 2-way travel time of a sound wave and this information is converted to distance. The speed of sound in water ranges from 1450 meters/sec to 1550 m/sec. CTDs, or Conductivity, Temperature/Depth devices are dropped at intervals off the side of the ship daily because the information they gather are the most accurate way to get sound velocity data and is needed when multibeam error sources are being defined. Multibeam concepts:  Side scan sonars are sonars that are towed behind a boat.  Backscatter is the term for when the sonar signal provides information about the character of the sea bottom (smoothness, roughness, etc). Multi-beam sonars were first designed to provide information on depths and they just happen to also give information on backscatter.

Benthic habitat maps are maps pf the sea floor, so backscatter information is extremely useful and the goal of this expedition. To get good backscatter data, many factors need to be kept constant. The ship should be driven in straight lines and kept at a constant speed.  Some of the area around the Hawaiian Island chain has already been mapped using this technology but there are many gaps to be filled in.  The cruise aims to fill in more of that missing information for the benthic habitat maps. Three multibeams are being utilized on this trip. Finally, it is important to understand sources of error in multibeam use.  They consist of sound velocity or physical oceanographic parameters that influence the sound velocity structure. These include temperature, salinity, depth, and density, which are all recorded and gathered during CTD drops. Changes in these parameters affect the multibeam because they are used to create a sound velocity profile.

Personal Log

I awoke to the hustle and bustle of the ship, as my stateroom is located a few doors down from the mess.  After eating (I eat better here than I do at home) I attended a formal inservice presentation by the senior surveyor, Joyce Miller, on Multibeam Training.  I took notes during her PowerPoint slideshow, to try to better understand the type of sonar equipment they are using onboard. The transducer on the sonar equipment turns electrical energy into sound energy and is sent down to the ocean floor. It bounces and scatters and provides data which is used to create a map of the ocean floor (a benthic habitat map). I also learned some new vocabulary words like nadir, ensonification, and beam width. We broke for lunch and after lunch I attended my first CTD cast on the deck and took some pictures. After noon the scientists met back in the forward mess lounge to finish the multibeam training.  The rest of the evening was just left to typing logs, watching a movie, and resting. I am not assigned a watch schedule so I have been sleeping normal hours of 10 to 6am.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students: Locate the ship using the latitude and longitude coordinates above. Remember “latitude” lines are fat (horizontal) and longitude lines are long (vertical). What are the 5 major Islands of Hawaii? What does the word salinity mean?  Would the Pacific Ocean or the Potomac River be measured for salinity, and why?