NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 1 — 14, 2013
Mission: Marine Protected Area Surveys
Geographic area of cruise: Southern Atlantic
Date: July, 4, 2013
Air temperature: 27.5°C (81.5°F)
Barometer: 1021.30 mb
Wind direction: 141°
Wind speed: 17 knots
Water temp: 26.3° C (79.3°F)
Latitude: 32.38537 N
Longitude: 79.044 W
Science and Technology Log
Happy Independence Day! In this log we find ourselves off the coast of South Carolina. We have traveled quite a few miles since we left Mayport and have conducted 10 dives so far. Several of these sites are return trips and data has been collected since 2004. During this cruise we will also survey several proposed sites which will be voted on inclusion to the MPA program at a later date. There is quite a lot of science going on here on the Pisces! In this post I am going to focus on the benthic invertebrate study and I will highlight the other science in following posts.
I have had the pleasure to work along side John Reed and Stephanie Farrington from Harbor Branch Oceanograhic Institute at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Pierce, Florida. During this cruise they are focusing on gathering data on benthic marine invertebrates. They are particularly interested in deep water coral species.
“Our coral reefs are a barometer of the Earth’s health, and nowhere else on earth is biodiversity greater than in our coral reefs and rain forests. Coral reefs provide food, tourism revenue, coastal protection, and the potential for new medicines for increasingly resistant diseases. Both our shallow and deep water coral reefs face a time of crisis, not only in the Caribbean, Florida, and the Bahamas, but worldwide. Threats to shallow and deep coral reefs are many, including pollution, elevated temperatures resulting in coral bleaching and mortality, coral disease, and destructive fishing practices.” HBOI
There are two words that you are going to see a lot during these blog posts: (1) Communication and (2) Technology. Fortunately due to the advancement in technology the only thing getting wet during the dives is the ROV. When the ROV descends, we are transported to a world that few folks get to see. The average depth of our dives has been 60 m (196 ft) so SCUBA diving would be difficult. Additionally, in the Florida MPA and Proposed MPA sites, the current was very fast and without the ROV the survey would be almost impossible to conduct. So we are surrounded by technology…computers, monitors, and programmed key pads. While the ROV driver maneuvers the vehicle through the water (all the while communicating with the bridge and deck) we are all glued to one of several monitors identifying species. It is very quick paced and often it feels like you are on a roller coaster ride. After several dives I was able to better focus on what I was looking for and have become pretty good at my invertebrate identification.
The purpose of this research is to characterize the species diversity of the hard bottom both inside and outside the proposed Marine Protected Areas and to compare the health of the hard bottom communities as it relates to the number of fish species present. Of particular interest are hard coral species, such as Oculina, soft coral gorgonians and sponges. During there trips is when the data is collected and then it is quantified back at the lab. These are wonderful people and they are great teachers as well!
Well so far so good. We have been at sea for 5 days and we have a pretty steady routine going. Breakfast, lunch and dinner so I quite literally am at the mercy of my stomach. The food is wonderful! Eggs cooked to order, grilled cheese, salmon, scallops, steak and dessert twice a day. I have been told that the food would be good and I have yet to be disappointed. We are in the lab from about 08:00 to 17:00. Afterwards I have been so tired I have climbed into my bunk and have read. The ship has a very comfortable lounge where you can read, watch a movie or use the computer. I managed to get through an entire movie last night! I have been doing okay seasickness wise. Last night was pretty rough but I managed okay. I ventured up to the bridge yesterday and I am hoping that the calmer seas will allow me to spend some time with the captain today.
Fair weather and calm seas.
Did You Know?
A coral is a type of animal called a polyp.