NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 8 – June 24, 2016
2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast Date: June 16, 2016
Mission and Geographical Area:
The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank. NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.
Science and Technology:
Latitude: 40 32.475 N
Longitude: 67 59.499 W
Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles
Wind: 7.4 knots
Wave Height: 1-4 ft.
Water Temperature: 53 F
Air Temperature: 63 F
Sea Level Pressure: 29.9 in of Hg
Water Depth: 103 m
Paired with the HabCam, dredging adds more data points to the scallop survey and also to habitat mapping. Various locations are dredged based on a stratified random sampling design. This method uses the topography of the ocean bottom as a platform and then overlays a grid system on top. The dredged areas, which are selected randomly by a computer program, allow for a good distribution of samples from the area based on topography and depth.
Vic and Tasha sewing up the net on the dredge.
A typical dredge that used for the survey is similar to those used by commercial fisherman, but it is smaller with a width of 8 ft. and weight of 2000 lbs. It is towed behind a ship with a 9/16 cable attached to a standard winch. Dredges are made from a heavy metal such as steel and is covered in a chain mesh that is open in the front and closed on the other three sides making a chain linked net made of circular rings.
A fisherman’s dredge has rings large enough for smaller animals to fall through and become released to the bottom once again. The dredge in a survey has a mesh lining to trap more creatures in order to do a full survey of the animals occupying a specific habitat.
There are three categories of catch received in a dredge: substrate, animals and shell. A qualitative assessment on percent abundance of each is done for every dredge. Not all animals are measured, but all are noted in the database.
Dredge being dumped on sorting table.
A length measurement is taken for every scallop, goosefish (also called monkfish), cod, haddock, as well as many types of flounder and skate. A combined mass is taken for each species in that dredged sample. Some animals are not measured for length, like the wave whelk (a snail), Jonah crab, and fish such as pipefish, ocean pout, red hake, sand lance; for these and several other types of fish, just a count and weight of each species is recorded.
Sorting the dredged material.
Other animals may be present, but not
counted or measured and therefore are called bycatch. Sand dollars make up the majority of bycatch. Sponges, the polychaete Aphrodite, hermit crabs, shrimp and various shells are also sorted through but not counted or measured.
All of the dredge material that is captured is returned to the ocean upon the required sorting, counting and measuring. Unfortunately, most of the fish and invertebrates do not survive the ordeal. That is why it is important to have a good sampling method and procedure to get the best results from the fewest dredge stations needed.
Goosefish, often called Monkfish, eat anything.
The dredge is placed on the bottom for only fifteen minutes. There are sensors on the frame of the dredge so computers can monitor when the collection was started and when to stop. Sensors also make certain each dredge is positioned correctly in the water to get the best representation of animals in that small sample area.
Entering the name of the animals to be measured.
Even with sensors and scientists monitoring computers and taking animal measurements, the dredging can only give a 30-40% efficiency rating of the actual animals present. Dredging with the aid of the HabCam and partnerships with many scientific organizations, along with data from commercial fisherman and observer data, create a picture of abundance and distribution which can be mapped.
Adductor muscle the “meat” of the scallop. This one is unhealthy.
In the scallop survey the emphasis is on where are the most scallops present and this aids fisherman in selecting the best places to fish. The survey also suggests where areas should be closed to fishing for a period, allowing scallops to grow and mature before harvesting.
This management practice of opening closed areas on a rotational basis has been accepted as beneficial for science, management, and fishermen. This method of balancing conservation and fishing protects habitats while still supplying the world with a food supply that is highly valued.
Being part of a dredging team is exciting. It is a high energy time from the moment the contents are dropped on the sorting platform to the end when everything is rinsed off to get ready for the next drop.
Kateryn “Kat” Delgado
I wanted to take pictures of everything, but with gloves on it was hard to participate and help out or just be the bystander/photographer. Kateryn Delgado from Queens NY, a volunteer/student/scientist/yoga instructor/photographer, was very helpful. She was involved in other surveys and often took pictures for me.
I did find it sad that the animals we sorting were not going to live long once returned to sea, but that is a part of the dredging that is inevitable. Raw data needs to be collected. After measuring, a percentage of the scallops were dissected to get their sex, abductor muscle (meat), and stomach. Shell size was compared to the meat and gonad mass and is also used to age the scallop. The stomach was removed to test for microplastics. Dr. Gallager and his research team are studying microplastics in the ocean. Scallops filter relatively large particles for a filter feeder, and therefore are a good species to monitor the abundance of plastics at the bottom of the ocean.
The weather has been nice, not very warm, but the waves are low. Just the way I like them. We are making our way back to Woods Hole to refuel and get groceries. I didn’t realize we would split up the leg into two parts. We should be in around 10:00 a.m. I’m going to go for a long walk since there is not a lot of opportunity for exercise on the ship. Hope it’s sunny!
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 17, 2015
Weather Data: mostly cloudy, showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds east 10-15 KT (knots), air temperature 80° F, water temperature 80° F
Science and Technology Log
Days at sea begin early for the scientists aboard the Hi’ialakai. There are push-ups on the bow at 0630 (not mandatory), followed by breakfast at 0700. After breakfast, everyone meets outside on the deck at 0730 for a meeting about the day’s diving. Safety procedures are always reviewed during this meeting.
Morning meeting at 0730 in the fantail
Afterwards, the divers suit up, get their gear together, and get ready to board small boats, which will take them to the day’s scheduled diving sites. The way the small boats are lowered into the water with their passengers and gear from the larger ship is nothing less than a carefully orchestrated ballet of synchronized movement, line management, and communication. The chief boatswain (“bosun” for short), the senior crewman of the deck department, is in charge of this process. You can see him in the first photo, operating the crane. Anyone on deck during this time must wear a hardhat for safety purposes. You would not want to get hit in the head with moving cranes, hooks, or cables!
First, the small boats are lifted from the upper deck with a crane and lowered over the side of the ship.
The crane lifts the boat from the deck.
Then it swings the boat to the side of the ship.
The boat is lowered to the cutout on the deck.
Then, gear and passengers are loaded onto the boat, and it is carefully lowered into the water. Lines are released. and the boat drives away.
Gear and passengers are loaded aboard.
Lines carefully lower the boat into the water.
The lines are released and the boat drives away.
After that, the coxswain, the driver of the boat, takes the divers to the first survey site of the day. As we learn in class, a very important part of any scientist’s job is to gather evidence and data. Three to four groups of divers in separate small boats will gather data from 5-7 different sites each per day. After this project is complete, scientists will have gathered data from hundreds of different sites around the main Hawaiian islands. At each site, they do fish counts and benthic (sea floor) analysis. They estimate the amount of coral present on the sea floor, and then list fish by their species and quantity. Each diver takes a clipboard with a waterproof piece of paper attached to it on which they record their data. They also carry waterproof cameras with them, as well as a small extra tank of oxygen called a RAS (Redundant Air System) that they can use in case their tank runs out of air.
Clipboards with waterproof paper, waterproof cameras, and other scientific equipment
Diver Jonatha Giddens enters the water.
Diver Raymond Boland using a stereo camera to measure fish. Photo courtesty of NOAA Fisheries. Taken by Andrew Gray.
After data is recorded for several different sites, the small boats return to the ship no later 1700, which makes for a very long day out on the water. Dinner is from 1700-1800, and afterwards, scientist divers head to the dry lab, where all the computer equipment is located, to enter the data they gathered on fish during their surveys.
Small boat returning to Hi’ialakai
Scientists entering data from the day’s surveys
While we were out at diving sites today, I had the opportunity to interview Jonatha Giddens, one of the divers on the boat. Jonatha is a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has an undergraduate degree in coral reef fish ecology, and she is currently studying the effects of an introduced grouper (a species of fish that is not native to Hawaii) on the local marine ecosystem for her Ph.D.
Jonatha warming up after a dive
What are your primary responsibilities? Being part of the fish team, scuba diving, doing fish surveys, and entering the data collected during the day into computer systems at night.
What do you love most about your job? Being on the water!
What kind of education do you need to have this job? An undergraduate degree in marine biology
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work? Get involved with research as early as possible. Find out what kind of research is going on in your area, and volunteer. Do summer internships at places that are farther away. You learn so much just by jumping into it.
Jonatha followed her passion and learned all she could about it. Now she has won an award from ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) for her work in conservation ecology. ARCS is a foundation organized and run entirely by women to encourage female leadership in STEM careers. Go Jonatha!
Don’t mess with this snorkeler!
I can sometimes go snorkeling while the divers are completing surveys, as long as I stay far enough away from them that I do not interfere with their work (they do no want me to scare the fish away). I have to wear a knife strapped to my leg while snorkeling, in case I become tangled in fishing net or line (or in case there is a shark!). Again, it is all about safety on the Hi’ialakai.
Did You Know?
The underwater apparatus held by Raymond Boland in the above photo is a stereo camera. It is composed of two separate cameras encased in waterproof housing. When a diver uses it to photograph a fish, two simultaneous pictures are taken of the fish. NOAA scientists calibrate the images using computers to get an accurate measure of the length of fish.
chief boatswain– the person in charge of the deck department
coxswain– a person who steers a ship’s boat and is usually in charge of its crew.
benthic– relating to, or occurring on, the bottom of a body of water
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada May 27 – June 10, 2015
Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast Date: Sunday, June 7th, 2015
Air Temperature: 12.4°C
Water Temperature: 13.3°C
Sky Conditions: Overcast
Wind Speed (knots/kts) and Direction: 22 kts, N
Latitude and Longitude: 45°59’62”, 124°33’97”
The only piece of equipment on the Shimada I haven’t told you about is the box corer. Jason Phillips has been using the box corer to collect, well, box cores. Box cores are samples of the bottom of the ocean or sea floor (also, seabed). The box core is lowered to various depths (400 m, 300 m, 200 m, 100 m and 60 m), then survey technicians, Jaclyn Mazzella or Phil White, open the jaws of the machine and scoop up a mouthful of whatever is on the bottom, including benthic (referring to bottom of the ocean) creatures.
Once surfaced, Jason subsamples the sediment, sand, mud, small pieces of rocks and debris, removing just a small part of it and storing it until our return to land. Subsampling allows scientists to measure a manageable amount and then generalize about the larger remainder; while this is limiting because it assumes uniformity throughout the box core, the alternative is looking through each piece of sediment individually, something that is time and cost prohibitive. However, he does invest the time necessary to pick out all the creatures collected by the box corer.
Back at his lab, Jason will analyze the sediment, and then he or a colleague will identify all the tiny, tinyorganisms, living things, found in the core.
Below, you can see Jason processing the core. He has washed down the smaller pieces of sediment like clay and sand through the holes in the mesh sieve. The sieve traps the smaller pieces of rock and even smaller animals, allowing him to pick them out and place them into preservative for processing when he returns to shore.
Jason and Amanda pick out benthic organisms from a core sample.
Through the study of box cores, Jason hopes to learn more about the creatures that live on the bottom of the sea. He told me many scientists who are doing box cores are simply collecting the sediment for study, they are not looking to see what organisms live in it, and therefore, there is a lot we don’t know. He says, “I would not be surprised if we found a new species in these cores.”
Take a look at some of the creatures Jason has unearthed on this cruise:
Clam (left); Worm (right)
Sea pen (Pennatulacea) (left); Striped nudibranch which feeds exclusively on sea pens (right)
Because he has been collecting this data for two years, there are some patterns emerging about sediment conditions in different areas of the seabed. This information may help inform the placement and construction of a proposed wind farm off the Oregon coast.
For at least one day of our cruise, Jason also put out hooked long-lines to try and catch albacore, a type of tuna. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t biting. While albacore are unique among most tuna in that they prefer cooler water, Jason says the late-spring waters off the Oregon coast are still a little too cold for them and since they can swim up to 100 miles a day, they can easily find some more comfortable temperatures. The albacore that have been caught on previous cruises as part of this ongoing study are being tested for radioisotopes that may have originated from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011.
And, of course, there’s always fun to be had on the Shimada. Below you can watch a video of Jason unearthing a pupa utility-worm from one of his box cores; scientific name (Travisia pupa), affectionately known as the “stink worm.” Will decides we need a closer, um, look.
Tyler Jackson, a Master’s student at Oregon State University has been working on fisheries genetics since he was an undergraduate. His interest in marine science began when he was a wee recreational fisherman’s son growing up on the US-Canada border in Port Huron, MI.
In collecting megalopae, a larval form of Dungeness crab, he is trying to determine how closely related the Dungeness crab of areas off the Oregon coast are. He has studied population genetics among adult Dungeness crabs along the West Coast. He hypothesizes that if adult crabs in an area are closely related, larvae settling in the nearshore would be too. However, he tells me that it is not well understood how crab larvae travel throughout the ocean, and then for some to make it back to nearshore and settle to the bottom, maybe near where they came from. Perhaps these extended families get scattered throughout the seas, perhaps not.
Tyler Jackson, Oregon State University
At the first few stations, the tows were not bringing back enough individuals to give Tyler a large enough sample size to provide a reliable assessment of whether the crabs in that part of the ocean are related or not. Unfortunately, on this cruise Tyler did not get a sample size large enough to use.
In the following video you can see that, after sieving the neuston, Tyler found two Dungeness megalopae (too small of a sample size to test) but quite a lot of red rock crab megalopae. These little creatures are fascinating and pretty adorable.
I also interviewed Tyler about his work and life at sea. You can hear our talk below.
Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was thinking about the fact that my time on the Shimada is quickly coming to a close. I was trying to find a way to get even more information from the scientists on board to you. Taped interviews seemed like the perfect solution. I began conducting them yesterday and, after finishing three, realized I’d spoken to three of the four other women of the science crew. And so, here we are having a conversation about gender equity in the sciences.
The ladies of the science crew. From left: Samantha Zeman, Amanda Gladics, Emily Boring, Brittney Honisch, Alexandra Miller
Using data from a longitudinal study done by the National Science Foundation, in 1973, 88% of doctorate holders working at the university level in life sciences (includes marine biology) were male, just 12% were female. Hearteningly, women have become much more well represented in the life sciences; in 2010, these numbers were 58% and 42%, respectively‡. You can see this same kind of near gender balance on board the Shimada: of the twelve (counting me) members of the science crew, five are women. Women are also well-represented in this blog post.
You can see the numbers breakdown for all the science and engineering fields here.
I interviewed the four other women of the science crew about their research and life on board the ship, as well as being a woman in the field of life science. You can hear those interviews below.
If you would like to find the parts of the conversations about gender equality in marine science, you may use the time stamps below.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kainoa Higgins Aboard R/V Ocean Starr June 18 – July 3, 2014
Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northern California Current Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Current Latitude: 42° 30.2’ N
Current Longitude: 124° 49.5’ W
Air Temperature: 12.8° Celsius
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: S
Surface Water Temperature: 16.0 Celsius
Weather conditions: Overcast and Misty
I walk into the wet lab after a night of rocking and rolling and find the day shift team prepping for and executing their respective projects. I sit down with Jason Phillips, a fisheries biologist with Oregon State University at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, to talk about his focus aboard the RV Ocean Starr. Jason serves as lead scientist on the box core sampling project. The box corer is a piece of equipment used to literally “grab” a sample of the seafloor for analysis both of sediment grain size as well as benthic (seafloor) life. It is reminiscent of an old candy grab penny arcade where a crane’s claw is used to scoop candies from a floor of goodies. I don’t anticipate the pay load of this scoop to be as deliciously appealing.
An Offshore Wind Turbine
Jason explains that he joined this cruise off the coast of Oregon to learn more about the seafloor along a specific series of coordinated sampling stations. These sites are aligned perpendicular from shore and increase in depth as we move further along the continental shelf away from the coastline. The ultimate goal of his project is to better understand the communities of organisms that may be impacted by the commercial development of renewable wind energy. Yes, I’m talking about giant wind turbines anchored to the seafloor, not unlike the terrestrial wind farms seen throughout the country. Before any ground is broken on such a project, the potential impacts have to be investigated. Enter Jason and the rest of his team at Oregon State University. By establishing a fundamental understanding of baseline benthic communities as well as characterizing bottom types, Jason hopes to better explain how the ocean floor changes as we move across the continental shelf.
Jason asks if I’d assist in the deployment of the next box corer and I jump at the opportunity to get my hands dirty. We step onto the stern deck where most of the scientific equipment is kept. There, in all of its silvery splendor, sits the box corer, securely resting in a heavy-duty metal cradle. Weighing in at 450 lbs. when empty – it’s even heavier when filled with a core sample of seafloor sediment. The ocean is a bit rough today so Jason assigns me a supporting role. Using a thick rope attached to a handle on the box corer my job is to keep it from swinging uncontrollably as it is raised from its resting cradle and lowered into the water. I’m warned to keep all extremities out of the way as it wouldn’t take much for this piece of scientific kit to become a glorified wrecking ball capable of devastating blows to both ship and its operators. The winch begins to tighten the slack on the cable line and the box core rises from its cradle. Though it swings slightly from side to side, it cleanly enters the water and starts its decent into the dark depths.
This time it will collect a sediment sample at 200 meters, and takes nearly six minutes to reach the bottom. When it does, its gravity-release mechanism triggers and the shovel-like claws propped open on the surface close as the wire is wound back in, scooping a load of seafloor and any organisms living in or on that substrate. About 10 minutes later, the box corer returns to the surface draining gallons of water as we maneuver the even heavier steel trap back to its cradle.
Once secure, Jason collects a raw sample in a small jar, labels it and sets it aside for grain size analysis in the lab. Using a ruler, he measures the depth of the total sample. I learn that sample size depends largely on grain size. The further away from shore, the deeper the water, and a lower impact by waves and surface currents. The result is the settling and compacting of fine particulates. Conversely, seafloors closer to shore “feel” the more of the effects of these ocean forces, which allows for less settlement, and lighter particles are washed further offshore. There we would find sandier substrates. This sample is incredibly “muddy”, made up mostly of clay.
Top left: Peanut worm (emits terrible stench), Bottom left: Dr. Ric Brodeur and Jason Phillips assess an inky worm. Right: Jason Phillips quickly returns an unexpected skate.
Once the seafloor “muck” is extracted from the box corer, Jason uses a small wire mesh and a garden hose to sluice the sediment, breaking up the larger chunks as he hunts for signs of life within. Any critters found are carefully extracted using tweezers then added to neatly labeled jars for further analysis back in lab at Hatfield. Invertebrates dominate the small haul of benthic life: feather worms, polychaetes and echinoderms are numerous. Occasionally the box core delivers unexpected tag-a-longs. On two separate occasions a large fish and a skate that, of all the places on the bottom of the ocean, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and took the ride a lifetime.
It was an exciting hands-on experience and I quickly learned that the tighter the leash the more stable the box. I am thankful to report that no limbs were lost in the sampling of the seafloor.
Later, I sit down with Katherine Dale, a student intern aboard the RV Ocean Starr. Kat currently attends the University of Miami and will be entering her senior year after which she will have successfully earned B.S. degrees in Biology and Marine Science with a Minor in computer science to top it all off.
She arrived on the Ocean Starr as a result of being named recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings scholarship by NOAA. Applying in her sophomore year, Kat received a generous $16,000 towards her junior and senior years of study. The intangible value of the scholarship is in NOAA’s expectation of awardees to participate in a paid internship with a NOAA affiliated mentor and/or facility with the intention being to introduce undergraduate students to NOAA as a potential career path.
Kat has chosen to spend her summer at the Hatfield Marine Science Center under the mentorship of Ric Brodeur, the chief scientist on this cruise. She is here with similar intentions as I have; gain field experience on a NOAA research cruise. Unlike me, this is not her first time at sea. A year ago she toured the Bahamas on a month-long research trip with the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, a regional NOAA research lab based in Miami, Florida.
I ask Kat what she would advise a younger group of marine enthusiasts just starting out. She suggests that budding students should not be afraid to pursue diverse experiences and keep an open mind. There will be great jobs and some not-so-great jobs, but it is all experience, and more experiences lead to more opportunities further down the road.
Kat isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her laundry list of degrees but finds herself attracted to both the world of scientific research as well as that of science education. Perhaps a role in education outreach for a science organization is somewhere in her future.
Hollings Scholar Katherine Dale holding a eel larvae during trawl sorting.
Adjusting to life on a ship like the Ocean Starr has been interesting. Not necessarily difficult but not easy either. It’s just, different. In my previous post I mentioned the struggles of using the restroom and just getting in and out of bed at night. I’ve since taken my first shower aboard this floating facility and to say it was challenging would be an understatement. When the ship rolls, I roll and when it rocks, I follow suit. I’m still working on those sea legs. It all gets amplified when it comes to anything bathroom related especially when the venue is communal. Trying to keep a change of clothes dry in the shower is hardest! I’ve made a few trips back to my stateroom in wet clothes.
Last night we ran into some rougher waters and falling asleep was nearly impossible. Each time I even began to doze off, the ship would roll so violently that I would be forced into the wall or the railing on the bunk. Being a side-sleeper it’s difficult. I realized the side-to-side motion is generally a result of three major sources: our northbound travels, the bow-to-stern orientation of my bunk and the west-east flow of the swells toward shore. Eventually I gave up attempting to find sleep in my own berth and decided to roam about the ship in search of a more stable locale. In the crew lounge, I found an enormous couch which just so happened to have an orientation to match the swells. Although with each roll I could feel a slight bit of added pressure at my head or toes, I was not long rolling side-to-side. Proud of myself, I fell asleep immediately.
Let me clarify the my tone as I describe the trials above. In no way do I consider any of these experiences to be “bad”. I signed up for life at sea and it wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t struggle to adapt somewhat to such a foreign lifestyle. I am embracing every moment as a unique investigation into the life of not only a scientific research team in the field, but also the life of the crew that keeps us running. Besides, the immediate perks far outweigh the struggle of adaptation.
The food is delicious. I realize that in that statement I echo just about every other Teacher at Sea in TAS history. All the same, the food is delicious. I suppose it’s one of the small comforts that both crew and science team look forward to on a regular basis and Crystal, the head chef, and her partner Liz take great pride in the meals they prepare. Already I’ve gorged myself on freshly- made pizza, gyros, fruit-filled pastries, stir-fry dishes, quiches, steak and potatoes and swordfish just to name a few! The galley is the ship cafeteria and is always stocked with an assortment of goodies: pop, juice, coffee, fruit, and an array of granola bar-type pocket snacks for when you need a quick pick-me-up on the job. There’s even a salad bar with a variety of toppings to choose from. That’s not even the best part!
Aside from usual dinning occasion: breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is a midnight rations service simply called “mid-rats” onboard. It is a meal with naval ties designed to satisfy the hunger of those getting off or just starting their shifts in the middle of the night. Many onboard swear mid-rats to be the best meal of the 24 hour period. I can’t decide, it’s all so tasty! All this and I haven’t even mentioned the overstocked freezer dedicated to nothing but ice cream! I thought, being at sea, I’d drop a few pounds but with four meals a day all the snacks I could ever want, I don’t see that happening. I’ll be lucky to break even.
Top: Galley complete with World-Cup Soccer in the background. Bottom: Mid-Rats Menu–Stuffin’ Muffins, Spinach, Parsnippers, Baked Apples in Caramel.
My current shift runs from roughly 2:00 pm – 2:30 am. This time frame allows me the opportunity to participate in a variety of sampling activities that happen only during daylight hours, as well as to help sort a few trawls into the wee hours of morning. Generally speaking, I fall asleep by around 3:00 and wake up for breakfast at 6:00. I love breakfast. I head back to bed for another four hours give or take, depending on how rough the ocean is beneath me. Around 10:00 I’ll wake up and grab some coffee and check in on various projects, lending a helping hand if needed. I’ll generally take my coffee to the flying bridge checking in with Amanda in regards to any recent sightings.
On that note, we stumbled across a hunting group of Stellar sea lions yesterday. They followed us for a bit, as did a flock of gulls, I imagine because they mistook us for an active fishing vessel and were just looking for a free meal.
Not bad living in the Crew Lounge
Day time activities: CTD, box core, neuston net tow, bongo tow, jelly fishing, etc. generally wrap up between 2:00 and 4:00 and at that point we begin transit toward the next trawling station. The commute time can be anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on conditions and the team finds various ways to pass the time. Some take naps or watch a movie in the lounge while others play cards, grab a snack, or join Amanda on the flying bridge to look for marine animals. I generally use this time to chat with those around about their projects and think about how to synthesize these encounters into blog posts. I’ve also found myself collecting so much great footage that I spend some time slicing and dicing a short film here and there featuring the day’s happenings.
Once we arrive at the first trawling station the night team sets up shop. We trawl and sort samples throughout the night with the last trawl wrapping up at about 5:00 in the morning. So far, I’ve only made it through the first two or three trawls before turning in for the night. The evening is always an adventure. Just last night while we sorted krill from rockfish, a bird flew into the wet lab and landed in a large bucket full of catch; this guy was a storm petrel, which are apparently attracted to and disoriented by lights, making this a relatively common event. We were able to get it out the door and back onto the ocean both swiftly and safely.
I wrap this post up as I sit atop the flying bridge on an overcast day off of the Oregon Coast. I can faintly see the famous sand dunes framing the coastline. No more than ten minutes prior to typing these very words did we watch four humpback whales breaching clear out of the water less than 300 meters from the bow of the Ocean Starr; an absolute thrill to see!