Melanie Lyte: On the Brink of an Adventure at Sea! May 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melanie Lyte
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
May 20 – 31, 2013

Mission: Right Whale Survey, Great South Channel
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic 
Date: May 14, 2013

Personal Log

Hello, from Castleton, New York. My name is Melanie Lyte and I am a first grade teacher at Bell Top Elementary School . I am very fortunate to teach in a school of dedicated staff where creativity and innovation is fostered, and embraced. My principal, Jim McHugh, was the one who urged me to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, and I am grateful to him for his support and encouragement. Although Bell Top is a public school, many of the yearly activities our students are involved in are unique, especially in a public school setting. With funds from a NSTA administered Toyota Tapestry Grant we built a Learning Barn on our school grounds. The barn, built uniquely using both Dutch and English architectural styles so students can compare the two ways, houses an evaporator for a school wide maple sugaring project, as well as cider press for making apple cider in the fall.  We also have amazing parental support at our school, a very active PTO, and of course the best kids in the world walk through our doors each day!

Bell Top Elementary School,Troy, NY

Bell Top Elementary School, Troy NY

I originally applied to be a teacher at sea because I love science and adventure, and I love to bring my experiences outside the classroom back to enrich my students. In the last few years I have camped in the jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, hiked and kayaked in Alaska,  visited the rain forests of Brazil, and traveled to China. I believe we must expose our children to the the broader world, and the natural world around them in order to foster a curiosity about far away places, and  love and appreciation for our earth. We need to feed every student’s innate sense of wonder and excitement for the world around them.

My friend Harold and I on top of a volcano in Sumatra, Indonesia.

My friend Harold and I on top of a volcano in Sumatra, Indonesia.

I think the opportunity to work with real scientists doing research will be a life changing event for me, and I am even more enthused because the mission of this voyage, conducting a right whale survey in the North Atlantic, is perfect for my first graders! What child doesn’t get excited about whales?!?! I am also very fortunate to teach with my partner in first grade, Sarah Lussier. She and I truly have a the best teaching partnership imaginable, and we, and our students, are enriched by it.  To prepare our students for my upcoming voyage, we have been learning all we can about right whales, and whales in general. We painted a  right whale and whale calf on the parking lot at school (that was an adventure in itself – think 42 first graders  with paint brushes and black concrete paint). The students also researched right whales, created diagrams of the whale, and developed informational posters of what they learned. I think the consensus of the students is that right whales are “really cool, but a little lazy, and kind of ugly.” (as one of my first graders so  eloquently put it). They are fascinated by the callosities on the whales and are saddened that the whales sit on top of the water so often and are in danger of being hit by boats. While I’m at sea the students in both our classrooms will be working on many other whale related activities, as well as following my blog.

Right whale calf created by first graders at BellTop Elementary School.

Right whale calf created by first graders at BellTop Elementary School.

Categorizing toothed and baleen whales by the first graders at Bell Top School

Categorizing toothed and baleen whales by the first graders at Bell Top School

Whale Facts by first graders at Bell Top School.

Whale Facts by first graders at Bell Top School.

Whale Sizes by the first graders at Bell Top School.

Whale Sizes by the first graders at Bell Top School.

Right whale (1980) Massachusetts Secretary of ...

The right whale became the official state marine mammal of Massachusetts in 1980. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA

So in less than two weeks my adventure at sea will begin! I will be joining head scientist Allison Henry and the crew of the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Gordon Gunter out of Boston MA. We will be conducting a North Atlantic Right whale survey, but I have been told we will see other whales as well such as humpback, sei, and minke. I can’t wait to explore the ocean with scientists, and learn all I can about the creatures who live there. I hope you will join me on my adventure by reading my blogs while I’m at sea.

Gordon Gunter

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter (photo credit NOAA)

Angela Greene: “And So the Love Story Begins… “ April 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Angela Greene
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon GunterApril 29-May 11, 2013
Mission:  Northern Right Whale Survey

Geographical Area of Cruise:  Atlantic Ocean out of Woods Hole, MA
Date:  April 24, 2013

 

Personal Log:

I am quite certain I am about to fall in love with a whale, as I embark upon a journey that will surely change me forever.  My name is Angela Greene, and I have had the honor of teaching middle school in the Tecumseh Local School District for the last twenty-five years!

TMS

Tecumseh Middle School: “Home of My 8th Grade Scientists!”

I care deeply about my students, and I am committed to providing them with amazing science experiences in my classroom!  I love my job, my students, and learning.  I am a NOAA Teacher at Sea!

I applied for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program because I believe the best way to develop myself, as a professional educator is to seek out field experiences that will enable me to work side by side with leaders in the scientific community.  I can’t think of a better way to efficiently expose my students to careers in the field of science as well as the scientific issues that will directly affect their lives than to “walk in the shoes” of highly trained scientists.

Kristin and Me

“Walking in the Shoes of a Scientist”: Me with Dr. Kristin Stanford, Lake Erie Water Snake Recovery Plan Coordinator

The purpose of this blog is to tell my family, students, friends, and colleagues a story, a love story, if you will.  I hope to share my love of teaching, my love of wildlife, and my insatiable love for learning.

In only a few hours, I will fly to Boston, Massachusetts, take a bus to Woods Hole, and board the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  The ship will take me, as well as a group of ocean scientists, into the Northern Atlantic to search for the critically endangered Northern Right Whale.

Gordon Gunter

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter (photo credit NOAA)

At this point, I know very little about this mammal, so I enlisted the help of my 8th grade scientists using a technique I called “Teach Your Teacher”.  Together, we brainstormed a list of questions about Right Whales, the Gordon Gunter, and marine research.  Each student selected a topic, complied a summary of their findings and wrote me a quick “good bye” note.  I collected the pages and promised not to read them until I was on the bus to Woods Hole.

Whale Biopsy

Tecumseh 8th Grader Researching Whale Biopsy

I also wanted my students to have an understanding of the actual size of Northern Right Whales and other North Atlantic Whale species.  We celebrated our new learning and my incredible opportunity to sail with NOAA by having “Tecumseh Middle School Whale Day”.  For one day the concrete campus of our school became ocean habitats to student-created “chalk whales”.  We calculated the actual size of four whale species using the scaled measurements of sketches found in our research.  This data enabled us to create over forty whales using sidewalk chalk!  We were amazed at the size of our whales, and the chalk models enabled us to compare the external anatomy among the species.  Our local news channel, WDTN, stopped by to film us for the evening news!  We determined that 14 middle school students could fit head to toe along the length of a fin whale.  We had a terrific day!

My preparation time is coming to an end.  I need to finish packing, say my goodbyes to my family and dogs, and focus on the journey that’s about to begin.  One of the most important lessons a teacher can learn from rare field experience opportunities is that this time will quickly end.  I promise to enjoy every second while I am falling in love with a brand new world.

14 in Fin

Fourteen Tecumseh Students Fit Head to Toe in a Chalk Fin Whale

rightwhale_baleen_georgia

Northern Right Whale (Photo Credit NOAA)

Kirk Beckendorf, July 23, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 23, 2004

Daily Log

Today was my last day and night on the BROWN. We spent last night off the coast of New Hampshire. We were scheduled to meet the pilot at 11:00 AM. The pilot is a person very familiar with the local port and he or she comes on board large ships and drives them into and out of the port. Since they know the harbor very well they can make sure the ship doesn’t run aground in what may be a very narrow channel. It was pretty cool to watch him jump from a small boat onto the rope hanging from the side of the BROWN while we were moving. Everyone was out on deck as we came up through the channel into Portsmouth. As we got to the dock the crew had the ropes out and ready. Tanker trucks of fuel were lined up ready to refuel the ship, which can hold about five tanker trucks worth of diesel. It was a bittersweet feeling to dock and be back ashore. It is good to be back but I am sure going to miss all of the people on board. I have learned so much from them, plus I enjoyed their company.

This evening we had a big New England style clambake at a beach. They fed us steamed calms and whole lobsters.

I finally met Jennifer Hammond. She is the person in charge of the Teacher at Sea Program and who got me on the BROWN and who gets the logs and pictures onto the web.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 22, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 4:50 PM ET
Latitude- 42 49.88 N
Longitude- 70 15.46 W
Air Temperature 20 degrees C
Water Temperature 17 degrees C
Air Pressure 1011 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southwest
Wind Speed at surface 15 MPH
Cloud cover and type clear but hazy

Daily Log

Last night at sunset we were just out from Boston when we launched the radiosonde. The pollution levels were up and we had to look through a haze to see the downtown skyline. A sea breeze began blowing cleaner air to us from the east. Late last night we headed east to meet up with a couple of the airplanes this morning. The goal was to have us and two of NOAA’s research planes all under a satellite which will be orbiting overhead. Pollution measurements could be made at many different levels of the atmosphere plus instrument comparisons could be made.

Of course it was foggy again. Wayne Angevine, a meteorologist back on shore was looking at live weather satellite images and got word to us that close by was a clear spot in the fog. The flight crew in the airplanes confirmed what Wayne said. When we got to the latitude and longitude they had directed us to, we found clear skies. The plan worked. The planes flew by making their measurements, several satellites passed over head, the ozonesonde was launched, all of the instruments on the Brown were continuing to collect data and Drew and I did Sunops.

Later today the rest of the fog burnt off, but there was still a haze as we slowly made our way back to the west. We need to be in the vicinity of Portsmouth so that we can meet up with the harbor pilot tomorrow morning. The pilot will direct the ship back into Portsmouth at about noon. The timing is actually important because we need to go in at high tide. Tonight the plan is to continue back and forth through the urban pollution. Before we get to port tomorrow, a couple of the crew will be diving under the ship to do some maintenance that should be interesting to watch.

Today is my last full day at sea on the BROWN. This next week I will be visiting some of the land based scientists, facilities and activities involved in NEAQS. We get into port about noon tomorrow.

I asked some of the scientist what is the one thing my students should know about this research project on air pollution. Some of the statements were:

We are studying a very complicated situation with no simple answers.

To study something very complicated takes lots of coordination and cooperation from numerous organizations and a lot of people.

Air pollution is a global problem not a local problem. Even people in areas, like Redmond, OR, with little pollution should be concerned. Air pollution doesn’t stay where it is made. North America gets pollution from Asia, Europe gets pollution from N. America, Asia gets pollution from Europe.

Each one of us needs to realize that we are part of the problem.

Question of the Day

How can you be part of the solution not just part of the air pollution problem?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 17, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 17, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 6:20 PM ET
Latitude- 43 20.33 N
Longitude- 68 18.92 W
Air Temperature 17 degrees C
Water Temperature 14 degrees C
Air Pressure 1009 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southwest
Wind Speed at surface 7 MPH
Cloud cover and type Clear

Daily Log

How is it possible to tell if we are in pollution when we can’t even see it?

This morning I went through the normal routine of helping launch the ozonesonde at 10:00. Because it was a sunny day Drew Hamilton could make Sunop measurements throughout the afternoon so I helped with that. We specifically timed the Sunops so that we were taking measurements at the same times that three satellites were crossing overhead. The satellites were taking similar measurements looking down, while we were taking them looking up. Later, our measurements will be compared with those of the satellites.

In general, air pollution is a combination of particles and gases. I have discussed the particles in previous logs, but not much about the gases. A large number of the scientists involved in NEAQS-ITCT are studying these gases. I have spent a large amount of time talking with Eric Williams, Brian Lerner, Sallie Whitlow, Paul Goldan, Bill Kuster, Hans Osthoff and Paul Murphy. They have instruments on board which measure many of the different gases related to air pollution. But not all air pollution is the same.

The cause of the pollution determines what gases and particles are in the pollution. Gasoline powered automobiles release one combination of gas and particles. Diesel engines produce another combination. Coal burning power plants release yet a different combination. Natural gas power plants release (Yep, you guessed it) yet a different combination. In a city these get mixed together, so individual cities have there own unique pollution depending on the number of automobiles, power plants and factories. To make things more complicated, once these chemicals are released into the atmosphere and start mixing together, in the presence of sunlight they react with one another making additional gases and destroying others. What eventually happens to these pollutants and where they go, are two of the questions these scientists are seeking to answer. But answering these questions is very difficult, in part because things get extremely complicated very quickly. As Paul Goldan told me, part of the reason we need to make so many different kinds of measurements is because we are not even sure exactly what we are looking for.

Today as we criss-crossed back and forth through two plumes of pollution Eric showed me some of today’s data. As always, his instruments were measuring and recording some of the gases in the air. The quantities and kinds of gases changed as we went back and forth, helping to map where the pollution was located and how it has changed. Nothing looked different outside, but from the measurements he was taking he could tell that one of the plumes was younger than the other.

During the nightly meeting, Paul Goldan and Tim Bates presented completely different kinds of measurements that agreed with what Eric’s data showed. This comparing of daily observations will help confirm the accuracy of the observations and what they actually mean.

Questions of the Day

Where is the electricity in your house produced?

What kind of fuel is used to make your electricity?

What kind of fuel is burnt to make your automobiles run?

Who should be responsible for the pollution produced to make the electricity you use?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 15, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 15, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:00 AM ET
Latitude- 45 53.18 N
Longitude- 70 36.48 W
Air Temperature 14 degrees C
Air Pressure 1000 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Northeast
Wind Speed at surface 3 MPH

Daily Log

Yeah!!! The sun is trying to come out, the rains have stopped and the sea has calmed down. No I didn’t get sea sick, but it is hard to sleep when your bed is swaying back and forth and up and down. The winds have shifted and the scientists are hoping that the winds may be blowing some pollution our way. Seems like a strange thing to hope for, but of course they are here to study pollution and the wind has been blowing it away from us.

Why should anybody care if we add microscopic particles to the air?

Yesterday, I discussed one of the techniques used to study the microscopic particles that are in the atmosphere. But so what, why does anyone care about these tiny specks? Air pollution made by automobiles, power plants, factories and ships all contain both gases and particles. To be able to predict the changes resulting from air pollution, we have to learn all we can about the gases and the particles being released.

When the pollution is released into the atmosphere, the gases and particles start traveling with the air. (Just like pouring a quart of motor oil into a river.) Gradually the gases and particles spread out into the surrounding atmosphere. The gases can recombine and may start changing into other chemicals, but that’s another story I will get to soon.

The particles are not all the same. They come in different sizes and are made of a variety of chemicals. There are two main concerns about these little chunks floating along in the sea of gas; health hazards and climate change. If you take a breath, not only do you inhale the gas, but also all of the particles floating in the gas. Some of these particles may have a negative effect on a person’s health.

The main interest in the particles here on the BROWN is the effect they have on climate change. The Earth is of course warmed by the energy (light) coming from the sun. The more energy (light) the Earth gets and keeps, the warmer our temperatures. The less energy (light) the Earth gets and keeps, the cooler the temperatures. Pretty simple stuff? Not at all.

When sunlight shines down through the atmosphere and hits a particle the sunlight can either bounce off of the particle or be absorbed into the particle. If the light bounces back out of the atmosphere the Earth does not keep the light’s energy and there is a cooling effect. When light is absorbed into the particle, the energy (heat) will now be in the atmosphere and so there is a heating effect. Some particles absorb more light than others, so some have a cooling effect on the Earth’s atmosphere and others have a heating effect. One of the questions being asked is, overall do the particles cool the atmosphere or heat the atmosphere? This is not as simple of a question as it sounds, because there are also a lot of indirect effects that are not yet understood.

These microscopic chunks also affect clouds and cloud formation, but how much of an effect is not completely understood. The particles may cause clouds to be less likely to rain or at least, not rain as often. These microscopic particles in air pollution could have an effect on where and when it rains. So the scientists, here on the BROWN, are gathering data to help them try and understand the impact that particles will play in changing the Earth’s climate. Part of their task, is to determine where the particles are from, the numbers, sizes, and chemistry of the particles.

If I lost you in all of that, maybe it will help to put it all in a nutshell. These scientists are studying the type and number of particles in air pollution, to try and understand what effect these little chunks may be having on the Earth’s temperature and water cycle.

As Tim Bates said, we are trying to put together a large jigsaw puzzle and we don’t know what picture is on the puzzle. First we have to find all of the pieces. Then we have to put together the puzzle. We are now at the point that we think we have found most of the pieces and now we are trying to put them together. As you can see from the picture I sent in today there is some relaxation time, in the middle of all the data analysis.

Questions of the Day

The smaller particles are measured in nanometers how much of a meter is 1 nanometer?

If the wind is blowing 5 meters/second and we are 50 miles from Boston how long will it take Boston’s pollution to reach us?

Typical unpolluted air will have about 1000 particles in every cubic centimeter of air. What is something that has a volume of about 1 cubic centimeter?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 13, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 13, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 11:30 AM ET
Latitude- 42 56.92 N
Longitude- 70 36.22 W
Air Temperature 17 degrees C
Wind Direction at surface East
Wind Speed at surface 20 MPH
Cloud cover and type Cloudy- Stratus
Air Pressure
11:30 AM 1014 Millibars
7:15 PM 1009 MB
10:15 PM 1008 MB

Daily Log

Look at what the air pressure has done today. What do you think our weather is like now at 11:00 PM (past my bedtime)?

Keep in mind that we are sitting out in the ocean in a ship, sometimes you can see land, other times you can’t. Rarely can we see any buildings much less a city. How are we supposed to know where to go to find some pollution? Especially if we are looking for particles that are too small to see and gasses that are colorless. Not to mention there may be less than 1 part per billion of that gas mixed in with the air. That is where Wayne Angevine and Jim Koermer come in. They are two meteorologists who are on shore. Twice a day they send us weather forecasts. Wayne works for NOAA and Jim is a professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. (Check out Jim’s website at vortex.plymouth.edu)

Based on their forecast, Wayne also sends recommendations for where we should go to find pollution. Today they are predicting that winds will be from the southeast and east through at least tomorrow. We know that pollution comes from automobiles, power plants, ships and factories. Although some of the chemicals involved in air pollution do also come from trees and other plants. Pollution of course blows with the wind so we want to be down wind of the pollution sources. If you look at a map to see where we are located the only thing east of us for a very long way is water, so easterly winds bring us clean air. There aren’t any cities or automobiles floating out here on the ocean, but there are ships. Wayne’s recommendation today was for us to move to Mass. Bay to get down wind of the shipping lanes and sample ship exhaust as they come by. That is what we have been doing most of the day.

Wayne says that possibly tomorrow afternoon the winds will shift and come from the southwest. If that happens Boston’s pollution will be flowing out over the water again and if that happens he suggest we sample it as we did yesterday, which was to zigzag back and forth across the plume coming from Boston. We couldn’t actually see it but we know where Boston is, we knew which way the wind was blowing and many of the instruments are measuring and recording what is in the air in real time. The captain also has charts that show how deep the water is so we didn’t run aground as we got close to shore.

It has been very interesting switching rolls from my normal job of being the teacher to the roll I am in on the ship which is, being the student. This past year after a particularly hard lesson one of my students said my brain hurts; now I know how he felt. This afternoon I went down to the ship’s gym to try and digest all that I have been learning the past two weeks, by working out physically rather than mentally. Plus I had to work off some of the great food the stewards feed us here on the Brown.

With the drop in air pressure the winds have picked up, it has started raining lightly and the ship is rocking and rolling. Nothing extreme, but it should rock everyone to sleep tonight.

We had another abandon ship drill today.

This afternoon we saw a pirate ship. Well ok it really wasn’t a pirate ship but it kind of looks like one, with its sails down and floating in the mist. It is actually a Mexican Navy training ship.

Questions of the Day

Today we had a low pressure system, what kind of weather can we expect if we have a high pressure system?

What activities do you that would create air pollution?

From which way is the wind blowing today, where you live?

What is up wind of you? What is downwind of you?