Callie Harris: Lots to See While at Sea, August 20, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Callie Harris

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 13-26, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: 8/20/19

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 58° 27.67 N
Longitude: 152 ° 53.00 W
Wind Speed: 5.96 knots
Wind Direction: 152°
Air Temperature: 12.4°C
Sea Temperature: 15°C
Barometric Pressure: 1008 mbar


Science and Technology Log

I feel the need to start off by stating that the shark did in fact swim away. During our mid-afternoon trawl haul back, Chief Boatswain Ryan Harris called over the radio that we had caught a shark in the trawl net. We quickly put on our boots, hard hats, and life preservers and headed to the back deck. Unfortunately, a 3.2m female Pacific Sleeper Shark had gotten caught in our trawl as bycatch. Thanks to the quick response of our NOAA deck crew, we were able to release the shark back into the water alive.

Unlike most sharks, the Pacific Sleeper Shark is predominantly a scavenger and rarely hunts. They are slow swimmers, but move through the water quite gracefully without much effort of body movement. This lack of movement allows them to catch prey easy since they don’t make much noise/ vibrations in the water. They feed by cutting and suction. The sleeper shark’s large mouth allows it to suck its prey in. Its spear-like teeth help cut prey down into smaller pieces. It then swallows its prey by rolling its head. For more info about this cool shark, visit: https://www.sharksider.com/pacific-sleeper-shark/ .

Bycatch is defined as the unwanted fish and other marine creatures caught (e.g. hooked, entangled or trapped) during commercial fishing for a different species. Bycatch is both an issue ecologically and economically. Bycatch can slow the rebuilding of overfished stocks. Organisms that are discarded sometimes die and cannot reproduce. These mortalities put protected species such as whales and sea turtles even further at risk. Bycatch can change the availability of prey and cause cascading effects at all trophic levels. Bycatch can also occur when fishing gear has been lost, discarded, or is otherwise no longer being used to harvest fish (aka marine debris).

Releasing shark from net
Releasing the shark from our trawl net.

NOAA Fisheries works hand in hand with fishing industries to better understand fishing gear, and to develop, test, and implement alternative fishing gear. For example, NOAA Fisheries and their partners developed turtle excluder devices to reduce sea turtle mortality in the southeastern shrimp trawl fishery. NOAA Fisheries funds the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program that supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch. Laws like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act also uphold the reduction of current and future bycatch of species.


Personal Log

It’s hard to believe that today is already day eight at sea. To be honest, I don’t even notice that I am on a ship anymore. We have been very lucky weather wise and the seas are still very calm. I have been spending more time on the bridge assisting with the ‘marine mammal watch’. As I said in blog two, we must keep an eye out for any marine mammals in the area before conducting any water surveys. The bridge is amazing because not only do you get the best view, but you also get to observe how the ship operates in terms of headings, maneuverability, and navigation.

Shelikof Strait
Shelikof Strait

The Shelikof Strait is breathtaking. Chief Electronics Technician Rodney Terry pointed out the white ‘cloud’ above one of the snow-capped mountains was actually an active volcano with a smoke plume rising above it. It was incredible to be able to look out and see a glacier and an active volcano in the same panorama.

Map of Kodiak Island
Map of Kodiak Island and Shelikof Strait. Credit: Kodiak archipelago images.

During one of my marine mammal watches on the bridge, I noticed an oddly flat area of land in the middle of the mountain range that ran along the shoreline. NOAA Corps Officer LT Carl Noblitt explained to me this was actually where a glacier had once weathered down part of the mountain range over time. The glacier has since melted so now all that remains today is its glacial trough.

glacial trough
The remains of a glacial trough.


Animals Seen Today

Besides our unexpected visitor today in the trawl, I was thrilled to hear Chief Boatswain Ryan Harris call out from the scientific deck for Orcas on the horizon. Orcas (aka Killer Whales) have always been a dream of mine to see in the wild. They were pretty far away from the boat, but I was able to see the trademark black dorsal fin rising and sinking at the surface for a few minutes. Hoping to get a photo of one of these pods before our expedition ends.

orca dorsal
Orca dorsal fin. Photo Credit: gowhales.com

Another fun organism I got to see in person today was a Lanternfish that was caught in one of our deeper bongo net surveys. Lanternfish are a deep-water fish that gets its name from its ability to produce light. The light is given off by tiny organs known as photophores. A chemical reaction inside the photophore gives off light in a chemical process known as bioluminescence.

lanternfish
Note the photophores (silver dots).
lanternfish v pencil
This laternfish is full grown. Adults measure 5cm to 15cm in length typically.

Emily Sprowls: Shark Bait, March 28, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 28, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

RedSnapper
Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

13:00 hours

29°09.3’ N 88°35.2’W

Visibility 10 nm, Scattered clouds

Wind 8 kts 170°E

Sea wave height <1 ft.

Seawater temp 22.9°C

 

Science and Technology Log

In addition to experimenting by sampling deeper, we are varying the fishing gear and using different kinds of bait. We have switched to hooks on a steel leader so that even a strong, big shark cannot bite through the line. We are rotating through squid and mackerel as bait in order to see which species are more attracted to different bait. In addition to many species of sharks, we have also caught and measured eels, large fish and rays.

Nick hooks
Nick prepares hooks for longline gangions.

One of the scientists on board specializes in fishing gear, and helps keep maintain all our gear after it gets twisted by eels or looped up on itself. He also works on turtle exclusion devices for trawling gear.

 

Personal Log

Last night the line pulled in a huge tangle of “ghost gear.” This was fishing line and hooks that had been lost and sunk. It would have been much easier to just cut the line and let the mess sink back to where it came from, but everybody worked together to haul it out so it won’t sit at the bottom tangling up other animals.

Ghost gear
Lost or “ghost” gear that tangled in our lines.

This is just one example of the dedication the scientists and crew have to ocean stewardship. I have been so impressed by the care and speed with which everybody handles the sharks in order to get them back in the water safely.

 

Kids’ Questions

  • Is there any bycatch of dolphins?

Deep seastar
A few seastars come up with uneaten bait as bycatch.

Today we saw dolphins for the first time! They were only a few of them pretty far from the boat, so they did not affect our sampling. Had they decided to come play by riding in our wake, we would have postponed our sampling to avoid any interactions between the dolphins and the gear. One of the reasons that we only deploy the fishing gear for one hour is in case an air-breathing turtle or mammal gets tangled (they can hold their breath for over an hour). However, since dolphins hunt live fish, they don’t try to eat the dead bait we are using.

  • Can sharks use echolocation? How do they find their food?

Sharks do not use echolocation like marine mammals, but they do have an “extra” sense to help them find their food. They can detect electrical current using special sense organs called ampullae of Lorenzini.

  • What are the chances of getting hurt? Why don’t they bite?

While there is a chance of the sharks accidentally biting us as we handle them, we are very careful to hold them on the backs of their heads and not to put our fingers near their mouths! “Shark burn” is a more likely injury, which occurs when a shark wiggles and their rough skin scrapes the person handling them. Sharks do not have scales, but are covered in tiny, abrasive denticles that feel like sandpaper.

 

 

 

Cathrine Prenot: Lights in the Ocean. Thursday, July 21, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cathrine Prenot
Aboard Bell M. Shimada
July 17-July 30, 2016

Mission: 2016 California Current Ecosystem: Investigations of hake survey methods, life history, and associated ecosystem

Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast from Newport, OR to Seattle, WA

Date: Thursday, July 21, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat: 46º18.8 N
Lon: 124º25.6 W
Speed: 10.4 knots
Wind speed: 12.35 degree/knots
Barometer: 1018.59 mBars
Air Temp: 16.3 degrees Celsius

 

Science and Technology Log

The ship’s engineering staff are really friendly, and they were happy to oblige my questions and take me on a tour of the Engine Rooms. I got to go into the ‘belly of the beast’ on the Oscar Dyson, but on the tour of the Shimada, Sean Baptista, 1st assistant engineer, hooked us up with headsets with radios and microphones. It is super loud below decks, but the microphones made it so that we could ask questions and not just mime out what we were curious about.

I think the job of the engineers is pretty interesting for three main reasons.

On the way to see the bow thruster below decks
On the way to see the bow thruster below decks

One, they get to be all over the ship and see the real behind-the-scenes working of a huge vessel at sea. We went down ladders and hatches, through remotely operated sealed doors, and wound our way through engines and water purifiers and even water treatment (poo) devices. Engineers understand the ship from the bottom up.

One of four Caterpillar diesel engines powering the ship
One of four Caterpillar diesel engines powering the ship

Second, I am sure that when it is your Job it doesn’t seem that glamorous, but an engineer’s work keeps the ship moving. Scientists collect data, the Deck crew fish, the NOAA Corps officers drive the ship, but the engineers make sure we have water to drink, that our ‘business’ is treated and sanitary, that we have power to plug in our computers (the lab I am writing in right now has 6 monitors displaying weather from the bridge, charts, ship trackers, and science data) and science equipment.

I did not touch any buttons. Promise.
I did not touch any buttons. Promise.

Finally, if something breaks on the ship, engineers fix it. Right there, with whatever they have on hand. Before we were able to take the tour, 1st Assistant Engineer Baptista gave us a stern warning to not touch anything—buttons, levers, pipes—anything. There is a kind of resourcefulness to be an engineer on a ship—you have to be able to make do with what you have when you are in the middle of the ocean.

The engineers all came to this position from different pathways—from having a welding background, to being in the navy or army, attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, or even having an art degree.  The biggest challenge is being away from your family for long periods of time, but I can attest that they are a pretty tight group onboard.

 

In terms of the science that I’ve been learning, I’ve had some time to do some research of some of the bycatch organisms from our Hake trawls. “Bycatch” are nontargeted species that are caught in the net.  Our bycatch has been very small—we are mostly getting just hake, but I’ve seen about 30-40 these cute little fish with blue glowing dots all over their sides. Call me crazy, but anything that comes out of the ocean with what look like glowing sparkling sapphires is worthy of a cartoon.

So… …What is small, glows, and comprises about 65% of all deep-sea biomass? Click on the cartoon to read Adventures in a Blue World 3.

Adventures in a Blue World, CNP. Lights in the Ocean
Adventures in a Blue World, CNP. Lights in the Ocean

 

Personal Log

The weather is absolutely beautiful and the seas are calm. We are cruising along at between 10-12 knots along set transects looking for hake, but we haven’t seen—I should say “heard” them in large enough groups or the right age class to sample.  So, in the meanwhile, I’ve taken a tour of the inner workings of the ship from the engineers, made an appointment with the Chief Steward to come in and cook with him for a day, spent some time on the bridge checking out charts and the important and exciting looking equipment, played a few very poor rounds of cornhole, and have been cartooning and reading.

I was out on the back deck having a coffee and an ice cream (I lead a decadent and wild life as a Teacher at Sea) and I noticed that the shoreline looked very familiar. Sure enough—it was Cannon Beach, OR, with Haystack Rock (you’ll remember it from the movie The Goonies)! Some of my family lived there for years; it was fun to see it from ten miles off shore.

Chart showing our current geographic area. Center of coast is Cannon Bean, Oregon.
Chart showing our current geographic area. Center of coast is Cannon Beach, Oregon.

View of Tillamook Head and Cannon Beach. It looked closer in person.
View of Tillamook Head and Cannon Beach. It looked closer in person.

 

Did You Know?

One of the scientists I have been working with knows a lot about fish. He knows every organism that comes off the nets in a trawl down to their Genus species. No wonder he knows all the fish—all of the reference books that I have been using in the wet lab were written by him. Head smack.

Dan Kamikawa, our fish whisperer
One of the books written by Dan Kamikawa, our fish whisperer

 

Resources

My sister (thank you!) does my multi media research for me from shore, as I am not allowed to pig out on bandwidth and watch lots of videos about bioluminescence in the ocean.  This video is pretty wonderful.  Check it out.

If you want to geek out more about Lanternfish, read this from a great site called the Tree of Life web project.

Interested in becoming a Wage Mariner in many different fields–including engineering?  Click here.

Donna Knutson: Dredging, June 16, 2016

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

 

Dredging

 

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.

Me hat

Science and Technology:

Latitude:  40 32.475 N

Longitude:  67 59.499 W

Clouds: overcast

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

 

Science Blog:

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.
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.
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.
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.

Ocean pout
Ocean pout

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.
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.
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 on is unhealthy.
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.

Personal Blog:

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.

Katryn "Kat" Delgado
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.DSCN7891 (2)sunset

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!

 

Chris Sanborn: 2 Days Shark Tagging, July 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christopher Sanborn
Aboard SRV C.E Stillwell
July 13 – 17, 2015

Mission: Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey
Geographical area of cruise: Delaware Bay
Date: July 15, 2015

Weather

Day 1 weather was mostly overcast 5-10 mph wind with 2-3 ft seas though the swells were larger according to the other individuals on the boat.

Day 2 was forecasted for chance of storms with 10-15 mph winds with 2-3 ft seas..

Science and Technology log

We just finished day two of our shark tagging survey in the Delaware Bay aboard the C.E. Stillwell, a 21 ft. Boston Whaler center console.  The boat seems extremely small at times with 4 people and lots of gear on board.  The crew that I am aboard ship with are Nathan Keith, Natural Resource Management Specialist, Ben Church, Boat Captain for this shark survey, and Matt Pezzullo,Chief Scientist for this shark survey.  Our boat is docked at the University of Delaware Marine Operations pier located in Lewes, DE.  Day 1 of our tagging was mostly spent on the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay.  We left port at 6:00 a.m. and steamed roughly 14 miles across the bay to make our first set. The seas were fairly rough which made for a bumpy ride.

Center Console C.E Stillwell. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith
Center Console C.E Stillwell. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith

Sets are either made with 25 large circle hooks or 50 small circle hooks on a gangion extending from the mainline which is weighted to the bottom.  The mainline is 1000 ft long, plus buoy line which extends from beyond the last hook up to the marker buoy on either end of the line. Our first day on the water we did 4 large sets and 3 small sets.  A large set is 25 large hooks that soak for 2 hours while a small set is 50 smaller hooks that soak for 30 min. We arrived back at port at 7:00 p.m. Day 2 we did 3 large sets and 4 small sets leaving port at 6:00 a.m and arriving back in port at about 5:30 p.m.  All hooks are baited with mackerel as seen on the large hooks in the following video.

Nathan Keith baiting smaller hooks.
Nathan Keith baiting smaller hooks.

The long line is retrieved by hand,  Sharks 130 cm and below are brought on board the boat for biological workup which includes fork length, pelvic and dorsal girth, sex, weight (if conditions allow) and then tagged.

Ben and I working up a shark on board the boat. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.
Ben and I working up a shark on board the boat. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Ben Church holding a Sandbar Shark that had been bit by a Sand Tiger Shark while on the line, while I read the weight. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.
Ben Church holding a shark while I read the weight. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Sharks greater than 130 cm get the full biological workup except weights.  These sharks are tail roped and cleated to the side of the vessel.

Me Dart Tagging a Sand Tiger Shark while Matt Pezzullo looks on. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.
Me Dart Tagging a Sand Tiger Shark while Matt Pezzullo looks on. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

All sharks under 100 cm receive a roto tag in the dorsal fin while sharks over 100 cm receive the dart tag seen in the picture.

 Day 1 Sharks:

    58 Total Sharks tagged

        45 Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

        11 Sand Tiger Sharks (Carcharias taurus)

        1 Blacktip Shark  (Carcharhinus limbatus)

        1 Atlantic Sharpnose  (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

Day 2 Sharks:

    44 Total Sharks tagged

        43 Sandbar Sharks  (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

        1 Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus)

We also had some bycatch with a number of rays.  The largest ray was 176 cm across which had an enormous amount of power.  All rays are measured across the disk width and sexed.  We caught Bullnose (Myliobatis freminvillii) , Bluntnose (Dasyatis say), Southern Sting Ray (Dasyatis americana), and Spiny Butterfly (Gymnura altavela).  We also caught on line a Clearnose Skate (Raja eglanteria) and a Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis).

 

Personal Blog:

Besides the beating we take in a 21 ft. center console motoring miles between sets, back and forth, the extreme physical toll of pulling in a long line is very taxing.  Day 1 of our survey was exciting as we caught numerous large Sandbar and Sand Tiger sharks.  Although it was an adrenaline filled experience I can say I was extremely spent at the end of the day!  Day 2 we only caught a few sharks that we were unable to bring on board the boat.  The biggest problem with day 2 was the ever-changing weather.  Some of the day was even spent in the pouring rain.  Boat operator Ben Church and Chief Scientist Matt Pezzullo were constantly aware of weather conditions for safety as well as assuring that setting and hauling of gear could be set and hauled safely and in a timely manner. Sharks that are brought on board are secured just underneath the jaw as you can seen in many of the pictures. The skin of the shark is very similar to sandpaper for anyone that has felt a shark or dissected one in my class.  The skin on my hands has worn away and new skin has been exposed.

Day 3 starts early in the morning so I am headed to bed!

 

Trevor Hance, Gone Fishin’, June 24, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 24, 2015

Gone Fishin’

Lean and mean, the Leg III Scallop Survey Class of 2015
Lean and mean, the Leg III Scallop Survey Class of 2015

Unfortunately, as is the case with life at sea, the weather can change in a heartbeat and the seas apparently had enough of the spoon feeding we were enjoying.  Our last couple of days were supposed to be spent exploring some new lobster habitat, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us and our cruise was terminated a day or two earlier than anticipated.

When the weather got harsh while heading in, I asked our Captain if he would take a picture of me in the Crow’s Nest, doing my best Lt. Dan impression.  He just smiled, shook my hand; “No” was all he said.
When the weather got harsh while heading in, I asked our Captain if he would take a picture of me in the Crow’s Nest, doing my best Lt. Dan impression.  He just smiled, shook my hand; “No” was all he said.

I’m off the vessel, but, the learning is still sinking in.  Today I’ll visit a little about the importance of annotating photos and round out the discussion with some explanation of how these scallop surveys play in commercial fisheries management, and then I’ll cut you loose for the summer.

Ropes, used on hatches, which we may or may not have battened.
Ropes, used on hatches, which we may or may not have battened.

Questioning the Data

We’ve been doing science 24/7 while at sea, and even with twelve highly accomplished people in the science party, I know we only scratched the surface and these folks have mountains of work ahead of them back at their offices in Woods Hole. I also know that much of that work will involve healthy doses of pretty complex math.  I saw an episode of NOVA recently that said something like “science is the story of everything, but the language of that story is told through mathematics.”  Let kids do science; through those experiences, they’ll learn more and ask more questions than they can answer and before they realize it, have learned a ton of math – and how to solve their own problems.

Wet-lab whiteboard humor
Wet-lab whiteboard humor

Before these scientists can really dig in on the heavy math, the data we were collecting has/had to be sorted and organized appropriately. On the dredge, we did most that in the wet-lab, where we physically counted, classified, measured and weighed the species we caught. While using HabCam, we were in the dry lab and the photos and data was collected on the PCs connected to the fiber-optics cable.

What’s up Watch Chief! That’s the wet lab, which is a trailer set up between the vestibule and dredge deck
What’s up Watch Chief! That’s the wet lab, which is a trailer set up between the vestibule and dredge deck

Dredge Data

The hands-on, real-person data collection associated with the dredge is important in fisheries science for many reasons.  For example, estimated weights of things seen in the HabCam photos can only be estimated with any degree of accuracy if they are based on actual data.  Additionally, there are some things you simply cannot determine through non-invasive means, as I experienced first hand assisting Dr. Gallager in the wet lab.  While weighing and measuring the organs of his scallop sample we saw that scallop populations in warmer water had spawned, but some of those in deeper/colder water had not yet done so.  People like Drs. Gallager and Shank can use that information and combine it with data relating to currents and historical data as they develop hypothesis of where to expect scallop populations (they call them “recruitments”) to develop in the future.

A simple graph showing fish length
A simple graph showing fish length

One of my jobs was to be in charge of a tool called “Star Oddi” which consists of a small, bullet-shaped underwater data logger that collects information such as temperature, depth, salinity and tilt of the dredge (it does get flipped over from time to time) as it is towed along the sea floor.  I would trade out the data-logger between each dredge, upload the data to a PC, and tell our watch chief if I noticed anything outside of the expected ranges.

Physically counting and measuring the weight of starfish helps establish reliable estimates of predator affect on scallop population
Physically counting and measuring the weight of starfish helps establish reliable estimates of predator effect on scallop population

HabCam Data / Annotation

Between times piloting the HabCam, we would help annotate some of the photographs, identifying substrate and species seen in the individual photos. For scallops, we used the mouse to draw a line indicating the size of each scallop.

There are four scallops in the annotated photo below.  I’ve drawn a line (in green) from the scallop’s umbo to the front of their shells, or across their width if they didn’t completely fit on the screen. The shadows could also help us identify whether they were swimming or stationary on the sea floor.  Using the HabCam’s recorded distance from the ground, the computer could then determine their respective sizes with relative certainty, which will help scientists estimate their respective weights, which all plays into determinations of how many scallops there are and whether the species, as a whole, is healthy.

Data, informing decisions
Data, informing decisions

The mosaics of HabCam photos sometimes reminded me of stars in the night time sky
The mosaics of HabCam photos sometimes reminded me of stars in the night time sky

I’ll share some more photos taken while annotating in the photblog, for now, let’s put my degrees in economics and law to use…

Fisheries

Many people hear the word “fishery” and think of a plants and a “nursery,” and they are similar in that they are places where something is raised for commercial purposes, but, most fishery production occurs in what would be considered publicly accessible water, like the ocean.

In our earlier discussions, you realized that with its favorable water and currents, Georges Bank is ripe territory for marine life, and historically, Georges Bank has been considered the world’s most productive fishery.  Indeed, Georges Bank has played a key role in the culture and economy of New England for more than 400 years. An April 2012 issue of Down East magazine (note to folks who don’t have a “Mainah” for a mom:  “Down East” is a slang term typically applied to the upper east coast of Maine) noted that by the time of the Mayflower voyage, the cod fishing stations at Damariscove and Monhegan islands had been operating year-round for the better part of a decade.

But just like my trip aboard the Sharp, all good things must come to an end, and over the past century, the environment has changed, human populations grew, demand increased, and technology made fishing faster, safer, bigger and more predictable.  Fortunately, they still call it fishing…

…I mean, if you caught one every time, they’d change the name to “catchin’!”
…I mean, if you caught one every time, they’d change the name to “catchin’!”

Texas Standards: A Teachable Moment

In Texas, we are tied to state standards called “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills,” or “TEKS.”  One of our G5 TEKS states that by the end of the year, “The student is expected to predict the effects of changes in ecosystems caused by living organisms, including humans, such as the overpopulation of grazers or the building of highways.

Locally, my students are in the middle of a real world study of this TEKS, as a recently elected Austin city councilman has proposed a road through the middle of the Balcones Preserve behind our school, saying the road will provide a “fire break.”  As you might imagine, the idea has gotten the attention of some local interest groups and home owners in the neighborhood around the school.

For the lesson, my students were told that their role was simply to read the articles about the proposed road and combine it with existing knowledge gained in my classroom, follow the TEKS, and predict changes to the ecosystem if the road is ultimately built.

Photo from fourpointsnews.com
Photo from fourpointsnews.com

While for my students, their predictions relate to the “highway” aspect of the TEKS, “overgrazing by humans” and the idea of “a ship highway” in the seas offer some parallels to the fisheries we’ve been surveying on this cruise.

Back to the Bank

For nearly 350 of the 400 years commercial fishing has been happening off the coast of New England, regulations were negligible, and the area experienced heavy fishing by American fishers as well as vessels from other countries.  It wasn’t until 1976 that the federal government adopted the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which gave the United States the exclusive economic zone that includes Georges Bank and set up a system of industry regulation.

While the Act gave the U.S. government some power to regulate fishing in the area over the long term, the initial intent was aimed more at helping to protect American fishers more than the fish, and in the first 20 years of the Act, the fish continued to suffer.  In the 1990s, protection efforts picked up, and in 1996, President Bush amended the Act to better promote conservation by focusing on rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat, and reducing bycatch (which is the catching of fish you aren’t actually trying to catch.)

There are four or five main players in the equation, with each having a fair and logical argument of why their interests should receive priority:

  • Fishermen:  In one chair sit the fishermen and the people who work for them.
  • Companies: In another chair sit the non-fishing companies who meet market demand, buying, selling, processing, transporting, etc., seafood.
  • Consumers: In another chair sits the consumers who buy and eat seafood.
  • Environmental/non-profit groups: Standing on a truffula tree stump, speaking on behalf of the fish.
  • The last chair belongs to the government:  “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Whoa, what’s up with the blood pressure spike? Did I strike a chord?

I’ll let you work out in your mind whom you believe should get priority… (note: If you get it right, you might pass fifth grade and get your PhD in one fell swoop!)

Specifically, Scallop

Today, when it comes to management of the scallop fishery, NOAA Fisheries is the lead agency, while the New England Fishery Management Council assesses and makes policy recommendations for the Northeast, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council does so for the area down to the Mid-Atlantic region. These organizations have implemented several management tools intended to support conservation.  Some examples of regulatory tools they’ve used include:

  • Regulating the number of vessels allowed to fish for scallop and people aboard those vessels;
  • Regulating the length of a fishing season and limiting days vessels can remain at sea;
  • Regulating the amount of fish that can be caught as well as the amount of bycatch allowed
  • Closing areas to fishing; and,
  • Increasing the size of the rings on the dredge-net (note: recall, the dredge is like a big sieve; bigger holes allow smaller things to filter through)

Through these management efforts, scallop populations have rebounded significantly, with the permitted (dredge-net) ring-size, limitation of days at sea/total allowable catch, and “closed-area” management tools getting much of the credit. The rebound is certainly noteworthy considering that the Atlantic Sea Scallop fishery, which extends from the Mid-Atlantic area near Cape Hatteras, NC up to Georges Bank, is the largest and most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world, valued at nearly $580 million in 2011.

While much of the research and management is funded by the government, it is important to acknowledge the commercial fishery’s contribution through the Scallop Research Set-Aside Program.  Through that program, 1.25 million pounds of the allowed scallop harvest is set aside each year to fund scallop habitat research and surveys to better inform future policy/management decisions.

So, What’s Next?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

Scallop populations have responded well to these regulatory/management efforts, while other species, such as cod, continue to struggle mightily.

As the scallop population returns to (and maybe even starts to exceed) what have been called “sustainable numbers,” the “closed areas” management tool presents some unique questions, primarily relating to an idea called “carrying capacity.” Carrying capacity essentially asks “how many scallop can survive here before there are too many for the system to stay healthy?”  For the fishers, the water can seem bluer on the other side of the fence (or, um, something like that) and they want to see these areas re-opened, but variables have to be considered and data confirmed for conclusions to be both reliable and valid.  In other words, there is a risk of irreparable harm if an area is opened for fishing too soon or too late.

I mention carrying capacity because while I was aboard the Sharp, the New England Fisheries Management Council announced that it was going to recommend that one of the closed areas of Georges Bank, known as the Northern Edge, be reopened to fishing.  The newspapers I read showed that there has been a predictably mixed reaction to the announcement.  NOAA Fisheries will consider the recommendation by the New England Council and their decision on the recommendation is not expected to be final until some time in 2016.

Now, about that proposed road through our Preserve…

Lagniappe

In the last few weeks I’ve introduced you to a few scientists and talked about my role helping to give students an avenue to explore, question and pursue learning about things that interest them in a safe, supportive environment.  I’m going to close out the Lagniappe section of my TAS blog by introducing you to “what’s next” in scallop science through a conversation with fellow day-watch science-crew member, and Cornell PhD candidate, Katie Kaplan.

That’s Katie in the hat and sunglasses, avoiding the paparazzi
That’s Katie in the hat and sunglasses, avoiding the paparazzi

Katie is a volunteer on this cruise.  She’s using HabCam data as part of the work towards her PhD and wanted to get a first hand peek at the HabCam in action (I mean, who wouldn’t want to fly over the sea floor and pick fights with crabs and lobsters!), so, she signed up.  Katie’s work fits nicely in today’s blog for several reasons, largely because her work centers on what is happening with the scallops in one of the closed areas I discussed above.

Specifically, Katie is evaluating the impacts of marine protected areas on interactions of sea scallops and other species in benthic (i.e. – “seafloor”) ecosystems.  In particular she is evaluating the relationship between an invasive tunicate species, Didemnum vexillum and scallops and the impact of the closed areas on this relationship. The invasive tunicate has spread in Georges Bank since 2002 and threatens scallop habitat since they compete for the same space (note: with tunicate species being commonly referred to by names like sea “squirts,” “pork,” and “livers,” you might get the impression their “invasion” isn’t perceived as favorable). After a few weeks in my class it should be obvious, but studying interactions among species as they relate to fishery resources is essential to ensuring fish habitat remains viable and fisheries remain productive to meet our needs as consumers.

On a more personal note, Katie grew up just outside of New York City and headed to Grinnell College in Iowa for her undergraduate studies.  After graduation, she taught English in Ecuador and while living there and on Galapagos, decided to pursue a career that combined her interests in the ocean with her wicked good biology skills (whoa, did I just use “wicked” as an adjective?  I’ve been up north too long!). I need to add that while it’s too long a story for the blog, I seem to be having a “Cornell year,” so it is entirely appropriate that I met my new friend Katie on this cruise.

Katie became inspired to study marine science while swimming with sea lions and sea turtles in Galapagos (um, who wouldn’t, Katie!?!).  While there she studied vulnerable fish habitat on the islands — including nursery areas for sharks!  She decided to devote her life to conservation and management of marine life due to concerns of human caused destruction of the environment.  She hopes “to make a positive impact by contributing to conservation based research and helping humans learn to interact with the environment in a less destructive way.”

Kudos, my friend.  I’m so happy we were on watch together, it was so nice of you to distract the paparazzi…

Photoblog:

Nothing really to annotate in this shot, but, you can see the whole screen.
Nothing really to annotate in this shot, but, you can see the whole screen.

Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy
Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy

Waved whelk, heading to the 01.
Waved whelk, heading to the 01.

HabCam scared a flatfish.  He was slingin' gravel and puttin' a ton of dust in the air.
HabCam scared a flatfish. He was slingin’ gravel and puttin’ a ton of dust in the air.

Nature
Nature

Textures of the sea
Textures of the sea

Not at all like the blue points down here on the coast that will snip at you
Not at all like the blue points down here on the coast that will pinch you in a heartbeat

I saw this hermit crab out of his shell and heard Dumbledore’s voice in my head saying “You cannot help it;” it was only weird when I looked up and realized I was not in Kings Cross Station
I saw this hermit crab out of his shell and heard Dumbledore’s voice in my head saying “You cannot help it;” it was only weird when I looked up and realized I was not in Kings Cross Station

...I was always on the lookout for the Nisshin Maru; never saw it.
…I was always on the lookout for the Nisshin Maru; never saw it.

Students, always clean up your lab!
Students, always clean up your lab!

More nature.
More nature.

Winslow Homer would be so mad if he knew he could've painted this while hanging out with Rachel Carson at Woods Hole.
Winslow Homer would be so mad if he knew he could’ve painted this while hanging out with Rachel Carson at Woods Hole (her:  “I had my first prolonged contact with the sea at Woods Hole. I never tired of watching the swirling currents pour through the hole — that wonderful place of whirlpools and eddies and swiftly racing waters.”)

DSCN0006

So, that’s about it.  I loved my time aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, have made some new friends, and will always treasure the memories made as a 2015 NOAA Teacher at Sea.  Thanks again, NOAA, what a grand adventure…

Airplane Playlist to Texas:  James Taylor (“Carolina”, “Angels of Fenway”), Robert Earl Keen, Jr. (I’m Comin’ Home); Alpha Rev (“Sing Loud”); Keane (“Somewhere Only We Know”); Avett Brothers (“Spanish Pipedream”); Jim & Jesse (“Paradise”); Amos Lee (“Windows Are Rolled Down”); Bobby Darin (“Beyond The Sea”)

Go outside and play.  Class dismissed.

Mr. Hance

Liz Harrington: The Temporary Lull in the Action, August 21, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Liz Harrington
 Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
August 10 – 25, 2013

Mission : Shark/Red Snapper Bottom Longline
Geographical area of cruise: Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 21, 2013

Weather: current conditions from the bridge:
Partly cloudy
Lat. 29.18 °N  Lon. 84.06 °W
Temp. 75 °F (24 ° C)
Wind speed  10-15  mph
Barometer  30.04 in ( 1017.3 mb)
Visibility  10 mi

Science and Technology Log:

It has been just over a week now since I’ve been aboard the Oregon II.  The catch has not been as abundant as it was the first couple of days of fishing, but that tells the scientist something as well. So far I’ve experienced three water hauls – not one fish on any of the 100 hooks!  Even though we are not catching many fish (for now), the fishing will continue until it is time to return to port.  Don’t get me wrong, we are still catching fish, just not as many as we had been.  Occasionally we pull up something other than fish, like eels, skates, crabs or sea stars. This is called the bycatch. In the previous blog I explained how the line was set. In this one I’ll explain about the catch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Fish On”. A Sandbar Shark is brought alongside the ship to be cradled.

crab as bycatch
This crab, part of the bycatch, wouldn’t let go of the bait.

preparing for haul back
Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols (right) and Fisherman Buddy Gould prepare to retrieve the high flyer.

Hauling in the line is similar to setting it out.  The fisherman handle the line and the science team process the fish. Our team includes a person manning the computer to keep track of the hook numbers and the condition of any remaining bait;  a person “racking” (carefully but quickly returning the gangions into the storage barrels); and a “data” person to write down information about each fish, and the rest of the team will be “wranglers” (those who handle the catch).  We all rotate through the jobs.  I like to be a wrangler, but the racker and computer folks get a nice view of the fish being brought on board.  Everything we catch is brought on board, weighed and measured.

tagging Tiger Shark
The Day Team tagging a Tiger Shark

Many species of sharks are tagged and a fin clip is taken to obtain its DNA.  They are given an injection of a chemical which will help to age the shark if it is caught again.  The entire process only takes a few minutes because they are trying to get the sharks back into the water as soon as possible. The scientists and crew are all very conscientious about doing what is best for the marine life.  What’s really nice is that we all take turns tagging the sharks.  It is just so exciting to be up close to them, especially the big ones. You can feel the strength and power beneath that sandy skin.

weighing a shark
Sometimes sharks are too heavy for the handheld scale, so they are hoisted up to be weighed. Notice the scientist to the right to get sense of its weight.

processing fish
Kristin and Cliff find otoliths at the end of the rainbow.

The boney fish that are caught are also weighed and measured. After the haul back (when the line is in, gangions are stored, high flyers returned and deck hosed down), they are brought to the back of the ship to have otoliths removed and tissue samples taken. The otoliths are boney structures in the fish’s inner ear which are sensitive to gravity and acceleration. As the fish grows, each year a new layer is added to the otoliths – similar to tree rings. By examining the otoliths under a microscope its age can be determined. I was taught how to remove the otoliths, so now (given enough time – I need plenty) I can help process the fish. Learn more about the procedure here.

Personal Log

stateroom
I have the bottom bunk in stateroom #5

It has been easy for me to acclimate to life aboard the ship because all of the people are so friendly and interesting.  The ship is always rocking but I don’t even notice it any more. It actually lulls me to sleep at night, along with the constant sound of the engine and particularly the gurgling sound of the water moving along the hull (frame of ship). I was a little worried that I might get seasick in the beginning of the cruise, but I didn’t. The only problem I had was that reading or working on the computer made me queasy, but that only lasted for a couple of days.  Quarters are tight, but they make good use of all of the space. Most of the bedrooms (called staterooms) sleep two people. We all eat in a room called the galley. It only holds twelve people at a time, so when we are done eating we leave to make room for someone else. The food on board is delicious and abundant. The chief steward, Walter Coghlan, does a great job providing a variety of choices. There is literally something for everyone.  If we have free time, there is a lounge area with a huge selection of movies.

I like to spend my free time out on the decks, if I can find a place in the shade and the breeze. I love to look out over the water. And the sky stretches from horizon to horizon in all directions, something I don’t see in the mountains of Vermont.  The cumulus clouds develop during the day and I can usually see a thunderstorm somewhere by late afternoon. It’s a beautiful view.  Yesterday we were visited briefly by a small group of dolphins. Their acrobatics were very entertaining. They were here and then gone. That seems to be the continuing theme here; you never know what you are going to see.

Dolphin visit
A small group of dolphins swim along side the ship.

thunderstorm
A distant passing thunderstorm.

Did you know?  The ship makes it own fresh water from the sea water.  There is a reverse osmosis desalination system located down in the engine room. The fresh water is stored in large tanks, so it is always available.

volunteers await a haul
Volunteers Micayla, Daniel, David and Cliff waiting to do some wrangling.

New Term

Foul Hook – when a fish is hooked in a place other than its mouth (ie -fin or body)

More examples of bycatch.

clearnose skate
Clearnose Skate

little tunny
Micayla holds a Little Tunny (yes, that’s it’s real name)

yellowedge grouper
Yellowedge Grouper ready for processing

sea star
Sea Star

Maureen Anderson: Status of Sharks, August 3, 2011 (Post #5)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maureen Anderson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
(NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 25 — August 9, 2011

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 3, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 32.50 N
Longitude: -079.22 W
Wind Speed: 17.75 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 28.60 C
Air Temperature: 29.90 C
Relative Humidity: 71%
Barometric Pressure: 1009.06 mb

Science and Technology Log
One reason the shark longline survey exists is because the populations of many types of sharks are in decline. There are several reasons for this – finning is one reason. “Finning” is the process where the shark’s fin is removed from the rest of its body. Since usually only the fin is desired, the rest of the body is discarded. Shark fins are used for things like shark fin soup – a delicacy in Asian cultures. When the fin is cut off and the rest of the body stays in the water, the shark can not swim upright and eventually dies. While some regulations have been passed to prevent this, shark finning still occurs. Sharks are also overfished for their meat. As a result many shark species have become vulnerable, threatened or endangered. Large sharks can take longer to reproduce. Therefore, they are more likely to be threatened or decline in their numbers.

endangered species chart
There are different categories of extinction risk, from "least concern" to "extinct" (photo courtesy of IUCN)

marine food chain
Sharks are at the top of the food chain. They are apex predators. (photo courtesy of Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Sharks are at the top of the food chain. They keep prey populations in control, without which the marine ecosystem would be unstable.

This is why the mission of the shark longline survey is important. The identification tags and roto tags used during this survey along with the data collected will help scientists assess the abundance of species in this area. They can then provide recommendations for shark management.  On average, we are collecting data on 10 sharks per line (or 10%), although our catch rates are between 0% and around 50%.  With 50 stations in all, that would be data on approximately 500 sharks (on average).

There are more than 360 species of known sharks. Below is a list of some that we have seen and measured during our survey. The IUCN red list (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) classify these sharks with a status:

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark – Least Concern
Blacknose Shark – Near Threatened
Silky Shark – Near Threatened
Tiger Shark – Near Threatened
Lemon Shark – Near Threatened
Dusky Shark – Vulnerable
Sandbar Shark – Vulnerable
Scalloped Hammerhead – Endangered

During my shift, we sometimes catch things we do not intend to catch.  We might reel in fish or other sea creatures that get caught on the hooks. This is called “bycatch”. While everything is done to try to catch only the things we are interested in studying, bycatch occasionally happens. The fish are only on our line for 1 hour, so their survival rates are pretty good. Our bycatch data is a very important element and also contributes to management plans for a number of species like snappers and groupers.

longline gear
Our longline gear includes two high flyer buoys, and hooks that are weighted down so they reach the bottom.

Just the other day, we caught a remora (a suckerfish that attaches itself to a shark’s side). Remoras and sharks have a commensalism relationship – the remora gets leftover food bits after the shark eats, but the shark gets no benefit from the remora. We quickly took down its measurements in order to get it back into the water quickly. Other bycatch included an eel, and black sea bass.

sharksucker
This sharksucker is an example of bycatch.

moray eel
This moray eel accidentally found its way onto a hook.

black sea bass
Bycatch - a black sea bass.

otoliths
This otolith (tiny white bone in center) helps this red snapper with its sense of balance.

We also caught a red snapper. Our chief scientist, Mark, showed me the two small, tiny ear bones called “otoliths” in the snapper’s head. These bones provide the fish with a sense of balance – kind of like the way our inner ear provides us with information on where we are in space (am I upside down, right side up, left, right?). You can tell the age of a snapper by counting the annual growth rings on the otoliths just like counting growth rings on a tree.

Personal Log

My experience aboard the Oregon II has given me a better understanding of the vulnerability of some shark species. While many of us may think that sharks can be threatening to humans, it is more accurate the other way around. Sharks are more threatened by humans than humans are threatened by sharks. This is due to our human behaviors (mentioned above).

Today I saw dolphins following our boat off the bow.  There were about 6  or 7 of them all swimming together in a synchronized pattern (popping up for air all at the same time).  It was really quite a treat to watch.

I’m also amazed by the amount of stars in the sky.  With the lights off on the bow, you can really see a lot of stars.  I was also able to see the milky way.  There have been many storms off the horizon which are really cool to watch at night.  The whole sky lights up with lightning  in the distance, so I sat and watched for a while.  With tropical storm Emily coming upon us, we may have to return to port earlier than planned, but nothing is set in stone just yet.  I hope we don’t have to end the survey early.

Species Seen :

Tiger Shark
Atlantic Sharpnose
Nurse Shark
Barracuda
Remora
Black Sea Bass
Snowy Grouper
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins
Loggerhead Turtle
Homo Sapiens

Kathleen Harrison: Fish Stick, Anyone? July 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011

Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  34 knots, True Wind Direction:  284.43
Sea Temperature:  10.02° C, Air Temperature:  11.34° C
Air Pressure:  1014.97 mb
Latitude:  56.12° N, Longitude:  152.51° W
Sunny, Clear, Windy, 10 foot swells
Ship speed:  10 knots, Ship heading:  60°

Science and Technology Log

The Walleye Pollock is an important economic species for the state of Alaska.  It is the fish used in fish sticks, fish patties, and other processed fish products.  Every year, 1 million tons of Pollock  are processed in Alaska, making it the largest fishery in the United States by volume.  The gear used to catch Pollock is a mid-water trawl, which does not harm the ocean floor, and hauls are mostly Pollock, so there is very little bycatch.

table full of pollock
A sample of pollock that the Oscar Dyson caught for scientific study. A "drop" in a very large "ocean" of pollock industry.

Although Pollock fishermen would like to make as much money as they can, they have to follow fishing regulations, called quotas, that are set each year by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC).  The quotas tell the fishermen how many tons of pollock they can catch and sell, as well as the fish size, location, and season.  The NOAA scientists on board NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson have an important role to play in helping the NPFMC determine what the quotas are, based on the biomass they calculate.

The quotas are set in order to prevent overfishing.  Pollock reproduce and grow quickly, which makes them a little easier to manage.  When fishing is uncontrolled, the number of fish becomes too low, and the population can’t sustain itself.  Imagine being the lone human in the United States, and you are trying to find another human, located in Europe, only you don’t know if he is there, and all you have is your voice for communication, and your feet for traveling.  This is what happens when fish numbers are very low– it is hard for them to find each other.

There are many situations where uncontrolled fishing has cost the fishermen their livelihood. For example, in the early 1900s, the Peruvian Anchovy was big business in the Southeast Pacific Ocean.  Over 100 canneries were built, and hundreds of people  were employed.

anchovy catch graph
This graph shows how the Peruvian Anchovy catch rose to record heights in 1970, then collapsed in 1972. This could have been prevented by effective fishery management.

Scientists warned the fishermen in the 1960s that if they didn’t slow down, the anchovies would soon be gone.  The industry was slow to catch on, and the anchovy industry crashed in 1972.  The canneries closed, and many people lost their jobs.  This was an important lesson to commercial fishermen everywhere.

The Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalchogramm) is a handsome fish, about 2 feet long, and greyish – brown.  Most fishermen consider him the “dog” food of fish, since he pales in comparison to the mighty (and tasty) salmon.  Nonetheless, Pollock are plentiful, easy to catch, and thousands of children the world over love their fish sticks.

Besides calculating biomass, there are 2 other studies going on with the Pollock and other fish in the catch.  Scientists back at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) in Seattle are interested in how old the fish are, and this can be determined by examining the otoliths.

2 pollock otoliths
Here are 2 otoliths from a pollock. The one on the left shows the convex surface, the other shows the concave surface.

These are 2 bones in the head of a fish that help with hearing, as well as balance.  Fish otoliths are enlarged each year with a new layer of calcium carbonate and gelatinous matrix, called annuli, and counting the annuli tells the scientists the age of the fish.  Not only that, with sophisticated chemical techniques, migration pathways can be determined.  Amazing, right?  The otoliths are removed from the fish, and placed in a vial with preservative.  The scientists in Seattle eagerly await the return of the Oscar Dyson, so that they can examine the new set of otoliths.  By keeping track of the age of the fish, the scientists can see if the population has a healthy distribution of different ages, and are reproducing at a sustainable rate.

Another ongoing study concerning the Pollock, and any other species of fish that are caught during the Pollock Survey, deals with what the fish eat.

stomach being put into a bag for later study
A pollock stomach is put into a fabric bag, which will be placed in preservative. Scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center will study the contents to determine what the fish had for lunch.

Stomachs are removed from a random group of fish, and placed into fabric bags with an ID tag.  These are placed into preservative, and taken to Seattle.  There, scientists will examine the stomach contents, and determine what the fish had for lunch.

Personal Log  

I learned about fishing boundaries, or territorial seas, today.  In the United States, there is a 12-mile boundary from the shore marked on nautical charts.  Inside this boundary, the state determines what the rules about fishing are.  How many of each species can be kept, what months of the year fishing can occur, and what size fish has to be thrown back.   Foreign ships are allowed innocent passage through the territorial seas, but they are not allowed to fish or look for resources.  Outside of that is the Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) which is 200 miles off shore.  The EEZ exists world-wide, with the understanding among all international ships, that permits are required for traveling or fishing through an EEZ that does not belong to the ship’s native country.

Everyone was tired at the end of the day, just walking across the deck requires a lot more energy when there are 10-foot swells.  Check out this video for the rolling and pitching of the ship today.

Heather Haberman: Groundfish Surveying, July 7, 2011 (post #2)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011 


Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Thursday, July 07, 2011

Weather Data from  NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature:  29.2 C      (84.6 F)
Water Temperature:  29.3 C    (84.7 F)
Relative Humidity:  72%
Wind Speed:  2.64 knots

Preface:  There is a lot of science going on aboard the Oregon II, so to eliminate information overload, each blog I post will focus on one scientific aspect of our mission.  By the end of the voyage you should have a good idea of the research that goes into keeping our oceans healthy.

In case you’re new to blogging, underlined words in the text are hyperlinked to sites with more specific information.

Science and Technology Log

Topic of the day:  Groundfish Surveying

To collect samples of marine life in the northern Gulf of Mexico, NOAA Ship  Oregon II is equipped with a 42-foot standard shrimp trawling net.  NOAA’s skilled fishermen deploy the net over the side of the ship at randomly selected SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) stations using an outrigger.  The net is left in the water for 30 minutes as the boat travels at 2.5 to 3 knots (1 knot = 1.15 mph).

Shrimp trawl net attached to an outrigger. Notice the large wooden “doors” that help spread the net as it is lowered into the water.

Bottom trawling is a good method for collecting a random sample of the biodiversity in the sea because it is nonselective and harvests everything in its path.  This is excellent for scientific studies but poses great problems for marine ecosystems when it is used in the commercial fishing industry.

One problem associated with bottom trawling is the amount of bycatch it produces.  The term bycatch refers to the “undesirable” fish, invertebrates, crustaceans, sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals that are accidentally brought up to the surface in the process of catching commercially desirable species such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder.  At times bycatch can make up as much as 90% of a fisherman’s harvest.  To address this problem, NOAA engineers have designed two devices which help prevent many animals from becoming bycatch.

Bycatch photo: NOAA

All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act and are under joint jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In an effort to reduce the mortality rate of sea turtles, NOAA engineers have designed  Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED).  TEDs provide these air-breathing reptiles with a barred barrier which prevents them from going deep into the fishing net and guides them out of an “escape hatch” so they won’t drown.  TEDs have also proven to be useful in keeping sharks out of  bycatch.

Loggerhead sea turtle escaping a trawling net through a TED.

Another device that was introduced to the commercial fishing industry is the Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD).  BRDs create an opening in a shrimp trawl net which allows fishes with fins, and other unintended species, to escape while the target species, such as shrimp, are directed towards the end of the capture net.

Notice the location of the TED which prevents the turtle from entering into the net and the BRD that allows swimming fish to escape. Illustration provided by the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service

This is a very small catch we harvested from 77 meters (253 feet).

Once the trawl net is brought back on board the Oregon II, its contents are emptied onto the deck of the ship.  The catch is placed into baskets and each basket gets weighed for a total weight. The catch then goes to the “wet lab” for sorting.  If the yield is too large we randomly split the harvest up into a smaller subsample.

Each species is separated, counted, and logged into the computer system using their scientific names.  Once every species is identified, we measure, weigh, and sex the animals.  All of this data goes into the computer where it gets converted into an Access database spreadsheet.

My team and I sorting the catch by species.

Amy entering the scientific name of each species into the computer.

I measure while Amy works the computer. Collecting data is a team effort!

When the Oregon II ends its surveying journey, NOAA’s IT (Information Technology) department will pull the surveying data off the ship’s computers.   The compiled data is given to one of the groundfish survey biologists so it can be checked for accuracy and consistency.  The reviewed data will then be given to NOAA statisticians who pull out the important information for SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) and SEDAR (Southeast Data and Review)

SEAMAP and SEDAR councils publish the information.   State agencies then have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about policies and regulations regarding the fishing industry.  Isn’t science great!  Most people don’t realize the amount of time, labor, expertise and review that goes into the decisions that are made by regulatory agencies.

Personal Log

Day crew from left to right: Chief Scientist Andre, college intern Brondum, myself, Team Leader Biologist Brittany and Biologist Amy

During our “welcome aboard” meeting I met the science team which consists of a Chief Scientist, four NOAA Fisheries Biologists, three volunteers, one college intern, one Teacher at Sea (me) and an Ornithologist (bird scientist).

I was assigned to work the day shift which runs from noon until midnight while the night shift crew works from midnight until noon.  This ship is operational 24 hours a day in order to collect as much information about the northern Gulf fisheries as possible.  The Oregon II costs around $10,000 per day to operate (salaries, supplies, equipment, etc.) so it’s important to run an efficient operation.

I am learning a lot about the importance of random sampling and confirming results to ensure accuracy.   Amy and Brittany taught me how to use the CTD device (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth), set up plankton nets as well as how to sort, weigh, identify and sex our specimens.

The food has been great, the water is gorgeous and I love the ocean!  Stay tuned for the next blog post about some of the most important critters in the sea!  Any guesses?

Species seen (other than those collected)

Birds:  Least Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Laughing Gull, Neotropical Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Magnificent  Frigatebird

Go to http://www.wicbirds.net for more information about the various bird species seen on this trip.

Mammals: Common bottlenose dolphin

Natalie Macke, August 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Natalie Macke
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: BASIS Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: 8/20/2010

Ed Farley, Chief Scientist

Learning from Guts and Gonads …   

Weather Data from the Bridge :
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (Wondering what a nautical mile is??)
Wind Direction: From the SE at 7 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2ft
Swell wave direction: 3 ft from the SW
Sea temp: 7.5 oC
Sea level pressure: 1026.0 mb
Air temp:  10oC
Science and Technology Log:

One of the objectives of the scientists on the BASIS cruise is to support Alaskan fisheries’ efforts to better understand the life histories of the local salmon populations.  The goal is to determine an index to better forecast the juvenile salmon’s return to western Alaska.  Thus management decisions may be made with a better understanding of long-term as well as short-term implications.  So to understand the science behind this, this chemistry teacher from the northeast had to first learn a bit about salmon….

The SockeyeKing and Coho seem to be the favorite for eating.  While the Chum is often used in dog food (thus the name Dog Salmon) and the Pink Salmon is often used for canned products.  Salmon are considered a keystone species of the region; therefore, its removal would have a deleterious impact to many levels of the ecosystem.  (Learn more about the Keystone Hypothesis)

Top fish are a juvenile Chum and juvenile Red. Bottom is an immature Chum.

Salmon are anadromous fish.  This simply means, while they spend most of their lives at sea in marine waters, they can and will return to fresh waters of lakes, streams and rivers to spawn.  The most tenuous part (in terms of environmental and human impact to the general population) of a salmon’s life seems to be in its juvenile stage (1st year in the ocean).  Environmental conditions, availability of food and loss to bycatch by fisheries all have impacted the salmon populations as a whole.  Our short term mission here on the Oscar Dyson is to collect data from the salmon caught during our trawls.  Below is a bit more about the specific data the scientists hope to collect and the issues behind the science of that data.

Remember that the scientists hope to establish an index to forecast the juvenile salmon’s return to western Alaska’s spawning grounds.  This index is based on relative abundance and a fitness index.  So what is a fitness index for a fish??  (I asked too..)  It’s simply the caloric content of the fish.

Making a chemistry teacher happy with yet another example of the usefulness of calorimetry.   Yes, folk..  they burn the fish and measure how much energy is released, just like we do in class except not with a soda can.  The fish are frozen for this analysis and brought back to the lab for bomb calorimetry analysis.

Various ecosystem indicators (Sea surface temperature, water column stability, types of of zooplankton, species composition and biomass) all affect both the fitness and abundance of the salmon.  Therefore, these are the data that scientists on board the Dyson are collecting.  Fish are sorted, separated, measured and then some are gutted.  Scale samples from the immature salmon are collected for determination of age and growth history.  The scales have rings very much like the rings of a tree that can tell us not only how old a salmon is; but also, the general conditions of each growing season.  A band of small width would indicate a poorer/unhealthy condition for the fish.  Scientists have been collecting these scale samples for over fifty years and have started to compare the growth history of the salmon with climate cycles looking for overall correlations in order to predict how future climate change will impact these species.  (Want to learn more about using salmon scales for growth determination, read this article from Alaska Fish and Wildlife News)

The growth of a salmon depends much on its diet.  Scientists have observed a shift in the diet of the salmon when there is a shift in zooplankton populations.  During warmer years a more stable water column develops with a pronounced thermocline. [Really warm (about 10 degrees Celsius or so) on top and really cold on bottom (close to 0 degrees Celsius)]  Associated with this type of water column are the presence of zooplankton with a smaller lipid content (less fat).  As a result, the salmon (specifically the Sockeye) were observed to be eating pollock during warmer years.  Normally, the majority of the salmon diet is zooplankton.  During colder years, a less stable water column develops and zooplankton with a higher fat content were observed to be the main diet of the juveniles.  This link between the salmon and pollock populations causes an uncertainty in forecasting future salmon population changes.   The impact of the pollock fisheries has been mostly documented in the past simply in terms of bycatch.  Summer pollock fishing often results in bycatch of Chums; whereas the winter pollock season impacts the Chinook.  Understanding this newer biological relationship between salmon and pollock is important to predicting how changes in pollock populations will ultimately impact the future of salmon.  This future causes great concern among the local northern native groupswho rely on the Chinook’s population as a major food source.

Personal Log:
We were treated Thursday evening with some blue sky and then on Friday morning to a beautiful sunrise with a view of the mountains of Unimak Island.  When grey is a common daily theme any color is appreciated oh so more..

MORNING VIEW

EVENING SKY

Bryan Hirschman, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles
Wind: 14 knots
Wave Height: 2 ft
Wave Swell:  5-6 ft
Ocean temperature: 14.40C
Air Temperature: 16.00C

Science and Technology Log 

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Today, John Pohl, one of the fish biologists showed me the VPR (video plankton recorder). The camera is attached to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), which is operated by Steve Pierce, a physical oceanographer, and Phil White, chief survey technician, who work the night shift. The CTD is a large apparatus which has room for many additional sensors and attachments. The CTD onboard the Miller Freeman has a dissolved oxygen sensor in addition to the VPR.

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Each night Steve sends the CTD down to the seafloor (about 7 times) to collect data. He is most interested in determining the differing densities of water at different depths (depth is based on pressure, which the CTD measures). He then calculates the densities using conductivity and temperature. By measuring conductivity (how easily electric currents pass through the water sample being tested), Steve can get a measurement of that water sample’s salinity.  Density of water is then calculated from measurements of salinity, and temperature. An equation is used which relates the measurements so that density can be found if these other two values are known. Steve records all the data each night, and will use this information to study currents and their movements.

The VPR is a camera which records video as well as still pictures as it descends to the sea floor. The data are recorded, then uploaded to an external hard drive. The file is very large, as it takes about ten minutes to transfer all the data. The pictures and video will be used by biologists (not on board presently) to identify and determine the percentage of plankton (plankton consist of any drifting organisms) floating throughout the water column. Each time before we set out the fish nets, two people go to the bridge to look for marine mammals. If any are present the nets won’t be put into the water. A few tows have been cancelled due to the presence of marine mammals. This is a great step in keeping them safe. It is always special when I see dolphins or whales.

Here I am holding a sleeper shark.
Here I am holding a sleeper shark.

The only fish tow of the day (no marine mammals present) consisted of mainly Humboldt Squid and some Pacific Hake. Today we used a load cell to get a total mass; this is a device which hooks up to the net and crane. The load cell gives a mass of the entire haul. The majority of the load was released back into the water while a smaller sample was retained. The weights of the Hake and squid were then determined using bins and a balance. The scientists can use the subsample data to determine the data for the entire load.  Bycatch, defined as living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, are occasionally found in the net. Today a rougheye rockfish was caught, and yesterday a sleeper shark were accidently caught. The scientists do a very good job of limiting bycatch using their acoustic data.

Personal Log 

A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish
A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish

I am enjoying the long hours of work, and have gotten into quite a rhythm. I also enjoy spending time with the hardworking and intelligent staff here on board. We work together as a team, and everyone enjoys their jobs. NOAA has chosen a great group of officers who set a very positive tone and make the ship a great workplace. I would love to take a sabbatical from teaching and work on a NOAA ship. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a bunch. I will take back a lot of positive experience to share with my students, family, and friends.

I have also learned to appreciate the smells of a load of fish. As we move the fish from the holding cell, to small baskets for weighing we are constantly splashed in the arms, face, mouth, eyes, etc. I find it pretty amusing every time I get splashed, or even better, when I splash John, Melanie, or Jake. It never grows old. The hardest portion of my day is determining what movie to watch while running on the treadmill (I finally mastered the art of the treadmill on a rocking boat and can leave the elliptical trainer alone). The boat has close to 800 movies to choose from.

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Rougheye rockfish, Humboldt Squid, Pacific Hake, Albatross, Sheerwaters, and Murres.

Poem of the Day 
Squid ink, squid ink!
O! How you make me stink!
You stain my face, you stain my clothes;
I must wash you off with a fire hose!

You make me scratch, you make me itch,
You even turn Melanie into a wicked witch!
(which is a horribly difficult thing to do—
She’s as gentle as a lamb in a petting zoo!)

Why not John, allergic to your ink!
Torment HIM with your venomous stink!
But no–not ME! All I want are Hake.
So torment instead “almost” graduate Jake!

But once again, though our dinner hour,
Because of you I must shower!

So I beg you, O squid, to hear my plea:
In the future, stay away from me!
Does that sound good?
Do we have a deal?
If not, well then—you’re my next meal.

Answers to Last Question 
Ribbon Barracudina, Pacific Hatchetfish, Baby Humboldt Squid

Megan Woodward, July 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Megan Woodward 
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 1 – 18, 2009

Mission: Bering Sea Acoustic Trawl Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea/Dutch Harbor
Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2009

All bony fish have otoliths (ear bones) that can be used for calculating the age of the fish.
All bony fish have otoliths (ear bones) that can be used for calculating the age of the fish.

Weather and Location 
Position: N 58 13.617; W 171 25.832
Air Temp: 7.2 (deg C)
Water Temp: 6.54 (deg C)
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Weather: Overcast

Science and Technology Log 

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned while participating in the pollock survey is the importance of otoliths. Otoliths are small bony structures situated in the head of all bony fish, and are often referred to as “ear stones.”  For each haul we brought on board, 50 otoliths were taken from large fish (3+ years) and/or 5 from small fish (younger than 3 years old).  The otolith holds the key to accurately calculating the age of a fish (scales and vertebrates can also be used, but are not as reliable).  The average age of fish from the samples collected in the survey helps scientists estimate the strength of a year-class and size of the stock in the future.

Back in the lab, otolith samples are carefully catalogued.
Back in the lab, otolith samples are carefully catalogued.

The first step in taking an otolith is pictured above. An incision is made on the back of the pollock’s head, and an otolith is removed using tweezers.  Once the otolith is removed, it is rinsed with water and placed in a glass vial containing a small amount of 50% ethanol solution for preservation purposes.

The otoliths are taken back to NOAA’s aging lab where ages are determined by reading rings similar to those on a tree trunk. A crosscut is made through each otolith revealing a pattern of rings. Scientists then count the rings to determine the age of the fish.  Lightly burning or staining the otoliths makes the rings more visible.

Cod and sole otoliths
Cod and sole otoliths

New material is deposited on the surface of the otolith creating the rings as the fish grows. The translucent/light zones indicate the main growth that takes place in the summer months.  The opaque/darker rings appear during the winter months when growth is slower. Because of the slower growth rate, new material is deposited on top of the old layers resulting in the dark ring. Each pair of light and dark zones marks one year. In fish younger than one year of age, rings can be identified for each day of life!

woodward_log6bPersonal Log 

I was surprised to discover otoliths have been used for aging fish since the early 1900’s.  While working in the fish lab I observed the scientist removing otoliths, however I did not remove any myself. The cracking sound heard when cutting the head open was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  I spent most of my time in sorting and measuring fish, as well as assisting with the stomach collection project.

For the next two days we will be heading back to Dutch Harbor, and the likelihood of trawling for more fish is minimal.  Our remaining work assignment is to give the fish lab a thorough cleaning. Everything in the lab is waterproof, so we’ll put on our Grunden’s (orange rubber coveralls) and boots and spray down the entire space. Working and living at sea for nearly 3 weeks has been an eye opening experience. My time aboard the Oscar Dyson has flown by. I have learned so much about fisheries research and life at sea. Dry land, however, will be warmly welcomed when we get back to Dutch Harbor.  Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Animal Sightings 

The whales have an incredible way of showing up when I don’t have my camera.  Yesterday I spotted two orcas, but did not get a photograph. The seabirds continue to circle. I like the murres most.  They look like small, flying penguins.

New Vocabulary 

Otoliths- Small bony structures situated in the head of all bony fish. Often referred to as “ear stones.”

Stock- Refers to the number of fish available, supply.

*** Much of the information used for this log entry was found on the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) web site.

Megan Woodward, July 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Megan Woodward 
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 1 – 18, 2009

Mission: Bering Sea Acoustic Trawl Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea/Dutch Harbor
Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2009

Any bycatch in a haul has to be measured and weighed if there are more than 25 of the same species caught.
Any bycatch in a haul has to be measured and weighed if there are more than 25 of the same species.

Weather/Location 
Position: N 60.35.172; W 174.08.187
Air Temp: 6.1 (deg C)
Water Temp: 5.24 (deg C)
Wind Speed: 25 knots
Weather: Overcast, rain

Science and Technology Log 

How is all the data collected from a trawl and acoustic lab used?  By collecting data about weight and length from a sample, scientists are able to connect the size of fish caught to the amount of return seen in the acoustic lab. The return is assigned a name (PK1, PK2, etc.) and all schools showing a similar acoustic pattern are given the same name.  In the end, scientists can estimate the number of fish and their size for a given area based on the acoustic and fish lab data collected.  This is repeated throughout the survey resulting in an estimate for the total number of fish in the survey area.  

Both during and after the survey estimates of abundance in the same location over the past several years are compared.  Scientists evaluate the data and determine if the pollock population in the survey area is increasing, declining or stable.  Their conclusions are used to make a recommendation about pollock fishing limits for the upcoming year. In the past few years the pollock population has been lower than in previous years.  Due to the decline, the fishing quota has been reduced.  However, the 2006 year-class is proving to be strong. At 4 years of age pollock are considered mature and fishable.  Therefore, the fishing quota is predicted to rise in the next year or two.

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 11.32.34 PM

Personal Log 

While discussing the acoustic survey project with the scientists on board, I was quite surprised to hear the pollock survey had been going since 1979.  Acoustic technology has changed and improved, but in essence the project has remained the same. Modern computer technology has allowed collection and analysis of enormous data sets and greatly reduced the amount of paper work needed for the project’s success.

The concept of strong vs. weak year-class is also quite interesting.  There doesn’t seem to be a direct connection between a year-class’ success and environmental factors.  Environmental factors that are potentially influential are water temperature, available zooplankton, ice cover, storms and predators.  The fish currently being caught by commercial fisherman are 5-7 years old. Can you figure out which year classes those fish are from?

We continue to spot plenty of seabirds and a few more minke whale pods.  I was able to watch a group of Dall’s porpoises play in the wake of the bow for half an hour yesterday.  There haven’t been any new animal sightings during the past few days.
We continue to spot plenty of seabirds and a few more minke whale pods. I was able to watch a group of Dall’s porpoises play in the wake of the bow for half an hour yesterday. There haven’t been any new animal sightings during the past few days.

Although we are out here working in the best interest of pollock, I have found it difficult to watch thousands of pollock come through the fish lab.  I have to remind myself that sampling the fish is truly for the good of the order. In addition, after being measured the fish are sent back into the ocean where they become food for other organisms such as crab or birds. One of their natural predators is having a good meal, something that was likely to happen anyway.

Animal Sightings 

  • Seabirds
  • Dall’s porpoises

New Vocabulary 

Bycatch  – Anytime something is caught during a trawl other than pollock it is labeled bycatch.  Jellyfish has been the most common form of bycatch.

Year-class – All the fish born in a given year are members of that year-class.  We have caught a lot fish from the 2008 year-class (1 year old fish).

Duane Sanders, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 10 KTS, Direction  50 degrees
Barometer: 1024 millibars
Air temperature: 13 0C
Seas: 3-5 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

A sorting table full of sand dollars!
A sorting table full of sand dollars!

Why is it that we find huge numbers of sand dollars at so many stations?  There have been some stations where our dredge was completely filled with sand dollars.  The sorting table was so full that there was no clear space in which to work. This has piqued my curiosity as a biologist. Some questions come to mind.  Are there any natural predators of sand dollars? What is it about sand dollars that allow them to out-compete other organisms that might otherwise be found at these locations?  What do sand dollars eat? How can there be enough food at a given location to support these huge populations? I talked with Stacy Rowe, the chief scientist for this cruise, and she was not aware of any research being done to answer these questions.  Stacy did know that a species of fish known as the Ocean Pout eats on sand dollars.  I am looking forward to seeing results of some research on these organisms.  Maybe one of my students will follow up.  Who knows?

Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!
Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!

Many different scientists use data taken during this survey.  NOAA staffers come to the ship with a list of types of organisms or samples that have been requested by researchers.  For example we have been setting aside a few scallops from certain stations for special handling.  The gender of each scallop is determined and then they are measured and weighed.  Next, the meat from each scallop is carefully removed and weighed.  The shells are carefully cleaned and set aside to give the scientist who made the request along with all of the measurement data.

I have made a new friend, Keiichi Uchida, of a visiting researcher from Japan. He is doing research that involves tracking the movements of the conger eel, Conger oceanicus, using GIS systems.  Keiichi is here to learn more about how NOAA does surveys like the one we are on now. He is also looking at data similar to his and trying to correlate the different data sets.

Personal Log 

In many ways I am going to miss living and working with people who are interested in the same branch of science as me.  I have had fun talking about all of the things I have observed and the kinds of work being done by this branch of NOAA. There is one thing about this trip that causes me some real sadness.  I have not seen a whale. Two whales have been spotted, but I have always been at the wrong place to see them.  I hope my luck changes before we dock at Woods Hole.

Nicole Macias, June 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 4, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 15.7’N, 164° 26.7’W
Wind Speed: 8kts.
Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 ft.
Water Temp: 26.3 ° C
Air Temp: 28° C

A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.
A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our second full day of hauling and setting the traps. The science team is on a rotating schedule so that everyone gets a chance to work each position. Yesterday, I was a “runner”. My job was to stand in the pit next to the “crackers”. The crackers would take out the specimens and place them in a bucket and then take out the old bait and replace it with new bait. Once the pod was ready to go I would run the bucket to the lab and the pod (trap) down the pit tables to the stackers. It was a labor-intensive job, but at least I was able to see everything that came up in the trap. We did not catch many lobsters, but we did trap quite a few white tip reef sharks. Even though they are not very large they are extremely strong. I would know because I got to throw one over the side of the ship!

This is me in the pit when I was a "runner." So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?
This is me in the pit when I was a “runner.” So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?

Today I was a “stacker.” My job was to take the pods from the runner and stack them on the fantail, the back of the boat where the traps are released later in the day. The pods are stacked 4 high and end up covering the entire back of the boat. There are 160 pods all together. We release 10 strings of 8 pods each and 4 strings with 20 pods each. The main focus of the research being conducted is to collect data on the population of lobsters in the North West Hawaiian Islands. Even though we are targeting lobsters we record the data on everything we catch. Anything beside lobsters are considered by-catch. By-catch is considered anything that is caught accidentally. We are setting these traps for lobsters, but many times other animals will work there way into the pods. This is unfortunate for any fish that gets caught in the traps because they are pulled to the surface so fast that their air bladder expands causing a balloon-like structure to protrude from their mouth.

This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.
This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.

This “balloon” enables them to swim down and they end up being eaten by a predator or drowning. In a normal situation the swim bladder helps a fish regulate their buoyancy. The by-catch problem is seen in many commercial fishing industries. Usually they are dealing with a larger quantity of equipment and in certain instances, such as long lining, many sharks and turtles end up dying unnecessarily. The two main species of lobsters that are found in Hawaiian waters are the spiny lobster, Panulirus marginatus, and slipper lobsters, Scyllarides squammosus. Both species are also found in the waters off South Florida, but they do look a little different. The lobsters in Hawaii have more of a purple color to them. I have not come into much contact with them since my day in the lab isn’t for a while in the rotation. Once I am in the lab I will be able to report back with more information about them. Tomorrow I am a stacker again, so my biceps will be getting really big. I do know that on the first day we only caught 3 spiny lobsters and on the second day 21.

Oh! The most exciting part of the day is after we have finished hauling all the traps and replacing the old bait with new bait, we dump the old bait overboard and there is a feeding frenzy amongst the resident Galapagos sharks that follow our boat.

Personal Log 

Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.
Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.

Well my feet are very sore from being wet and in shoes all day. They are definitely not used to being in closed toed shoes everyday. I am ready to start working in the lab and learning more scientific information than just performing physical labor. With all the energy I am exerting I am definitely replacing all the lost energy with the delicious food that is different and amazing everyday. Today we had Hawaiian cornbread with pineapple. It was out of this world! We have also been eating a lot of fresh fish since one of the rotations included bottom fishing. I have yet to be in this rotation.

I am beginning to make friends with everyone on the ship. I am sure by the end of the month I will have forged some great friendships. It does seem like I have been on the ship for quite some time. I hope the days start going by a little faster. I am beginning to miss Florida!

I will be writing soon. Hopefully with some exciting adventures! 

Lollie Garay, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table
The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Stationary front persists
West winds 10-20KT Seas 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We began our shift today sampling in an area called Del Marva Closed Area, which is an area currently closed to scallop fishing. We conducted 8 dredge hauls last night in spite of the turbulent weather that pursued us. But today, we had calmer seas and beautiful blue skies.

The serious work of sorting and measuring the catch begins right after the dredge is brought up and secured. As it is coming up, someone on either side of the dredge uses a rake to shake the net which allows the catch to fall out. After the net is secured, readings are taken using from a sensor mounted to the dredge. The sensor is called an inclinometer; it measures the dredge angle during the 15minute tow.  This allows the scientists to calculate the amount of time the dredge is on the bottom. Then I hop on the table to hold a whiteboard with the pertinent station information written on it next to the catch which is photographed for documentation. Then the frenzy begins! I leave and someone else gets on the sorting table to rake the catch towards waiting sorters who have several buckets and baskets ready.

The sorting begins!
The sorting begins!

The catch is a mixture of scallops, crabs, fish, lots of starfish, assorted other specimens and sometimes sand. We are primarily sorting out sea scallops and fish, but have had some stations that require us to sort out crabs as well. We work quickly to separate the catch which is then taken into the wet lab for measurement. I have been working with Larry Brady from NOAA Fisheries, learning how to measure scallops using the FSCS system. The FSCS is the Fisheries Scientific Computer System which is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data. FSCS uses touchscreen monitors, motion compensation scales and electronic measuring boards. I feed Larry the scallops one after the other as he measures them using a magnetic wand. This information is automatically recorded into the data base. Last night we had a large number of scallops to process. However, today we have seen less and less; in fact we had one catch with none! The fish are not as plentiful either although we have seen various different specimens.

Starfish are plentiful on this catch!
Starfish are plentiful on this catch!

There are also special scallop samples that need to be processed. First, the scallops are cleaned with wire brushes. Then they are weighed in their shells. After this is recorded, they are opened to remove the meat and gonads, which are weighed separately. This information provides us with the gender of the scallop and can approximate their age. I dry the shells and number them. Then I put them into a cloth sack, tag them with identifying information and put them into the deep freeze.

The fish are also weighed and their species is recorded. Sometimes specimens need to be counted (I counted small crabs today).  Once all the measurements are taken, everything is washed down! That includes the deck, the sorting table all the catch buckets, the FSCS measuring boards and the lab floors. We are then ready for the next dredge haul which follows approximately 20-30 minutes later. This pace continues throughout the shift, barring any mechanical or weather issues.

Personal Log 

Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.
Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.

I am very impressed by the precision of the work that the science team does. As I waited for the dredge to unload a catch this evening I reflected on how everyone does their job quickly and efficiently. It’s something I never fully appreciated – that there are people out on the seas doing this very thing all the time! Already in one full day, they have taught me so much about how the fisheries system works, and they have expanded my knowledge of different marine organisms. Even as we sort quickly through the catch, they are always identifying specimens to me and answering my questions.

Loligo Squid
Loligo Squid

One of the most amazing sights for me has been the incredible number of starfish that each catch brings up! I have never seen so many, and I am learning about the different types. I am also learning how to shuck scallops for the galley for dinner. So far this has not been strength of mine, but I am determined to master this skill! By the way, our lunch today was scallop soup! The beautiful sunset today gave way to the almost-full moon shining on the seas. My shift is over for tonight, I’d best get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Dolphins—made a quick but too brief appearance alongside the ship today. I caught a glimpse as they raced by. Polka dot Kuskeel; Baby Goosefish; Loligo Squid (pronounced Lollie go!) Snake Eel; and Clear Nose Skate.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 24, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with winds out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Marie Martin, the bird watcher, came rushing down from her perch on the flying bridge in the early afternoon announcing that she had just spotted a humpback whale close by.  We all rushed here and there to get a view. I went up to the bow and looked for about 10 minutes.  As I came back through the bridge LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, the OOD (Officer of the Deck), and Marie were talking about a right whale entangled in a net.  Mark called the captain seeking his advice.  Whenever a situation like this is observed the captain is expected to report it.  The captain told Mark to report it and let the trained people steam out to try to find it.  I interjected that I never did spot the pilot whale. Everyone said, “What pilot whale?”  Mark said he saw a right whale. Marie piped up that she had said it was a humpback whale.  Then I remembered that indeed she had said humpback whale.  At that point the whole thing was moot because the humpbacks are not endangered. Then we asked Mike, the chief scientist, what would happen if a right whale got caught in his net. He said he didn’t want to think about it.  When a sturgeon got caught he said he had two weeks of doing nothing but filling out forms.  If a right whale got caught he would probably have 2 months of paperwork.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 5, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Today’s weather e-mail: 

UNCLAS //N03144// MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN NORFOLK VA// SUBJ/WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// July 5th, 2008 REF/A/MSG/NOAAS DELAWARE II/022000ZJUL08// REF/B/WEB/NOAA SHIP TRACKER/041747ZJUL08// NARR/REF A IS MOVREP. REF B IS NOAA SHIP TRACKER PAGE.// POC/SHIP ROUTING OFFICER/-/NAVMARFCSTCEN/LOC:NORFOLK VA /TEL:757-444-4044/EMAIL: MARITIME.SRO(AT)NAVY.MIL// RMKS/1. METEOROLOGICAL SITUATION AT 051200Z: A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE LABRADOR SEA WITH A COLD FRONT EXTENDING ALONG THE NORTHEASTERN SEABOARD HAS AN ASSOCIATED STATIONARY BOUNDARY ALONG THE TRAILING EDGE OF THE COLD FRONT WHICH EXTENDS INTO THE MID ATLANTIC STATES. STRONG HIGH PRESSURE REMAINS ANCHORED IN THE NORTH CENTRAL ATLANTIC.

2. 24 HOUR FORECAST COMMENCING 060000Z FOR YOUR MODLOC AS INDICATED BY REFERENCES A AND B.

A. SKY, WEATHER: PARTLY CLOUDY TO MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH ISOLATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS.

B. VSBY (NM): 7, 3 TO 5 IN SHOWERS, 2 TO 4 IN THUNDERSTORMS.

C. SURFACE WIND (KTS): SOUTHWESTERLY 5 TO 10, INCREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 LATE PERIOD.

D. COMBINED SEAS (FT): SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 2 TO 4, BUILDING 4 TO 6 LATE PERIOD.

  1. OUTLOOK TO 48 HOURS: WIND SOUTHWESTERLY 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 INCREASING 15 TO 20 GUSTS 25 EARLY PERIOD, DECREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 BY LATE PERIOD. SEAS SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 4 TO 6, BUILDING 5 TO 7 EARLY PERIOD.
  2. FORECASTER: AG2(AW/SW) SCOTT//

V/r, Command Duty Officer Naval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

http://www.weather.navy.mil http://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil

PLA: NAVLANTMETOCCEN NORFOLK VA

Ship tracker
Ship tracker

Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Ship Tracker 

NOAA has a Web site that can show you the path of each of its ships in near real time.  Below is the track of the DELAWARE II from June 30 – July 5, 2008. The red line shows exactly where the DELAWARE has gone. If you’d like to track the DELAWARE or any other NOAA ships yourself, then go to this Website.

Clam Surveys 

On the DELAWARE II our team is in the process of conducting a clam survey. This particular fishery survey is on clams. After dredging, collecting, sorting, counting, measuring and weighing (clam with shell and shucked clam meat only) – the data obtained is recorded and entered into computers filed under the specific station number that was dredged. All data is then sent to a central data base. The compiled data can then be compared to past surveys.  If the actual meat weight, size, quantity or quality of clams collected has reduced in comparison to past surveys, this could be an indication that some factor is influencing the reduction. Possible influencing factor: Clams are being over-fished.

However, clam fisheries are a very important part of the economy, especially in the northeastern part of the United States. Many people depend on clam fishing for a living. As long as clams are not over-fished, the balance between economy and ecology can remain stable.  Not only could this affect the clam population, but other marine life in this particular ecosystem could be affected as well because in an ecosystem ~ all living and nonliving things in the environment must interact and work together for the ecosystem to be productive. This is why it is vital that NOAA scientists continue to survey and keep track of the productivity in our ocean environments for future generations.

Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.
Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.

We document and record the data on all marine life that is pulled out from the dredge. These species are important documentation in clam surveys because in an ecosystem, all living organisms (and non-living things) depend on each other, interacting to produce food chains and food webs. Early this morning, we entered 2 separate stations, just a few miles apart. These 2 stations were loaded with a huge quantity of very healthy, large sized, heavy meat clams.  Vic noticed that not only did these 2 stations contain lots of large, healthy clams but that there was a lot of clean, sand sediment with very little other types of sediment. Sediment is defined as organic matter or mineral deposited by ice, air, or water. Sediment can be mud, clay, rock, gravel, shell fragments, silt, sand, pebbles or dead organic material (called detrius). The various sediments are sometimes mixed and are found in various textures, consistency and colors. Unlike these 2 sandy stations, the 69 stations we had already dredged all contained various other types of sediment.  Above and to the right are some pictures of a prior station that contained sediment of dark, hard clay.  

Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.
Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.

Vic instructed the crew at this point that we needed to get a sediment sample from the two nearby stations that we were fixing to dredge. I was asked to retrieve it with the aid of Jimbo Pontz and Lino Luis who operated the bottom grab (a device used to lower down into the ocean operated by an electric cable, for the purpose of retrieving sediment.)  First, Vic instructed me to “GEAR UP”; safety gear is a major priority on all NOAA ships.  I was given a safety harness to put on, along with a life jacket, and a hard helmet.

Then, the bottom grabber was lowered into the water and it collected the samples, towed back up by Lino Luis and emptied by Jimbo Pontz. I collected 2 cups of the sand sediment at both locations, prior to the dredge being hauled back up to the deck.  Note how clean and “new” the sand sediment looks. It is not mixed with a lot of other sediments. Sure enough, we again collected a huge load of healthy, large size, weighty meat clams covered in the same sediment seen in the picture above.  

Big Question of the Day 

Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment
Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment

Science Researchers have concluded that over the past century, sea level is rising at increasing rates, (possibly linked to Global Warming). Global warming is defined as the observed increase in the earth’s air and oceans in recent decades due to greenhouse gases and the theory that this temperature rising will continue to increase.

The rising of sea level causes an “environmental change”.  Some environmental changes on Earth occur almost instantly, due to Natural Disasters (like a hurricane or other massive storm events). Scientists that study environmental changes due to past storm events are called Paleotempostologists.  Other environmental changes can take decades, centuries, or thousands of years (like the rising of sea level). These environmental changes often cause new sediment to be deposited on top of older sediment. The adult, large, healthy, meaty-weight surf clams found today in the location where we sampled medium to coarse-grained sand were retrieved at stations offshore in cold and deep water; (the depth recorded by Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician as 70 feet). Could it be that environmental changes on the ocean floor are taking place due to the rise of sea level?  Could the medium to coarse-grained sand sediment sampled today possibly be a new layer of sediment due to rising sea levels causing a relocation of some marine species (like surf clams)? 

Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.
Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.

Abundance of surf clams in New York Harbor in June 1995, from this Web site.

Surf clams utilize an unusual behavior in response to stress: they leap from the sediment surface in order to relocate. Surf clams have been observed using this avoidance behavior in response to crowding and the presence of predators. Surf clams are mostly oceanic in distribution, preferring turbulent waters at the edge of the breaker zone. They can be found in some estuarine areas, but their distribution is limited by salinity (Fay et al. 1983). In New York/New Jersey Harbor, surf clams are found predominantly in the area where the harbor opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile clams prefer medium to fine, low organic sands averaging 9 to 25 meters in depth. Adults prefer medium- to coarse-grained sand and gravel, burying themselves just below the sediment surface. They are often found at evenly distributed positions relative to one another, with spacing interval negatively correlated to density. Additionally, adults often remain in their juvenile burrows unless they are displaced by storm events (Fay et al. 1983).  Predation by crabs, gastropods, and bottom-feeding fish have been observed to limit development of beds in nearshore areas colonized by larval surf clams, relocating to colder, deeper water.”

The Bottom Grab
The Bottom Grab

New Term/Word/Phrase: Ecosystem: an environment where living and non-living things interact and work together. Bottom Grab: A device used to lower onto the ocean floor for the purpose of gathering sediment.

Something to Think About: Are surf clams relocating?

Animals Seen Today 

Asterial boreal, Lady crab, Eel, Moonsnail, Shark eye northern snail, Stargazer fish, Whelk, and Sea cucumber.

hylton_log5h

Adrienne Heim, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Working at night
Working at night

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2007

Science and Technology Log: Sample Sorting

It is then time to get to work. Each of us works in 12 hour shifts. We are either designated to a noon-midnight shift or visa-versa. First, the winch operator sends out the dredge. It trolls in 15 minute increments and collects everything that it encounters along the way. This includes various marine life, vegetation, and bottom sediment like rocks and sand. Once it is brought to surface the deck handler’s work with the winch operator to lower the dredge to the middle of the stern. The dredge is emptied of its contents and then it is our turn to sift through it. The marine life is sorted into blue buckets according to their species. Our Watch Chief teaches us how to identify them, especially when sorting Winter versus Little Skates or Winter versus Yellow-Tail Flounders. We put all of the scallops into large orange baskets. The species are then weighed and measured. We work in pairs and each pair is assigned to one of the three work stations. The data is recorded into the FSCS, which stands for Fisheries Scientific Computer System. Some of the scallops are frozen for further scientific investigation while the others, as well as the other marine life collected from the dredge are put back into the water. The buckets are washed and stored for the next tow, which occurs every 45 minutes as we wait to reach the following station.

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

I am learning so much and I can’t wait to bring all of this information back to my students. My next log will discuss the diversity of the marine life here along the Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals, as well as, the purpose of the FDA sending employees to test for PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poison) within the meat, viscera, and gonads of the sea scallops.

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK FOR MY STUDENTS:
What preys upon sea scallops besides starfish?
How are the open and closed waters designated and determined?
What is the impact of scallop fishing on the overall ecosystem?

Sorting on deck
Sorting on deck

Elizabeth Martz, August 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 7, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility = <.2 nautical miles
Cloud cover = Fog
Wind direction = 185 degrees
Wind speed = 5 knots (kts.)
Sea wave height = <1 feet
Swell wave height = 2 feet
Seawater temperature = 15.2  degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure = 1013.8 mb

Science and Technology Log 

8:00 a.m.—Breakfast.  Yummy!  Breakfast is one of the best meals of the day.  Great food and selection.

9:30 a.m.—I went to the local post office!  I went to the Marine Biological Laboratory.  I viewed information on the Alvin launch in 1964.  This submersible is amazing!  It can withstand such water pressure changes. Science Rules!

11:00 a.m.—Sea Scallop research and information: Presentation by Victor Nordahl:  Chief scientist!

The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms.  The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!
The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms. The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!

The dredge has a net liner and its purpose is to keep fish and scallops in the dredge. The liner is often damaged by rocks & boulders that enter it. These 2 scientists are repairing the ripped net liner on our standard dredge. On a common dredge found on fishing boats, there is no liner. Fishermen finding scallops do not want to catch & analyze fish. They just want the scallop meats.  As scientists, we want to study everything.  The basic dredge haul provides us with lots to study.  It is 7’ wide metal rod covered with rubber disks across the bottom of the dredge.  There are dumping chains attached to the clubstick that help with the dumping of materials out of the dredge. The dredge goes out three times the water depth. For example:  If the water depth is 100 meters, the dredge will send 300 meters of metal cable out.  To calculate the distance of the dredge from the ship, you could use the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2.  BUT the net curves & the equation doesn’t give you the most accurate results. So, you can calculate the amount and make a estimate of the net distance from the ship.  In this example, the dredge is about 260 meters away from the ship. The dredge’s bag has an opening where all the organisms enter. The ring bag is built to hold rocks, living organisms, movement on the floor, and store many organisms for study. The dredge sometimes needs to be repaired due to weather conditions or course substrate (items found on the ocean floor).

LOOK at the dredge above. This is showing the longer top side. Try to imagine a metal opening on the other side. This opening is about 6 feet from the top of the dredge. When the dredge is in the water, the longer side is on top. The part with the opening is found underneath. The dredge runs along the bottom floor and collects the organisms.  It is amazing how many organisms you can find on the ocean floor. It is incredible how many diverse species are located in the Atlantic Ocean.

More Notes about the Dredge 

This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship.  The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water.  When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds. The pulleys and metal cable help scientists bring the dredge back up on the ship’s deck!
This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship. The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water. When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds.

We have 5 dredges on board the ship. When we get to the end of the Leg III, we will be conducting surveys in areas with lots of rocks and materials that will harm the dredges.  We will determine the strength of the dredges. We will be using different dredges.  We will use the standard dredge and the rock- chain dredge. The standard dredge can capture large rocks or boulders during the dredge haul. The rock-chain dredge is designed to stop large rocks from entering the dredge. With the rock-chain dredge, the scientists who analyze the findings from the dredge have fewer rocks to

Sea Scallop Survey = Goals and Information 

The Sea Scallop Survey is an important and interesting task for scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV. Purpose of the scientific expedition of learning:

1. What is range of the scallops?  Do you find them in shallow water?  Do you find them in deep water?   Where do scallops prefer to grow and survive?  Do we find more scallops in areas of a smaller rocks, bigger boulders, or small particles of sand?

2. Scientists can estimate how many scallops we will find.  Marine biologists would like to learn more about the population of scallops in various areas.  Scientists would like to come to an understanding about where most scallops reside on the ocean floor.

3. Scientists have randomly selected stations from Cape Hatteras, NC to Georges Bank (east of Cape Cod). An area close to Nova Scotia is where scientists test to see the existence of scallops.

4. Scientists ask, “How many scallops are out there?”

5. Scientists ask, “How will the scallop population be different in the future?”

      • I ask: Why will the population be different?
      • I ask: What makes one species survive and another species not survive in an area?
      • • I ask: How can science help the scallop population increase?  Will helping the scallop population help or hurt the ecosystem? Other questions:
      • What bottom substrate is most prevalent in areas with large sea scallop harvests? (This year, the scientists found the most scallops on an area with a sandy bottom.)
      • Why is that bottom substrate a better environment for sea scallop growth? {little scallops = gravel, sand; bigger scallops orientate to areas by the current (moving water)
      • How long do sea scallops live? (10-15 years)
      • What temperature is the best for sea scallop survival? (The most important temperature is one that produces the most spawning. When more scallops are born, then more scallops survive.
  • How much do sea scallops cost to buy in the store? (about $12/pound)
  • How much do the fisherman make for spending a day at sea catching scallops that they sell to the local restaurant or buyer?
  • What topics do scientists find interesting about scallops? (Each scientist has their own ideas and opinions.)

This picture is taken right off the fantail of the ALBATROSS IV.  It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck of the ship.
It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck.

6. How can scientists protect fisheries (the scallops) and those who harvest them (the fishermen)?

7. Various universities, scientists, and government agencies closed water areas around Nantucket in 1994. In this area, no fishing or dredging is allowed.  All citizens must not remove anything from the area.

      • If you have a permit to fish, you need to be knowledgeable of the fishing rules.   When water areas are closed for fishing, you need to know where they are and what to do.
      • When they closed the area, the fish did not return.
      • The scallop population has greatly increased.
      • Many areas of the ocean are under a rotational management plan. (This is also called limited access areas).  In these areas of the ocean, fishermen are allowed into an area for various times.
      • Sometimes fishermen are not allowed to capture a specific type of fish.
      • There are times when fishermen cannot collect any scallops.
      • These rotational management areas are created due to research and scientific studies that are completed at sea. In other words, all the scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV are making a difference in the regulations that fishermen adhere to.
      • Scallops are a resource. They are a biotic (living) thing. Many people spend their lives harvesting this resource from the ocean. Many people spend their lives eating this resource.  No matter who you are, you can impact the health of the water and the home to this resource. We all need to make an effort to protect our waterways and care about the resources that benefit our lives. 

This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms and sea scallops are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals and species from our ocean.
This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals from our ocean.

8. The ALBATROSS IV has surveyed over 525 randomly- generated locations.  The ALBATROSS IV has selected over 25 basic locations to compare studies year after year. The scientists have been collecting data since 1975. (I think that is so outstanding and AWESOME!)

9. Here is a small lesson about how the stations are randomly-generated.  First, think of an area in the ocean. Then, divide that area into 100 squares.  Next divide those 100 squares into small areas.  The randomly-generated stations are determined from all those small areas.  Finally, the researchers need to decide the best way to travel to all of those randomly-generated areas.

10. The tow “what you catch” naturally changes year after year.  You will never catch all the same organisms every year.  You will discover that fish populations change for many reasons.  Here is a list of some reasons why a population may be different each year:

      • Birth rate/death rate
      • Habitat change
      • Fish movement
      • Fish maturity
      • Number of fish caught by the fishermen
      • Amount of water in the area
      • Environmental factors = salinity over time, temperature, rainfall, hurricanes, tsunamis, and more…
      • 13. Sometimes ships are retired and new ships replace them.  When a new ship surveys an area, the scientists need to make sure that the new ship’s equipment is consistent with the old equipment.  Long-term data is analyzed.  The new equipment and old equipment must keep the data valid. Many factors are taken into consideration:
  • Do ships have the same power, dredge, wire used, and same liner?
  • If the equipment is different, how can we control bias?
  • Do the ships test areas with the same water level, salinity, disease, same amount of fishermen in the area, wind, etc.?
  • There are so many factors to consider and to control!
  • A few ways to control bias and determine an average number of scallops include: = determine fish mortality: death due to being caught = natural mortality: predation/ death = don’t factor in temperature, salinity, water currents, food availability, recruitment (spawning and growing)

11. The ALBATROSS IV keeps a constant 3.8 knots speed when the dredge is out in the water. The ALBATROSS IV can reach 10- 11 knots when cruising along.  I think it is an amazing how it feels on the water.

This is a winter flounder.  It is a resource to many fisherman and scientist.  There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.
This is a winter flounder. It is a resource to many fisherman. There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.

12. The sea scallop study is a great arena to start an ecosystem investigation. We need to know more about other organisms to determine details about ecosystem!  Animals help and hurt each other.

13. As a scientist, you map habitat with a multibeam, tow camera, and dredge an area.  The dredge validates the information from the tow camera.  (The efficiency issue is solved.) The multibeam shows the entire habitat and determines everything there is to validate animal documented.

14. There are so many characteristics about the sea scallops.

      • Thickness of the sea scallop shell
      • Weight of the meat
      • Color of the meat
      • Shape of the shell
      • Texture of the shell
      • Weight of the shell
      • On the ALBATROSS IV, many procedures are followed for each dredge tow!
      • There is an inclinometer on the dredge.  The inclinometer will show if the dredge flipped.
      • A photo is taken right when the dredge tow is dumped on the deck.  The picture shows the station number, tow number (location), if it is open or closed area, and more. (See picture above.)
      • When sorting the tow, there are procedures to follow.  Always sort what is in front of you. By sorting all animals right in front of you, true randomness and validity of diverse sizes are discovered.  Place all fish in one bucket. Put all skates in one bucket.  Place all crabs in another (if you need to collect them.) Put all small scallops in a blue bucket.  Place all large and medium scallops in another bucket. Put all other animals in another bucket.  Place all “habitat” in an orange basket.
      • What do sea scallops eat?  Well, they eat starfish.  They eat the Asterias Boreal and Elptarstius Tenera. So neat. 

Susie Hill, August 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 1, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 16.4° C
Sea Temperature: 18.1° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1012.8 millibars
Windspeed: 2.70 knots
Water Depth: 83.3 meters
Conductivity: 42.72 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Chris Daniels, Operations Officer, and Kurt Zegowitz, Executive Officer, on the bridge sailing the NOAA ALBATROSS IV
Chris Daniels, Operations Officer, and Kurt Zegowitz, Executive Officer, on the bridge sailing the NOAA ALBATROSS IV

This morning was awesome! We’re heading our way into Canada and we see whales! There were about 4 of them scattered around the ship. Unfortunately, they were too far away from the ship to get good pictures. We think they were humpback or fin whales by seeing the fluke (or tail fin) and the way they arched their back.  The best place to get a great view of the wide ocean or see the big marine life is the bow, or front of the ship. The bridge is also up there. This is the command center where the ship’s officers sail the ship. There are six NOAA Corps officers aboard the ship including Commanding Officer (CO), Steve Wagner, and Executive Officer (XO), LCDR Kurt Zegowitz. Kurt has many responsibilities as XO including sailing the ship (of course), supervising the four Junior Officers, managing the ship’s budget, being the ship’s Safety Officer, being the Dive Master, and serving as Acting CO if Steve is unavailable to sail. Formerly known as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps before 1970, the NOAA Corps is recognized as one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The officers manage the vessel and work together with the scientists to ensure that the scientific missions of each ship are accomplished. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 31, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 16.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 700m: 5 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.2 degrees C
Wind Direction: 300 W
Wind Speed:  15 kts
Cloud cover: Clear –stratus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.9 MB
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Salt, Sodium, NaCl, Salinity. How much salt is in the ocean? How much salt is in me and you? Is there a difference between the amount of salt in from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean? How much salt is in a fish or shark? Lots of questions about salt. I spent some time again with Dr. Jeff Graham and he showed me some nice diagrams to help me understand.

Percent of average salt content – salinity. ***The top of the box marks only 10%   scale subject to revision (due to lack of resources on board ship)
Percent of average salt content – salinity. The top of the box marks only 10% scale subject to revision (due to lack of resources on board ship)

Personal Log 

Yeah I added a new species to my list and yesterday I was able to get a photo of the Black Footed Albatross. While we were hauling our line he kept circling. He seemed to be very interested in the line. Some of the scientists were tossing bait to him from the hooks they were debating, but he didn’t seem that interested our old Mackerel.  Albatross are beautiful birds. They are the largest of seabirds and spend most of their time on the water. They have long, narrow wings as you can see from the photo below. One of the scientists on board was telling me that she read studies, indicating that they can travel 3,000 miles across the ocean, before they need to touch land.  Rarely does a person have the opportunity to view them from shore unless you are on some remote island when they are breading and nesting.

Black-footed albatross, tagged.
Black-footed albatross, tagged.

Look at the photo I took. You will notice a yellow band on left leg and a white one oh his right. I am told that to band these birds, you go to a remote island and just band them. They aren’t really afraid of people. – I would love to do that…. When is that cruise?  Nobody likes it when this happens, especially the sea lions. This is the only we caught this trip. They put up a huge fight and this one actually got off of the line. Hopefully, he will be fine. It is such a treat to see them out here. During this set we had a lot of half eaten bait, so we believe he was having a feast!

Steller sea lion hooked in the mouth
Steller sea lion hooked in the mouth

Question of the Day 

Salt is essential for all life. However too much salt can be toxic. Animals have special ways of regulating the salt in their bodies. How does the shark regulate its salt? Define these terms associated with salinity and adaptations an animal makes to an environment: Isosmotic,  Hypoosmotic, and  Hyperosmotic.

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis. ———Yes, you get extra credit for this.  

Susie Hill, July 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 30, 2007

Mesh netting in the dredge
Mesh netting in the dredge

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 17.5° C
Sea Temperature: 18.6° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1014.8 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.62 knots
Water Depth: 65.3 meters
Conductivity: 43.45 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I can’t believe it’s already been a week already since we left from Woods Hole, MA. I’m still getting a hang of the time schedule, but it’s working out okay. The weather has been beautiful. The staff is great—I’ve learned so much from them. The food is delicious, too! Today’s focus will be on the dredge. This is a metal frame with a metal ringed and meshed net that we use to dredge or scoop the sea bottom in hopes of finding our prize catch, sea scallops. The bag is about 8 feet wide with 2” rings and mesh netting. The mesh netting, called a liner, is in the dredge to ensure catching of the smaller scallops as well as the other species that coexist with the scallops. The dredge is lifted, put into the water, and dragged using a motorized gantry with a block and tackle system. The dredge is towed for 15 minutes at each station. The depths for this trip have been ranging from 29 meters to 112 meters. Sea Scallop dredge surveys have been conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Services since 1975.

The dredge is prepared for deployment.
The dredge is prepared for deployment.

 

Susie Hill, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 28, 2007

Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.
Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.4° C
Sea Temperature: 19° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1013.6 millibars
Wind Speed: 10.78 knots
Water Depth: 62.4 meters
Conductivity: 44.76 mmhos
Salinity: 32.58 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I am completely exhausted! We had about 12-14 stations almost back to back last night. Down on your knees picking through the sort to find scallops and fish to back bending of lifting up full baskets and cleaning the deck, I’m tired. It was loads of fun, though. We went from collections of sand dollars to big scallops, quahogs (clams), flounders, big sea stars, and sticky, slimy skates.  When the scallops, flounders and skates come in, we weigh them on a scale and then measure their length and count them using the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). It’s pretty cool how it works. You lay the species on the electronic board, and it gets measured by us using a magnetic stick to mark it. Once marked, the measurement goes right into the computer as well as counts it. One station, we counted 788 scallops! That is a lot, but they say there’s more where that came from!

Susie Hill, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21° C
Set Temperature: 22° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.76 knots
Water Depth: 67.0 meters
Conductivity: 45.75 mmhos
Salinity: 32.13 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

The weather has been very nice, sunny, and calm. Conditions were so clear last night that we could see fireworks far off into the distance. I’m getting into the routine of all of the stations- sorting for fish and scallops, weighing, measuring the length (or in scallop terms, shell height), counting starfish, and cleaning off the deck.

Today’s focus is on the CTD meter that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. This is the instrument that they use to determine the conditions of the water. It is lowered down to about 5-10 meters from the ocean floor about twice in a shift (12 hours). Some other results they also receive are pressure and salinity levels. These measurements are collected at the surface as well as at the bottom. Once they receive all of the data, it is loaded into a computer and turned into a very colorful graph.  Scallops like to live in water temperatures of < 20° C and in water depths of up to 200 meters south of Cape Cod (Dvora Hart, WHOI, 2002).

The CTD
The CTD

Susie Hill, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 26, 2007

Sunfish (Mola mola)
Sunfish (Mola mola)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.6° C
Sea Temperature: 22.6 ° C
Relative Humidity: 97%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.36 knots
Water Depth: 57.2 m
Conductivity: 46.15 mmhos
Salinity: 31.56 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

From noon to midnight, we go from being hot under the shining sun searching for the treasure of scallops in the collected pile to sitting under the beautiful moonlight shining across the vast ocean waiting for the next tow. It’s wonderful no matter how you look at science!

Today, I got to start up the starfish study. We are counting starfish from the sort to figure out the abundance and distribution of the Asterias sp. and Astropecten sp. in the researched area. Depending on the location of the station will determine how many of sea stars you have. The first station, we had loads of starfish! The starfish are randomly collected off of the remaining pile after everyone has been through it for their studies. Out of 4.5 liters (about 5 large handfuls), I counted 340 Astropecten sp. I can’t imagine how many there really were! With the passing of the stations from each night, the majority species of the pile has shifted from starfish to sand dollars. I’m glad I don’t have to count those because there’s so many of them. Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family with the sea stars. I always thought that they were white like you buy them in the beach souvenir shops, but they’re a dark purple color when they’re alive. Pretty cool! I’ve got lots of samples to bring home!

With being in the middle of the ocean, you also get to see the big marine life! It was kind of gross, but amazing at the same time! We thought it was a dead whale, but it ended up being a basking shark that has been dead for maybe a week. You could see the decaying skin, bloated belly, and the now showing gill rakers (the cartilaginous structures that filter food and sediment out of the gills when the shark eats). We also saw a sunfish (Mola mola)! We show a mini-movie of one of them as you’re going up the moving escalator at Nauticus, but it is so awesome seeing it in real life! It looks like a whale that’s been flattened. So cool! 

Susie Hill, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.8 ° C
Sea Temperature: 21.8 ° C
Relative Humidity: 93%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.4 millibars
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Water Depth: 58 meters
Conductivity: 44.91 mmhos
Salinity: 31 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

It’s the morning after my first shift, and surprisingly, I still have energy! It was so much fun! It took us about 8 hours to get to our first tow station, and then we went right to work. At each tow station, the dredge is emptied out onto the deck for us to sort. In addition to the standard sampling to assess the stock, scientists request certain species samples for additional research before each cruise. The samples that are being pulled this trip are scallops, skates, hake fish, starfish (some of us call them sea stars), and monkfish (or goosefish). So, we pull these out of the catch and the rest is thrown back out to sea. It’s a race from there to get all of the research done before the next tow. The scientists everywhere (including me!) are weighing , dissecting, and recording the data into the FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). It’s awesome!

One of my stations was to help take the data on the sea scallops. We measured the gonad, meat, and viscera (pretty much everything else in the shell) weights of 5 randomly chosen sea scallops to determine the sex and shell height/meat weight relationships. The shells will be measured back at Woods Hole to determine the age. Do you know how scientists determine the age of a scallop? They count the rings on the outer shell just like you would to determine the age of a tree. We also collected these samples to help with a study being done by Scientist Stacey Etheridge and Melissa Ellwanger from FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to determine PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels. They are also testing for Alexandrium sp., a dinoflagellate phytoplankton, in the water sample that can also cause PSP in humans.

It is pretty cool that the scientists let us help out at the different stations so we could get a hand in everything that is going on. When I came on, I thought that we were only going to be doing one study- studying just scallops. It turns out that we get to experience so much more!

Claude Larson, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.7° C
Water Temperature: 22.9
Relative Humidity 93%
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: SE 120

Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.
Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the beginning of our first 12 hour watches. The tows were relatively well spaced which allowed for ample clean up time between tows and even for a little down time as we steamed for over an hour and I have a few minutes to write this log entry.

As I learn the skills needed to be useful on the Scallop Survey, I want to give you an idea of how a tow is carried out. The bridge generally gives us a ten minute alert before a tow over the all call system.  From that point we can finish up what we are doing and prepare for the tow. A crew member operates a huge winch and block and tackle that moves a thick metal cable. The cable is attached to a large metal hook that is attached to an 8 foot wide dredge net. The net is raised from the aft deck of the ship and put in the water.  The dredge net is then towed for fifteen minutes and then lifted onto the deck.  At this time, a probe that measures inclination is inserted in the dredge rigging and information about the collection of the tow is recorded and loaded onto another computer for later use.

While the probe is being read, someone takes a picture of the pile of organisms on deck with a small whiteboard with important information.  This information includes the station number, stratum and tow number, as well as whether this area is open or closed to commercial fishing.

The watch crew then brings baskets and buckets over to the edges of the pile and kneels on cushions to sift through the collected material.  We sort the collection into sea scallops, fish and, on each third tow, we also collect crabs. After a few minutes we shift areas and continue to look for certain animals, this helps us to make sure we have found all of the organisms we are looking for.  The fish are then further sorted by species.  The watch chief weighs each separate species and records that information on the FSCS, Fisheries Scientific Computer System. There are three FSCS stations and we all get to work at one of them.  The computer allows you to take the scallop or fish and lay it on a long board. The organism is held along the front panel of the system and a magnet is placed at the other end. The magnet causes the computer to automatically record the length of the scallop or fish. From there some of the scallop shells are cleaned for a scientist back in Woods Hole, Dvora Hart, and carefully labeled and placed in a cloth bag. Some of the scallops are also dissected for an FDA study on PSPs, paralytic shellfish poisoning. When ever we catch a monkfish, also known as a goosefish, one of the scientists on the watch crew dissects it for vertebrae for a study they are doing on aging the fish and its reproductive stage.

Once all the organisms are measured, weighed, dissected or cleaned, the remainder of the pile is shoveled in large baskets and thrown back into the ocean.  Each basket and bucket is rinsed as is each FSCS station.  If another tow is arriving shortly, the watch crew prepares for repeating this process. The steps happen in relatively that order, however they also occur in a sort of unison and the watch crew starts to form a rhythm.  The watch chief and veteran crew members help any of the new folks on board, which is great since we are sometimes unsure what to do next or how to do a new task.  The old saying of many hands make light work definitely applies here. With each tow there are surprises to dig for. Sometimes you get to see large egg cases or beautiful shellfish and unusual fish.

With all of this said, the all call has just given us a ten minute to station call.  I must get ready for whatever treasures will be brought up with this collection.

Susie Hill, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 19.4° C
Sea Temperature: 20.9 ° C
Relative Humidity: 83%
Barometric Pressure: 1019.4 millibars
Windspeed: 19.32 knots
Water Depth: 48.5 meters
Conductivity: 045.16 mmhos
Salinity: 33 ppt

Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)
Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)

Science and Technology Log 

My NOAA Teacher at Sea Journey begins! We set sail this morning at 9:00 a.m. on the NOAA ALBATROSS IV Ship out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts to assess the scallop populations between Long Island, New York and Georges Bank of the Altantic Ocean. The areas being studied are chosen by the stratified random sampling method that is based on depth and bottom composition. Some other stations are specially selected by the scientists for further studying.  Among the sea, calico, or Icelandic species of scallops, we’ll also be pulling up species of fish and crab that will be studied by other scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, pronounced as Hooey around here). Stacey Rowe is our Chief Scientist for this trip.

We started off our day with the fire drill where we find our assigned stations and wait for directions by the Ship’s Captain. My station was the wet science lab near the stern (or back) of the ship with the other scientists. Next was the abandon ship drill where we grabbed our “gumby” survival suit and life jacket, and went to our next station which was Life Raft #5. The gumby suit was cool! Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy following orders to get in station. Then, we did a “test tow” of the dredge to see if it worked. The dredge is the metal net that the ship uses to scoop up the animals from the sea bottom for sampling. Last, we caught species of flounder (left eye and windowpane), cancer crabs, and sea robins. The area that we dredged is not popular with scallops, so we didn’t pull any up. Our job as volunteers was to sort and weigh the collected species.  I am working the noon-midnight shift, so I’ll be getting ready now to take my place in prepping for our wonderful catch! Wish me luck!

Cool Fact for the Day 

The Virginia fossil is the scallop, Chesapecten jeffersoni.

Maggie Flanagan, July 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 9, 2007

Meaghan Darcy with a 70.2cm opakapaka (Pristopimoides filamentosus).
Meaghan Darcy with a 70.2cm opakapaka (Pristopimoides filamentosus).

Science and Technology Log – Interview with Meaghan Darcy, scientist 

Meaghan Darcy, from Rhode Island, is a research technician for our lobster survey.  We spend our days helping with lobster traps, but in the evenings our science work includes sampling the many species of bottomfish in the Hawaiian Islands.  Meaghan is a Ph.D. candidate working with the Fisheries Center and Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, specializing in Hawaiian bottomfish.  Meaghan has always been interested in biology, but a semester of study in the Caribbean  included research with fisherman and inspired her to pursue the science of fisheries.

What is the focus of your current research? 
Meaghan is working on a management strategy evaluation for the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery.  The bottomfish fishery targets about 13 different species across 3 designated zones, which are fished at depths of 50 to 600+ feet using hydraulic hand lines with up to 10 hooks per line. The targeted bottomfish include several snappers (ehu, opakapaka, onaga, kalekale, gindai, and lehi), grouper (hapu`upu`u), and jacks (kahala, butaguchi, and ulua). One reason bottomfish are popular as a commercial product is that they don’t feed much on reefs, and so are less likely to carry ciguatera poisoning, however, kahala has been associated with ciguatera and is no longer highly sought after. The first step in evaluation is to use a simulation model to simulate the data gathering process (i.e., simulate catch and effort data that would be similarly collected for the commercial fishery). Meaghan will then use an estimation model to estimate bottomfish abundance relative to a target abundance using the simulated catch and effort data.  Based on the results from the assessment model, a management policy is set and applied to the simulation and estimation models to determine the policies impact.  Using this approach, the potential success of a variety of different possible fishery management strategies can be evaluated.  Meaghan will also apply this approach using the Hawaiian bottomfish commercial fishery data and her conclusions will offer insight on best management practices for the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery. 

Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan with a 71.2cm hapu`upu`u (Epinephelus quernus)
Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan with a 71.2cm hapu`upu`u (Epinephelus quernus)

What are the challenges in your research? 
The Hawaiian bottomfish is a multi-species fishery, where several different species may come up on the same line. This simultaneous capture makes scientific evaluation of the fishery more difficult.  The reported catch per unit effort (CPUE) data is not species specific, and this grouping ignores differences in the life histories and catchabilities of different species. Different habitats preferred by juveniles and different ages of maturity and breeding lumped together in management may influence decline of one bottomfish species, while not another.

Some of the management strategies have drawbacks along with potential benefits. Currently in the Main Hawaiian Islands, the bottomfish fishery is being managed under a seasonal closure policy during peak spawning periods (May 15, 2007 – October 1, 2007) to maximize the number of fish breeding. Over the next couple of years Hawaii is moving towards a quota system where a total allowable catch (TAC) will be set. Under a quota system when the TAC is reached, the fishery is closed for the remainder of the year.  In practice, TAC can produce a “race for the fish” which encourages competition at the expense of conservation while fishing. Quotas can be effective, but require the infrastructure for widespread monitoring in real time and making annual assessments.  Size limits are another possible strategy, which could be complicated by the multi-species nature of the fishery.

Another possible strategy would be to establish marine protected areas,where commercial fishing isn’t allowed.  This may lead to increased pressure on other marine areas, if fishing effort isn’t reduced, but just forced to relocate.  Now that the North West Hawaiian Islands have become part of the Marine National Monument, commercial fishing is being phased out of those waters and the management strategies evaluated in Meaghan’s thesis will be mainly relevant to the Main Hawaiian Islands, which already suffer from overfishing. Through acknowledging these challenges in her research, Meaghan is developing novel approaches to management strategy evaluation.  Her objectives include modeling the fishermen’s behavior to better understand how they will respond to different management strategies, and identifying effective management tactics for the multi-species nature of this fishery.

What inspires you about your work? 
Meaghan is excited to be working on real issues in fisheries, where her efforts are applied to real situations. She’s interested in quantitative expertise and population dynamics as tools for her work. Hawaii has recently begun expanding management of the bottomfish fishery, and recommendations through Meaghan’s evaluation will be very relevant for developing policy.

Personal Log 
Besides teaching me about the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery, Meaghan also taught me how to work the fishing gear. She is a wonderful role model for women in science, and a great crewmate!

Maggie Flanagan, July 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 7, 2007

A turkeyfish and white spotted toby found in lobster traps.
A turkeyfish and white spotted toby found in lobster traps.

Science and Technology Log – Bycatch 

Though spiny and slipper lobsters are our target species for sampling, many other interesting creatures are interested in our bait, and wind up in our traps.  Some of the smaller creatures spend a little time in our on board aquarium for observation and acclimation.  These fish are upside down because their swim bladders, which regulate buoyancy in the ocean, have not yet adjusted to the surface (barotrauma).  They wouldn’t survive if they were immediately released. The turkeyfish, aka Hawaiian lionfish, Dendrochirus barberi, is red/orange with large fins. It has venomous spines in its dorsal (back) fin, and will lunge pointing them at a threat.  We used a net instead of gloves to observe this one. This fish in known to enjoy a meaty diet, eating other smaller fish. The Hawaiian white spotted toby, Canthigaster jactator, is a sharp nose puffer, brown with white spots. This toby is endemic to Hawaii, found naturally only in Hawaii.  These fish can make themselves swell in size to ward off predators by filling their stomachs with water. They carry a toxin in their skin, which can harm other aquarium creatures if released.

Swimming crab (Charybdis paucideutis?) and hermit crab (Dardanus brachyops)
Swimming crab (Charybdis paucideutis) and hermit crab (Dardanus brachyops)

The red figure in the background of the above photo is a sea hare, Aplysioidea, aka sea slug. These invertebrates are hermaphroditic, carrying both male and female sex organs. We also encounter a variety of crabs with a variety of adaptations.  Hermit Crabs, Dardanus,  have been the most numerous in our traps, and there are reported to be up to 2000 species of hermit crabs world-wide.  They take over the shells of marine snails and keep their soft abdomens tucked inside. Many of the hermit crabs we’ve found in the North West Hawaiian Islands take protection even one step further – they keep anemones on their shells. The anemones eject bubble-gum-pink stinging threads called acontia when threatened. We wear gloves when handling the crabs to protect ourselves. Scientists have discovered that the anemones don’t live on the shells when the snail is alive, and that hermit crabs will actually move their anemones from shell to shell as they move to new shell homes.  They figure that the anemones benefit from mobility with the crab and from food particles spread by the hermit crabs as they rip and shred.

Swimming Crabs, Charybdis, are the most aggressive crab in the trap.  In both body and behavior they’re similar to the blue claw crabs of my home waters, so I was prepared for their quick attempts to pinch and slice my fingers.  Their last pair of legs is oval like a paddle – perfect for swimming. On board, we call the box crab, Calappa calappa, the Vader crab. Its claws fold perfectly into its oval body, making it look like the face mask of that notorious space villain. These crabs can be mean too; those wide claws are powerful and help the crab eat mollusks.  Imagine how well camouflaged it is folded up down in the sand.

A box crab (Calappa calappa), a.k.a., the Vader crab
A box crab (Calappa calappa), a.k.a., the Vader crab

Personal Log 

During our lobster survey work, we catalogue the other animals that also get in the traps, and release them as healthy as possible. The creatures that you catch unintentionally are generally called bycatch. A current issue in commercial fishing is animals killed and wasted because they’re caught as bycatch, and not sold or eaten.  Many times they’re dumped back in the sea dead.  It’s a complicated issue on a global scale considering the definitions of what makes bycatch, all the different kinds of fishing gear, the variety of marine ecosystems, applications of technology, and the multiple political and economic groups involved.  There are many figures being reported, from 30% to over 50% of the take winding up as wasted bycatch, or perhaps 28 million metric tons world-wide. But, statistics on this topic are difficult to determine, which makes solving the problem even more difficult.  Technology has innovated some fishing gear which particularly reduces the bycatch of sea turtles and marine mammals, and recent focus on bycatch by type of fish and type of gear may inspire more solutions to this serious problem.

David Riddle, July 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 25, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Science-wise, catches of scallops have been variable. Sometimes we’ve hauled in huge numbers; other times almost none.  We’re still sorting and counting and measuring fish from every catch, and as we move back northward, a little east of our starting point now, the fish species have begun to change.  We’ve even caught a few lobsters.

I’ve been trained to do several different jobs so far.  I’ve monitored the computer station while collecting the CTD data, determining salinity by lowering the device over the side that measures conductivity, temperature, and density within 5-10 meters of the bottom.  I’ve also helped download the data from the inclinometer, which results in a graph showing the angle of the dredge relative to the bottom during the tow.

I’ve learned the procedures for measuring and collecting additional data on little skates. They’re the fish that look like stingrays.  We measure, length, width, weight, and determine degree of sexual maturity.

Now I’m doing the starfish count, every third tow.  My job is to collect a random bucket full of the by-catch (the leftovers) after everything else countable has been removed, then sort, count, and weigh the starfish according to species.  Sometimes the whole catch is mostly starfish, so there’s plenty to keep me busy.

Sightings:  This afternoon I saw the dorsal fins of two ocean sunfish (Mola mola). I would have assumed they were sharks, since all that was visible was the fin, but the fishermen said you could tell by the shape of the fin and the way it moved through the water. The Peterson Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes says they’re among the largest of the marine bony fishes.  (Whale sharks and basking sharks are larger, but sharks have cartilage instead of bony skeletons.) Sunfishes can be as large as 3 meters long and 3.3 meters tall, and they may weigh over two tons.

Personal Log 

Several days have passed since my last log entry.  I’ve been making some hand-written notes, but they’re mostly about our encounter with the fringes of Tropical Storm Beryl and my re-encounter with seasickness.  Everyone has been very understanding, and I’ve appreciated it. I’m feeling back to normal now.

David Riddle, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 17, 2006

A seahorse that came up with the dredge
A seahorse that came up with the dredge

Science and Technology Log

It’s almost halfway through my watch now, and I have a little down time.  The day started with several stations that were close together, which kept us busy. Now the sampling stations are farther apart, and I’ve had time to work on some photographs of shells.

Our catches turn up lots of interesting creatures.  Some I recognize from my college invertebrate zoology course (oh, so many years ago!)  Others I’ve only seen pictures of.  There are occasional sea squirts, bulbous little creatures that squirt a stream of water when squeezed.  We find an occasional “sea mouse”, a polychaete worm, bristly-looking on the backside and shaped sort of like, well, a mouse.  Underneath you can see the segments.  Hermit crabs are abundant; many of them simply abandon their shells when they’re dumped onto the deck. This is probably not a good survival strategy, since they get dumped back overboard only to drift slowly to the bottom without any protection at all. Oh well, most everything in the ocean is somebody else’s lunch anyway. We find other species of crabs as well.  The larger ones are set aside and are sitting in a bucket which has seawater continually being pumped through it to keep them alive. I wonder whose lunch they’ll turn out to be?  We’ve caught a few small dogfish sharks, under two feet in length.  I’m told on some of the ground fish surveys they catch tons of them (literally). Considerably smaller were two needlefish, about 6 inches long and ••• inch wide.

I find myself wondering things like, “What must it be like to be that small, living in this huge ocean?”  Them I’m reminded of our little planet’s location in our galaxy, and the Milky Way’s tiny place in a universe with millions of other galaxies.  OK. Humility is a good thing.

Then too, I’m reminded that small is not always equivalent to unimportant.  Do you like breathing?  Well, consider that roughly 3 out of every 4 breaths you take come to you courtesy of the phytoplankton in the oceans of the world.  There they are, soaking up the sunshine and the carbon dioxide and pumping out huge quantities of oxygen every single daylight hour. They’re microscopic, but their importance in the overall scheme of life on this planet is enormous. I suppose it would be helpful to remember, while we’re busy saving the whales, we should take care of the little guys too.  But then, how would “Save the Plankton” look on a T-shirt or bumper sticker?

On a more practical note, we’re due to reach our turn-around point in 5 more stations.  We will have reached our southernmost latitude, which will put us due east of the North Carolina-Virginia border.  Then we’ll begin making our way back up the coast, stopping at the stations in shallower waters.  I flew to Boston from my home in western NC to take part in this Teacher at Sea experience.  So this is the closest to home I’ll be for the next 12 days.

I keep thinking I’m done with my log for the day and then something else happens.  At station 99 we caught a seahorse!  The depth was 24 fathoms, and I seriously doubt it was on the bottom, but when the dredge came up, there it was on deck.

Sightings: The osprey was still here this morning, but as of late afternoon it was gone.

David Riddle, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 15, 2006

Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!
Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!

Science and Technology Log

We’re in an area now with an abundance of scallops, and most of them are large. When the catch is emptied from the net onto the deck, it takes 6 to 8 people working steadily, on hands and knees, to separate the scallops from the rest of the catch.  We’ve gotten up to 16 bushels so far in one 15 minute tow, using an 8 foot dredge. If the next station is nearby, we just have time to get the measurements completed and clean up before it’s time to start again.  But it’s not always that busy.  If the next station is several miles away, we get time to sit for a few minutes and relax.

During one of my relaxing moments, I photographed some of the fish that were caught along with scallops and starfish and everything else.  We catch small skates, which are shaped like stingrays, with a broad, diamond-shaped body and an elongated narrow tail.  We also catch goosefish, sometimes called angler fish, with mouths agape, showing rows of needle-like teeth. We catch flounder too.  All of these are bottom-dwellers, probably too slow to swim away from the net, or else when they feel the net coming they just hunker down in their standard defensive posture, which unfortunately is no help when the thing that’s coming after you weighs nearly a ton and is being dragged at between 3 and 4 knots.

Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.
Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.

As we have moved farther south today, I’ve begun noticing scallops with different patterns on their shells. Some look like sunbursts; some are striped.  I’ve collected a few to take home.  I want to get some photos of live scallops also. When they open their shells you can see the row of eyes along the margin of the gills.  Scallops can swim, which is unusual for a bivalve. The powerful muscle (the part we eat) which holds the shells together, opens and closes the shell in rapid succession. This draws water in between the shells and forces it out the back near the hinge in little concentrated jets. Scallops swim by jet propulsion!  Prior to sailing, we saw a brief film clip showing a group of scallops swimming, in a jerky, erratic motion.

Sightings: An osprey landed on the mast about 11:00am.  The fishermen say we’re about 20 miles offshore, so I imagine he/she is pretty tired.  Maybe it will hang around for a while. Later…It’s 9:00 pm now and the osprey is still perched on the mast.  I expect it will still be here in the morning.  Another small songbird showed up later in the afternoon. I didn’t see it, so I don’t know the species.  The fishermen offered it some fresh water, but it didn’t drink.  They say it probably won’t survive this far out, if it won’t drink. Even so, some birds seem quite at home this far out.

Personal Log 

Midnight notes: We did 18 stations in 12 hours; several were back to back.  Do you think I’m ready for a shower and bed?  Does a scallop live in the ocean?

Susan Just, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 356◦
Wind speed: 11.1
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height:1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.7
Cloud cover: 5/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This watch began, again, with fish waiting on the deck. We processed that catch just as we had all the others. While we were processing, another catch of fish were being collected. A CTD was also performed. When the fish catch has been processed, it is necessary to return the processed organisms to the sea. There is a shoot in the wetlab designed for this purpose. The shoot has not been working properly so far on this cruise. During our watch it backed up completely. Water was rising up through the drain in the floor. Clearing the blockage took several hours.

The catch was sitting on the deck and we had no reason to believe that we would get the shoot clear any time soon. The Watch Leader elected to process the catch “dry” so we separated and identified the species without the benefit of water to clean the organisms. Following this catch, the shoot was cleared and the lab was cleaned. We are now making our way south to assess the Texas Gulf Coast shrimp prior to the beginning of their season..

Personal Log 

What a mess! Each organism had to be dipped into water just so that we could be sure it was identified properly. We found hundreds of little shrimp that are not even harvested for food purposes.

Question of the Day 

Where do the shrimp live?  Answer: In the mud on the bottom of the sea.

Mike Lynch, June 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 22, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Safety gear
Safety gear

Scientific Log

Our first real shift for the DELAWARE II Ocean Clam Survey began this morning off the coast of Long Island. The shift stated at midnight, so we were awaked at 11: 15. Our first dredge occurred at 2:15 AM. We are working in a crew of six. Two of us input data into the FSCS computer as the deck crew coordinates with the boatswain in charge of the winch. Safety is a big issue on the NOAA vessel, and scientists are not allowed on deck while the dredge is being lowered off the stern. A high voltage cable is fed out along with the winch cable, and no one is allowed ion the deck until the dredge is in position for tow. Our job upstairs is to coordinate with the Officer of the Day when each step is being done and input his into the computer. Each actual tow takes five minutes, but the entire process of lowering the dredge, dredging and raising the dredge onto the deck takes about 25 minutes. When the dredge is brought up, our job begins.

Measuring a larger clam
Measuring a larger clam

We often start by places a smaller mesh screen at the front of the dredge in order tot capture the contents and releasing the dredge into a tow to wash away some of the debris and substrate soil. When the dredge is brought in the second time it is hauled up to an enormous table where the contents are released for inspection of our crew. It is then our task to sort through large amounts of shell hash, rock and substrate and find the living organisms.  Our trawl today has been averaging at depths of 60 meters (180ft. or 30 fathoms in you want to be really cool and nautical). This is Ocean Quahog territory. True to form, our first three station trawls resulted in large numbers of Ocean quahogs as well as the assorted species. For commercial fisherman, these other species are often referred to as discard. These are unwanted species, or at least not the targeted stock. Today along with the quahogs, we caught several varieties of clams. These smaller clams were varieties such as Asterias, Astarte, Astrope, and Razor. We also collected Sea Scallops and Horse mussels. We Few fish are caught in bottom dredges, but we did catch one small Sea Robin and a small Skate. At first, I thought the unwanted species were called bycatch, but through interviews with on board fishermen and scientists I was informed that the term bycatch more commonly refers to sea mammals, reptiles or marine birds that are accidentally caught or killed in commercial fishing.

Sea stars caught in the dredge
Sea stars caught in the dredge

For example, in the area of scallop dredging, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the bycatch of endangered species of Sea Turtles. After each tow the catch was sorted, measured for length, and weight and catalogued into the computer database. What used to be done by pencil and paper is now done via electronic scans and scales. For quahogs under 40 mm, or above 110 mm in length, we conducted meat weigh measurements as well. This is hard work, and the ship conducts non-stop tows and data collection 24 hours a day. We are learning fast and having fun. The six-hour shift flew by and I was exhausted. A great morning, in bed by 7AM, and ready for the next shift at 11:30 AM. What a weird schedule. We have all been at it for a day and a half, and no one seems to know what day it is. As part of today’s log, I need to share what I have learned about the mysterious Ocean Quahog. The IO\Ocean Quahog, (Antica Islandica) is found from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras. They are usually found in depths from 8 to 256 meters. They are a relatively cold-water species and are rarely found in waters above 16 degrees Celsius.

lynch_log3cTheir population densities are greater in off shore waters and they prefer a substrate of fine sand. In Maine they are found in shallower waters, but the populations are small, and the species grows at a slower rate. The average size is about 70mm.  But today we had one at 110mm. What are really incredible about Ocean Quahogs are their ages. The scientists we interviewed today estimated that most of the many of bushels of quahogs we captured were in the 45 year old range. Quahogs can be in excess of 170 years old. Their most dramatic growth occurs in their first twenty years of life and the growth process slows significantly. Their ages are incredible, I may have to feel guilty the next time I spoon into clam chowder.  Marine biologists have been finding that the Ocean Quahog, like the Atlantic Surf Clam, has shifting population strata. Surveys conducted over the past two decades and commercial fishing statistics show a pattern in which the Surf Clams are establishing themselves in deeper areas where quahogs previously predominated, and that the quahog populations are showing patterns of migration further offshore and further to the North.

One scientist onboard speculated that clam and quahog surveys might be important in the study of global warming.  Ocean Quahogs have a commercial market value. The principal commercial fishing for the species occurs off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey, Long Island and even Southern New England. In 1993, the commercial harvest of Quahogs reached its zenith at 25,000 metric tons. In 2000, the harvest had diminished to 14,000 metric tons. The decline in the fishery has been in part due to increased regulations under the Surf Clam- Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FPM), but also due to a decrease in the number of clamming boats and a depressed commercial market.  Despite the reduction in total landings, the Quahog stock may be in jeopardy. The total landings are less than two percent of the total environmental stock, but any greater landings may threaten replacement levels and sustainability of this slow growing species.

Personal Log

Things were going along well until electrical problems with the dredge shut us down. Time to go to work on a different sort of problem.

Jeff Grevert, June 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 15, 2005

The dredge
The dredge

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

0000- 0600: After one successful trawl, an electrical component on the dredge lost power. During the next four hours, scientists and engineers dismantled the component and realized that it had a leak which allowed water to enter. The component was most likely damaged when the dredge was dragged over rocks yesterday. The component was repaired by the end of my watch. We then went off watch and ate dinner. When I awoke for my next watch, I learned that the next watch (0600-1200) also experienced power loss to the component.  Again it had to be dismantled and repaired.

1200-1800 The dredge and all components worked smoothly for my second watch.  Our trawls yielded few clams however.  One trawl filled the dredge with nothing but benthic sediment.  After being relieved by the next watch I ate dinner and went to work on lesson plans and interviews.

grevert_log8a

Jeff Grevert, June 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 14, 2005

Skates!
Skates!

Weather Data

Latitude: 40° 28′ N
Longitude: 69° 27′ W
Visibility: < 1nm
Wind Direction: 230°
Wind Speed: 12 kts
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3 ft.
Sea Water Temp: 10.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1004.1 mb
Cloud Cover: 1/8 (Altocumulus)

0000- 0600 Went on watch. Conducted a few trawls which yielded ocean quahogs. Bycatch included little skates and starfish. At the end of my watch I ate breakfast and went to sleep.

1200-1800 Conducted more successful trawls. This was the first day that my watch had two uninterrupted watches.  We got a lot of work done and had good clam yields.  Interesting bycatch included a goosefish. Not knowing any better, my cabin mate stuck his hand in the goosefish’s mouth and got bitten.  At the end of my watch I ate dinner and went to work on my lesson plans.

On the next watch the dredge hit an underwater rock field and got mangled.  The crew and scientists successfully replaced the front blade assembly with a spare. This halted operations for a while but soon we were back to work.

The goosefish has sharp teeth!
The goosefish has sharp teeth!

Jeff Grevert, June 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 13, 2005

Clam sizes
Clam sizes

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

We’re back underway 🙂 The repairs went well and the Delaware II set sail at 1400 hours. It was about a three-hour steam to our first sampling station.  Once we arrived, there was time on my watch to conduct one trawl. Only one Ocean Quahog was collected. Some bycatch included sea stars, sponges, sand dollars and a crab. At 1800 hours I went off watch and ate dinner. Later I worked on my lesson plans and collected data from the ship’s weather log.  Currently I’m waiting for my second watch (midnight).  I think I’ll get some rest.

Taking measurements and collecting data
Taking measurements and collecting data

 

Jeff Grevert, June 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 10, 2005

Sampling surf clams
Sampling surf clams

Weather Data
Latitude: 37° 51′ N
Longitude: 74° 25′ W
Visibility: 7 nm
Wind Direction: 182°
Wind Speed: 13 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temperature: 16.1° C
Cloud Cover: N/A, Clear

0000 – Went on watch.  Shortly after my watch started, we experienced generator issues.  The overhead lights in the science lab went out momentarily and we were on an emergency generator to keep the computers on.  Both generators are required to work the wench that controls the dredge, so operations ceased for approximately the next four hours. At around 0400 the ship’s engineers fixed the problem, and trawling continued.  The few trawls we were able to conduct yielded fewer shellfish than in previous days. The watch chief explained that it probably had to do with the location of those specific stations we were sampling in the vicinity of Delaware Bay. Bycatch included a stargazer fish (Astroscopus sp.) and a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

0600 – Finished the assigned duties of my watch, ate breakfast, and went to sleep.

1200 – Went on watch.  We conducted one trawl with a small yield.  The catch included ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica) and several specimens of Chestnut Astarte (Astarte castanea). I must say that working with someone educated outside of the U.S. helps you to appreciate the value of binomial nomenclature.  Common names for the same organism are different all around, but the scientific name remains the same.

Soon after our first trawl, we experienced technical difficulties with the power pack that controls the wench which drives the sampling dredge weighing in at approx. 7,000 lbs (empty).  The ship’s engineers were unable to fix it with the present resources.  At this point, it was decided to turn around and head back to Woods Hole to obtain the parts necessary for repairs. We are currently on a 25hour trip back north from Delaware Bay to Woods Hole. After the power pack is repaired we will set out to continue sampling most likely in the vicinity of southern New England.

Since no sampling can take place, we are not standing watches at this time.  Most of the scientists are using this time for R&R by sleeping, listening to music, watching satellite TV, and viewing one of over 500 films on 8mm provided by the U.S. Navy Motion Picture Service.  Some of the films are still in theatres!  R&R is always nice, but I am eager to get back to work.

Making repairs
Making repairs

Jeff Grevert, June 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 9, 2005

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

Weather Data
Latitude: 38 39 N
Longitude: 73 50 W
Visibility: < 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: 190
Wind Speed: 10 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temp: 15.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.4 mb
Cloud Cover: Fog

0530 – I was awoken by a NOAA scientist.  He informed my cabin mates and me that the 6-12 watch had to wake up, and the 12-6 watch only had to wake up if they wanted breakfast. I got up to get a bite to eat.

1000 – Woke up and started preparing for the day. Ate lunch.

1200 – Went on watch.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

1500 – Arrived to our first sampling site.  Donned foul weather gear. We are now sampling in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 30 – 40 miles off Delaware Bay.  Our first trawl yielded Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica) and Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus).  Some bycatch included a few skates, a crab and some razor clams (Ensis directus). In a later trawl, I volunteered to go up into the trap to clear out any amount of the catch that was stuck in the apparatus.  I received instruction from the chief scientist on checking for bent valves in the water pump apparatus.  When the trap is lowered to the sea floor, a high-pressure water pump shoots water into the benthic zone directing shellfish into the trap.  The valves must be checked after every trawl to ensure that they are straight and clear. Bent valves must be replaced. I checked the valves for the remaining trawls in my watch and had to replace one.  After assisting with sorting the catches, I began to collect data on the Ocean Quahogs. Shell length, total mass and meat mass were collected.

1800 – Off watch. Ate dinner. Elected to stay awake to complete log entry and gather meteorological data from the ship’s weather log.  Preparing to back on watch from 0000 June 09 – 0600 June 10.

Activities on deck
Activities on deck

Jeff Grevert, June 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 8, 2005

Jeff Grevert, ready to set sail
Jeff Grevert, ready to set sail

Weather Data
Latitude: 41° 22′ N
Longitude: 070° 53′ W
Visibility: 5 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 11 kts
Sea Wave Height: 1′
Swell Wave Height: 2′
Sea Water Temp:  14.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1041.8 mb
Cloud Cover: 1/8; Altocumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log

0900 – DELAWARE II changed docks; I assisted with lashing the cargo net beneath the gangway.

1200 – Participated in an interview conducted by an intern at the National Marine Fisheries Service Ecosystems Surveys Branch. The objective is to create an interactive DVD to promote NOAA programs.

1300 – Embarked from Woods Hole Mass.

grevert_log1a1400 – All hands aboard the DELAWARE II participated in ship drills for fire and abandoning ship. All hands onboard had to report with a life jacket, a survival immersion suit, a hat, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. My station was the stern at life raft # 2.  On the stern, we all learned how to don our survival immersion suits.

1500 – The scientific crew and I participated in a practice bottom trawl to learn how to conduct clam surveys. The clam survey is the primary scientific objective of this cruise.  I was briefed on deck safety, chain of command and research protocol. After the trawl (~5 minutes), the scientific crew on watch and I sorted the catch.  The organism collected in the greatest abundance was the Surf Clam (Spisula soldissima).  Other organisms collected included sea stars of the genus Asterias.  The Surf Clams were sorted into three categories: live, clappers (a specimen where the bivalve shell and hinge are intact but with no meat) and dead (a bare half shell).  One of the scientists from the national marine fisheries service gave me training on entering data into the Fisheries Science Computer System.  This is a software application designed specifically for fisheries research.  Parameters recorded included: shell length, overall mass and meat mass.

1900 – The first officer of the DELAWARE II gave me instruction on understanding nautical codes from the ships log for recording cloud cover, cloud type and other meteorological conditions.  A nautical day starts at 1200 noon. Since we were still in port at that time, I recorded the first entry into the ship’s weather log.