Shelley Gordon: ACCESS Partnership, July 24, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Shelley Gordon

Aboard R/V Fulmar

July 19-27, 2019


Mission:  Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Survey (ACCESS)

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean, Northern and Central California Coast

Date:  July 24, 2019


Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) is a joint research project conducted by NOAA (Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary) and Point Blue Conservation Science. 

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages 13 sanctuaries and two marine national monuments, protecting a total of 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters within the United States.  Four of the sanctuaries are in California.  Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) is a large sanctuary that protects over 3,000 square miles of California coast and offshore marine habitat from San Francisco to Point Arena.  There are numerous beaches and costal habitats included in this sanctuary, as well as the Farallon Islands.  Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) is a smaller sanctuary around Cordell Bank, a large offshore seamount approximately 22 miles from the coast.  Sitting at the edge of the continental shelf, Cordell Bank is approximately 26 square miles in size, and while you cannot tell it is there from the surface, it supports a huge diversity of brightly colored sponges, corals, anemones, and other invertebrates.  Both sanctuaries protect a wide variety of living organisms across the food chain, from phytoplankton to blue whales.

Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones NMS
Map of Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. Map taken from cordellbank.noaa.gov

Point Blue Conservation Science is a non-profit organization that is working to combat climate change, habitat loss, and other environmental threats by helping to develop solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  They work with local natural resource managers (like National Marine Sanctuaries) to help monitor and improve the health of the planet. 

Scientists from each of these organizations have come together to work on ACCESS.  This project, started back in 2004, collects data on the physical conditions and living things within GFNMS and CBNMS.  Scientists use this data to document wildlife abundance, monitor changes over time, and help inform decisions about conservation efforts.  For example, data collected on the location of whales can help create policies to reduce threats to whales, like ship strikes and entanglements.   There are many huge ships that come in and out of San Francisco Bay on a daily basis.  Scientists are currently working with the industry to support a reduction in ship speed, which can reduce the likelihood of whales coming into dangerous contact with ship hulls.  Another threat to whales are entanglement in fishing gear.  Legal commercial crab fishing using crab pots occurs within the sanctuaries.  In recent years there have been greater incidents of whales being entangled in the buoy lines that fisherman use to help them collect the crab pots from the bottom of the ocean.  As the result of a recent lawsuit filed by ­­­­­the Center for Biological Diversity, the commercial crab season ended early this year to try to help protect the whales.

Adult Common Murre
Adult Common Murre. Photo: Dru Devlin

An interesting, and possibly concerning, phenomenon is being observed on our cruise.  Kirsten Lindquist, the seabird expert on this cruise, has seen a great number of Common Murres on the water during our data collection observations.  However, she has noticed a lack of chicks.  Common Murres nest on rocky outcroppings and the chicks leave the nest 15-25 days after they hatch, before they are able to fly.  The chicks then float on the water are fed by their parents for several weeks until they can feed themselves.  Generally, at this time of year she would expect to see a large number of adult and chick pairings floating on the surface of the water together.  Today we saw quite a few chicks floating with an adult, but this has not been the case during the other days on this cruise.  It is unclear why there are fewer Common Murre chicks than are typically seen.

Did You Know?

Dani and Shelley deploy CTD
Dani Lipski and me deploying the CTD, a device used to measure water conductivity, temperature, and depth. Photo: Jaime Jahncke

Scientists use “conductivity” as a measure of how salty the ocean water is.  If the water is relatively cold and salty that is a sign of “good” upwelling conditions, meaning that the cold water from the deep ocean is moving up over the continental shelf, bringing a high concentration of nutrients with it.  The upwelling along the California coast is a main reason why there is such a diversity of ocean life here.

Shelley Gordon: Life on Board R/V Fulmar, July 23, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Shelley Gordon

Aboard R/V Fulmar

July 19-27, 2019


Mission:  Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Survey (ACCESS)

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean, Northern and Central California Coast

Date:  July 23, 2019

Weather Data: Wind – NW 19-23 knots, gust ~30 knots, wind wave ~7′, swell SSW 1′ at 16 seconds; Partly sunny, with patchy fog early

R/V Fulmar
R/V Fulmar refueling at Spud Point marina in Bodega Bay.

During this week, I am living aboard R/V Fulmar.  The “research vessel” is a 67-foot catamaran (meaning it has two parallel hulls) with an aluminum hull.  This boat was specifically designed to support research projects in the three National Marine Sanctuaries along the central and northern California coast, and was first put in the water in 2007.  Normally, the Fulmar is based out of Monterey Bay harbor in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  However, this week she is being put to work on an ACCESS cruise in the two sanctuaries a little farther to the north, Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones.  

Fishing trawlers at Spud Point marina
Fishing trawlers at Spud Point marina.

Each evening, after a full day of collecting samples, the Fulmar motors back into the harbor for the night.  We are working out of two harbors on this cruise, Sausalito and Bodega Bay.  The vibe in each harbor is quite different.  Sausalito is full of private pleasure yachts, small sailboats, and live aboard boats/houseboats.  Spud Point marina in Bodega Bay is much more of a working marina.  The majority of the boats are large fishing trawlers.  It is currently salmon fishing season, and the boats that are working bring back their daily catch to the marina so that it can be transported to market.

The Fulmar is operated by two crew members on this cruise.  Clyde Terrell is the captain and Rayon Carruthers is the first mate.  In addition to the crew there have been 6-7 scientists on board, and myself.  Jan Roletto is a scientist from Greater Farallones, Kirsten Lindquist and Dru Devlin work at the Greater Farallones Association, and from Cordell Bank we have Dani Lipski and Rachel Pound.  Jaime Jahncke is lead Principal Investigator on ACCESS and works at Point Blue Conservation Scientist.  Kate Davis, currently a post-doc at the University of South Carolina, also joined the first half of the trip.

The boat has 5 main areas.  The “bridge” contains the digital and physical equipment that the crew uses to steer the ship.  There are several computers that display radar signals and a GPS map.  In the main cabin there are bunks for sleeping, a marine head (bathroom) with a toilet, sink, and shower, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a lab/work area.  The back deck is where most of the equipment for sample collecting is stored and put to use when samples are being collected.  On the top deck there are life rafts and safety equipment, as well as an additional steering wheel.  This is also where the team sits to make observations as we move along the transects.  Finally, there are two engine rooms underneath the main cabin.

Shelley in immersion suit
Me, putting on the immersion suit. Photo: Jan Roletto

Safety on the boat is obviously very important.  Before we went the first day, I received a full safety briefing and I got to practice donning an immersion suit, which we would need to wear in the case of an emergency where we might need to evacuate the ship and be exposed to cold water for a prolonged period of time.  The immersion suit is like a full-footed, full-fingered, and hooded wetsuit.  The goal is to be able to get into the immersion suit in less than two minutes, which was actually a little more difficult than I expected given that once you have the full-fingered gloves on it is difficult to effectively use your hands to finish zipping up the suit.  Anyone working on the back deck collecting samples is required to wear a life jacket or float coat and a hard hat. 

The daily activities on the boat vary depending on your role.  In general, we have been leaving the marina between 6:30-7:00am and there has typically been a 1-2 hour transit to the first data collection station.  During that time the team is generally relaxing, preparing for the day, or employing their personal strategy to combat seasickness (napping, lying down, or sitting in the fresh air on the top deck).  I’ve been fortunate to feel pretty good on this trip and haven’t struggled with seasickness.  Once data collection begins, my role on the back deck has been a series of action and waiting.  Since we are using heavy tools to collect data at significant depths, we use a crane and cable to hoist the equipment in and out of the water.  The winch that unwinds and winds the cable can lower or lift the equipment at a rate of ~20 m/min.  For the most part while the equipment is away from the boat we are waiting, and at times we have lowered data collection tools beyond 200m, which means a travel time of ~20 minutes, down and back.

Jaime and Kirsten
Jaime Jahncke and Kirsten Lindquist recording observations along ACCESS transect 3N.

However, today we actually did observation-only lines, so I had a lot of time to relax and observe.  The weather also turned a little bit today.  We had pretty dense fog in the morning, and more wind and rougher seas than on previous days.  But, near the end of the day, as we reached Drake’s Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore, the fog suddenly cleared and Point Reyes provided some protection from the wind.  The marine life seemed to appreciate the sun and wind protection as well as there was a large group of feeding seabirds and humpback whales right off the point.  We ended the day on a pleasant, sunny ride along the coast and underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, docking for the night in Sausalito.


Did You Know?

Humpback whales are migratory.  The population we are able to see here migrate annually from their breeding grounds off the coast of Mexico.  They come each summer to enjoy the nutrient rich waters of the California coast.  Humpback whales thrive here due to upwelling of nutrients from the deep ocean, which helps supports their favorite food – krill!  Humpback whales feed all summer on krill, copepods, and small fish so that they can store up energy to migrate back down to the warmer tropical waters for the winter breeding season.  I hope they get their fill while they’re here since they won’t eat much until they return, next summer.

humpback whale tail.
A humpback whale tail. Photo: Dru Devlin

Shelley Gordon: A Day on the Back Deck, July 20, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Shelley Gordon

Aboard R/V Fulmar

July 19-27, 2019


Mission:  Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Survey (ACCESS)

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean, Northern and Central California Coast

Date:  July 20, 2019

Weather data: Wind – variable 5 knots or less, wind wave ~1’, Swell – NW 7’@ 10sec / S 1’ @ 11sec, Patchy fog


Science Log

7:39am – We are about to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, heading west toward the Farallon Islands.  Several small fishing boats race out in a line off our port side, hulls bouncing against the waves and fishing nets flying in the wind.  I am aboard R/V Fulmar in transit toward data collection point 4E, the eastern most point along ACCESS Transect 4.  The TTG (“time to go,” or the time we expect to arrive at 4E) is estimated at 1h53’ (1 hour, 53 minutes), a figure that fluctuates as the boat changes course, speeds up, or slows down.  

This is my second day on an ACCESS research cruise.  Yesterday I got my boots wet in the data collection methods used on the back deck.  The ACCESS research project collects various types of data at specific points along transects (invisible horizontal lines in the ocean). Today we will be collecting samples at 6 different points along Transect 4.  With one day under my belt and a little better idea of what to expect, today I will aim to capture some of the action on the back deck of the boat throughout the day. 

9:41am – Almost to Station 4E. “5 minutes to station.”  This is the call across the radio from First Mate Rayon Carruthers, and also my signal to come down from the top deck and get ready for action.  I put on my rain pants, rubber boots, a float jacket, and a hard hat.  Once I have my gear on, I am ready to step onto the back deck just as the boat slows down for sample collection to commence.  At this first station, 4E, we will collect multiple samples and data.  Most of the sampling methods will be repeated multiple times through the course of the day at different locations and depths (most are described below). 

deploying hoop net
Dani Lipski and Shelley Gordon deploy the hoop net. Photo: Rachel Pound

10:53am – Station 4EX. We finished cleaning the hoop net after collecting a sample at a maximum depth of 33m.  The hoop net is a tool used to collect a sample of small living things in deep water.  This apparatus consists of an ~1m diameter metal ring that has multiple weights attached along the outside.  A 3m, tapered fine mesh net with a cod end (small plastic container with mesh vents) hangs from the hoop.  Attached to the net there is also a flow meter (to measure the amount of water that flowed through the net during the sample collection) and a depth sensor (to measure the depth profile of the tow).  To deploy the net, we used a crane and winch to hoist the hoop out over the surface of the water and drop the net down into the water. Once the net was let out 100m using the winch, we brought it back in and pulled it back up onto the boat deck.  Using a hose, we sprayed down the final 1m of the net, pushing anything clinging to the side toward the cod end.  The organisms caught in the container were collected and stored for analysis back at a lab.  On this haul the net caught a bunch of copepods (plankton) and ctenophores (jellyfish).

Kate Davis preps samples
Kate Davis fills a small bottle with deep water collected by the Niskin bottle.

11:10am – Station 4ME. Dani Lipski just deployed the messenger, a small bronze-colored weight, sending it down the metal cable to the Niskin sampling bottle.  This messenger will travel down the cable until it makes contact with a trigger, causing the two caps on the end of the Niskin bottle to close and capturing a few liters of deep water that we can then retrieve back up at the surface.  Once the water arrives on the back deck, Kate Davis will fill three small vials to take back to the lab for a project that is looking at ocean acidification.  The Niskin bottle is attached to the cable just above the CTD, a device that measures the conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth of the water.  In this case, we sent the Niskin bottle and CTD down to a depth of 95m. 

deploying the CTD
Dani Lipski and Shelley Gordon deploy the CTD. Photo: Rachel Pound

12:16pm – Station 4M. Rachel Pound just threw a small plastic bucket tied to a rope over the side of the boat.  Using the rope, she hauls the bucket in toward the ship and up over the railing, and then dumps it out.  This process is repeated three times, and on the third throw the water that is hauled up is collected as a sample.  Some of the surface water is collected for monitoring nutrients at the ocean surface, while another sample is collected for the ocean acidification project.

surface water sample
Rachel Pound throws a plastic bucket over the side railing to collect a surface water sample.

1:36pm – Station 4W. Using a small hoop net attached to a rope, Rachel Pound collected a small sample of the phytoplankton near the surface.  She dropped the net down 30ft off the side of the boat and then towed it back up toward the boat.  She repeated this procedure 3 times and then collected the sample from the cod end.  This sample will be sent to the California Department of Public Health to be used to monitor the presence of harmful algal blooms that produce domoic acid, which can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Tucker trawl net
Shelley Gordon, Dru Devlin, Jamie Jahncke, and Kirsten Lindquist prepare the Tucker trawl net. Photo: Kate Davis

2:54pm – The final sample collection of the day is underway.  Jaime Jahncke just deployed the first messenger on the Tucker trawl net.  This apparatus consists of three different nets.  These nets are similar to the hoop net, with fine mesh and cod ends to collect small organisms in the water.  The first net was open to collect a sample while the net descended toward ocean floor.  The messenger was sent down to trigger the device to close the first net and open a second net.  The second net was towed at a depth between 175-225m for ~10 minutes.  After the deep tow, a second messenger will be sent down the cable to close the second net and open a third net, which will collect a sample from the water as the net is hauled back to the boat.  The Tucker trawl aims to collect a sample of krill that live near the edge of the continental shelf and the deep ocean.

3:46pm – After a full day of action, the boat is turning back toward shore and heading toward the Bodega Bay Marina. 

5:42pm – The boat is pulling in to the marina at Bodega Bay.  Once the crew secures the boat along a dock, our day will be “done.”  We will eat aboard the boat this evening, and then likely hit the bunks pretty early so that we can rise bright and early again tomorrow morning, ready to do it all again along a different transect line!


Did You Know?

The word copepod means “oar-legged.” The name comes from the Greek word cope meaning oar or paddle, and pod meaning leg. Copepods are found in fresh and salt water all over the world and are an important part of aquatic food chains. They eat algae, bacteria, and other dead matter, and are food for fish, birds, and other animals. There are over 10,000 identified species of copepods on Earth, making them the most numerous animal on the planet.

David Knight: Summer Adventures, June 26, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Knight

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 10-23, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey

Geographic Area: Southeastern U.S. coast

Date: June 26, 2018

 

Weather Data from my patio in Mission Viejo, California

Latitude: 33.64
Longitude: -117.62
Sea wave height: 0 m
Wind speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: East
Visibility: 8.6 nm
Air temperature: 24 C
Barometric pressure: 1014 mb
Sky: Clear

Personal Log and Introduction

What a summer I am having! I just got back from an eight-day adventure to Belize with sixteen of this year’s AP Biology students. During our trip we hiked in the rainforest both during the day and at night, snorkeled the meso-American reef at South Water Caye, went tubing in a limestone cave, visited the Mayan site of Xunantunich, hiked into the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave system to see Mayan artifacts and remains, and zip-lined above the rainforest in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. Now I begin preparations for my Teacher at Sea adventure aboard NOAA Ship Pisces. What a life I lead… I sometimes feel as though I am living in a mashup episode of “Dora the Explorer”, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”, and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

TAS David Knight in Belize
El Castillo temple at Xunantunich. Behind me is Belize and Guatemala. (photo by David Knight)

I have been teaching at University High School in Irvine, California since 1990. UNI was my first and will be my only teaching position—I’ve found a great place and intend to teach there my entire career. The teachers in my department are not only my colleagues, they are my friends. I have so much respect for the staff at UNI because we all work hard to teach and serve the students and share a passion for investing in the lives of kids. The students at the school are motivated to learn, are respectful and encouraging of one another, and are supported by parents that value education. I frequently tell people, “when I got hired at UNI 28 years ago, I won the lottery!”

Throughout my career I have taught all levels of life science, from remedial biology to AP Biology and everything in between. My current teaching schedule includes Marine Science and AP Biology. I began teaching Marine Science four years ago and love the class. In Marine Science we get to study Oceanography and Marine Biology throughout the year so I get a chance to practice some of my physical science skills along with my love of biology. Teaching this class has reinvigorated me and has given me a chance to teach a diverse range of students. I know that my experience as a Teacher at Sea will benefit both Marine Science and AP Biology, but I also hope it will benefit my colleagues at UHS and in the Irvine Unified School District.

As previously mentioned, I just got back from a trip to Belize with my AP Biology students. For the past fifteen years I have been taking groups of AP Biology students outside the United States to see and experience the natural world first-hand. On our trips we have learned about tropical rainforest and coral reef systems, plants and animal diversity, and geology as well as many different cultures and customs in countries like Belize, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Iceland. My former students tell me that these trips have played an integral part of their high school experience and have given them opportunities to challenge themselves physically and mentally as well as a great appreciation for the world in which we live.

Me and my students
Me and my students on South Water Caye, Belize. (photo by David Knight)

As a Teacher at Sea I will be working with Dr. Nate Bacheler of the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center aboard NOAA Ship Pisces.  The NOAA Ship Pisces is a 208 ft. ship that was designed specifically for fisheries studies. The ship is designed to sail quietly through the water in order to better collect samples using a variety of collection methods including hook and line, traps, and video systems.  During my cruise on NOAA Ship Pisces I will be helping scientists survey snapper and grouper to better understand their distribution and abundance for better management of these economically important species. Additionally, we will be collecting bathymetric and water quality data at various sample sites.

 

Kimberly Godfrey: Trawl Away! June 6, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 6, 2018

 

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean along the California Coast

Date: June 6, 2018

Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 36° 59.462 N

Longitude: 122° 31.056 W

Wind Speed: 12.77 knots

Wind Direction: Northwest winds

Wave height: 2 to 3 feet with 4-6 foot swells

Air temperature: 12.76° C

Science and Technology Log

Our first official night on the Job was Sunday, June 4th. My shift is technically 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, but we could not begin trawling until the evening when skies were dark. If fish can see the net, they can avoid it. The method we use to catch fish is a midwater trawl, also known as a pelagic trawl, because the net fishes in the water column. It’s called a modified Cobb midwater trawl net. It has a cod end, the narrow end of a tapered trawl net where the catch is collected during the trawl.

Trawl Net
Diagram of a Trawl net used on NOAA Ships

Before we lower the net, the water around the ship must be clear of marine mammals. Thirty minutes prior to each trawl, someone stands the marine mammal watch on the bridge. Once the net is deployed, someone must be watching for marine mammals outside the entire time. If any marine mammals are spotted (this includes dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions), we report it to the officer on the bridge. The rule is that if we spot a marine mammal, the net must be hauled back in and we sail a mile away from the sighting. Marine mammals are protected and we do not want any caught in the net.

When the net is in the water, we trawl for 15 minutes at 30 m deep. Optimal speed is about 2 knots, but that is weather dependent. During this time, our deck crew, and Survey Technician monitor each step of the haul, reporting back to the officer on the bridge. As they haul the net in, the deck hands and Survey Technician work together to make sure the catch goes into the bins for sorting.

Winch
The winch used to deploy and haul in the trawl net on the Reuben Lasker

Trawl net with Cod end
Survey Technician Jaclyn Mazzella, Deck Hands Ethan Skelton and Raymond Castillo, and NOAA Fisheries Intern Thomas Adams dropping the cod end of the net into a bin to collect our catch.

Pyrosomes and salps
First catch of the first trawl. Some fish and squid are present, but this catch was dominated by salps and pyrosomes.

I didn’t know what to expect from our first catch. Maybe we would have some fish, crabs, squid…However the first catch brought something I never saw before. Lots of Thetys!

Thetys
Thetys

Thetys are a type of salp. Salps are planktonic, colonial tunicates from the phylum Chordata. We also had pyrosomes, another type of colonial tunicate. They are efficient feeders, filtering particles of plankton from the water. It is expected that in areas where salps are prevalent, one can expect to find less of other species from the same trophic level.  For this catch, that happened to be the case.

Pyrosomes
Pyrosomes, another type of planktonic, colonial tunicate.

As of today, I officially completed 3 shifts on the job, which included 12 trawls in total. It seems that each catch was dominated by 1 or 2 species. There were other species present, but we had to sort through the catch to find them.

We had a catch that was loaded with anchovies, another with krill, and one full of pelagic red crabs. I find this to be one of the most interesting parts of the work, anticipating what we will find. There are many variables that can impact the productivity of an ecosystem, and therefore can determine what we find. Things like salinity, sea surface temperatures, upwelling, proximity to land or open ocean, and human impact, can all influence an ecosystem.

Anchovies
This is me with Fisheries Intern Thomas Adams, stunned by the amount of anchovies we had in this catch. Photo by Keith Sakuma

Krill
This catch consisted predominantly of krill species. Some catches will have 3 to 4 different species of krill

So, what do we do with our catches once we have them? We count them, and there is a method to the count. Depending on the size of the catch, we may measure out 1,000 ml, 2,000 ml, or 5,000 ml. We start with that first bucket and count every individual (species like krill or salps are measured by volume). The numbers are reported to Keith Sakuma, our chief scientist, and recorded in a handwritten data sheet, then transferred to an excel document. After the first bucket, we may focus on sorting for all other species except the predominant species. For example, for our large anchovy catch, we sorted through approximately 60 liters of fish. We didn’t count every single anchovy, but based on our primary count, we can use the total volume to estimate. However, we sort through looking for all other species and record the findings.

Sorting and Counting
Here we are counting the first 5,000 ml bucket of anchovies. Here you can see we separated out the other species and count them as well.

Leg 2 Team Rockfish Recruitment and Assessment Survey
Here is the team starting clockwise from the left: Melissa Monk, Stephanie Oakes, Thomas Adams, Becky Miller, and Kimberly Godfrey. Photo taken by Keith Sakuma

We will record each species we find, and then we have a list of specified species that need to be measured.  We take the first twenty specimens of each so we have a record of the average size fish caught in that specific location and time. We focus on measuring the species of fish that have the most ecological and economic importance. These are the prey and those that are consumed by us. Therefore, they are also likely to suffer from human impact. Learning about these species are important to the understanding of what makes them successful, and how to mitigate the things that negatively impact their productivity.

Measuring specimens
This is me, measuring species of focus for this survey. Afterward, we bag and freeze those needed for further analysis back on land, and the rest get washed back to sea.

Caliper
Electronic caliper used to measure the specimens. It has a USB cable that connects to the computer and immediately records data into a spreadsheet.

Data Sheet
This data sheet is a record of all the measured species from our catches.

So far this is our routine. Tonight, we had a break from trawling as we transit up to Davenport, just North of Santa Cruz.  The current conditions are not favorable for trawling, so we will get back to work tomorrow evening. While we take it easy, our NOAA officers navigate the ship up the coast. I had the opportunity to speak to our Executive Officer (XO), Lieutenant Commander Emily Rose.

How did you come to work for NOAA?

I went to the University of Hawaii and got my degree in Meteorology. From there, my friend referred me to someone who currently worked in the NOAA Corps. The things she told me about the job piqued my interests, so I applied. I was selected in 2008. There was a 5-month training period, and then I was stationed in Hawaii on the Ka’imimoana, a ship that has since been decommissioned. I was sent to Santa Rosa, CA to work for National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) during my first land assignment, then I became the Operations Officer aboard the Okeanos Explorer. Before I joined the Reuben Lasker, I was stationed at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Boulder, CO for 2 years.

Since you have a degree in Meteorology, do you get to use what you’ve learned for your current position?

Every time I’ve been on a ship, I’ve been the defacto weather officer. On the Reuben Lasker, I haven’t had to do too much with weather so far, but on other assignments I’ve done weather presentations and helped others like the CO (commanding officer) interpret weather patterns, and just to provide information to those who are interested in learning. It’s is not a career in Meteorology, but having a degree in a science that relates to what NOAA is beneficial. You use critical thinking skills throughout the job. If there is a challenge, you can come up with a solution. You also have math and physics, and a basic understanding of how things work. All these things help make operations successful.

What is the most important part of your job now?

The most important part of my job is to manage the ship’s crew. I make sure they are put first. I manage their time and attendance, their pay, their leave time, any personnel issues, etc. Anything they need, I am there for them. They are the reason we (the ship) are successful.

What is your favorite part of your job?

All of it! The variety. My job changes from day to day; there are new challenges each day. The variety makes it interesting.

What tool is the most important for you to do your job?

For me I would not be able to do a good job if I did not have a positive attitude. Sometimes we are faced with challenges that are not easy to fix without support and understanding. Having a positive attitude helps me get through it and helps others around me.

I also think it is important to be open-minded and be willing to try new things. There is a lot that we deal with that some have never dealt with before. Having an inquisitive mind and ability to be ready for anything are important.

When you applied for NOAA, did you know this is what you wanted to do?

Yes. Once I applied, I thought it would be pretty cool. I was also thinking about being a math teacher, or to pursue weather in the air force. I’m glad I didn’t because I get to do a whole lot more here than I would if I were in an air force weather center. Once the application process got rolling, and then I got an interview, I thought “Yeah, this is what I want to do.”

Was there something you found surprising about your job when you started?

There were a lot of surprises! You always have an idea of what you expect, but once we all got together for training, we learned something new every day. Some of us had never been on a ship before, some have never driven a small boat, some have never done any charting. And I still feel like I learn something new each day. Everybody that I’m around has a different background and experience, so it’s fun to learn from them.

If you weren’t working for NOAA, what would you be doing now?

I don’t think I would be doing something else. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on something. In fact, I tell people all the time about what they are missing! I’ve got to do more in this job than I ever thought I would. I’ve been all over the world, included places like Western Samoa, The French Marquesas, and the Marshall Islands.

If you were give advice to a young person considering a NOAA career, what would you recommend?

Anyone who is interested in going into NOAA as a scientist, crew member, or Corps Officer, one important piece would be to study hard and work hard, but keep in mind, grades are not the end-all be-all. Try hard and learn the material, and learn how to problem solve. Don’t be afraid of a challenge, and be ready to give 110% because that will help get you to the next level. For NOAA Corps specifically, having some experience working on a ship and understanding of nautical operations is beneficial. And don’t be afraid to reach out to someone from the NOAA Corps because they are willing to offer guidance.

What are your hobbies?

Sports! I play any sport that you ask me to, but I play on teams for soccer, softball, ice hockey, tennis, and a basketball league not too long ago. When I’m on land, I join as many teams as I can. I love riding my bike. On my last land assignment I went two years riding my bike to work and didn’t drive at all. My husband even bought me snow tires. You name it I’m game!

Did You Know…

  • Before you can set out, you must have multiple permits. Depending on where trawling occurs, one may need a permit for state waters and federal waters. Those conducting research may receive permits to trawl in both state and federal protected areas.
  • We keep some of the specimens for further analysis in the lab (back on land). There are various reasons scientists want to study further, including learning about their genetics, development, and reproduction. One group includes all the juvenile rockfish we find. Please stay tuned for the next blog to learn more about this part of the research.

Kimberly Godfrey: Preparing for the Adventure! May 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean along the California Coast

Date: May 25, 2018

Introductory Personal Log

One time, I had the chance to visit California for a conference, and I got to dip my feet into the Pacific Ocean. It was so cold! In less than a week I will be surrounded by Pacific waters as I set sail on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker for 12 days. The anticipation has been building since I learned of my assignment, and now the time has finally come.

My name is Kimberly Godfrey, and I am the Coordinator of the Women In Natural Sciences (WINS) Program at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (yes, that it a mouthful). The Academy (1812) is the oldest natural history research institution in the Western Hemisphere, and WINS just celebrated 35 years. WINS is a science enrichment, after-school program for high school girls in public and charter schools in Philadelphia. Our goal is to provide opportunities for exposure to the natural sciences in ways the students cannot find in the classroom. Our long-term goal is that they take what they learn and turn it into a career.  Most of our participants have had little to no real-world, hands-on science in the classroom, and they share many first-time experiences with the WINS staff and other participants.

WINS Participants peforming stream studies
WINS participants collecting macroinvertebrates to determine the health of a stream in Avondale, PA

WINS 2018 Seniors
2018 WINS Senior Farewell. Of our 15 graduates, 12 are pursuing STEM majors and careers!

That’s my favorite part of being a WINS girl. I can share my experiences and my knowledge with them. I have a degree in Marine Biology, and had the opportunity to participate in marine mammal research for 2 years. I taught about environmental science and wildlife conservation for 10 years prior to working at the Academy.  And, something that is important to me, I am a Philadelphia native who, like these young ladies,  knew little about my urban ecosystem while growing up in the city (the only eagles I ever saw growing up were the Philadelphia Eagles, you know, the 2018 Superbowl LII Champions! You may have heard it a time or two). It wasn’t until I returned from college that I began to explore the world right under my nose. Now I help them explore the wildlife in their backyard, and then push them to branch out of the city, the state, and even across the globe.

Over the past few weeks, I found it difficult to refrain from talking about my upcoming trip. I shared the information I’ve learned so far with some of my girls, and each time I share something new, they become equally excited to follow my adventure at sea. I met with one of the Academy’s fisheries scientists, Paul Overbeck, to learn how to remove an otolith.  Some of my preparation stories have led to a lot of joking and humor. For example, trying on every pair of waders, boots, and waterproof gear that we have, all of which are too big for my size 5 shoe and my 5’0” height; how my freshly caught blue fish dinner turned into a dissection in my kitchen as I practiced removing the otoliths; or how I randomly had the opportunity to meet Sian Proctor, 2017 TAS participant and face of the 2018 TAS application (she happens to be friends with one of my co-workers)! All of this leads to one very anxious and excited woman ready to set sail.

Blue fish otolith
Practicing how to remove an otolith on what was supposed to be my dinner.

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Beginning the process of removing a blue fish otolith.

TAS Participants K. Godfrey S. Proctor
Small world indeed! I had the chance to randomly meet Sian Proctor, 2017 TAS Participant.

Quite a few of our girls wish to explore Marine Science as a career, so my plan is to absorb everything I can and bring it back to them. I want them to know the importance of this research, and that this career is truly an option for any one of them. One day, I would love to see a WINS girl aboard a NOAA research vessel, dedicating their careers to the understanding and stewardship of the environment. That’s what NOAA’s mission is all about!

Did you know?

Scientists working with NOAA and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center have been conducting surveys along the California Coast since 1983. Along with rockfish (Sebastes spp.), they’ve been collecting abundance data and size information on other species including Pacific Whiting (Merluccius productus), juvenile lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax),  Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) market squid (Loligo opalescens), and krill (Euphausiacea). The information gathered from these studies is used to examine recruitment strength of these species because of their economic and ecological importance.

Visit NOAA”s website to learn more here https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=FED&ParentMenuId=54&id=19340

 

 

David Amidon: Science @ Sea, June 8, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 8, 2017

 

 

 

Science and Technology Log

The main scientific research being completed on the Reuben Lasker during this voyage is the Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey and it drives the overall research on the ship during this voyage. Rockfish are an important commercial fishery for the West Coast. Maintaining healthy populations are critical to maintaining the fish as a sustainable resource. The samples harvested by the crew play an important role in establishing fishery regulations. However, there is more happening than simply counting rockfish here on the ship.

How does it work? Let me try to explain it a bit.

 

First, the ship will transfer to a specific location at sea they call a “Station.”

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Collection stations off the California Coast that the Reuben Lasker trawls annually.

For a half hour prior to arrival, a science crew member will have been observing for Marine Mammals from the bridge area. When the station is reached, a new observer from the science crew will take over the watch outside on the deck. The fishermen on the boat crew will then unwind the net and launch it behind the boat. It must be monitored from the deck in order to ensure it is located 30 m below the surface. Once everything is set, then the ship trawls with the net at approximately 2 knots. Everything must be consistent from station to station, year to year in order to follow the standardized methods and allow the data recorded to be comparable. After the 15 minutes, then the crew pulls the net in and collects the sample from the net. This process is potentially dangerous, so safety is a priority. Science crew members can not go on the deck as they have not received the proper training.

 

 

Timelapse video of the fishermen bringing in a catch. 6/7/17 (No sound)

 

Once the sample is hauled in, the science personnel decide which method will be used to establish a representative sample. They pull out a sample that would most likely represent the whole catch in a smaller volume. Then we sort the catch by species. After completing the representative samples, they will eventually stop taking counts of the more abundant organisms, like krill. They will measure the volume of those creatures collected and extrapolate the total population collected by counting a smaller representative sample. Finally, we counted out all of the less abundant organisms, such as squid, lanternfish and, of course, rockfish. After the sample is collected and separated, Chief Scientist Sakuma collects all of the rockfish and prepares them for future investigations on shore.  

 

 

A selection of species caught off the coast of San Clemente. These include Market Squid, Anchovies, Red Crab, King-of-Salmon (the long ribbonfish), and Butterfish, among others.

NOAA has used this platform as an opportunity. Having a ship like the Reuben Lasker, and the David Starr Jordan before that, collecting the samples as it does, creates a resource for furtAher investigations. During the trawls we have catalogued many other species. Some of the species we analyzed include Sanddab, Salp, Pyrosoma, Market Squid, Pacific Hake, Octopus, Blue Lanternfish, California Headlightfish and Blacktip Squid, among others. By plotting the biodiversity and comparing the levels we recorded with the historic values from the stations, we gain information about the overall health of the ecosystem.

What happens to the organisms we collect? Not all of the catch is dumped overboard. Often, we are placing select organisms in bags as specimens that will be delivered to various labs up and down the coast.

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Collecting subsets for classification

This is a tremendous resource for researchers, as there is really no way for many of these groups to retrieve samples on their own. Rachel Zuercher joined the crew during this survey in part to collect samples to aid in her research for her PhD.

Along with the general species analysis, the team specifically analyzes the abundance of specific krill species. Krill forms the base of the marine ecosystems in the pelagic zone. They are a major food source for many species, from fish to whales. However, different krill species are favored by different consumers. Therefore, an extension of the Ecosystem Assessment involves determining the abundance of specific krill species. Thomas Adams has been responsible for further analyzing the krill collected. He counts out the representative sample and use microscopes to identify the species collected based on their physical characteristics.  

Additionally, at most stations a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth cast (CTD) is conducted. Basically, bottles are sent overboard and are opened at a specified depth.

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The apparatus for collecting water during CTD casts

Then they are collected and the contents are analyzed. Often these happen during the day prior to the Night Shift taking over, with final analysis taking place after the cruise is complete. This data is then connected with the catch numbers to further the analysis. Ken Baltz, an oceanographer on the ship, uses this information to determine the production of the phytoplankton based on the amounts of chlorophyll detected at depth. This is an important part of the food web and by adding in this component, it makes the picture below the surface clearer.

 

 

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NOAA Corps’ Ryan Belcher completing the CTD collection for a station.

Finally, there are two more scientific investigations running as we cruise the open seas during the daylight hours. Michael Pierce is a birdwatcher from the Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research who is conducting a transect survey of Seabirds and Marine Mammals. He is based on the Flying Bridge and catalogs any birds or marine mammals that pass within 300 meters of the ship’s bow. Although difficult, this study attempts to create a standardized method for data collection of this nature. As he explained, birds are more perceptive than we are – what looks like open ocean really varies in terms of temperature, salinity and diversity below the surface. Therefore, birds tend to favor certain areas over others. These are also important components of the food web as they represent upper level predators that are not collected in the trawl net. Also, on the bottom of the ship transducers are installed that are able to gather information through the EK60 Echosounder. This sonar can accurately identify krill populations and schools of fish underwater. Again, adding the data collected from these surveys help create a much more complete understanding of the food web we are analyzing out on the open sea.

 

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Sonar data from the EK60

Personal Log

 

Sunday, June 4

The waves were very active all day. Boy am I glad I’m wearing the patch. There was so much wind and the waves were so high, there was a question if we were even going to send the net out. High wind and waves obviously add an element of concern, especially for the safety of the boat crew working the net.

I spent some of the day up on the Bridge- the section of the boat with all of the navigation equipment. The Executive Officer (XO) gave me an impromptu lesson about using the map for navigation. They have state-of-the-art navigation equipment, but they also run a backup completed by hand and using a compass and straightedge just like you would in math class. Of note – the Dungeness Crab season is wrapping up and many fishermen leave traps in the water to catch them. When the boat is passing through one of these areas, someone will act like a spotter so the boat can avoid getting tangled up. When I was looking with him, we saw some whale plumes in the distance.

We did launch the net twice Sunday night, collecting a TON of krill each time. In the first batch, we also caught some squid and other small prey species. The second trawl was very surprising. Despite cutting it down to a 5 minute trawl, we caught about the same amount of krill. We also caught more squid and a lot of young salmon who were probably feeding on the krill.  

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That is a ton of krill!

 

Monday, June 5

I am getting used to the hours now – and do not feel as guilty sleeping past 2PM considering we are up past 6 in the morning. It will make for a tricky transition back to “the real world” when I go home to NY!

During the day, spent some time just talking with the science folks and learning about the various tasks being completed. I also spent some time up on the Flying Bridge as they said they had seen some Mola, or Giant Ocean Sunfish (although I did not see them). I did have a chance to make a few videos to send to my son Aiden’s 3rd grade teacher back in NY. It did not work out as well as I had hoped, but considering we are out in the middle of the ocean, I really can’t complain about spotty wi-fi.

Once we started the night shift, we really had a good night. We completed work at 5 stations – which takes a lot of time. We saw a LOT of biodiversity last night – easily doubling if not tripling  our juvenile rockfish count. We also saw a huge variety of other juvenile fish and invertebrates over the course of the night. We finally wrapped up at 6:30 AM, what a night!

Tuesday, June 6th

We found out today that we will need to dock the ship prematurely. There is a mechanical issue that needs attention. We are en route straight through to San Diego, so no fishing tonight. However, our timing will not allow us to reach port during the day, so we will get a chance to sample the southernmost stations Wednesday night. Thus is life at sea. The science crew is staying on schedule as we, hopefully, will be back on the water this weekend.

Wednesday, June 7th

After a day travelling to San Diego, we stopped at the stations near San Clemente to collect samples. Being much farther south than before, we saw some new species – red crabs, sardines and A LOT of anchovies. Closer to shore, these counts dropped significantly and krill showed up in numbers not seen in the deeper trawl. Again, I am amazed by the differences we see in only a short distance.

 

More from our anchovy haul- the bucket contains the entire catch from our second trawl, the tray shows how we analyzed a subset. Also on the tray you find Red Crab, Salps, Mexican Lanternfish and Krill.

 

David Amidon: The Night Shift, June 4, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 4, 2017

 

Science and Technology Log

All of the work for the Juvenile Rockfish Survey is completed at night – we probably will not even get going  most nights until after 9 PM. Wonder why so late? Any guesses?

This is a night time operation because we are focused on collecting prey species – we are not catching full grown rockfish, only juveniles which are less than a years old (YOY = Young of the Year). As Keith Sakuma, the Chief Scientist for the Reuben Lasker, explained – this survey gathers information about the juvenile rockfish so that NOAA can pass information onto the states in order to establish a sustainable fishery. This could lead to changes in fishing regulations based on the abundance of the juvenile stocks, which would be adults down the road. They trawl at night for two main reasons- during the day time, the rockfish would simply see the net and swim away. Also, many of the other creatures being catalogued are prey species that hide in the depths during the day to avoid predators, rising to the surface as the night moves on.

The night shift includes the science personnel and the crew of the boat. The boat crew not only operates the ship, but the fisherman also send out the trawl net and bring it back in. While the boat crew rotates on a specified schedule, the night-time science group keeps going until the work is done. However, these two groups are very much in sync and really work well together.  This blog entry will be my introduction into the procedures and initial results of our work from the first couple nights. I will provide much more detail in later posts.

The science personnel for this leg of the voyage includes myself and Chief Scientist Sakuma as well as Cherisa and Ryan, who are members of the NOAA Corps; Thomas, an undergrad student from Humboldt State; Rachel, a PhD student at UC-Santa Cruz; and Maya, a Hollings undergraduate scholar from UNC-Wilmington.

Pink shrimp 7
The Night Crew at work separating species during the shrimp haul. Photo by Keith Sakuma.

The Juvenile Rockfish Survey, boiled to its simplest terms, consists of a midwater trawling net behind the ship, meaning it does not float and it never touches the bottom. Anything caught will be sorted and analyzed by the science crew. In reality, it is a bit more complicated.

First of all, net operations take place at specified stations that the ship revisits periodically and have been used for some time. The stations for a night run on the same latitude line, running west away from the coast.

Before sending the net out, we need to run a Marine Mammal Watch from the bridge for 30 minutes. If a marine mammal, such as a sea lion, dolphin or whale, is spotted, then they make efforts to avoid getting them tangled in their nets, or alter their behavior in any way. Sometimes the trawl for that station has to be abandoned due to wildlife activity, although we have not seen any marine mammals during our investigation so far.

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Getting ready for my shift on the Marine Mammal Watch

Once the ship arrives at a station, the boat crew sends out the net. After it reaches the depth of 30m, they trawl for a 15 minute interval. A science crew member is also sent outside on deck to continue the marine mammal watch for the duration of the trawl. Finally, after the time is up, they bring in the net and empty its contents into buckets, which are then transferred to the science crew.

This is when our work began. While we are on the lookout for rockfish, we actually found very few of these. A majority of our catch consisted of pyrosomes and krill. The science crew employed a number of measures to estimate the numbers of these creatures, as counting them one-by-one would have taken a long, long time to do. We did volume approximations and analysis of representative samples for these creatures. When we found fish or other species of note, we would pull the individuals out, classify them and record their lengths. Samples were frozen for use by researchers working at other locations on the West Coast.

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Measuring the mantle of a Market Squid. Photo by Rachel Zuercher.

Some examples of the species we collected:

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Juvenile Rockfish collected off the “Lost Coast”

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Sample of other species collected and catalogued, including: Medusa Fish, Gonatus Squid, Thetys and California Headlight Fish

We worked solid through four stations on the first night, wrapping up just before 6 AM. We will be at it again, if weather permits, every night of the voyage.

Personal Log

Thursday, June 1st

This was a very long day. I left my house in Syracuse, NY at 6 AM, flying out of the airport around 8 AM. After a quick transfer in Chicago, I flew in a Boeing 737 all the way to San Francisco. I then made it to Eureka, California around 4 PM (West Coast time) for an overnight stay. Fortunately, I met up a few of the science personnel for dinner who were also headed to the Reuben Lasker in the morning. Eureka was beautiful, surrounded by oceans and redwoods.

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Sunset in Eureka, CA

Friday, June 2nd

In the morning, we caught a transfer boat at the public marina out to the Reuben Lasker, anchored a few miles away off the coast. Once the passage was done, we settled in and met some of the crew. I even shared a coffee with the CO- or Commanding Officer. Everyone onboard has been so open and welcoming – you can tell they enjoy their work.

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Transfer boat that to us to the Reuben Lasker

After dinner, we finally got down to sciencing. (That’s my word – I’m sticking to it.) I was impressed by how different the catch was from each station, even though they are only a few miles apart. You can try to start telling a story right there. That’s kind of the point to this whole survey. To try to tell a story about the overall health of the pelagic ecosystem based on representative samples. Piece by piece, year by year, data points can turn into meaning when connections are made. I think it is science in the purest form -gathering data for the sake of having information. By having a long-term data base of information about all of the other creatures collected, not just the rockfish, we can decipher meaning by analyzing population trends and collating them with other phenomena, such as weather, fishing or pollution. 

Saturday, June 3rd

I am getting adjusted to the day/night pattern of the Night Shift. I got to sleep around 6:30 AM and woke up close to 2 PM. I was able to grab a quick cereal from the Galley and then started in on some work. Dinner was served at 5 PM – filet mignon with crab legs? The cooks, or stewards, Kathy & Patrick do an amazing job. They also save meals for people running the late schedule. For the next week and change, lunch is served around midnight and breakfast will be close to 6 AM, before we head to sleep.

Today, the wind picked up and the waves kicked up with it. We cruised around the “Lost Coast” and ran two stations at night. We were scheduled for more, but the waves got larger the further the ship is off the coast. Today’s word is shrimp – we hauled in more shrimp than you could count. We also found a number of rockfish in one of the stations, although there were very few found in our second trawl.

Did You Know?

… that there are over 85 species of krill?

http://www.krillfacts.org/1-krill-facts-center.html

Christopher Tait: Suburban Wilderness, March 27, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21, 2017 to April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: March 27, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 3:35 PDT,

Current Location: near San Nicolas Island, Latitude 33.3 N Longitude -119.2 W

Air Temperature 16.0 oC  (59.5 oF)

Water Temperature 14.9 oC  (58.6 oF)

Wind Speed 19 kts

Barometric pressure 1014.64 hPa

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San Nicolas Island from the Reuben Lasker

Science and Technology Log

Acoustic Trawl

There is a lot of advanced equipment that is used to do a survey of fish that spans the coast of California. The Reuben Lasker has been fitted with state of the art echo-sounders (Figure 1), which send out pulses of sound that bounce off objects and return to the ship in the form of backscatter.  Looking at the backscatter data you can create a profile of the water column and see a variety of organisms swimming beneath the ship.  The target species for the research is the Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax).  The schools of fish are detected using a range of frequencies.  Looking at graphical representations of these data, or echograms, you can see the bottom as an area with strong echoes and, at times, you can see an area of high-intensity back scatter higher in the water column such as a school of fish or an aggregation of krill or plankton (figure 2).  This would be a school of fish, krill or other organisms.  The geographic location of the school is marked for a return by the ship at night for collection using a trawl.  To conduct a thorough survey, the ship travels back and forth between the coast and a predetermined distance out to sea across the predicted habitat of the target species (Figure 3.)  Scientists referred to this as “mowing the lawn.”

 Figure 1: Reuben Lasker Acoustic-Sampling Beams

Reuben Lasker Acoustic Sampling.png
©2014 Oceanography, Volume 27, number 4, Zwolinski et al.

Figure 2: An example echogram, showing the seabed and various sound scatterers in the water column.

Echogram

Figure 3 : Survey Map of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey 2017

California Sampling Map.png

Scientist Profile:

The Cruise Leader, Kevin Stierhoff, is a fisheries scientist who works for the Advanced Survey Technologies group at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in San Diego, CA.  Not only has he been effectively managing this complex science expedition, he has gone out of his way to make me feel welcome and a part of this scientific endeavor.

 

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I earned a B.S. in Biology, a Ph.D. in Marine Studies, and completed several postdoctoral research appointments prior to getting hired by NOAA. The work that my colleagues and I do at the SWFSC is very interdisciplinary, and the variety of educational and research experiences that I’ve had prepared me become a researcher at NOAA.

What do you like best about your career?

I consider myself lucky to have a job with a variety of duties. Not only do I spend time in the office analyzing data, but I also get to spend time at sea conducting survey and collecting data. When I’m not using acoustics to study pelagic fishes that migrate between Canada and Mexico, I use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs, or undersea robots) to survey endangered abalone that live on rocky reefs in the deep sea. When I’m not at sea, I’m analyzing the data that we collected at sea to communicate the results of our work.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

Increasingly, a research career in marine biology requires a graduate degree to allow for maximal career advancement. If possible, take some time after undergrad to work in a job related to your career goals. This will allow you to focus your interests before choosing a graduate program, or perhaps discover that you don’t actually like that career path (better to find out sooner than later!) or that you don’t require a graduate degree to do the job that really interests you (which will save you lots of time and money). Most importantly, choose a job that you look forward to going to every day.

 

Personal Log

It is dark out, but as I look down from high atop the ship through an open window from the bridge, the lights of Long Beach reflect on the placid expanse of ocean and I come to a great moment of reflection.  One of the busiest ports in the world is just off in the distance and I am looking for marine mammals in this suburban wilderness.  Beside the glow of humanity, nature continues on.

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Long Beach, California

I have been mostly helping with analyzing organisms that came up in the trawl at night, so my work schedule has moved to a 6 pm to 6 am.  I am struck by how hardworking, dedicated, and driven all members of this expedition are.  The crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps collaborate to continuously run surveys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I am enjoying working at night now even though it took me a few days to get use to all of the adjustments in my schedule.  I particularly enjoy doing the marine mammal watch from the bridge.  It gives you this aerial point of view of all the action the NOAA Corps expertly navigating the ship and coordinating operations, the deck crew masterfully deploying nets and equipment, and the scientists excitedly exploring the organisms we collect.

Catch of the Day!

Haliphron atlanticusThis strange creature is a gelatinous octopus, whose body resembles a jellyfish, but when you look close, you see eyes looking at you!

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Haliphron atlanticus

Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

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Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is the strangest fish I have ever seen! It is one of the heaviest bony fish, surprisingly from a diet high in jellyfish and salps. We caught a small and large sunfish.

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TAS Chris Tait holds an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

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Measuring the ocean sunfish…

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Slide to Freedom!

Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira): This fast looking fish hunts plankton at night near the surface.

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Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira)

Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens): This juvenile flatfish rises to the water surface at night to hunt zooplankton.  Flatfish have an eye that migrates from one side of their body to the other as they develop.

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Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens)

Christopher Tait: Catch of the Day, March 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: March 21, 2017

 

The Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey will be conducted in 2 legs between San Diego and Cape Mendocino, CA.  The ship will have a port call in San Francisco, CA between survey legs.

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Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 4:38 PDT,

Current Location: near San Clemente Island, Latitude 32.9 N Longitude -118.96 W

Air Temperature 15.3 oC  (59.5 oF)

Water Temperature 14.8 oC  (58.6 oF)

Wind Speed 13 kts

Barometric pressure 1021.15 hPa

Science and Technology Log

Trawling

                The ship trawls for schooling coastal pelagic fish from sundown to sunrise. This is because, under the protection of darkness, the zooplankton come up toward the surface to feed on phytoplankton and the planktivorous fish, in turn, follow the zooplankton.  Before the trawl net can be deployed, you have to go to the bridge, or the upper floor on the ship where all navigation and operations occur, to do a marine mammal watch for 30 minutes.  A marine mammal watch is a lookout for dolphins or other marine mammals that might be in the vicinity of the ship to avoid catching them in the trawl.  It is difficult to see any dolphins or sea lions in the inky blackness of the night ocean, but this is important to prevent incidental catch.  My first time up to the bridge at night was a surprise.  Walking up the lit stairs, you open the door to the bridge and the whole area is in darkness with just faint red lights so you can see.   After a while your eyes adjust and you make you way to the port or starboard sides of the bridge to start the watch. After you determine that the coast is clear, it is time for the deck crew to start deploying the net.  There is big overhead rigging with winches to help lift the net, ropes, chains, and buoys up to lower them down into the water.  We drag the net behind the boat for 45 minutes and then haul it in, hopefully full of fish!  When the fish are on the boat there is an elaborate process to gather information about the catch.

 Catch of the Day

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Pelagic Red Crab (Pleuroncodes planipes)

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Sorting buckets filled with Pelagic Red Crab

 

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Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)

 

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Pyrosome (colonial tunicate)

 

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Greater Argonaut (Argonauta argo)

 

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King of the Salmon (Trachipterus altivelis)

 

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The Wet Lab where the catch is sorted.

Personal Log

3/21/17

Today is the first day at sea and everyone is busy setting up their labs and calibrating their equipment.  The goal of the research is to survey the distributions and abundances of the coastal pelagic fish stocks, their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environment in the California Current Ecosystem.  The Reuben Lasker is a state of the art research vessel with many specialized research laboratories.

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NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

Coronado Bridge out my window.                                                      My State Room

3/22/17

I’m getting used to the 24 hour nature of the expedition. Everyone is assigned a 12 hour shift and I’m working 12 pm to 12 am.  During the day I am currently observing the methods and trying to assist where I can.  At night there are multiple trawls.  2 to 5 trawl are planned each night.  We caught a variety of different organisms, which are weighted, measured for length, and some saved for further studies such as genetic analysis.

 

3/23/17

Today I woke up to rough seas with waves about 8 feet, which made it very difficult to get moving!  As I moved around the ship everyone smiled because we know how each other are feeling.  The seas calmed later in the day and everyone felt much better.  Looking forward to doing our trawl tonight!

 

Did You Know?

The King of the Salmon got their name from the Makah people who believed the fish lead salmon to their spawning rivers.

The Argonaut looks like a nautilus, but they are really an octopus in which the female creates an egg case that wraps around the body.

 

Christopher Tait: “What Do They Do When Out to Sea?” March 18, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weather Data

Current weather at home in Wingdale, New York is 39F and we just had 3 snow days in a week after 24 inches of snow.

Science and Technology Log

I will be joining the team aboard the Reuben Lasker to do the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey.  The goal of the survey is to determine the distributions and abundances of the planktivorous (plankton eating) fish such as Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and the Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus) in the California Current between San Diego and Cape Mendocino, California.  This will be achieved using multi-frequency acoustic backscatter (sonar), sampling the fish with trawls, sampling spawned fish eggs in the water column, aerial surveys using UAS (unmanned aircraft system), sampling plankton, and measuring the abiotic environment such as temperature, salinity, oxygen levels.

Personal Log

TaitFebruary 1st I walked into work, opened up my email and saw a message from NOAA. I opened the message and saw “On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea Selection Committee, we are pleased to inform you that you were selected to participate in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) Program – 2017 Field Season!”  I couldn’t believe what an opportunity to learn from scientists and to enrich the classroom experience for my students!  I teach AP Environmental Science at New Fairfield High School, in Connecticut, Biology at Western Connecticut State University, and teach field research and study the community structure of fish in Candlewood Lake, CT with Project CLEAR supported by the Candlewood Lake Authority and EdAdvance.

Growing up my family would go to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to visit my uncle.  I remember always feeling this sense of awe about the ocean as my uncle would drive us around to his favorite beach spots, as I would learn about the amazing way the sea shaped the culture in this place.  I went back after finishing up graduate school in Earth and Planetary Science and writing countless papers using NOAA resources. I went to Woods Hole to see this hub of marine research and the NOAA ships sitting in their docks.  I remember wondering “what do they do when out to sea?”

A couple of weeks after I got my acceptance message and medical clearance, I got a research cruise placement on the Reuben Lasker out of San Diego, California!  With three weeks to prepare, I did everything I could to cover my bases at home, school and prepare for the experience of a lifetime.  I don’t think I have the words right now to express the gratitude I feel toward NOAA to have a program that allows a teacher to embed within their scientific community for a moment to experience what happens on those ships and bring my students behind the scenes of world class science.  I look forward to going to San Diego soon and meeting everyone from NOAA that I have been corresponding with!

 

 

Dana Chu: Introduction, May 12, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dana Chu
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 13-22, 2016

Mission: Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) is a working partnership between Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Blue Conservation Science to survey the oceanographic conditions that influence and drive the availability of prey species (i.e., krill) to predators (i.e., marine mammals and sea birds).

Geographical area of cruise:  Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries (all off the coast of California)

Date:  Thursday, May 12, 2016

Personal Log

TAS Dana Chu profile picHello from Sacramento, California! My name is Dana Chu and I am a Math and Science teacher and an Education Specialist at Florin High School.   This year I also teach a class called Multiple Strategies for Academics and Transitions and support a Spanish 1 class.   Florin High School has a diverse population of over 1,400 students that speak nineteen different languages. After school, I serve as an advisor to the Florin High School Watershed Team which is composed of students from all grade levels.

TAS Dana Chu watershed team
Florin HS Watershed Team at the American River Clean Up, September 2015

I am a firm believer that providing students with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in wildlife areas and natural habitats is the key to inspiring them to become responsible stewards of their environment, both land and water. Our school is within walking distance of several local creeks. The Cosumnes River Preserve and the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, both of which serve as protected habitat and crucial feeding ground for migrating birds, are a short drive away.   We are also fortunate to be close to the American River where anadromous fish such as the Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout spawn. Salmon fry raised in the classroom through the Fish in the Classroom Program from Nimbus Fish Hatchery will be released there. Throughout the year, some of our students participate on field trips to these locations.   I can’t wait to share my Teacher at Sea experience with all of my students, especially because the water from our local creek and rivers eventually all feed into the ocean.

TAS Dana Chu watching sandhill cranes
Students from the Watershed Team watch Sandhill Cranes fly in to roost for the evening. This field trip was made possible by the Save Our Sandhill Cranes non-profit organization.

I applied for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program because I am very interested in sea turtles, ocean plastic pollution, and birds. I love being out on water whenever the opportunity arises and taking photographs of nature. I also want to learn from and directly work with scientists in the field. Having never traveled in the ocean for an extended period of time before, this research trip is a unique and exciting learning opportunity and chance for me to engage in many first-hand experiences. With ocean plastic pollution being a serious issue, I wonder what we will come across during the days while I am at sea. I can’t wait to sail out on the NOAA Ship Bell Shimada and to assist with scientific research in the Pacific Ocean! For more specific details on this expedition, please check the links for the Ship and the Mission.

TAS Dana Chu kayaking
This is a photo of me kayaking in Costa Rica in 2014.

In the meantime, I am in the midst of preparing for my upcoming scientific adventure. I am packing the last items needed for this research trip.   At school, the 9th graders are finishing up the Water and Ocean unit with a marine animal research project. I hope to bring back relevant information to share. My 11th graders are working on their career transition portfolios and mock job interviews. I look forward to learning about the different types of scientific and marine careers available from the members of this research cruise so I can inform my students of other potential careers they might have not considered.

When you hear from me next, I will have sailed out of San Francisco, California and experienced my first days of working and living at sea. I look forward to seeing the various pelagic birds plus marine mammals and invertebrates within their natural habitat. I am so excited to be part of this expedition!

 

Kate Trimlett: What a Difference 3 Days at Sea Makes, July 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kate Trimlett
Aboard R/V Fulmar
July 23–29, 2013

Mission: ACCESS (Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies) to monitor ecosystem health in the national marine sanctuaries off the central and northern California

Geographical area of cruiseGulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary & Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Date: Friday, July 26, 2013

Weather Data:

  • Wind Speed: 7.8 kts
  • Surface Water Temperature: 58.3 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • Air Temperature: 55.4 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • Relative Humidity: 90%
  • Barometric Pressure: 30.05 in

Science and Technology Log:

ACCESS is a project that contributes to a regional characterization and monitoring of the physical and biological components of the pelagic ecosystem of Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and northern Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.  During our cruise we are collecting data in these sanctuaries. Over the last three days I have observed and helped the ACCESS scientists collect physical, chemical, and biological properties of the water, plankton, marine mammals, and sea birds. Each of these are measured by a different ACCESS team of researchers in a different area of the research vessel, R/V Fulmar.

Plankton and water are collected and measured on the back deck of the ship.  The water is measured in a few ways.  First, a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) and Niskin are lowered into the water between 35- 200 meters depending on the location on the line and depth of the water. The CTD measures the conductivity to calculate salinity, temperature, and relative depth within the water column.  The Niskin collects a water sample at the same location as the CTD.  These water samples are to tested for pH to measure the acidity of the water.  Finally, Dru Devlin and I are collecting a surface water sample for nutrients and a phytoplankton samples for the California Department of Public Health, as part of an early warning program for harmful algal blooms that can impact the shellfish we eat.

This CTD measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth.
This CTD measures conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth.

There are four different plankton collections.  The first collection is with a small hoop net (0.5 meter diameter) used to sample very small plankton, from where foraminifera will be separated later in the lab.  Foraminifera shell morphology and the oxygen isotopes of the shell are examined to investigate past and present climates and impacts of acidity on shell formation.  Next, a larger hoop net (1 meter diameter) collects samples of plankton in the upper 50 m of the water, which will be used to investigate the abundance, species, reproductive patterns, and locations.  When the research vessel was close to the end of the line and the continental shelf, the Tucker Trawl was released to collect three samples of plankton near the bottom.  When we processed these samples the majority of the organisms were krill.  Finally, Dru Devlin and I collected plankton samples 30 feet below the surface to send to the California Department of Health Services because they are interested in the presence and abundance of species that produce toxins.

Tucker trawl collects krill at depth.
Tucker trawl collects krill at depth.

On the top deck, the ACCESS observers watch for marine mammals and sea birds and call them out to the data recorder  to log the sightings into a waterproof computer.  This data will be used to relate the spatial patterns of bird and mammal distribution with oceanographic patterns and to understand the seasonal changes in the pelagic ecosystem.

These are the ACCESS observers looking for marine mammals and sea birds.
These are the ACCESS observers looking for marine mammals and sea birds.

Personal Log:

My favorite sighting so far was the leatherback sea turtle.  Seven years ago and last summer I took a group of Berkeley High School students to Costa Rica to participate in a sea turtle conservation project with Ecology Project International.  On these trips we saw a female leatherback laying her eggs and a hatchling making its way to the ocean.  It was great to see the next stage of development when the leatherback popped its head out of the water several hundred miles from their breeding grounds.

Dru Devlin's amazing picture of the Leatherback Sea Turtle.
Dru Devlin’s amazing picture of the Leatherback Sea Turtle.

Did you know?

Humpback Whales have bad breath?  Yesterday we got to smell it first hand when two humpback whales decided to circle our boat and were close enough for us to smell their breath.  It’s like rotting fish and sour milk mixed together.

Deborah Moraga, June 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Log: Deborah Moraga
NOAA Ship: Fulmar
Cruise Dates: July 20‐28, 2010

Mission: ACCESS
(Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies)
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
Date: June 21, 2010

The R/V Fulmar

Overview
The R/V Fulmar sets out from the dock early each morning. This ACCESS cruise has 5 members of the scientific team and myself (the NOAA Teacher at Sea.) There are two crew members for a total 8 people onboard.

The three central California National Marine Sanctuaries and the ports where the R/V Fulmar docks
The three central California National Marine Sanctuaries and the ports where the R/V Fulmar docks

Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies
Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies

National Marine Sanctuaries
National Marine Sanctuaries

ACCESS is an acronym for Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies. This is a partnership between PRBO Conservation Science, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. These groups of conservation scientists are working together to better understand the impacts that different organisms have on the marine ecosystem off the coast of central California.

Immersion suit for safety

They do this so that policy makers (government groups) have the most accurate data to help them make informed decisions on how the productive waters off the coast can be a resource for us and still protect the wildlife. You can read a more in depth explanation at http://www.accessoceans.org

Flying Bridge

The R/V Fulmar is a 67 foot Marine Grade Aluminum catamaran (a multi hulled vessel.) This vessel can travel 400 miles before refueling and can reach 27 knots (30 miles per hour) with a cruising speed of 22 knots (25.3 miles per hour.) Although that may sound slow compared to the cars we drive… you have to take into account that there can be 10 foot waves to go over out on the ocean.

The Fulmar’s homeport (where the boat ties up to dock most of the time) is in Monterey Bay, CA. For this cruise we will come into port (dock) in Bodega Bay, Sausalito, and Half Moon Bay. Each morning the crew wakes up an hour before the time we start out for the day. They check the oil and look over the engines, start the engines, disconnect the shore power and get the boat ready to sail out for a ten hour day.

Today (July 23, 2010) we left at 0700 (7:00 a.m.) out of Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay is on the coast of Sonoma county, California. It is from Bodega Bay that we will travel offshore to the “lines” that we will be surveying. Today we will survey lines one and two.

Then after the day’s work is done, we will sail into port, tie up to the dock and have dinner. The scientists and crew members sleep on the boat in the berths (bunks) that are located in the hulls of the boat.

Surveys
“Okay, take a survey of the types of pets your classmates have at home. Then create a graph.” How many times have math teachers assigned that assignment and expected that students knew how to survey? Today I received firsthand knowledge of how a survey takes place.

Marine scientist scanning for wildlife

Up on the flying bridge (about 5.5 meters from the surface of the ocean) scientists are surveying birds and marine mammals. There is a protocol that each follows. Here, the protocol is basically a list of agreed upon rules on how to count the marine life seen on the ocean. One researcher inputs the data into a waterproof laptop…imagine chilling at the pool and being able to surf the web! There are other researchers sitting alongside and calling out the types of birds and marine mammals they see. The researchers surveying the birds and mammals use not only their eyes but also binoculars.

Krill collected by the Trucker Trawl

After the researcher spots and identifies the birds or mammals, they call out their findings to the recording scientist in a code like fashion, doing this allows for the data to be inputted faster. The team can travel miles without Krill collected by the Trucker Trawl Researcher recording observations on the flying bridge Pacific White Sided dolphins bow riding seeing any organisms or there may be so many that the scientist at the laptop has a tough time keeping up. In this case the surveying scientist may have to write down their findings and report them when there is a break in the action.

Imagine that you are driving down the highway with your family. You have been asked to count the number humans, cows, horses, goats, dogs, cats, cars or trash on your trip. How would you make sure that your family members didn’t double count and still record all that you see? This is where protocols (instruction/rules) come in. So, let us say that you are behind the driver, and your brother or sister is in the backseat next to the window. There is also a family member in the passenger seat up front (yeah they called ‘shot gun’ before you did.) This is much like the seating arrangement on the flying bridge of the R/V Fulmar.

Researcher recording observations on the flying bridge

So how could you split up the road and area around the road so that you do not count something twice? You could split the area that you see into two parts. Take your left arm and stick it straight out the window. Have your sister/brother stick their right arm out their side window. If we drew an arc from your arm to your sibling’s arm it would be 180 degrees. Of the 180 degree arc, you are responsible for counting everything from your arm to the middle of the windshield. So, you are responsible for 90 degrees and your sibling has the other 90 degrees from the middle of the windshield to their arm.

Pacific White Sided dolphins bow riding

Once you start counting you need to record the data you are collecting. Can you write and count at the same time? Not very well, so we need someone to record the data. There are actually a lot of points of data that you need to enter.

You need to tell the recorder…
• Cue: How did you see the item you are counting?
• Method: Were you searching by eye or using a pair of binoculars?
• Bearing: The angle that the item is from the car as related to the front of the car.
• Reticle: How far the item was from your car when you first observed it (you would use your binoculars for this measurement).
• Which side of the car are you on and who is dong the observing?
• Behavior: What was the organism doing when you spotted it? Was it traveling, feeding or milling (just hanging out)?

Deploying the CTD

You also have to determine the age and sex of the organism. You need to record the species of the organism and how many you observed.
Now that is all for the species above the ground… what would you do for the animals below the road surface? On the R/V Fulmar they collect species from below the surface of the ocean and data about the water. They do this several different ways…

Bringing in the Hoop Net

1. CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. This is a tool that records the physical properties of the ocean. It records…

a. Salinity (amount of salt in the water)
b. Temperature (how hot or cold the water is)
c. Depth (how far the instrument travels below the surface)
d. How much chlorophyll is in the water
e. Turbidity (how murky or clear the water is)
f. How much oxygen is in the water

Deploying the Tucker Trawl

2. Hoop Net: Looks like a very heavy hula hoop. Except this hoop has a cone shaped cylinder made of fine mesh attached to it. At the apex of the cone, a small PVC container, called a cod end, is attached. Zooplankton (tiny swimming animals) and some phytoplankton (tiny marine plants) are funneled into the cod end of the net as it is towed behind the boat. When the net comes back to the boat, the researchers take off the cod end and use this sample of organisms.

Collecting data from the CTD

3. Tucker Trawl: Is like three hoop nets attached together. The cool thing about this big net is that the scientists can close each net at different depths. As Map of the transect lines Retrieving the Hoop Net Phytoplankton Net the net is towed behind the boat they “close” each net to capture zooplankton at different depths. The tucker trawl is used primarily to collect krill

Map of the transect lines

Transects
Have you ever lost something in your room? Perhaps it was your homework? The bus is coming and you have to find your binder. So you start tearing your room apart. By the time the bus is five minutes away… you room looks like a disaster and you can’t remember where exactly you have looked and yet, still no binder.
Imagine a group of scientists 30 miles offshore, doing that same type of “looking” for organisms, with the captain piloting (driving) the boat any which way. Just like your binder that was missed when you were looking for it, number and location of organisms in parts of the ocean would be missing from the data set.

Retrieving the Hoop Net

So if you wanted a systematic way to look for your homework that is lost in your room, you would imagine a grid. You would have lines running from one wall to another. These lines would be parallel to each other. You would walk along the line looking for you binder. When you came to the end of the line (at your wall) you would then start on another line. By walking back and forth in your room in this systematic way, you will not miss any part of your room.

Phytoplankton Net

You have just traveled along a transect line. A transect is a path you travel and as you do you are counting and recording data. On the R/V Fulmar, scientists are counting birds, marine mammals, and collecting krill. By counting how many and what kinds of organisms are along the transect line, scientists will be able to calculate the density of organisms in a given area. There are several different types on lines that we survey. There are the near shore transects…which extend 12 kilometers from the shore (that is as long as running back a forth a football field 131 times). Offshore lines are 50 to 60 kilometers from the coast. Imagine how many football fields that would be!

Bow of R/V Fulmar

Density… Take your right hand and put it in your right front pocket of your pants and pull out all the coins you have in your pocket. Looking down at your hand you count 10 dimes. Now do the same for your left hand. You found you have two dimes. The “area” those coins were located is equal… meaning your pockets are the same size. The density of coins in your pockets is greater in your right pocket because there are more coins per square inch than in your left pocket.

Humpback Whale

The researchers on the ACCESS cruise use the data they have collected out in the field (in this case the field is the three central California National Marine Sanctuaries) to calculate the density of the organisms they are researching. They are counting and recording the number of organisms and their location so they can create graphs and maps that show the distribution of those organisms in the waters off the coast.

Taking a surface water sample

Why do they need this information? The data starts to paint a picture of the health of the ecosystem in this part of the world. With that information, they can make suggestions as to how resources are used and how to protect the waters off the California coast. By using data that has been collected over many years, suggestions can be made on how the ocean can still be utilized (used) today while insuring that future generations of humans, marine mammals, birds and krill have the same opportunities.

whale breach
whale breach

Stephen Anderson, June 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Anderson
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 28 July 12, 2009

The CTD Instruments
The CTD Instruments

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographic Region: California
Date: June 29, 2009

We anchored in Monterey Bay.  After putting the anchor down there were several tests that had to be made.  The first was to send in SCUBA divers to check our propeller.  The second test was to check on the transducers for our sonar.  The third was to put over the side the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and density instruments).  This instrument is useful not only to tell the composition of the water, but also to determine currents. Included in this set of instruments is an automatic camera that will catch video of the small animals (micro-organisms) at various depths (what the fish eat).  The fourth test was to send three balls of different sizes and materials to hang under the boat using what we in Michigan would call salmon downriggers.  Dr. Chu, our chief scientist, and Stan Tomich, our engineer, can control these miniature cranes to raise and lower these balls.  They can then calibrate (set the readings on the sonar sensors) to make sure they have the correct depth for the fish they will be able to see with the sonar.  The sonar array in this boat is accurate to within one centimeter. Later tonight we will weigh anchor to go further south to begin our chase after hake.

Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.
Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.

For those of you who don’t know hake.  This is a cod type of fish that is very important to the fish industry on the west coast of the US and Canada.  If you’ve had a fish stick, you’ve probably had hake.

We were visited today by some very interesting animals: several species of jelly fish, several sea lions, a few dolphins, and a mola mola fish which is sometimes called a sun fish.

A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.
A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.

Alex Eilers, September 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT
Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: September 1, 2008

Science Log

The second week has been absolutely fabulous as we found a leatherback – in fact we found three!!! This week has been all about the turtle: from identifying the biotic and abiotic conditions that define leatherback turtle habitat and foraging grounds, to tracking and tagging – we’ve done it all.

• Abiotic oceanographic data provided by scientific instruments such as XBTs (expendable bathythermographs), CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth), and water samples containing nutrient data to characterize the abiotic foraging habitats of the leatherback turtle.

Alex working with the CTD device
Alex working with the CTD device

• Net tow samples characterized the biotic conditions such as the jellyfish species prevalent in the turtle diet: moon jellies, sea nettles, and egg yolk jellies.

Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly
Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly

Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole
Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole

Tracking the turtles via air surveillance and handheld antenna
Tracking the turtles via handheld antenna

Aerial survellance
Aerial surveillance

Tagging a big leatherback
Tagging a big leatherback

Alex Eilers, August 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 31, 2008

Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.
Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.

August 29 – Longline fishing for swordfish

Today’s major objective was to catch swordfish for tagging using a fishing method called longlining. Longline fishing uses one main line held just below the water’s surface with several buoys.  Attached to the main line are several smaller branch lines with hooks and bait.  The branch lines extent 42 feet or 7 fathoms into the ocean.

Preparing to launch the longline is quite a sight and it requires a number of individuals, each working in unison. There is a person who baits the hooks on the branch line then hooks it to the main line, another person attaches a glow stick (used to attract the swordfish), and a third person attaches the buoy to the main line.  There are also a number of people working behind the scenes sorting lines and working the winch. After all the branch lines are hooked to the main line, the line soaks in the water for several hours – in hopes that a swordfish will take the bait.

Crew setting gear
Crew setting gear

Reeling in the line took about two hours because the line was 4 miles long and held over 200 hooks.  I thought this was an extremely long line but was told that commercial fishing vessels use between 40 to 60 miles of line with thousands of branch lines. Wow!

Unfortunately, we were unable to tag any swordfish but hope to try again on Labor Day. What an incredible experience today has been.

August 30 and 31 – Rock’n and Roll’n

Whoa, Whoa… is about all you heard me say over the past two days.  We’re going through a rough patch today – high winds and swells up to 5 or 7 meters – between 15 and 20 feet.  We sure were glad the scientific equipment was secured during the first few days – because everything that wasn’t tied down went flying – including chairs, drinks and the crew.  The closest thing I could come to describing this experience would be like riding a non-stop Disney ride.  The inclinometer reading (an instrument that is use to detect the degrees a boat rolls) recorded a maximum tilt of about 36 degrees.   To put thing into perspective, I am now typing with one hand and holding the table with the other.  Unfortunately, many of the science projects were cancelled due to high seas.  We hope to be in the calmer waters of Monterey Bay area tomorrow.

Alex Eilers, August 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 27, 2008

Everyone! Here’s the latest from my adventures at sea.

Today the crew was busy testing equipment.  We tested both long-line fishing gear and box trawl netting!  Both

tests were successful and we are looking forward to the real thing – more to come on this subject later. The picture below shows Scott Benson holding the box trawl net “catch.”  Although it looks like group of eggs, they are actually members of the jellyfish family know as ctenophores or “comb jellies.”

Jellies
Jellies

We had a successful observation session today.  I’ll introduce you to some of the “stars” of the day.

Common Dolphins were everywhere.  We saw over 100 riding the waves on the bow of our boat.  They move with great speed – especially when you are trying to take a picture of them.

Common dolphins
Common dolphins

Risso’s Dolphins – This is an unusual looking dolphin with a rounded head – unlike the traditional dolphin we all know. These creatures have numerous scratches and scars over their body from other Risso’s and from the squid they eat.  They are gray when born and gradually become white with age.

Fin Whales – OK – I must admit – We didn’t actually see the Fin Whale but we did see the whale spouts from the three that we spotted.

Jelly Fish – We were excited to see so many Jellies – a favorite food of the Leatherback.  Most looked like “Moon Jellies” but without catching them we cannot be sure of the type since there are many species.

To Do… Research one or more of the animals highlighted above.

Alex Eilers, August 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.
In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 24, 2008

Today we were in assembly mode and I spent the majority of my time on the flying bridge (top deck). With the help of several scientists, we cleaned and replaced the viewing seats, installed the “Big Eyes” – (the largest pair of binoculars I’ve ever seen), and assembled and tested the Turtle tracking antennas.  The “Big Eyes” will be used to help track and identify marine mammals, leatherbacks and birds near the boat.  This is especially important prior to and during the times scientists have equipment in the water so we don’t catch or injure these animals. The receiver will be used to track the Leatherback Sea Turtles who have a transmitter attached to their carapace. The good news is we are receiving reports that there is a Leatherback approximately 110 miles off the coast of Monterey – the bad news is he may not be there when we arrive.

Safety training During our first true “day at sea” we had two practice safety drills; a fire in the galley (kitchen) and an abandon ship.  The crew handled both drills quickly and efficiently.  The abandon ship drill was exciting. When the bell rang, everyone was responsible for his or her own billet (job duty). My billet required me to grab my life preserver and survival suit and muster to the O1 deck (report to an area for role call).

Survival suit
Survival suit

Training to be a VO – visual observer We started the day on the flying bridge. Karin Forney, marine mammal researcher, trained us on how to be a marine animal visual observer or VO for short.  During the first observing session, we only saw a few animals – sea lions and various birds.

I’m getting fairly good at spotting kelp beds (seaweed), however, the scientists are not interested in them, so I still need more practice identifying marine mammals.

By the afternoon, we started to see more marine life.  A large pod of common dolphins swam playfully near the ship.  This was a beautiful sight to see but not ideal for net testing. We waited 30 minutes without a mammal sighting then successfully tested the nets. As the scientists were pulling the nets aboard we spotted another smaller pod of common dolphins, some California sea lions and a small mola mola (sun fish).  All in all it was a good day!

Watching for kelp
Watching for kelp

Alex Eilers, August 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 21, 2008

Well I’ve arrived in San Diego safe and sound.  The weather here is fantastic – warm, mostly sunny and a bit breezy.  Let’s hope it stays like his throughout my time at sea.  Here is a brief outline of how I’ve been preparing for the research cruise.  I started the day at a LUTH survey orientation meeting.  LUTH stands for Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitat. Lisa Ballance, the director of Protected Resources Division and Scott Benson, Chief Scientist welcomed the entire team.  We spent the morning listening to the research planned for the trip and I was amazed at the amount of science to be conducted.  This is going to be an exciting adventure. I must admit though – I’ve got some homework to do.  I have to become more familiar with the acronyms the scientists are using, like CTD’s, TSG’s and especially XBT’s – because I have to load these this afternoon.

After lunch we piled in the vans and headed toward the ship to begin the loading process.  My assignment was to load and store the XBT’s and help load the oceanographic equipment.  And, I did my homework – I found out that the XBT stands for eXpendable BathyThermograph and they are used for the collection of oceanographic temperature data.

I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture.  I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning.  Better get busy – more to come later.  Keep checking the website.
I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture. I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning. Better get busy – more to come later.

Sue White, June 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 7, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sat. 06-07-08 19:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.34.30 AM

The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow
The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow

Science and Technology Log 

Heading for San Francisco!

The weather has again had an effect on the scheduled research tasks. As the week went on the weather deteriorated so that some nights we could only do one trawl before the waves crashing over the aft deck made it too dangerous to be out there. Safety was the primary issue in everyone’s mind on the ship – bridge officers and the scientists discussed weather conditions and forecasts and the deck crew were careful to point out safety concerns involving equipment or wearing protective clothing. Even with the ship feeling like it was doing a wild tango at one point, I felt very secure.  Last night was a complete wash as far as doing the scheduled work.  By evening the ship officers decided to stay out the night in Drake’s Bay since the peninsula would give some shelter from the wind and waves.  We used the time to prepare for a new group to come aboard in San Francisco, cleaning our staterooms and doing laundry.    

I sorted through notes and organized the dozens of photos taken over the last 12 days.  Here are some squid facts Ken Baltz, the cruise leader told me about earlier in the cruise:

  • The Humboldt squid we caught were probably around 5 months old and will only live about 1 year
  • These squid are one of the fastest growing organism
  • They have a very rapid metabolism, eating about 20% of their body weight daily vs. our human requirement of 0.5 to 1%

Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals
Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals

The bongo plankton tow ties in with the squid sampling in an interesting way.  It shows how all of the research coordinated on the DAVID STARR JORDAN this cruise (and really all NOAA projects) is working towards understanding what life is like in the ocean and how the distribution of organisms is changing.  One plankton sample from each bongo tow was preserved in ethanol. The other sample was preserved in formalin (a formaldehyde solution).  The rationale behind this was that formalin denatures or destroys the structure of an organism’s DNA.  The ethanol sample could be used to do genetic testing. When the samples are examined back in the lab, the researchers are hoping to find paralarvae of the Humboldt squid in the same location as the adults collected this cruise. This would give credence to the idea that they are now breeding off the coast of California, rather than in the tropics as has been the accepted understanding.  Bill and Robert (two of the volunteers on this leg of the cruise) had great questions while Ken was explaining this part of his research. Bill (and the others) had been using a fluorescent lure to “jig” for squid. Squid are attracted to the bioluminescence found in some ocean animals, like the “headlights” on a California Headlight fish.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.

He asked if the squid are caught in the nets because they are hoping to feed on the small fish being concentrated there. His hypothesis was to see if luminescent lures in the net would increase the number of squid caught.  Robert asked about using radioactive isotopes to label squid and then look for the radioactive label in the paralarvae as a way to see patterns in breeding. Such intriguing thinking.  I was not alone in wanting to be awake for our entry into San Francisco Bay.  We enjoyed a hot breakfast for the first time in days (and for some the first time ever on the ship!) and were invigorated by bright sunshine. Well, the sun seemed bright through the San Francisco haze after being on the night shift! Everyone was outside by the time land was sighted and we enjoyed watching the Golden Gate Bridge get closer. For days I had not noticed much traffic at sea (especially at night)  so it felt like driving into a major city in that the traffic kept increasing the closer we got to the Bay.  Huge shipping barges and small personal sailboats were all out on a beautiful Saturday morning.

The map distance from Drake’s Bay was not far, but our speed entering the bay was such that it took several hours to get around the bend and in to where the piers are in San Francisco. Just as in leaving San Diego, the ship officers were busy piloting the ship to its place at the pier.  Staff from the Santa Cruz lab were waiting to help offload specimens, some ship personnel were already off duty and looking forward to a day in the city, and my husband was patiently waiting on the pier to hear my stories of life at sea.

Personal Log 

After almost two weeks at sea it was interesting to adjust to life on land. I did feel the ground moving as I walked and especially felt phantom ocean waves when I tried to sleep or take a shower (no grab bars to steady yourself on land though!). The sounds were so different too with less of the ongoing sound of the ship engine or the air system in my stateroom and more collective noise of traffic and airplanes. I had missed the simple sounds of my backyard birds, but did not notice this until I realized how wonderful the familiar can sound.  I am brimming with new information and connections to make with classroom labs and activities.  I (and my husband) can  hardly wait until school starts so I have a new audience for my Teacher at Sea stories.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Think about the area where you live. How many people in your neighborhood can you name?  List the types of dogs that live in your neighborhood, too.
  • Name any of the birds that may fly into your area.  (Is this naming business getting harder?)
  • Name any other wildlife that may inhabit your neighborhood.  (Remember that wildlife can be small and not all will be mammals!)
  • How many insects can you identify?  Can you name specific types of one kind of insect? In other words, can you tell the difference between a monarch and swallowtail butterfly? What about a skipper and a sulfur butterfly?
  • Scientists, from experience, can name an incredible number of organisms.  Often they can even give the scientific name for exactly one species that differs only slightly from another. You can also increase your naming ability with practice… what would you like to become an expert in identifying???

A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge
A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, June 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 1, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sun. 06-01-08 04:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.22.35 AM

Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.
Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.

Science and Technology Log 

It’s shrimp night!  We continue on up the coast of California.  The transect schedule for tonight is off Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. The catch tonight surprised us (again) by being completely unique from earlier trawls. Usually the largest part of what we sort is krill.  The first night it was very strange to see all of those eyes, but now the krill just seem like background to look past as you see other colors and textures. When we spread the catch out on our trays tonight, it was an orange pink instead of the typical brownish color. The nets were loaded with market shrimp!  Joao took off with some after we sorted and came back later with boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce. This was the second time he had acted as a seafood chef for everyone. Friday night Joao brought down the squid he had saved from Tuesday and Wednesday night.  He had been marinating it in his special recipe and spent the time before his shift sautéing squid strips for us.  He had also made some salsa that was perfect with it . . . and the saltine crackers some of us were needing tonight due to the waves. It brought to mind this passage from John Steinbeck’s introduction to The Log from the Sea of Cortez: “…we could see the fish alive and swimming, feel it plunge against the lines, drag it threshing over the rail, and even finally eat it.”

Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose' Coito ready to do a trawl
Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose’ Coito ready to do a trawl

We have a pattern down for the nights now. The scientists, deck crew and bridge are seamless in their coordination of a trawl. Everyone knows their job now and down to who turns the deck lights off once the nets are in the water seems to be done intuitively.  As soon as the nets are brought in, the sorting starts. Big fish, or worse the big jellyfish, are caught as the nets are being rolled up.  Some fish and the jellies are measured and added to a database by location.  Jellyfish are especially hard on the nets because of their weight.  If they become too plentiful, trawls can be cancelled to keep the nets from being destroyed.

Looking for rockfish - Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and Robert (left to right)
Looking for rockfish – Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and
Robert (left to right)

Here is my count from one tray of catch tonight:

  • 38 Myctophid (fish)
  • 22 Californian Headlight (fish)
  • 8 Sergestid ( tiny red dot shrimp)
  • 5 Black Smelt (fish)
  • 3 Black-tip (squid)
  • 1 Blue Lantern (fish)
  • 1 Gonatus (squid)

The fish are more familiar by now.  The Myctophid and Headlight fish looked so similar at first, but now I can see the two bioluminescent dots between the eyes on the Headlight fish. With more experience, it became even more obvious that there were many differences differences, but harder when they are hidden behind the more generic krill, or in the case of tonight’s haul, the pinkish shrimp.  The rockfish (Fig. 4) also have to been identified as separate from other fish also similar in size and color.  Side by side it is easy to see that these fish that are both dark in color.

Personal Log 

Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola
Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola

The waves just keep getting rougher as the cruise progresses.  The motion onboard varies with different activities. The bars to grasp in the shower and at various places around the ship are very practical, to say the least. Sleep is an interesting process where you can wake up with tired muscles from trying to keep yourself in place! Those with more experience have said that it is physically tiring to be onboard and that we should expect to need more sleep.  It is amazing how I have adjusted to sleeping during the day now.  The volunteers have been great to work with. They are now bringing their music down to play as we sort the catch from each trawl.

Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)
Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)

It is fun to hear the eclectic playlists they have.  I have also been impressed with how well-read they are.  We have been able to talk about books that range from Steinbeck to environmental awareness.  They also enjoy the oddities we find on our sorting trays… anything with suckers must be stuck on your finger to see how long it will hold on (little squid or octopi require peeling off!)  One night we had double tailed fish.  Somehow several of the fish that night managed to get one head caught in the other’s to the point that it looked like the head was in the center with a tail going off each side.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Look at Figure 6 above. How many different types of animals do you see? (Hint: Different colors are easy to spot, but also look for different eyes since some of the animals we found were transparent!  )
  • Can you find any animals that are not fish?  We found tiny squid and octopi most nights.  Squid tended to have really big eyes for their overall size.  Most of what you see in Figure 2 is krill.
  • Describe what makes the juvenile rockfish different from the sand dab shown above.

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, May 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 28, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Wed. 05-28-08 04:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.07.39 AM

This is the second night of collecting data for this leg of the cruise.  Last night was a real learning curve for those of us new to the work involved. As soon as they were aboard, the scientists in charge of the rockfish survey (Ken Baltz – the Chief Scientist, Keith Sakuma, and Brian Wells) were busy organizing equipment so they could begin at sunset. Each night the plan is to start by gathering plankton using the bongo nets. The plankton is processed and preserved for later study back at the scientist’s lab in Santa Cruz.  CTD (conductivity, water temperature, and depth) data is gathered throughout the day and night, and on the first night there was an electronics problem between the collection equipment that goes into the water and the computer.  Since weather has become such a factor on this cruise, the scientists did not want to lose any opportunity to gather data or specimens.  After sunset, the main focus through each night is to conduct mid-water trawls to collect data on fish populations and preserve samples for later study. All of this data goes into an ongoing database.

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.10.46 AM
Bongo Plankton Tow

Each volunteer had specific jobs associated with the different specimens or data being collected throughout the cruise. Figure 1 shows how Robert Cimitile and Bill Matsuba worked the bongo nets. Gabe Singer was responsible for the CTD readings throughout the night shift. Ben Gire sampled krill from each trawl for a separate Euphausia study, checking for species type and numbers of gravid (“pregnant”) in an area. We all worked to sort the catch from each trawl. Last night there were a number of midshipman fish in the catch.  Tonight there is a different sort of excitement since we are finding large numbers of Humboldt squid in the nets.  These are processed for other research groups who are studying stomach contents and establishing the squid’s genome.  Between trawls the deck crew, scientists, and volunteers “jigged” for squid using fluorescent jigs on fishing line over the port side of the ship. It was impressive to see the live squid and their reaction to being out of water. Their chromatophores pulse and change colors while they hiss water out of their siphons. Some also spray ink in the process.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!
Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!

These squid are huge compared to the tiny Gonatus or Loligo squid we have seen. The main fish being surveyed is the rockfish. They are few in numbers and when we do find one, it is placed in an ocean water ice bath to maintain them until Keith identifies them by species. This is also part of an ongoing, year-to-year survey to establish their distribution and numbers up the coast of California. Since they only come up to feed at night, they are the reason the trawls can only be done at night. It has been impressive to see the teamwork involved with working the cranes for the bongo nets and the CTD equipment, as well as the pulleys involved with the gates, and the trawlnet reel located on the gantry on the aft deck. Radio communication between the deck crew, the scientists, and the bridge starts each operation. The deck crew manipulates the equipment and the scientists and volunteers assist in positioning. They all have a part in collecting the specimens as they are brought up.  The bridge officers maintain the course and speed of the ship for all operations and also are vigilant about safety on the aft deck.  They maintain contact with the radio and also have visual contact with cameras.

Personal Log 

Jigging for the squid
Jigging for the squid

I feel rested tonight, but not quite used to working a night shift!  Last night was the first time I think I have ever been awake for 24 hours, so my bunk looked wonderful this morning. It was easy to sleep through the day after being so tired and now it is beginning to seem more normal to work at night. The squid are amazing the animal unit.  Seeing them alive and then being able to witness their dissection just a short time later was a singular experience that I will retell each spring now for my students.  Joao, one of the fishermen, showed me how to hold the live squid behind their eyes so the arms would not “get me”.  After seeing how they can latch on to fish even in the trawl net and how their beaks mince those fish, I have even more appreciation for what these animals can do as a predator!   I am learning how to recognize and name a great diversity of pelagic animals.  It has been an intensive learning curve for me in the last day (or should I call it night?) but I am starting to see the pattern of the trawls and it is very interesting to see how they vary according to transect location and even distance from the coast throughout the night.

Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)
Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)

Challenge Yourself 

  • How has the weather changed since my last log (Monday at noon)? Calculate the differences in wind speed and temperatures.  Has the ocean salinity changed?  Is the pressure rising or falling?
  • Do the temperature changes seem reasonable considering we have traveled north and the time of day is later?
  • The Humboldt squid are very well adapted for these conditions.  Would you be comfortable swimming in this water too?

Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall
Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, May 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 27, 2008

The wet lab's wind direction and wind speed instrumentation.  Original to when the ship was built in the 1960's??
The wet lab’s wind direction and wind speed instrumentation. Original to when the ship was built in the 1960’s??

Science and Technology Log 

The DAVID STARR JORDAN (DSJ) departed from San Diego, CA this morning to begin Leg 3 of the Juvenile Rockfish Survey research cruise.  The seas have been rough and Leg 2 of this cruise was cut short because of the weather conditions.  Since weather has been such a huge influence in the last few weeks in this area of the Pacific and led to a loss of days at sea for the research scientists, here is some background for understanding the abbreviations and terms found in the “Weather Data from the Bridge” section above:

GMT = Greenwich Mean Time, international time which is the basis of time in each time zone around the world. Greenwich, England is located at Longitude 0° 0′ 0″, Latitude 51° 28′ 38″N (North of the Equator) or where the east meets the west.  The DSJ is on Pacific Time which is 7 hours earlier.

Latitude is the distance the DSJ is north of the equator, expressed in degrees (or hours), minutes, and seconds.

Longitude is the distance the DSJ is west of the prime meridian which runs through Greenwich, England, expressed in degrees (or hours), minutes, and seconds.

(Ship) Speed / Wind Speed refers to how fast the ship is moving or how fast the wind is blowing. Speeds on water or in the air are measured in knots (kts). One knot is one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile (6076 feet) is a little longer than a mile here on land (5280 feet).  Use this conversion factor to change speed in the weather data to speeds on land:  1 knot = 1.16 mph.  Here is a fun visual that connects wind speed in knots to our more familiar miles per hour.  It also gives a more qualitative description of what different wind speeds are like.

(Ship’s) Course refers to the direction the ship is traveling to and is based on a 360o compass.

Wind Direction refers to the direction the wind is coming from.  It is also based on a 60o compass.

oC = degree Celsius

  • The conversion factor to change metric temperature to our more familiar Fahrenheit scale is: [(°C X 9) / 5] + 32 = °F 
  • An easy way to estimate, that you can do in your head, is to take °C and multiply it by 2 and then add 30 to get approximate °F: (°C X 2) + 30 = approx. °F 
  • Want to do it the other way?  Take your temperature at home, subtract 30 and divide by 2 to get the temperature in degree Celsius:  (°F – 30) / 2 = approx. °C 

Surface Water Salinity simply stated, describes how salty the ocean water is at the surface and can be referred to in PSUs (Practical Salinity Units).  It is based on the understanding that the electrical conductivity of seawater is related to its salinity.  A special conductivity meter is used at sea and the PSU value is calculated from the data.  PSU is not a unit of measurement, but a calculated value. The average world ocean salinity is around 35 PSU.

Relative Humidity is a measure of the amount of water in the air compared with the amount of water the air can hold at the temperature it happens to be when you measure it.  At the temperature given in the weather data above, the air has 71% of the moisture it can hold.  If the temperature decreases while the number of molecules of water is the same, then the relative humidity would increase.  The cooler air molecules are closer together and cannot hold as much water between them.

Barometric Pressure is the force the atmosphere is exerting on a given place, measured by an instrument called a barometer.  Think of it as being the “weight of air”.  Air pressure is recorded onboard using the unit mb, which stands for millibar.  A millibar is 1/1000th of a bar. A bar is a force equal to 100,000 Newtons pressing on a square meter.  You can feel the change in pressure in your ears when you are flying in an airplane.  High pressure usually means good weather and dropping pressure means the weather is changing. Low pressure often brings precipitation.

Vlad and Sam prepare to lift our link to land.
Vlad and Sam prepare to lift our link to land.

After being in port since Friday, the ship officers and crew are busy with a flurry of preparation to be at sea again. Bags of groceries were brought aboard this morning while a steady stream of people came aboard too.  The ship went from being asleep to bustling in a matter of hours.  Engines were started and soot flakes billowed.  Deck crew began the tasks of taking up the walkway and casting off. Ship officers were stationed on the port side (left hand side if you are facing towards the front of the ship) to report ship positions as we began to move away from the pier.  We headed out to sea, passing what looked like a series of empty boat slips. As we got closer I could see dolphins there and trainers were putting them through their paces.  The ship’s electronics technician, Kim Belveal (U.S.Navy, ret.), explained that this was a Navy training facility and the dolphins were trained to do very specific tasks, often tasks that reduced risk to people. We passed a Coast Guard ship truly under sail, rigged with huge sails. The lead fisherman, Jose’ Coito, has a son who is in the Coast Guard. He proudly told about his son’s training on that grand ship.

Personal Log 

It has been a whirlwind time in the last week for me.  I gave my last final exam for the school year on Friday morning, wrapped up the last details for school that afternoon, and headed home to pack. Since the last leg of the cruise was cut short, my travel plans changed within the last few days as well, meaning that I was going to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea one day earlier than planned and flying to a new destination as well. I flew to San Diego on Sunday and got to the ship Sunday evening. After settling into my stateroom, I felt a little like Goldilocks walking around the ship and making myself at home.  It was very quiet, but eventually I met the ship’s electronics technician and Sam Brandal, an able fisherman, who had also just arrived on the DAVID STARR JORDAN to fill in for someone on vacation.  It has been nice to have some down time to make the transition from school to my time as a Teacher at Sea.  I spent today on the fly bridge with my binoculars.  Chico Gomez, the chief bosun (also spelled boatswain), and Jose’ helped me spot whales on the horizon.  I also saw seals and dolphins closer in to the ship.  Sea jellies which ranged in size from about 2” to 10” floated by from time to time.  Work starts tomorrow when we pick up the scientists at Avila and do the first transect schedule for this leg of the cruise at Point Sal, CA . . .

Challenge Yourself 

Can you compile your own weather data from your home or school?  Use measuring instruments you already have, or research in your local newspaper or online.  Fill in the table below, converting your data to match the units and values from the DAVID STARR JORDAN bridge:

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 5.04.07 AM

Here’s a quote from Rachel Carson that pretty much sums up what it’s like to look off the side of the ship: “We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” What mysteries will I see?

Sue

Scott Dickison, September 30-October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Dickinson
Onboard Research Vessel Shearwater
September 30 – October 11, 2006

Mission: Quantitative Finfish Abundance
Geographical Area: Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas
Date: September 30 – October 11, 2006

Santa Barbara, seen from the ship
Santa Barbara, seen from the ship

Prologue 

The cruise that I participated on was a multi-part project that spanned several weeks. I came on board for the final, and most interesting part of the project. Those parts you can read about in my log entries, however some background and technical information may be useful to better understand the operation.

The cruise took place onboard the NOAA R/V Shearwater. The project was called a Quantitative Finfish Abundance and Exploration of the Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas. A cooperative Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) study with the California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Applied Research and Exploration, and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

When I arrived, the bulk of the work had been completed and it was time for the experimental portions of the project to take place. These experiments were designed to ensure the reliability, precision, and accuracy of the quantitative data collected by ROV survey. The basic operations involved live boating the ROV along predetermined track lines. That is, the RV Shearwater would proceed along a predetermined line on the surface that the ROV was also independently operating on at the ocean floor. The ROV had a range of 50 meters from the stern of the RV Shearwater. The ROV pilot had on-screen-display (OSD) from the video cameras mounted on the ROV, as well as an OSD that displayed the ROV position relative to the mother ship. This display is generated with the use of a sonar beacon mounted on the ROV and a sonar receiver lowered over the side of the mother ship.

On to the logs…

Deploying the ROV
Deploying the ROV

Saturday 9/30

Arrive at the R/V Shearwater. Got the lay of the land.

Sunday 10/1

Head out of the Santa Barbara Harbor in transit to Santa Cruz Island to pick up the research crew. With the team of scientists on board, we head out for our destination of East Point on Santa Rosa Island for the first deployment of the ROV.

The weather turned on us, with the winds blowing and the rain pounding. The seas got rough and the going was slow. This being the first day out, the sea legs had yet to be adjusted. This was the cause for a quick retreat to the head…

Finally made it to our testing location. Weather was dismal as the ROV was launched. Today’s mission was to “paint” fish with lasers mounted along side the ROV camera.  This was a very interesting procedure designed to measure fish length. Essentially capturing a fish on video and “painting” it with two laser dots at the known distance of 11 cm. Total fish length can then be calculated either by determining fish camera fish length and laser dot space, or by using the screen width and the fish length in comparison.

This day I became umbilical tender and hydraulic operator for launching and retrieving the ROV. I also observed the underwater video and fish painting process. This was a very interesting day becoming part of the crew and assisting in the work. Due to a couple of technical issues, we returned to Santa Barbara for the night.

Watching and operating the launch
Watching and operating the launch

Monday 10/2 

While crewmembers were working on correcting the technical issues, I assisted others with setting up lines for the next set of experiments. This required setting up vinyl covered steel cables at a length of 110 meters and marking them with colored flags every 10 meters that would be easy to view through the ROV cameras. These cables were also set up with loops on each end for linking together, or for securing weights. The cables were then spooled for ease of deployment and stowed for later use.

The technical issues as well were repaired and again we set out to sea. This day’s destination was Anacapa Island. With some sonar scanning, a sight was selected for the next sets of experiments, to determine accuracy of transect distance precision across the spatial dimension.

For this experiment, the 110 meter cables were laid across the bottom with high relief profiles.  This distance of cable would provide a length of 100 meters to run with the ROV. Divers also swam the line and took depth readings along the cable. The cable ran up and down over rocks and various substrates that are considered fish habitat. The concept being that there were more lineal feet of fish habitat in this relief than straight line distance.  The ROV recorded this distance, but this was a means to determine if those recordings were an accurate measurement.

The sight we were working was spectacular. We were on the southern tip of Anacapa Island. The shoreline of the island was shear rocky cliffs. The cliffs are a major nesting and roosting sight for the endangered California Brown Pelicans, they were everywhere both on the cliffs and circling in the sky. The area was also populated with sea lions. They were very amusing swimming around the boat and with their barks echoing off the cliffs of the island.  After the work here was done, we headed north for a protected cove to drop anchor for the night.

Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs
Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs

Tuesday 10/3

This day we headed back toward Anacapa to continue the track line experiments. Another shallow depth sight was selected toward the North end of the island. The same procedures were used here laying out the cable lengths that were then checked by divers and then run with the ROV.

The water was thick with small baitfish that was being fed on by schools of Bonita. This was a sight to see, and was particularly amusing to see the pelicans dive-bombing into the water also feeding on the baitfish.  This went on for most of the day.  Operations went well today and when complete the gear was collected and stowed. We headed off to another protected cove for the nights anchorage.

Wednesday 10/4 

We continued the track line experiments today. Work was going well so we started preparations for the next upcoming experiment. The preparations consisted of setting up fish models of various sizes and securing weights to then to enable deployment of them floating various heights off the bottom.  The fish models were constructed of a flat piece of neoprene with color copied pictures of the local significant fish species laminated and attached to the sides.

The sight of the day was a pod of dolphins leaping out of the water and splashing around in some sort of frenzy. We assumed the must have been feeding, but were not really close enough to tell exactly what was going on. Today’s tasks went well and I went out on the Avon to retrieve the cables and the divers. With all back onboard, we headed off to the nights anchorage.

On the zodiak
On the zodiac

Thursday 10/5 

Today we set out for a deep water site to continue the track line experiment. The previous sites had been in the 10 to 20 meter depth zones. Today we would run the track line experiment in a 50 meter depth zone.  This posed a different set of circumstances.  The tracking cable was spooled into a basket for deployment. It was then deployed skillfully and precisely by the well experienced deck officer. With the cable in place, the ROV was launched to run the line. This depth was to deep to send divers down, so the ROV did all the work.  Tracking went well and the ROV was brought back on board.

Recovery of the gear was a bit more difficult.  We had to haul back the cable and weights with a power winch as opposed to winding it back by hand in shallow water. After we got about half of the length back, it got jammed and snapped so fast my head spun. At least the experiment was completed.

After gathering and comparing the ROV data with the diver collected data it was apparent that the ROV collected nearly identical data to the diver collected data. This experiment seemed to be a success. ROV use and procedures seemed to be a reliable means to determine transect distance across the spatial dimension by my observations. Naturally the collected data would be reviewed later by the scientists on board to accurately determine the results.

Full moon rising
Full moon rising

During the day we continued to prepare the fish models for deployment tonight. With the track line experiments complete, we headed for a location suitable for the fish model experiment. This experiment was conducted in the evening to simulate the light conditions in the typical habitat depth of 50 meters.  The point of the experiment was to determine the accuracy of fish length as determined by ROV survey. The ROV survey used both paired lasers and distance sonar to determine fish length. When these procedures are utilized on fish models of known length, the scientists could determine if the process could be accurate when video capturing wild fish in the test zone.

As we arrived at the experiment location, the sun was setting and a most beautiful full moon was rising over a distant horizon. Divers were used to strategically deploy the models to simulate populations of wild fish.  The ROV was deployed and ran the line of fish models while video capturing the images. Tonight I had an opportunity to pilot the ROV. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and spent some time observing some flat fish scurrying about the bottom as I waited for the divers to collect the fish models. Soon all was complete, the divers came back on board, and we recovered the ROV safely.  We remained at this location for the night, it was quite beautiful.

Friday 10/6…the final day.  

Today was a public relations day. We returned to Anacapa and met up with the California Dept. of Fish and Game boat, the R/V Garibaldi. They had brought some local writers and reporters out to cover the project. We still went on with the normal operations of surveying fish populations. It was another great day on board the NOAA  R/V Shearwater as a participant in the Teacher at Sea Program! Back to Santa Barbara we cruised.

dickison_logsf

Noah Doughty, September 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 22, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed: ESE at 7kts
Swell direction and height: NW at 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 56.4
Sea level pressure: 1013.3 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

NOAA Teacher at Sea Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.
TAS Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.

Science and Technology Log 

Dr. Rock and Kristof Richmond of Stanford University left the ship late yesterday afternoon, wrapping up the image collection for the photo-mosaic.  Leaving with them was John Geoghegan, a writer for the Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine and the Naval History Magazine. Joining the expedition are Scott Rayder, NOAA Chief of Staff, Richard G. Van Treuren, representing the Naval Airships Association, and Tim Thomas from the Maritime Museum of Monterey.

Today’s activities were devoted to groundtruthing side-scan sonar anomalies located away from the two main debris fields. This is accomplished by simultaneously moving the ROV and the WESTERN FLYER from site to site, a process that would take the better part of an hour depending on the distance being traveled. The transition provided me with an opportunity to briefly operate the “Science Cam”, the seat were you get to operate the zoom, angle and focus of the HDTV camera.  Most of the anomalies were shallow depressions in the muddy bottom with two large sonar hits turning out to be old fish traps.  We did find one large artifact resembling an imploded fuel cell quite a ways from the main debris fields. 

Today is the last day of the expedition and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing experience.  Finally I would like to thank the ROV Pilots of the Tiburon and the crew of the WESTERN FLYER for providing insightful answers and explanations to a number of questions.

NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty
NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty

Noah Doughty, September 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 21, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed:  NWxW 24kts
Swell direction and height: NW 6’-8’
Seawater temperature: 55.7oF
Sea level pressure: 1019 millibars
Cloud cover: 2/8

Science and Technology Log 

Work at the USS MACON wreck site continues, alternating between mosaic work and survey work depending on water conditions at the bottom.  Today’s log will profile two members of the expedition whose jobs provide a context for the information being gathered.

Erica Burton works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and is responsible for operating VARS, which stands for Video Annotation and Reference System.  VARS is a database that allows screen images to be captured, logged, and georeferenced with annotated notes. For the MACON expedition these notes list the possible identity of the artifacts. In addition to the captured image, VARS also records the time stamp in the video and a geographical location. All the images and video captured are archived at MBARI (the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and later, in conjunction with the National Marine Sanctuary Program, staff will process and interpret to produce a final photo-mosaic poster that will be made available to the public. Burton, who has a background in marine biology, also notes that the USS MACON wreckage provides an artificial hard-bottom habitat in an otherwise soft-bottom habitat, and the organisms observed are primarily soft-bottom fishes with occasional encrusting organisms on the wreckage.

Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

Lee Murai is a Geological Oceanography student at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and is the GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst.  Through GIS software he is able to spatially organize the data collected on this expedition and compare it to the 1990 and 1991 expeditions. Types of data collected in the past include side-scan sonar, multi-beam bathymetry, and waypoints collected by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and manned submersibles.  For this expedition he is working closely with the Stanford University team to assist with the photomosaic collection procedure. The GIS map posted on day 1 was provided by Murai. Compare that to the low-resolution image tiles posted today.  While the use of GIS is relatively new to the field of marine archeology, it is generally used in marine environments to provide geologic and biologic habitat characterization maps.

This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log).  High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic.  The nose of the plane is in the lower left.
This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log). High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic. The nose of the plane is in the lower left.

Noah Doughty, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Fair
Wind direction and speed: calm
Swell direction and height: WNW 8-9’
Seawater temperature: 56.1oF
Sea level pressure: 1023.0 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).
Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).

Science and Technology Log 

As the mosaic work continued on the sea floor I was able to briefly pull the three Principal Investigators (PI) away from the action to ask questions regarding the history of the MACON and the eventual plans for the wreck site. The three PI’s are Chris Grech, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Regional Maritime Heritage Program Coordinator based out of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell, a Senior Archeologist for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program.  Their answers are summarized below:

Question 1: Has the condition of the wreckage changed since the first visit in 1991? 

GRECH: Yes.  There is more sediment on the bottom than before.  Some of the smaller pieces of debris are no longer visible. Meaning they have been moved, covered up, or corroded. Overall the major features are still there, the Sparrowhawk’s and the Maybach’s engines.

Question 2: What technology is being employed this time that wasn’t employed before? 

GRECH: We are using a High Definition camera and HMI lights on the Tiburon. The

Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing.  Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.
Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing. Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.

HMI lights are high-powered underwater lights.  We know the position of the Tiburon relative to the WESTERN FLYER through the use of USBL (Ultra Short Base Line) technology. Central to the effort is the Stanford Control System, which provides computer aided ROV control enabling us to create the site photo-mosaic. At the same time we are using GIS (Geographical Information System) technology to create a map tied to geographical coordinates. The Stanford Control System and GIS software is run separately but their use is closely linked. Finally, the WESTERN FLYER is able to maintain her position through Dynamic

Positioning, a system where a GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinate is set and the ship is automated to maintain that position.

Question 3: What might eventually happen to the wreck site in terms of protection policy? 

TERRELL/SCHWEMMER:  The MACON already has the ultimate protection regimen.  The wreckage is within the boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary has a clearly defined mandate to protect archeological resources.  The US Navy still owns the MACON and the Navy has its own legislation to protect submerged vessels and aircraft.  Last, the wreck site is within State of California waters and so is protected by state law.  From the data gathered on this cruise we will do three things. First is to generate a report on the project that will go to the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, who provided much of the funding.  Second will be an archeological assessment that will go to the National Marine Sanctuary Program and to peers.  This assessment will include management recommendations regarding the values and needs of the wreck site. Third will be to begin the process to nominate the MACON to the National Register of Historic Places.  This is a one to two year process. 

Noah Doughty, September 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 19, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Poor
Wind direction: Variable from the northwest
Wind speed: Light airs
Sea wave height: 3-5’
Seawater temperature: 56.1o F
Sea level pressure: 1022 millibars
Cloud cover: 7/8

Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.
Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.

Science and Technology Log 

Today the photomosaic team from Stanford University, Dr. Steve Rock and Ph.D. student Kristof Richmond, stepped up to direct underwater operations.

Currently there are two known debris fields. The larger field contains the Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk airplanes, five of the eight Maybach Engines and remnants of the galley.  The second debris field contains the bow end of the MACON with identifiable artifacts from the officer’s quarters and the mooring mast receptacle.  A third debris field, containing the tail section, is speculated to exist but has never been found.  In spite of some challenges we managed to mosaic both of the known fields.

The photo-mosaic will be created using a control system designed by the Stanford team to pilot the Tiburon along a series of parallel transect lines, a pattern playfully called “mowing the lawn.”  As the ROV travels above the seafloor along its transect line, a High Definition Camera periodically captures images that are assembled to create the photo-mosaic.  Due to the low light and at times murky conditions, the camera can’t be more than a few meters off the sea floor. Imagine trying to create a picture of your local soccer or football field by walking the entire field holding a camera at arm’s length facing straight down.

Tomorrow we will continue the photo-mosaic efforts!

Noah Doughty, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 18, 2006

The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.
The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.

Greetings from the sunny coast of California!

Today aboard ship we began to survey the wreck site of the USS MACON, a US Navy Dirigible and its Sparrowhawk airplanes. The MACON, a rigid airship referred to as a “flying aircraft carrier,” sunk off the coast near Big Sur, just south of Monterey, on February 12, 1935. The goal of the survey is to create a photo-mosaic image of the wreckage.  To accomplish this we are using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called the Tiburon. Much of today’s operations centered on getting the ROV into the water early with the camera at a 45-degree angle to capture as many images of the wreck area as possible. Plus it enabled the scientists and historians on boat to get a feeling for the condition of the wreckage.  Altogether we found all four of the airplanes, each in a different state of decomposition, but some parts remarkably well preserved (we could make out part of a star painted on one wing). One of the things the scientists did was to make a GIS map of the wreck site.

The real work begins tomorrow when researches from Stanford University begin a two-day project to create the photo-mosaic of the area.

GIS map of the MACON wreckage, see the next page.  Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.
GIS map of the MACON wreckage. Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.

Heather Diaz, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 5:30am. We caught 4 blues and 2 makos.  We also caught one pelagic ray.  They set a shark line out around 7:45. We were hoping to be able to finish one last set before going into port. We were scheduled to be in port around 3.

Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.
Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.

Dr. Russ Vetter explained what the different computers are used for in the aft lab.  There is one called at EK500/EQ50 which uses a split beam transponder to create a “map” of the ocean floor, so the scientists can use the data to find high spots, which sometimes are better for fishing. It also works as a sort of “fish finder” and the different things in the water show up in scale and color, so that you can see the approximate size of the animal/plant in the water.  He also explained the Navigation computer, which digitally shows the charts (with soundings), topographical features (like islands and coastline), and our course. It also provides information on other vessels that are nearby, and when available, that vessel’s name and number…the same navigation computer they also use on the Bridge. The Nav. Comp. also provides information like our latitude and longitude and our speed.

There is another computer which monitors wind speed and direction, temperature of the water (under the boat), barometric pressure, and salinity of the water.  All of these are real-time, and provide important information to the scientists.  There is also an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) computer which displays a constantly changing graph of current velocity relative to the ref layer.

The very last set of this leg was a bit slower than most, which may have been a good thing, since most people were starting to get a bit tired.  We had 2 blues and 2 makos. We were very pleased to find out that we had, during the entire leg, managed to capture 80 blue sharks (78 were measured, sexed, and released), 63 mako sharks (61 were tagged and released), 23 pelagic rays (23 were released, none were tagged), 3 molas (3 were tagged and released), and 1 lancetfish (which was released but not tagged).  Everyone seemed very pleased with the results, and now Dr. Suzy Kohin (Chief Scientist) and Dr. Heidi Dewar will head back to their lab at Southwest Fisheries to analyze the data.

Personal Log 

Last night the sky was very clear, so we were able to see a lot of stars, including the Milky Way, which was very easy to see last night.  The view from the Flying Bridge (the very top of the ship) is amazing, and we felt like we could see every star in the universe, even though we know we couldn’t. We could also see the far away glow of Los Angeles, a reminder that we will soon be back in port and that our trip is nearly over.  Nearby, there was a large tanker and a container ship, which also looked neat in the dark.  The container ship was still nearby this morning when we woke up.

The sunset this morning was amazing.  There were a few wispy Cirrus clouds in the sky, which reflected the glow of the sun long before the sun made its first appearance in the sky. It was truly a beautiful sunrise, and a great way to start off our last day!  This morning after the set, everyone was a bit disappointed that we have not caught a swordfish this trip.  But, Dr. Heidi Dewar said she would consider doing another swordfish study in the future.

Everyone is busy packing and getting their gear ready to go home.  Everyone, including me, is excited to be going home to see family and friends, but I think most people will be a little sad, too. For me, this has been an absolutely amazing experience!  I have learned so much, and I have seen more in the past week than I ever could have from reading books or watching documentaries.  There is just something so special about being able to feed a sea lion, touch a shark, or come within inches of a mola to feel the power of nature and the beauty of the ocean. I am awe struck in so many ways.  The people aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN could not have been kinder, and everyone has gone far out of their way to make me feel like part of the DSJ family.  Everyone from the captain and the officers, the boatswains, the stewards, and everyone in engineering has been friendly and helpful. I will surely miss everyone on board.  As for the scientists, they did an outstanding job of helping me to learn things and to make me feel like I was a real part of their crew. I will miss the lapping of the waves, the rolling of the ship, the camaraderie, the food, the animals, the scenery, the sunsets, and the sunsets.  And, although I cannot take any of them with me, I will have the memories of them all forever.

I want to sincerely thank Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, the amazing crew of the DAVID STARR JORDAN, Dr. Suzy Kohin, and her wonderful team of scientists for a fantastic experience!  I never imagined it would be this incredible!  I will be grateful to you all for a long, long, long time!  Thank you for allowing me to share these past 10 days with you, and I wish you all safe travels and many more beautiful sunsets at sea to come!

Heather Diaz, July 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 14, 2006

The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph.  The information is used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.
The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph and then used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

I had the opportunity to interview Jason Larese who is aboard for this cruise.  He works for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, which is part of NOAA Fisheries Program.  For the past 5 years he has been working with marine mammal studies, especially with dolphins.  Recently, he has been working on an albacore tuna tagging project. He analyses data from special tags that record light, depth, and temperature variations which help them to track where the tuna migrate and where/what they eat.  Since they know at what depths the tuna feed, they can narrow down the possibilities of what they are eating (since things tend to stay in predictable positions relative to the thermocline in the ocean).  He has enjoyed working with the Shark Abundance Survey, but he hopes to return to marine mammal research soon.

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am. We caught 4 makos, 14 blues, and 6 pelagic rays.  We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 3 makos and 2 blues.  During our first shark set today, a small blue shark died on the line. When they did the dissection of his stomach, they found the vertebrae and jaws of a Lizardfish, and several squid beaks. It was very interesting to see what this shark had for breakfast before we caught him. I was able to keep them to share with my class.

We did our second shark set around 2pm.  Dr. Heidi Dewar showed me how to take a temperature reading using the Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler. It is a small processor in the water-tight tube, which lowered over the side of the boat very slowly, to a depth of about 150 meters.  Then, it is raised very slowly. The water-tight tube is then opened in the lab and connected to a computer.  The information is then downloaded and imported into Excel, where it is translated into a graph.  They use this information to locate the thermocline, since many sea animals are restricted to the thermocline and above where there is a mix of warm and cold water (usually as a result of wind and waves). And, there are fewer animals in the colder temperatures below.

We hauled in the set around 6pm.  During this haul, we caught 3 blues and 9 makos.  One mako was badly tangled in the line, and he was not going to survive.  So, the shark (now that he has died) will be taken back to a lab at SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography where an MRI study will be conducted to examine the shark’s anatomy and physiology.  (This is not Russ’ study but one of some scientists at SCRIPPS and UCSD Medical school.)

Personal Log 

One interesting thing that happened during the first shark set, as we were setting the line, we saw loads of dolphins in the area. They appeared to be circling up fish and then eating them.  Several of them were quite close to the ship.  We estimated that there were at least 30 dolphins in the area surrounding our ship.  We were concerned that they would try to eat our bait and end up getting hooked, but none of them did.  It is extremely rare for dolphins to get hooked since they can detect the hook in the bait and avoid it.

We discovered a large mola floating near the ship, and several people tried to catch him with a fishing rod in order to try to tag it with a satellite tag.  They weren’t able to catch him.  Everyone is very interested in the molas, and the scientists here are collaborating on a research study to monitor their behavior and movements.  I found out that the mola (an ocean sunfish) actually eat jellyfish.  They don’t actually eat our bait, so when we catch one, it’s always been because the hook got caught in their fin by accident.  They are fascinating creatures, and it’s amazing to see a fish that is that huge!

I helped wrangle a few sharks this afternoon, but the last one that I did was very strong and I had a hard time holding on to him.  At one point, he whipped his head to the side and he yanked on my arm so hard I thought he would break free.  It was truly awesome to see just how strong these sharks are, without really even trying.  I also spent some time with Natalie Spear who was doing data recording during the second set.  I’m amazed at how many pieces of data have to be recorded, and how many things the data recorder has to do at once. It is definitely a more difficult job to do, and with all the commotion of the scientists who are processing the animal and are requesting different things all the time, it takes a very level-head to keep everything straight, especially since accuracy in recording all the different tag numbers is essential.  I have been very impressed with all my fellow scientists and their ability to keep up with all the demands of that position.  And, they manage to still have fun while doing it!

Heather Diaz, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am.  We caught 4 makos, 9 blues, and 3 pelagic rays.  One of the mako sharks that we caught during this set actually was brought up to the side of the ship and tied off with a leader rope. But, while we had him waiting at the back of the boat to be processed, he chewed through the monofilament line and disappeared.  Another interesting thing about this set was that at some point during the night, our line was severed.  We hauled in most of the line, but our flag was about ••• mile away from where the first part of the line ended.  We steamed ahead and caught up with it, then hauled the flag over.  João Alves, Lead Fisherman, was able to reattach the line so that we could use it again.  We aren’t sure why the line was severed, but there were several boats in the area, so one of them may have run it over in the dark.

We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 1 mako shark and 1 blue shark. We did our second shark set around 2pm.  We hauled in the set around 6pm.  We caught 3 mako sharks and 8 blue sharks.

I asked permission to go to the Bridge, and there I met up with Commanding Officer (CO) Alexandra Von Saunder as she was beginning her watch. She has been an officer in the NOAA Corps for 14 years, and she has been a captain for the past year.  The DAVID STARR JORDAN is the only ship for which she has been Captain. She actually resides in Seattle, but most of the year (sometimes up to 300 days out of 360 days) she spends most of her time at sea and away from the ship’s homeport.  She said that the things that she loves best about being at sea are being able to see the sights (animals, sunsets, scenery) and the uniqueness of every day, since it is much more interesting than being at a desk all day.  She said that the ship’s crew is like a family and that they are all very close, especially since they all eat together and spend most of the year together.  I have observed while aboard the DSJ that everyone is very friendly and on a first name basis with each other.  I have yet to see anyone who was unhappy with their job. Like Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, everyone I have spoken with says they love being aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN and that they would rather be here than on land.

David Starr Jordan from the skiff.  Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with Commanding Officer Saunder explained that the black shapes hanging from the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”.  This means that DSJ has gear in the water, such as when we are setting or hauling the longline, and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted.  At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way
David Starr Jordan from the skiff. Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with CO Saunder explained that the black shapes on the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”. This means that DSJ has gear in the water and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted. At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way

While on the bridge, CO Von Saunder also showed me all of the instruments and the charts that they use on the Bridge to run the ship.  It was very interesting to see how they can monitor everything from that one room, even how much oil is in the engines!  They have a neat computer system that plots where they are and radars that keep track of every other vessel in the area.  Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal explained to me that even small sailboats show up on their computer, and if they have been registered, their boat registration number and even the boat’s name will come up on their computer.  That way, if they need to hail the vessel, they can actually call them by name over the radio.

There are also many cameras around the ship, so that safety and security can be monitored at all times.  CO Von Saunder also showed me how they steer the ship, and control the speed.  She said that the ship will go about 10 knots at its fastest, but that when we are setting or hauling lines, the ship is only going a few knots.  She also said that the DAVID STARR JORDAN was launched in 1965, so it is due to be replaced in 2009. She wasn’t sure what the name of the new ship would be yet, but I can only hope it will be DAVID STARR JORDAN II. She said that a ship like this would probably be sold once it is retired, and that “She has a lot of life left in her.”  It is clear that when Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder speaks about her ship and her crew, she is talking about her very own family.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Junior Officer David Gothan.  He is fairly new to the NOAA Corps, but he hopes to retire from the NOAA Corps in 20 years.  He echoed Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder’s reasons for loving his work on the DSJ, as he said that what he enjoys the most about being at sea are seeing all the animals/scenery, meeting different people, and being able to go to different places all the time.  I get the impression that all of the NOAA officers on board truly love their job, and they are dedicated to being stewards of our oceans.

Personal Log 

I saw many different animals today, including dolphins and a few whales off in the distance. We also saw a few a sea lions who were basking in the sun.  When they do this, they kind of lie on their back and stick their flippers up out of the water.  They are so cute. One of them came quite close to our ship while we were de-baiting the second set, and people tried to throw him fish.  We nicknamed him “Eddie”.  He hung around for a while, but got bored and left the area after about 10 minutes.

It was truly a pleasure to speak with Lieutenant Von Saunder, Ensign David Gothan, and Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal.  And, I am excited to be able to share more of their insights about being a part of the NOAA Corps with my class!

Heather Diaz, July 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish, set done last night because of our excursion to Catalina Island.  Instead, we set our first line (shark line) at 6am.  We hauled in the line around 10am.  We caught 10 makos, 4 blues, 1 lancetfish, 3 pelagic rays, and 2 molas.  I had the opportunity to videotape the entire haul, which turned out to be one of our most productive.  1 mako died today during the haul because it had swallowed the hook and most likely suffered an internal injury. He was measured, weighed, and dissected for further research.  One of the makos we caught during this set was among the largest three we caught during this entire leg, and it was really interesting to see such a large shark, so close! We set our second line at around 12 noon.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 7 makos and 2 blues.  Two of the makos we caught during this set were among the largest three we caught during this entire leg.

This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other.  If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don't have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!
This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other. If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don’t have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!

Personal Log 

With our first set, things started off right off the bat with several makos.  Then, we got 2 humongous Sunfish (mola-mola)…and I mean they were huge! Then, we got a huge mako.  He was almost 2 meters long.  It was as long as the cradle itself! I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone was super excited and at that point. During the whole commotion, one mako was pulled over the side nearly dead.

We also had a lancet-fish which they hauled over the side while we were dealing with the monster mako in the cradle….and that was very much alive.  It was flipping all over the place.  Sean picked him up, took the hook out, and tossed it overboard. After we were all done and all the animals had been processed, we went over to look at the mako that they had brought on deck.  Although the mako was near death, it appeared to be still breathing a little, though it might have been a lingering reflex reaction.  After examining him on the deck, they weighed him and then started to dissect him. I have most of the dissection on tape.  It was very interesting to see where all the internal organs are located and to see how their muscle tissue is designed. Dr. Heidi Dewar explained how they use their muscle tissue design to actually preserve body heat. It was really fascinating.  I am excited to show my students her “lecture” on the muscles, and to share with them the dissection video, so that they can see what a shark looks like on the inside.  I think they will enjoy it.

During the second set, I was allowed to get down on the platform with the first two sharks…the first one, Dr. Suzy Kohin, Chief Scientist just explained everything.  The second one, I was able to get in there and actually do the stuff!  I collected the DNA sample of his dorsal fin…I put the tag in his dorsal fin…and, I gave him a shot of OTC in the ventral area. I also got to take its length measurement, which was freaky because I had to grab its tail and pull it straight. I don’t think the shark appreciated that much, and he squirmed a bit.  He was also bleeding. Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, said that he was bleeding a bit because he had swallowed the hook.  I opted not to do the spaghetti tag (which involves shoving this metal tip into their skin) and I opted not to cut the hook out of its mouth,.…it just seemed really, really, really REAL…and I didn’t want to mess up and come out of it missing a hand or something…or worse, having unintentionally hurt the animal.

Anyhow, I gave my kneepads over to Daniele who jumped in and finished the haul for me on the platform while I did the gangions.  Which, turned out to be too bad, since we got some really huge makos on this haul…everyone was very excited about them.  I think the largest was about 197cm.  They put special tags in the really large makos, which they called a PAT (Pop-Up Archival Tag).  They explained that these tags, which look more like turkey basters, are used to report data on temperature, depth, and even longitude so that they can better track the makos and learn more about their behaviors. They are especially looking for information about diving behaviors and their temperature and depth preferences.  I would love to see what they find out from these fish!

They also use a SPOT (Smart POsition and Temperature) tag.  This is almost translucent and is bolted the dorsal fin (only on larger sharks).  It looks a little like a computer mouse and is oval shaped. This tag sends radio signals to a satellite whenever the animal is near the surface, and they can use this information to track precisely where the animal is in the ocean.

Heather Diaz, July 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.
This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.

Science and Technology Log 

They set a swordfish line at around midnight, and we hauled it in around 6am. We caught one blue shark and one pelagic ray. We then set the first shark set at around 8am.  We hauled in the line around noon.  We caught one blue shark and 6 mako sharks, though one of the makos escaped with the gangion, leader, and hook still attached.

After that set, we headed for Santa Catalina Island where we would have liberty ashore.  We were taken over to the port at Avalon by João Alves on the skiff, I went over with Natalie Spear, Karina De La Rosa-Mesa, and Chico Gomez.  Everyone, except those on watch, was allowed to go ashore. Even the CO, Alexandra Von Saunder was able to make a quick visit to Avalon.  Most people shopped and/or had dinner in a restaurant.  A few people even went swimming at the beach!  Everyone had to be back aboard the ship by 11pm.  Karina De La Rosa-Mesa and I went back to the ship with Sean Suk and João Alves on the skiff at 9:45pm.

Personal Log 

Again, sea lions and dolphins were playing nearby today.  I tried to get pictures/video of them, but it doesn’t come out well on tape.  I love watching them…they are so graceful, and they really look like they are having a great time playing!  One sad thing happened today during our sets…one shark got away.  Someone dropped the leader line in the water and he took off. We can only hope that he is able to work the hook out on his own, soon.

Everyone was very excited to be given liberty ashore tonight in Avalon.  There are several people who have had the chance to come to Catalina before, so they are especially looking forward to this excursion. Catalina has changed so much since I was there 25 years ago!  There are many more houses and condos now near the harbor. Though, the town and the touristy areas are pretty much the same.  We enjoyed shopping and walking through the tiny streets.  And, seeing the golf carts everywhere was very amusing.  The Wrigley Mansion, which sits above the harbor is very beautiful, and many of the homes on the hill over the harbor are just fantastic. The moonrise was amazing, as it came over the hill…I think it was a full moon. Everyone in town seemed to be having a great time, and it was nice to be walking on land for a change (though, it did feel like the whole island was still moving with the rolling of the waves, even though I know it wasn’t!). I am looking forward to finding the pictures we took of the island when I was a child to compare them to today…I bet a lot has changed!

Heather Diaz, July 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged.  You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin.  After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform.  Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.
This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged. You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin. After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform. Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.

Science and Technology Log 

One team of scientists set a swordfish line at 3am.  We hauled in the swordfish longline at 6am.  We caught one pelagic ray. We set the first shark line at around 8am, and hauled it in around 12pm. We caught one blue shark.  We set the second shark line at around 2pm.  We let it soak an extra hour, and hauled it in around 6pm.  We caught one Blue shark, four mako sharks, and one pelagic ray.

I had an opportunity to take a tour of the engine room with 1st Engineer Chris Danals. We first visited the aft work room. Chris is crafting a wooden boat by hand! It is very neat looking. He said that he builds boats for fun. He showed me the rudder room, and it’s amazing to see how huge these two rudders are. They control the rudder from the Bridge.  In front of the aft work room is the engine room, which you have to climb down a ladder to get into. The noise is so loud that it is deafening, even with earplugs in.  He explained that there are two main engines, which are White Superior engines.  The port side engine is used to power the winch, which we use when we set/haul in the lines.

The starboard engine is the one we use to power the ship.  He said that the engines are diesel engines, and they get about 1 mile to the gallon.  Chris also explained that even though the computers monitor everything in the engine room, they still have to monitor all of the engines in person during each watch.  The engines are huge, each one being at least 6 feet tall and at least 15 feet long.  But, as Chris explained, it takes a lot of power to move a ship this large through the water! The ship’s top cruising speed is 10 knots, but he said we often travel only a few knots, especially when we are setting a line or hauling a line. And, there are times when we are not moving but a few feet per hour, while the longlines are soaking.

Another thing that Chris explained was how the ship makes water.  Since they can only bring a finite amount of water with them to sea, they have to rely on other methods to get fresh water once they are at sea. He said that they pump sea water in, then they use heat to separate the fresh water from the salt.  The only problem is that sometimes we aren’t moving, and the engines need to be hot in order to make water.

Personal Log 

This morning we were kind of between 4 islands: Santa Cruz/Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Catalina. I think we are headed west today.  You can’t see land anymore, and the waves have become much more intense…several stomach dropping waves this morning and last night. It is very foggy today, and it is quite cool outside.  It actually looks like it might rain.

Everyone was a bit disappointed when our first two hauls yielded only 1 animal each.  But, the last set was better, and everyone is looking forward to seeing if the blocks farther out might have better luck.

The real treat today was a California sea lion (which has been named Eddie).  He was following us after the last haul, eating the mackerel that we were discarding.  Eddie followed us for about 15 minutes, he was quite happy and kept coming up to the surface to look at us and blow water out of his nose. He was so cute! Of course, since we had been having bad luck with the sets, I did not bring my cameras downstairs, so I missed getting a picture of the whole thing!  I am hoping that “Eddie” will come back tomorrow!

During the night, they had to sound the fog horn several times to alert other boats that we were in the area. I thought it was the general alarm at first, but then I realized that it was just fog.

Heather Diaz, July 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 9, 2006

A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank.  Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.
A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank. Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish set done last night, so everyone got up at 6am to do the first of the shark sets for the day. We hauled in the first set at around 10am.  We caught one mako.  We set the second line at around 12pm.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 2 pelagic rays.

Personal Log 

We were just off the coast of Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  It was such a beautiful sight to see! Anacapa is very rugged, with lots of canyons and steep drop offs. I don’t think my pictures will do it justice!

A brown pelican decided to hang around today, so I got some good pictures of him. We tried to find him mackerel, but they were too big for him, and he just spit them back out.  Everyone was a bit disappointed into today’s turnout. But, Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist said that this block was not a very good spot for them during the last leg either (they repeat the survey in 2 different legs so that they get a better sampling).  We all hope that tomorrow we are able to catch more fish!  Dr. Russ Vetter fished between sets. He caught several Rockfish, most of which were orange colored. He said that these were bottom fish, and he is doing an independent research study on them.  He also caught a Halibut and a Scorpion fish.   He took DNA samples from them, then they were prepared as part of the barbecue!

Sean Suk caught a Sanddab this afternoon, but he threw it back in.  There were lots of boats….sailboats and motor boats around us while we were near the port…they kept coming by to check us out.  I’ve seen lots of big container ships while we’ve been in this area, as well. We went past an offshore oil rig this afternoon, and it was interesting to see just how close it is to the coastline of California!  I have seen oil rigs in Wyoming, but the offshore ones are very different. It was neat to be able to see one in person.

The exciting thing about today was that we had a barbecue on the aft deck.  We had kabobs and burgers. It was great!  The weather was gorgeous, and everyone laughed and a nice time.  The crew said that they have a barbecue almost every Sunday and that it is kind of like a tradition. We went to Channel Islands Harbor near Port Hueneme, CA.  They had to pick up some gear for the engineers at the port there.  The weather became a bit cool after the sun went down…and I think I will have to close the door to my stateroom because it will probably be too chilly!  We enjoyed watching the sunset, and we are all looking forward to another week together.

After it got dark, we went down to the bow observation chamber, which is way down in the belly of the bow, below sea level. You have to climb down through 2 locks and down about 30 stairs, straight down. It’s kind of scary down there.  There are 4 portholes which look out from the bow of the ship, and we could see the phosphorescent critters in the water. They glow green. It was very surreal.  Jason Larese, Stephanie Snyder, Daniele Adrizzone, and I went down, then Ryan Harris joined us about half way through.  Climbing up was not as scary as going down was!  I made it out safely, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything to show up in pictures.

Heather Diaz, July 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we set a special line for the Swordfish Feasibility Study.  This study is actually being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar, who has been researching sharks and other aquatic species for more than 14 years.  The purpose of this study is to see if swordfish can be caught using the shark sampling gear and handled safely for biological studies, such as tagging and sample collection.  To do this set, we used the same basic setup as we did with the sharks, with a few differences. First, the lines are made of monofilament A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”.  Stephanie instead of steel. Second, Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught.  Third, the bait used is squid, and each is baited with two.  Fourth, the leader lines also have a “Chemilure” on them, which is basically a light stick.  We have used yellow and green light-sticks. These light-sticks are clipped on the line near the bait, since swordfish will be attracted to the light.

A group of volunteer scientists set the lines at 3 am.  Then, the whole crew got up to haul in the lines at 6am. We didn’t catch any swordfish, but we did catch 1 blue shark and 1 pelagic ray. Around 8am, we set the shark line. We hauled in that line around noon.  We caught 2 blues and 2 makos. We had our abandon ship and fire drills today. For the abandon ship drill, I had to get my survival suit from my room, along with my hat.  I was already wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants, so I didn’t have to bring those. I also had to put on a life-vest. My meeting location was the second boat. During the fire drill, all the scientists had to meet in the aft lab. Afterwards, (he’s not an officer, but a civilian employee) 2nd Mate, Richard (Pat) Patana, gave us a speech about safety and he went over all the rules and procedures for both types of emergencies.  It was very interesting to hear.  All of the crew members are actually trained in fire procedures, and they wear the same gear that a fireman on land would wear. They are also trained in water emergency procedures, and they have been trained to “plug” and repair breeches in pipes and the hull of the boat, if there is ever a need.

Around 2pm, we set the shark line again. We hauled in that line around 6pm.  We caught 5 blues, 1 mako, and 2 pelagic rays.

A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic, though that is not the intended purpose of it. Rand Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.
A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the  shark’s age. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic. Rand
Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.

Personal Log 

During our last set, we accidentally lost a buoy.  I think it came unclipped from the line.  So, Chief Boatswain, Chico Gomez and Ordinary Fisherman Ryan Harris got the skiff down to go and rescue it, of course they couldn’t do it until the entire line had been set!  So, around 3pm, they asked me if I would go with them.  YEAH! Actually, two other scientists were able to go with us (Karina DeLaRosa-Mesa and Daniele Ardizzone).  It was a little scary climbing down off the boat because the ladder was a bit crooked.  However, it was safe, and everyone was able to get down without much difficulty.  We were able to go about 2 miles out away from the ship…which looked like a tiny little boat from so far away.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my camera because we all got really wet. On the excursion, we saw a mola up close, it was right off the bow of the skiff…I could have touched it, but when we got close enough to reach out for it, it dove under the water and out of sight. They are really strange looking.  After about 30 minutes, Chico Gomez spotted the buoy and I got to reach down and capture it and pull it aboard.  That was cool. We made it back to the ship just in time for dinner.

Unfortunately, our foam floated away before anyone could catch it.  They will need to go back and look for it later.  Dr. Rachel Graham was helping Dr. Suzy Kohin “process” the fish and accidentally smacked herself in the cheekbone with the bolt cutters.  It swelled up into a goose-egg. It looks like it really hurts.  The OOD, Sean Finney, came down to take a report. But, no medical report was filed after all since it was not a serious injury.  Dr. Rachel Graham is ok, but her cheek is bruised and she has a black eye.  She was able to laugh about it later, but everyone feels very badly that she got hurt.  We will all have to be extra vigilant to try to avoid further injuries.

After we finished our haul, the crew decided to go and look for the foam, which took us way, way, way off course. But, we looked until the sun went down and couldn’t find it.  I personally think that the trawler that was near us when we lost it picked it up.  At least, I hope so!

Two Baleen whales were playing not too far away from the ship today!  They hung around for about an hour, of course every time I got my camera out, they would go under the water. And, I don’t think I was fast enough to get a good shot of them.  It was very neat to see the plume of water blast out from the surface of the water, and then we could see them roll gently in and out of the water.  They are such graceful animals.  I would love to get to see them a bit closer!

The air is very crisp and it smells fantastic.  The gentle rolling of the ship over the waves is very relaxing, and everyone has said that they have never slept better than they have the last few days! I am looking forward to a nice sleep, and another exciting day with the sharks!

Heather Diaz, July 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 7, 2006

Boy Scout Troop 271, from San Diego, CA, arrives aboard the ship. Chief Boatswain Chico Gomez and Dr. Russ Vetter are also aboard the skiff. The Boy Scouts were participating in an oceanography course on Santa Catalina Island, and the troop was able to take a tour of the ship

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone woke up ready to catch some more sharks.  We set the first line at 6am. It soaked for about 4 hours. Then, we hauled in the line around 10am.  During the first set, we caught 7 blue sharks. Unfortunately, we also had one blue shark which died on the line. They think it must have become tangled up on the line, and it died.  It was not a very large animal.  They dissected it and researchers will use the samples to discover more about these incredible creatures. The afternoon set started around 12pm.  We hauled the line in around 4pm.  This time, we caught 1 blue, 1 mako, and 1 pelagic ray.

In the afternoon, we picked up another scientist, Dr. Russ Vetter, at Twin Harbors on the coast of Catalina Island. He will be helping us process the animals and tag them, along with Suzy and Rand. We also had 18 Boy Scouts from Troop 271 from San Diego, CA join us. They were brought aboard by Chico, who shuttled them over on the skiff from their campsite on Catalina Island. They had just finished taking a week long course on oceanography and they came aboard to see what our ship was doing.  I heard one of them say, “This is awesome, I can’t wait to be able to do this when I grow up!” I think there may be some future NOAA Corps officers in the making! They all seemed genuinely excited to learn about the sharks we are studying, and many of them said they wanted to come back and see more.  They all left with big smiles on their faces, and the camp “mom” was very excited to see what an impact the visit had on the boys.

Personal Log 

The sunrise this morning was gorgeous!  California sea lions and dolphins played alongside the ship all day, and we had a wonderful time watching them and enjoying the sunshine. The scenery is also gorgeous, with a great view of Santa Barbara Island not too far off in the distance.

Oh, one thing that happened during this set which was kind of sad is that we caught 1 blue shark that had gotten tangled up in the line and died, so when we hauled it in, it was dead. So, the pulled it on deck and dissected it.  I was able to get some video of it.  They are so cute when they are so small like that!  They took some DNA samples and some other body parts from it.  I didn’t stick around to see what they did with the rest of it.  Someone had asked for the jaw (a scientist from Long Beach Aquarium), but if they get another one, I will try to get a jaw.  It’s truly amazing to see how their jaw protrudes.  Also, I noticed that their teeth are almost translucent.  Very interesting!

The bait smelled particularly bad this afternoon.  But, we were off the coast of Catalina Island, so the scenery was gorgeous! I saw several dolphin playing, and even a few sea lions playing in the water nearby.

The sunset was equally as gorgeous tonight as it was yesterday, and we finished the evening off near Catalina Island. It was great to see the Boy Scouts come aboard as everything about the ship was exciting to them.  I wanted to spend more time talking with them, but they had to go back to shore so that we could move to our next block.  I hope that some of them continue to pursue their interest in science!  Perhaps someday they will be the Chief Scientist or CO of this cruise!

I am looking forward to seeing more of the Channel Islands!  I have only ever seen one of them, and I can’t wait to see Anacapa, as I have seen many photographs of this beautiful little island.

Heather Diaz, July 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 6, 2006

California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port for the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey.
California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port

Science and Technology Log 

After everyone boarded the ship and we were underway, the OOD, Junior Officer Sean Finney held a short welcome aboard meeting.  He explained the expectations of the scientific crew and regulations while aboard the ship.  Afterwards, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Suzy Kohin, held a meeting to explain our mission and to show us how the longlines would be set.

The mission of our cruise is to complete the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey, which is done annually. The first leg was completed last week. During this leg, we will resample the same blocks, so that the data can be compared.  Data will then be analyzed from the last 10 years to see if there have been in changes in the mako and blue shark populations. The primary targets for this survey are the juvenile pelagic sharks, the mako and blue sharks. Any other animal that is caught will be measured and that data will also be recorded.  Sharks will be tagged and released.  If there happens to be a shark that is no longer alive or who is too unhealthy to be released, they will be dissected and specific parts will be preserved for further research.  We are hoping that this will not happen.  We will also be taking a DNA sample from each shark that is caught.  At the end of each set, temperature and latitude and longitude will be recorded.  Primary and Secondary Blocks have been predetermined (as these have been the same for the survey over the past 10 years); however, there are a few days in which we may do sets in areas where the temperature of the water or slope of the ocean floor appear to be optimal for catching sharks to tag.

In addition to the primary survey, we will also be doing a Swordfish Feasibility Study, which is a project being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar.  She is looking to see if it is possible to catch swordfish in this area using a longline set, similar to the one we are using for the Shark Survey. They are also looking at whether or not it would be possible to control the fish well enough to be able to tag its dorsal fin.

Following our meetings, we practiced putting on our “gumby gear” (survival suit), which is made of neoprene and is intended to be worn only during abandon ship situations.  It is called “gumby gear” because it covers a person from head to toe in bright red neoprene.  Crew members aboard the ship are expected to keep their abandon ship gear close by in case of an emergency, and we have abandon ship drills and fire drills once a week.  Every stateroom is equipped with two survival suits and two life jackets.  Man overboard drills are conducted once every month or so.

The first longline, which we set at 4pm, was considered a practice set.  Setting the longline is comprised of several jobs.  The first job is done by Rand Rasmussen.  He begins the process by preparing the bait. For the shark sets, we use frozen mackerel.  Rand Rasmussen counts out the frozen mackerel and thaws them in 2 coolers using sea water. The mackerel are not baited completely thawed and are actually easier to bait if they are still a little frozen.

The next step is that the deck crew members prepare the lines by taking part of the line and unrolling it from the main roll.  They then string it through a pulley that runs along the side of the ship. After the line is ready, the bridge positions the ship so that we are in line with where we should be setting the line.  Then, when everyone is in place, they toss the flag. The flag is a flag that is connected to a long pole.  The bottom of the pole has a float on it, so that it stands upright.  There is also a bright yellow bag that looks like a windsock (called a sea anchor), which is also thrown into the water.  This catches the current, and helps to keep that end of the line straight.

Then, one person will unclip the leaders. These are made up of a gangion clip at one end, about 3 fathoms (18 feet) of steel wire, and a stainless steel hook at the other end.  The gangions are kept in cans, with 2 rows on 4 sides to which the gangions are clipped.  The hooks are looped inside one end of the gangion to keep our hands safe and out of the way from hands that might reach into the can.  There are 2 cans of gangions/hooks, and we set around 200 hooks during each set.  Once the gangion is unclipped from the can, the hook is removed from the loop, and both ends are handed off to the baiter.  The baiter puts the hook into the mackerel’s mouth, then loops it out the underside of the mouth and is then pushed into the back, making a sort of loop around the spine with the hook.  The line is then pulled tight.

The baited line is then passed off to the “clipper”.  This person waits for a small crimp to pass by on the line as it comes through the pulley and goes down into the water (towards the flag). There are actually 2 small crimps on the line which serve two purposes.  First, they keep the gangions from sliding off the line or moving positions.  Second, it makes sure that the spacing is uniform on the line.  The spacing for this survey is about 25 feet between each gangion. The clipper grabs the line with one hand, and then clips the gangion into the “slot” with the other.  The line moves very quickly because the ship is actually moving forward the whole time at a few knots, so the clipper must be fast and accurate.

After 5 baited lines have been clipped, a buoy is clipped on in what would then be the 6th slot on the line. The buoy goes through 2 stages of preparation.  First, the buoy is taken from the port side of the ship, where they are stored while not in use.  Then, they are clipped on a line near the setting line.  One person takes a leader line of nylon rope (again, about 3 fathoms long) and they attach it to the buoy.  Then they pass it off to a buoy person, who counts the gangions as they go by and then passes the buoy off to the clipper at the appropriate time.

While the scientists are working with the line, the deck crew is also working with the line at the winch.  There are always at least 2 deck crew members on hand to supervise the set. One person runs the winch, and they can adjust the winch to run the line faster or slower as needed. The other person carefully watches the line, to make sure that everyone is being safe and that the line is moving along safely.  They signal the winch operator if the line needs to be stopped or sped up.  They also keep in constant contact with the bridge to tell them how the set is going.

The bridge can watch the set process through a camera, which they can maneuver so that they can see the line as it comes off the winch, as it is being baited, and as it is deployed in the water. In addition, they can see the line on a computer screen which shows them the “box” where they are trying to set the line.  The box is an area on the navigational chart that the scientists have determined as the area in which they would like to set the line. We aren’t concerned about keeping the entire set within the box once we start, but the start point is selected so that most of the line will be in the box.  The bridge is responsible for watching for any other boats/ships that might be in the area which could interfere with our line.

Once all the buoys and lines have been deployed, the deck crew disconnects the lines from the winch and attaches the line at the back of the ship.  The bridge then watches the line while it “soaks” to make sure it stays as straight as possible.  The standard length of soak time for this survey is 4 hours.  While we are soaking, the scientists usually take a nap, play a game, catch up on email or research, relax on deck or in the crew’s lounge, get a temperature profile, prepare tags for the haul, catch up on data entry from previous sets, etc.

When it is time to haul, all of the scientists and 3 deck hands are needed.  The set up is a little different when we haul in the line, because there are 2 main areas of activity instead of just one. At the very rear of the ship, there is the tagging/measuring area.  This is done on two levels. The top level, which is on the same level as the aft deck, is where the data recorders and the deck hand that is operating the platform/cradle lift are located.  They are on opposite sides of the ramp.  The bottom level is at the bottom of the ramp and is where the platform and the “cradle” are located.  Usually Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, and 2 or 3 other scientists are down on the platform during the haul-in.  I will explain more about all these jobs below.

The area of activity nearest to the front (bow) of the ship begins with the deck crew members and the line.  Once the line is disconnected from the back of the ship, it is brought forwards so that it is in line with the winch.  It is threaded across a sort of pulley, and is reconnected to the winch. Two deck hands make sure the line is wound back on the main roll of line evenly.  To do this, one person operates the winch’s speed, and they can stop it if necessary, while the other person keeps pressure on the line by holding it with a special tool.  This makes sure the line winds correctly and does not get snagged.

Once the line is connected, the process is ready to begin.  The bridge gives permission for us to begin hauling in the line, and the first person, who stands near the pulley, unclips the gangion from the line.  That person then passes it off to one of two de-baiters.  These people pull the bait off the hook and drop it into the ocean.  They then put the hook into the gangion loop and pass the whole thing back to the clipper.  The clipper then clips the gangions back into their can (the exact reverse of the process when we set).  When buoys come up, the buoy line is handed over to a buoy person, who pulls up the leader line and disconnects the buoy from it. They then coil the leader back into its basket while another person takes the buoy to the other side of the deck and attaches it to a line where it is kept while not in use. If there is an animal on the line, everyone yells, “Shark!”, or whatever the animal is.  This alerts those at the rear of the ship that there is an animal coming to them.  The line that has the animal on it is unclipped, and then a “rope leader” is attached to it, which makes it possible to tie off the line to the ship if there are too many to be processed right away. Then someone “wrangles” the shark to the rear of the ship by literally walking the animal along the side of the boat until they reach the cradle.  It’s a very important job because they have to keep enough tension on the animal that the hook doesn’t slip out of their mouth, but they have to also be careful not to pull the animal up and out of the water, which could cause injury to the animal.

The cradle is a sort of half-tube that can be raised and lowered so that it is either closer or farther away from the water.  When an animal is brought around, the cradle is lowered so that it is in the water. One of the scientists takes the leader line and takes off the rope.  They then pull the animal into the cradle so that its head is facing the port side of the ship. The other scientist is waiting for the animal and he catches its mouth and eyes with one hand and covers the animal’s face with a wet cloth so that it can’t see and to help calm the animal.  He uses his arm and other hand to hold the animal down.  The scientist that lead the animal into the cradle also gets down on the platform and uses his arms to keep the animal still.

The first thing that is done is a DNA sample.  This is done by the Chief Scientist who uses hemostats to hold a small section of the animal’s fin (in the case of a shark, this is the dorsal fin). Then a small scalpel is used to remove a tiny section of fin.  This is held in the grip of the hemostat, which is then passed up to the data recorder on deck.  They put the sample into a small glass jar which is then labeled with the animal’s number and species. Most DNA samples collected were from makos because the researchers are trying to determine the population genetics structure of the shortfin mako shark in the North Pacific, though 3 other types of animals were also caught.

Once the DNA sample is done, the Chief Scientist inserts an ID tag, called a spaghetti tag, which is from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Services) into the animal, just in front of the dorsal fin. This is done by making a very small cut with the scalpel, and then the tag is inserted with a long metal probe, which lodges the tag underneath the skin.  The tag information is recorded by the data recorder, who later completes a registration card which will identify the animal by the date caught, length, sex, and species.  The registration card is kept on file, so that if the animal is ever caught in the future, they can track where the animal has been.

After the spaghetti tag is done, they do another tag, which is placed directly on the dorsal fin. This is called a Roto tag. To do this, the Chief Scientist punches a hole in the dorsal fin with a punch tool. Then, the tag is lined up with the hole and is riveted together.  This tag number is also recorded by the data recorder.  On some animals, they also place satellite tags and pop-off archival tags, but I have to learn more about how those work.  We didn’t do any of those today. The Roto tag has a special tag on it with instructions for fishermen.  If the animal is ever recaught, they can send the tag and some of the animal’s vertebrae in for a one hundred dollar reward.  This is only done on animals which receive the OTC injection.

Once the animal has been tagged, they turn it on one side to get the sex.  This is also recorded by the data recorder.  Then, they inject the animal with OTC (oxytetracycline) which is supposed to stain the animal’s vertebrae, which can later help to determine the age of the animal (like the rings on a tree).  It also works as an antibiotic, though that is not its primary purpose.  This injection is given just about in the middle of what most people would consider the belly of the animal into the visceral cavity.  The dosage is based on the approximate length of the animal and is measured out of a small needle.  The Chief Scientist gives the injection and holds the tiny hole where the injection was given for a few seconds to prevent any of the OTC from leaking out.

Then, they flip the animal back onto its stomach so that they can remove the hook.  They record where the hook was located (either the jaw or if they swallowed it).  They usually have to cut the barbed end of the hook off with bolt cutters.  The line and the broken hook are then thrown up to the deck to be recycled and refitted with new hooks for use again.

Once the hook is out, the animal is pushed to the end of the cradle and the tip of its nose is lined up with the very edge of the cradle.  The side of the cradle has a measuring stick on it. They hold the tail out straight and measure to the very end of it along the tape.  Once they have a measurement, they lower the cradle down into the water, and gently push the animal out the end so that it can swim away.  Usually makos dive straight down, but blues tend to swim around a while on the surface before diving out of sight.

Everything happens very quickly, so those who are processing the animal must be quick and efficient. The entire process takes no more than a few minutes, which is intended to limit the amount of stress on the animal, and so that we don’t keep them out of the water any longer than absolutely necessary.

Personal Log 

When we pulled out of the harbor, I was standing on the fly bridge (the very top).  I could see all the other ships and the other boat yards.  One cool thing I saw was the Naval Dolphin Training Station. It just looks like a bunch of square cement rings.  I could see the dolphins in them, though I don’t know if the pix came out or not.  I also saw a pier that was loaded with sea lions. In front of that, we passed a buoy marker which had become the napping place for 2 sea lions…they were very cute.  Once we were at sea, I was able to get in my room (room 01-1) and put my things away.  Then, I hit the bed and fell sound asleep. While I was asleep Chico Gomez, Chief Boatswain, and Sean Suk caught some Bonita….very pretty fish!  I didn’t get to see them whole.  But, the meat was a gorgeous salmony-pink color.  They said they will smoke it tomorrow afternoon.  They said I can try fishing sometime this week.  I will give it a try in a few days.

Because this afternoon was our first set, everyone was very excited to do all of the jobs.  I chose to do baiting first, and then I switched to doing the unclipping.  Both were fun, and everyone talks and laughs, so it was fun.  I was really excited to finally be on board and to get to meet everyone.  Hauling in the first set was amazing, and I got to see so many sharks! After the set, I spent the time unpacking and getting things ready for the rest of the cruise.

We caught 11 blues, 3 makos, and 1 pelagic ray.  We also caught 1 mola mola, but I didn’t see it. I am looking forward to seeing a mola at some point.  I couldn’t believe how different it was to see sharks so close, and not in an aquarium!

Today I learned how to tell the difference between a mako and a blue shark…the makos have more streamlined noses, a more silvery color, and they have a more symmetrical tail. The blues have a definite blue color to them, and their tails are distinctively larger on top than on the bottom. Also, makos have a more “thick” area in front of their tail, kind of like the keel of a boat, whereas the blues are more streamlined.  You can also tell the difference by their teeth. Mako sharks have little, almost needle-like teeth, whereas the blue sharks have triangular teeth which are serrated on the sides (that is, if you happen to get close enough to see one with its jaws open!).  But, they are all very cute!

The ray was also very amazing to see…they are a kind of steely-grey color, and kind of “spaceship” shaped.  Very different than the rays I’ve seen around the waters near Florida. I can’t wait to see more sharks and other sea animals tomorrow!

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 15, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Last night I was invited to attend an early morning session in the oceanography lab with oceanographer Candy Hall. Like most mornings on this cruise, she and colleague Liz Zele were collecting water samples from 1000 meters and up with a device known as the CDT (Conductivity, temperature with depth).  These samples are used to test things like  nutrient, salt, and chlorophyll levels. Candy also runs a primary productivity test on the samples.  This test will identify the rate at which phytoplankton grow.

After a short nap, I was off to the flying bridge.  Due to the fact that the sun was shining (a first in over 2 wks) and the seas were calm, it felt like a promising day.  There was the typical early morning fin whale sighting, followed by a lull.  During this let-up it must have been decided that our time would be best spent fishing for albacore (as several trawlers were within sight). Almost as soon as the fishing lines were tossed over a blue whale appeared not far from the boat.  The sun on the whale’s back made for a beautiful sight in and out of the water.  It did not take long to get the small boat launched and on the trail of the whale for a biopsy and photographs.  The time between mammal sightings was spent watching birds. My highlight today was observing a flock of arctic terns headed to Antarctica. This I am told is the longest migration of any animal.  Today became more fruitful when four adorable Dall’s porpoises flirted with our bow for several minutes.  To top it all off…as we were beginning to enjoy our first visible sunset and the rising of a nearly full moon, observers found spunky dolphins engaging in acrobatics worthy of gold medals near the horizon.  It was not long before they graced us with their playful presence. Several of us took turns in the bow chamber and caught some underwater glances as well as auditory treats!  Smiles all around.

Yesterday, Monday, a somewhat elusive whale species showed itself despite the horrid weather. Two Baird’s beaked whales appeared around the boat for several surfacings.  Luckily, the photographers were able to get a few good head shots. And, like most days, there was the morning fin whale sighting! Due to poor visibility, observers went off effort a bit early.  Sunday also supplied us with less than perfect condition, but a fin whale was recorded before noon. The JORDAN picked up a worn-out, far from home hitchhiker in the afternoon.  The deck of the ship hosted this cowbird for the evening. She hasn’t been seen since.

Saturday’s conditions were similar to Sundays, but it was even colder.  The only sighting was…you guessed it, a morning fin whale. When there are few sighting to report and animals to observe, the members of the JORDAN become curious about floating objects. During these “slow times” the ship has collected a few things, three buoys to be exact. Two of them are your standard orange plastic fishing buoys (probably headed for the dumpster).  These buoys provided bonus entertainment because they had lines attached to them and thus “things” attached to the lines. The other buoy is a much more prized and sought after glass fishing buoy once used by Japanese fishermen.  It was given to the captain.

Tomorrow is our last full day of the cruise.  Currently we are about 60 miles from the coast. Due to our position and course, tomorrow has the potential to be an outstanding day for observing marine mammals and birds.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

 

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 14, 2005

Drew Barth

Profile of More Crewmembers 

Name: Drew Barth
Age: 20
Home: Billings, MT
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Wiper–engine room
Years of experience: 1
Favorite part of job: Traveling to different places
Favorite cruise: Shark cruise
Favorite port: Yet to be discovered
Memorable experience: Dolphins bow riding while in the small boat
Continents visited: 1

 

 

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Jason Larese

Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
College: UC-San Diego and University of Washington
Major: Undergrad—chemical engineering; Graduate—Marine Policy
Job: Biological Technician
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Independent observer
Number of months at sea this year: 1
Highlight of job: Stimulating, exposure to interesting things
Memorable experience: First stranding—deceased juvenile gray whale; bow-riding dolphins in bioluminescence
Favorite species: Risso’s dolphins
Concern: Apathy
Continents visited: 4

 

 

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Mike Sapien

Name: Mike Sapien
Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 2nd cook
Years of experience: 2
Previous experience: In port support for DAVID STARR JORDAN and deck crew
Favorite part of job: Star gazing
Favorite cruise: Clipperton Island
Favorite port: Acapulco, Mexico
Memorable experience: An 8′ sand shark brought up in bottom trawl net
Other boats in NOAA fleet: ALBATROSS IV and DELAWARE
Continents visited: 1 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 13, 2005

Profile of Another Crewmember 

Name: Laura Morse
Age: 36
Home: Portsmouth, NH
College: SUNY Buffalo, NY
Majors: Biology and anthropology
Job: Field Biologist (specializing in marine mammals)
Position on the DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer
Years of experience: 11
Months at sea this year: 9 (including work with river dolphins in Cambodia)
Best part of job: Travel, being on the ocean, and the freedom and flexibility the job offers|
Concerns: Coastal pollution and fisheries interaction
Favorite species: North Atlantic right whales
Continents visited: 7 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 12, 2005

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

Science and Technology Log

Since I last checked in, several days and a lot of water have passed by.  I wish I could say the same for marine mammals!  For quite some time we have been in international waters between 200 and 300 miles off shore. Some time last night we made a turn that put us at a heading of about 105 for most of today.  The turn of the boat also seems to have brought a turn of good luck for the observers.  Up until today the sightings have been very sparse. Tuesday only one sighting of sperm whales was recorded and observations were delayed due to uncooperative weather. We did manage a successful fire-and- abandon-ship drill.  At about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday a sperm whale was sighted and the decision to launch a small boat for photos and biopsy was made.  Luckily for me, it was my turn in the rotation to take a ride. Despite using a directional hydrophone we were not as successful as we had hoped in tracking the whale while it was submerged.  The closest we were able to get was about 30 yards away.

Whale sighting
Whale sighting

Oddly enough, in our pursuit of the sperm whale we stumbled upon a fin whale and had good luck pursuing him/her.  The small boat returned to the JORDAN about at 6:30 p.m.  It was quite a unique and thrilling experience to get that close to a such a gigantic animal!  I am told that under normal circumstances, vessels must be at least 100 yards away from the whales or risk a hefty fine. Due to special permits we are allowed a more intimate experience.  Wednesday evening I assisted with the oceanography chores, including the bongo net tow. Thursday was a slow sighting day. It was not until the afternoon that a sperm whale was sighted. Shortly after dinner we passed by a weather buoy.  This excited the crew because often fish will hang out by buoys and other floating objects.  The observers took a short break and the boat made a few slow circles around the buoy.  To everyone’s dismay, no fish were caught.  By Thursday evening we had reached our western most position.

Today, Friday, was a relatively busy day for sightings.  In total, nine animals were observed. Most exciting was a blue whale that passed within a good viewing distance from the ship. Cameras were clicking away! One other blue whale was sighted and the small boat was launched. In addition to the blue whales, sperm whales and fin whales were added to today’s list.  Due to equipment failure and malfunction in the oceanography lab, I stayed away today!

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Using the hydrophone to track whales

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

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Jose Coito

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 9, 2005

Profiles of Four Crewmembers 

Name: Jose Coito; Age: 52; Home: San Diego; Position: Lead Fisherman–Deck department; Years on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 12; Previous experience: 22 years as a tuna fisherman; Favorite part of job: Working with different people, going different places, getting close to the whales in the small boat; Favorite port: “All good. Most every port we have a good time…eat, drink, have fun.” Most enjoyable cruise: Southern shark cruise; Number of continents visited: 4

Name: Annie Douglass; Age: 29; Home: Olympia, WA; College: Evergreen College, WA; Major: BA Science; Job: Mammal Biologist at Cascadia Research Collective;

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Annie Douglass

Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer/Mammal Photographer; Years of experience: 8 years; Months at sea this year: 6 months; Best part of job: Getting close to the mammals in a small boat; Memorable sighting: Observing 12 killer whales attack a stellar seal lion in the Olympic  Coast Sanctuary; Concerns for marine mammals: Run-off contaminants effect on coastal animals and under water noise pollution impact on whales; Favorite species: Blue whales and humpback whales; Continents visited: 3;

 

 

Thomas Staudt

Name: Thomas Staudt; Age: 56; Home: Tucson, AZ; College: University of Iowa; Major: Psychology; Job: Seasonal/Transient Employee; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Bird Observer; Years of experience: 30; Months at sea this year: 4; Memorable sighting: The first North American sighting of the Hornsby’s storm petrel off the DAVID STARR JORDAN last week! Concerns for seabirds: Loss of breeding habitat; Favorite species: Penguin; Continents visited: 7

 

 

Name: Candy Hall; Age: 29; Home: Cape Town, South African and York, England; College: University of Cape Town; Major: BSc Honors in Oceanography (working on masters); Job: Student; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Oceanographer; Years of experience: 10; Months at sea this year: 4; Best part of job: Ship life; Memorable sighting: A pod of killer whales right next to zodiac–too close to get a photo (2001, Oregon coast); Concerns for oceans: Anthropogenic pollution and over population; Favorite species: Killer whale; Continents visited: 4

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 8, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Choppy seas have made observations a bit challenging today.  Observers were able to spot a fin whale and calf this morning and another fin whale this afternoon.  The day ended with sperm whale sightings.  Our current position is increasing the number and variety of bird sightings.

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 2, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Due to a backlog of scheduled repairs, the JORDAN did not depart from its homeport, San Diego on July 30th as scheduled. On Monday August 1st, the ship headed into San Diego Bay so that adjustments could be made to its acoustic backscatter (somewhat like an echo sounder). While this was being done, cruise members not trained in small-boat operations were given a brief training.  After which, the Zodiacs were lowered into the bay and we spent part of the afternoon putting our training to use zipping around the bay.  Anchors were hoisted and the JORDAN left the bay about 5:00 p.m. Sightings since we left San Diego include the following: bottle nose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, short beaked common dolphins (which surrounded the boat by the 100s), two separate blue whale sightings, two separate sperm whale sightings (multiple animals each sighting),and a fin whale. Small boats were launched for the first blue whale and sperm whale sightings, and this allowed for photo identification and biopsies.  The two bird identifiers on board were thrilled to spot and photograph a Hornsby’s storm petrel.  This is the only documented North American sighting.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 1, 2005

David Starr Jordan
NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan

Cruise Information and Background 

The name of this west-coast cruise is Collaborative Survey of Cetacean (marine mammals) Abundance and the Pelagic (ocean) Ecosystem (CSCAPE). It is a collaboration between the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Sanctuaries Program. In addition to counting marine mammals, scientist hope to add to photo-identification stocks, collect biopsies, observe cetacean behavior, collect oceanographic-related data for ecosystems analysis, contribute to the leatherback turtle prey study, and collect data from sonobuoys.  There are a total of seven cruise legs, which will take the DAVID STARR JORDAN the length of the west coast and 300 miles off shore.  The ship will be following a predetermined grid pattern.  Each leg lasts 20 days. After the 20 days at sea the JORDAN will rest at various ports along the west coast for four days.

Scanning for marine mammals
Scanning for marine mammals

The boat has a regular staff of 16: four NOAA Corps officers, five engineers, five deck crew, and two cooks. For this cruise an additional 13 scientists take the total number to 29. The scientists fall under the command of the cruise leader.  She is responsible for directing nine animal observers, two oceanographers, and one Teacher at Sea. The mammal observers are on the flying bridge from sunrise (6:50) until sunset (8:45). The six observers rotate across three stations on the flying bridge, spending 40 minutes at each station.  During their watch two of the observers are scanning the waters with mega-binoculars referred to as big eyes (both on the port and starboard side of the ship), while the third observer mans a computer and enters in mammal data in the event a mammal is spotted. In addition to the three mammal observers, the two bird observers alternate in two-hour shifts. Last, but not least, each leg of the cruise has an independent observer.

Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll
Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll

The oceanographers spend the majority of their day sleeping–only because they are busy with operations before sunrise and deep into the evening hours. Daily, there are water samples taken before and after sunrise up to 1000 meters.  These samples allow the oceanographers to collect data about chlorophyll content, salt content, nutrient content, and primary productivity.  On a regular basis throughout the day they also collect surface-water samples for chlorophyll analysis and conduct regular water temperature tests.  Most nights after the sun has set, they also collect plankton in a bongo net tow.

When the members of the JORDAN are not working there is a lot of emailing friends and family, reading, sharing stories, watching one of 500+ movies, preparing professional reports, studying, working out and catching tuna off the aft deck.

Catch of the day!
Catch of the day!