David Knight: Scup and Grouper and Grunt, oh my!, July 10, 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: July 10, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 34 34.2’

Longitude: 76 56.6 W

Sea wave height: 0 – 1 ft

Wind speed: 7 kts

Wind direction: 230

Visibility: 10 nm

Air temperature: 29.8 C

Barometric pressure: 1011.9

Sky: Few clouds

Science and Technology Log

Today we set off on our two-week fishery survey off the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida with Tropical Storm Chris lurking off the shores of the Carolinas. The officers and crew of NOAA Ship Pisces have been busy all morning preparing for departure and do not seem too concerned about the weather. There are a lot of moving parts on a ship this large with deck hands busy at work repairing, maintaining, and preparing equipment for this leg of the survey. A concern of the scientists is that a large refrigerator that is used to store bait fish is not operable, and after trying to repair the current one, as well as trying to find a replacement, it was decided that the survey leg should not be delayed so we will make due. One set of traps were set about 5 miles off the coast the first day with a haul of black sea bass, tomtate, gulf flounder, pigfish, pinfish, and a type of porgy. Each of the chevron (V-shaped) traps (Figure 1) have bait fish inside that attract the species and are fitted with two GoPro cameras, one facing the front and one facing the back of the trap. A numbered buoy is attached and then the trap is sent overboard and allowed to sit on the seafloor for about 90 minutes. Once the deck crew retrieve the traps, the fish in each trap are first sorted and then weighed and measured and then released back into the sea. A pre-determined number of fish are kept for additional analysis that includes the removal of gonads and otoliths–more on this in a future post.

IMG_6425

Figure 1. Chevron traps ready to deploy. (photo by David Knight)

One may ask, “If you are trying to conserve fish species, why are you killing them?”  A number of the fish that are caught are returned back to the sea successfully because of the speed and efficiency of the scientists that are removing the fish from the traps and taking the various measurements; however, some fish are killed in the process.  By taking small samples of fish at a variety of locations within the study area, a bigger picture of the overall distribution and abundance can be determined which will then allow for the proper management of important fish species in the Atlantic. The numbers of fish trapped are insignificant in the bigger picture.  As an example, approximately 200 metric tons of Black Sea Bass were caught off the coast of North Carolina in 2015 and 2016; today we caught a few hundred fish in the traps. What the scientists take is like putting a drop of food coloring in an Olympic-sized swimming pool–it is insignificant in the overall scheme of managing populations.

 Personal Log

The great American writer Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Being in a classroom is much different than being in the field (or in this case, on the ocean) doing research.  I am determined to try my hand at as many tasks as I am allowed, and to experience as much as possible without getting in the way of the crew and scientists. When will I ever have another chance to remove gonads and otoliths from fish or string bait lines at 7 a.m.?  When a remora was captured, Dr. Bacheler recommended I experience the great sucking power of this fish, and paraphrasing Mark Twain, “I threw off the bowlines and explored.” I now have a nice remora hickey on my forearm even eight hours later and have decided to question the notion that remora and the animals to which they attach have a mutualistic relationship.  “Why would you do this?” you may ask, because the opportunity was there of course!

IMG_6471

Figure 2. Remora doing what a remora does! (photo by Nate Bacheler)

Did You Know?

 Many marine fish are capable of changing sex during their lifetime in a process called sequential hermaphroditism. Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) begin their lives as a female and may change to a male during their life depending on population conditions. This type of hermaphroditism is called protogynous (“proto-“ first or original; and “gyno-“ woman) hermaphroditism. In California, a common species of fish that undergoes protogynous hermaphroditism is the California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher).

References:

NOAA Office of Fisheries. National Marine Fisheries Service. Commercial Fisheries Statistics. [https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/]

 

Kevin McMahon: GoPro Science! July 11, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kevin McMahon

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

 July 5 – July 18, 2014

Mission: Southeast Fisheries Independent Survey

Geographic area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina

Date: July 11, 2014

Weather Information from the Bridge

Air Temperature:           28.1 °C

Relative Humidity:         86%

Wind Speed:                 17.08 knots

 

Science and Technology Log

As mentioned earlier, we are trying to collect data about fish populations in the Atlantic Ocean, off the southeast coast of the United States. One way to do that is to catch fish in traps. But, wait. What if some of the fish don’t go in the trap?

To help get a better estimate of fish populations, scientists use technology used by skateboarders, surfers, and snowboarders – the GoPro camera.

GoPro Camera on Chevron Trap

GoPro Camera on Chevron Trap

 

There are two cameras mounted on the top of the trap. One is placed on the front of the trap. Another camera is placed on the back of the trap.

Because the video file is so large, I won’t be able to upload it to this blog. But here are some screenshots of what we see on the video.

 

GoPro Camera and Trap Heading into the Ocean

GoPro Camera and Trap Heading into the Ocean

 

This is what the camera sees as it is sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

This is what the camera sees as it is sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

 

Hello pufferfish!  This is a view of what we can see with the video camera.

Hello pufferfish! This is a view of what we can see with the video camera.

 

Sometimes the video helps explain why we do not have many fish in our trap.  In this photo, a tiger shark is swimming in front of the camera.

Sometimes the video helps explain why we do not have many fish in our trap. In this photo, a tiger shark is swimming in front of the camera.

 

So, how do you count fish on the video?  The fish can be very fast and they zoom in and out of view. The scientists use a procedure called MeanCount. They look at the video from minute 10 to minute 30. Every 30 seconds, they stop the camera and count the number of fish of each species that they are studying.  They then find the average number of those fish in this twenty-minute video segment.  This MeanCount allows them to better estimate the fish population of that species.

Spotlight on Ocean Careers

I have been fortunate to meet many interesting people while at sea. One of those people is Adria McClain, the survey technician on the Pisces. Listed below are her answers to questions that I asked about her job.

 

Adria McClain holding a spottail pinfish

Adria McClain holding a spottail pinfish

 

Tell us your name and where you grew up.

My name is Adria McClain and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.

 

What is your job title and could you explain what you do.

Survey Technician. I am responsible for collecting, checking, and managing the ship’s meteorological data (temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, wind speed/direction) and oceanographic data (water temperature, salinity, current speed/direction, speed of sound in water). Additionally, I am responsible for the ship’s scientific equipment (e.g. conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) sensor, scientific seawater system) and the ship’s scientific software. I also assist the visiting Fisheries Biologists with sorting and measuring fish.

 

What got you interested in doing this type of work?

I’ve always liked science and knew from an early age that I wanted to be a scientist. I studied Biology in college and Oceanography in graduate school – this job allows me to do work in both fields.

 

How can a student prepare to do this type of work?

Take lots of science and math classes in high school and in college. Take lots of English classes too! In the sciences, it is important to be able to communicate verbally and in writing. I would also recommend taking a basic seamanship course to learn about navigation, shipboard communication, tying knots, and safety at sea.

 

Why do you think it is important to study the ocean?

The reasons are many, but to name a few, the ocean influences Earth’s climate and weather patterns, the ocean harbors yet undiscovered species, and the ocean provides food for humans and countless other life forms.
What was your favorite subject or subjects in school, and why were they your favorite(s)?

All of them! I’ve always had a passion for learning. If I had to pick a favorite subject, it would be a tie between science and foreign languages. I liked science because I was always fascinated with the natural world and wanted to understand and be able to explain what I observed in nature. I liked foreign language study because I wanted to be able to communicate in more than one language.

 

What are your hobbies?

Reading, science, and travel.  I am also a Batman enthusiast and collect Batman comic books, movies, TV shows, as well as books about the mythology, philosophy, and psychology of Batman.

 

Tell us about what it was like when you were in 6th grade.

In my school district, elementary school included sixth grade. We stayed with the same teacher all day and the subjects we studied included social studies, math, science, reading, writing, music, and physical education.

“International Day” was one of my favorite days – once per year, each of the school’s 12 classrooms featured the food, art, and history of another country or culture. Each student received a “passport” and could choose which countries to visit that day.

What is your favorite sea creature?

The Smooth Lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)

This cute blob is a Smooth Lumpsucker. Credit: Adria McClain

This cute blob is a Smooth Lumpsucker. Credit: Adria McClain

Adria explained to me that the Smooth Lumpsucker won’t be found on our current trip. Too bad. It looks pretty cool. She said that you can find it in much colder water, like the North Atlantic Ocean. To find out more about the Smooth Lumpsucker, you can click on this link:

Smooth lumpsucker

 

Personal Log

It has been fun and challenging living on a ship. It is VERY different from living on land.

My room is comfortable and I sleep on the top bunk.  The greatest part of all is when it is time to sleep. While you are lying down in bed, the waves will roll you gently from side to side. At the same time, the head of the bed will rise up and down too. And, if that wasn’t enough movement, we sometimes feel the ship slide left and right.

Because my room is on the bottom floor, the water from the waves will crash against the window. It makes a sloshing sound. With all the rocking and sloshing, I sometimes think that I am sleeping in a washing machine. So far, it has been a relaxing way to fall asleep.

I spend much of the day in the wet lab. Yes, you are right. It is wet in there. In the picture below, I am standing in the entrance to the wet lab.

 

This sharksucker can stick to humans too.

This sharksucker can stick to humans too.

 

This is where we collect data on the fish, like their weight and size. It is also where the scientists collect samples to help determine the age and reproductive health of certain species.

My favorite part of the wet lab is the fish waterslide. The fish that are returned to sea are dropped down a hole in the wet lab where they land on a jet stream of water and get launched back home.

Triggerfish returning to sea from the ship's  "waterside".

Triggerfish returning to sea from the ship’s “waterslide”.

We also have a dry lab. Yes, you are right again! No fish are allowed in here. This is where the scientists have their computers and where the video cameras are kept when they are not in their waterproof containers. Our chief scientist, Nate Bacheler, works on 5 computers at once when it comes time to decide where and when to drop the traps.

 

Nate Bacheler in the Dry Lab. Can you see the 5 computers that he uses?

Nate Bacheler in the Dry Lab. Can you see the 5 computers that he uses?

 

Did you know?

A team of 5 seventh graders from Sacred Heart School in South Haven, Mississippi named our ship the Pisces. They won a contest to name the ship by writing an essay and explaining why NOAA should choose the name that they selected.

 

Kevin McMahon: Fireworks, Red Grouper, and The Deepest Trap, July 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kevin McMahon

Aboard the NOAA ship Pisces

July 5 – July 18, 2014

Mission: Southeast Fisheries- Independent Survey

Geographic area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina

Date: July 8, 2014

Weather Information from the Bridge

Air Temperature:           26.6 ° C

Relative Humidity:         70%

Wind Speed:                 10.96 knots

 

You will notice that my blogs will now have two sections. The first section called “Science and Technology Log’” is where I will discuss our mission, the data that we are collecting and any other science-related news from our trip.

In the second section, called “Personal Log”, I will share about how it feels to be a part of this expedition and what it is like to live and work on the Pisces. I will also add a glossary at the end of each blog entry for some of the science and ship terms that might be unfamiliar to you.

Science and Technology Log

I am one of many people helping chief scientist, Nate Bacheler, collect data about the abundance of reef fish. Nate is a research fishery biologist and he coordinates the Southeast Fishery Independent Survey.

This work is exactly what you think it is. We are catching fish to collect data on how abundant the reef fish are off the southeast coast of the United States.

They use a trap called a chevron trap, to collect the fish. It gets its name from its unique shape.

 

Chevron Trap

Chevron Trap

 

Each time that the scientists deploy the fish traps, they use the same procedure. For instance, they use the same size of traps, the same number of traps, the same type of bait, the same amount of bait in each trap, and the same “soak time” in the ocean.

Most days, the traps will be deployed three times. Once the traps reach the surface, we sort the fish by species, measure their mass (in kg), and measure their length (in mm).

On some of the more important species that humans use for food, the scientists will take samples for other scientists to examine in order to determine how healthy a particular fish species is.  For example, scientists remove the ear bones, called otoliths, to determine the age of the fish that was caught. Determining the age of the fish from the otoliths is like counting rings on a tree because the otoliths form growth marks each year.

So far, we have caught fish of all different shapes and sizes. On one of our first traps, we caught a red grouper that weighed 11.67 kilograms and was 881 mm long.

 

Kevin McMahon with Red Grouper

Kevin McMahon with Red Grouper

 

Today, we sent a trap that went down 102.97 meters. That was the deepest that the Southeast Fishery Independent Survey has ever deployed! We caught a scamp (which is a type of grouper), many red porgy, and a blackfin snapper. This was the first blackfin snapper that Nate has seen.

Personal Log

Wow, I have just had an amazing few days.

The night before we set off on our cruise, I was able to watch the fireworks from the bow of the boat. Even though it was July 5, the fireworks were delayed one day because of Hurricane Arthur.

The best view of the Morehead City,NC  fireworks show was from the deck of the Pisces.

The best view of the Morehead City,NC fireworks show was from the deck of the Pisces.

The morning came quickly, and, we headed out to sea.

 

This is my last view of land for a while!

This is my last view of land for a while!

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

I am in awe over the vastness of our ocean. I wish that I was a poet because then I could describe it a lot better. To me, it seems like we are a million of miles from the coast. Everywhere you look, you see the most beautiful blue color. I think the Crayola crayon company should create a new color in honor the ocean and call it “ocean blue” if they haven’t already created a crayon this color.

Check out the color of the ocean  while the deck crew wait to deploy the next trap.

Check out the color of the ocean while the deck crew wait to deploy the next trap.

 

But, even though all I see is water in every direction, we are only 60.5 miles south, southeast off the coast from the Beaufort Inlet.

I also am impressed with all the collaboration that is necessary to make the mission a success.  For instance, there are two different groups of scientists on the boat. One group spends the night mapping the ocean floor using multibeam sonar. They share this information with the fishery scientists early in the morning so that they can decide where to place the traps for the next day. The scientists also have to coordinate with the crew of the ship. The scientists are constantly communicating with the crew and the crew are constantly communicating with the scientists. This work could not happen with out the help of everyone on board.

I also like how everyone is conscious about safety. At school we have fire drills and tornado drills in case of emergencies. On the ship, we also have fire drills and “abandon ship” drills. Check out the picture of me in my “gumby” suit during our “abandon ship” drill. I had to go to my lifeboat location and then put on my survival suit to protect me from hypothermia in case I fell in the water in the unlikely event that we had to abandon ship. We also needed to bring a hat, a long-sleeve shirt, and long pants for the “abandon ship” drill. Why do you think we need that?

 

Kevin McMahon in his survival suit

Kevin McMahon in his survival suit

 

GLOSSARY OF TERMS 

Bow – the front end of the ship.

Bridge – the part of the ship that is the command center. The officers navigate the ship from this location. 

Hypothermia- a dangerous condition when your body temperature drops too much, usually as a result of being exposed to cold temperatures for too long.

 

Anne Marie Wotkyns, July 9, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Marie Wotkyns
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 7 – 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, July 9, 2010
Latitude: 27⁰51.20
Longitude: 91⁰48.60

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air Temperature: 29.6 ⁰ C
Water Temperature: 30.5⁰C
Wind: 2 knots
Other Weather Features:
70% humidity, approx. 30% cloud cover
Swell Height: .3 meter
Wave Height: .2 meter

Science and Technology Log

Friday started bright and early as we met in the dry lab on the Pisces to plan our day. Today would be the first day of work on the SEAMAP reef fish survey, the main purpose of our cruise.

The Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) is a long term survey of offshore reef fish designed to provide an index of the relative abundance of fish species associated with topographic features such as banks and ledges located on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico in the area from Brownsville, Texas to the Dry Tortugas, Florida. For this cruise, the sampling occurred off the coast of Louisiana.

The SEAMAP offshore reef fish survey began in 1992. Bathymetric mapping (as was conducted yesterday on the Pisces) provided scientists with contour maps of the ocean floor, then sampling sites measuring 10 nautical miles by 10 nautical miles (“blocks”) were selected in areas with known topographic features. Within each “block”, specific sampling sites are chosen randomly.

The main equipment used in the survey are 4 camera units housed in a special metal “cage”. Each camera unit holds two black and white still cameras and a digital video camera, for a total of 8 still cameras and 4 video cameras which download images to a 1ZTB GB hard drive. The camera pod is lowered to the bottom and left for 45 minutes. The cameras record for 25 minutes of bottom time. Each night the images and videos are downloaded onto another external hard drive, then later recorded onto blue ray discs. Scientists view the video to identify and count all fish observed.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Close up of they camera array

Close up of they camera array

Capturing video from camera Array

Capturing video from camera Array

During a sampling day, some sites are randomly chosen to collect fish for measurement and sampling. One method used is a chevron fish trap, a large wire cage which is baited with squid, lowered to the bottom, and left for 60 minutes. Another collection method is the bandit reel, which deploys a vertical line strung with 10 hooks baited with mackerel pieces. This line is lowered over the side until the bottom weight touches the substrate and left for 10 minutes, then reeled back in.

Chevron Trap

Bandit Reel

Bait

Bait

When fish are caught in the chevron trap or on the bandit reel, they are identified, measured, weighed, and gender is determined. Then if the fish is a species commercially or recreationally fished, it is frozen and returned to the NOAA National Seafood Inspection Lab to be available for further analysis.

Holding a Red Snapper

Holding a Red Snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Measuring a red snapper

So now that I’ve explained the science behind the reef fish survey, here’s a description of our first day assisting Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher and Joey Salisbury, Field Party Watch Leader. Liz and I arrived in the dry lab (headquarters for the surveying and sampling activities) at 7:00 am, excited to begin working. The Pisces arrived at the first site and the camera array was lowered at 7:17 am (one hour after sunrise.) The camera “cage” was lowered using a hydraulic A-frame which extended over the starboard side of the ship. For the first “drop” we watched through windows from inside the lab, as well as on a video monitor. Then as the camera “soaked” for 45 minutes, the crew deployed a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth recorder.)More about the CTD in the next journal entry!

By the second site, or “station” we were outfitted with a hard hat and PFD (personal flotation device), required attire when working on deck. As the day went on, we learned to reset the cameras after each station, assist with fish collection and measurement, and enter data collected from the TDR (temperature-depth recorder) into the computer. Throughout the day, we followed a routine of

1) deploy cameras

2) deploy and retrieve CTD

3) on selected stations, move to second site and drop chevron fish trap

4) return to first site, retrieve cameras

5) on selected stations, use the bandit reel to deploy a vertical fishing line

We repeated this process for 7 stations.

No fish were caught in the chevron traps, however, fish were caught both times the bandit reel was used. Each reel station brought in a red snapper Lutjanus campechanus and a red porgy Pagrus pagrus. Liz measured and weighed the fish and Joey determined the sex of the fish. The snapper were frozen to be taken back to NOAA’s National Seafood Inspection Lab.

When there was no work to do on deck, we spent time reading fish identification books, learning about other aspects of the reef fish survey, visiting the bridge, checking in with the bird observers, and watching for dolphin or whales. On one break we took turns using a handline to fish off the side – I caught 2 blue runners, Caranx crysos and Liz caught one. We worked until approximately 7:15 pm. The cameras do not use any artificial light, so the work stopped as dusk fell. We’ll see what tomorrow’s stations bring!

Personal Log

After the first night’s rough seas, I was thrilled to wake up to calm seas on Friday, with the crew promising even smoother seas to come. I really enjoyed the variety of work we assisted with. We were initially disappointed after the first fish trap came up empty. After waiting for an hour while the trap soaked, then donning our hard hats and PFD’s, when the empty trap emerged from the dark depths, we compared it to being “all dressed up with no place to go!” But Kevin reminded us that “The hardest thing to learn about science is that ‘0’s are numbers too!”

I am somewhat “technologically challenged” so I was happily surprised how quickly I learned to log the TDR (temperature depth recorder) data. I was also happy that I remembered much of the physical oceanography I learned years ago.

Liz and I are becoming familiar with the ship-the lab and galley are on the main deck, our cabin is on the 01 deck, other cabins are on deck 02, the bridge is the 03 deck, and above the bridge is the 04 deck. And there are decks 2, 3, and 4 below the main deck, Each deck can be accessed by indoor or outdoor ladders (not stairs!) that are much steeper than your stairs at home. The interior doors are heavy and it’s hard to remember whether to push or pull, this has been a source of much amusement for us! The hatches (doors to outside decks) are very heavy and secured with a wheel that often takes two hands and a lot of muscle to open or close. And don’t forget to step up over the approximate 13” step. There are many reasons we only wear closed-toe shoes!

Hatch

Hatch

Opening hatch

Opening hatch

Ladder

Ladder

After we finished with our fish survey work, Liz and I went out to the back deck with our laptops to work on our journals. Some of the crew started fishing with fishing rods off the side of the ship. Within a few minutes they had caught a small mahi-mahi and a few other fish when one of the deck hands slowly started reeling in something big. Of course, our computers were put aside so we could watch as he slowly hauled in a 55+pound greater amberjack – it was huge!!!Lots of excitement and picture taking followed! Then he caught another one – just a bit smaller! Another rod brought in a large yellowedge grouper. I have never seen such large fish! It was very exciting to watch! We thought maybe since we didn’t catch much during the day, we saved our fishing “luck” for the evening! The fishing ended around 9:00 for the night as the ship needed to start moving to tomorrow’s location. We headed up to the bridge to take the CO up on his offer to steer the ship. More on this in the next journal entry!

55 lb greater amberjack

55 lb greater amberjack

Holding the amberjack

Holding the amberjack

Even Pascy the Penguin agreed this was one big fish!

amberjack and yellow-edge grouper

Amberjack and yellow-edge grouper

While I’ve been working with the science team, Pascy has been exploring the Pisces. Look at all the places he’s been!


This was the only thing we caught in the fish trap today!


This was the only thing we caught in the fish trap today! Pascy wants to ride on the block when they raise the large A-frame on the back deck.


In case of emergency, report to your life raft station!


Which flags are we flying today, Pascy?


I’m the KING OF THE WORLD!!

Melinda Storey, June 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Melinda Storey
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 19, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 27°34 N, longitude = 096°28 W
Present Weather: mostly clear
Visibility: > 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: SSE Wind Speed: 13 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.4°C, wet bulb = 27.8°C

Science and Technology Log

One of the goals of the SEAMAP Reef Fish survey is to monitor the health and abundance of reef fish to establish limits on how much fish the fishing industry can take out of Gulf waters. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program and is a State/Federal/University program for collection, management and dissemination of fishery-independent data and information in the southeastern United States.

Due to the oil spill in the Gulf, the fish we capture will be weighed, measured, frozen, and delivered to the Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) in Mississippi to be tested for hydrocarbons (oil) or other contamination to ensure that the seafood is safe to eat. Since the oil spill is far to the east of where we are doing the survey, our data will serve as a baseline and be compared to future studies to see what the extent and future impact of the oil will be in these waters.

Dropping the bait

Dropping the bait

Bucket of fish

Bucket of fish

The fish are taken out of the Chevron Trap or off the Bandit Reel and brought into the wet lab.

The first measurement we take is the weight (or mass) of the fish in kilograms (kg) using a motion compensating scale. One scientist will take the measurements while another records the data in a data table.

Weighing fish

Weighing fish

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Measuring fish, recording data

Next, we take three different measurements of length by placing the fish on a board that has a metric measuring tape attached. All length measurements are measured in millimeters (mm). First, we take the Total Length (TL) measurement which is from the mouth of the fish to the longest point on the tail. Then we measure the Fork Length (FL) from the mouth of the fish to the indention of the tail. The last measurement is the Standard Length (SL) which is from the mouth of the fish to the base of the tail.

Fish Diagram

Fish Diagram

Personal Log

I’m loving the gross and slimy science that we are doing here. The other teacher on board likes logging the data onto the charts and all the numbers. That suits me fine because I like hands-on science! The messier the better.

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Holding the squid

Baiting a fish trap

Baiting a fish trap

You can see me holding the squid that we use to bait the Chevron fish trap. I even like picking up the fish and weighing them and measuring them too. Our Chief Scientist, Paul Felts, let me calibrate the scale. This scale compensates for the rolling of the ship so we get a very accurate weight. I think the scientists get a kick out this old woman doing some of the gooey, messy work like baiting the fish trap with the slimy squid and the Bandit Reel with pieces of mackerel, but what they don’t know is that I don’t mind at all!

I have been amazed at the number of oil rigs in the Gulf. Wherever we’ve been – 100 miles out or 40 miles out – we’ve seen oil and gas platforms (rigs). Rigs that are out 100 miles start drilling at 5,000 feet deep. At night the rigs are all lit up and are beautiful but the number just overwhelms me.

Oil Rigs

Oil Rigs

Nautical Chart

Nautical Chart

The CO showed me a chart they were using on the bridge and it looked like someone shook pepper on a white sheet of paper, only each pepper flake was an oil rig. He said that most of those rigs have been built since 1997. At first, ships from oil companies were sent out to map the ocean floor and that would help them decide WHERE to drill. On the nautical chart there were two levels of ocean depths – shallow water and deep water. I was looking at the deep water chart. When I commented on the number of oil rigs, the CO said there were even more rigs in the shallow part. He said that when he “steams” through the shallow water rigs it’s “like driving through traffic.”

There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Brown Booby

New Term/Vocabulary

Bridge – the top level of the ship where the Commanding Officer steers the ship

Steam ahead – to move forward

“Something to Think About”

Nicolle found a moth in her room last night. Now, how did a moth get way out here? I caught him and released him but who knows what will happen to him. It doesn’t look good for the little guy!

“Did You Know?”

Did you know that if you get “pooped on” by an ocean bird, it means you’ll have good luck? Fortunately I’m not lucky!!!
There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Melinda Storey, June 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 26.52.6 N, longitude = 096.46.7 W
Present Weather: 3/8 cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius, wet bulb = 27.5 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

We reached our first research station 40 miles off the coast of Southern Texas sometime in the early morning. To maximize the use of daylight, the scientists begin collecting data one hour after sunrise (around 0730 hours) and work until one hour before sunset (around 1930 hours). At each station, a camera array is lifted and lowered by a crane into the water column, down to the ocean floor.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array being "dropped" into the ocean by a crane

Camera Array being lowered into the ocean by a crane

The depth of the ocean varies at each station but today the depth was somewhere around 68 meters (223.04 feet). The camera array has 4 sets of cameras pointing in each direction. Each set of cameras contains one video recorder and two still-shot cameras that take turns snapping pictures, sort of like closing your right eye, then your left eye, then your right eye, and so on. The purpose of the still-shots is to help the scientists, along with the use of lasers, to estimate the length of the fish in the images. The cameras stay submerged for 45 minutes and then they are hauled back up to the surface.

The next thing that happens at each station is the lowering of a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) into the water column. The CTD measures the changes in salinity (salt level), temperature, and dissolved oxygen as it passes through the water column.

CTD

CTD

CTD being lowered into the water

CTD being lowered into the water

This data is transmitted directly to a computer graph where a technician watches and monitors to make sure the CTD is working properly and stays within 2 meters of the ocean floor.

CTD data on monitors

CTD data on monitors

The camera array and CTD are lowered at every station, but two stations are chosen randomly to drop a Chevron trap and two stations are chosen randomly to lower a Bandit Reel. The Chevron trap is baited with squid and physically picked up and thrown over the deck. The trap is fitted with weights on the bottom to make sure it lands in the right position on the ocean floor and soaks for one hour before being hauled back to the surface. During the first drop of the trap, we hauled in a giant Warsaw Grouper weighing over 16 kilograms (35.2 pounds)!

Chevron trap

Chevron trap

Mackeral bait for chevron trap

Mackerel bait for chevron trap

The Bandit Reel is like a long line sent straight down to the bottom of the ocean. It has 10 hooks that are baited with fresh mackerel and lowered to soak for 10 minutes.

Bandit Reel

Bandit Reel

Luck was on our side again as the first drop of the bandit reel hooked 9 Red Snapper! This was our first look at the fish that is the main subject of our Reef Fish Survey.

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Personal Log

WHOOO HOOOOO! I’ve just done REAL NOAA science!!!!! Today we are dropping the CTD and the camera ray and then dropping the Bandit Reel line that has 10 hooks. The first Bandit Reel drop we caught 9 big red snapper. The largest one was 1.89 kilos (4.15 lbs).

CTD

CTD

Camera Array

Camera Array

This is the camera array – four cameras take footage of the fish down there.

The next time we dropped the line, they let ME take the snapper off the hook, weigh them, and then measure them. I measured the total length, the fork length, and the standard length. Then I bagged them all up and put them in the freezer to take back to the Pascagoula lab.

Measuring a red snapper

Bagging a Red Snapper

Bagging a Red Snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Measuring a red snapper

Me and a Red Snapper

Me and a Red Snapper

I also got to hold a sucker fish that accidently got caught on the line. Its sucker was on the top of the head. It looked like someone had stepped on his head and left tennis shoe marks! The sucker fish attaches itself to the bottom of a shark and rides along with him. We saw 2 sharks hovering around as we brought up the line which is baited with mackerel. The next time we deployed the Bandit Line they let me bait the hooks with mackerel and then put the hooks on the line. It was great! I love getting messy!

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

Suckerfish

This is a sucker fish that attaches to shark.

This afternoon the crew got out their personal fishing poles and fished off the stern. The XO caught a shark but he didn’t bring it on board. It was impressive to me. Then we threw out the fish trap that was sunk to the bottom of the ocean. We caught a HUGE Warsaw grouper in the trap. One of the scientist said it was the largest grouper he’d ever seen – 16 kilos (35.2lbs). Its eyes were bulging and its mouth was huge! Teeth and all! Nicolle and I were left alone with it in the bay when it started flopping and flipping all over the place. We squealed like little girls!

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

Warsaw Grouper

So far we’ve had two “never seen before” experiences! This is GREAT!

New Term/Vocabulary

Camera array

CTD – conductivity, temperature, and depth

Bandit Reel

“Something to Think About”

Why do you think it’s important to take measurements and weights of the fish for NOAA research? What are they doing with all that research?

“Did You Know?”

Boyle’s Law at Sea

Did you know that when the fish are brought up from the deep (60-70 meters) the decrease in pressure causes the swim bladder to expand? That’s because the swim bladder is full of air and if you’ll remember Boyle’s Law, a decrease in pressure creates an increase in volume. Here you see a swim bladder that came out of the mouth.

Nicolle von der Heyde, June 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicolle von der Heyde
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Nicolle von der Heyde
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Dates: Thursday, June 17

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 26.52.6 N, longitude = 096.46.7 W
Present Weather: 3/8 cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius, wet bulb = 27.5 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

We reached our first research station 40 miles off the coast of Southern Texas sometime in the early morning. To maximize the use of daylight, the scientists begin collecting data one hour after sunrise (around 0730 hours) and work until one hour before sunset (around 1930 hours). At each station, a camera array is lifted and lowered by a crane into the water column, down to the ocean floor. The depth of the ocean varies at each station but today the depth was somewhere around 68 meters (about 224 feet). The camera array has 4 sets of cameras pointing in each direction. Each set of cameras contains one video recorder and two still-shot cameras that take turns snapping pictures, sort of like closing your right eye, then your left eye, then your right eye, and so on. The purpose of the still-shots is to help the scientists, along with the use of lasers, to estimate the length of the fish in the images. The cameras stay submerged for 45 minutes and then they are hauled back up to the surface.

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array

Camera Array

The next thing that happens at each station is the lowering of a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) into the water column. The CTD measures the changes in salinity (salt level), temperature, and dissolved oxygen as it passes through the water column. This data is transmitted directly to a computer graph where a technician watches and monitors to make sure the CTD is working properly and stays within 2 meters of the ocean floor.

CTD

CTD

Data from CTD on Computer Monitors

Data from CTD on Computer Monitors

CTD

CTD

The camera array and CTD are lowered at every station, but two stations are chosen randomly to drop a Chevron trap and two stations are chosen randomly to lower a Bandit Reel. The Chevron trap is baited with squid and physically picked up and thrown over the deck. The trap is fitted with weights on the bottom to make sure it lands in the right position on the ocean floor and soaks for one hour before being hauled back to the surface. During the first drop of the trap, we hauled in a giant Warsaw Grouper weighing over 16 kilograms (35.2 pounds)!

Chevron Trap

Chevron Trap

Bait

Bait

The Bandit Reel is like a long line sent straight down to the bottom of the ocean. It has 10 hooks that are baited with fresh mackerel and lowered to soak for 10 minutes. Luck was on our side again as the first drop of the bandit reel hooked 9 Red Snapper! This was our first look at the fish that is the main subject of our Reef Fish Survey.

Bandit Reel

Bandit Reel

Bait

Bait

Personal Log:

Before venturing on this journey out to sea, I wasn’t sure if I would experience the dreaded sea-sickness caused by the constant motion of the ship rolling back and forth in the waves. Even the most seasoned of seafarers can suffer from this ailment caused by imbalances sensed by the inner ear bones. Ensign Schill, who has suffered from sea-sickness on past cruises, recommended that I be safe rather than sorry. I took medicine to prevent sea-sickness the first two days and decided to skip it on the third day. The rolling of the ship increased on the third day but as of now, I haven’t experienced anything unpleasant from the motion. In fact, I find it soothing and have slept well since being at sea. I hope this lasts for the rest of the trip!

Me on the Pisces

Me on the Pisces

Thursday morning I woke up early to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything on the first day of the survey. Immediately upon stepping out on the deck, one of the deckhands handed me a hard hat and a life vest. This is necessary anytime the crane is in operatioRaising and lowering the equipment can be dangerous with ropes and cables that quickly unravel and follow the cameras as they sink into the water. I tried to stay out of the way as the deckhands, scientists, and officers on the bridge coordinated to place the instruments in just the right location. Things moved a little slowly at first but after a few drops everyone seemed to get into a rhythm and the pace picked up.

Certainly the most exciting time of the day is setting out the trap or lowering the Bandit Reel. Everyone waits in anticipation to see what rises from the depths of the ocean. When the first trap came up I couldn’t believe my eyes at the size of what was inside! I thought it was a shark at first. The opening to the trap is not very big and I could not believe a fish that large was able to swim inside. It was quite a struggle to get the giant Grouper out of the trap and into the wet lab to weigh and measure. It was even more of a sight to see the fish flip flop itself completely on its side while on the lab table. This was one of the biggest fish I have ever seen – outside of the water that is. It was also exciting to see our first Bandit Reel haul in 9 Red Snappers. Some of them had their air bladders popping out of their mouths because of the drastic pressure change from the ocean floor – a sight I had to quickly get used to as we worked to take weight and length measurements of all the fish we caught.

"Giant" Grouper

“Giant” Grouper

Melinda Storey with Red Snappers

Melinda Storey with Red Snappers

Animals Seen Today:

Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

Warsaw Grouper (Epinephelus nigritis)

Sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates): Caught on Bandit Reel before it sank into the depths. It was released – after Melinda had a chance to kiss it goodbye. The picture on the right is of the top of its head.

Melinda Storey with shark sucker

Melinda Storey with shark sucker

Melinda Storey with sharksucker

Melinda Storey with sharksucker