When Sarah Stienessen was a little girl, she got a book about dolphins, and fell in love. She read the book over and over, dreaming about meeting a real-live dolphin one day. The problem was she grew up in Wisconsin, not a place with a lot of dolphins. However, as Sarah says “If you have an interest, don’t let location deter you from your dreams.”
When she grew up, Sarah studied zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but her burning fascination with the ocean led her to graduate school at Texas A&M where she finally got to study DOLPHINS (more specifically, the vocal behavior of dolphins). Her research there included using a hydrophone to listen to dolphins. She later moved to Seattle and began working for NOAA conducting acoustic surveys on walleye pollock in Alaska. On this leg of the Oscar Dyson, Sarah acted as the Field Party Chief (or Chief Scientist). Sarah pointed out that while her use of acoustics with dolphins was passive (placing a hydrophone in the water and listening to the dolphins) she is now using acoustics actively by sending an audible PING into the water and reading the echos that the fish send back.
Sarah was part of the amazing NOAA
science team onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, which included, Denise
McKelvey, Kresimir Williams, and Taina Honkalehto.
Denise was on the day shift, so I mostly saw her during shift changes and on those rare mornings when I was still awake at 7 a.m. and came down for breakfast (okay, bacon). However, early in the trip, she took the time to explain the fish lab procedure to me, even drawing pictures and a flow chart. (Thanks!)
While the duties of the science team often overlap, Kresimir is definitely the “techie” who enjoys inventing and creating new underwater cameras and other devices. Do you remember the TV show MacGyver? MacGyver was a secret agent who was beyond resourceful and had an encyclopedic knowledge of science. Every episode, he would solve the problem at hand in a matter of minutes using a combination of ordinary objects such as duct tape, household cleanser, a Q-tip, and some matches. Kresimir reminded me of MacGyver. If something broke, he would enter the room, grab tools and items that just might work in place of the broken piece, and sure enough, within minutes, the device would be up and running again!
Taina was always in the chem lab during drop camera time, her eyes riveted on the screen. I was excited whenever the camera spotted something, but I loved that Taina seemed equally excited to see what marine species the camera would uncover each night. One of the most exciting, and clearly the biggest, was the Giant Pacific Octopus!
Science and Technology Log
The Giant Pacific Octopus (or Octopus dofleini) is often rumored to weigh more than 600 pounds, but most adult octopuses are much smaller. An adult female might weigh up to 55 pounds while an adult male can weight up to 88 pounds. According to NOAA, the plural of octopus is octopuses, NOT octopi as some people say. Because it doesn’t have bones, a giant octopus can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter! The body of an octopus is shaped like a bag and it has 8 long arms (or tentacles) covered in suction cups.
octopus can have as many as 280 suction cups on each arm. That’s 2,240
suction cups! The Giant Pacific Octopus loves to eat crabs, but it will also
eat snails, oysters, abalone, clams, mussels, and small fish. The octopus’
mouth or jaw is shaped like a parrot’s beak. It is the only hard part of an octopus,
and it’s more-or-less
indigestible. That means that if a sperm whale eats an octopus, and the
contents of the whale’s stomach are later studied, you will see the octopus
beak even if you find no other sign that he ate an octopus.
to avoid whales and other predators, an octopus will camouflage, or change its
color and skin texture to match its surroundings! When he feels threatened, he releases
a cloud of purple-black ink to confuse his enemy.
Octopus Elementary Math Time
(Remember, an octopus has 8 arms.)
If an octopus has 2 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? _______
If an octopus has 5 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? _______
If an octopus has 10 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? ______
If an octopus has 2 suction cups on 4 of
his arms, and 3 suction cups on his other 4 arms, how many does he have all
If an octopus has 4 suction cups on 7 of
his arms, but half as many on his 8th arm, how much does he all
If an octopus has 259 suction cups and
his octopus friend has 751 suction cups, how many do they have all together?
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 26, 2018
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 39.487 N
Longitude: 73.885 W
Water Temperature: 25.2◦C
Wind Speed: 13.1 knots
Wind Direction: WSW
Air Temperature: 26.1◦C
Atmospheric Pressure: 1017.28 millibars
Water depth: 30 meters
Science and Technology Log
As if catching plankton and sneaking a peak with the microscope wasn’t exciting enough (see the picture of the larval eel!), there’s a lot more data being collected on this ship. All of it helps scientists understand what’s going on in this part of the Ocean. And some of it I am able to help with, which is my favorite thing about this cruise (well, maybe that and the incredible views).
At some of our stations, we lower a big and important science tool (called a rosette) into the ocean that contains niskin bottles (bottles used for water sampling) and a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth meter (CTD). As the rosette is lowered into the depths and raised back up, the scientists can remotely operate the open niskin bottles to snap shut at specific depths. This allows each bottle to come up to the surface with a sample of water from many different depths! Meanwhile, the CTD can take measurements of conductivity (which indicates the salinity of the water), temperature, and pressure, among other things. Scientists have thought of many ways to collect A LOT of data at one time.
When the CTD comes back onto the ship, it’s time for us to use the samples for different purposes. We collect water from 3 different bottles (so 3 different depths) to test the amount of chlorophyll in the water. Do you know what the chlorophyll comes from? If you said plants, you’re right! What are some plant-like things that are drifting all over the ocean? You guessed it! Phytoplankton! So the amount of chlorophyll gives scientists evidence as to how much phytoplankton is in the water. But first, we need to extract (take out) the chlorophyll from the water. We run the water through special filters and soak the filters in a chemical that extracts the chlorophyll. Then we can put the sample through a special machine that uses light to sense the amount of chlorophyll. Wow. One thing I am learning on this trip is how important light is in understanding a water ecosystem.
Do you remember what a hypothesis is? It’s an educated guess that answers a scientific question. When scientists come up with a hypothesis, it gives them something to test in an investigation. If you were presented with the question, “At what depth is phytoplankton most abundant?”, what would be your hypothesis?
Another thing we do with the water samples is collect a bit from most of the bottles to preserve and send to the lab to test for the amount of nutrients. When you think of nutrients, you probably think of healthy vitamins for people. But nutrients for plants are actually made from broken down waste of animals. It’s important for ocean water to have a balanced amount of nutrients so that phytoplankton can be healthy. But too much nutrients can also cause algae and phytoplankton to overpopulate!
But that’s not all! The scientists also take samples from the niskin bottles to test for Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC). That sounds fancy, I know. Doing this basically helps scientists understand the pH of the water and look for evidence of ocean acidification (a result of climate change).
Can you believe how much scientists can learn from dropping a big science tool into the water?
Scientist Spotlight – Harvey Walsh
Harvey is our Chief Scientist on the mission, meaning he oversees all of the scientific work happening on the ship. He has been so kind as to answer all of my many questions, including these:
Me – If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient, what would it be and why?
Harvey – I would like a tool that allows you to easily and quickly identify fish eggs and larvae. Currently, it is a time consuming process that involves sorting through samples and identifying them in the lab. There have been and continue to be efforts to use image analysis and genetics to speed up the process. An image analysis has progressed quicker for phyto- and zooplankton, but fish and fish eggs still lag behind.
Me – When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in ocean science?
Harvey – I always thought I would end up studying freshwater fisheries in Minnesota, where I grew up, but after the first two ocean cruises I participated in, I knew the ocean was more for me and the lakes had less of an appeal.
Me – How long has EcoMon (the ecosystem monitoring program we are using) been conducted and how was the protocol (the methods we use) created?
Harvey – EcoMon started in 1992 but it was modeled after a program that started in 1977. The bongo plankton sampling has not changed much since it started, but with new technology we have added the water chemistry
testing, optics, and other instruments.
To create the protocol, scientists from around the North Atlantic region got together to form the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries. This council had the job of looking at plankton sampling techniques and deciding the best way to monitor plankton communities.
Me – Can you share an example of a way that people have used EcoMon data to form and test a hypothesis?
Harvey – Our data helps scientists make connections between different species in a food web, for example. After people noticed that Atlantic herring (fish) populations were getting low, they used EcoMon data to come up with a hypothesis like this:
“Increasing haddock populations lead to a lower stable state of herring because haddock feed on herring eggs.”
If people want to know more about a certain species of fish and how it survives and thrives, they need to understand the whole ecosystem, including the food web!
This cruise continues to amaze me. Sometimes we’ll have several hours between stations when I love to learn from others, bring a pair of binoculars up to the fly bridge and join the seabird observers, or catch up on a good book. Being around the water all day is calming and serene. I feel that this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Another rare opportunity came yesterday when I was able to launch my drifter buoy as part of the NOAA drifter buoy program! First, I decorated the buoy with our school’s name and a symbol for each of the classes at our school – the Sharks class, the Rays class, the Dolphin class, and the Sea Star class. Then, after gaining permission from the ship command, we dropped the buoy overboard!
The buoy has a long canvas tube that extends out like a spring after you release it. This allows the buoy to have a long tail that reaches into the water so that it can catch the ocean currents and drift. If it was just the floating buoy, it would get moved by the wind instead of the currents.
The buoy has a satellite tag that sends a signal to a satellite wherever it goes. This way, back home my students and I can track the buoy online and see where it ends up! Where do you think the buoy will go?
Everyone on board gets excited when we spot a pod of dolphins or a whale spout! I can’t wait to see what’s out there tomorrow!
Did You Know?
Great Shearwaters are sea birds that spend most of their lives out at sea and only come to land to nest. They can dive deep to catch fish but do not have to dry out their wings like some other birds. They are almost always found soaring by air currents and they prefer stormy and rough weather for stronger air patterns to lift them up.
If a plankton sample with 5,000 individual plankton contains 60% salps, 10% hake larvae, 20% arrow worms, and 10% crab megalops, how many arrow worms are in the sample?
Latitude: 29 51.066 N
Longitude: 088 38.983W
Sea wave height: .3 m
Wind Speed: 11.6
Wind Direction: 5.3 degrees starboard
Visibility: (ask bridge)
Air Temperature: 27.5 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1014.88 mb
Science and Technology Log
Lisa Jones is a fisheries biologist and the field party chief responsible for planning and logistics, manning the survey and the day to day operations. She is in charge of the science team. The Captain, Captain Dave Nelson, is charge of the ship. These two work together on the Oregon II making decisions on where we go.
Lisa has been doing this for 20 years and has been to locations including the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, California, the western north Atlantic, and Mexico. The research has varied from a focus on shark/snapper like the one we are on to marine mammals, plankton, aeriel surveys, and harbor seals. Here are some of the questions I asked.
Q: What is the most interesting thing you have brought up from the ocean?
L: As far as sharks are concerned, one year off the Florida panhandle, we caught a sixgill shark so big we couldn’t even tag it.
Q: How big do you estimate the size of that shark?
L: Approximately fifteen feet
Q: What got you interested in sharks?
L: When I was working for the Cal Fish and Game, radio tagging and doing aerial surveys for harbor seals, we would see shark bitten seals as well as sharks during the aerial surveys. One of the coolest things we ever saw off the Channel Islands was a blue whale.
Q: Those are big, right? How big do you think it was?
L: I don’t know but it looked liked a small building in the water.
Q: What is your training?
L: My undergraduate degree is in geology. I took a lot of oceanography classes during that time. Later, in my 30s, I went back to graduate school for a degree in biology in Tennessee. It’s a long story but I knew I wanted to study sharks. Land locked in Tennessee, I attended a national conference that included many shark specialists. I introduced myself to get connected – basically anyone who would talk to me.
Lisa Jones explains a career in shark research, part 1:
Lisa Jones explains a career in shark research, part 2:
What questions do you have for Lisa? Post them in the comment section. She is happy to answer them!
I am adjusting to life on the ship and the 12-hour shifts. It’s been fun learning all the different jobs we have as we rotate through different stations. I have now baited hooks, recorded data on the computer as we deploy baited hooks and retrieve the longline to record what we catch, a slinger where I get the baited line ready to be attached to the longline, the high flyer pushing the buoy out that marks the start and end of the longline, and even tagged a large sandbar shark.
Check out this video of me slinging the bait:
There have been several questions regarding our route. The survey area has changed due to both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The next post will be all about weather so you can see how this has impacted our trip. I am wondering how much these hurricanes have impacted what and how much we catch.
Did You Know?
Salinity and dissolved oxygen in the water impacts what we catch.
Question of the day:
What advice did Lisa give for anyone interested in doing the kind of work she does? (hint: watch the video embedded in this post)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast
Weather Data from the Bridge: (Pratt, Kansas)
Date: 08/02/2017 Wind Speed: SE at 5 mph
Time: 18:40 Latitude: 37.7o N
Temperature: 29o C Longitude: 98.75o W
Science and Technology Log:
During my last few days aboard the Reuben Lasker before steaming to Bodega Bay for a small boat transfer on July 30th, we were fishing off of the southern Oregon coast. The ship continued to run the longitudinal transect lines using acoustics and collecting data using the continuous underway fish egg sampler (CUFES) during the day and performing targeted trawls for coastal pelagic species (CPS) at night. The weather and the pyrosomes picked up as we moved down the Oregon coast to northern California, but on what would turn out to be the last trawl of my trip in the early morning hours of July 28th, we had our biggest catch of the trip with over 730 kg in the net. Once again we saw 3 of the 4 CPS fish species that are targeted for the survey including the Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, and jack mackerel, but no northern anchovies were to be found. The science crew worked efficiently to process the large haul and collect the data that will be used to provide the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) with information that can be used to help understand the dynamics of CPS in the California Current. The data collected from the CPS fish species includes length and weight, otoliths (used to age the fish), gender and reproductive stage, and DNA samples. The information from these different parameters will provide the biologists at SWFSC with information that can be used to understand the nature of the different populations of the CPS fish species that are being studied.
Jack mackerel to process (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)
Sorted Pacific sardines to be processed
Tubs of pyrosomes
Kip checking reproductive maturity on jack mackerel (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)
Kip and Sue record length/weight data (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)
I am home now in southcentral Kansas, but as I am writing this, I can picture the science team beginning preparations for a night of trawling probably just north of Bodega Bay. By now (22:00) it is likely that a bongo tow and the conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) probe samples have been collected providing data that will be used to calibrate and maximize the effectiveness of the acoustics for the area. Lanora and the rest of the team will have prepped the lab for a night of sampling, weather data will be recorded, and someone (maybe Nina or Austin) will be on mammal watch on the bridge. It all seems so familiar now; I hope the rest of the survey goes as well as the first half of the second leg. I will be thinking about and wondering how the science team of the Reuben Lasker is doing somewhere off the coast of California as I settle in for the night. One thing I am sure of, after spending two weeks aboard the ship, is that the entire crew on the Reuben Lasker is working together, diligently, as a team, using sound scientific practices to produce the best data possible to guide decisions about the fisheries resources in the California Current.
Video Transcription: (Narration by Kip Chambers)
(0:01) Ok, we’re preparing to remove otoliths from a jack mackerel. It’s for the Coastal Pelagic Species survey on the Reuben Lasker, July 27, 2017.
(0:22) We have Phil, from Washington Fish & Game, who’s going to walk us through the procedure.
(0:30) The otoliths are essentially the fish’s ear bones. They help with orientation and balance, and also have annual rings that be used to age the fish.
(0:48) And so the initial cut is – looks like it’s just in front of the operculum and about a blade-width deep.
(1:01) And the secondary cut is from the anterior, just above the eyes and kind of right level with the orbital of the eyes, back to the vertical cut.
(1:22) It’s a fairly large jack mackerel. And, once the skull cap has been removed, you can see the brain case, and you have the front brain and kind of the hind brain where it starts to narrow…
(1:42) … and just posterior to the hind brain, there are two small cavities, and that was the right side of the fish’s otolith,
(1:55) … and that is the left side. And that is very well done. Thank you Phil.
Phill collecting jack mackerel otoliths (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)
Jack mackerel otoliths (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)
I wanted to use a portion of this section of the blog to share some comments that were expressed to me from the members of the science team as I interviewed them before I left last week. The first “interview” was with Dave Griffith, the chief scientist for the survey. Dave was kind enough to provide me with a written response to my questions; his responses can be found below.
Q1: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?
Q1: I was born and raised in a small suburb of Los Angeles county called Temple City. Located in the San Gabriel valley at the base of the San Gabriel mountains, it was the perfect place to exercise the love and curiosity of the animals I could find not only in my backyard but also in the local mountains. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I realized I had a knack for sciences especially biology. This interest and appeal was spurred on by my high school teacher, Al Shuey. With little concept of a career, I continued on to a junior college after high school still not sure of my direction. Here I dabbled in welding, art, music and literature but always rising to the surface was my love of sciences. My fate was sealed.
I entered San Diego State’s science program and was able to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree of science. For my dissertation I studied the re-colonization capabilities of meiofaunal harpacticoid copepods in response to disturbed or de-faunated sediments within Mission Bay. While studying for my masters, I was hired by Hubbs-Sea World Marine Laboratory as the initial group of researchers to begin the OREHAP project which is still operational today. The OREHAP project’s hypothesis was that releasing hatchery reared fish into the wild, in this case white seabass (Atractocion nobilis), would stimulate the natural population to increase recruitment and enhance the population. At the time the white seabass population numbers were at their all time low. During that time of employment at HSWML, I was also teaching zoology at SDSU as a teaching assistant in the graduate program. I was also the laboratory manager and in charge of field studies at Hubbs. My plate was pretty full at the time.
I heard about the opening at the SWFSC through a colleague of mine that I was working with while helping her conduct field work for her Ph.D. at Scripps. I applied and was hired on as the cruise leader in the Ship Operations/CalCOFI group for all field work conducted within CFRD (now FRD) working under Richard Charter. That was 1989. I have now been the supervisor of the Ship Operations/CalCOFI group since 2005.
My main objective on the Coastal Pelagic Fish survey as the cruise leader is to oversee all of the operations conducted by personnel from FRD during the survey. All scientific changes or decisions are made by the cruise leader using science knowledge, logic, common sense and a healthy input from all scientists aboard. I am the liaison between the scientific contingent and the ship’s workforce as well as the contact for the SWFSC laboratory. The expertise I bring out in the field is specific to fish egg identification, fish biology, field sampling techniques, knowledge of the California Current Large Ecosystem and sampling equipment.
Q2: What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?
Q2: First, that you never have preconceived ideas of what you expect to find. You always come out with knowledge of previous studies and a potential of what you might see, but the ocean always will show you and demonstrate just how little you know. When I was beginning in this career I was able to witness the complete dominance of a northern anchovy centric distribution change to a Pacific sardine centric distribution and now possibly back again. It’s mind boggling. I remember one of my colleagues, one of the pre-eminent fish biologists in the field, Paul Smith say to me during these transitions say, “Well, you take everything you’ve learned over the past 40 years, throw it out the window and start over again.” Yeah, the ocean environment will do that to you.
Q3: What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?
Q3: Keep an open mind. Once you enter a four year university you will see areas of study that you never thought or believed existed. Have a concept of where you want to be but don’t ignore the various nuances that you see along the way. Go for the highest degree you feel capable of achieving and do it now because it becomes so much more difficult as you get older or the further away you get from academics if you begin working in a science position.
And last, and I feel most important. Read. Read everything. Journals, magazines, classics, modern novels, anything and everything and never stop. Communication is such an incredibly important part of science and you need to have a command of the language. Not only is reading enjoyable but it will make you a better writer, a better speaker and a better scientist.
I am back home in Kansas now after wrapping up my assignment on the Reuben Lasker and I have started to contemplate my experiences over the last couple of weeks. There are so many facets related to what I have learned during my time on the ship; the technology and mechanics of such a large research vessel are both fascinating and daunting at the same time. There are so many moving parts that all have to come together and work in a very harsh environment in order for the ship to function; it is a testament to the men and women that operate the boat that things operate so smoothly. As impressive as the technology and research is on the Reuben Lasker, it is the people that have made the biggest impact on me.
You can see from Dave’s response above that there are some incredibly talented, dedicated individuals on the ship. I would like to share with you some of my observations about some of those people that I worked with including Dave Griffith. Dave is not only an outstanding scientist that has spent a lifetime making important contributions to fisheries science, he is also an incredibly well rounded person and an encyclopedia of knowledge. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Dave for his patience, and willingness to listen and provide insight and advice to me during my time on the ship. In my upcoming blog, I will provide more information about the other members of the science team that I had the pleasure to work with while on board. Until then please enjoy the pictures and video from my last week on the Reuben Lasker.
Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.
WHO WORKS ON THE OREGON II? Part 2: THE SCIENTISTS
Meet Lisa Jones, a career marine scientist who came to her present position as a Research Fisheries Biologist for NOAA from a life of working with animals. Born in Memphis and raised in the mountains of east Tennessee, she did her undergraduate work at Emory University, and then earned her Master of Science at East Tennessee State.
Lisa has lived and worked in Colorado where she trained horses for a while. She moved to California and worked for the Department of Fish and Game to earn money for grad school and eventually ended up in at the National Marine Fisheries lab in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She started there as a student intern and 19 years later is working as a research scientist for NOAA. Her schedule of being out on the water during the summer and home during the winter months suits her well.
Ten years ago Lisa got interested in doing agility training with a rescue dog she kept, an Australian Shepherd. Since then she has acquired 3 more Aussies through rescue and adoption (one dog left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.) Lisa’s interest in dog training and agility trial competition helps her recharge her energy and enthusiasm each winter so she is ready to go back to sea in the spring. Her big goal is to make it to the national agility dog competition trial with her Aussies.
Lisa’s advice for students interested in a marine science career is to do well in math and science, but do not neglect developing good research and communication skills: reading, writing and speaking. In a science career you will need to be able to work as a team member, report on your work and develop applications for grant funding. While you are young, get out and volunteer to get experience. Take internships, volunteer at an aquarium, a science camp or as a field work helper. Getting good field work experience is important even if you don’t plan a research career. It is hard to run support for researchers and set policy for others if you don’t have a fairly deep understanding of their jobs. “Always ask questions. Demonstrate your interest. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.”
Lisa has been my go-to person for everything I needed to know about living and working on the OREGON II. From making sure I met everyone, to teaching me to use and care for our equipment, to teaching me to cut mackerel and bait hooks, she has been right there. The success of this experience for me has been mostly due to having good teachers and being with a group of people willing to share their experience and expertise.
Kevin Rademacher, Fisheries Research Biologist, started out riding dolphins at Marine Life in Gulfport, Mississippi! He spent several years doing dive shows and working with performing marine mammals before he got into research work. Kevin was graduated from University of Southern Mississippi with major emphasis in biology and fisheries science and a minor in chemistry. After graduation he worked restoring antiques with his father while he applied for jobs in the marine science industry.
Kevin started out on NOAA Ship CHAPMAN, a 127’ stern trawler. In 1988 he spent 240 days at sea as a survey technician while earning certifications with survey equipment, deck equipment, as a diver, an EMT, worked the helm watch and corrected charts. Then he moved into the lab working with the marine mammal group, ground fish and reef surveys. He has chosen to continue working on reef fish surveys because it gives him the opportunity to work with cutting edge equipment like underwater cameras as they have evolved from simple video to using sophisticated arrays of four sets of camera groups, each cluster including a stereo black and white set and one color camera to give the fullest possible depth and detail 360⁰ images. Underwater work is Kevin’s main interest, but there are only so many research biologists so his job assignments have been varied. It was fortunate for me that he was assigned to work on the long-line survey this trip so I could learn from him.
During my time on the OREGON II Kevin has been a willing source of any information I request about the marine life we are seeing. He has a copious memory for facts and an encyclopedic knowledge of the appearance, habits, and names of the animals in the ocean. No matter what we brought up on our hooks, bony fish, sharks, algae, coral or shellfish, he knew them by common and scientific name and provided interesting facts to help me remember them. Kevin’s passion for his job is obvious in the way he attends to details and shares his knowledge. His irrepressible sense of humor made the afternoons baiting hooks with smelly fish in the hot sun an adventure instead of a chore.
Trey Driggers, Research Fisheries Biologist, first got interested in aquatic animals because of alligators. Growing up on a lake in Florida he was constantly warned to stay away from the water because there were alligators…the kind of warning guaranteed to intrigue any curious youngster. About then, the movie “Jaws” was released and the media blitz that accompanied it drew his imagination toward an even scarier predator. His interest grew and he remembers two books in particular that kept it alive: “The Dictionary of Sharks” and “Shark Attack.” From that point on his career path seemed to point straight toward marine biology.
Trey put in four years studying a basic liberal arts program at Clemson University. He remembers a Smithsonian presentation called “Shark in Question,” which had a chapter addressing the question “How can people become shark experts.” He entered the University of South Carolina and spent 2 years taking nothing but science courses to get enough credits and background knowledge to enter a Master’s program in Marine Science. He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience. Trey completed his thesis on yellowfin tuna and was ready to move on. Advisors warned him away from focusing on charismatic marine fauna, but his father had taught him to push back against barriers and pursue his goals. He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience. He spent 3 years earning his Ph.D. and worked in a post-doctoral position while looking for a research job. His previous volunteer work on surveys gathering information on blacknose sharks helped him get a foot in the door to get a contract position at the NOAA Fisheries Research Lab in Pascagoula. He continues research to add to our understanding of sharks and enjoys his job because he loves the challenge of not knowing all the answers.
Trey’s advice to young people is to get involved in volunteering in a variety of ways so you can discover where your interests lie. That volunteer experience can demonstrate interest that will set you apart from other applicants when it comes to applying for the limited number of positions that may be available in your chosen field.
There were six unpaid volunteers aboard the ship this cruise. They provide important manpower to get the research done while gaining knowledge and experience to transfer to other areas of their lives. Most often they are students who are gathering data to use for research projects, working toward advanced degrees. Sometimes there will be a volunteer like me, a very lucky Teacher at Sea who has been chosen by NOAA…….. to participate in the cruise to learn about the work and careers in NOAA to take that knowledge back and share it with our students and the general public.
Mike Cyrana is a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University, working toward his PhD in Marine Biology. This is the second year he has worked with fisheries crews in the Gulf as he compiles data for his research. Mike was on my watch so we worked together 12 hours each day and got to swap stories and share information. He shows a passion for his work that lets you know he has chosen a career he loves. Mike is to blame for introducing me to chocolate tacos….my newest vice!
Lydia Crawford is also a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University. She is doing research about sharks for her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Lydia was on the midnight to noon shift so our paths crossed very seldom. She is knowledgeable and willingly shared what she knows to help make our jobs easier. She also has been out on research cruises as a volunteer before and helped us newbies learn the ropes.
Kasea Price, working for her MS at University of Southern Mississippi was on day shift with me and helped me wrangle sharks, dissect for otoliths and collect any number of specimens to bring home to my class. On one of our last days working together she found out that she has been hired to work for one of her professors at school, a job that will make it possible for her to complete her degree without piling up huge loans. We all celebrated for Kasea.
Toni Mancinelli is the youngest of the volunteers. She is an undergraduate, just starting her junior year at The University of Tampa. She felt very fortunate to be accepted for this cruise and worked hard to learn and contribute while she participated. Her happy attitude and willingness to help made her a pleasure to know and work with.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016
Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016 Time: 8:28pm
Weather Data from the Bridge
Pressure: 1013 millibars
Speed: 0.2 knots
Location: N59° 01.607’, W136° 10.159’
Weather Conditions: Intermittent light rain
Before the Norseman II left port, the Boatswain conducted all the required ship safety drills with us: fire drill, man overboard, and abandon ship. This is where we learned to don the emergency flotation suit, gathered at the Muster Station for roll call, and went over procedures in case of an emergency. These drills are taken very seriously.
What is a muster station?
Safety first! Hard hat and life vest must be worn when on deck.
Ms. Cook in “Gumby” suit
Where’s Qanuk? Hanging out on the Jacob’s Ladder (emergency rope ladder)
We left the port of Auke Bay just north of Juneau at around 10 pm Friday night and steamed into Glacier Bay to arrive at Bartlett Cove this morning at 9 am. We disembarked to attend a required safety orientation for Glacier Bay National Park. Ranger Greg informed us that he had recently seen 4 humpback whales headed into the Bay! Also, that orca live in the Bay year round. Many of the channels are ice-free now because it is warmer than usual for this time of year.
After the brief stop at Bartlett Cove, we steamed into the East Arm of Glacier Bay toward White Thunder Ridge. Many of us were on deck with binoculars looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenic snow-capped mountains. We saw birds, otters, moose and mountain goats!
While en route, Chief Scientist Dr. Rhian Waller conducted a science meeting reviewing the purpose and plans for the cruise, which is to explore, collect samples and data on the presence and emergence of Primnoa pacifica in Glacier Bay. Primnoa pacifica is commonly called Red Tree Coral. NOAA’s Dr. Bob Stone, who first pursued collecting data on the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay back in 2004, is working on this expedition. Other than Bob’s documentation, the Primnoa pacifica of Glacier Bay, Alaska is a mystery.
Two dives were conducted below the steep incline of White Thunder Ridge. The divers got into their dry suits, reviewed their plans on how to communicate and collect samples underwater, and then boarded the little boat called a RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat). They returned to Bob’s old spot and dove about 72 feet down for sample collection. The dive took about 30 minutes and when they returned with samples, we began processing each one.
Dr. Stone prepares to dive
The black line is the ship’s track. It looks like we went in circles because that’s what we did!The ship was waiting at a distance on the divers to return.
Primnoa pacifica sample red tree coral
Samples for genetic studies
The Primnoa samples will be assessed for three different things: genetics, isotopes, and reproduction. The genetic fingerprints will be useful in determining the generational spreading pattern of the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay. The isotopes will aid in understanding what they eat and their place in the food web. The reproduction assessments will identify sex and level of maturity. An interesting observation is that Primnoa pacifica is one of the first corals to seed newly exposed rock faces when glaciers recede. Bob estimates that the tallest of these coral are about 40 years old because that is when the glacier receded past this point. Using that fact, he also calculates their growth rate to be about 2 centimeters per year.
Tonight, the ROV Kraken 2 will be deployed in order to explore deep depths for the presence of the Red Tree Coral. ROV means remotely operated vehicle. More on that tomorrow!
I must say it is a pleasure to be aboard the Norseman II with such enthusiastic scientists and crew. The atmosphere on the ship is one of anticipation and this is how I imagine the early explorers of Glacier Bay must have felt. Rhian, our Chief Scientist, described this expedition as exploratory in nature. I’ve always dreamed of being an explorer and now I get to watch some real explorers in action! These guys and gals have done so many cool things like study life in Antarctica, map uncharted territory, design and build new equipment, and travel to the deep ocean in the Alvin submersible. I am so thankful that they are excited to be a part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and share with our students in Scammon Bay and beyond. I’ve enjoyed listening as they brainstorm ways to use our eagle mascot, Qanuk, to engage young people in real science and exploration.
So, as I call it a day, I’d like to congratulate our Scammon Bay Lady Eagles who become the Class 1A Alaska State Champions today! Go Eagles! I’m so proud of both our boys and girls teams and their coaches. They’ve worked hard, played smart and represented our community with dignity and respect.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada May 27 – June 10, 2015
Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast Date: Thursday, June 11, 2015
To conclude the discussion of the research on board the Shimada, I would like to profile the remaining scientists: the four fishermen of the night shift, and give a general report of the results of the cruise.
Toby Auth, fisheries biologist with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Center (PSMFC), oversees most of the operations of the sorting, measuring and counting of the trawls. He works as a contractor to NOAA under the guidance of Ric Brodeur. Toby holds a BA in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Minnesota and he did both his MA and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in Fisheries Management and he specialized in studying the early life of fish–egg, larval and juvenile stages, collectively called ichthyoplankton, basically anything fish-related that is small enough to sort of float along in the water.
As a researcher, he is most interested in understanding spawning success and food chain interactions of the Pacific coast species that come up in the trawls. Typically, Toby is at sea 30 – 40 days a year, but this year, due to the anomalous warm blob, he expects to be at sea about 50 – 60 days. The anomaly has implications for all fields of marine biology and oceanography.
In the far left of the image stands Dr. Paul Chittaro, of Ocean Associates in Seattle, WA. Paul is at sea on a research cruise for the first time in 10 years, and he’s very happy to be here. He was on board collecting fish in order to examine their otoliths, which are ear bones. Otoliths grow every day, laying down rings, almost like a tree. Analyzing these rings can give information about the fishes travels, diet and ocean conditions when they were alive.
The big guy in the back is Will Fennie, who will begin his Ph.D. at Oregon State University in the fall. The entire cruise he has been eagerly awaiting some juvenile rockfish to come up in the net and finally, in the last few nights, some did. Overall, we caught much less rockfish than in previous years. This could be for any number of reasons.
Rockfishes of different species.
Rockfishes of different species.
You can hear interviews with Paul and Will below.
I have to give a HUGE thank you to Ric Brodeur, Chief Scientist of this mission, for supporting me as a Teacher at Sea and for reading each and every blog post!
Listen to my interview with Ric to learn more about the impacts of the research done on board the Shimada for these 13 DAS and possibilities for the future.
Thanks to XO Sarah Duncan as well, both she and Ric had to read and edit each one!
It would take quite some time to tell all the stories of the marine wildlife we have seen on our 13 day cruise, but I would still like to share with you some of the photos and video I and others were lucky enough to capture. Enjoy!
All photos in these two galleries are courtesy of Amanda Gladics, Oregon State University, Seabird Oceanography Lab.
Leach’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)
Black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)
A group of black-footed albatross sit on the water while one flies.
Sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus)
Pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)
Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
Black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)
Tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
Elegant tern (Thalasseus elegans)
A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) tail fluke.
A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) tail fluke.
A pinniped, most likely a Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
A pair of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) travel together.
A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) tail fluke.
A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) tail fluke.
My experiences on board the Shimada have taught me a lot about myself and my abilities. I’ve done more writing, media processing and chatting with new people in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years. I have a greater understanding of how scientists work in the field and the importance of fisheries to the health of our oceans and the commercial fishing industry and I plan to apply that understanding in my classroom to increase students’ understanding of marine science and awareness of possible careers. To my students: “Get ready, dudes!”
Hopefully, you all have learned a lot about fisheries research, the process of science and the fascinating cast of characters who sailed with the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. Maybe you’re even feeling a little inspired. Now, I know I’m an inland city kid, but I’ve loved the sea since I first saw Free Willy at the age of 7 and I’m not the only one who can trace their love of the sea to a starting point.
All the scientists on board have an origin story: one salient memory that they can credit with being the moment of inspiration for pursuing a life of study and research and a career in the field of science. If you’re curious about the world, you have the potential to be a great scientist. Science is for all people, no matter what age or situation, and these ones just happen to do theirs at sea. So, I want to know: Where will you do yours?
That’s all for now. Thank you for reading and listening and, maybe, sea you again soon!
Alex Miller, Teacher at Sea, signing off.
One last huge THANK YOU to the crew and officers of the Shimada for a wonderful cruise!!!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow May 19 – June 3, 2015
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical areas of cruise: Mid Atlantic Bight, Southern New England, Georges Bank, Gulf of Maine
Date: June 3, 2015
Science and Technology Log: Interview with the Chief Scientist, Jerry Prezioso
What is your job on the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow?
What does your job entail?
My job contains three main parts: pre-cruise setup, science underway, and post-cruise wrap up activities.
Pre-cruise Setup. (this starts long before the cruise)
Have to have the project instructions.
Fishing zone license if in Canadian waters
All Scientists are required to have a TB Test and Medical clearance to come aboard.
If any of the scientists are not a US citizen, green cards or security clearance are needed
I pick out the station locations and route.
Make sure there are enough materials/ supplies/ chemicals.
Supervise and coordinate all the scientists
During this cruise I had the day shift and so I did all the day time bongos and CTD’S with the Teacher at Sea DJ Kast
Track updates: I need to adjust for time and weather. I keep the ship working all the time 24/7. The ship costs thousands of dollars a day to run, so I make sure its never sitting. That’s why there are two shifts. If it is bad offshore, we move inshore to keep working.
Check logs, data.
Instruct the Teacher at Sea and provide them with awesome buoys.
Destage the vessel.
Deliver samples and data
Write cruise report
Operations table- what we did at every station. Bongo vs. CTD, Bongos for CMARZS, Dave, Jessica.
Make sure all scientists get home OK.
How many years have you been doing this?
I have 40 years of government service. Back in 1968, I had my first student NOAA job. At Northeastern University, I was a co-op student, which meant I alternated school with a work-related job until graduation in 1974. I got a job with NOAA as a biological technician. Afterwards, I was a fishery biologist. Then I went to the University of Rhode Island (URI) for my masters degree in biological oceanography (1991) and since then it has been oceanography all the way- 23 years of oceanography. I started helping out on research cruises. I would help with the plankton tows and show up to collect samples. I started going on many cruises like trawling cruises, fishing cruises, and would even travel on foreign vessels. I’ve been on quite a few foreign vessels: Russian vessels, Japanese, East and West German, Polish, and Canadian and it’s in these type of environments that you really learn to do more things yourself and learn more about different cultures.
What is your own personal research?
I am interested in the influences of distribution of plankton in various areas. This is what I did for my master’s thesis. I wanted to see what environmental parameters could affect plankton distribution. So far, temperature seems to be the strongest influence. Decades ago plankton that was originally found down south is found north now. Such dramatic change between 1970s and now. My boss has seen the same regional change with fish, seen them move up more north as the climate has changed. I am much more field oriented than research (lab) oriented, which is why I am out on the boats so much.
What are some of your hobbies besides SCIENCE?
Mainly SCUBA diving and photography
SCUBA diving: When I was younger, SCUBA diving was definitely a major push for me to get into oceanography. I was certified during college and I have loved it ever since.
Underwater photography is my favorite.
I remember being able to photograph River Herring which spawn in freshwater and then go out to sea to grow to adulthood.
I have lots of ocean fish photos, flounder and striped bass.
I also use my photography skills on the ship. For example, I combined SCUBA diving and photography by taking pictures of the crew cleaning lines out of the propeller (which is underwater).
Photo skills have definitely helped me on the job.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue Zupko
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 7-19, 2014
Mission: Autumn Trawl Leg I Geographical Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean from Cape May, NJ to Cape Hatteras, NC Date: September 16, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge Lat 36°54.2’N Lon 075°40.9’W
Present Weather CLR
Visibility 10 nm
Wind 300° 5-8 kts
Sea Level Pressure 1013.8
Sea Wave Height 1-2 ft
Temperature: Sea Water 24.3°C
Science and Technology Log
When on a field trip to Dauphin Island Sea Lab with my 5th grade students, I saw an exhibit about NOAA’s drifter program at the Estuarium. It seemed interesting to follow drifters on the ocean’s currents and learn more about our planet in the process. When I returned home from the trip, I visited the NOAA Adopt a Drifter site to see how my classes could get involved. The requirements include having an international partner with whom to share lessons and information. I was fortunate enough to find Sarah Hills of the TED Istanbul College through internet sites for teachers interested in collaborating. Her 6th grade English classes just began the school year and are studying maps. We both applied in late spring to the program as a team, explained our ideas for sharing information, and were accepted. Not only were we assigned one drifter, but two.
To create ownership for participants, NOAA sent stickers for us to sign and attach to the drifter. I was set to sail at the beginning of September so Mrs. Hills signed for her students. In addition to our friends’ stickers from Turkey, I attached stickers to the drifters signed by crew members, my students, friends, the science crew on board, and the NOAA officers on the Bigelow.
Sunday we deployed our drifters. They had come in a large cardboard box which had been sitting on the stern of the ship for almost two weeks. The directions were very simple. I just had to write down the identification number, rip off the magnet to turn it on, toss the drifter overboard, and write down the coordinates and time.
We were working close to the Gulf Stream so the captain had us enter the Gulf Stream so the drifters would catch that strong current and move out to sea. The water was pretty rough in the Gulf Stream, but, oh, the color of the water was a beautiful blue. When deploying (tossing it in the water) the drifter, I was not to remove any of the cardboard since the salt water would soften it and allow the drogue down below to drop down underwater (and it wouldn’t expand on the ship causing serious injury to us). The bosun (chief deckhand) suggested we push it off the fish board on the port stern quarter rather than tossing due to a lack of room.
The captain took pictures for me with my camera and the chief scientist ran the GoPro (a video camera). Must be an important operation when my two head bosses on the ship participate. We also had deckhands, Steve and James, our survey technician, Geoff, and Ensign Estela joining in on the fun.
After deploying the drifters, we watched them float in the Gulf Stream behind us. Where do you think they will end up? Track them and see where they are.
Both drifters came online when tossed in the water. However, one of them turned off shortly after it began its journey. Only time will tell if it turns back on.
I wrote down the necessary data on the form NOAA provided, took a picture of it, and sent it to the Drifter Team back at NOAA. They needed to assign them tracking numbers and put the link to the drifters on the web site.
The drifters last about 400 days. Click here to learn more.
Meet John Galbraith, our Chief Scientist
John is a mild-mannered man. He thinks through his answers and is very thorough to make sure his listener understands what he means. John has worked with NOAA for 23 years. I asked what he would be doing if he didn’t work with NOAA and he said, “Something outside with fish.” Can you guess what his hobbies are? There really is just one. Fishing. He loves fly fishing, trawling, casting, deep-sea fishing, you name it. If it involves fish, he loves it. As a matter of fact, he was so passionate about fish growing up that people always told him he would be a marine scientist. He grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and loved to be outside, especially with fish.
John is passionate about the state of the environment. When I asked why he believes what we are doing with the Autumn Trawl Survey is important, he stated that it is imperative to monitor the health of our ocean through the survey. Data about fish populations (or most environmental science) must be collected over a long period of time, and using the same method, in order to make comparisons. Is what’s happening today different than what was happening 40 years ago with our fish populations? John said, “If we didn’t know what was there 20 years ago, for example, we wouldn’t know if the population of a fish species is more or less abundant.” This is the information we are gathering for scientists to evaluate.
What we are doing directly affects commercial and recreational fishing. He called this “pressure” since fisherman are changing the population of the fish they are catching. So, the surveys are looking to see what impact these pressures have on the fish. The data is used to help make or change rules for fisherman. So, if the population of a species is declining, and the larger fish are the ones needed for reproduction, for example, a rule might be installed saying that fish of a certain size cannot be kept. I found this in Canada when I went fishing this summer for Walleyed Pike. We could only keep four fish a day, and only one of those could be over 18 inches long. This helped preserve the ones who will keep reproducing so the species won’t disappear. Conversely, if there are a huge amount of a species of fish, the rules could change to allow more larger fish to be kept.
John loves his job because he loves seeing the diversity of fish. He spends 50% of his time on the boat to catch fish and the other 50% identifying fish in the lab. People are sent to him when they need a “fish expert”.
John said if he had to name the one tool he couldn’t live without it would be his fish database by Oracle. It is computer software to catalogue fish species. There is even a way to easily create web pages, which he really likes.
Now, related to this is a tool which already exists that he would love, but is very expensive. When we get certain little fish in the net, they are damaged (smushed) badly. He would like unlimited genetic testing of fish to verify the species. It would speed up identification of the fish.
John’s strength in getting the word out about fish is through his passion and willingness to teach others. Cruises such as the one I am on are the perfect opportunity to teach others. I predict a book or magazine article about fish or fish identification to be in his future so he can share his love of fish even more.
John’s advice to young people is to get stronger in math and science when it comes to school. When not at school, get outside and observe the world around you. So there is a tree on your hike. Do you know what kind it is? How tall will it grow? What lives on or in it? Look in the water. What type of fish are there? How is the type of water (pond, stream, lake) related to the fish that live there? Learn about your environment. Catch frogs and turtles and find out about them. John says all types of learning are important. He graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Interestingly, several people on this ship graduated from there.
There are several types of doors on a ship. One is what you find in a home with a handle rather than a knob. Then, there are heavy doors with a wheel for certain bulkhead doors going outside. And, my favorite, the big handled doors between compartments inside. These all used to be wheels, and I found them very difficult to manage when on my last cruise.
Difficult for me to open wheel-style doors
New large levers.
Had to throw my weight into this door leading to the exercise room on the Pisces.
Did You Know?
Here is a mariner’s trick the captain was teaching the ensign on watch this morning. Remember these numbers. 6 & 10, 5 & 12. Did you know if you want to estimate a time of arrival (ETA) on a boat, you can calculate it quickly in your head? At 6 knots (kts) it takes 10 minutes to travel 1 nautical mile (nm). At 10 kts it takes 6 minutes to travel 1 nm. And at 5 kts it takes 12 minutes to travel 1 nm and at 12 kts it takes 5 minutes to travel 1 nm.
Question of the Day
How long would it take to travel 1 nm if steaming (traveling) at 20 kts?
One of John’s favorite words: Congeners–These are things which appear incredibly similar; for fish it means the same genus, but different species. When I was trying to learn the different fish while sorting, I found the Croaker and the Spot to be similar. Both have a spot on their side, but the Spot’s spot is above his pectoral (side) fin and the Croaker’s is on its pectoral fin. The Pigfish, Butterfish, and Scup as well as the different Anchovies are difficult to identify when just learning.
However, although these fish appear similar, all are in different genera and some in different families. An example of congeners that we have seen this trip would be the Marbled Puffer, Sphoeroides dorsalis, the Northern Puffer, Sphoeroides maculatus, and the Bandtail Puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri. All have the same genus, Sphoeroides – which implies that they are all very similar looking fishes. In fact, their body shapes are almost identical, but they each have different color patterns.
Something to Think About
If you spend all your time sitting at a computer, will you have more or less opportunity to understand about our environment? Can you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste it?
Follow John’s advice and get outside more than you have been. Exploring the world around you is a great way to Sharpen the Saw, as we say at Weatherly using The Leader in Me program.
Animals Seen Today
What is it?
Can you identify what this is?
Write down your guesses in the comments for this post.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette July 1 — 14, 2011
Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 11, 2011
Surf. Water Temp.
Surf. Water Sal.
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA): Mike Seki
Duty: I oversee all operations at the Pacific Islands Science Center. That includes all operation: four research divisions, administration and information technology, science operations. Under science operations the Science Center has about 30 small boats (12 to 30 feet) and the Oscar Elton Sette ship (224 feet) to support the mission…
What do you like about the job? It allows me to see how it all comes together; all facets of the science and how we accomplish our mission.
Experience/ Education: I have BS in biology and have worked with NOAA for 31 years. While working, I went back to school to get my masters and PHD. In today’s world, to be credible, you really need to have an education. Most of our research scientists have a PHD.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Trying to do what we can with limited resources. We have to prioritize and that involves making tough decisions.
Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA
Duty: I have responsibility for the whole ship; safety, operations, moral, everything.
What do you like about the job? I like it best when everyone works together and all the pieces fall into place. We get a chance to see things most people don’t. It‘s a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.
Experience/ Education: I obtained a BS in geosystems in environmental management, worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm, and have forked for NOAA for 12 years.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
There are things you don’t have any control over.
Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana
Duty: Second in command after Commanding Officer. I do the administrative work for the ship.
What do you like about the job? I like the NOAA mission, and the job pays well.
Experience/ Education: I am a licensed Captain. I am from Alaska and used to be a commercial long line fisherman in Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast catching shrimp, halibut, and salmon. Then I worked with charter fishing boats.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
The administrative duties.
LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS
LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS
Duty: Medical officer- Emergency medical care on the ship.
I actually work for the United States Public Health Service.
What do you like about the job? Meeting new people
Experience/ Education: Eight years of schooling in Chicago, IL. I use to work for the Bureau of Prisons in Honolulu.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The ship is kind of like a “mini-jail”. We are out to sea for long periods and you can’t go anywhere. The confinement can be hard.
What is the most common reason for seeing the doctor at sea? Sea sickness and headaches.
Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA
Duty: A liaison between scientists and command officer (CO)
What do you like about the job? I was trained as a scientist, so I like to use that background to better understand where the scientists are coming from and what they want to do, then use the information to relay it to the Captain (CO).
Experience/ Education: I have a BA in biology and a Masters in evolutionary biology. I have worked my way up to this position by doing various jobs. I work onshore and on the ship at sea. We get transferred every few years, so I will be going to Oregon next.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?Being away from home.
Chief Scientist: Evan Howell
Duty: Directs the operations of the scientists, coordinates activities working with the OPS to make sure the bridge understands what the scientists are trying to accomplish, and writes report on progress.
What do you like about the job? Although it is tough while we’re going through the process of gathering data, to me it is very satisfying in the end to have something that people can use to further studies of the ecosystem.
Experience /Education: I have a PHD; however, I didn’t have it when I began the job with NOAA. What’s important for this position is to be able to organize all the different studies, communicate with the scientists and know when to push or back off. You need to be able to see the “big picture” of the project and keep it going forward.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? It is kind of like a juggling act keeping everything going smoothly. There are so many activities happening at the same time, it is sometimes very challenging.
Research Fishery Biologist: Donald
Duty: Research projects dealing with oceanography. (For example; protected species, turtles and larval transports). On this cruise, I am helping lead the midwater trawling operations.
What do you like about the job? The variety. You don’t get bored with one thing. I tend to get bored working on just one thing at a time.
Experience/ Education: I got my masters in biological oceanography, went to work at NOAA, and then went back to school for my PHD.
Can you explain the hardest part your job? Short deadlines and not enough time.
PHD Students: Both up nights supervising the trawls, organizing, recording data, and writing reports.
Johanna: She is working on her PHD through UH in oceanography. Johanna has been working closely with Donald researching larval transport.
John: He is also working on his PHD in preparative biology through the Museum of Natural History in New York. His specialty is studying mictophids.
Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko
Duty: My primary duty is to serve as the PIFSC Vessel Coordinator, and to oversee the science portion of the NOAA Marine Natural Monuments Program. My group also handles permits, and makes sure our internal programs are properly in compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act- 1969. On the ship I am working acoustics.
What do you like about the job? Overseeing a great team of people that help PIFSC scientists go out into the field to conduct important research.
Experience/Education: I got my BS degree, became a survey technician, and then went back to school for my masters in environmental management.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Coordinating with people outside of our structure can be challenging. We work with the US Fish and Wildlife, the State of Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, the Marianas, and other sections of NOAA.
Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)
What do you like about the job?
Chief Steward: Clementine: My passion is cooking. So I enjoy my job. I can put any kind of food I want out here. The sky’s the limit!
2nd Cook: Jay: I love being on the ocean and living in Hawaii. And I enjoy working with Clementine who is a native of Samoa. She teaches me about Polynesian and Asian cuisine.
Clementine: I used to run my own business in America Samoa. It was a catering business called Mai Sei Aute which means “my hibiscus flower” in Samoan. I catered to a private school named Pacific Horizon, with 130 students and did all the work myself; cooking, delivering, and cleaning. The way I got this job is a long story. I started out on the ship called Ka’imimoana. My husband heard one of the cooks left, so I flew over to Hawaii and was working two weeks later. Then I moved over to the OES seven years later.
Jay: I’m from Rhode Island and graduated from Johnson and Wales University where I earned a BS in culinary arts.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Long hours! We work 12-14 hours a day while at sea with no days off. If we are at sea 30 days, we work 30 days. Another thing is you don’t always have your own room. Sometimes you share with another person.
Deck and Engineering Departments
Chief Engineer: Harry
Duty: I am responsible for the engineering department on board the ship. That includes the engine room, hydraulic, electric, all the equipment, and the propulsion plant that keeps the ship underway.
What do you like about the job?
It is a “hands on” type of job, and I enjoy repairing equipment.
I spent 22 years in the Navy and obtained my Chief Engineer License through the Coast Guard.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Finding good qualified people is difficult. You can delegate the work, but not the responsibility. So if the employee I hire doesn’t do the job, I am responsible for getting it done.
Chief Boatswain: Kenji
Duty: Supervise the deck department
What do you like about the job? When everything runs smoothly
Education/Experience: I’ve worked for NOAA 24 years. Before that I was a commercial fisherman on an AKU Sampan.
Explain the hardest part of your job: Rough seas make the work more difficult and dangerous.
What do you like about the job?
Bruce: Everything! I like working with the machines, the science, helping the environment, and the people. I like NOAA’s mission. And my boss; he’s the best boss I ever had. He has patience with us.
Ray: I love everything about my job. I like the fact that I am at sea and learn things every day and meet new people all the time. The science part of it opens up a whole new world to me. It is something that I wish everyone could experience.
Phil: I agree with NOAA’s mission of ocean management and conservation. This ship, in particular, is a nice place to work because of the people.
Bruce: I have worked for NOAA for 10 years. Before that, I was a long line fisherman; mostly AHI. I also worked construction with heavy equipment.
Ray: I was in the Navy when I was young. Then I attended Prince George Community College in Maryland and Rets Electronic School in New Jersey. I had my own electronics business. NOAA sends us to different places for training; for example Mitags (Maritime Institute of technology and graduate studies).
Phil: I have worked real estate appraisal for 20 plus years. I used to have my own real estate appraisal business in Honolulu, worked for a bank doing appraisals, and also for the city and state. Right before this job, I worked on an import ship. Then I was trained by NOAA at the Hawaii Maritime Institute. They trained me on firefighting, lifesaving, and construction of ships, lookouts, and also personal responsibility.
Mills: I went to high school and college in South Carolina to get a degree in marine technology. Then I worked in Alaska for salmon hatcheries. I moved back to South Carolina and worked for the SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources). Five years ago, NOAA called me and asked if I could go to Dutch Harbor in two weeks, and I’ve been with them ever since. I started out working in the hydrographic side of things.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Bruce: Nothing really. I like my job.
Ray: Dealing with negativity issues and people conflicts.
Phil: I would say it has to be adjusting to the schedules. We don’t have a regular 8 hour on, 8 hour off schedule. It varies.
Mills: The hardest part is being away from the world; people, the social life. But then that is the best part of it also.
Coxswain: small boat operator:Jamie
Duty: I’m in charge of the Boating Safety Program and Instructor of Boating Courses for the scientific staff and I help the Pacific Science Center with research boats. There are 24 small boats.
What do you like about the job?: Being on the water and driving the boats
Experience/ Education: I received a degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Then I began doing field projects and became known to NOAA.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Doing the certificates for boating courses along with paperwork and record keeping is my least favorite part of the job.
ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo
Duty: I’m in charge of all the electronics, information technology, navigational system, communication system, sensors, and computer network.
What do you like about the job? I enjoy it when I get a chance to help others, like the time I was called ashore to help some people on a small island. I also like that I have a partner to share the job with. We switch every two months (onshore/offshore). I am glad to be able to travel, the pay is good, and I like accomplishing things that make the ship look good.
Experience/ Education: I did not go to college, and barely finished high school. Then I joined the Air Force. There is only one tech person, and that is me.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Climbing the mast where the antennas are and writing weekly reports are things I could glad give to someone else.
Research Oceanographer: Reka Domokos
Duty: Works as an active acoustician for NOAA at the Pacific Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.
What do you like about the job?
I like that in my job there is always something new, so I am always learning. I like to look at the big picture to see how the different components of an ecosystem fit together and influence each other. I like formulating hypotheses, and then test them to see if they hold. I am also detail oriented so I enjoy writing computer scripts for my data analyses. In addition, I like contributing to the “collective knowledge” by writing articles that summarized and describe my research and results.
I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography. I attended Berkley for a BS in zoology, then UH Manoa for a masters in zoology and a masters in physical oceanography. I also earned my Ph.D. at UH Manoa where I taught graduate courses in Zoology and Oceanography before working with NOAA. I believe that sometimes more experience can be substituted for education when applying for a job.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Sitting in an office everyday can sometimes be hard, but spending a month, or sometimes more, a year at sea and going to conferences help to break the monotony. I also have to take care of administrative duties as part of my job which is necessary but not enjoyable for me.
Aimee: This is a special case. Aimee was a previous Hollings Scholar who now works at the University of Michigan and is on the ship working co-op with NOAA in the acoustics department. She lives in Michigan and got her degree in Marine Science Biology, but would like to stay in Hawaii. Before boarding the ship she was researching wind farms and fish. She collects data so that they can see if the underwater wind turbines will affect the fish .
Survey Technician: Stephanie
Duty: Responsible for data collection from shipboard oceanographic sensors; CTD deployment and retrieval, water filtering for chlorophyll-a samples
What do you like about the job? I like the simple life on the ship. There are no roads with traffic and you don’t have to carry around your wallet or keys.
Experience/Education: I have my bachelor’s degree, and plan on going back to school this fall. I have worked for NOAA for two and a half years.
Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica
Mammal Observation-So far we have taken over 2700 photos and several tissue samples for researching dolphins and whales.
Allan: What do you like about the job? I like being on the water and getting paid for it at the same time.
Experience/ Education: I earned my engineering degree, but didn’t use it. I began volunteering for whale watching and doing volunteer work for the University of Hawaii coral reef research. I have lived in Hawaii for 14 years, but recently started spending half of my year in Montana, so that I can experience the four seasons.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The toughest thing is not finding any dolphin or whale species. It makes a long day. If the water is rough, it is harder to see them. The best condition to spot them in is when it is smooth and calm.
Jessica: What do you like about the job? I love small boats, being on the water, and finding less frequently seen species.
Experience/ Education: I attended Hawaii Pacific University and have a master’s in marine science. Right now I’m working a one year position for NOAA called the NIMB Fellowship.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The same thing Allan said, coming home without seeing anything is disappointing.
Laura: She is attending Stanford University as a senior, majoring in Earth Systems with an emphasis on Oceanography. It includes a wide range of classes, and she has had very interesting traveling experiences while learning. Right now on the OES, she is doing an internship working with the CTD process. This is a paid job with NOAA. Laura’s past experiences include sailing around Cape Cod, a trip to Australia for a Study Abroad Program, and a five-week trip to the Line Islands South of Hawaii. Her plan is to go to school a fifth year to earn a master’s degree while also working in the field.
Nikki: After this cruise, Nikki will have 82 days at sea under her belt. She started going out during high school in New Jersey. Her charter school had a vessel. Right now she is in the Hollings Scholar Program through NOAA. She applied and received a two year scholarship for her junior and senior year of college. She is attending the University of Miami. And when she finishes that, she has a conditional acceptance to attend RASMAS (University of Miami Science Grad School) where she wants to get her masters in Aquaculture.
Jonathan: Miami is Jonathan’s home and he is also in the Hollings Scholar Program. He is a senior majoring in Marine Science Chemistry. He would like to attend grad school, but needs to make up his mind what area to study because it becomes very specialized. His two choices are ocean acidification or biofuels. After the cruise he will be going to Washington DC to present what he has learned.
Meagan: She lives in Honolulu and attends University of Hawaii. In December she will obtain her degree in Marine Biology. She has been employed with NOAA since Nov. 2010 working at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center with data collected around the N.Pacific Transition Zone. On this cruise she is helping with the acoustics. Meagan also works at the Waikiki Aquarium educating others about marine life. She hopes to continue with NOAA and educating the public about conserving and protecting the ocean.
UH Marine Research Technician: Jennie Mowatt—
-Preparation and deployment of the Ocean Glider SG513
Lat: 19 27
Long: 156 02
Sky: Sunshine; clouds hanging over coastline
Air temp: 26C
Wind: 290 at 11 knots
Relative humidity: 55%
Sea temp: 26.7C
Depth: 2392 m
Science and Technology Log
Retrieving the longline takes about 2.5 hours. This morning it brought in one mahi mahi (dolphinfish) alive, and one bigeye tuna that had died on the line. Trolling afterwards brought in 3 more fish including one big eye and two yellowfin tunas. Samples were collected as yesterday.
I will give you a better idea over the next few reports as to how different samples are going to be used. I’ll start with the blood serum, liver and muscle tissue samples being taken by Michele who is from Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS).
The blood serum contains a compound called vitellogenin. It is a precursor to a protein needed for egg yolk production. It is typically in relatively high levels in females. Environmental stresses such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which include PCBs, pesticides such as DDT and chemical flame retardants among others, can elevate vitellogenin levels noticeably in males. A heightened level suggests that their immune system is compromised. Serum will be analyzed for levels of that compound.
Liver, muscle tissue and serum will be analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry for the presence of POPs. From all of this it might become possible to determine if there is a correlation between level of POP and presence of vitellogenin and therefore stress on the immune system.
Surface plankton tows were done this afternoon, and tows at depth (60 meters)will take place tonight after longline is set. Tonight’s set of the longline will be north to south just a few miles west of where the first two were set. Both of those were set along a north to south line which overlapped by about 1/3. (They were not 20 miles apart as I stated yesterday) I learned that the line was intentionally cut last night probably by some fishermen who felt this line intruded upon their territory. We did recover all of our gear.
It was not until nearly the end of the longline recovery that the two fish were hauled in. Consequently, it was a long morning and as it was looking totally unproductive, Chris, our physician assistant/medical officer, suggested that the Teacher at Sea program was really a way to get people on board in case a sacrifice is needed to make the waters more productive. No wonder my students were encouraging me to participate. But later I heard that it was bad luck for our fishing to eat bananas on deck so eyes turned toward several who were in violation and ignoring that doctrine. I wonder what it will be tomorrow.
The big eye which came aboard was not identified with certainty until opened. Striations on its liver, I presume not present in other tuna species (certainly not in all) confirmed it to be big eye. I asked chief scientist, Rich Brill, the significance of those and he explained in some detail that they are part of a mechanism for keeping the liver warm. I will attempt to explain that mechanism another time. It is a neat piece of plumbing for sure.
I also observed Steve as he used a laser to determine the focal point of a big eye’s lens for each color of light. This, too, is something I will try to explain at another time. The big eye tuna’s lens was nearly spherical and about 3 cm diameter.
For a change of pace, here are a few bits about the ship that the captain shared with me yesterday. This was built for the navy in the 1980s as a listening ship for submarines. It was refitted for research in Jacksonville, FL then brought here through the Panama Canal. It can store about 30 days of food and enough fuel (160,000 gallons of diesel) to stay out comfortably for about 50 days. We can make our own fresh water at a rate of approximately 3000 gal/day.
How do eruptions of Hawaiian volcanoes compare to those like Mount St. Helens, for example?
The height of these volcanic islands affects wind speeds and sea conditions as noted yesterday. How much above sea level is the highest point on Maui? on Hawaii? If you consider its base on the ocean floor as part of its overall height, how tall is the highest peak on Hawaii? Is that taller than Mt. Everest?
It’s nice to be hearing from some of you; thanks for writing. That’s all for now.
This morning we set sail at 10AM. After lunch and drills, the crew set out a longline of about 2 miles of un-baited hooks which were immediately retrieved. This was done as a test of equipment and to help crew get the rhythm of the procedure. I was asked to stand by the spool as line was fed to the stern. My role was to watch for any slackin the line, brake the spool to take up any slack or stop the spool if it tangled (bird nested). All went well on the test.
Scientists and their teams were busy setting up their respective labs and preparing for the work ahead. One team will be doing vision studies using retinas removed from selected animals. Muscle tissue and blood samples will be taken for other studies. Plankton tows will be done at daylight and night to collect specific types present at those different times of the day.
Some fish will be tagged and released. The pop up archival tags record an animal’s depth, latitude and longitudes and other data as it moves through the ocean over a specified period, perhaps 8 months. After that time, the tag automatically is released from the fish, pops to the surface and transmits its data to a satellite.
The longline was set to be deployed at 8PM, but due to rough seas that effort was cancelled. So as you can tell, this was a day of preparation, with the real science soon to come.
I arrived Friday, April 30 after nearly 23 waking hours, 5000 air miles and 10.5 air hours from Harrisburg, PA. It was not difficult to find comfort in my upper berth aboard the SETTE. On Saturday, I was up by 8AM, walked about Honolulu most of the day. I had brief tour of the ship with chief scientist Rich Brill. By Sunday, I felt well rested and comfortable at sea until after supper. By then things were a bit rough and most of supper and perhaps a bit of lunch came back up. But I slept well — horizontal felt best.
Question for Today:
Locaction, location, location:
Determine the change in latitude and longitude from your home to Honolulu. How many time zones are crossed? State the westernmost and easternmost longitudes of the entire Hawaiian Island chain. State the northernmost and southernmost latitudes of the Hawaiian Island chain.
Data from the Bridge
1. 211600Z Nov 03
2. Position: LAT: 20-00.0’S, LONG: 083-44.8’W
3. Course: 090-T
4. Speed: 12.6 Kts
5. Distance: 102.7 NM
6. Steaming Time: 8H 06M
7. Station Time: 15H 54M
8. Fuel: 2583 GAL
9. Sky: OvrCst
10. Wind: 140-T, 14 Kts
11. Sea: 140-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 130-T, 3-4 Ft
13. Barometer: 1015.9 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 20.0 C, Sea 19.4 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Deployment of surface drifter array #4 in progress.
Science and Technology Log
Today we are underway to the next location which is the area of deployment for the PMEL Tsunami buoy. I want to talk a little bit about what a Cruise Plan is and why you need one. I have attached a picture of our latest cruise plan from Dr. Weller. He had a very nice one ready to go well before we even boarded the ship and everyone in the science party (yes, including me) was given a copy. Consider this the “game plan.” It can and does change due to weather or other unforeseen factors and it is very important that the Chief Scientist makes sure that it gets revised as it is necessary to make sure we will have enough time for all of the different deployments and data collections that are planned or to modify as needed. These cruises are very expensive; from the cost of the ship itself, to the equipment and science party, to the value of the data collected. For the Stratus Project, (http://uop.whoi.edu/stratus) this is the big event of the year, everything leads to this moment when the buoy and instruments are recovered and the new buoy is deployed. Any mistakes made now could potentially result in the loss of data for a whole year. This brings to mind the importance of really good planning for an expedition of this magnitude. The Chief scientist has to know how much time he/she need to accomplish their project, build in a few days extra in case of weather or delays, know how much equipment to bring for the project including spare parts (just in case Murphy’s Law kicks in…which it does more often than not!). Redundancy of equipment is essential from the project itself to the ship which has to be able to repair while on the move with extra parts it has with it or to make a part as needed (yes, they can do that!). There are no stores out here, if you forget it or run out, you’re out of luck! That means a year’s work and a big grant could be in danger!
Prior planning is not just a good idea, it is essential and a good Chief scientist has foreseen almost any extenuating circumstance. There is also the importance of remaining calm and being able to come up with creative solutions to problems in the middle of an important project. Everyone is watching the Chief scientist and takes their cues on behavior from him/her. If something happens, they watch to see how he reacts.
The technicians and research associates in a science party need to work well together as they may be at sea for long periods of time (could be a month to several months) . When you are at sea, 8 hour days doesn’t mean much. You work whenever there is work to do, deployments or data collection can and do happen around the clock. The time out here is expensive and data collection is sensitive to many different parameters. You work seven days a week, but everyone is doing the same and it builds a sense of comradeship to be sharing the work. Scrabble and Cribbage tournaments in off time are a big event. Even though they work really hard out here, they all realize the value of what they do and they are here because this is what they wanted to do in life: science. It is pretty exciting too, you never know what you might see and no matter how long you have been going to sea or how many cruises you do a year, it is still exciting to see whales or dolphins, and beautiful sunset still makes you pause.
Sometimes, as in this cruise, there may be more than one project and multiple scientists. However, there has to be a Chief scientist to determine priorities and the scheduling concerns so that everyone gets their data, specimens or deploys their equipment. To be a chief scientist you need to be detail oriented and having workaholic tendencies (at least during a cruise) doesn’t hurt!
This does not mean they don’t have fun after all the hard work is done. Dr. Weller plans a few days at the beginning and end of a cruise after all the work is done (his group have been working everyday for a month!) to see some of the sights and enjoy the culture of the ports they visit. Sometimes these days get used for unforeseen circumstances, like extra time for loading, unloading and shipping. Actually that’s why they are put in there. But if everything gets done in a timely manner, there is a little bit of down time. He even organizes the tours and had guide books for each of the ports we visited (it’s that detail oriented thing I mentioned!). He understands the value of appreciating the quality of work your group produces.
Many times the group will consist of one or more grad students under the Chief scientist and this is how they learn to be a chief scientist. It is not a class they take as part of their Ph.D. program, it comes from observation and personal experience. So mentoring is another important component of the job description. Seeing the bigger picture is also part of the equation; Dr. Weller really wanted a Teacher at Sea as part of this cruise to help share this experience with younger students and hopefully give a small peek at real scientific research to both k-12 teachers and students. Many scientists today see the value of this and NOAA has been doing this for 13 years. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has some outstanding education outreach programs such as “Dive and Discover” (check out that WHOI web site!) Scripps Oceanographic Institution has additional resources at the SIO web site. Please check out the attached picture of the latest cruise plan, as well as a picture of one of the cups that the science party sent down to 4000m on the CTD. I think the sentiment on the cup is a good reflection of the esteem in which they hold Dr. Weller and I wholeheartedly agree!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown October 2 – 24, 2001
Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific Date: October 12, 2001
Latitude: 7 ºS Longitude: 95 ºW Air Temp: 21.2 ºC Sea Temp: 21.1ºC Sea Wave: 3 -4 ft. Swell Wave: 3 – 5 ft. Visibility: 8 miles Cloud cover: 8/8
An ARGO Float is a small (about 3 feet in length) black tubular shaped instrument that measures temperature and salinity in the water. It’s interesting particularly because it is so simple. The middle part of the instrument, called a bladder, is made of a thick rubber material that can inflated like a balloon. It has a pump inside that inflates or deflates the bladder which changes its volume while keeping the mass the same. A deflated state has an increased density which makes the ARGO sink to a depth of 900 meters below the surface. There it drifts for 10 days collecting data. Then the bladder is inflated so the ARGO rises to the surface and transmits its data to a satellite. When the transmission is complete, it deflates again and begins the whole process anew. This will go on for four years! As part of an international project Dr. Weller, our Chief Scientist, and a group of scientists hope to have 3000 of these in the water all over the world collecting data. We will be deploying a total of 6 at the points marked on the photo. The one you see in the photo was deployed at 2.5 ºS.
Pilot Whales – My first sighting of whales. So beautiful and graceful. Not good for picture taking though because they blend in so well with the ocean. The weather is fine with a high cloud cover and light winds and no rain.
The crew says this is the calmest water they’ve been in all year! Lucky me!
Question of the day: What would happen to an ordinary styrofoam cup at at depth of 900 m.?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown September 5 – October 6, 2001
Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific Date: September 6, 2001
Latitude: 30° 21.2 N Longitude: 116° 01.7 W Seas: Sea wave height: less than 1 foot Swell wave height: 2-3 feet Visibility: 10-12 miles Cloud cover: 8/8 (100%) Water Temp: 21.4°C
Science Log: Since we are not in international waters yet, the scientists are not permitted to collect or record data. Many of them are spending their time calibrating equipment or working on papers that they would be writing if they were in their offices at home.
Travel Log: I have had the chance to meet a number of scientists and crew members on the ship, and each one of them really amazes me. Everyone on this ship is either a “crew member” or part of the “scientific party.” All the crew members report to Captain Dreves. They run the ship, repair and maintain the ship, and make sure we are happy and healthy. Besides the Captain, there are four additional uniformed NOAA Officers, and approximately 20 un-uniformed crew members. It takes 7 people to keep the engine in good shape, 3 people in the kitchen, 2 stewards, and the remainder are deck hands. The crew and officers are assigned to the ship for 2 year commissions, and during that time they spend 11 months out of the year on the ship, out at sea. It’s so interesting to talk with them, and to realize how unique their lives are.
Everyone in the scientific party (including me) reports to the Chief Scientist, Chris Fairall. There are research groups here from:
Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory
Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science
University of California at Santa Barbara
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
and a few others that are working in partnership with each of the groups above.
Each of the research groups has their own equipment on the ship and their own research to focus on, but they have to work together to coordinate data collection efforts. And since they are sharing bunks with their coworkers (2 people per room) they have to be able to get along with each other in tight quarters, which may get challenging towards the end of the cruise. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship with your best friend for a month, with no way to escape? After a whole month you may need a break from each other.
The big excitement for the day was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. It’s kind of scary to think we might need to do these things for real, although this is a top-notch ship with a top-notch crew, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The abandon ship whistle consists of 6 short horn blows, followed by one long horn. We can remember this by saying “get-your-butt-off-the-ship nnnnoooowwwwww!” Six short, one long. We all have to grab a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect us from sun exposure as we drift around in the ocean. We also have a life preserver and a “gumby suit” to protect us from the water chill until help arrives. The man overboard drill will be later in the cruise and consists of 3 long horn blows – “maaaan over booaarrd.”
Question of the day: The scientists on board are not allowed to collect and record data until we are out of Mexican waters. How far off-shore is the boundary between Mexican waters and International waters?
Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show you an overview of my stateroom. They are pretty small, but efficiently laid out. Each stateroom has 2 bunks, lots of drawers, an area that can be converted into a desk, a sink, 2 life preservers and 2 gumby suits, and an inside door leading to a head. The most important thing in the stateroom is our bunk card, which tells each of us exactly where to go in case of fire, abandon ship signal, or man overboard signal.