Natalie Macke, August 20, 2010

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

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

Ed Farley, Chief Scientist

Learning from Guts and Gonads …   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Obed Fulcar, July 29, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:July 29, 2010

Weather from the Bridge:
Time:05:56 am
Latitude:61.05 N
Longitude:178.51 W
Wind Direction: 300 N
Wind Speed:12.5 knots
Sea Temperature:8.0 C (46.4 F)
Air Temperature:9.5 C (49.10 F)
Barometric Pressure:1008 mb
Foggy skies

Foggy Skies

Wednesday, July 28: after a cloudy and foggy day, (Picture of a ship on Russian waters)the weather finally changed and the afternoon became sunny and clear, very pleasant to be on deck. For the past several days we have been navigating in the Russian territorial waters of the Bering Sea, for which we have permission, as testified by a letter in Russian posted on the bridge. Alaska used to be a possession of Russia, until October 18, 1867 it became a territory of the United States.

We can still see Russian Orthodox churches still open today in some islands of Alaska. Pretty soon the direction of the current transect or line course, will bring us as close as 12.6 miles from land. At one point we were close to 14 miles off  Cape Navarin, but there was fog in the distance and without notice the beautiful afternoon disappeared and I was not able to see Russia. Later on during the afternoon trawl, while sorting the catch of Pollock, a big fish came out on the conveyor:it was a Chum Salmon or Dog fish” said Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko, a Russian scientists working with his colleague Elena Gritsay, from the Vladivostok School of Fisheries, collaborating in the Walleye Pollock survey to help improve the management of Russian fisheries. According to Mikhail it was most likely that the chum salmon had been born in Japanese waters, and had migrated to spawn near Cape Navarin.

Chum Salmon
Chum Salmon

After I measured it then I dissected the fish to see if it was male or female. The organs were slightly different in size and location than the Pollock, but basically the same. The pillora seca was very large, engulfing the long stomach and liver, and the kidneys were right behind the swim bladder. The presence of an organ called gonads or testes confirmed that it was a male. I tried to locate the otolith, for my classroom collection bu could not locate it. There was also a very interesting fish in the catch: a Toad Lump sucker, a very cute looking fish that resembled a blow fish because it was swollen like a balloon. It had a suction orifice in the underbelly too.

Toad Lumpsucker
Toad Lumpsucker

Animals Seen Today: 
Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), Toad Lump sucker(Eumicrotemus phrynoides)

Cape Navarin, Gonads, Pillora Seca, Orthodox, Swim Bladder

I noticed that in this cruise there is an atmosphere of professional collaboration between scientists and the crew. There is also a sense of collegiate amongst all the scientists working on board the Oscar Dyson. The Pollock Survey is the primary mission, but there are other parallel missions going on: the seabird survey, done by Marty and Liz, and the marine mammal survey, done by Patty, Paula, and Ernesto. To do research on the Bering Sea is very challenging due to the remote locations, and the storms, winds, large waves, and extreme weather. The need for oceangoing vessels to work in these extreme conditions makes it very expensive, so when ships like the Oscar Dyson are deployed, different missions are planned to “piggyback” along. I was very impressed by the international collaboration in the mission, with the two Russian scientists on board conducting research on the Pollock fisheries, since part of the transects done by the Oscar Dyson covered Russian territorial waters as well. The fact the one Mexican scientist, a Filipino cook, and a Dominican teacher at sea were part of this cruise added more countries to the mission. Just like us, fish travel in different waters, local and international, and they too are citizens of the world’s oceans. I wanted to commend NOAA’s administration for providing career opportunities to minorities, Latinos, and women to work as scientists, technicians, Corps officers, and crew.

“Una Cooperacion Internacional” Durante todo el trayecto de este crucero de Monitoreo del Pollock he notado un ambiente de profesionalismo entre el personal cientifico y la tripulacion, asi tambien como un ambiente de colegiatura enter los diferentes cientificos trabajando a bordo del Oscar Dyson. La mision primaria es el Monitoreo del Pollock, pero a su vez hay otras misiones paralelas a la mision principal, como son el Estudio de las Aves Marinas,por Liz y Marty, asi como el Estudio de los Mamiferos Marinos, por Patty,Paula, y Ernesto. Hay que entender que hacer investigacion cientifica en el Estrecho de Bering es una tarea logistica complicada por lo remoto del lugar, lo extremo del clima, asi como gigantescas olas. Solo se pueden usar barcos de navegacion oceanica que son muy costosos, por lo que cuando embarcaciones como el Oscar Dyson son lanzadas, multiples misiones son planeadas al mismo tiempo tambien. Me llamo mucho la atencion la cooperacion internacional, especialmente los dos cientificos rusos a bordo, que tambien relizaban estudios del Pollock, lo cual tiene mucho sentido, debido a que gran parte de la investigacion cubria aguas territoriales rusas. El hecho de que un biologo Mexicano, un filipino (Ray el cocinero), y un Maestro en el Mar dominicano tambien forman parte de este crucero le agregan mas paises a la mision. Yo quiero felicitar a la administracion de NOAA por proveer oportunidades de carreras profesionales tanto a minorias, como a Latinos, y a mujeres para trabajar como cientificos, tecnicos, Cuerpo de Oficiales o como tripulantes. Yo creo que esto es un gran incentivo para que mas jovenes estudiantes de escuela intermedia y secundaria puedan perseguir carreras profesioanles en Conservacion Ambiental.