Allison Irwin: The Otolympics, July 20, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7-25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Northern Coast of California

Date: July 20, 2019

Weather at 1300 Pacific Standard Time on Friday 19 July 2019

We’re rockin’ and rollin’ out to sea. This transect carries us 138 miles off the coast, and the winds are steady at 35-40 knots. Waves keep slapping up over the deck outside our lab. I’m watching it through a window. As the boat rocks back and forth, the full frame of the window alternates between powder blue sky and foamy, purple blue sea. We’ve started tacking (zig-zag) through the water so we can minimize the effect of the roll. But with 12 foot waves, it’s only a minimal aide to our comfort. We’ve rolled a full 35° and pitched about 15° throughout the day. Though I haven’t been outside to compare it to other days, the temperature on the monitor reads 17° Celsius. With the strong breeze, I must assume it feels colder than that outside.

PERSONAL LOG

Let’s talk about seasickness.  It rattles everyone from the novice to the career fisherman. It depends on sea state and state of mind. The rougher the weather, the more people seem to feel woozy and nauseated. There’s no pattern I can see between people who are new versus people who have been at this a while. It doesn’t seem to get any better with experience. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has taken some sort of motion sickness medication at some point over the last three weeks for some reason. I’d like to believe that the more healthy you are going into it – physically fit, decent diet – the more stoic your stomach will be, but I haven’t seen a connection in that respect either.

All I know, is that some people are sick and some are not.  Differences? Medication is one. We’re all taking different types. Of those I’ve seen wearing a patch, they are not feeling well. I’ve been taking Bonine and I’ve felt great the whole trip. Bonine is a chewable tablet that you only need once each day. I took it for the first few days, stopped taking it, then started again when the weather forecast looked bleak. I’ve found that if it’s in my system before the waves get choppy, then I fair well through the storm.

Another difference is attitude. Of the people who are not feeling well, those who smile and take it in stride are able to spend more time out of their staterooms focused on the task at hand – whatever their role may be. Distraction is a bonus. It’s not like you have a virus that is running its course. If you can get yourself good and distracted, it eases the symptoms and provides some relief.

And also, sleep. There is a definite connection between quality of sleep and symptoms of sea sickness. I’ve seen a solid nap cure a couple people of their ails. Thankfully, due to a little bit of luck and a little bit of Bonine, the waves lull me to sleep each night so I wake feeling rested and I do not contend with nausea during the day. All in all, the best combination I could have hoped for.

And then there are the folks who need no meds at all and they feel fine. Lucky ducks.

THE SCIENCE

Jack Mackerel Otolith Under a Microscope
photo taken by Bryan Overcash, Fisheries Biologist

Fifteen hundred years ago, a thousand years before Magellen’s crew successfully sailed around the world, sailors used otoliths to divine whether rough or fair seas awaited them on their journey. During the era of John Smith and Peter Stuyvesant, some Europeans recognized the otolith as medicinal with the ability to cure colic, kidney stones, and persistent fevers. If you’re truly interested in the legends associated with the otolith, you should read the brief and probably only account of Fish Otoliths and Folklore ever published.  Though primarily informative, it reads with a touch of humor and it’s easy to tell that Christopher Duffin enjoyed researching the topic. As did I!

The science of otoliths as they’re used in the modern era is even more incredible than the folklore. You can determine the age of a fish by reading the annuli on its otolith under a microscope just as a botanist might count the rings on a tree to determine its age. The bands themselves can tell scientists how fast a fish grew and whether it went through periods of slower growth or not. The unique chemistry in each ring can also be studied to learn just about anything you’d want to know from that year – water temperature, migration patterns, what the fish ate, and how healthy it was. Since the shape of an otolith is unique to its species, we can even study the stomach contents and feces of other animals like sea lions or predatory fish to build a picture of their diets. Scientists use this information to craft complex food webs.

Anthropologists find otoliths in ancient scrap food piles called middens that are still intact and can shine light on the diets of bygone cultures. On this trip we’re saving fish for scientists at the San Diego Natural History Museum so they can compare bones from the coastal pelagic species with bones that they’ve excavated from archaeological expeditions.

Jack Mackerel Otolith on my Keyboard

But what is an otolith? Some call it an earstone. The otolith is a small structure of calcium carbonate that accumulates throughout a lifetime.  Where humans have an ear canal, fish have an otic capsule that houses, actually, three symmetrical otoliths on each side of its head.  When people say otolith though, they’re typically referring to the sagitta which is the largest one (in most fish) and is usually situated just behind the stem of the brain. Those are the ones we’re collecting during the Coastal Pelagic Species Survey. It takes such a concerted effort to collect them each night that one of the interns, Hilliard Hicks, started calling it the Otolympics!

To get to it is not pretty. The otoliths are situated within the brain cavity, posterior and ventral to the brain itself. The easiest way to get to them in a Jack Mackerel without breaking the otoliths is to first make a vertical incision where the base of the fish’s head meets its body. Then, turning the fish onto its side, you make another cut across the top of the fish’s head from one eye to the other. You’re essentially cutting off and removing a rectangular section at the top of the head to reveal the brain cavity.  Then, after removing the brain, you get easy access to the otic capsule where the otoliths sit. Using small forceps or tweezers, we pull them out, dry them off, and encapsulate each fish’s sagittae in a vial for further study back on land. Multiply that process by about 75-100 and add weight and length measurements, and you get a sense of what our routine is after each trawl. We usually have 3-5 people attending to the task and it takes us roughly 45 minutes.

If you’d like, you can try determining the age of a fish without all the mess. This interactive Age Reading Demonstration website from NOAA is a great one for someone interested in the topic. It can also be used with students. New technology for aging otoliths seems to be on the horizon for scientists as well.

The main component of an otolith, calcium carbonate, is used today for lots of familiar medicines. While not derived from an otolith itself, it is still notable that calcium carbonate is a very common substance in pharmacology. We use it in antacids to neutralize the acid in our upset stomachs, to boost calcium thereby warding off osteoporosis, and to save us from enduring heartburn. It’s no wonder people used to pop otoliths in their mouth to cure what they identified as kidney stones. Maybe on some level, it really did help to assuage pain associated with their stomachs and digestion. In 2015, a team of scientists published a study in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research to share how they’ve been researching the use of otoliths with diabetes. There are far easier ways to collect stores of calcium carbonate, but the study shows that interest in otoliths stems not just to ichthyology, but also to climatology, anthropology, and pharmacology. It is an important little item.

Don’t have diabetes or an upset stomach? Not looking to see what the folks were eating in your neighborhood 500 years ago? Maybe you’d like to add an otolith to your wardrobe instead. In Alaska there are a couple of different places you could stop to purchase otoliths as jewelry.  When used in earrings they look like tiny little feathers. A unique gift item for sure.

TEACHING CONNECTIONS

Stick with me for a minute while I get to my point. Earlier this week one of the scientists taught me about ctenophores (pronounced teen-a-fours with emphasis on the first syllable). They’re a type of zooplankton that look like translucent globes. If you’ve ever blown a bubble and watched it shimmer in the sunlight, that is exactly what they look like under a microscope. Except now visualize that bubble with eight longitudinal stripes lined with hundreds of little hairs. This orb is a living creature called a ctenophore.

Later, while I was reading on my own to research otoliths, I stumbled across the word ctenoids. A ctenoid scale on a fish has many little cilia (tiny hairs or spikes) all around its edge. “Cteno-“ can be traced back to Latin or Greek origins to mean “little comb” and I was able to use that understanding to help me visualize a ctenoid fish scale. So, here’s my point. If it weren’t for that short exchange with the scientist earlier this week about ctenophores, I would have breezed right past the word ctenoid while reading without ever having paused to visualize what the fish scale looked like. I would not have learned as much while I was researching on my own.

As teachers, we can’t possibly know all the things our students will come across in a day. By teaching them Latin and Greek word parts that align to our curriculum, they stand a better chance of connecting their lives outside the classroom to our class content.

Prefixes, suffixes, and root words are used in every discipline to help identify concepts and patterns. Don’t teach them in the abstract, instead teach them in word groupings so our students’ brains have something to latch onto. I particularly enjoy using root word tree images. Spending 15 minutes per week going over a root word tree with students, and providing them a digital link so they can look over it again at their leisure, is an excellent way to ignite a conversation in your discipline. 

Sharing a root word tree with students can be a powerful way to solidify abstract concepts.

taken from https://membean.com/treelist

If I were a history teacher for example, I might choose to start a unit on modern democracy by passing out copies of the “dem: people” root word tree, telling each student to write a paragraph at the bottom of the page with whatever comes to mind while they’re looking at the tree. Then they could walk around the room sharing their writing with their classmates and highlighting patterns they find in the responses. They’ll hopefully never forget that a democracy is a government built of the people, by the people, and for the people (as the famous saying goes). At the very least, they’ll understand why the first three words of the preamble are “We the people…” and how a democracy is different from other forms of government like a monarchy, theocracy, and dictatorship.

TEACHING RESOURCES

Allison Irwin: Traveling to the Ship, July 8, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7-25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Northern Coast of California

Date: July 8, 2019

Weather at 0800 on Monday 08 July 2019.

Winds and sea are calm. Weather is cool. Heavy overcast layer of white, thick clouds in the sky. Very comfortable out on deck with a sweater or light jacket. The visibility is unreal – I can see for miles! Nothing but cold water and salty air.


PERSONAL LOG

Friday Night

05 July 2019

Tomorrow I’ll board a ship with NOAA Officers and scientists headed for a three week research cruise in the Pacific Ocean. My whole life at home is not skipping a beat without me. But I feel like I’ve hit a pause button on my character. Like I won’t return to the movie of my life until the end of July. Important decisions get made without me. Disputes with family and friends won’t include my voice again for almost a month. Everything moves forward at home this summer but me.

I have a new appreciation for folks who dedicate their lives to careers requiring them to be away from home for long periods of time. This is only three weeks. I can’t imagine the way I would feel if I were leaving for three months. Or a year.  I do feel very grateful for the opportunity to spend the next three weeks with these people though. They will be, no doubt, passionate about their careers, and I’ll learn a lot from traveling with them.

THE SCIENCE

Saturday Morning

06 July 2019

After a 6 hour flight from the East Coast to the West Coast and a 2.5 hour car ride from Portland International Airport to Newport, Oregon, I’m finally on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker! A handful of scientists, two volunteers, and myself met at the airport. We coordinated so all our flights would arrive within an hour of each other so we could drive together. As soon as we got there, my roommate gave me a tour of the ship. It didn’t take very long, but there are a lot of ways to get lost! I felt a little disoriented after that. There is a galley and dining area which they call the mess. I’ve been told we have one of the best chefs on board our ship! A laundry room, exercise room, plenty of deck space, the bridge where NOAA Officers will navigate and operate the ship, and stairs. So. Many. Stairs.

Upon meeting the chief scientist, Kevin Stierhoff, it became clear that the Coastal Pelagic Species Survey is a big deal. NOAA runs this survey every year for about 80 days! They break it up into four 20 day legs. Most of the scientists will rotate through only one or two legs, but the NOAA Corps Officers in charge of the ship’s operation typically stay for the full survey. That’s a very long time to be away from home.

We’re traveling on the 2nd leg, so the survey has already been underway since June. It started farther north off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia and will meander down the coast for almost three months until it reaches the US-Mexico border. Kevin described the ship’s movements like someone explaining how to mow the lawn – we will run perpendicular to the coast in a back-and-forth pattern traveling south, slowly, until we get to the waters off San Francisco Bay. First we’ll travel straight out into the ocean, turn south for a bit, then travel straight back toward the coast. Repeat. Repeat… for three weeks.

mowed lawn
Patterned lines in a freshly mowed lawn – accessed on pixabay.com

Why such a funky pattern, you might ask? We’ll be using acoustic sampling during the day to determine where the most densely populated areas of fish are located. Then at night, we’ll put that data to good use, immediate use, as we trawl the waters for specific types of pelagic species. There are five species in particular that the scientists want to study – anchovy, herring, sardines, mackerel, and squid – because they’re managed species or ecologically important as prey for other species. That funky pattern of travel allows us to sample the whole coastal region.

It reminds of me of one of the scanning patterns the Civil Air Patrol uses when we conduct search and rescue missions from a Cessna. When I was trained to be a scanner in the back seat of the plane, they taught me to look for signs of a missing person or downed plane below me in a systematic way. If I just look sporadically at everything that pops into my line of scan, I’ll never find anything. It’s too haphazard. But if I start from a fixed point on the aircraft and scan out up to a mile, then bring my scan line back in toward the plane, I’ll naturally scan all the ground below me for clues as the plane moves forward.

Even though they’re looking primarily at those five coastal pelagic species, the scientists will catalogue every kind of fish or marine life they find in their trawl nets. They are meticulous. It’s such an important endeavor because it helps us to fish our waters using sustainable practices. If this survey finds that one of the fish species in question is not thriving, that the population sample of that species is too low, then NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will set harvest guidelines next year to help that species rebound. If it’s looking very dire, they might even determine that commercial fishing of that species needs to be put on pause for a while.

For more details about NOAA Fisheries and the importance of the annual Coastal Pelagic Species Survey, read this short two page guide called U.S. Fisheries Management: Sustainable Fisheries, Sustainable Seafood.

TEACHING CONNECTIONS

Saturday Evening

06 July 2019

Since the three hour time change traveling in this direction worked in my favor, I gained three extra hours of daylight to explore Newport.  I spent most of the evening walking around the small port where NOAA docked Reuben Lasker. It’s only a couple square miles, but it houses the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Visitor Center, Rogue Brewer’s on the Bay, and a public fishing pier. I walked a total of 6 miles today and was never bored.

The fishing culture struck me the most. Kids, adults, everyone seemed to have a working knowledge of local sustainability, ecosystems, commercial fishery practices, things that are so foreign to me. I suppose it would be like going to Pennsylvania and asking someone to explain deer hunting. Trust me, we can. But fishing? Not as much. I wish that we as teachers would tap into the local knowledge base more fully. From Pennsylvania for example, we could share Amish culture and heritage, details about the coal mining industry, steel production and engineering practices, hunting, and so much more. Until I realized how unaware I was of the local knowledge here in Newport, I never stopped to think about how rich and diverse my students’ local knowledge must be as well. One thing I plan to do this school year is dig into that local culture and explore it with my students.

I watched one gentleman as he filleted his catch at the filleting station just off the pier. To me it looked like a cooler of fish. I could tell you with certainty that they were indeed fish. But he knew each type, why the Lingcod had blue flesh instead of white, how many of each type he was allowed to take home with him, how to cook them, and the list goes on. I was impressed. In talking with others this evening, it seems like that’s par for the course here. Later, a couple of fishermen with a cooler full of crab started talking to me and offered me some to try. It was cleaned, cooked already, fresh out of Yaquina Bay. It was delicious – sweet and salty.

The people I interacted with today, every single one of them, were genuinely kind. They were patient and explained things to me when I didn’t understand. This is a lesson every teacher can take to the classroom. We know how important it is to smile and be kind. We know it. But sometimes it’s hard to put that into practice when we’re rounding into May and having to explain that one tricky concept again, pulling a different approach out of our magic hat, and hoping that this time it will click.

It’s not always easy to mask the frustration we feel when something that is so natural for us (in no doubt because we love the subject and have studied it for at least a decade) just doesn’t make sense to a student. And it’s not always the student I get frustrated with, it’s myself. Teachers tend to be their own worst critics. When a lesson doesn’t go as well as we expected, we double down and try harder the next day. No wonder so many of us burn out in the first five years and switch to a different career!

TEACHING RESOURCES

Kip Chambers: Parting Shots II of II… August 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

 

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey   

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: August 7, 2017

 

 

L to R Austin Phill Nina Kip

Left to Right: Austin, Phill, Nina, Kip

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:  (Pratt, Kansas)

Date: 08/07/2017                                    Wind Speed: E at 9 mph

Time: 19:25                                               Latitude: 37.7o N

Temperature: 22o C                                  Longitude: 98.75o W  

 

Science and Technology Log:

A week has passed since I left the Reuben Lasker, but I have continued to monitor the haul reports from the ship.  The last haul report indicates that haul #79 of the West Coast Pelagics Survey was conducted off of the coast of California just south of San Francisco Bay.  The survey is fast approaching the concluding date of August 11th when the Reuben Lasker is scheduled to be in port in San Diego.  Based on their current location, there are probably only a couple of days/nights of sampling left for the survey before the ship has to steam for its home port of San Diego.

As I looked through the spreadsheet with the summary of the data that is being collected for the survey, I can’t help but be impressed by the volume of data and the efficiency in which it is being recorded.  Although I was only on the ship for a short period of time, I know how much work is involved in preparing for the evening trawls and how much time it takes to process the catch and record the data.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talented, dedicated, hard-working science team members aboard the Reuben Lasker.  Below is a series of interviews with many of the science team members that I had the pleasure to work with while I was on the ship.

 Each team member was asked the following 3 questions:

Q1:  Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?

Q2:  What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?

Q3:  What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?

Science Team Member: Phill Dionne

 

 

Q1:  Phill’s post-secondary academic career started at Stoney Brook College in New York where as an undergraduate he studied Geology.  Phill’s undergraduate program also included time in Hawaii where he took several courses towards his minor in Marine Science. After his bachelor’s degree, Phill spent a year in the Florida Keys, initially as an intern, then as a marine science instructor at a science camp.  As Phill continued to pursue his educational goals he began to focus on marine science as a career pathway.  Ultimately, Phill completed a graduate degree program at the University of Maine where he studied the migrations and abundance of ESA listed sturgeon and earned masters degrees in marine biology and marine policy.

Phill moved to the state of Washington in 2011 where he currently works for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Phill’s current positon as Senior Research Scientist includes overseeing programs centered on habitat and stock assessments for forage fish including surf smelt, sand lance and Pacific herring.

Q2:  When asked what he had learned during his time on the Reuben Lasker, Phill pointed to gaining a better understanding of the techniques and challenges associated with managing coastal fisheries, and how they differ from nearshore survey techniques.

Q3:  Phill’s advice to first year college students considering a career in science is to get experience in data management and to get involved in internships early in your academic career.  Phill also emphasized that it is important to understand that a career in marine science is more than just a job, it is a “lifestyle” that requires commitment and hard work.

Science Team Member: Andrew Thompson

Q1:  Although originally from California, Andrew earned his graduate degree from the University of Georgia where his studies focused on stream ecology.  Eventually Andrew would earn his PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara.  As part of his work for his PhD, Andrew studied a unique mutualistic symbiotic relationship between a species of shrimp and shrimp gobies (fish) on tropical reefs near Tahiti.  In this unusual relationship there is a system of communication between the fish and shrimp in which the fish acts as a type of watchdog for the shrimp communicating the level of danger in the environment to the shrimp based on the number of tail flips.  After a stint with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in California, Andrew began working for NOAA in 2007 where he specializes in identification of larval fish.

Q2:  Having experienced multiple assignments on NOAA research vessels, Andrew’s response to what he had learned while on this cruise related to his enjoyment in watching the younger volunteers see and experience new things.  He voiced an optimism in the younger generation expressing how many “good, talented kids are coming through programs today.”  One of the observations that Andrew pointed out about this survey was the number of pyrosomes that are being found which is uncommon for this geographical area.  In a bit of an unusual find, a juvenile medusa fish within a pyrosome also sparked Andrew’s interest (see photo above).

Q3:  With regards to advice for prospective students, Andrew pointed out that a career path in science is often non-linear.  Like many of the science team members that I interviewed, he talked about how important it is to persevere and push through the difficult times as you pursue your goals.

Science Team Member: Nina Rosen

 

 

Q1:  Nina Rosen grew up in California where her connection and love of the ocean developed at an early age.  Nina completed her undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University in northern California.  Her graduate degree is a masters degree in advanced studies (MAS) from SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography.  Nina’s work while at SCRIPPS was focused on understanding interactions between communities and ocean resources with a particular interest in small scale fisheries.  Nina’s background includes a diverse work history that includes working as a naturalist at field stations in Alaska, and working with the Department of California Fish and Wildlife to gather information from anglers that is used to help manage the California’s recreational fisheries.

Note: A special thank you to Nina.  Many of the outstanding photos included on my blogs throughout the survey were taken by her (see images above).

Q2:  When asked about what she had learned while on the survey, Nina stressed how important it was for a variety of people with different specialties to come together and communicate effectively to make the project successful.  I think her comment “all of the parts need to come together to understand the fishery” reflects her holistic approach to trying to understand our oceans and how people interact with this precious resource.

Q3:  Nina’s response when asked what advice she would give to 1st year college students interested in a career in science was simple and to the point. She said “go for it” reflecting her enthusiasm for marine science and research.  She went on to point out how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself because “you never know what may come out of the experience.”

Science Team Member:  Austin Grodt

 

Q1:    Austin is from Orange, California, he will be entering his 4th year of studies at the University of California in San Diego majoring in environmental chemistry.  In addition to going to school, Austin works as a California state lifeguard.  Like many of the people I met while on the ship Austin’s connection to our oceans is central to his core values.  When I first met Austin he described himself saying “I am a stereotypical California guy, I am all about the water.”

Q2:  With regards to what he has learned while on the survey, Austin expressed that he had developed a greater understanding of the state of California fisheries and how they operate.  Austin also spent a lot of time interacting with the members of NOAA Corps learning about how the ship functions and large vessel navigation.

Q3:  When asked what advice he would give 1st year college students Austin said “when it gets hard don’t be discouraged, keep pushing. It is totally worth it.”  Austin also pointed out that the opportunities and number of fields available for STEM graduates are diverse and “in higher quantity than you can imagine.”

Science Team Member: Lanora

Q1:  Lanora’s first experiences with the ocean were in the Gulf of Mexico during family vacations. She went on to earn a BS degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.  After graduating, she spent time working for NOAA on research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.  Lanora would eventually return to school and complete a masters program in marine science at the University of South Alabama.  In 2016 she would once again go to work as a NOAA scientist where she is currently working on research vessels stationed out of California.

Q2:  When asked what she had learned during the survey Lanora said “all of the pieces have to come together in order for the big picture to work.”  She went on to explain that several groups of people with a common task have to work together in order for the overall goals of the survey to be accomplished.

Q3:  Lanora’s advice to college students interested in marine science is to seek out opportunities to volunteer and participate in internships.  She indicated it was important to explore different areas to find out what you are truly interested in.  Like many of the science team members she went on to say that if you are passionate about science “go for it, don’t quit, and persevere.”

Personal Log:  Final Thoughts…

 

The most important, lasting impression that I will take away from this experience is the quality and commitment of the people that I have met along the way.  Although I will remember all of the people that I have worked with, the individuals on the science team have each given me something special.  I will remember and learn from: Dave, his calm demeanor, focus and attention to detail; Sue, her easy smile, and determination; Lanora, her relentless work ethic, and ability to manage multiple layers of responsibility; Andrew, his sense of optimism and genuine happiness; Phill, his relaxed sense of self awareness and wisdom beyond his years; Nina, her contagious laugh and commitment to, and love of our oceans; Austin, his boundless energy and curiosity about everything… thank you.

I also learned that the ocean has a heartbeat. If you’re quiet you can hear it in the rhythm of the waves.  The ocean has a soul; you can feel it in your feet if you wiggle you toes in the sand.  The ocean has an immensity and strength beyond imagination.  At first glance it seems as if the ocean has a beauty, diversity and abundance that is boundless, but of course it is not.

Due to our relentless pursuit of resources, and the pollution generated by that pursuit, our oceans are hurting.  We have to do better.  In many ways we live in troubling times, but as I learned from Andrew, it is not too late to be optimistic.  We can live a more peaceful, balanced existence with the planet’s resources and the other organisms that call the earth home.  It is my sincere desire that through hard work, education and the commitment of people from all generations we can come together to make our oceans and the planet a more harmonious home for all species…Thank you to everyone who has made this journey such a rewarding experience.

Learn more about education and career opportunities in marine science at the web site below.

NOAA Fisheries: Southwest Fisheries Science Center

https://swfsc.noaa.gov/swfsc.aspx?id=7532&ParentMenuId=33

 

 

Kip Chambers: Parting Shots I of II… July 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17-30, 2017

Mission: West Coast Pelagics Survey  

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: 07/22/2017

 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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Dave Griffith

Chief Scientist Dave Griffith

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.

 

Personal Log:

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.

Kip Chambers: Gone Fishing… July 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

 

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: 07/17/2017

 

Science and Technology Log: 

I had my first opportunity to get a look at the Reuben Lasker when I arrived at the Exploratorium on Pier 15 in San Francisco (SF) on the 16th of July.  My first impression was, this is a big, incredibly sophisticated research vessel.  The boat has been in port for a few days as it prepares to leave for the 2nd leg of the West Coast Pelagics Survey.  The first leg of the survey was conducted over the previous three weeks starting off of the coast of Vancouver Island and working down to the coast of Oregon.  The vessel will be steaming out tomorrow (7/18/17) back to where the first leg was completed to begin the 2nd leg of the survey.  The 2nd leg will begin near Newport, Oregon and continue down the coast of California finishing in San Diego on/or about August 11th.

I am beginning to get to know the crew, which is made up of members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, civilian mariners and a science team.  All of the crews are under the NOAA umbrella and work closely together. The NOAA Corps, and civilian mariners are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the boat while the science crew’s role is to design the survey, collect samples, record, and analyze the data for the project.

There are 32 people on the boat, and I am amazed at the diversity of skills, education and background that is represented by everyone that is on-board.  It is encouraging to know there are so many talented people involved in this type of research. In just the short time that I have spent on the ship I have gained a better understanding of the many opportunities that are available for students in marine science.

As you might expect on a modern research vessel the technology is everywhere.  There are multiple sonar systems, numerous sensors that record continuous environmental information, and the wheelhouse is equipped with an array of navigational systems and computers that link to sensors throughout the vessel.  There are also the major mechanical components necessary to deploy and retrieve nets, gear, and various sensors.  I am eagerly anticipating seeing how all of these pieces fit together once we begin sampling.

Over the past 2 days while we have been in port, I have had a chance to explore the area around the dock and have found that NOAA is making a big impact on a global scale.  As I was walking up to the ship I noticed a buoy in the harbor that was labeled with PMEL-CO2 (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory).  Upon closer inspection I saw the NOAA symbol above the lettering and found an information plate on the rail describing the data the sensors on the buoy were collecting.  This buoy and others like it moored across the world’s oceans are collecting information about CO2 levels in our oceans.  The information is relayed to a satellite and then to a data center for analysis.  The data collected by these buoys will help provide a better understanding of how rising CO2 levels are affecting our oceans.  As I walked through the area surrounding the dock I found several more examples of research and educational programs that NOAA was supporting.  NOAA’s commitment to sound science and support for educational programs like the Teacher at Sea program is making a difference in how people interact with the planet.

 

Personal Log:

My journey to join the crew and scientist aboard the Reuben Lasker has been a rewarding experience in and of itself.  After arriving in SF I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring the area around the bay.  There is a great interactive facility near Pier 15 called the Exploratorium that is a designed to provide an enriching, educational experience featuring science and art displays. As I wondered through the facility it reminded me of why I love science and how creative approaches can inspire and bring out the child like curiosity and joy of learning in all of us.  I also had the opportunity to tour the impressive Aquarium of the Bay that had fantastic exhibits featuring marine invertebrates, numerous species of saltwater fish (including lots of sharks) and river otters.  NOAA’s fingerprint can be found here too, with a display explaining how NOAA is providing educational support for a program called The National Estuary Research and Reserve System that emphasize the importance of protecting and restoring estuaries.   It has been a very busy and fulfilling 3 days.  As I am writing, the ship is steaming toward Newport, Oregon and is already collecting data for the survey using a continuous underway egg sampler (CUFES). The CUFES sampler collects plankton and fish egg samples that will provide important data used by NOAA scientists to better understand the abundance and distribution of pelagic fish species in the California Current.  Once we arrive on location we will start using the acoustic trawling method (ATM) to sample for coastal pelagic fish species.  I can only imagine what wonders might lay ahead as we continue our journey,

I recently attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (KATS) conference and listened to a very good presentation by Jeff Goldstein.   One the things he said struck me as particularly important.  He said, “Evidence based conclusions are important.”  It is important that we don’t disregard and ignore information that is based on good scientific principles and analysis.  My experiences over the last several days has given me a greater appreciation for critical role that NOAA plays in providing us with that information.  The photos above are representative of my first few days in SF and on-board the Reuben Lasker.

FYI: sometimes it seems like NOAA has its own special language, here is a small sample of some of the acronyms that I have picked up on so far…

CO – Commanding Officer

XO – Executive Officer

OO – Operations Officer

ATM – Acoustic Trawl  Method

CTD – Conductivity, Temperature and Depth

CUFES – Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler

CPS – Coastal Pelagic Species

SWFSC – Southwest Fisheries Science Center

NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service

Links to Explore:

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/

The Exploratorium in San Francisco

https://www.exploratorium.edu/

Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco

https://www.aquariumofthebay.org/

The National Estuary Research and Reserve System

https://coast.noaa.gov/nerrs/

Christopher Tait: Where am I? April 1, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

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

Date: April 1, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 8:51 PDT,

Current Location: South West of Santa Rosa Island, Latitude 33.37N Longitude -120.7 W

Air Temperature 13.4 oC  (56.1 oF)

Water Temperature 13.1 oC  (55.5 oF)

Wind Speed 12 kts

Barometric pressure 1013.98 hPa

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Science and Technology Log

Oceans cover 71% of the surface of Earth and 99% of the livable space (Figure 1).  The Coastal Pelagic Survey is taking several approaches to map the distribution of anchovy, sardine, and other target species within the epipelagic zone.  This zone is the thin surface layer extending to the depths light penetrates the ocean, which is approximately 200 meters near California.  The epipelagic zone in some coastal areas is very productive due to the upwelling of nutrient rich water causing an abundance of primary production by phytoplankton.  Besides the net trawling and acoustic transects, the researchers are using samples of fish eggs and ichthyoplankton (ichthyo = fish, plankton = drifting) to determine locations of spawning. This voyage is mostly surveying over the continental shelf and I am amazed at the diversity of organisms we have found thus far.  In this modern era of exploration of the vastly unknown deeper regions, I can only imagine the species still to be discovered!

 

Figure 1: Ocean Layers

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(c) Knight, J.D., 1998, Sea and Sky, http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/ocean-layers.html

CUFES:

A CUFES (Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler) system is used to determine the location of fish eggs as we travel transects on a continuous daily basis (Figure 2).  Water from 3 meters below the surface is pulled into the boat at 640 L/min. and poured through a filter to collect fish eggs and other plankton.  The collected samples are analyzed every 30 minutes to determine a density of eggs and which species are spawning.  The collected samples are further analyzed at NOAA’s SWFSC (Southwest Fisheries Science Center) in La Jolla, CA.

Figure 2: CUFES Schematic

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CUFES schematic.

 

Figure 3: Preliminary Results of CUFES Survey

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Preliminary results of the CUFES survey. The CUFES data is overlaid on sea surface temperatures measured by satellite.

The CUFES data is overlaid on sea surface temperatures measured by satellite.

PairoVET Tow & Bongo Tow

A PairoVET (paired vertical egg tow) sample is collected using a pair of small, fine mesh nets dropped to 70 meters deep and vertically towed to the surface to collect fish eggs and zooplankton in the water column at predetermined locations along our transects every 20 nautical miles. This is generally the depths that sardine release their eggs. The Bongo net gets its name because the nets are the size of bongo drums (Figure 4 & 5).  This is a plankton tow that is pulled alongside the ship and occurs every 40 nautical miles.  The net is dropped to a depth of 210 meters and pulled up at a 45 degree angle to get a more complete sample of the ichthyoplankton and zooplankton throughout the water column at location.

 Figure 4: Bongo net in center of image and PairoVET on the right.

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Bongo net in center of image and PairoVET on the right.

Figure 5: Bongo going overboard.

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Bongo going overboard.

Figure 6: Preserving the Bongo Sample for later analysis.

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TAS Chris Tait preserves the Bongo Sample for later analysis

CTD: Conductivity, Temperature and Depth Probe

The scientists use a CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) probe to measure the physical properties of the seawater throughout the water column that biologic samples are being taken (Figure 7). Conductivity is used to calculate the salinity of the water. These physical properties are very important in determining the types of organisms that are present at varying locations.

 Figure 7: CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) Analysis

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CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) analysis

Personal Log

One of the great mysteries of waking up is answering the question of “where am I?”  After a long evening of trawling for fish and keeping an eye on where you are, you go to bed.  Exhausted, the boat rocks you to sleep.  When I wake up the first thing I do is, jump out of bed and run out onto the front deck.  Some days, there is ocean for as far as the eye can see, some days a mysterious island (Figure 8) in the distance and sometimes there is the mainland (Figure 9)!  I run to grab my phone when mainland is in sight to get a couple of phone calls out to family.

 Figure 8: The mysterious island turns out to be Anacapa Island, which is part of the Channel Islands National Park.  The waters surrounding the park are part of a national marine sanctuary.

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Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands

 

Figure 9: Sunrise over Santa Barbara.  Time for me to make a call home!

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Sunrise over Santa Barbara

In the Dry Lab there is a computer with a map showing where we are currently located, a red track line showing where we have been and transect lines displaying where we will soon be (Figure 10).  On our acoustic transects, we follow the parallel lines to mow the lawn and find the location of the CPS (coastal pelagic species) from their echoes.  When we trawl, we break transect and go to places that showed promise in the acoustic backscatter.  

 Figure 10: Without tracking our location on the computer I would feel totally lost! The blue lines are where we plan to go, and the red lines show where we’ve actually gone.

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Blue lines show where we plan to go, and the red lines show where we’ve actually gone.

Catch of the Day

As I get ready for my night shift, I feel this anticipation to discover what species we are going to find!  Every day brings a new catch of the day!

Grey Smoothhound Shark (Mustelus californicus): This small coastal shark feeds on small invertebrates and fish.

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Gray Smoothhound Shark (Mustelus californicus)

Needle Fish (Family Belonidae):  This large needle fish is coastal piscivorous fish, meaning they specialize at eating other fish. They have a mouth full of tiny needle like teeth to prevent a slippery fish from getting away.

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Needle Fish (Family Belonidae)

Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax): This is one of our target species on this survey.  Anchovy have the potential to form massive schools and have a tremendous impact of the ecology of the California Current Ecosystem.  They feed on zooplankton, provide food for other fish, sea birds, and marine mammals.  They are also an important fishery which have the potential to be over fished if not properly managed.

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Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax)

Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax, top specimen) and Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicas, bottom two specimens): These two species are also part of the Coastal Pelagic Species community, which this survey are targeting.  The sardine is another very important fish due to their ability to form tremendous schools, impacting plankton through feeding, providing food for larger predators, and they are a valuable fishery.  Sardine populations have the ability to boom and crash, and the cause is still not fully understood.  The Pacific mackerel is a species that has been populous at times of lower sardine and anchovy abundance.

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Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax), top, and Pacific Mackeral (Scomber japonicus), bottom two

Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax) and Pacific Mackeral (Scomber japonicus)

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Close-up of Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Pacific Mackeral (Scomber japonicus)

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Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Jack Mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus) and Larval Rockfish (Sebastes sp.): Jack Mackerel is another target species of the Coastal Pelagic Survey.

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Jack Mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus) and a larval rockfish (Sebastes sp.)

Christopher Tait: Suburban Wilderness, March 27, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21, 2017 to April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

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

Date: March 27, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 3:35 PDT,

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

Air Temperature 16.0 oC  (59.5 oF)

Water Temperature 14.9 oC  (58.6 oF)

Wind Speed 19 kts

Barometric pressure 1014.64 hPa

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San Nicolas Island from the Reuben Lasker

Science and Technology Log

Acoustic Trawl

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

 Figure 1: Reuben Lasker Acoustic-Sampling Beams

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©2014 Oceanography, Volume 27, number 4, Zwolinski et al.

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

Echogram

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

California Sampling Map.png

Scientist Profile:

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

 

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

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

What do you like best about your career?

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

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

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

 

Personal Log

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

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Long Beach, California

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

Catch of the Day!

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

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Haliphron atlanticus

Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

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Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

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

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TAS Chris Tait holds an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

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Measuring the ocean sunfish…

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Slide to Freedom!

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

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Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira)

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

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Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens)