David Walker: Slowly Getting the Hang of Things (Days 3-5), June 29, 2015

Sexing Fish

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Walker
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 24 – July 9, 2015

Mission: SEAMAP Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Monday, June 29, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge

Weather Log 6/28/15
NOAA Ship Oregon II Weather Log 6/28/15

Weather remained quite calm through Days 3-5.  I observed a couple minor rain showers during the night shift.  As noted in the above weather log from the bridge, hazy weather (HZ) on multiple occasions during Day 4.  Sky condition on Day 4 went from 1-2 oktas in the morning (FEW), to 5-7 oktas (BKN), to 8 oktas (OVC) by midday.  The sky cleared up by the evening.

Science and Technology Log

Day 3 was incredibly busy.  There were no breaks in the 12 hour shift, as there were many trawl stations, and each catch contained a very large amount of shrimp.

According to many on deck, the shrimp catches on Day 3 would have been deemed successful by commercial shrimping standards.  I got lots of good practice sexing the shrimp from the catch — I sexed over 2000 shrimp on Day 3 alone.  Sexing shrimp is fairly easy, as the gonads are externally exposed.

I also learned how to sex crabs.  This is also a simple process, as there is no cutting involved (see graphic below).  The highlight of the day was the landing of a really large red snapper.  They let me take a picture with it before taking it inside for processing.  I was absolutely exhausted at the end of Day 3 and completely drenched in a mixture of sweat, salt water, and fish guts.

Day 4, in contrast, was very slow.  The trawl net broke on one of the early stations, so the research was delayed for quite awhile.  In fact, in my entire 12 hour shift, we only had to process two catches.  We were able to complete all CTD, bongo, and Neuston stations, however, quite efficiently.  I have gotten to the point where I can serve as the assisting scientist for the CTD, bongo catch, and Neuston catch on my own.  This data also requires two fisherman on hand — one to operate the crane, the other (along with me) to guide the device or net into the water.  The fishermen with whom I most commonly work are Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols, Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin, and Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist (FMES) Warren Brown (see photo).

On Day 5, I got great practice sexing a wide variety of fish.  An incision is made on the ventral side of the fish, from the anus toward the pectoral fin.  After some digging around inside the fish, you will find the gonads — either ovaries (clear to yellowish appearance with considerable vasculature, round in cross-section often many eggs) or testes (white appearance, triangular in cross-section).  As you might guess, larger fish are much easier to sex than smaller ones, and the ease of sexing is also species dependent.  To make matter even worse, many fish are synchronous hermaphrodites (containing both male and female sex organs), and some are protogynous hermaphrodites (changing from female to male during the course of life).  The ease of sexing is also species dependent.  For instance, I have found the sexing of adult puffer fish and lizardfish to be quite easy (very easily defined organs), however I have experienced considerable difficulty sexing the Atlantic menhaden (too much blood obscuring the organs).

Field Party Chief Andre DeBose provided me with a hypoxia contour chart (see below), representing compiled CTD data from Leg 1 and the beginning of Leg 2.  According to DeBose, these contour charts are generated by the National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC) once out of around every 10 stations, and they represent an average of data taken by station near the ocean floor.  A data point is defined as hypoxic if the dissolved oxygen content is below 2 mg/L.  On the below chart, you can see that many hypoxic areas exist along the Texas coast, near the shore.

Bottom Dissolved Oxygen Contours
Dissolved oxygen contours for water at ocean bottom — Plotted data thus far from the SEAMAP Summer Survey (June 9 – 26, 2015)

I could not wrap my head around why this trend exists in the data, as I figured that shallower water would be warmer, allowing for more plant life in greater density, and accordingly more dissolved oxygen in greater density.  Fisheries Biologist Alonzo Hamilton helped me better understand this trend.  The fact that the water is warmer in shallower areas means that more of the dissolved oxygen leaves the surface of water in these areas.  In addition, while plant life is indeed in greater concentration in shallower water, so is the concentration of aerobic microbes.  These organisms use up oxygen through respiration to decompose organic matter.  You can see on the above graphic that the greatest hypoxia is found in areas near major runoff (e.g. Matagorda Bay and Galveston Bay).  Among other things, this runoff feeds nitrates from plant fertilizer into the ocean, which supports growth of more algae (in the form of algal blooms).  Aerobic microbes decompose this excess organic matter once it dies, taking further oxygen from the water. Although it seems counterintuitive, at least to me, the greater heat and greater organism density actually leads to a more hypoxic environment.

I am slowly getting better with the species names of aquatic organisms, but as of now, I am still focusing on common names.  The common names often relate to the fish’s phenotype, and this helps me recall them with more ease.  Common name knowledge, however, is fairly useless when it comes to entering the organisms into the computer during species counts, as the computer only has scientific (Latin) names in its database.  I hope to learn more scientific names as the week progresses.

I am also slowly amassing a really interesting collection of organisms to take back with me to LASA High School.  CJ Duffie taught me how to inject crabs with formaldehyde to preserve them.  Upon return to port, I will spray these crabs with polyurethane, to preserve the outer shell.  I have also been preserving different organisms in jars with 20/80 (v/v) formaldehyde/saltwater.  If you know me, you know I love collecting things, so this process has been particularly enjoyable.  Fisheries Biologists Alonzo Hamilton and Kevin Rademacher have been very supportive in helping me collect good specimens for my classroom.

Personal Log

Life on the ship is very enjoyable.  My bed is comfortable, the work is exciting, the meals are excellent, and the company is gregarious.  However, I have completely lost track of time and date.  My “morning” is actually 11 PM, and my “evening” is actually 1 PM.  Accordingly, my “lunch” is actually breakfast, and my “breakfast” is actually lunch.  I also never have any idea what day of the week it is.  I called my girlfriend yesterday and was surprised to hear that she was not at work (it was a Sunday).

Regarding this blog, I have finally found the optimal time to write and upload photos.  As the satellite internet is shared by all of the ships in the area, it is not possible to access WordPress during the daytime.  Accordingly, I do all of my uploading and most of my writing between 2 and 6 AM.  This works for me, as long as I can find time for the blog between research stations.

I really enjoy the people on the night shift.  Kevin Rademacher, Alonzo Hamilton, and Warren Brown provide such a wealth of knowledge.  These three are absolute experts of their craft, and it is a true honor to work with them.  I am nearing the end of my first week on the ship, and I am still learning just as much as I was on my first day – this is incredibly exciting.

I have found that Alonzo really enjoys the TV show, “Chopped,” as it seems to be on every time I enter the dry lab.  It is pretty interesting to observe him watching the show, as he enthusiastically comments on all of the dishes and regularly predicts the correct winner.

I am also getting well through one of the books I brought – Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safron Foer.  It is a very odd read, but it has been enjoyable so far.

I am looking very forward to every new day.

Did You Know?

The scorpionfish that we are catching are some of the most venomous creatures in the world (see Scorpaenidae) .  These fish have spines that are coated with a venomous mucous, and their sting is incredibly painful – just ask CJ Duffie!  These fish are also incredible masters of camouflage, changing in color and apparent texture to disguise themselves, so as to catch more prey.

Notable Species Seen


Trevor Hance, Gone Fishin’, June 24, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 24, 2015

Gone Fishin’

Lean and mean, the Leg III Scallop Survey Class of 2015
Lean and mean, the Leg III Scallop Survey Class of 2015

Unfortunately, as is the case with life at sea, the weather can change in a heartbeat and the seas apparently had enough of the spoon feeding we were enjoying.  Our last couple of days were supposed to be spent exploring some new lobster habitat, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us and our cruise was terminated a day or two earlier than anticipated.

When the weather got harsh while heading in, I asked our Captain if he would take a picture of me in the Crow’s Nest, doing my best Lt. Dan impression.  He just smiled, shook my hand; “No” was all he said.
When the weather got harsh while heading in, I asked our Captain if he would take a picture of me in the Crow’s Nest, doing my best Lt. Dan impression.  He just smiled, shook my hand; “No” was all he said.

I’m off the vessel, but, the learning is still sinking in.  Today I’ll visit a little about the importance of annotating photos and round out the discussion with some explanation of how these scallop surveys play in commercial fisheries management, and then I’ll cut you loose for the summer.

Ropes, used on hatches, which we may or may not have battened.
Ropes, used on hatches, which we may or may not have battened.

Questioning the Data

We’ve been doing science 24/7 while at sea, and even with twelve highly accomplished people in the science party, I know we only scratched the surface and these folks have mountains of work ahead of them back at their offices in Woods Hole. I also know that much of that work will involve healthy doses of pretty complex math.  I saw an episode of NOVA recently that said something like “science is the story of everything, but the language of that story is told through mathematics.”  Let kids do science; through those experiences, they’ll learn more and ask more questions than they can answer and before they realize it, have learned a ton of math – and how to solve their own problems.

Wet-lab whiteboard humor
Wet-lab whiteboard humor

Before these scientists can really dig in on the heavy math, the data we were collecting has/had to be sorted and organized appropriately. On the dredge, we did most that in the wet-lab, where we physically counted, classified, measured and weighed the species we caught. While using HabCam, we were in the dry lab and the photos and data was collected on the PCs connected to the fiber-optics cable.

What’s up Watch Chief! That’s the wet lab, which is a trailer set up between the vestibule and dredge deck
What’s up Watch Chief! That’s the wet lab, which is a trailer set up between the vestibule and dredge deck

Dredge Data

The hands-on, real-person data collection associated with the dredge is important in fisheries science for many reasons.  For example, estimated weights of things seen in the HabCam photos can only be estimated with any degree of accuracy if they are based on actual data.  Additionally, there are some things you simply cannot determine through non-invasive means, as I experienced first hand assisting Dr. Gallager in the wet lab.  While weighing and measuring the organs of his scallop sample we saw that scallop populations in warmer water had spawned, but some of those in deeper/colder water had not yet done so.  People like Drs. Gallager and Shank can use that information and combine it with data relating to currents and historical data as they develop hypothesis of where to expect scallop populations (they call them “recruitments”) to develop in the future.

A simple graph showing fish length
A simple graph showing fish length

One of my jobs was to be in charge of a tool called “Star Oddi” which consists of a small, bullet-shaped underwater data logger that collects information such as temperature, depth, salinity and tilt of the dredge (it does get flipped over from time to time) as it is towed along the sea floor.  I would trade out the data-logger between each dredge, upload the data to a PC, and tell our watch chief if I noticed anything outside of the expected ranges.

Physically counting and measuring the weight of starfish helps establish reliable estimates of predator affect on scallop population
Physically counting and measuring the weight of starfish helps establish reliable estimates of predator effect on scallop population

HabCam Data / Annotation

Between times piloting the HabCam, we would help annotate some of the photographs, identifying substrate and species seen in the individual photos. For scallops, we used the mouse to draw a line indicating the size of each scallop.

There are four scallops in the annotated photo below.  I’ve drawn a line (in green) from the scallop’s umbo to the front of their shells, or across their width if they didn’t completely fit on the screen. The shadows could also help us identify whether they were swimming or stationary on the sea floor.  Using the HabCam’s recorded distance from the ground, the computer could then determine their respective sizes with relative certainty, which will help scientists estimate their respective weights, which all plays into determinations of how many scallops there are and whether the species, as a whole, is healthy.

Data, informing decisions
Data, informing decisions
The mosaics of HabCam photos sometimes reminded me of stars in the night time sky
The mosaics of HabCam photos sometimes reminded me of stars in the night time sky

I’ll share some more photos taken while annotating in the photblog, for now, let’s put my degrees in economics and law to use…

Fisheries

Many people hear the word “fishery” and think of a plants and a “nursery,” and they are similar in that they are places where something is raised for commercial purposes, but, most fishery production occurs in what would be considered publicly accessible water, like the ocean.

In our earlier discussions, you realized that with its favorable water and currents, Georges Bank is ripe territory for marine life, and historically, Georges Bank has been considered the world’s most productive fishery.  Indeed, Georges Bank has played a key role in the culture and economy of New England for more than 400 years. An April 2012 issue of Down East magazine (note to folks who don’t have a “Mainah” for a mom:  “Down East” is a slang term typically applied to the upper east coast of Maine) noted that by the time of the Mayflower voyage, the cod fishing stations at Damariscove and Monhegan islands had been operating year-round for the better part of a decade.

But just like my trip aboard the Sharp, all good things must come to an end, and over the past century, the environment has changed, human populations grew, demand increased, and technology made fishing faster, safer, bigger and more predictable.  Fortunately, they still call it fishing…

…I mean, if you caught one every time, they’d change the name to “catchin’!”
…I mean, if you caught one every time, they’d change the name to “catchin’!”

Texas Standards: A Teachable Moment

In Texas, we are tied to state standards called “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills,” or “TEKS.”  One of our G5 TEKS states that by the end of the year, “The student is expected to predict the effects of changes in ecosystems caused by living organisms, including humans, such as the overpopulation of grazers or the building of highways.

Locally, my students are in the middle of a real world study of this TEKS, as a recently elected Austin city councilman has proposed a road through the middle of the Balcones Preserve behind our school, saying the road will provide a “fire break.”  As you might imagine, the idea has gotten the attention of some local interest groups and home owners in the neighborhood around the school.

For the lesson, my students were told that their role was simply to read the articles about the proposed road and combine it with existing knowledge gained in my classroom, follow the TEKS, and predict changes to the ecosystem if the road is ultimately built.

Photo from fourpointsnews.com
Photo from fourpointsnews.com

While for my students, their predictions relate to the “highway” aspect of the TEKS, “overgrazing by humans” and the idea of “a ship highway” in the seas offer some parallels to the fisheries we’ve been surveying on this cruise.

Back to the Bank

For nearly 350 of the 400 years commercial fishing has been happening off the coast of New England, regulations were negligible, and the area experienced heavy fishing by American fishers as well as vessels from other countries.  It wasn’t until 1976 that the federal government adopted the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which gave the United States the exclusive economic zone that includes Georges Bank and set up a system of industry regulation.

While the Act gave the U.S. government some power to regulate fishing in the area over the long term, the initial intent was aimed more at helping to protect American fishers more than the fish, and in the first 20 years of the Act, the fish continued to suffer.  In the 1990s, protection efforts picked up, and in 1996, President Bush amended the Act to better promote conservation by focusing on rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat, and reducing bycatch (which is the catching of fish you aren’t actually trying to catch.)

There are four or five main players in the equation, with each having a fair and logical argument of why their interests should receive priority:

  • Fishermen:  In one chair sit the fishermen and the people who work for them.
  • Companies: In another chair sit the non-fishing companies who meet market demand, buying, selling, processing, transporting, etc., seafood.
  • Consumers: In another chair sits the consumers who buy and eat seafood.
  • Environmental/non-profit groups: Standing on a truffula tree stump, speaking on behalf of the fish.
  • The last chair belongs to the government:  “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Whoa, what’s up with the blood pressure spike? Did I strike a chord?

I’ll let you work out in your mind whom you believe should get priority… (note: If you get it right, you might pass fifth grade and get your PhD in one fell swoop!)

Specifically, Scallop

Today, when it comes to management of the scallop fishery, NOAA Fisheries is the lead agency, while the New England Fishery Management Council assesses and makes policy recommendations for the Northeast, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council does so for the area down to the Mid-Atlantic region. These organizations have implemented several management tools intended to support conservation.  Some examples of regulatory tools they’ve used include:

  • Regulating the number of vessels allowed to fish for scallop and people aboard those vessels;
  • Regulating the length of a fishing season and limiting days vessels can remain at sea;
  • Regulating the amount of fish that can be caught as well as the amount of bycatch allowed
  • Closing areas to fishing; and,
  • Increasing the size of the rings on the dredge-net (note: recall, the dredge is like a big sieve; bigger holes allow smaller things to filter through)

Through these management efforts, scallop populations have rebounded significantly, with the permitted (dredge-net) ring-size, limitation of days at sea/total allowable catch, and “closed-area” management tools getting much of the credit. The rebound is certainly noteworthy considering that the Atlantic Sea Scallop fishery, which extends from the Mid-Atlantic area near Cape Hatteras, NC up to Georges Bank, is the largest and most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world, valued at nearly $580 million in 2011.

While much of the research and management is funded by the government, it is important to acknowledge the commercial fishery’s contribution through the Scallop Research Set-Aside Program.  Through that program, 1.25 million pounds of the allowed scallop harvest is set aside each year to fund scallop habitat research and surveys to better inform future policy/management decisions.

So, What’s Next?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

Scallop populations have responded well to these regulatory/management efforts, while other species, such as cod, continue to struggle mightily.

As the scallop population returns to (and maybe even starts to exceed) what have been called “sustainable numbers,” the “closed areas” management tool presents some unique questions, primarily relating to an idea called “carrying capacity.” Carrying capacity essentially asks “how many scallop can survive here before there are too many for the system to stay healthy?”  For the fishers, the water can seem bluer on the other side of the fence (or, um, something like that) and they want to see these areas re-opened, but variables have to be considered and data confirmed for conclusions to be both reliable and valid.  In other words, there is a risk of irreparable harm if an area is opened for fishing too soon or too late.

I mention carrying capacity because while I was aboard the Sharp, the New England Fisheries Management Council announced that it was going to recommend that one of the closed areas of Georges Bank, known as the Northern Edge, be reopened to fishing.  The newspapers I read showed that there has been a predictably mixed reaction to the announcement.  NOAA Fisheries will consider the recommendation by the New England Council and their decision on the recommendation is not expected to be final until some time in 2016.

Now, about that proposed road through our Preserve…

Lagniappe

In the last few weeks I’ve introduced you to a few scientists and talked about my role helping to give students an avenue to explore, question and pursue learning about things that interest them in a safe, supportive environment.  I’m going to close out the Lagniappe section of my TAS blog by introducing you to “what’s next” in scallop science through a conversation with fellow day-watch science-crew member, and Cornell PhD candidate, Katie Kaplan.

That’s Katie in the hat and sunglasses, avoiding the paparazzi
That’s Katie in the hat and sunglasses, avoiding the paparazzi

Katie is a volunteer on this cruise.  She’s using HabCam data as part of the work towards her PhD and wanted to get a first hand peek at the HabCam in action (I mean, who wouldn’t want to fly over the sea floor and pick fights with crabs and lobsters!), so, she signed up.  Katie’s work fits nicely in today’s blog for several reasons, largely because her work centers on what is happening with the scallops in one of the closed areas I discussed above.

Specifically, Katie is evaluating the impacts of marine protected areas on interactions of sea scallops and other species in benthic (i.e. – “seafloor”) ecosystems.  In particular she is evaluating the relationship between an invasive tunicate species, Didemnum vexillum and scallops and the impact of the closed areas on this relationship. The invasive tunicate has spread in Georges Bank since 2002 and threatens scallop habitat since they compete for the same space (note: with tunicate species being commonly referred to by names like sea “squirts,” “pork,” and “livers,” you might get the impression their “invasion” isn’t perceived as favorable). After a few weeks in my class it should be obvious, but studying interactions among species as they relate to fishery resources is essential to ensuring fish habitat remains viable and fisheries remain productive to meet our needs as consumers.

On a more personal note, Katie grew up just outside of New York City and headed to Grinnell College in Iowa for her undergraduate studies.  After graduation, she taught English in Ecuador and while living there and on Galapagos, decided to pursue a career that combined her interests in the ocean with her wicked good biology skills (whoa, did I just use “wicked” as an adjective?  I’ve been up north too long!). I need to add that while it’s too long a story for the blog, I seem to be having a “Cornell year,” so it is entirely appropriate that I met my new friend Katie on this cruise.

Katie became inspired to study marine science while swimming with sea lions and sea turtles in Galapagos (um, who wouldn’t, Katie!?!).  While there she studied vulnerable fish habitat on the islands — including nursery areas for sharks!  She decided to devote her life to conservation and management of marine life due to concerns of human caused destruction of the environment.  She hopes “to make a positive impact by contributing to conservation based research and helping humans learn to interact with the environment in a less destructive way.”

Kudos, my friend.  I’m so happy we were on watch together, it was so nice of you to distract the paparazzi…

Photoblog:

Nothing really to annotate in this shot, but, you can see the whole screen.
Nothing really to annotate in this shot, but, you can see the whole screen.
Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy
Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy
Waved whelk, heading to the 01.
Waved whelk, heading to the 01.
HabCam scared a flatfish.  He was slingin' gravel and puttin' a ton of dust in the air.
HabCam scared a flatfish. He was slingin’ gravel and puttin’ a ton of dust in the air.
Nature
Nature
Textures of the sea
Textures of the sea
Not at all like the blue points down here on the coast that will snip at you
Not at all like the blue points down here on the coast that will pinch you in a heartbeat
I saw this hermit crab out of his shell and heard Dumbledore’s voice in my head saying “You cannot help it;” it was only weird when I looked up and realized I was not in Kings Cross Station
I saw this hermit crab out of his shell and heard Dumbledore’s voice in my head saying “You cannot help it;” it was only weird when I looked up and realized I was not in Kings Cross Station
...I was always on the lookout for the Nisshin Maru; never saw it.
…I was always on the lookout for the Nisshin Maru; never saw it.
Students, always clean up your lab!
Students, always clean up your lab!
More nature.
More nature.
Winslow Homer would be so mad if he knew he could've painted this while hanging out with Rachel Carson at Woods Hole.
Winslow Homer would be so mad if he knew he could’ve painted this while hanging out with Rachel Carson at Woods Hole (her:  “I had my first prolonged contact with the sea at Woods Hole. I never tired of watching the swirling currents pour through the hole — that wonderful place of whirlpools and eddies and swiftly racing waters.”)

DSCN0006

So, that’s about it.  I loved my time aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, have made some new friends, and will always treasure the memories made as a 2015 NOAA Teacher at Sea.  Thanks again, NOAA, what a grand adventure…

Airplane Playlist to Texas:  James Taylor (“Carolina”, “Angels of Fenway”), Robert Earl Keen, Jr. (I’m Comin’ Home); Alpha Rev (“Sing Loud”); Keane (“Somewhere Only We Know”); Avett Brothers (“Spanish Pipedream”); Jim & Jesse (“Paradise”); Amos Lee (“Windows Are Rolled Down”); Bobby Darin (“Beyond The Sea”)

Go outside and play.  Class dismissed.

Mr. Hance

Trevor Hance: Life, As You (Already) Know It… June 21, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 21, 2015

Teacher at Sea?
Teacher at Sea?

Science and Technology Log

The rhythm of a ship rocking and rolling through varied wave heights while catching some zzzz’s in a small, curtain-enclosed bunk provides an opportunity to get some really amazing deep sleep.  Last night I had a dream that one of my childhood friends married Dan Marino.  It seemed completely bizarre until I remembered we saw lots of dolphins yesterday.

Dan? Mrs. Marino? Is that you?
Dan? Mrs. Marino? Is that you?

Seas have calmed substantially from the ride we had a couple of days ago, and for the past few days the ride has been so smooth I feel more like a “Teacher at Pond” than “Teacher at Sea.”  Unfortunately, it looks like that awful weather system my friends and family have been dealing back home in Texas is about to make its way to us here off the coast of New England (what many Texans consider “the southern edge of Santa-land”) and there’s even a chance today might be our last full day at sea.

At the helm: Estoy El Jefe!
At the helm: Estoy El Jefe!

Operations

Operationally, we’ve shifted back and forth from dredge to HabCam work and it is a decidedly different experience, and as with everything, there are pros and cons.

HabCam

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the HabCam requires two people to monitor two different stations as pilot and co-pilot, each with several monitors to help keep the system running smoothly and providing updates on things like salinity, depth and water temperature (currently 4.59 degrees Celsius – yikes!!!).

Views of the screens we monitor: from 6 o’clock, moving clockwise:  the winch, altitude monitor, cameras of back deck, sonar of the sea floor and photos being taken as we travel
Views of the screens we monitor: from 6 o’clock, moving clockwise: the winch, altitude monitor, cameras of back deck, sonar of the sea floor and photos being taken as we travel

The pilot gets to drive the HabCam with a joystick that pays-out or pulls in the tow-wire, trying to keep the HabCam “flying” about 2 meters off the sea floor.  Changes in topography, currents, and motion of the vessel all contribute to the challenge. The co-pilot primarily monitors and annotates the photographs that are continually taken and fed into one of the computers in our dry-lab.  I’ll share more about annotating in the next blog-post, but essentially, you have to review, categorize and sort photos based on the information each contains.

The winch has its own monitor
The winch has its own monitor

Driving the HabCam gives you a feeling of adventure – I find myself imagining I am driving The Nautilus and Curiosity, but, after about an hour, things get bleary, and it’s time to switch and let one of the other crew members take over.  My rule is to tap-out when I start feeling a little too much like Steve Zissou.

Dredge

Dredge work involves dropping a weighted ring bag that is lined with net-like material to the sea floor and towing it behind the vessel, where it acts as a sieve and filters out the smallest things and catches the larger things, which are sorted, weighed and measured in the wet lab on the back deck.

Close up of the dredge material
Close up of the dredge material; HabCam in the background

Dredge work is a little like the “waves-crashing-across-the-deck” stuff that you see on overly dramatized TV shows like “Deadliest Catch.”  As my students know, I like getting my hands dirty, so I tend to very much enjoy the wind, water and salty experience associated with a dredge.

Yours truly, sporting my homemade jolly roger t-shirt after a successful dredge
Yours truly, after a successful dredge, sporting my homemade Jolly Roger t-shirt

While the dredge is fun, my students and I use motion-triggered wildlife cameras to study the life and systems in the Preserve behind our school, and I fully realize the value those cameras provide — especially in helping us understand when we have too much human traffic in the Preserve. The non-invasive aspects of HabCam work provide a similar window, and a remarkable, reliable data source when you consider that the data pertaining to one particular photograph could potentially be reviewed thousands of times for various purposes.  The sheer quantity of data we collect on a HabCam run is overwhelming in real-time, and there are thousands of photos that need to be annotated (i.e. – reviewed and organized) after each cruise.

More Science

Anyway, enough of the operational stuff we are doing on this trip for now, let’s talk about some science behind this trip… I’m going to present this section as though I’m having a conversation with a student (student’s voice italicized).

Life needs death; this is a shot of 8 or 9 different crabs feasting on a dead skate that settled at the bottom. Ain't no party like a dead skate party...
Life needs death; this is a shot of 8 or 9 different crabs feasting on a dead skate that settled at the bottom. Ain’t no party like a dead skate party…

Mr. Hance, can’t we look at pictures instead of having class?  I mean, even your Mom commented on your blog and said this marine science seems a little thick.

We’ll look at pictures in a minute, but before we do, I need you to realize what you already know.

The National Wildlife Federation gives folks a chance to support biodiversity by developing a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” right in their own backyard.  We used NWF’s plan in our class as a guideline as we learned that the mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds we study in our Preserve need four basic things for survival:  water, food, shelter and space (note:  while not clearly stated in NWF’s guidelines, “air” is built in.)

This same guide is largely true for marine life, and because we are starting small and building the story, we should probably look at some physics and geology to see some of the tools we are working with to draw a parallel.

Ugh, more water and rocks?  I want to see DOLPHINS, Mr. Hance!

Sorry, kid, but we’re doing water and rocks before more dolphins.

Keep in mind the flow of currents around Georges Bank and the important role they play in distributing water and transporting things, big and small.  Remember what happened to Nemo when he was hanging out with Crush? You’ll see why that sort of stuff loosely plays in to today’s lesson.

Let There Be Light! And Heat!
Let There Be Light! And Heat!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Georges Bank is a shallow shoal, which means the sea floor has a lot more access to sunlight than the deeper areas around it, which is important for two big reasons. First, students will recall that “light travels in a straight line until it strikes an object, at which point it….” (yada, yada, yada).  In this case, the water refracts as it hits the water (“passes through a medium”) and where the water is really shallow, the sunlight can actually reflect off of the sea floor (as was apparent in that NASA photo I posted in my last blog.)

Also important is the role the sun plays as the massive energy driver behind pretty much everything on earth.  So, just like in our edible garden back at school, the sun provides energy (heat and light), which we know are necessary for plant growth.

Okay, so we have energy, Mr. Hance, but what do fish do for homes?

The substrate, or the sediment(s) that make-up the sea floor on Georges Bank consists of material favorable for marine habitat and shelter.  The shallowest areas of Georges Bank are made mostly of sand or shell hash (“bits and pieces”) that can be moved around by currents, often forming sand waves.  Sand waves are sort of the underwater equivalent of what we consider sand dunes on the beach.  In addition to the largely sandy areas, the northern areas of the Bank include lots of gravel left behind as glaciers retreated (i.e. – when Georges Bank was still land.)

Moving currents and the size of the sediment on the sea floor are important factors in scallop population, and they play a particularly significant role relating to larval transportation and settlement.  Revisiting our understanding of Newton’s three laws of motion, you’ll recognize that the finer sediment (i.e. – small and light) are easily moved by currents in areas of high energy (i.e. – frequent or strong currents), while larger sediment like large grains of sand, gravel and boulders get increasingly tough to push around.

Importantly, not all of Georges Bank is a “high energy” area, and the more stable areas provide a better opportunity for both flora and fauna habitat.  In perhaps simpler terms, the harder, more immobile substrates provide solid surfaces as well as “nooks and crannies” for plants to attach and grow, as well as a place for larvae (such as very young scallop) to attach or hide from predators until they are large enough to start swimming, perhaps in search of food or a better habitat.

With something to hold on to, you might even see what scientists call “biogenic” habitat, or places where the plants and animals themselves make up the shelter.

Substrate samples from one of our dredges; sand, rocks/gravel/pebbles,
Substrate samples from one of our dredges; shells, sand, rocks/gravel/pebbles, “bio-trash” and a very young crab
There is one strand of a plant growing off of this rock we pulled up.  Not much, but it's something to hold on to!
There is one strand of a plant growing off of this rock we pulled up. Not much, but it’s something to hold on to!

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, rocks and one weed, huh… I wonder what’s happening at the pool…

Whoa, hold on, don’t quit — you’re half way there!

Before you mind drifts off thinking that there are coral reefs or something similar here, it is probably important that I remind you that the sea floor of Georges Bank doesn’t include a whole lot of rapid topography changes – remember, we are towing a very expensive, 3500 lb. steel framed camera at about 6 knots, and it wouldn’t make sense to do that in an area where we might smash it into a bunch of reefs or boulders.  Here, things are pretty flat and relatively smooth, sand waves and the occasional boulder being the exceptions.

Okay, our scallops now have a place to start their life, but, what about breathing and eating, and why do they need “space” to survive?  Isn’t the ocean huge?

As always, remember that we are trying to find a balance, or equilibrium in the system we are studying.

One example of a simple system can be found in the aquaponics systems we built in our classroom last year. Aquaponics is soil-less gardening, where fish live in a tank below a grow bed and the water they “pollute” through natural bodily functions (aka – “poop”) is circulated to the grow bed where the plants get the nutrients they need, filter out the waste and return good, healthy water back to the fish, full of the micronutrients the fish need to survive.  I say our system is simple because we are “simply” trying to balance ammonia, nitrates and phosphates and not the vast number of variables that exist in the oceans that cover most of our Earth’s surface.  Although the ocean is much larger on the spatial scale, the concept isn’t really that much different, the physical properties of matter are what they are, and waste needs to be processed in order for a healthy system to stay balanced.

Our simple classroom system
Our simple classroom system

Another aspect of our aquaponics system that provides a parallel to Georges Bank lies in our “current,” which for us is the pump-driven movement of water from the fish to the plants, and the natural, gravity-driven return of that water to the fish.  While the transportation of nutrients necessary to both parties is directionally the exact opposite of what happens here on Georges Bank (i.e. – the currents push the nutrients up from the depths here), the idea is the same and again, it is moving water that supports life.

But, Mr. Hance, where do those “nutrients” come from in the first place, and what are they feeding?

Remember, systems run in repetitive cycles; ideally, they are completely predictable.  In a very basic sense where plants and animals are concerned, that repetitive cycle is “life to death to life to death, etc…”  This is another one of those “here, look at what you already know” moments.

When marine life dies, that carbon-based organic material sinks towards the bottom of the ocean and continues to break down while being pushed around at depth along the oceans currents. Students will recognize a parallel in “The Audit” Legacy Project from this spring when they think about what is happening in those three compost bins in our edible garden; our turning that compost pile is pretty much what is happening to all of those important nutrients getting rolled around in the moving water out here – microscopic plants and animals are using those as building blocks for their life.

Our new compost system
Our new compost system

Oh wait, so, this is all about the relationship between decomposers, producers and consumers?  But, Mr. Hance, I thought that was just in the garden?

Yes, “nutrient rich” water is the equivalent of “good soil,” but, we have to get it to a depth appropriate for marine life to really start to flourish.  Using your knowledge of the properties of matter, you figured out how and why the currents behave the way they do here.  You now know that when those currents reach Georges Bank, they are pushed to the surface and during the warm summer months, they get trapped in this shallow(ish), warm(ish) sunlit water, providing a wonderful opportunity for the oceans’ primary producers, phytoplankton, to use those nutrients much like we see in our garden.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I think I’m starting to see what you mean. Can you tell me a little more about plankton?

The term plankton encompasses all of the lowest members of the food chain (web), and can be further divided into “phytoplankton” and “zooplankton.”  Yes, “phyto” does indeed resemble “photo,” as in “photosynthesis”, and does indeed relate to microscopic plant-like plankton, like algae.  Zooplankton pertains to microscopic animal-like plankton, and can include copepods and krill.

Plankton are tiny and although they might try to swim against the current, they aren’t really strong enough, so they get carried along, providing valuable nutrients to bigger sea creatures they encounter.  Just like on land, there are good growing seasons and bad growing seasons for these phytoplankton, and on Georges Bank, the better times for growing coincide with the spring-summer currents.

Dude, Mr. Hance, I didn’t know I already knew that…. Mind…. Blown.

Yeah little dude, I saw the whole thing. First, you were like, whoa! And then you were like, WHOA! And then you were like, whoa…  Sorry, I got carried away; another Nemo flashback. While I get back in teacher-mode, why don’t you build the food web. Next stop, knowledge…

You've got some serious thrill issues, dude
You’ve got some serious thrill issues, dude

But, Mr. Hance, you are on a scallop survey.  How do they fit into the food web? You told us that you, crabs and starfish are their primary natural predators, but, what are they eating, and how?

Scallops are animals, complete with muscles (well, one big, strong one), a digestive system, reproductive system, and nervous system.  They don’t really have a brain (like ours), but, they do have light-sensing eyes on their mantle, which is a ring that sits on the outer edge of their organ system housed under their protective shell.  Acting in concert, those eyes help scallops sense nearby danger, including predators like those creepy starfish.

Predators
Predators

Scallops are filter feeders who live off of plankton, and they process lots of water.  With their shells open, water moves over a filtering structure, which you can imagine as a sort of sieve made of mucus that traps food.  Hair-like cilia transport the food to the scallop’s mouth, where it is digested, processed, and the waste excreted.

DSCN0154
The text is small, but, it describes some of the anatomy of the scallop. Click to zoom.

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But, Mr. Hance, do they hunt? How do they find their food?

Remember, scallops, unlike most other bivalves such as oysters, are free-living, mobile animals; in other words, they can swim to dinner if necessary.  Of course, they’d prefer to just be lazy and hang out in lounge chairs while the food is brought to them (kind of like the big-bellied humans in my favorite Disney film, Wall-E), so can you guess what they look for?

Gee, Mr. Hance…. Let me guess, water that moves the food to them?

Yep, see, I told you this was stuff you already knew.

I highlighted the shadows in one of the HabCam photos to show you proof that scallop swim.
I highlighted the shadows in one of the HabCam photos to show you proof that scallop swim.

While plankton can (and do!) live everywhere in the shallow(ish) ocean, because they are helpless against the force of the current, they get trapped in downwellings, which is a unique “vertical eddy,” caused by competing currents, or “fronts.”  Think of a downwelling as sort of the opposite of a tug-o-war where instead of pulling apart, the two currents run head-on into one another.  Eventually, something’s gotta give, and gravity is there to lend a hand, pushing the water down towards the sea floor and away, where it joins another current and continues on.

Those of you who have fished offshore will recognize these spots as a “slick” on the top of the water, and there is often a lot of sea-foam (“bubbles”) associated with a downwelling because of the accumulation of protein and “trash” that gets stuck on top as the water drops off underneath it.

Those
Those “smooth as glass” spots are where currents are hitting and downwellings are occurring
This particularly large group of birds gathered together atop a downwelling, likely because the water helped keep them together (and because fishing would be good there!)
This particularly large group of birds gathered together atop a downwelling, likely because the water helped keep them together (and because fishing would be good there!)

Because plankton aren’t strong enough to swim against the current, they move into these downwellings in great numbers.  You can wind up with an underwater cloud of plankton in those instances, and it doesn’t take long for fish and whales to figure out that nature is setting the table for them.  Like our human friends in Wall-E, scallops pull up a chair, put on their bibs and settle at the base of these competing fronts, salivating like a Pavlovian pup as they wait on their venti-sized planko-latte (okay, I’m exaggerating; scallops live in salt water, so they don’t salivate, but because I’m not there to sing and dance to hold your attention while you read, I have to keep you interested somehow.)

If you become a marine scientist at Woods Hole, you’ll probably spend some time looking for the “magic” 60m isobaths, which is where you see scallop and other things congregate at these convergent fronts.

Before you ask, an isobaths is a depth line.  Depth lines are important when you consider appropriate marine life habitat, just like altitude would be when you ask why there aren’t more trees when you get off the ski lift at the top of the mountain.

Um, Mr. Hance, why didn’t you just tell us this is just like the garden!  I’m immediately bored.  What else ya got?

Well, in the next class, we’ll spend some time talking about (over-)fishing and fisheries management, but for now, how about I introduce you to another one of my new friends and then show you some pictures?

I don’t know, Mr. Hance, all of this talk about water makes me want to go swimming.  I’ll stick around for a few minutes, but this dude better be cool.

Lagniappe: Dr. Burton Shank

Today, I’ll introduce another important member of the science crew aboard the vessel, Dr. Burton Shank.  As I was preparing for the voyage, I received several introductory emails, and I regret that I didn’t respond to the one I received from Burton asking for more information.  He’s a box of knowledge.

That's Burton, on the right, sorting through a dredge with lots and lots of sand dollars.
That’s Burton, on the right, sorting through a dredge with lots and lots of sand dollars.

Burton is a Research Fishery Biologist at National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole working in the populations dynamic group, which involves lots of statistical analysis (aka – Mental Abuse To Humans, or “MATH”).  Burton’s group looks at data to determine how many scallops or lobsters are in the area, and how well they are doing using the data collected through these field surveys.  One of my students last year did a pretty similar study last year, dissecting owl pellets and setting (humane) rat traps to determine how many Great Horned Owls our Preserve could support.  Good stuff.

Burton is an Aggie (Whoop! Gig ‘Em!), having received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M at Galveston before receiving his master’s in oceanography from the University of Puerto Rico and heading off as a travelling technical specialist on gigs in Florida, Alaska and at the Biosphere in Arizona.  For those unfamiliar, the biosphere was a project intended to help start human colonies on other planets, and after a couple of unsuccessful starts, the research portion was taken over by Columbia University and Burton was hired to do ocean climate manipulations.  Unlike most science experiments where you try to maintain balance, Burton’s job was to design ways that might “wreck” the system to determine potential climate situations that could occur in different environments.

As seems to be the case with several of the folks out here, Burton didn’t really grow up in a coastal, marine environment, and in fact, his childhood years were spent in quite the opposite environment:  Nebraska, where his dad was involved in agricultural research.  He did, however, have a small river and oxbow like near his home and spent some summers in Hawaii.

It was on during a summer visit to Hawaii at about 9 years old that Burton realized that “life in a mask and fins” was the life for him.  On return to Nebraska, home of the (then!) mighty Cornhusker football team, many of his fellow fourth grade students proclaimed that they would be the quarterback at Nebraska when they grew up.  Burton said his teacher seemed to think being the Cornhusker QB was a completely reasonable career path, but audibly scoffed when he was asked what he wanted to be and said he would be a marine biologist when he grew up.  I welcome any of you young Burton’s in my class, anytime – “12th Man” or not!

Photoblog:

RSCN0090
Sheerwater, I loved the reflection on this one
Such a nice day
Such a nice day
You'll never look at them the same, will you?
You’ll never look at them the same, will you?
Cleaning up after a dredge
Cleaning up after a dredge; shot from vestibule where wet-gear is housed.  We spent lots of time changing.
So fun to see lobsters and crabs when
So fun to see lobsters and crabs when “HabCam’ing.” They rear back and raise their claws as if to dare you to get any closer.
Good night!
Good night!

Playlist:  Matisyahu, Seu Jorge, Gotan Project, George Jones

Okay, that’s it, class dismissed.  Get outta here…

Mr. Hance

Adrienne Heim, September 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: September 4, 2007

NOAA Ship Albatross IV
NOAA Ship Albatross IV

All about the Ship!

For ten days I have been living aboard the ALBATROSS IV – the oldest research vessel within the NOAA fleet. It has been quite an amazing experience for me to wake up each morning surrounded by water. I have been loving every minute of it including falling asleep to the lapping sound of the waves against the porthole of my room. For the most part, the waves have not been too large, except for the first few days. Eating while the ship rocks back and forth has been an interesting sensation. It certainly evokes smiles on all of us who are not accustomed to this environment. When the ALBATROSS IV is not at sea, she resides in Woods Hole, MA. The ALBATROSS IV conducts fishery and living marine resource research for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole, Ma. Her purpose is to conduct fisheries and oceanographic research within the waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. She is fully equipped to collect information on the distribution and abundance of ground fish and sea scallops, as well as, on the environmental factors that may affect fish populations. Some basic facts regarding the ALBATROSS IV are:

Living quarters
Living quarters

Length: 57.0 meters (187 feet)
Breadth: 10.1 meters (33 feet)
Draft: 4.9 meters (16.2 feet)
Gross Tonnage: 1,115
Range: 3,933nmi at 11.5 knots
Date Commissioned: May 1963

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK FOR MY STUDENTS:

What is the meaning of tonnage and range?

How fast is a knot when compared to miles?

Taking a tour of the ship
Taking a tour of the ship
Mechanics on deck
Mechanics on deck
Sunset over the water
Sunset over the water

Adrienne Heim, September 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Colorful sea stars!
Colorful sea stars!

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: September 2, 2007

Science and Technology Log: Ocean Diversity

Contrary to my initial thoughts, there is an eclectic amount of diversity AND color among the species that dwells within the Georges Bank/Nantucket Shoals. I have been very surprised at the amount of species we collect during our tows. I also am very surprised by the variations of color among the starfish. I just typically associated marine color to warm saltwater dwelling creatures where you would find coral reefs and such, but there is a beautiful array of colors up here. Among the typical sort of sea life you would expect to see here, like dolphins, whales, cod, crabs, sea scallops, clams, tuna etc. there exists a greater level of diversity here. Just to give you an idea, here is a list of some of the marine life we have encountered at our stations:

Monkfish brought up in the survey
Monkfish brought up in the survey

Winter Skate
Little Skate
Silver Hake
Red Hake
Fourspot Flounder
Yellowtail Flounder
Windowpane Flounder
Gulfstream Flounder
Longhorn Sculpin
Ocean Pout
Cancer Crab
Sea Scallop
Atlantic Hagfish
Fourbeard Rockling
American Plaice
Moustache Sculpin

Alligator fish
Alligator fish

Northern Sandlance
Spoonarm Octopus
Goosefish
Loligo Squid
Sea Raven
Asterias Boreal
Fluke
Northern Searobin
Rock Gunnel
American Lobster
Leptasterias Tenera
Alligator Fish
Butterfish
Seacucumber
and many more…

Sea cucumber
Sea cucumber
Spoonarm octopus
Spoonarm octopus

Adrienne Heim, August 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

The CTD, recording information at depth
The CTD, recording information at depth

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2007

Science and Technology Log: CTD Casts
Immediately following the fire and abandon ship drills, we proceeded to have a debriefing regarding appropriate and professional behaviors, as well as, receiving information regarding shift schedules, meals, work expectations, etc. Our Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, informed us of the various duties and responsibilities each of us would have during the Sea Scallop Survey. I was paired with another volunteer, Shawn, to help with the measuring of the sea scallops once they were sorted and weighed. I was also assigned the role of performing CTD casts and collecting data from the inclinometer.CTD casts are performed at every third station. The acronym stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. It is a hefty contraption that is hooked onto a cable and sent down, a vertical cast, into the water. Basically, while the CTD is sent down vertically, it records the temperature, depth, salinity, and pressure. The saltier the water, the more conductivity is generated. The cast first soaks for about one-two minutes at the surface of the water to record the salinity. It is then sent down, stops about 5-10 meters before reaching the bottom of the ocean floor and then is hauled back. Recording this data is essential for scientists, especially while conducting a Sea Scallop Survey; because the CTD casts helps to associate water temperature and salinity with sea scallop abundance. Scientists record the data to view it later and assess the casts with the other data collected from the work stations.
Computers and cameras recording information from the CTD
Computers and cameras recording information from the CTD
The winch at the back of the ship
The winch at the back of the ship
Communicating with the winch operator
Communicating with the winch operator

Adrienne Heim, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Working at night
Working at night

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2007

Science and Technology Log: Sample Sorting

It is then time to get to work. Each of us works in 12 hour shifts. We are either designated to a noon-midnight shift or visa-versa. First, the winch operator sends out the dredge. It trolls in 15 minute increments and collects everything that it encounters along the way. This includes various marine life, vegetation, and bottom sediment like rocks and sand. Once it is brought to surface the deck handler’s work with the winch operator to lower the dredge to the middle of the stern. The dredge is emptied of its contents and then it is our turn to sift through it. The marine life is sorted into blue buckets according to their species. Our Watch Chief teaches us how to identify them, especially when sorting Winter versus Little Skates or Winter versus Yellow-Tail Flounders. We put all of the scallops into large orange baskets. The species are then weighed and measured. We work in pairs and each pair is assigned to one of the three work stations. The data is recorded into the FSCS, which stands for Fisheries Scientific Computer System. Some of the scallops are frozen for further scientific investigation while the others, as well as the other marine life collected from the dredge are put back into the water. The buckets are washed and stored for the next tow, which occurs every 45 minutes as we wait to reach the following station.
Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

I am learning so much and I can’t wait to bring all of this information back to my students. My next log will discuss the diversity of the marine life here along the Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals, as well as, the purpose of the FDA sending employees to test for PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poison) within the meat, viscera, and gonads of the sea scallops.

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK FOR MY STUDENTS:
What preys upon sea scallops besides starfish?
How are the open and closed waters designated and determined?
What is the impact of scallop fishing on the overall ecosystem?

Sorting on deck
Sorting on deck

Adrienne Heim, August 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

IMG_0478Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2007

Science Log: Beautiful Sunsets

The best thing about working 12 hour shifts are the sunsets! Sunsets along the Atlantic Ocean have been positively beautiful.
The weather has shifted drastically while on board the ALBATRSS IV. Initially in the voyage the weather was cold, foggy, damp, and windy. The visibility was difficult, as well as, balancing myself with the continuous rocking of the vessel. Quite a feat! Recently the weather has been gorgeous: fair skies, very warm, with a rewarding breeze. My partner, Shawn McPhee, and I have developed quite a rhythm for measuring the scallops and cleaning up. We have even “graduated” to measuring many other species in order to help expedite the process and allow enough time for our Watch Chiefs to focus, more importantly, on collecting other sorts of data during each tow.
IMG_0453
IMG_0415

Adrienne Heim, August 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Woods Hole
Woods Hole

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 7, 2007

Weather Data

Visibility: 10 miles or more
Latitude: 68° 27.5 W
Longitude: 41° 24.7 N
Wind Speed: 6.5-7 Knots
Wind Direction: N NE
Cloud Cover: 10-20% : Stratus
Seawater Temperature: 15.5 °C
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2mb
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Wave Swell: 2 feet
Science and Technology Log
Downtown shops
Downtown shops

I arrived in Woods Hole, MA on Sunday August 5th, 2007. The ALBATROSS IV was scheduled to depart early Monday morning, but we were unfortunately delayed a couple of days as a result of waiting for some diesel oil and fresh water shipments to arrive. During our delay we took a tour of the NOAA Aquarium right there in Woods Hole, MA. We started to become more acquainted with some of the species we would encounter while on the survey. We set sail early Tuesday afternoon. I stood at the stern of the vessel watching the landscape fade away into the foggy mist.

Once on board and steadily sailing north bound, a few procedures and protocols were immediately rehearsed. The first procedure was a fire drill. As the alarm sounded, we quickly retrieved life jackets and a large orange tote containing a wet suit from our rooms and proceeded into the “wet lab” where we waited for the following instructions. Afterwards, an abandon ship drill was announced. The entire crew congregated at the stern of the vessel. Each individual had to rapidly unpack the survival suit from the large orange tote. We had to slip into the red immersion suits, which proved to be a bit difficult for me to maneuver. However, hopefully in the event of an actual abandon ship emergency, I would be much more successful at putting them on. They certainly provide enough protection in case of an emergency.

The harbor
The harbor

Roy Arezzo, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Arezzo
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 11 – 29, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 28, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:   240° (SW)
Wind speed:   10 knots
Sea wave height: 3 foot
Swell wave height: 0 feet
Seawater temperature: 8.6 °C
Sea level pressure: 1020.5 mb (millibars)
Air Temperature: 0°C
Cloud cover: 8/8, Stratus

Creature at Sea:  Roy holds a sea pen in the top picture and a basket star (bottom) from the bottom trawl study
Creature at Sea: Roy holds a sea pen

Science and Technology Log: Wrap Up 

The Echo Integration-Trawl Survey of Walleye Pollock closed the season with a total of 74 Aleutian wing trawls (AWT mid-water trawls), 19 bottom trawls, 27 Methot trawls (plankton) and 81 ConductivityTemperature-Depth Sensor Package deployments (CTD water quality checks) collecting a wealth of biological and physical oceanographic data. The crew and scientists are excited to be headed back to shore but also there is a good feeling regarding the mission of the trip and the validity of the data collection. Of the 50,840 Kg of fish netted more then half was caught in the 44 AWT mid-water trawls executed this third leg of the survey.  During this time we took the length of 16,761 individual pollock and identified 19 other species of fish.I spent some time looking at graphs of preliminary data to try and make sense of what was accomplished from the work done during the sail. This past winter had a higher incidence of sea ice relative to the previous years. Generally the colder and saltier the water, the greater the density and the deeper it sinks. Although this concept was illustrated in salinity measurements at different depths (deeper being saltier) we found this not to be true when looking at temperature profiles.

Basket star
Basket star

In the sea, deeper does not always mean colder. The Bering shelf is influenced by more than one current system and we found the data taken from the northern parts of the transect along the shelf had colder water than the southern areas as expected but along the slope near the edge of the deep basin the water remained consistently warmer relative to the shelf water despite the latitude change, rarely dipping below 1°C. Generally, we found colder water near the bottom of the shelf between 50 and 100 meters then we did near the bottom of the deeper slope at 200 meters or more. This is mainly due to ice melt in the northern latitudes slowly moving cold water along the bottom of the shelf, where as the deep basin and slope are influenced by slightly warmer currents moving northwest from the Aleutian chain. As a teacher working on the water in the east I came out here assuming the deep areas would be colder but instead I was schooled on currents and their influence on water temperatures.

Leg 3 Transects of Pollock Survey Area: Fish symbols indicate trawl locations. Circles represent CTD readings and diamonds represent the line between Russian and US fishing grounds.
Leg 3 Transects of Pollock Survey Area: Fish symbols indicate trawl locations. Circles represent CTD readings and diamonds represent the line between Russian and US fishing grounds.

Through much of the cruise the lead scientists on shift spend enormous amounts of time monitoring the acoustic signal (echograms) from sounds waves beamed below the ship. When they find a significant mass of pollock they often would take a sample – go fishing. Using patterns on computer monitors scientists are able to hypothesize which signals indicate pollock. Both the length data taken from measuring fish and the acoustic estimates are used to come up with biomass numbers. In the echogram in figure 3 there is what appears to be a signal indicating mixed size pollock. We know that pollock schools tend to be homogeneous with respect to age and size. The strong blue layer at the top of the echogram represents plankton near the surface and in this instance the fish are mostly near the bottom with larger fish indicated in blue and more evenly dispersed, while dense schools of small fish show up as odd shaped clumps with lighter colors. When we sampled this water we found this to be true; we observed two groups of pollock, large adults and small two year old juveniles. The data in Figure 4 (histogram lengths) shows the two size groups. Cannibalism may be part of the reason the smaller fish stick together in separate densely packed schools.

Temperature Profile from CTD readings
Temperature Profile from CTD readings
Conductivity (salinity) Profile from CTD readings
Conductivity (salinity) Profile from CTD readings
Echogram of trawl haul
Echogram of trawl haul
Trawl histogram
Trawl histogram

In the echogram, we see more evenly dispersed adult pollock. This is verified by the haul 92 histogram in figure 6 that shows that most of the pollock sampled where between 40 and 55 centimeters long. Looking at the distribution of pollock in our study area (Figure 7) shows a consistent band of greater incidence of fish near the slope particularly to the western parts of the study area. As the fishery scientists fine tune hydro-acoustic technology they hope to get a better understanding in zooplankton (Figure 8) trends that influence survivorship of young Pollock.  A Krill Survey would be ambitious but by looking at the higher frequency acoustic waves, verified with Methot Trawls, one can estimate krill biomass in pollock regions. Environmental monitoring of chlorophyll concentration (phytoplankton measured from CTD water samples analyzed back on shore) and krill biomass (zooplankton) relative amounts from year to year can help create a better understanding of the resources necessary to support fish stocks.

FIGURE 7: Preliminary data of pollock distribution throughout the survey area
FIGURE 7: Preliminary data of pollock distribution throughout the survey area
FIGURE 8: Preliminary data of zooplankton estimates through out the pollock survey area
FIGURE 8: Preliminary zooplankton estimates throughout the pollock survey area

I would like to thank Chief Scientist, Paul Walline and B-Watch Chief ,Patrick Ressler for taking the time to explain to me the science of hydroacoustic survey analysis and sharing with me their preliminary data.

Chief Scientist, Paul Walline, monitoring the echogram from the bridge of OSCAR DYSON.
Chief Scientist, Paul Walline, monitoring the echogram from the bridge of OSCAR DYSON.

Bird of the Day: 

The bird survey folks identified over 35 species on our trip. I became familiar at least 6 species of birds that I felt comfortable identifying on the fly. When there were hundreds of birds circling the boat there was sometimes one type of bird that stood out making identification a snap. The Auks are related to penguins and have rounder body shapes and unique flight patterns. Like penguins of the southern hemisphere, the denser body composition makes them excellent at swimming under water, but they less nimble taking off and flying in the air compared to sleeker less dense seabirds like the gulls. Unlike penguins all 13 species of auks in the northern hemisphere can fly. The two most abundant types observed onboard are the Murres and the Puffins. I was fortunate to see two species of puffin this trip, the Horned and Tufted Puffin, seemingly too exotic for the Bering Sea. Both have specialized large colorful beaks for carrying multiple prey items and attracting mates. As we sail southeast we are fortunate to be seeing more of them.

Personal Log: 

Patrick, always with a smile, takes a break from the computer screens to look at the catch.
Patrick, always with a smile, takes a break from the computer screens to look at the catch.

These last few days, despite the lack of fishing, have not been without excitement. The bottom-study video sled captured Dall’s Porpoises swimming under water as it was deployed off the stern. As we head southeast there seems to be more whales and clearer skies. This evening we saw dozens of fin whales and one pod was feeding so close that I was able to see baleen. The whales’ baleen is used to screen their plankton food.  I learned the Right Whale has asymmetrical coloring on its baleen and the right side has a lighter off-white color, which we were able to see from the port side of the ship. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the crew of the OSCAR DYSON for their help in getting acclimated to the Bering and to NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program for providing this amazing experience.

Question of the Day 

Today’s question: What is next for the OSCAR DYSON? She is headed back out to the Bering to find rare Right Whales. Check out ship tracker at NOAA’s website or the OSCAR DYSON Web site for more info.

Previous Question: How much fish did we catch? 26,575 kilograms (summer extra credit – convert this number to pounds and metric tons)

Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata)
Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) 
Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

Roy Arezzo, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Arezzo
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 11 – 29, 2007

CTD submerged off the “Hero Deck”
CTD submerged off the “Hero Deck”

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 26, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:   220° (SW)
Wind speed:   11 knots
Sea wave height: 3 feet
Swell wave height: 0 feet
Seawater temperature: 10 °C
Sea level pressure: 1014.9 mb (millibars)
Air Temperature:   10°C
Cloud cover: 8/8, Stratus

Roy works with the deck crew to remove the “pea pod” from the trawl net.
Roy works with the deck crew to remove the “pea pod” from the trawl net.

Science and Technology Log: Special Operations 

When a fully equipped research ship goes to sea everybody wants in. Any scientist doing work in a particular region needs access to that region to conduct their fieldwork. Fishery scientists often catch a ride with commercial vessels to do work at sea. A research vessel can be more desirable for certain projects and NOAA has a system for organizing request proposals and prioritizing work. Unfortunately, a boat is limited in the number of passengers, equipment, food and other resources it can carry. For example one scientist, who is not with us, has sent light meters onboard and requested we collect the data for him. The light meter mounts to our trawl net to study if light penetration affects the vertical distribution of walleye pollock. The pollock survey, the main project of the season, has a science team of 8 not including the birders, ship’s staff and Teacher at Sea. With this many scientists onboard the ship becomes a platform for an interesting mix of experimentation.

Measuring the fish
Measuring the fish

We finished the transects of the Pollock Survey and are now transiting southeast back towards Dutch Harbor. Tomorrow we launch “the sled”, a large metal-framed instrument equipped with an underwater video camera to record the sea bottom of a special study site. The purpose of the study is to assess the effect of bottom trawling on benthic habitats and measure recovery progress over time.  The study site is an area that was bottom trawled back and forth around a month ago. The camera will be pulled in lines perpendicular to the tracks created by the trawling. I got a sneak peak at some of the video footage and the benthic habitat is flat and muddy with strange white sea pens poking upward around 5 feet. Crabs and flat fish scurry around while giant basket stars and sea anemones ornament the bottom. We will use some of our transit time to reflect on some of other side projects that occurred this trip, most of which were designed to refine and validate the survey methodology.

A late night course in net sewing
A late night course in net sewing

When the trawl catch is unloaded into the lab the sex, weight and length of individual fishes are recorded. To make the work more efficient, a new measuring board has been designed to length fish. This is the first time it was tested and it performed smartly. The board allows scientists to input digital length data by touching the sensor to the board at the end of the fishtail fork. NOAA Scientists, Rick Towler and Kresimir Williams, designed the instrument using magnetic sensors from scratch, and shared with me the details of their first project and how the length board evolved from an acoustic instrument through trial and error to the prototype we tested this year. When processing data from trawling, there is always a concern as to how to best represent biomass estimates. You should not count a fish that is 10 centimeters the same as you would a fish that is 40 centimeters. Although they would both qualify as one fish they have a different size and thus a different biomass. We know we cannot count every fish so we have different methods of estimating biomass.

Deck crew works to get fish out of the pocket nets
Deck crew works to get fish out of the pocket nets

Not all fish are caught with the same efficiency; the retention of fish in a net must be taken into consideration. To compensate for this, an estimate as to fish escapement is often factored into the calculations for fish density.  Fisheries Scientist, Kresimir Williams, wants to quantify fish escapement. He is using handmade “pocket nets” to study selectivity and sample escaped fish. In the evening we conducted experimental trawls to monitor escapement from our main trawl nets. We did this by attaching pocket nets to the outside of the trawl net in random placement and analyzing pollock caught in the smaller nets relative to the catch in the cod end.  We have found that smaller fish (one year-old juveniles) more often escape the net from near the cod end as opposed to forward, where there is a larger mesh size. Although the data will not be analyzed until later, observations indicate this could be important in interpreting pollock survey results.

  The “peas” are equipped with digital cameras
The “peas” are equipped with digital cameras

The most exciting project for me is the “Optical Pea Pod”, another Kresimir/Rick design. The pod houses 2 digital cameras, a timed circuit board and a strobe light that is lowered in the net to photograph fish at regular intervals. The setup is designed to produce calibrated stereo images of fish making it possible to measure fish length in deep water. Perhaps, in the future, the cod end can be left open allowing the fish to swim out safely as they are documented. The imaging data can possibly be used to verify the acoustic data that is currently used to estimate the population, reducing the need to handle fish on deck. I would like to thank my technical advisors, Kresimir and Rick, for involving me in their projects and for their support in my work as Teacher at Sea.

Bird of the Day 

Adrienne and Travis test the empty peacameras   pods for pressure down to 80 meters
Adrienne and Travis test the peacameras for pressure down to 80 meters

The Albatross is a seabird steeped in maritime folklore. Mariners of yore would tell stories of the souls of dead sailors rising when they saw the white bird. Famous for being one of the largest seabirds they are a magnificent sight. The Wandering Albatross is capable of extremely long migrations, circumnavigating the globe for years before settling down to breed. Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, have recently been reclassified (based on recent DNA evidence) and the number of genii and species is widely disputed. What is clear is that many species are in danger of extinction. The greatest impact to their populations is long line fishing although many were slaughtered for their feathers before being protected after the turn of the last century. Swordfish, monkfish and cod are fished with long-lines involving miles of baited hooks that can attract the birds and lead to their entanglement and subsequent drowning. We have seen two species on this cruise, the Laysan and the Short-tailed Albatross. It is estimated that there are only between 1500 and 2000 Short-tailed Albatrosses remaining the world. Many were harvested for feathers and a volcano eruption at their Japanese breeding grounds decimated the remaining adults. Fortunately juveniles at sea have returned to breed and hopefully with protection, the numbers will continue to rebound. We were lucky to have one spend a fair amount of time of our stern in calm waters the other day as we were stopped for water quality testing.

Rick spends most of the sail tweaking the electronics and the software for things to work. In an attempt to upgrade the failing batteries of the strobe light he designs a super-battery housed in a milk carton.
Rick spends most of the sail tweaking the electronics and the software for things to work. In an attempt to upgrade the failing batteries of the strobe light he designs a super-battery housed in a milk carton.

Personal Log 

The Bering is a surprisingly lovely color of blue and if the sun would ever come out I am sure it would accent the aesthetic of the water’s color. When we stop to check the water quality the CTD instrument makes for a decent secchi disk and I have observed anecdotally that the visibility seems to be around 13 meters or 40 feet. On an unrelated topic, the other day Executive Officer LT Bill Mowitt let me in on his “lesson plan” for the weekly drill. We went into a fan room and created an electrical fire scenario. We also left clues around the area for the crew and fire fighter team to assess and react to. When it came time for the actual drill I had front row seats to watch the drill unveil and was then permitted to test the fire house of the leeward side the ship. All went well.

Question of the Day Today’s question: How much fish did we catch? Previous Question: How does one become a Golden Dragon? 

The short answer is one sails across the 180-degree line separating the eastern and western hemisphere.  We did this going steaming to Russian waters continuing our survey work in the Northwest Bering.

Kresimir and Rick send the final prototype of the pea pod down in the trawl net
Kresimir and Rick send the final prototype of the pea pod down in the trawl net
Pollock in the net down below 80 meters – caught and measured on camera
Pollock in the net down below 80 meters – caught and measured on camera
Another amazing in-flight shot by Tamara K. Mills
Another amazing in-flight shot by Tamara K. Mills
An Immature Short-tailed Albatross off the stern of the OSCAR DYSON (image by Mark Rauzon).
An Immature Short-tailed Albatross off the stern of the OSCAR DYSON (image by Mark Rauzon).
Executive Officer Bill Mowitt sets up a Fire Drill
Executive Officer Bill Mowitt sets up a Fire Drill
Fire team reacts
Fire team reacts

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Roy Arezzo, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Arezzo
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 11 – 29, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: <1 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:   220° (SW)
Wind speed:   8 knots
Sea wave height: <1 foot
Swell wave height: 0 feet
Seawater temperature: 9.8 °C
Sea level pressure: 1006.7 mb (millibars)
Air Temperature: 10°C
Cloud cover: 8/8, fog

Roy and Tamara get excited about birding on the bridge of the OSCAR DYSON
Roy and Tamara get excited about birding on the bridge of the OSCAR DYSON

Science and Technology Log 

Consumers became very aware of the issue of by-catch when the media reported the canned-tuna industry was killing dolphins in their nets nearly a decade ago. The industry responded by changing some of their fishing methods and marketing “dolphin-safe tuna”. NOAA monitors and sets catch limits for commercial fishing, regulating by-catch, among other things. The Coast Guard assists by also enforcing these fishing regulations. Some of the scientists working here on the pollock survey have worked as fishery observers on commercial vessels, monitoring by-catch in the Alaska fleets. The by-catch regulations vary based on the region, species and season. For example, on the Bering Sea none of the finfish outfits are allowed to keep any crab, they need a special permit to keep halibut and they need to keep cod if they are fishing for pollock. Commercial trawling for pollock results in typically low by-catch. Some environmental groups have listed pollock as a sustainable fish food compared to other seafood in that the harvest does not seem to significantly harm the environment or severely deplete fish stocks.  The Marine Stewardship Council, an independent global nonprofit organization, has certified Alaskan pollock as a sustainable fishery.

NOAA Scientist Abby separates out Chrysaora melanaster, common name Lions Mane.
NOAA Scientist Abby separates out a Chrysaora melanaster jellyfish.

Although we are not dealing with by-catch directly, I find the connection between by-catch, sustainability and fish stocks very interesting. The Echo Integration Trawl Survey uses acoustic data to estimate pollock populations. When we put out our nets we do so to obtain a sample of fish, detected by our acoustic instruments. Since we are conducting mid-water trawls we bring up mostly pollock. The non-pollock species that occasionally get caught in the net are important in verifying the acoustic data and to know what is in the water column with the target species. As a science teacher, the diversity makes for interesting fishing and I have been able to observe a few organisms that spend most of their time in deep water. I have shared some of my images of the unusual species below, all of which I had never seen before this trip. Many of the organisms we bring up go back into the water after we record the data but some of our catch makes it to the galley to be served up for meals.

More Invertebrates 

Some type of sea pen
Some type of sea pen
Small squid
Small squid
Flathead Sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon). Flatfish tend to swim higher in the water column in the evening following the plankton
Flathead Sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon). Flatfish tend to swim higher in the water column in the evening following the plankton
Greenland Turbot (aka Greenland Halibut)
Greenland Turbot (aka Greenland Halibut)
Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)
Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)
Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasi)
Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasi)
Great Sculpin (Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus)
Great Sculpin (Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus)
Smooth lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)
Smooth lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)
Shrimp from a night trawl
Shrimp from a night trawl
Kier, Chef and Assistant to the Chief Steward, makes a serious shrimp bisque.
Kier, Chef and Assistant to the Chief Steward, makes a serious shrimp bisque.
Catch of the day: Chief Steward Rick cooks up Pollock Fish and Chips
Catch of the day: Chief Steward Rick cooks up Pollock Fish and Chips

Bird of the Day: Turns out, there is no such thing as a seagull. This was passionately explained to me by birder who will remain nameless. You ask, why no seagulls? Simply the term is not used in the scientific community. There are seabirds and of this general group there are well over 100 species of gulls. Some gulls are found well inland. Some species of land-based gulls have become popularized due to their opportunistic feeding around humans. Many of the pelagic gulls I have seen this trip are not as well trained as the ones in NYC and stick to wild foods, not even accepting the occasional fish scraps I have tempted them with off the back deck. I had reported in a previous log seeing Kittiwake’s and some immature Herring Gulls. Today we saw a Slaty-back Gull. It is a handsome gull with striking contrasts of black, dark grey and white. They seem to turn up more each time we reach the northern end of a transect line (above 60° latitude). I also learned that the red spot on the beak is a sign of maturity in many adult gulls. I have a renewed appreciation for gulls and look forward to identifying the species back home.

Bottom trawls, conducted on the previous leg of this study, tend to have more diversity in the sample
Bottom trawls, conducted on the previous leg of this study, tend to have more diversity in the sample

Personal Log

We are approaching the northwestern edge of our transect field and the water is deeper and colder and we are finding less fish. I am lucky to find more time to spend on the bridge and witness the communication with Russian fishing vessels, jumping salmon and occasional marine mammal sightings. I have a little camera envy. Some of the folks aboard have the right lens and the right camera to catch the action out at sea. My little 4X zoom digital is looking mighty bleak on the deck and thus I need to rely on the serious photographers for images of some of these exciting finds; their generosity in sharing their images is most appreciated.

Slaty-Back Gull
Slaty-Back Gull

Question of the Day 

Today’s question: How does one become a Golden Dragon?

Previous Question: Why do pollock rise in the water column at night? 

Much of the food eaten by pollock fluctuates in their vertical migration depending on light penetration. During the daylight hours many of the euphausiids (krill) can be found lower in the water column. It seems that by staying lower in the darker portions of the water column during the day, zooplankton may be more protected from their major predators. Near the surface, the phytoplankton (algae) uses the sun’s energy to produce food all day. As the light fades the zooplankton rise, feeding on algae, and the pollock follow their food source.

Krill from one of our nighttime raids with the Methot Trawl
Krill from one of our nighttime raids with the Methot Trawl
Krill (pollock food): Partially digested from inside the stomach of a pollock
Krill (pollock food): Partially digested from inside the stomach of a pollock
Pollock gill rakers screen food from leaving the oral cavity as the water passes out of the gill slits, oxygenating the gills
Pollock gill rakers screen food from leaving the oral cavity as the water passes out of the gill slits, oxygenating the gills

 

Roy Arezzo, July 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Arezzo
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 11 – 29, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 19, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10+ nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 270° (SW)
Wind speed: 11 knots
Sea wave height: 5 foot
Swell wave height: 5feet
Seawater temperature: 8.1°C
Sea level pressure: 1004.4 mb (millibars)
Air Temperature: 9.7°C
Cloud cover: 6/8, stratus

NOAA’s Lieutenant Commander D. ZezulaReading the chart of the North Bering Sea
NOAA Lieutenant Commander D. Zezula reading the chart of the North Bering Sea

Science and Technology Log

I would like to thank David J. Zezula, Lieutenant Commander for NOAA and Alaska Region’s Navigation Manager, who spent over an hour showing me charts and resources for my school. David is serving as a relief officer of the deck aboard the OSCAR DYSON. Around our second Transect this leg we needed to break off from our line momentarily to avoid some shallow pinnacles listed on the chart.  Of the three, one pinnacle is charted in deep water and the tall thin pinnacle seems an unlikely seafloor feature. I was surprised to learn that the information on the printed chart was different from the digital GLOBE program the scientists use to assess the bottom. It was indicated on the printed chart that these shallow regions were charted back before we started making seafloor maps using multi-beam sonar technology. The actual depth in that region is thus questionable and rather than sail over what seemed like deep enough water we cruised around it for safety precautions. Our draft is about 29 feet and all of sensors are located on the centerboard that extends down below the hull’s lowest point. As a research vessel we care very much about our sensors.

Long-tail Jaeger photographed off the bow of OSCAR DYSON by Tamara K. Mills
Long-tail Jaeger photographed off the bow of OSCAR DYSON by Tamara K. Mills

I asked David about this and he went to his files and was able to show me more information about the dates and background on that specific chart. Some of the archives he has access to were actually scanned from hand written charts created with lead lines back at the turn of the century. One of the main parts of his job back on land is to help prioritize what regions of Alaskan waters are to be updated with modern technology as part of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (the hydrographic and nautical charting division of NOAA). Obviously they focus on key ports and channels first but there is much water out there to chart and verify.

Bird of the Day: Today I was fortunate to see yet another “new to me” species. The Long-tail Jaeger (Stercorarius, longicaudus) is a pelagic seabird that rules the air. Although it probably eats some fish near the surface it is famous for its aerial piracy. It is a very muscular bird that is capable of upending flying birds forcing them to regurgitate their stomach contents to obtain a meal.  This is currently their breeding time so it is early in the season for them to be found this far out at sea but soon mature adults and their grown offspring will be out on the Bering looking for food before their winter migration to the south. I keep missing the albatross sightings and hope that it will be my next bird of the day. Information provided courtesy of Mark Rauzon, birder, author, educator and friend.

OSCAR DYSON’s centerboard
OSCAR DYSON’s centerboard

Personal Log

Land! It was very exciting to see land for many reasons. First, the sun was out, a rare treat on the Bering. Many of the weather entries above will list the cloud cover as 8/8, which means out of 8 parts of sky all of it is covered by clouds. Also the visibility was good and the seas, which turned up with some high winds last night, had calmed down considerably. Lastly we were looking at Russia, many of us for the first time, which made sense since we were in the north part of our third transect line in Russian waters. It was also the first time we have seen land since we left Dutch Harbor. Cape Otvesnyy, at 860 meters high was visible from about 63 miles away. We all went outside the bridge to take photos and celebrate.

Question of the Day 

Today’s question: Why do pollock rise in the water column at night?

Previous Question: How is the field of acoustics used in science? 

OSCAR DYSON’S deck crew attaches an acoustic device (yellow) to the fishing gear
OSCAR DYSON’S deck crew attaches an acoustic device (yellow) to the fishing gear

Acoustics is a huge area of technology that ranges from how we design theaters to the use of sonograms to view unborn children. Much of the acoustic technology used in science has to do with creating alternative ways to observe different environments. Light does not travel through water as far as sound (vibrations). Sound waves are the key to looking deep into water. Marine mammals know this and can find prey with echolocation, reading reflected sound waves they send out to locate food and communicate.

On OSCAR DSYON we use several types of acoustic instruments

The Simrad EK60 is our main fish counting instrument and it uses about a 7º beam to send out sound waves of different frequencies and receive echoes from organisms and objects of different sizes. It is mounted on the centerboard and reads information from 5 frequencies ranging from 18 to 200 KHz. As we run along our transect line the data that is received is used to estimate the fish density. The scientists onboard spend a fair amount of time checking to see that the echoes actually represent pollock.

The ME70 Multi-beam is mounted to the ship’s hull and is a powerful tool in creating a wide swath three-dimensional image of what is below the ship. This is especially useful in hydrographic work that involves charting and mapping the seafloor bottom but it may be used for the fish survey in the future. The Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler  (ADCP) is also connected to the centerboard and uses the Doppler Effect (the change in frequency and wavelength of a sound pulse as perceived by an observer moving relative to the source of the sound) to estimate current and fish speed.

We place a Net Sounder (FS70, affectionately known as the turtle) on to our fishing n each time we trawl. Like scientists, commercial fishermen often use this instrument to monitor the shape of the net opening and the amount of fish entering the net.  It does this by sending a 200 kHz frequency beam across the opening of the net and transmits data along a cable for the team to see on our monitors. Along with the turtle we send down a Simrad ITI, which is smaller and wireless but a lower resolution net sounder that is used as backup in the event we have trouble with our cable.

The DIDSON (Dual Frequency Identification Sonar) is an instrument that has been developed for divers in low visibility water and has many industrial applications. It creates an image typical to the one seen on sonogram tests. It uses a high frequency beam (up to 1.8 MHz) to achieve a short-range image (up to 50 meters). It has been applied to salmon return rate studies and has well enough resolution to make out the shape of a moving fish. The pollock survey team has been experimenting with it as a way to monitor fish escapement from the net and how fish behave within the net.

In our survey work most of our mid-water trawls occur between 17 and 700 meters. The acoustic technology is vital to verify fish at these depths.

Roy Arezzo, July 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Arezzo
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 11 – 29, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 16, 2007

We love Plankton
We love Plankton

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:   260° (SW)
Wind speed:   6 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 3 feet
Seawater temperature: 9°C
Sea level pressure: 1014.4 mb (millibars)
Air Temperature:   8°C
Cloud cover: 8/8, stratus

Science and Technology Log: Why fish pollock? What do pollock fish? Pelagic Food Webs of the Bering Sea 

Surveying pollock on the Bering shelf provides the data needed to set catch limits to manage the fishery. Catch limits for American fishing fleets are to be decided soon for next year. The pollock survey I am part of as Teacher at Sea is technically known as the Echo Integration Trawl Survey been an annual tradition of NOAA since 1971! The OSCAR DYSON, and before her the MILLER FREEMAN, use traditional trawling gear to achieve this goal. The fishing gear tends to be smaller then the larger fishing vessels since we don’t need to catch as many fish to estimate population trends. Like commercial operations we are interested in where the fish are in the water column and their geographic distribution. We also are concerned with their age composition. Although we primarily use acoustic sensors to detect fish, by trawling we can see how the technology used to locate fish in the water matches with what is being caught in the net. We also monitor by-catch organisms to observe what is mixed in with pollock when trawling.

Aleutian Islands
Aleutian Islands

Dutch Harbor, AK, according to the National Fisheries Service continues to be the No. 1 port by weight for seafood landings. In 2005, 877 million pounds of seafood passed through port, in 2006 it was more. In terms of seafood value only New Bedford, Mass., surpasses Dutch Harbor mostly due to the increase in the scallop market and decrease in crab populations. Dutch Harbor is known for its king crab industry in the winter and finfish year round, including hake, cod and salmon. Although shrimp is American’s most popular seafood item in terms of sales, finfish occupy much of the top five. Canned tuna is second highest for sales in the U.S., salmon is third and then pollock and tilapia; however if you factor in the global market, the amount of pollock being harvested and the sales for food products such as frozen whitefish foods, filets and surimi (Asian fish paste used in foods such as artificial crab) make it the largest seafood industry in the world (Anchorage Daily News). In addition Pollock are seasonally fished for roe. Commercially, fishing pollock is a good business venture due to its large schools and typically low by-catch. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service approximately 307 million dollars in pollock sales was made in the U.S in 2005. More than 3 million tons of Alaska pollock are caught each year in the North Pacific from Alaska to northern Japan. Of that the U.S. is responsible for about half. The population of Pollock in the Bering alone was estimated at 10 million metric tons early this decade and the catch limit was set around 10 –15% of the population size. Last year the survey team found a significant decline in populations and thus the catch limit was lowered but anecdotally there are preliminary signs of good recruitment with many young pollock being identified in this summer’s survey.

Assorted diatoms
Assorted diatoms

We are clearly at the top of the food web and consuming a large amount of pollock. The pollock are part of a very complex ecosystem. They are fragile fish and short lived but fast growing and quick to reproduce. The pollock population seems to be greater in number then most other harvestable finfish in the Bering, possibly due to a decline in Pacific Ocean perch, and shows interesting fluctuations in population density in response to global climate changes and sea current patterns. The Bering Sea lies between the Arctic Ocean to the north and the North Pacific to the south but remains a unique ecosystem exhibiting some characteristics of each of its neighbors.

Jellyfish found in the plankton net - large plankton!
Jellyfish found in the plankton net – large plankton!

The food web of the pelagic zone of open water in the cold Bering Sea is contingent on movement of nutrient rich waters. The main source of nutrients for the upper shelf region where one finds pollock seems to be influenced by the flow of the Alaskan Stream near shallower coastal waters which flows east across the Aleutian chain. Some of the water flows up through passes and becomes parts of currents like the Aleutian North Slope Current that feed the shelf. The Bering Sea is an extremely large and a relatively shallow body of water making it very different and it is this nutrient flow between shallow waters of the coast and shelf and deep basin/trenches to the west and south that account for its high biodiversity. In addition to currents ice melt and water temperature greatly affects nutrient flow and productivity. The nutrient rich water enables phytoplankton to flourish and reproduce in otherwise cold barren water. In turn zooplankton feed on the phytoplankton which transfers the organic carbon foods from producers to other levels of the food web. Invertebrates (ex. crabs, shrimp and jellyfish), small birds, small fish and baleen whales feed on the zooplankton. Seals, sea lions, skates, larger seabirds, porpoises and toothed whales feed on the fish and invertebrates. A substantial portion in the diet of larger pollock is made of plankton such as krill. This is the same food baleen whales filter out of the water when feeding.  Krill is the common name of shrimp-like marine invertebrates belonging to the order of crustaceans called the Euphausiids. Adult Pollock also dine on smaller pollock and this has been seen in our harvest as some pollock come up from the net with smaller fish in their mouth or stomach contents.

Pollock larvae
Pollock larvae

What is plankton? 

Plankton is a general word used to describe aquatic organisms that tend to drift with the current and are usually unable to swim against it. They are generally buoyant and found in the epipelagic zone (top of water receiving sun energy) although many species have serious vertical migration to feed and escape predators.  Most folks think of plankton as being tiny but large seaweeds and jellyfish are considered plankton. Phytoplankton refers to algae and photosynthetic organisms that make food with the sun’s energy. Diatoms are important phytoplankton in the Bering Sea ecosystem an have amazing silicon patterns. Zooplankton includes many groups of animal-like organisms, including microscopic protozoa and tiny crustaceans such as daphnia and copepods. The copepods population seems like an important link in understanding survivorship of young pollock. Many benthic crustaceans and mollusks (oysters and clams) start their life cycle as free-swimming larvae high in the water column. Young fish such as pollock also start their life cycle as plankton-like larvae.

Methot net, flow meter, and emptying the plankton net
Methot net, flow meter, and emptying the plankton net

Observing and Measuring Pollock Food: Last night we did a Methot Trawl. This involves dragging a net with a finer mesh than our fish trawl to pick up plankton. This is important in understanding what the fish we study are eating. When we dissect the belly of a pollock we often find it full of zooplankton with the occasional small fish, such as smelts or young pollock. We correlate the mass of the plankton caught in the net with the flow rate to estimate population density. We estimated 44,000 critters in the 35,000 cubic meters of water that passed through the net, much of which consisted of Euphausiids and Amphipods. This works out to approximately 1.3 plankton organisms per cubic meter of water.

Euphausiid pictured left and Amphipod pictured right
Euphausiid pictured left and Amphipod pictured right

Personal Log

The Bering Sea has been relatively calm with good visibility. We have seen our first boats in over 36 hours, some fishing boats and a Coast Guard Cutter. There have been some marine mammal sightings but nothing close enough to make an ID. I am settling into a bit of a routine, waking around 10:30 AM for lunch and then relaxing and working out before checking in for my shift at 4 pm. I spend a fair amount of my off time in our spacious bridge discovering new technological toys and looking out for wildlife. Each day I spend some time out on the deck above the bridge for fresh air.

Mature Female Pollock with visible eggs
Mature Female Pollock with visible eggs

After dinner we usually begin fishing and I don my foulies and safety equipment and observe operations from the back deck. I then photo anything new that comes in and try to process any bycatch to make sure it is returned to the water quickly and in good shape. The science team then works together, processing the pollock and helping with the clean up. Sometimes the fish schools are large so we have to stay in our gear and work back to back trawls. After trawling we often look at the data collected or deploy various test equipment and water quality checks. Nighttime is not best for trawling so the few hours between sunset and sunrise is reserved for special project applications designed to modify our methods. In between fishing I work on my Teacher-At-Sea writings and interviewing folks on the boat.

Mature Male Pollock; testis visible above
Mature Male Pollock; testis visible above

Question of the Day 

Today’s question: How is the field of acoustics used in science?

Previous Question: How does one tell a male fish from a female fish in Pollock?  

Male and female Pollock look the same from their exterior anatomy. Although we weigh and catalog all the fish we pull in, we sex a 300 fish sample batch from each trawl. This involves dissecting the fish to identify their gonads. We make a cut on the ventral surface from the gills towards the anus. We open the body cavity and move the liver to the side to expose the other internal organs. Gravid females are relatively simple to ID since they have large egg sacks with whitish eggs. A mature female will have a large ovary that tends to be reddish and lined with blood vessels. Immature females are more difficult to identify and have a less pronounced ovary that varies in color.

Mature males will have developed white coiled testis. For undeveloped males one looks for pink globular organs where the white testis should be. Immature males are more difficult to identify but when no ovary is visible we search for a thin membranous tissue running from the Uro-genital opening up into the body cavity towards the backbone.

Interested in more about Alaskan fisheries?

NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission 

Anchorage Daily News 

Maggie Flanagan, July 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan measures a lobster carapace.
Maggie Flanagan measures a lobster carapace.

Science and Technology Log – Lobster Lessons 

We’ve hauled back our last string of traps and have begun the transit back to Pearl Harbor. Our Northwestern Hawaiian Island (NWHI) lobster survey has provided the 2007 data for a record that goes back 30 years. Our Chief Scientist, Bob Moffitt, is a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service within NOAA. Bob completed his first lobster survey in 1977, and has been continually involved with the project. The model we still use was established in 1985-86, and there has been survey data nearly every year since then.  The two sites we monitor are Necker Island (Mokumanamana, in Hawaiian) and Maro Reef (Nalukakala, in Hawaiian).  Necker Island is closer to the Main Hawaiian Islands, 430 miles from Honolulu.  Maro Reef is farther out the NWHI, 850 miles from Honolulu.  Target species are spiny lobsters (Panulirus marginatus) and slipper lobsters (Scyllarides squammosus).

Initial analysis of the data includes computing our catch per unit effort (CPUE), which is the total number of lobsters in traps divided by the number of traps.  The data are separated by site, by species – spiny or slipper lobster, and by number of traps in the string, – 8 or 20. (Strings of 20 are often set in deeper water.)  The mean for all strings of a type in a year is used for comparisons.  Bob works up the numbers each evening to keep us posted.  

You can’t draw conclusions from just a few numbers, but a sample of CPUE information is below.

In 2007, Necker Island sampling was suspended for several days and the data may be biased towards historically less productive quadrants.
In 2007, Necker Island sampling was suspended for several days and the data may be biased towards historically less productive quadrants.

Graphing the entire data set reveals that Necker Island experienced a sharp decline in the presence of both types of lobsters during the mid to late 1990’s, and the numbers have remained low.  Graphs of Maro Reef data show a more complex story.  There, spiny lobsters dropped dramatically in 1989. Spiny lobster numbers remained low, as slipper lobster numbers increased. It’s proposed that as spiny lobsters were decreasing, slipper lobsters could access more resources, such as food and habitat, which expanded their numbers.  The spiny lobster has had more commercial value because it looks prettier, and so was probably targeted more by fisherman.

Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan holds spiny lobsters while “cracking” – recovering lobsters from traps.
Maggie Flanagan holds spiny lobsters while “cracking” – recovering lobsters from traps.

Commercial fishing for lobsters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands began with multi-purpose vessels which would keep the lobsters live for market. About 1981, fisherman started landing only the lobster tail, which was frozen at sea.  This greatly increased the capacity for the taking of lobsters. Data showed decline, fisheries scientists became concerned, and the fishery was closed in 1993, then opened with very low quotas.  By 1997, research data still showed decline and the NWHI commercial lobster fishery was closed again in 2000.  Models at that time showed that NWHI lobster overfishing (meaning the size and take of the fleet) wasn’t problematic and research that focused on the lobsters themselves would be needed.

When lobsters are tiny, in the phylosome stage, they are transported by currents.  Spiny lobsters spend 12 months in this stage and have been caught in plankton tows 60 miles out at sea.  So, lobsters can settle in sites far away from their parents.  This recruitment may or may not influence the population numbers of lobsters in the NWHI, but as a real possibility, is a topic for research. Bob Moffitt’s data, with that of other NWHI scientists, could contribute to a metapopulation model that could estimate the density of lobsters throughout all the NWHI over time.  This could be designed to scientifically predict the affects of fishing and recruitment.  DNA analysis could also reveal information on the transportation of lobsters when juvenile.

In 2006, all the NWHI were included in the creation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which will be closed to all fishing.  The Monument is the largest marine protected area in the U.S., but the research questions on what will help Hawaiian lobster populations still remain to be answered.  Ocean currents in the area generally run to the west and south, and if juvenile lobsters are transported, they would be traveling those currents. But the marine protected area is already west of the Main Hawaiian Islands, so recruitment out to restore other areas seems unlikely, though not yet tested.    There is reason to celebrate our new Marine National Monument, but there is no conclusive scientific evidence that it will help lobster populations recover.

A slipper lobster as compared to a pencil.
A slipper lobster as compared to a pencil.

Personal Log 

With all fisheries closed in the NWHI, what will happen to the fisheries research that has  contributed much to the understanding of marine populations?  Will scientists be allowed to continue pursuing research questions, or will they be considered irrelevant?  Approval for access to the NWHI under the Monument status now involves an arduous permit process, even for scientists.  Bob Moffitt’s work has provided an extensive time series of data, and is considered worth continuing as ecosystem monitoring.  Hopefully in the future, scientific work will continue and guide policy making for protected areas.  

Cary Atwood, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: August 1, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: undetermined
Wind direction: E ( 107 degrees)
Wind speed:  12 knots
Sea wave height: 3’
Swell wave height: 0’
Sea water temperature: 14°C
Sea level pressure: 1022.2 millibars
Cloud cover: 30% Partly cloudy,cumulus

Question of the Day

Does the temperature of ocean waters change depending upon its depth?

Answer to yesterday’s question

Bilateral symmetry is the drawing of a line through an object and having it be the same on both sides as a mirror image, such as sea stars and mud stars.

Science and Technology Journal

Aside from the major science mission of the scallop survey a few other scientific investigations are taking place on the Albatross.  One such project is the CTD measurements.  C for conductivity, T for temperature and D for depth.  I will elaborate on this in tomorrow’s journal.  Another smaller project is the mapping of habitat using acoustic sounders.

Although the scallop watch crews are labeled as scientists aboard ship, with many us with our master’s degrees in a particular science specialty, only a few are fully engaged in that role for this leg. Vic Nordahl, Chief Scientist, Dvora Hart and Avis Sosa.

Vic is ultimately responsible for collecting and reporting accurate numbers of all scallops and other marine species we have documented.  The watch chiefs report the data to him, but they must audit the data before a full report is made.

Dvora, while on watch, depending upon the tow number will randomly check numbers of starfish, crabs and the weight of scallop meat and gonads.  We are collecting numeric quantities to help better determine the age and growth of scallops in different sampling areas.

Avis Sosa moonlights on these scallop survey crews during her summer vacation from teaching.  Currently she is teaching advanced placement chemistry in a large international school in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is an amazing woman with a huge supply unique life experiences from all over the world under her belt.  For the past 14 years, Avis has been working on various NOAA ships, first as a volunteer, now as a contract employee.  Over the years, she has become a source of expertise in her knowledge of marine mollusks.  While sorting through the pile, she will identify anything in it and give you not only the common name, but the scientific name as well.  Currently she is collecting specimens for the collection in the museum at the Marine Fisheries Lab. She is my role model as the quintessential independent, worldly woman!

Personal Log 

Another day of calm seas and perfect weather.  Even though I hate getting up every morning at 5 a.m., when I arrive on the fantail after breakfast, the fresh salt air and sunrises always makes the early hours worth the struggle of waking my body up.  After donning my rubber boots and “Hellies”, I take a few moments to scan the horizon, note the texture of the water, lean over the deck to watch the shape of the boat wake and breathe in the air of a brand new day.

Cary Atwood, July 31, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 31, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What is bilateral symmetry?

Answer to yesterday’s question: The Hermit Crab

Science and Technology Log

As we comb through our dredge piles, intent on finding scallops, one of the most prolific creatures I notice is the Hermit Crab of the family Pagurus.  Hermit crabs are common on every coast of the United States and like many people, I am drawn to their special ability to take up residence in cast off mollusk shells. Just as we grow out of shoes when our feet grow, so must they find new homes as they age.  When seen without their shell, their abdomen is coiled, soft and very pink.  They carry their shell with them, and when threatened or attacked are able to retreat quickly for protection.  Hermit crabs are highly adapted to  carry around their permanent burden of a home because they have special appendages on their midsection segment for clinging to the spiral support of a marine snail shell. Their long antennae and large socketless eyes give them a distinct, non-threatening but whimsical  look….and it makes me want to take one home-but of course I couldn’t offer it the same kind of home it already has.

Personal Log

The six hour shifts for the scallop survey are taking its toll on my sleep needs. Every day I feel I am further behind and will never catch up.  This morning I truly did not feel awake until about 10am, even though my watch began at 6 a.m.  My daily schedule consists of the basics: eat, work, eat, relax, sleep, eat and work.  I don’t know how the crew can adjust to this kind of schedule for months on end as they go to sea.  It takes a very special person to adjust to the physical demands, let alone the demands of leaving family behind to come to sea.  However, some of the guys on board have been doing it for 20+years!

Coming to sea has a magnetic pull for some….is it the vast water and open horizons? Is it the need to assert some sort of independence? Is it the opportunity to be a part of something so much larger than one’s self?  As I speak to some of the deck hands, they are generally happy to be working for NOAA and away from the uncertainty of fishing or lobstering. In part it’s having steady work not influenced by the vagaries of what is caught at sea. These days, with the Atlantic fishery recovering, the catch is more consistent. Of the two deck hands I have come to know, both have a far away look in their eye—missing some of the action on a fishing boat, but still in love with the sea.

Cary Atwood, July 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 29, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day:

Define these terms used aboard the ALBATROSS IV:  lines, bosun, steam, swell

Yesterday’s answer: Pelagic means “of the sea.”  Lesser shearwaters are part of a larger group of pelagic birds who spend their entire adult lives out in the open ocean.  They rest, sleep, feed and mate on the water.  The only time they return to land is to lay a brood of eggs in the same geographic location where they were born and fledged before they left for the open waters of adulthood.

Science and Technology Log  

Today’s topic is ALBATROSS IV Geography: a mini guide to the important places on the ship.

Fantail—Another name for the stern of the ship.  Since this is a ship on which scientific missions are completed, this section of the boat has space to accommodate the gantry and boom, which pulls up the dredge, as well as a full wet lab to process scallops and other groundfish species. Wet Lab—The area in the fantail with touch computer screens and magnetically activated measuring boards and scales to document scallop survey data. Bridge—The enclosed area where navigation and sighting is done by the captain and crewmembers.  A full complement of computers is used to assess position, direction and locations of ships and buoys.

Computer Room—Located on the middle deck, it contains computers with e-mail access, FSCS computers and computer servers.  In every main area of the ship, a computer monitor with a closed circuit view of the fantail can be seen.  This is so the scientists, engineers, and captain can know the status of the fantail area at all times. Galley—Another name for the kitchen area.  Food for the crew is prepared here by Jerome Nelson and served buffet style by Keith.  The menu is posted daily and always includes a wide assortment of meats, breads and vegetables, as well as that all-important treat: ice cream! Hurricane Deck—AKA “Steel Beach”- a small deck above the fantail used for sunbathing and relaxation. Engine Room—Noisy room down in the bulkhead where the engineering crew keeps the two diesel engines running smoothly. Boom and Gantry—Found on the aft deck (otherwise known as the fantail), these are the all-essential components needed to tow the eight-foot net.  The gantry is the large metal A-frame and the boom is the moveable arm or crane, which uses large cables and a pulley system to bring up the net each time. Cabin or stateroom—Sleeping quarters for two or three persons.  It has portholes, bunks and a shared bathroom.

Personal Log 

Today the ocean waters have calmed a bit.  Thursday’s wave action gave new meaning to the term “rock the boat,” which is exactly what we did.  The swells, up to three feet in height, were the distant result of Tropical Storm Franklin as it made its way up into the waters of New England. A good safety rule we learned during our brief introductory meeting was to make sure you gave “one hand to the boat” at all times.  This was especially good advice as my footing placement became increasingly unpredictable.  Ships are built to withstand the high seas, and fortunately, there are plenty of places to put a firm grip as one makes their way around the ship.

Cary Atwood, July 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 27, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day: What might be the major predators of Atlantic scallops?

Yesterday’s Answer 

According to Dr. Dvora Hart, probably the world’s expert on Atlantic scallops, who just happens to be on our cruise and is a part of my watch crew, the elements listed below are essential to the survival of these scallops

  • Water temperatures in the range of 0 degrees Celsius –17 Celsius.  Above this point they will die.
  • Firm sand or pebbly gravel needed for attachment as it grows
  • A good supply of phytoplankton and similar sized micro and protozoa and diatoms and detritus to feed upon

Science and Technology Log 

This morning after my watch, I interviewed Captain Michael Abbott who is captaining the ALBATROSS during this cruise. We stood up on the bridge while he demonstrated some of the navigation equipment.  I like spending time on the bridge because the open view from the bow is fabulous, and there are rarely any people up there.  I’ll write about navigation in another entry.

I talked with him about his career in the NOAA officer corps.  He joined the Corp about 21 years ago making it a career when he heard about it on his college campus.  At that time he was completing a degree in geology and hydrology at the University of New Hampshire.  After a three month officer training at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York he became a uniformed officer in the NOAA Corps.  It is the smallest branch of the uniformed non-military service, with less than 300 officers operating ships and aircraft for scientific research purposes.

According to Captain Abbott, his major responsibilities aboard the ALBATROSS IV are the safety of the crew, a successful completion of the scallop survey mission and making the cruise enjoyable for all on board. The crew includes 5 uniformed NOAA officers, scientists and ship crew–all together, about 25 people. Being at sea gives Mike great pleasure in that he is able to contribute to NOAA’s mission and play an active part in stewardship towards the environment.

Personal Log 

A poem today…

Ocean water Glassy smooth
Rippling velvet
Sunset shimmering
Fog rainbows dancing
Ship rocking
Sun glimmering
Shearwaters circling
Teacher adjusting
To daily rhythms
Of the cruise

Cary Atwood, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 26, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What do scallops need in order to survive within their habitat?

Yesterday’s Answer 

The scientific name of the Atlantic Sea Scallop is Lacopectin magellanicus.  Lacopectin means “smooth scallop.

Science and Technology Log 

The real work of the ALBATROSS IV mission is accomplished during the four six-hour shifts with a crew of six workers each.  On my watch, they are Sean, watch chief, Bill, Avis, Dvora, Noelle and myself. Working as a team, we accomplish great things in each tow, which takes about 30 minutes to process.  Here’s how it unfolds.  The eight-foot dredge basket is specially designed to capture all sizes and ages of scallops for research.  It is dredged from a depth up to 100 meters to the surface for a fifteen-minute time period.

After each tow comes out of the water, fishermen release it from the cable and it’s deposited on the fantail, also known as the back deck of the ship.  The fantail is a huge open area complete with a non-skid surface–very important when the boat is on an intense rock and roll session. With our “Helly’s” on (the yellow and orange storm gear you see in the pictures) and tall rubber boots, I take a picture of the mound, along with Bill, who holds up a whiteboard indicating the catch number, the tow and the strata (level) where we do the dredging. Once that is done, orange baskets, white buckets and kneepads are hauled to it. On our hands and knees we look for what might seem like buried treasure; sifting through the debris of the sea.  We toss scallops and many varieties of fish, into the baskets until we have combed through every inch of them.  Once the sort is done, we all move into the covered lab area for a variety of assessments, including the weight and length measurements of each scallop, as well as any ground fish that are caught.  Even though some of the work is manual, computers play a very important role in accurate capture of the data. One instrument we use is a long, flatbed magnetically charged scanner. Once we put a scallop shell on the bed and hold a magnetized wand against it, it reads out the measurement onto a touch computer screen.  Computers such as this one have relieved some of the tedium of the work, making it more accurate and faster.  The same is done with fish, and depending upon the tow, we will keep crabs and starfish out.

All of this data is uploaded into the FSCS – Fisheries Scientific Computer System which compiles the data from the survey.  This valuable data is used to assess populations and biomass for the scallop fishery and then make management decisions for present and future fishery use. The watch crews and scientists love it because it has saved so much time, and compilation of the data is considerably easier and less time consuming in the long run.

Personal Log 

Sleep of any length of time is longed for, but never received.  Due to our 6 hour on, 6 hour off shifts, at best we can manage 5 hours.  Today I am feeling very zombie like as my body adjusts to this schedule. I rarely see John, my other TAS compadre since he works opposing shifts from mine.  When we do meet, we share notes and commiserate about the work and our need for sleep!

One of my favorite haunts on board in my free time is the bridge and the upper bow.  It is a quiet, calm place with great views–and a really strong pair of binoculars and field guides. The ever shifting texture of the water always captures my attention when I am outside; from the glossy velvet of early mornings, thick fog during the day, complete with fog rainbows!-and the ethereal brightness of sunset through the fog.

Another constant is the “ocean motion”.  We are in a constant state of rocking–at times delicate and other times, the swells are deep and we will roll with them.  I am very glad I have an ear patch to mitigate the possibility of seasickness….now I can just enjoy the ride!

Cary Atwood, July 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 25, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What is the scientific name of the Atlantic sea scallop, and what does the Latin name mean?

This question will be answered in tomorrow’s log.

Science and Technology Log 

Day one: the adventure begins! I arrived last night from Boston into Wood’s Hole–what a cool respite from the heat of western Colorado! A short walk later, I was in front of the ALBATROSS IV, the ship that would be my home for the next 11 days.  Tony, the lead fisherman, welcomed me aboard and showed me to my stateroom.  Soon after, Kris, the watch chief for our other work shift, and Noelle, who is working on her master’s thesis showed up. I took the remaining top bunk and moved my gear in.  Our room has two portholes. The most exciting porthole is the one in the shower stall; my eyes are almost dead even with the water line outside….it almost feels like I live in an aquarium!

The mission of the ship on this cruise is the sampling of Atlantic sea scallops.  Why are scallops being sampled?  The scientific work revolves around the close monitoring of scallop populations up and down the New England coastline from Cape Hatteras in the south, to the outer extremes of Georges Bank to the north.

Over the past 30 years, unregulated commercial fishing of scallops has had a huge negative impact on scallop populations.  Because this area holds the largest wild scallop fishery in the world, it has great economic importance not only to the fishermen who dredge to make their living, but also to the economies up and down the coastline.  Historically, commercial fishing could be done by anyone who had a seaworthy vessel and the ability to dredge. Prior to the early 1970’s not much data had been gathered about numbers and locations of scallops, hence the need for surveys to acquire data and impose limits to prevent total decimation of this species.  In my next entry I will explain more about the nitty gritty work that must be accomplished each day by watch crews.

Personal Log 

Old ship sits in port
hiding new technology beneath its decks
Salt spray and seagull call
Grey clapboard houses rest close to water’s edge
As whitecaps signal a change in weather
We are on our way!

Until next time,
Ms. Atwood

Mike Lynch, June 30, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 30, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

lynch_log10Scientific Log

The last couple of days aboard the DELAWARE II have been a constant buzz of activity. We have moved north to the New Jersey Coast. This is prime surfclam territory, and sure enough we are into them. Our chief scientist Victor Nordahl has selected this site for a depletion survey. A depletion survey is an event that starts with finding an area of heavy population density. For our purposes and equipment, this was an area that yielded five bushels of clams in a single tow. Once the location is found, the exact GPS coordinates of longitude and latitude are used as a locator for each successive tow. Using the information recorded by the Ship’s Sensor Package (SSP), the exact trackline of the tow is ascertained and becomes the template for the depletion event. The concept of the depletion is to repeatedly cover the same track line for as many as 40 to 60 tows. With each tow, clams are counted and on every fifth tow, they are measured and samples are taken. The purpose of this event is to monitor how quickly the dredge reduces the population. Through this process, the scientists can calculate the effectiveness of the equipment in capturing the species. In essence we are calibrating the equipment. In fact, we are running non-stop stations in one of the muddiest areas we have seen. It is an exhausting process that goes on 24 hours a day and works the bridge, deck crew and science teams very hard. I have developed a real respect for how strenuously this crew works. Everyone pitches in, and works as a team.

The depletion event is rapidly coming to an end. It will be followed by our last duty at sea. Our next mission will take us off the coast of Massachusetts, where we capture clams and take samples to determine the levels of Red Tide infection. Closure of fisheries for red tide, is usually a job for state agencies, but it is also an opportunity for NOAA to do further scientific research. While steaming to our destination, we are working on swapping out the SSP package on the dredge. The second unit will be used on these final tows to ensure its reliability for future surveys. On our next watch, the DELAWARE II will be concluding the third and final leg of the Clam Survey. The ship will steam to its homeport of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The ship will be in port for four days. During this time, much of the equipment that is used in the clam survey will be disassembled and moved into storage for three years, when the next clam survey will be once again conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

lynch_log10aThe three and a half ton dredge and the Crane carriage will be stored, but other technological devices will be used in an DELAWARE II, however seems to never be at rest. In three days, the ship is scheduled to leave on a Marine Mammal Observation Cruise for the next two months. This survey will be conducted in order to measure and monitor marine mammals in the Georges Bank, Southern New England, Long Island, New Jersey and Delmarva Regions. An Autumn Trawl Survey will follow this. The trawl survey is a multi species finfish survey that collects biological data, such as maturity stages, food habits, predator/prey relationships and migratory patterns. This same Trawl survey will also be conducted in the spring. The regions to be surveyed will be the Mid-Atlantic (inshore and offshore), the Georges Bank and the Gulf on Maine. This winter, the DELAWARE II will be conducting a Winter Trawl Survey that uses a modified net system that targets flatfish such as summer fluke and yellowtail flounder. The Winter Trawl Survey will focus on the Mid-Atlantic, Southern New England and the Georges Bank regions. The DELAWARE II will also participate in a Fishing Power Survey that are a series of experiments designed to yield a correction factor for changes in either survey equipment or vessels. This year the DELAWARE II will be conducting these tests with the HENRY BIGELOW, a new vessel being built in Mississippi, and scheduled to replace the DE II’s sister ship, the ALBATROSS IV.

To find out where the DELAWARE II is, at any given time, NOAA provides a web site that includes a track line of all of its research vessels. Wherever these vessels are you can be assured that they are working diligently to accomplish the goals of the Northeast Fisheries Research Center. The goals start with research and monitoring fish stocks and their environments. The surveys endeavor to provide data that will assist in understanding and predicting changes in marine ecosystems, living marine resources, fisheries, habitats, ecosystem condition, and the generation of national benefits. The outcome of this research is the production and dissemination of scientific advice for management programs based on an ecosystem framework, and finally, you can be assured that NOAA will be endeavoring to engage stakeholders in the process of decision-making. NOAA is a team builder in stewardship. You can also be assured that NOAA will be involving educators in order to provide outreach to students and society at large.

lynch_log10bIn closing, I need to extend my thanks and appreciation for the opportunities that were afforded me aboard the DELAWARE II. True to NOAA’s goals of education and outreach, the crew extended tremendous courtesy and patience while indoctrinating me into the area of marine science, research and life at sea. Without exception, all of the crew were helpful and willing to share their expertise and time. I must extend particular thanks to Charles Keith, Kris Ohleth, Richard Raynes, Erin Kapcha and Jeff Taylor. Each of these crewmembers extended themselves way beyond the call of duty in helping me to understand the shipboard policies, routines and the goals and objectives of our research. Also a special thanks to Cindy Travers, a Coast Guard Cadet who taught me a great deal about seamanship and positive attitude.  Each of these people embodies a dedicated spirit that goes well beyond the parameters of their specific duties. Special thanks also goes to Dennis Carey, the Chief Steward who is the most important, and hardest working person on the vessel. I also wish to extend my thanks to all aboard the DELAWARE II, the crew believes in their mission and are sacrificing personal gain for public service. In short, they are an inspiration.

Life at sea is arduous. It is hard work, long hours, inclement conditions and deprivation of creature comforts. Life at sea is also a community, a brotherhood and a commitment. To NOAA, and the crew of the DELAWARE II, thank you, I learned a great deal and am deeply grateful.

Mike Lynch, June 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

lynch_log9Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 29, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Scientific Log

lynch_log9aToday’s Log will focus on the scientific work being done on the stern deck. The Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, coordinates the 2005 Clam Survey aboard the DELAWARE II. One of Victor’s many jobs is to oversee the collection work done by the two scientific crews aboard the vessel. Each crew works two six hour shifts, the scientific data collection and cataloguing goes on twenty four hours a day. Each crew is made up of a crew chief and five supporting workers. Our crew chief is Chad Keith. Chad is an engaging young man who has worked for NOAA for a number of years and has just finished his Masters degree in Geography at the University of Oregon. Kris Ohleth is our Marine Biological Seagoing Technician. Kris is soon to start her graduate program on Marine Policy at the University of Rhode Island. Kris is in charge of data and the daunting task of training people, like myself, in the intricacies of the onboard FSCS and SCS computer systems. Richard Raynes is an equipment technician for NOAA, and a net maker by trade, he is the equipment guru of our crew. Erin Kapcha is also a NOAA employee, who coordinates the observer program that places observers on board commercial fishing vessels. Erin is stretching her legs and doing some work outside the office. Cindy Travers is an energetic 20 year old, Senior Cadet from The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Cindy is doing a summer practicum on board and will be following this cruise with another on board the ALABATROSS IV. I, Mike Lynch, am the last member of the crew, and a participating member of the Teacher at Sea Program. I am a flatlander from Moses Lake, Washington. I am here to learn more about the role NOAA plays in the formulation of policy and regulation. I am also here due to NOAA’s commitment to education and outreach. Our mission, as we have accepted it, is to gather and input data on the Atlantic Surfclam and the Ocean Quahog. Today’s journal will be a synopsis of the processes of data collection and the responsibilities of our crew.

lynch_log9bIn an earlier log, I outlined my duties on the Bridge. This was the process of reporting data for each station on the Shipboard Computer System. This is the step that monitors the location and duration of each tow of the dredge. The next step happens on the stern work deck and the wet lab. Once the dredge is brought back to the surface, brought up on the crane carriage, and secured to the deck by the deck crew, it’s show time for our science crew. Our first job is to inspect the dredge and determine if the contents need to be washed. If they do, we adhere a mesh gate to the front of the dredge and it is released by the work crew for a tow behind the boat. Once washed, the contents of the dredge are released on to a large worktable for sorting. One of our crewmembers, usually Richard, goes up into the dredge to clear it of all debris. The contents of the dredge are pulled with rakes down the length of the worktable. The crew sorts surfclams and quahogs and places each species into bushel baskets at the end of the table.

lynch_log9cAnother bucket is in place for other species such as starfish, crabs, fish and other varieties of clams. Two other buckets are in place for broken clams and quahogs, and clappers. Clappers are clams or quahog shells that are called shell hash, is also collected into bushel baskets. Once the table is cleared, it is time to clean the dredge area, count the baskets of shell hash, and catalogue the species data into the FSCS database. Ocean quahogs and surfclams are taken and weighed on electronic scales. The scales have been calibrated to zero for the weight of the bushel basket. The clams are then moved to one of three workstations. The stations are long stainless steel tables equipped with Limnos boards, electronic scales and interactive FSCS computer monitors. The limnos boards are used to electronically measure the length of each specimen and catalogue the data into the database. The scales are used to measure the specimen weight in shell and the meat weight of shucked specimens. The computer terminals are touch screens that are interactive consoles, which allow the recorder to select species and data categories. The console also notifies the worker of special instructions and requests for specimen samples that have been requested by the chief scientists. The species are catalogued by station, which has been programmed at the bridge to indicate exact location, time, depth, weather, etc.

A hearty bunch
A hearty bunch

For the purpose of data collection, the areas that we are investigating are divided into regions and strata. The Clam Survey is collecting data in five regions: Georges Bank, Southern New England, Long Island, New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula (an offshore area of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). We are participating on the third leg of the survey, and have spent most our time, thus far, off the coast of Virginia. These large geographical regions are subdivided into smaller areas called strata, and the specific areas of each tow are called stations. In each of the strata, we are asked to collect age data and meat weights as well as numbers and weight volumes. For Ocean Quahogs, we are asked to collect meat weights and samples of ten specimens for each 10 mm. class in length measurement. These samples are shucked weighed, catalogued for the location of their capture, bagged, labeled and frozen. These will go to Jim Weinberg, who is the Principle Investigator for this survey. Essentially these samples are to be analyzed in the NEFSC labs in Woods Hole. Atlantic Surfclams receive far greater scrutiny. Samples of meat weights must be kept for specimens within 10mm. classes on every tow. The requests for these samples are preprogrammed into the computer base, and as the “cutter” enters the length on the Limnos board into the computer, the recorder will be told which specimens must be kept for meat weight collection. The NEFSC division of Age and Growth also requests Surf Clams. The computer will alert the recorder that an age tag is requested. In this scenario, The cutter will take a meat sample, but the actual clam shells will be marked by station number, strata, and ID number. These shells are bagged, tagged and frozen for the A&G lab. Age samples are one clam within a 10 mm class at every site. How’s that for confusing. Between our crew chief Chad, our Sea going Technician Chris, and the demanding FSCS computer terminal, mere mortals like myself can participate in scientific data collection.

Aside from the data collected for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, we are collecting surf clam samples for a member of our other crew. Adriana Picariello is collecting samples as part of research for her Masters Thesis at the University of Virginia Marine Science department. Her research will be comparing growth rates in different regions. It’s interesting what you can learn from clams, about the environment and possible changes in the environment such as global warming. Cool Stuff!

Personal Log

The weather has become hot and humid. Yesterday we did part of a depletion survey where we did repeated tows non stop for the entire shift. It was a real marathon, I could have been part of a research on the sweat capacity of a human being. There was no time for interviews, logs or breathing. I slept well! Go figure. Still having fun, and have I mentioned the food?

Mike Lynch, June 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

lynch_log7Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 26, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Scientific Log

Navigation from the bridge
Navigation from the bridge

Today’s log will be an outline of a typical day aboard the DELAWARE II Clam Survey. Our day begins with an 11:10 wakeup call. A quick routine and I am out the door. Coffee in  the galley, a few guys watching the final minutes of game seven of the NBA finals. I quickly take advantage of the time to organize my folder of materials that has fallen into disarray. There is very little space other than the galley to do any written work on board. Every available space is filled with equipment of some sort related to our survey. There are no tables or chairs in our staterooms, these are only for sleeping. It’s now 11:50 PM, and time to go aft to relieve the other crew. There are six people on this crew, and they are all busy measuring clams and weighing meat weights. They are happy to see us and noticeably tired.  Within minutes, we are coming on to our first station. Stations are either randomly selected by the computer or selected by our chief scientist. Unlike a commercial fisher, we survey many different strata and depths. We are not exclusively concerned with the areas of highest concentration of biomass, but instead want to obtain data that will give an overall glimpse of the entire ecosystem. It is my job to go up to the bridge as we approach the station and coordinate the Shipboard Computer System (SCS) with the activities of the deck crew and the Officer On the Duty (OOD). This morning, Ensign Nathan Priester, Navigator, is on duty.

Radar navigation
Radar navigation

The first activity on the SCS is to synchronize the computer clock to a constant satellite feed and software called Dimension Four. Once I am assured that the computer clock has not drifted I open the program software to the clam survey data. This screen requires that I enter information that will catalog the data for each specific event at designated areas called stations. Station numbers are related to exact coordinates of latitude and longitude for the desired tow. Today we are off the coast of Virginia at Latitude: 33651.231N. Longitude: 07526.591W. Next to be entered are the numbers for strata (general area) and the tow number (the number of tows in that strata). The computer will then use this data to not only monitor the aspects of the tow, but also as a file to catalogue the species data that will later be recorded on deck. The next information has to do with the depth of the tow. A number is entered that correlates to the length of the hauser that is to be released. A hauser is a 3” rope that is used to tow the dredge once it is on the bottom. Today the hauser length will be 110 ft.; I also need to enter the information for the winch cable. The winch cable is heavy wire that is used to lower and raise the dredge.

Charting our course
Charting our course

The length out is slightly longer than the designated hauser length; this means that when the dredge reaches the bottom the tension is transferred over to the more flexible hauser for the tow. Today’s cable information is designated 125 ft and the Crane. Having entered this info, my next job is to go to the back of the bridge and activate two switches that will lower the hydrophone. This is a device that is lowered down beneath the ship that communicates with the Survey Sensor Package (SSP) adhered to the dredge. This sensor package provides a constant stream of information regarding dredge position, attitude to the bottom, speed, depth, temperature, and more. This communication will also provide a track line that can be monitored on the bridge and the wet lab.  Now we are ready for a crew is on the radio and the OOD, on the bridge, has a video feed of the stern deck. The crew calls in that the dredge is being taken off the chains, and I input the start of the “event” in the computer. An internal clock starts running and monitoring data. When the dredge is 10 meters out the crew asks for “Power On”, I now enter this into the SCS, and the 440-volt power is turned on to the pump and the sensor package.

More ship equipment
More ship equipment

At this point the sensor package is being read by the hydrophone, and a constant stream of data is being entered. The pump is now delivering water at high pressure through a manifold with a dozen nozzles. This pressurized water is blown onto the substrate (ocean floor) creating a slurry of clams, substrate and shell hash in front of the oncoming dredge. When the dredge comes to the end of the cable, the tension is transferred to the shorter hauser line and the crew announces “on the hauser”. This is my cue to enter “start tow”. This command starts an internal clock that measures a tow of exactly five minutes. With five minutes to spare, I now need to enter further cruise information and input weather data. The OOD keeps the vessel going a constant 1.3 knots. He then tells me the average rpm of the tow. Today we are averaging 135 rpm’s.  The weather data consists of the percentage of cloud cover (20%), the visibility (clear), the wave height (2ft.), the swell height (3ft.) and the swell direction (160 degrees). At the end of the five-minute tow, the deck crew announces, “haul back”, and I input “end timed tow”. The next command I input will indicate off the hauser, meaning that the cable winch has now retrieved the tension. The next command is ‘off the bottom”, and then power off. When I input each of these commands into the computer I await the call for last ten meters. This signals the end of the computer event and I exit the program, cross off the station on the log so that the number is not inadvertently reused, and electronically retrieve the audio phone back onboard. This part of my job usually takes about 25 to 20 minutes. It is now time to go aft, put on my oilers, and go out to sort the dredge contents, and input species data. That will be the subject of a future log. This process is repeated on an average of eight times per shift. There are four shifts; each crew has two shifts per day. The vessel and data collection operates 24 hours per day.

Personal Log

We are now off the coast of Virginia. There is lots of military traffic out of Norfolk. We are fishing the shallower waters of the Delmarva Peninsula. We are in surfclam territory. We are having limited success which is consistent with the data of previous surveys that would suggest that clam populations are moving to colder off shore locations and further north. We are doing a lot of measurements of meat weight and saving samples in various strata for universities and scientists that have requested samples for research. All is well, the weather is great the people on board are super, and, have I mentioned the food is great?

Mike Lynch, June 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 25, 2005

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Scientific Log

As we are entering our sixth day aboard the DELAWARE II, we are still collecting data on Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs. It could be that some would question why NOAA, the Federal government, scientists and the commercial industry would be so interested in these species as to fund our research. Today’s log will try to deal with some of the reasons that make this and other surveys of this type important.  The citizens of the United States and the World depend on marine resources for jobs, recreation, tourism, medicine and industrial and commercial products. As citizens, we depend on our governments to make informed policy decisions to ensure sustainable resources for future generations while allowing for present well-being and opportunity. These goals may sometimes appear to be at odds, but on further analysis they are interrelated. At no period in history has mankind been so acutely aware of the correlation between environment and human well-being.

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

The result of this awareness has placed increased public pressure on NOAA to provide optimal stewardship of these resources.  NOAA and the Northeast Fishery Science Center have established goals that attempt to reach a balance between conservation for the future and efficient utilization of existing resources. The first goal centers on research and monitoring. This is where the scientific surveys, such as the Clam Survey provide data that helps our society to understand and predict changes in the ecosystems and their subsystems that affect vital marine resources. The second goal is to provide scientific advice that can be used to create sound environmental policies with an ecosystem framework. This advice is provided in order to enhance society’s ability foresee and respond to changes and manage risks. The third goal deals with education and outreach. Communication with individuals, stakeholders, schools, communities and industry is essential if policy and regulations are to be formulated and adhered to. Cooperation can only be achieved through communication and participation. Our current survey, and my participation as a Teacher at Sea are prime examples of NOAA’s commitment to share technical assistance and understanding.  Another example of NOAA’s adherence to the goals of conducting and disseminating scientific data have been the Cooperative Clam surveys conducted in 2002, 2004, and soon to be continued in July of 2005. Two of the scientists that participated in the 2004 Cooperative Survey are currently on board our current Clam Survey. Both were happy and enthusiastic to share their experiences and are anxiously awaiting their participation in this years’ 2005 Cooperative Research.

Teamwork gets the job done
Teamwork gets the job done

The Atlantic Surfclam supports a multi-million dollar annual fishery along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Communities, industry, fishermen and the general population are stakeholders in these important resources. Preserving the well being of the surfclam fishery is therefore not solely an objective of environmental agencies. Due to concerns about the status of the surfclam stock, the Cooperative Clam Surveys were developed toaugment the scientific surveys that were being done by NOAA every three years. The surveys that doctors Pickett and Nordahl worked on were cooperative efforts of NOAA, the National Fisheries Institute, The Clam Institute, the North Atlantic Clam Association, The New Jersey Fisheries Information and Development Center, the Rutgers University Haskins Shellfish Research Laboratory and the University of Virginia Institute of Marine Science have worked cooperatively to conduct these surveys. The survey area was the Mid-Atlantic Coast from the Hudson Canyon to Virginia. This survey, however had a noticeable difference: a commercial clammer, the FV Lisa Kim, was used, as well as a commercial clam dredge. The same Stratified Random Sampling Design, utilizing NEFSC clam strata was used as had been done on the DELAWARE II three year Clam Survey. Dredge efficiency was measured via depletion experiments and monitored by using the NMFS Survey Sensor Package (SSP) from the DELAWARE II.

Results from the 2004 survey were catalogued and compared with historical survey data. Tows were made on the same random stations, using the same speed, the same tow duration, and the same count and measurement techniques were employed.  The differences were the ship,the dredge and the expertise of professional clammers. Due to the lesser number of scientists on board, measurements of ages, Ocean Quahogs, Southern Quahogs and clappers were not taken. The results in some ways confirmed data that had been accumulated by the DELAWARE II. The research confirmed the patterns of surfclam population movement to deeper waters and a distinct northern migration pattern. Numbers of clams caught suggested that clam populations might be greater than had been previously suggested. Most importantly, the survey produced a sampling of data that allowed the NEFSC to compare their data with scientific data cooperatively produced with participating stakeholders. The data collected by the commercial vessel can now be used to quantify the efficiency of the equipment and procedures used by the DELAWARE II.

True to the goals of NOAA Fisheries, industry, scientists and government are working in coordination to create accurate data from which we can make informed decisions to benefit our present economic needs and the future of our precious marine environments. NOAA has in many ways accomplished its goal of outreach, cooperation and education. By empowering stakeholders and informing society, the future looks bright for the creation of policy and regulations that achieve the balance of present and future needs.

Personal Log

The weather is absolutely outstanding. Calm seas, a slight breeze, moderate to warm temperatures and little humidity. Does it get any better? We are starting to become adjusted to our new sleep patters, and the equipment has required little servicing. We are currently off the coast of Virginia. Have I mentioned the food is great? Everyone’s favorite person is the Chief Steward. The only thing missing… Clams! Oh well, we’re finding where they’re not.

Mike Lynch, June 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 23, 2005

Safety ring
Safety ring

Weather Data

Latitude: 3651.23N
Longitude: 07526.591W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 2
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 14 mph

Scientific Log

It is now 12 AM Wednesday morning. We were awakened for our shift at 11:20. The unwritten rule aboard ship is that you hustle out and relieve the alternate shift a few minutes early. Things got a little chaotic prior to the end of our second shift on Tuesday. An electrical junction box that operates the high compression pump and water jets on the dredge was damaged on a tow. The electrical wiring was pulled out of the box, allowing water and sand to impregnate the electrical system. The damage was observed prior to the dredge being lowered for another tow, and the work began.

Safety equipment
Safety equipment

Life at sea requires the crew to wear many hats. There is no WalMart, no Home Depot, no 911, no fire department, and no ambulance. We are a self-sufficient community that must be self-reliant and work as a team in order to problem solve. Tools were brought out, electrical parts were on hand and collective, hands on, can do attitude was applied. The box was repaired and I learned a good deal about how electrical work designed for underwater usage, differs significantly from what is done on dry land. This event prompted me to think about the interesting and challenging aspects of life at sea. Today’s journal log will focus on the job of safety.  Starting the first day, we were all assigned fire stations, evacuation stations, general quarters assignments and given safety protocols. Before we left the dock, we had our first fire drill. We were also instructed to go to our evacuation stations and to bring our immersion suits. Everyone was asked to put his or her immersion suit on.  It was a fine photographic moment, but also a very serious one. While on a tour of the Osprey IV, prior to our departure, one of our officers pointed out the self-contained oxygen apparatus for fire fighting. In passing, he mentioned, “you know, if we have a fire out here, there’s no one to call”.

Protocols
Protocols

Every one of our staterooms has four bunks a bathroom, four drawers and small lockers for your stuff. There are usually never more than two in the room at any time due to watch constraints. But regardless of the constraints on space, each room contains a fire extinguisher, four Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBDs), four life jackets with beacons and two survival (immersion) suits. The “common room” which adjoins the galley is no bigger than 6ft.by 12ft. There is a TV, a stereo, VCR and two couches. Space is limited, but central to it all are an EMT jump box for medical emergencies and an automatic emergency defibrillator for possible heart attacks. In the same room, there is a posting of all crewmembers and their stations and responsibilities in foreseeable crisis events. There are drills for fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. Each of these drills has an associated general stations alarm and whistle designation to identify the nature of the crisis. Hardhats are worn on deck at all times and OSHA regulations for safety are strictly followed throughout the vessel. Immediately inside the stern deck are two emergency showers with eye wash stations. There is a chemical spill kit inside the ready room. There are full-size backboards and short boards dispersed throughout the ship for immobilization involving head trauma or possible spinal compromise.

lynch_log4cBefore boarding the ship, I observed twos stokes basket that would be used for emergency lift of a diver out of the water, or an overboard crewmember. There is also a contingency on board for an emergency helicopter evacuation. There are nine general fire stations throughout the boat that have hydrants and hoses. There are four life rafts that can be used for evacuation and one rescue vessel that can be used for emergency retrieval of a person overboard. There is a dive locker with underwater breathing apparatus and trained personnel to make the dives. There is a Damage Control Locker that contains three SBA controlled breathing devices and fire suits in case of an onboard fire, as well as HAZMAT materials, and myriad of resources that would be necessary in the event of a collision. On each of the outside decks, there are life rings with locator beacons stationed to be used for a man overboard scenario.

Deck storage
Deck storage

There are a total of eight life rings, six of which have locator beacons.  At night, personnel are instructed to continue to release these in order that the ship can find a path back to the crewmember. There are a total of forty-five fire extinguishers onboard. They are a variety of water, CO2 and chemical. There is a chief medical officer and three other officers are current EMTs. All crew, commissioned and civilian have basic first aid training, current CPR, and are routinely presented with safety seminars on ship board policy, firefighting and the use of available equipment such as the emergency defibrillator. At first, these drills and musters, seem to be mere bureaucratic protocol, but when you are at sea for a period, and realize the physical isolation that separates the vessel from services that we have all come to take for granted, you come to realize the nature of being at sea. For me, it was the repair of an electrical box that opened my eyes to the true interdependence that makes a crew a self-sustaining community.

lynch_log4ePersonal Log

The morning shift from 12 to 6 was great. Temperatures were comfortable and the moonlight made to ocean absolutely beautiful breakfast at six and back to bed. Up at eleven and work to six. Our tows have been moderately successful and we have been keeping busy. I am still operating the shipboard computer for each of the events, and that seems to be a lot easier now with practice. The food is great, but the hours to eat, in proximity to sleep, are all out of whack. This afternoon I suddenly started to get really tired. The whole crew is going through a metamorphosis where the intense curve of learning is beginning to be replaced by an overall fatigue. I am certain that will improve as we acclimate to our schedules. There is another teacher on board, but on the other shift. We are comparing notes as we pass. One of us has always just gotten up and the other has just finished a shift and is heading for the barn. I did a lot of interviewing today, some on a formal basis and a lot of informal questioning of officers, scientists and crew. My clothes are a mess and wash will soon become a reality. The general rule is to wait until you have a full load, as water is a manmade commodity on the DELAWARE II.

Donning our safety gear
Donning our safety gear

Mike Lynch, June 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 22, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Safety gear
Safety gear

Scientific Log

Our first real shift for the DELAWARE II Ocean Clam Survey began this morning off the coast of Long Island. The shift stated at midnight, so we were awaked at 11: 15. Our first dredge occurred at 2:15 AM. We are working in a crew of six. Two of us input data into the FSCS computer as the deck crew coordinates with the boatswain in charge of the winch. Safety is a big issue on the NOAA vessel, and scientists are not allowed on deck while the dredge is being lowered off the stern. A high voltage cable is fed out along with the winch cable, and no one is allowed ion the deck until the dredge is in position for tow. Our job upstairs is to coordinate with the Officer of the Day when each step is being done and input his into the computer. Each actual tow takes five minutes, but the entire process of lowering the dredge, dredging and raising the dredge onto the deck takes about 25 minutes. When the dredge is brought up, our job begins.

Measuring a larger clam
Measuring a larger clam

We often start by places a smaller mesh screen at the front of the dredge in order tot capture the contents and releasing the dredge into a tow to wash away some of the debris and substrate soil. When the dredge is brought in the second time it is hauled up to an enormous table where the contents are released for inspection of our crew. It is then our task to sort through large amounts of shell hash, rock and substrate and find the living organisms.  Our trawl today has been averaging at depths of 60 meters (180ft. or 30 fathoms in you want to be really cool and nautical). This is Ocean Quahog territory. True to form, our first three station trawls resulted in large numbers of Ocean quahogs as well as the assorted species. For commercial fisherman, these other species are often referred to as discard. These are unwanted species, or at least not the targeted stock. Today along with the quahogs, we caught several varieties of clams. These smaller clams were varieties such as Asterias, Astarte, Astrope, and Razor. We also collected Sea Scallops and Horse mussels. We Few fish are caught in bottom dredges, but we did catch one small Sea Robin and a small Skate. At first, I thought the unwanted species were called bycatch, but through interviews with on board fishermen and scientists I was informed that the term bycatch more commonly refers to sea mammals, reptiles or marine birds that are accidentally caught or killed in commercial fishing.

Sea stars caught in the dredge
Sea stars caught in the dredge

For example, in the area of scallop dredging, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the bycatch of endangered species of Sea Turtles. After each tow the catch was sorted, measured for length, and weight and catalogued into the computer database. What used to be done by pencil and paper is now done via electronic scans and scales. For quahogs under 40 mm, or above 110 mm in length, we conducted meat weigh measurements as well. This is hard work, and the ship conducts non-stop tows and data collection 24 hours a day. We are learning fast and having fun. The six-hour shift flew by and I was exhausted. A great morning, in bed by 7AM, and ready for the next shift at 11:30 AM. What a weird schedule. We have all been at it for a day and a half, and no one seems to know what day it is. As part of today’s log, I need to share what I have learned about the mysterious Ocean Quahog. The IO\Ocean Quahog, (Antica Islandica) is found from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras. They are usually found in depths from 8 to 256 meters. They are a relatively cold-water species and are rarely found in waters above 16 degrees Celsius.

lynch_log3cTheir population densities are greater in off shore waters and they prefer a substrate of fine sand. In Maine they are found in shallower waters, but the populations are small, and the species grows at a slower rate. The average size is about 70mm.  But today we had one at 110mm. What are really incredible about Ocean Quahogs are their ages. The scientists we interviewed today estimated that most of the many of bushels of quahogs we captured were in the 45 year old range. Quahogs can be in excess of 170 years old. Their most dramatic growth occurs in their first twenty years of life and the growth process slows significantly. Their ages are incredible, I may have to feel guilty the next time I spoon into clam chowder.  Marine biologists have been finding that the Ocean Quahog, like the Atlantic Surf Clam, has shifting population strata. Surveys conducted over the past two decades and commercial fishing statistics show a pattern in which the Surf Clams are establishing themselves in deeper areas where quahogs previously predominated, and that the quahog populations are showing patterns of migration further offshore and further to the North.

One scientist onboard speculated that clam and quahog surveys might be important in the study of global warming.  Ocean Quahogs have a commercial market value. The principal commercial fishing for the species occurs off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey, Long Island and even Southern New England. In 1993, the commercial harvest of Quahogs reached its zenith at 25,000 metric tons. In 2000, the harvest had diminished to 14,000 metric tons. The decline in the fishery has been in part due to increased regulations under the Surf Clam- Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FPM), but also due to a decrease in the number of clamming boats and a depressed commercial market.  Despite the reduction in total landings, the Quahog stock may be in jeopardy. The total landings are less than two percent of the total environmental stock, but any greater landings may threaten replacement levels and sustainability of this slow growing species.

Personal Log

Things were going along well until electrical problems with the dredge shut us down. Time to go to work on a different sort of problem.

Mike Lynch, June 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 21, 2005

Heavy dredge equipment
Heavy dredge equipment

Weather Data

Latitude: 3948.669 N
Longitude: 07302.329 W
Visibility: Clear
Wind: 6-8 mph
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell Height: 3ft.
Swell Direction: 150 degrees

Science and Technology log

Changing one’s hours to six on and six off could be a subject for a scientific study in itself. Our first day on board was a short one. We left Woods Hole at 3PM and began our sail south. We stopped to do a test drop with the trawl and received a crash course in the computerized world of fishery research. The NOAA vessel uses two computer systems to bottom dredge. Computer times are constantly calibrated to ensure that different machines are reading data at the same time. The onboard systems are the Fishery Science Computer System (FSCS), and the Scientific Communication System (SCS). The computers monitor the ship’s exact, location, the time of the dredge, the speed, the water temperature the substrate composition and aspect of the dredge to the bottom. Later this week we will be attaching the video feed as well.

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

This sure isn’t your grandpa’s fishing. Once the dredge is secured to the ship, and the power is shut down the scientific crew is released to the aft deck to release and sort the contents of the dredge. The clams are sorted by variety and by size. Other invertebrates and fish are sorted weighed measured and released. The contents of the dredge are analyzed and catalogued for its overall percentage of substrate, shell debris and fish and animals. The clams are then measured, weighed and analyzed for age. The weighing and measurements are done electronically and simultaneously cataloged into the database. The ages of the clams and quahogs are determined through visual inspection of growth rings. This takes a practiced eye, especially with the ocean quahogs, which grow very slowly and can reach ages of one hundred fifty years. One of the on board scientists indicated that they will soon receive a scanner that will be able to read the rings on the surf clams and ocean quahogs and determine their precise age and growth rate. It’s all pretty amazing stuff. Needless to say, some monster computer mainframe is crunching numbers and providing some great information in determining the health of the stock, the overall biomass and the condition and patterns in the environment. It’s hard not to be impressed, and somewhat overwhelmed.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

We all have a lot to learn about our new duties onboard. We had a quick run down on other experiments we would be conducting at the request of our chief scientist throughout our adventure, and then were on our way to the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia). We will start on our first stations at about 3 AM. This will be fishing for real, and learning on the job. We will start in the Delmarva area, and then work our way back up the New Jersey coastline. The New Jersey offshore waters are the area of the greatest concentration of surf clams and also the greatest concentration of commercial fishing. This area is of specific interest to the scientists who are anxious to measure the health of the stock in relation to findings of previous surveys. It is now 1 AM, and we are awaiting our arrival at our first station. I am spending my time reading about surf clams and ocean quahogs. I am so intrigued, I feel compelled to share. Spisula Solidissma, more commonly known as the Atlantic Surf Clam, can be found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Hatteras. The largest concentrations are off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey and the Georges Bank. Landings of clams off the coast of Virginia and New Jersey have traditionally accounted for half the landings nationwide.

Measuring clams
Measuring clams

The Georges Bank however has been closed to commercial fishing since 1990 due to high concentrations of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP). The surf clam can be found in varying depths from the beach to 60 meters, but concentrations below 40 meters tend to be low. Surf clams can reach a maximum size of 222.5cm (8.9in.), but surf clams larger than 20cm (7.9in.) are rare. Surveys are done because clam populations can, and indeed do, move. Movement predominantly occurs in the larval period. Eggs and sperm are shed into the water column, and may bee carried by currents for as many as three weeks before recruitment to the bottom occurs. The ages of surf clams can be determined by counting the rings on their shells. The rings are formed when a thin tissue adheres to the inner surfaces of the shell, called the mantel, and a thickened rim of muscular tissue at the mantel edge deposit new material at the mantel edge. The resulting rings show how old the clam may be. More on the elusive Ocean Quahog will follow tomorrow.

Personal Log 

Who the heck sits up reading about clams at one AM? Is this nuts or what? The life of a scientist is indeed a crazy one. I myself do not qualify as a scientist, but they sure are interesting to hang out with. I am learning tons, and anxious for our day to begin. The food is great, everyone is friendly, but the sleeping part is somewhat sketchy. I’m sure it will catch up with us all pretty darn soon.

Mapping and lab work
Mapping and lab work

Mike Lynch, June 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 20, 2005

Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 7.51.56 PMScience and Technology Log

We are preparing for a 2pm departure on the NOAA vessel DELAWARE II. We are departing from Woods Hole, MA. Woods Hole is a small maritime community in scenic Cape Cod. Apart from being a tourist Mecca, and a jump off point to Martha’s Vineyard, Woods Hole is home to some of the World’s foremost institutions in the area of Oceanography and Marine Science. A brief stroll down a picturesque cape-side street takes you by The Marine Biology Libratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Northeast Fisheries Center, and the National Oceanic aerospace Administration. It short order it becomes quite apparent that Woods Hole is center of learning and scientific research.

Today we will be leaving on the DELAWARE II, which is a stern trawler that was built in 1963. The ship is 155ft. in length and has a displacement of 600 ton. This research vessel is operated by the National Ocean Service’s (NOS) division of the National oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is a government agency with a mandate to study the condition of the world’s environments.

NOAA Ship Delaware II in port
NOAA Ship Delaware II in port

As a steward, NOAA Fisheries has an obligation to conserve, protect and manage living marine resources in away that will ensure their continuation, while affording economic opportunities and enhancing the quality of life of the American public. Our specific mission will be a scientific survey to collect data on fishery stocks and demographics of exploited fish resources.  More precisely our target stocks are to be Atlantic surf clams and ocean quahogs. In a brief orientation with our chief scientist, we were told that we would be conducting timed dredges on pre-selected stations to collect data on species recruitment, the health, number and location of incoming classes of fish. We would also be monitoring data on the abundance, location and survival rates of harvestable size clams and quahogs. Our mission will also obtain data that monitors changes in the ecosystem as well as the biomass of the surveyed areas.

Activities on deck
Activities on deck

In order to gain the needed scientific data, the DELAWARE II will be using a hydraulic dredge to sample the stations of the ocean bottom. The last “clam survey’ was conducted in 2002. This survey is conducted on a three-year basis due to the low exploitation rate of the fishery as well as the slow recruitment rate of the species. For this survey we will be using a five foot wide hydraulic dredge, fitted with water jets, and a submersible electric pump that loosens the substrate and animals in the path of the dredge. The equipment is a modification of that which is used in the commercial industry. The five-foot dredge looks more like mining equipment than fishing gear. It is fitted with a two inch aqua mesh that allows the capture of smaller species than are commercially profitable, in order to get a more accurate sampling of the stock. Clam debris and other associated invertebrates are collected and measured as well. Sensors and photographic equipment will also be attached to the dredge in order to measure bottom conditions and dredge performance. The state of the art sensor package placed on the dredge, gathers a continuous steam of data on dredge performance, bottom temperature, water depth and ship position. Data on catch and dredge performance; location, time and conditions will be catalogued into computer programs that will calculate stock, habitat and location.

Personal log

Day one of our journey has been a flurry of activity. We have received our berth assignments, met new people, gathered our foul weather gear and been introduced to the fantastic fare of the galley. The ship’s crew is busy with a myriad of pre-departure activities, but everyone has gone out of their way to be friendly and accommodating. The weather is beautiful and everyone’s spirits seem to be high. I have had the opportunity to informally interview several of the crew and was given a tour of the ALABATROSS IV as well as our ship, the DELAWARE II. The crew is busy with a cable replacement for the dredge. I and several of the volunteers had the opportunity to have a brief orientation with our chief scientist, and we are awaiting our scheduled 2 PM departure. I will be working two shifts both from 12 to 6. The shifts, along with the scientific work, the interviews and daily logs promise to keep me busy. I am learning a lot, staying out of the way and getting excited. We will be heading south to New Jersey rather than the Georges Bank. Time constraints and equipment repair may have been factors in the change of plan. Woods Hole is a beautiful and picturesque location but also a hotbed of scientific activity.

A hearty bunch
A hearty bunch

Jim Jenkins, April 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 26, 2005

Here you can see the heavy chain that keeps Peggy the Mooring in place.
Here you can see the heavy chain that keeps Peggy the Mooring in place.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

I am going to leave out cloud cover today.  Can you look at the data above and fill in the space for cloud cover?  I think you may also be able to know what current weather conditions are for today. Did you get the photos of the mooring, chain and cable which were covered with barnacles, brittle stars, worms, starfish and bivalves?  I thought these were pretty interesting and spent some time yesterday looking carefully at the photos to see what was identifiable.

By the way, the barnacle and associated organisms I am holding up in one of the photos are now in a jar which is wrapped in bubble wrap and inserted in a zip lock bag.  I am thinking that we will put it in a mesh bag and hang it from a tree limb to dry once I get back to school.

Yesterday, after dinner, I spent a long time talking with Mr. Rick Miller a mechanical engineer who has helped to design a lot of the moorings we are deploying or recovering on this cruise. Mr. Miller has an absolute passion for his work and I think he said a lot of things that you are going to find extremely interesting.

The mooring named Peggy was partly designed by Mr. Miller.  Do you remember that the top part of the mooring weighed 5,600 pounds?  You may be surprised to learn that the anchor and the chain holding Peggy to the ocean floor also weigh 5,600 pounds.  Mr. Miller went on to say that winds in the Bering Sea can be quite ferocious.  Long ago, engineers learned that a mooring with too much weight holding it to the ocean floor is not a good thing; the wind will simply blow the mooring over and push it below the water. This would prevent transmission of data that comes from the tower which is supposed to be above the water.

The fact that the anchor and chain for Peggy is the same weight as the surface part makes it possible for the anchor to move slightly when pulled on in a gale.  This keeps the mooring above water and close to the location in which it was dropped!

A second interesting design feature was made more interesting after looking at the barnacle cover on the mooring brought up yesterday. Mr. Miller and his team looked at the history of barnacle cover on submerged instruments in the Bering Sea and calculated that a half ton of barnacles would likely cover the underside of Peggy the Mooring within a 6-month period. To counter this, they painted the bottom of the floating piece with a paint which repels barnacles and sea life that might attach to the surface. What do you think might have happened if the surface had not been treated and the expected half ton of barnacles accumulated?

Chains used by NOAA to anchor moorings are tested so that each link is capable of holding a 42,000-pound weight. This would be strong enough to pick up approximately 20 of the cars that I drive to school each day.  This seems plenty strong to counter the weight of a mooring in even the strongest wind, or current, doesn’t it?

Mr. Miller was very surprised, as were a lot of scientists and engineers, when they came out to pick up moorings anchored with this chain and found them missing.  The breakthrough came when they recovered a link of a chain that was broken!  They took the chain to a metallurgist (a scientist who studies metals).  The metallurgist discovered that the fact that NOAA chains were heat-treated tended to form a strong crystal lattice in the metal.  Hydrogen atoms had a tendency to get trapped in this lattice.  The hydrogen expanded and forced a crack in the metal.  A force much less than 42,000 pounds was then able to break the chain.

The solution: NOAA chains are still tested to be able to hold 42,000 pounds, but they are NOT heat-treated. No problems with broken chains have been noted since this change.

I think Mr. Miller summed up his thoughts about design well with this statement:  “Overall strength is not the answer to all problems.  The key to success is to design to the requirements of the project.”

You may want to spend some time discussing the above statement with your classmates.  I think that there is a lot of wisdom in these words.

A lot of time was spent today doing CTD tests. You probably already know this because all of the pictures sent today related to CTD tests.  The tests took a bit longer than usual because all of the tests were at a depth of about 1,500 meters.

Personal Log

I think that Mr. Miller is an outstanding human being, in addition to being an outstanding engineer and scientist. Let me know what you think after reading the words he spoke in response to my request for a comment to some bright fifth graders in Purcellville, Virginia:

“Encourage them to go into a field for which they have a passion.  I would urge them to go into something that makes them smile when they think about it.  I would encourage going into something with which you can have fun.  Having fun has nothing to do with being easy. Challenges are fun.

Encourage them to keep life fun, and not be too heavy with life.

Remember that there are things equally important as academic endeavors.  Remember to be good stewards of the planet.

Encourage them to think about outcomes which are up to the individual.”

I leave you now to contemplate Mr. Miller’s words.  Have a great evening.  I look forward to talking with you tomorrow.

Question of the day: An instrument descends to a depth of 1,500 Meters at a speed of 50 meters per minute.  How long does it need to travel the 1,500 meters?

Jim Jenkins, April 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 23, 2005

Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a Calvets net
Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a Calvets net

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Get the microscopes ready!

Early this morning, I helped out with dropping and pulling up Calvets nets.  These nets collect fish eggs and other small life forms from the sea.  Specimens collected are put in jars, preserved with formaldehyde and sent to labs for analysis.  This is a quantitative sample, meaning that each test is designed to get a good idea of the amount of fish eggs in a specific amount of water.  In this case, the test measures eggs in a 100 cubic meter area. Specimens are filtered through a screen to eliminate most of the water.  Screens are then rinsed to make sure all the netted material goes into the specimen bottle.

You can see how big Peggy the Mooring is with Mr. Jenkins standing in front of it!
You can see how big Peggy the Mooring is with Mr. Jenkins standing in front of it!

Knowledge of the amount of fish eggs present in water can help make predictions about the health of fish populations. It can also help fishermen plan for the future.  This morning we ran an extra test and I collected the contents of the net to bring back to Mountain View Elementary.  There were a lot of copepods and some tiny worms visible to the naked eye in our specimen.  Other portions of the collected specimen were squirming with life, but I could not make them out with just my eye.  Let’s make looking at this specimen under the microscope the first activity that we do when I return to school.

The mooring named Peggy that I wrote you about earlier went into the water this morning. This was a complicated procedure. A couple of hours were spent “building” a chain with all the instruments which hang down to the bottom below this mooring,  All of the instruments needed to be bolted to specific lengths of chain with shackles.  The assembly was done according to a diagram drawn in Seattle.  The total length of all the chains and instruments joined together was 67 meters long.  Instruments used to gather data on temperature, salinity and nitrate levels at various depths were attached.

Once the chain was assembled, the whole assembly was lowered into the ocean as the times that each instrument hit the water were recorded.  One end of the chain was joined with a shackle to the mooring and it is ALMOST ready to go Peggy, the mooring, is so big that it was a complicated job to get it into the water. Two winches, several rope lines, a lot of communication and thinking were necessary to get it into the sea. About an hour after the process began, Peggy touched down lightly in the sea. A big cheer went up from everyone on the deck!

 Rusty and Mr. Jenkins
Rusty and Mr. Jenkins

Finally, the anchor needed to be attached to the bottom of the chain and dropped into the water. In this case, the anchor was not the railway wheels that you have heard about so often. This anchor resembled half of a Tootsie Roll Pop lying round side up and it was bright yellow. The exterior was made of concrete.  A big mooring needs a big anchor!  The anchor for Peggy weighed in at 5,000 pounds! (This is equivalent to 2 and one-half small cars).

How did an anchor this big get from the deck into the water?  Again, it took considerable thinking and communication between deck hands and scientists.  Communication between people on the deck and officers on the bridge was also extremely important so that the ship was in the right location. The cooperation, thinking and communicating paid off. Finally, Peggy the mooring, settled into the sea!

I took many photographs of the process of putting the mooing into the sea as well as a farewell photograph as the ship pulled away. These will be sent to you later today and will be there by Monday when you return to school.

By the way, another small mooring was put in right after lunch.  Now we have an 18hour transit before reaching the site of deployment of the marine mammal listening device brought up by Chris Garsha and Lisa Munger that we discussed earlier.

Personal Log

I hope you guys had a great weekend!

Did you receive the photo of Rusty the ship’s cat? Well, I also sent copy of the photo to my home.  My wife, Chantel, just wrote to advise that our son, Sam, climbed up in her lap when he saw the photo on the computer screen to give a big kiss to both his dad and to Rusty. Needless to say, this was a heartwarming message for me!

Question of the Day: What is at the center of the yellow concrete anchor used for the mooring named Peggy?  (Hint: Reading previous logs might help you with this answer.)  This “easy as candy” question comes to you in honor of the weekend!  (Very Big Grin!)

Jim Jenkins, April 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 22, 2005

Fair Visibility
Fair Visibility

Weather Data 

Latitude:  56, 28, 22 N
Longitude: 160, 35, 21 W
Cloud Cover: Cloudy
Visibility: 6 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction:  164
Wind Speed: 20 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 3-4 Feet
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 Feet
Sea Water Temperature: 2.4 Degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1011 MB

Science and Technology Log

How is visibility determined?  This was the question I posed to Ensign Mandy Goeller. Her answer was that the distance is 10 nautical miles if the viewer can see the horizon.  Distance may also be ascertained if another vessel shows up on radar and can also be seen with the eye.  Finally, there is a degree of intuitive thought based on experience when writing visibility in a ships log.

A CTD cast was done this morning.  This involves having a winch lower a huge instrument (about the size of motorcycle) into the water until it is almost resting on the bottom.  Salinity, temperature and density readings are done on the way down for the instrument.  Readings done on the way up would involve taking readings on water which has been disturbed by the passage of the instrument.

This morning’s reading was done for the benefit of The Kodiak Crab Lab (I bet you like that name!) in Kodiak, Alaska.  One of the problems for king crab fishermen is that king crabs do not like to inhabit bands of cold water that stream through sections of the Bering Sea. Fishermen armed with knowledge of the location of these cold streams will likely not waste time, fuel and labor trying to catch crabs when the crabs are probably not going to be in the cold streams.  NOAA is trying to help by supplying knowledge.

Retrieval of a mooring was scheduled for this morning.  The boat arrived at the latitude and longitude at which the mooring was dropped off.  A hydrophone (listening device attached to an electrical cord) was dropped into the water to listen for the device after a NOAA scientist sent it a signal to “wake up” and respond with a signal so that it could be located. The plan was to have an “acoustic release” sent to the mooring when it could be located. This signal would cause a metal latch located just above the anchor to open so that the mooring could rise to the surface, be spotted and be recovered.  Unfortunately, the mooring never sent a signal.  The acoustic release signal was sent but the mooring did not pop to the surface as planned.  The mooring appears to be lost! I think it would be good to remember this the next time things do not go exactly as planned in our daily lives. Sometimes in science, as in all areas of human endeavor, things just do not go as planned.

The location of the lost mooring remains on file.  Maybe it will be found in the future.  Meanwhile, a mooring scheduled to be placed within a one third mile distance from the lost mooring was deployed as planned.

A second mooring was recovered as planned later in the day. This one was covered with huge barnacles and had a few life forms holding onto its surface.  I took a few photographs of tiny crabs and worms which were found on this mooring.  I held the crabs and worm in my hand for photographing so that you would have an idea of their size.  I am thinking all the research you did on crabs before the trip may make it possible for you to identify the crab.  Identifying the worm could be fun for someone!

Speaking of photos, I sent a number of photos to you today.  Earlier, I had a problem with the size of files being too large to be sent by satellite to you.  Please let me know what you think about the photographs.

Personal Log

I had breakfast this morning with Shawn Bowman, a young man wearing a Kings Point rugby shirt. Our conversation turned to rugby and I talked about one of our neighbors, Tom Levac, who is a student at The Merchant Marine Academy and also a rugby player.  It turns out that Shawn is a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and played rugby with Tom.  It is indeed a small world, isn’t it?

Had some time this morning just to walk around the deck and enjoy the beauty of the snow-capped peaks gracing coastal Alaska.  This was a scene so beautiful that it was almost painful (You may not understand this at your stage in your life, but I bet that your parents will be able to tell you of a similar place.  I was surprised when the people I was talking with when I described the beauty as being almost painful indicated that this was also the way they felt about thisplace.)  I very much hope that each of you will be able to visit this sparse, pristine, rugged and eternally beautiful part of the world. Lt. Miller had his binoculars out looking for walrus on the shoreline this morning.  There were none to be seen today. Maybe tomorrow?!

Question of the day: When are you guys going to send an e-mail!!!!  (Very Big Grin!)

Jim Jenkins, April 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 20, 2005

The Bering Sea
The Bering Sea

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

You might want to begin by comparing yesterday’s barometric pressure (1002.8 millibars) to today’s pressure (1011.1 millibars).  Knowing that a rising barometric pressure is an indication of good weather would give you an idea of the weather that we are enjoying right now. It is bright, sunny and warm for this part of the world.  Last night, there was another indication that the weather today would be nice when I looked out the porthole to see a lot of pink in the sky just before I went to bed.  Do you remember the saying, “Red sky at night, sailors delight?”  Do you think this applies also to reddish shades of pink?

Sarah Thornton sits beside the instrument used to measure nitrate levels in the ocean.  (The cylindrical device in the lower right of the photo.)
Sarah Thornton sits beside the instrument used to measure nitrate levels in the ocean. (The cylindrical device in the lower right of the photo.)

Tomorrow, the phrase, “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” may apply! Matt Faber, Ordinary Fisherman, on the Miller Freeman is sitting across from me reading the paper as I type. Matt advises that we are expecting a drop in the barometric pressure tomorrow of about 10 millibars to around 1000.00 millibars.  What do you think this means about tomorrow’s weather?  If you predict that the weather will change dramatically you are correct.  In fact, Matt notes that we are expecting high winds tomorrow.  Winds are projected to come from the east at 35 knots per hour.  Sea wave height will probably be 6 to 8 feet high. This is quite a change from today’s one-foot sea wave height, isn’t it?

I asked Matt about his experiences in rough weather at sea.  He told me of a trip in February of this year when the sea wave height was in the 20-30 foot range.  (This would make some waves higher than Mountain View School Elementary School!)  Matt advises that the best strategy for these conditions is to “hang on,” and “put up a rail on your bed so that you do not fall out of bed at night.”  I am taking his advice on these things as well as his advice to visit the ship’s doctor to get some medicine to prevent seasickness!

This is the operations officer Lt Miller.  He knows a lot about marine geology.  What are your questions about rocks, earthquakes, volcanoes, faults, trenches, tsunamis......?
This is the operations officer Lt Miller. He knows a lot about marine geology. What are your questions about rocks, earthquakes, volcanoes, faults, trenches, tsunamis……?

Visiting the bridge to get the data needed to start my journals to you is becoming a great opportunity. Do you remember the story of seeing a killer whale on my first trip to the bridge to collect data?  Well, today I got another surprise!  The operations officer, Lt. Mark Miller, called me over to look at a volcano that was spewing smoke. The view through the binoculars was stupendous!  Unfortunately, the distance and the conditions did not make it possible to get a good photograph.  By the way, the name of the volcano is Shishalden. It is on Unimak Island.  This may be a great topic for research for some of you. I am looking forward to having the time to research this myself when I return home.

Today, I have talked with Sarah Thornton, a scientist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sarah is here to deploy an instrument that measures the nutrients in seawater that feed all ocean life. In the past, sampling involved traveling to a location, taking a water sample, and then taking it back to the lab for analysis.  Sarah’s instrument collects the data as it sits beneath the surface of the ocean.  Sarah will come back in 6 months from the time she drops it off to pick it up.  The instrument will then have 6 months of data which will be available to lots of people studying food chains in the sea.

This is the library where most of the logs to you are typed. The computer is put away right now so that it does not fall off the table with rolls of the ship.  I am writing from "Data Plot" where computers are bolted down.
This is the library where most of the logs to you are typed. The computer is put away so that it does not fall with rolls of the ship. I am writing from “Data Plot” where computers are bolted down.

Sarah’s instrument will be placed below the large yellow doughnut centered mooring that I described on day one.  ISUS is the name for Sarah’s instrument.  The letters stand for In-Situ (Latin for “In Place) Spectrophotometric Underwater Sensor.  The words are complicated, but the idea is not as complicated. Put simply, an ultraviolet light is sent through sea water.  Different substances in the water absorb light at very specific frequencies.  Nitrate, the primary food for phytoplankton, also absorbs light at a very specific wavelength.  This enables data on nitrate level to be recorded.  As noted earlier, Sarah will be able to take six months of nitrate level testing back to labs for analysis when she comes back to pick up her instrument next September or October.  Scientists can then look at the nitrate levels to see how well fish populations will be fed in the future.  Good nitrate levels mean that the fish will be well fed and plentiful.  Lower nitrate levels may mean problems for fish and for fishermen.

I assumed that ISUS would be placed close to the surface where the sun’s rays were able to penetrate to start photosynthesis. I was a little surprised to learn that the instruments are typically placed at a depth of only thirteen meters.  Can you think of a reason for this depth?  If you guessed that they placed at this depth to avoid problems with ice, boat traffic and weather, you are exactly right.

Light penetration in the Bering Sea may be common at 40 meter depths under some conditions. Sediment in the water or a lot of phytoplankton in the water may lessen light penetration, however. And there is measurable amount of light at 100 meters in some parts of the Bering Sea. Do you think the 13 meter depth of the instrument is logical in light of all you know?

Personal Log

I am going to send a photo of my stateroom today.  It occurs to me that you might find this interesting. The room is about 12 feet X 12 feet.  It is divided diagonally into two smaller rooms.  Each room has a bunk bed and two lockers.  A shower and bathroom are in one corner of the room. I am lucky to have a good roommate.

Later today, I am going to go down to the gymnasium for a run.  I have had little physical  exercise since I got on the ship. I do not want to come home and have you guys run circles around me on our Tuesday runs.

Remember to let me know what you want to learn about, while I am on the ship.  This is a great opportunity for you to impact your own education.  Please take advantage of this.  Question for the day: A major tsunami, or seismic wave, hit the coast of the United States more that forty years ago. Can you find the exact year and place?

Jim Jenkins, April 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 19, 2005

Mr. Jenkins holding a temperature sensor.
Mr. Jenkins holding a temperature sensor.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  55, 36, 50 North
Longitude: 155, 51, 00 West
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction:  164
Wind Speed: 18 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 Feet
Sea Swell Height: 2-3 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  5 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1002.8
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

The better part of the morning was spent putting temperature and pressure sensors in metal cages. I will send a photo with the subject line, “Metal Cages” so that you will have a good idea of the construction of these devices. The sensors mounted in metal cages are suspended from moorings at 3 feet intervals to give scientists a good indication of the temperatures at various depths in the ocean.  Data collected from similar sensors has been collected for a long time and will continue to be collected well into the future. Scientists can look at the data collected over the years to draw conclusions about the patterns noted. For example, should temperatures continue to rise over the years, scientists might look for a reason for this rise in temperature.  You have heard of the idea of “Global Warming.”  Data collected in this project can be used to monitor the severity of this problem.

Today has been mainly a day of transit, the term used by NOAA folks to refer to travel to a work location. The down time gave me the opportunity to interview my roommate, Chris Garsha, an engineer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. Chris and Lisa Munger, a doctoral student from the University of California at San Diego, are here to place instruments in the sea which will monitor whale calls. Chris and Lisa are great people. They provided a lot of good information which I will share with you now. Also, they volunteered to e-mail you with more information about whales when they return home to California.  I gave them my card so that they would have your school address. First, I will give you the address of a web site that both Chris and Lisa recommended.

The site has sounds of whales which have been recorded by the instruments that Chris and Lisa are here to deploy. I know that you will enjoy this.

Do you remember studying sound waves in class?  I think that you will remember that a wavelength is measured from crest to crest, or from trough to trough. Chris and Lisa use this idea when recording sounds of whales. They measure the frequency of whale sounds in Hertz (Hz). 1 Hertz (Hz) would be 1 wavelength per second.  40 Hz would be 40 wavelengths per second. 1 Kilohertz (kHz) would be 1,000 wavelengths per second.  40 kHz would be 40,000 cycles, or wavelengths per second.  I hope that I have explained this clearly, please let me know if this is not the case.

Chris and Lisa are going to put an instrument in the water which will be attached the top to a huge yellow ball which will float just beneath the surface of the sea.  The bottom of their instrument will be attached to one of the railway wheels we mentioned yesterday so that it will be in the same place when they come back to pick up their instrument in 6 months.

The instrument that Chris and Lisa are going to put into the sea has three tubes.  One of the tubes is for power.  The power is provided by the same D cell batteries that you use in your flashlight at home.  Only in this case, the power is provided by 192 batteries!!!

A second tube contains a data logger to record whale sounds and associated electronics.  This tube contains sixteen 80-gigabyte discs.  This represents the computing power of sixteen lap top computers.

The third tube contains a hydrophone. This is a device that initially picks up the pressure caused in the water by whale’s sound. The pressure of the sound causes oil inside the hydrophone to move.  This movement or pressure is picked up by electronics inside the tube and recorded.

As I noted earlier, Chris and Lisa are coming back in 6 months to pick up their instrument and analyze the sounds. Some of the sounds will be converted to spectrograms so that they can analyze the sounds visually.  Loud sounds will show up on the computer screen in shades of red. Softer sounds will show in shades of blue.

Human hearing is in the 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz range.  This will give meaning to some of the things I am about to tell you.  For example, Baleen whales (Right Whales or Fin Whales) make lower frequency sounds in the 10 Hz to 10 kHz range.  Would you be able to hear a Fin Whale making a sound at its lowest frequency? I look forward to your answer to this question.

Toothed whales (Dolphins, Porpoises, Killer Whales, Sperm Whales and Beaked Whales) make sounds at higher frequencies.  This helps Chris and Lisa to tell a toothed whale from a baleen whale just by listening to their sound.

Did you know some whales make different sounds for different reasons?  For example, a Killer Whale whistles at a lower frequency for social reasons of communication.  Higher frequency clicks are used for echolocation, just like the Little Brown Bats which live in caves there in Virginia.

Chris and Lisa are scheduled to put their instrument into the water shortly.  Please let me know if you would like an update on its deployment?

Personal Log

Your teacher had an old man’s day, retiring at noon for a two-hour nap.  Some seasickness had persisted so I decided to see it I could sleep it off.  Well it worked!  After not eating all day, I had a delicious dinner that ended with my all time comfort food, banana cream pie. I feel great!

I must confess that a dose of Dramamine taken just after getting up may have helped the situation. You may find humor in the fact that I chose the Less Drowsy Formula because I did not want to waste time sleeping while I was here!

Question for the day

Today’s seawater temperature is 5 degrees Celsius.  Can you convert this to degrees Fahrenheit?

Jim Jenkins, April 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 18, 2005

Mr. Jenkins with NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN in the background.
Mr. Jenkins with NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN in the background.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Kodiak on the afternoon of April 15.  The first few days in Kodiak were spent helping scientists and deck hands load equipment and assemble moorings.  The sensors are used to gather information about currents, salinity (saltiness), water temperature, weather, and ocean organism populations.  Some of the moorings are so large that a crane needed to move them about the deck for assembly.

One of these moorings will ride on the surface of the ocean on a doughnut shaped center about the size of a monster truck tire.  A 12-foot high triangular tower made of metal is  attached to the top of doughnut like piece with bolts.  This part of the mooring collects weather data. A second triangular metal tower is bolted to the bottom of the center piece. This section is made of different types of metal which enables collection of data  on salinity. Three 110-pound metal triangles attached in the center of this section hold the  mooring down in the water. The whole apparatus is anchored to the bottom of the ocean using old railway wheels. What do you think of this form of recycling?  I am sending  photos of the mooring as well as the wheels used to anchor the mooring.  Please take a careful look at the photos.  I know that you will have excellent questions as usual. Be certain that I will post replies to your questions quickly.

Above is the mooring.  Ms. Thornton’s instrument to determine nitrate level will be placed beneath this.
Above is the mooring. Ms. Thornton’s instrument to determine nitrate level will be placed beneath this.

Most of this cruise will be involved with the study of conditions above a relatively shallow shelf in the Bering Sea. Water depths in this section of the sea are less than 100 meters.  Your knowledge of the food chain will enable you to see that study of this  productive zone is not an accident.  The relative shallowness of the water enables the sun’s rays to penetrate to provide food for plant plankton or, phytoplankton, which make their food by photosynthesis.  Animal plankton, or zooplankton, eat the phytoplankton starting the food chain which provides nutrition for all ocean organisms as well as you and me!

Walleye Pollock are the most harvested fish in the Bering Sea.  Each year, about 1,000,000 metric tons of this fish are caught and sent to food processing factories.  Can you tell me how many pounds make up a metric ton?  This may require a little research as  well as your math skills, but I am sure that you can do this.  I look forward to your answer.

You may have eaten Walleye Pollok and not known it!  Much of the fish caught is processed into fish filets or fish sticks.  You probably have eaten Walleye Pollock if you  have had a fish sandwich at a restaurant.  Some of the walleye harvest is made into a paste. This paste is added to crab products in the artificial crab that you may have  enjoyed. Does this make you want to look at food packages and do other research  regarding the source of your food?  Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed your taste of the bounty of the Bering Sea!

I needed to go up to the bridge yesterday to get the data which begins this journal.  A Killer Whale came to the surface right in front of the ship while I was recording the data. Awesome!

Personal Log

Kodiak was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I particularly enjoyed hikes along the beaches, through the spruce forests and on the hillsides.  A box of rocks was put into the mail to all of you on Saturday.  The rocks came from a gorgeous cobble beach called Mayflower Beach.  I think you will enjoy the way the sea smoothed your rock to leave the wonderfully sculpted pieces which you will soon have. I hope you enjoy these treasures of nature!

A sculpin was one of the fish caught on a fishing trip yesterday.  I remember how interested all of you were in the report on sculpin done by Alison.  A photo was taken before releasing the fish. I am sending a copy of the photo.

I have proven that it is possible for a human being to become seasick on a 215 boat in 4-foot seas (Very Big Grin)! Anyway, I am peachy now and look forward to your replies. I miss you guys!