Latitude: 26.17 Longitude: 81.34 Temperature: 89° F Wind Speeds: ESE 11 mph
Our last day on Oregon II together was filled with lots of hugs and new Facebook friends. I left Pascagoula, MS and arrived back in Naples, FL around midnight. It was nice to be back in my big bed but I really missed the rocking of the ship to put me to sleep.
The next morning I was greeted at my classroom door at 7 am by my students who had a lot of questions. They all had been following along on my blog and have seen a few pictures that were posted. I made a PowerPoint of pictures from the ship so they could see what my living and working arrangements were like. The funniest part was when I showed them my sleeping arrangements. They thought it was great that I was on the top bunk, but surprised at how small the room was and how I didn’t have a TV. (I think some thought it was more like a hotel room – boy were they wrong.) The part they were shocked the most was the size of the shower and the toilet area. I was able to organize my pictures into folders of the same species. I was then able to show them all of the wonderful pictures that the crew, scientists, volunteers and I had taken during our excursion.
The following week a reporter from the Naples Daily News and her photographer came to my classroom to interview me about my trip as well as what the students were learning in AICE Marine.
I was able to bring back with me the one of the 12 foot monofilament line and hook that is attached to the longline. I was able to explain to them how the lines are attached and the process for leaving the longline in the water for exactly an hour. We also started a lesson on random sampling. I discussed how the location for the longline deployment is chosen and why scientist make sure they are randomly chosen.
My biggest surprise was a package I received from my Uncle Tom a few days after I returned home. He is a fantastic artist that paints his own Christmas cards every year. In the package I received he painted the sunset picture I had taken of Oregon II when we were docked in Galveston. It is now hanging in my classroom.
In December I will be presenting about my experiences with
NOAA. Students, their families, and
people from the Naples community will all be welcome to attend. I will be working with fellow colleagues from
other high schools in Naples that also teach marine to spread the word to their
students. My goal is to get as many
students who are interested in a marine career to attend the presentation so
that going forward I will be able to work with them in a small group setting to
help with college preferences and contacts for marine careers.
I can’t thank NOAA enough for choosing me to participate as
the NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumnus. The
experiences I have received and the information I will be able to pass along to
my students is priceless!
Science and Technology Log
My students have been able to see and touch some of the items I was able to bring home from Oregon II that I discussed. I was able to answer so many questions and show them a lot of the pictures I took. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a sharp-nosed shark that is being sent to us from the lab in Pascagoula, MS. For students that are interested I will be conducting a dissection after school to show the anatomy of the shark as well as let them touch and feel the shark. (An additional blog will be posted once the dissection is competed)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Northwest (Off the coast of California)
Weather Data from Marietta, GA:
Latitude: 33.963900 Longitude: -84.492260 Sky Conditions: Clear Present Weather: Hot Visibility: 9 miles Windspeed: Less than 1 knot Temperature: Record high 97 degrees Fahrenheit
It’s been weeks since I disembarked in Newport, Oregon and left Fairweather behind. I still feel like I’m a part of the crew since I was welcomed so seamlessly into any job I tried to learn while Teacher at Sea. However, the crew is still working away as I continue to share my experiences with my students in Marietta, Georgia.
As I have been working on lessons for my classroom, I keep finding fun facts and information about ship life that I didn’t share in my previous posts. So, here is my final post and some of my most frequent questions by students answered:
Question 1: Where did you sleep?
I slept in a berth, I had a comfortable bed, drawers, a locker, and a sink. There was a TV too, which I never watched since a) I like to read more than watch TV and b) the ship would rock me to sleep so fast I could never stay up too long at bedtime!
Question 2: What was the weather like when you were at sea?
Question 3: What animals did you see?
I highlighted animals in all of my posts and linked sites to learn more, go check it out! There is one animal I didn’t include in my posts that I would like to share with you! The first is the California Sea Lionfound in the Newport harbor. You could hear them from across the harbor so I had to go check them out!
See the video below:
Question 4: What happens next with the hydrographic survey work?
This is one of my favorite questions from students! It shows how much you have learned about this very important scientific work and are thinking about what is next. The hydrographic survey maps are now in post processing, where the survey technicians, Sam, Bekah, Joe, and Michelle are working hard to make sure the data is correct. I shared in a previous hydrographic survey blog an example of Fairweather’s hydrographic survey maps, I also checked in with the USGS scientists James Conrad and Peter Dartnell to see what they were doing with their research and they shared some information that will help answer this question.
From Peter Dartnell, USGS research scientist: “Here are a few maps of the bathymetry data we just collected including the area off Coos Bay, off Eureka, and a close-up view of the mud volcano. The map off Eureka includes data we collected last year. I thought it would be best to show the entire Trinidad Canyon.”
From James Conrad USGS research geologist: “Here is an image of a ridge that we mapped on the cruise. The yellow dots are locations of methane bubble plumes that mark seafloor seeps. In the next few weeks, another NOAA ship, the Lasker, is planning to lower a Remotely Operated Vehicle to the seafloor here to see what kinds of critters live around these seeps. Methane seeps are known to have unique and unusual biologic communities associated with them. For scale, the ridge is about 8 miles long.”
So, even though the research cruise is over, the research and follow up missions resulting from the research are ongoing and evolving every day.
Question 5: Would you go back if you could be a Teacher at Sea again?
YES! There is still so much to learn. I want to continue my own learning, but most importantly, lead my students to get excited about the important scientific research while keeping the mission of the NOAA close to their hearts: “To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. Dedicated to the understanding and stewardship of the environment.“
Fair winds and following seas Fairweather, I will treasure this experience always.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast U.S. Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 6, 2019
I’m glad to get my land legs back. As I reflect on the wonderful experience of 2 weeks out at sea with scientists, I wish to sum it all up by two images below.
I re-posted (above) an important slide I presented earlier, that of a food web that includes plankton, krill, fish, birds, whales, and even us. Both the above images drive home the important message that all species are threads in this delicate fabric of life, coexisting and interdependent in a fragile planet with an uncertain and unsettling future. The loss of threads from this tapestry, one by one, however minuscule or inconsequential they may seem, spells doom for the ecosystem in the long run. The NOAA Corps personnel and NOAA scientists are unsung heroes, monitoring the ecosystems that sustain and support us. In this age of fake news and skepticism of science, they are a refreshing reminder that there are good folks out there leading the good fight to save our planet and keep it hospitable for posterity.
The Teacher at Sea (TAS) program gives hope that the fight to study and protect precious ocean ecosystems will be taken up by future generations. I was privileged to work with NOAA’s Teacher at Sea staff (Emily Susko et al.) in their enthusiastic and sincere work to set teachers on a stage to inspire students towards conservation and science. They too are unsung heroes.
And one final note. Why is the TAS program predominantly K-12 in nature? Why aren’t more college professors participating? In the past few weeks, I have directly connected with hundreds of college students, many with the impression that being a biology major was all about going to med school or other health professions. Research, exploration, and science are unfortunately not in their horizon. If the TAS program makes one Harvey Walsh (our Chief Scientist) or Michael Berumen (my former student!) or even the iconic Jacques Cousteau in the future, imagine the positive impact it will have on our oceans for decades to come. I urge readers to forward this blog to college teachers and encourage them to apply for this fantastic program. We owe it to our planet and to all its denizens (including us) to recruit more future marine scientists.
In my final blog from the ship, I included a poster on Right Whales that covered NOAA’s strict policy guidelines for ships when the endangered Right Whales are around. It turns out it was a timely posting. Just as our cruise ended, Right Whales were seen just south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. NOAA triggered an immediate bulletin announcing a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (see map below). While I am sad that we so narrowly missed seeing them, it is good to know that they are there in the very waters we roamed.
I can’t believe I’ve been back on land for one week already. My 14 days on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson flew by. Everyone has asked me how my trip was and I simply state, “epic.” It was by far one of the coolest experiences of my life. I am proud of myself for taking on such an adventure. I hope I inspire my daughters, students, and colleagues to never stop daring, dreaming, and discovering. The trip itself exceeded my highest expectations. I realized how lucky I was to have such warm weather and calm seas. The scientists agreed it was one of calmest expeditions they have ever had in terms of sea conditions. One of the coolest experiences of being a Teacher at Sea was the ability to see every aspect of the vessel. The NOAA Corps officers, the deck crew, and the scientists were so welcoming and friendly. I truly felt at home on board wherever I ventured. By the end of our cruise, our science watch was seamless while conducting the fish surveys. I got the biggest compliment on the last day of our trip when two of the deck crew said they thought I was one of the NOAA scientists the whole time. They both had no idea I was actually a teacher at sea until I mentioned that I was headed back home to teach in Key West.
when I thought my adventure was over, I had one of my most memorable moments of
the trip. The science team and I had some down time while waiting to board our
flight out of Kodiak to Anchorage. We were so thrilled to be back on land that we
decided to go on a walk-about around the airport area. We stumbled upon a
freshwater river where Pink Salmon were spawning (aka a salmon run). The salmon
run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the
upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. We stood on the river
bank in awe watching hundreds of them wiggle upstream. We also came across
fresh bear scat (poop) that was still steaming. It was pretty crazy! Our
walk-about was such a random fun ending to an epic adventure.
I am so thankful for this opportunity. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was an honor and a privilege that I will never forget. I will be sharing it with my students for years to come. I am looking forward to attending future NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni gatherings to meet fellow TAS participants and continuing this amazing experience.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak to Yakutat Bay)
Weather Data from Juneau, Alaska:
Lat: 58.3019° N, Long: 134.4197° W Air Temp: 12º C
Phew…finally a day to sit back and take a breath! A few days after getting back from sea, I attended our school district’s inservice and am now 2 weeks into the new school year. It is hard to believe how quickly the summer break goes by!
Back in Juneau, the sunny, warm weather has continued, which has also meant no shortage of adventures. Since getting home, friends and I have hiked the Juneau Ridge, fished in Lynn Canal, and hunted on Admiralty Island. It has been a warm welcome home! A group of us are also training for the upcoming Klondike Running Relay from Skagway, AK to Whitehorse, YT. Needless to day, I was VERY happy to have a treadmill and workout equipment on the boat to keep active while at sea.
On the school side of things, I felt lucky to have some time to spend curriculum planning while at sea. It has helped me have a smooth start to the year and give the new 7th graders a great start. I am definitely looking forward to sharing my Teacher at Sea experience with all my new kiddos.
With the return to school, my relaxing days at sea have been replaced with nonstop action in and out of the classroom. Not only does the school year bring teaching science classes, but also an Artful Teaching continuing education course, coaching our middle school cross country team, and planning events for SouthEast Exchange (SEE). SEE is an organization I am a part of that works to connect local professionals, like those I met at sea, with local teachers. Our goal is to bring more real-world and place-based experiences into our classrooms. Through my involvement with SEE, I met and worked with NOAA scientist Ebett Siddon. Along with collaborating together on a unit about Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management for my 7th graders, she also told me about Teachers at Sea!
With that, I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of the staff at NOAA who help make this program possible. It was a once in a lifetime experience that has helped me better understand the field I am teaching about. I look forward to using what I have learned about studying fish populations and the unique career opportunities at sea with my students. I know they will appreciate my new expertise and see that there always opportunities to keep learning!
Thank you again and please consider applying for this program if you are a teacher reading this. 🙂
On July 25, 2019 NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker and its crew navigated slowly under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay. As the fog smothered entrance to the bay loomed ahead of us, I stood on the bow with the Chief Bosun and a few others listening to, of all things, sea shanties. We passed a couple of whales and a sea lion playing in the water, and we cruised right passed Alcatraz before arriving at our pier to tie up.
San Francisco did not disappoint! I walked a total of 20 miles that day stopping at Pier 39 to watch the sea lions, Ghirardelli Square to get chocolate ice cream, and Boudin Bakery to try their famous sourdough bread. I walked along the San Francisco Bay Trail, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then back to the ship.
Later that evening I went out for dinner with three of the science crew and the restaurant had a couple of local items that I hold near and dear to my heart now – sardines and market squid. It felt like everything came full circle when I ordered the fried sardine appetizer and grilled squid salad for dinner after having caught, measured, and weighed so many of them on the ship. I never would have stopped before to think about the important role those little critters play in our food chain.
The first entry for this blog posted almost two months ago framed an introduction to a journey. Even though I’ve been back on land for three weeks now, I couldn’t quite bring myself to title this entry “The Journey Ends.” Instead it feels like the journey has shifted in a new direction.
I spent a lot of time on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker thinking about how to integrate lessons from this project into my classroom and how to share ideas with other teachers in my district and beyond. Most of all this trip inspired me to reach out even more to my colleagues to collaborate and design instructional activities that push the boundaries of the traditional high school paradigm.
Latitude: 34º 16.54 N Longitude: 118º 60.90 W Wind Speed: 5 km/hr Air Temperature: 33º Celsius Pool Temperature 29º Celsius
It is hard to believe that my 26 days as a Teacher at Sea on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson are already over, and that I am back in California. I am still rocking slightly, and still VERY AWAKE at 4 a.m. as a result of having the night shift. I met so many wonderful people, from the NOAA officers to the crew to the science team, and learned so much about marine species, the ocean, science, technology, Alaska, and myself.
When I tell people how much I loved being up to my elbows in pollock, jellyfish, and sparkly herring scales; processing a catch several times a day; filleting rockfish; and the utter satisfaction that comes from opening a pollock’s head in just the right spot in order to extract its otoliths, they think I am insane. I guess it’s just something they’ll have to experience for themselves.
I have cooked both Alaskan cod and salmon since returning home, but nothing tastes like Chief Steward Judy’s cooking. I miss being rocked to sleep by the movement of the water; the anemones, sea stars, and fish we saw each night using the drop camera; the sunsets; the endless waves; and all the laughs. This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I look forward to sharing all that I learned with my students and my school. I will always treasure my time in Alaska and on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and hope to return to both soon.
My entire teaching career has been spent seeking ways to inspire my students to be happy, caring, thoughtful, and courageous stewards of the earth. It is so easy for someone to go through their day to day life without thinking about the impact that their actions have on the ocean, and the organisms that inhabit its waters. For as long as I can remember my inspiration has come from Robert Wyland, a renowned marine artist that focuses on teaching awareness about environmental conservation. Until I completed my Teacher at Sea experience, I had no idea that Robert Wyland has partnered with NOAA in outreach programs to actively engage in teaching students about the importance of marine life conservation. I am completely humbled knowing that as a Teacher at Sea Alumni, I have also now partnered with NOAA in creating opportunities for kids to become informed and aware of life beyond the classroom.
The ocean stirs the heart,
inspires the imagination and
brings eternal joy to the soul.
I love the ocean! I love the feeling of ‘not knowing’ when I look out over the water. There are so many unanswered questions about the systems, processes, and organisms that lie beneath the surface. I cannot express enough the gratitude that I have towards NOAA for choosing me to embark on an adventure that I will remember and share with others for the rest of my life. The Teacher at Sea experience has changed me. I am more patient with my students, and I have this unexplained excitement every day in the classroom. I have always been an upbeat teacher, but my passion for educating my students about the importance of scientific research has taken over. When I was aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II, I could feel the desire from the NOAA scientists towards their work. It is amazing to be able to be a part of a team that gets to explore a territory on earth where most humans will never go. The ocean will always remain to be a mystery, and scientists will forever be challenged to explore, collect data, and draw conclusions about the existence of life offshore. Wyland once said, “the world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves….”. Knowing that I have been a part of exploring the ocean’s wilderness with NOAA scientists is something that I will cherish forever.
Each summer my co-teacher, Ashley Henderson, and I host a science camp called Ocean Adventure. This coming summer (2019) we will be adding a new camp called Shark Camp. Both camps will provide a unique way to educate the young ‘explorers’ in our community on the biological, chemical, and physical forces of the ocean, as well as human impact. Teacher at Sea has provided me with the opportunity to strengthen my knowledge of the ocean, including SHARKS, and will help us create a more impactful experience for the youngsters that attend the camps. It is important to me to reach out to the children in my community to develop an early interest in science, and nurture that awareness as the students flow through the different grade levels.
Mission:Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation
Date: July 31, 2018
Air Temperature: 28°C
Wind Speed: 4.2 knots
We returned to Norfolk this morning and successfully completed our expedition! It is definitely bittersweet to be concluding our work at sea since our team aboard the Okeanos was comprised of such wonderful people. We grew to be really close and truly enjoyed each other’s company.
These past couple weeks at sea have been an incredible experience and I am excited to share what I have learned with the Peddie community. Being aboard the “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration” and mapping a region of the seafloor that has not been studied yet was a very exciting opportunity as both a scientist and educator. I plan on creating and teaching a Marine Science elective during the Spring of 2019. Data collected from the expedition will be utilizedto design classroom activities, laboratory experiments, and cross-curricularmaterials that directly relate to the research completed. Students will understand the importance of exploration and be encouraged to discover, inform, and educate others about the ocean. Since the Okeanos is equipped with telepresence capabilities, I will be able to stream seafloor images, ROV dives, and interviews from sea in my classroom. Having students directly engaged with those completing research in real time will enable them to make associationsbetween the ocean and their local ecosystems to put the research intocontext.
I really enjoyed meeting everyone aboard and listening to their stories. Since these vessels require 24/7 operations, many people worked very hard over the course of the expedition to ensure that everything was going as planned. The crew, stewards, engineers, NOAA Officers, scientists, and explorers in training were very willing to share their knowledge, insights, and experiences. I respect their dedication and flexibility while at sea and I am very grateful to have met such awesome people! This experience was definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career and I am very inspired to know that no matter where in the world the Okeanos is located, everyone aboard is committed to understanding the wonders of the unknown ocean.
Weather Data From the Front Porch Lat: 44°9.48’ Long: 94°1.02’
Wind 6 knots, 50°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: no seas!
Water temp: no precip to measure
Air Temp: 22°C Dry Bulb
Science and Technology Log
Hydrography matters. It allows mariners to travel safely. It allows many of the goods that arrive here in Minnesota to get here! Containers of goods arrive in Minnesota by truck and train from both coasts as well as the great lakes and by barge on the Mississippi river. Right here in Mankato, we often see shipping containers on trucks and trains. But I wonder if many people stop to consider what it takes to assure that the goods they desire arrive safely.
Shipping containers on a train
Shipping containers on a train
These trains carry containers that likely come from one of the coasts on a ship. The containers often transfer to semi trucks to go to their final destinations.
In Minnesota, it’s very common to see containers on trucks. The more I am aware, the more often I realize there are shipping containers all around. I wonder how many people stop to consider that trip that some of the containers here on trucks have taken. I would guess that many of them have traveled on the ocean and many across international waters.
Seafood matters. People enjoy Alaskan fish, even here in the Midwest. Fishing boats are successful in part due to safe navigation made possible by current charts. The ledges and shoals identified by the hydro scientists on Rainier keep mariners safe, and ultimately support the commerce that many enjoy around the world.
Navigation matters in many areas! All mariners in the US have free access to the latest navigational charts for inland and coastal waterways, thanks to the work of NOAA’s hydrographers aboard ships like Rainier. The updates we made in Alaska that are most pertinent to safety will be posted in a matter of weeks as “Notice to Mariners.” Here is an example. The general chart updates made by the team will be in the online charts within a year.
It’s been both exciting and rewarding to be a part of this work. I’ve developed a good understanding of the techniques and tools used in basic ocean hydrography. There are so many great applications of physics – and I’m excited to share with my students.
One of the key take-aways for me is the constant example of team work on the ship. Most everywhere I went, I witnessed people working together to support the mission. In the engineering department, for example, Ray, Sara, Tyler, and Mike have to communicate closely to keep the ship’s systems up and running. More often than not, they work in a loud environment where they can’t speak easily to each other. Yet they seem to know what each other needs – and have ways to signal each other what to do.
On the bridge, one way the teamwork is evident in the language used. There is a clearly established set of norms for how to control the ship. The conn gives commands. The helm repeats them back. The helm reports back when the command is completed. The conn then affirms this verbally. And after a while, it all seems pretty automatic. But this team work is really at the heart of getting the ship’s mission accomplished automatically.
The hydrographers aboard Rainer sure have to work together. They work in teams of three to collect data on the launches – and then bring that back to the ship to process. They need to understand each other’s notes and references to make accurate and complete charts from their observations. And when the charts are sent on to NOAA’s offices, they need to be clear. When running multibeam scanning, the hydrographer and the cox’n (boat driver) have to work very closely together to assure the launch travels in the right path to collect the needed data.
Even the stewards must be a team. They need to prepare meals and manage a kitchen for 44 people. And they do this for 17 days straight—no one wants to miss a meal! The planning that happens behind the scenes to keep everyone well fed is not a small task.
I look forward to sharing lots about my experiences. I have been asked to speak at a regional library to share my story and photos. I also will present at our state conference on science education this fall. And surely, my students will see many connections to the oceans! Kids need to understand the interconnectedness of our vast planet!
Finally, I’m very appreciative of NOAA both for the work that they do and for the opportunities they provide teachers like myself to be involved!
Mission: Rockfish recruitment and ecosystem assessment survey
Geographic Range: California Coast
Date: June 29, 2018
*Update from previous blog*
I mentioned in my previous blog that one of our scientists was analyzing water samples for sea turtle eDNA. Here is what she added about her research…
“Kirsten Harper, a postdoctoral researcher with NOAA/AOML, collected water to analyze for environmental DNA (eDNA). This is DNA that might be left in the air, soil, or water from feces, mucus, or even shed skin of an organism. In her case, she is trying to detect the diurnal vertical migration of fish species, such as sardine, using eDNA. Additionally, she is using eDNA to detect the presence of leatherback turtles. Very little is known about leatherback turtles in the open ocean, as they are difficult to find and survey. eDNA could help solve this problem!”
I officially left the Reuben Lasker on the morning of June 11, 2018 via small boat transfer. While I was looking forward to getting back to family my students, I realized I wasn’t quite ready to leave the ship and the work behind. I finally felt integrated into the team and the work, and that quick it was over. I definitely wanted to stay!
The small boat transfer was fun; it was the fastest speed I traveled in over a week. We also spotted dolphins on the way into shore. Once on land, I had the opportunity to meet with Emily Susko, Program Specialist for NOAA TAS. I had almost a full day to spend on land, and [I believe] Emily knew I had only been to California once before for a very short visit. She was an awesome host and decided to show me some really cool attractions that were more first-time experiences for me.
The first place we visited was the Henry Cowell State Park, a well-known location for exploring redwood forests. I am not sure I ever knew the difference between the coastal redwoods and the giant sequoia redwoods; I now understand the coastal redwoods are the smaller of the two species. Nonetheless, there were still the biggest trees I think I’ve ever seen. I also had the chance to test some of my birding skills. I do not know Pacific coast species as well, but some calls sound similar to east coast species, and I feel pretty confident in saying I heard and saw chestnut-backed chickadees, a species we do not have in Philly.
The second place we visited was Natural Bridges State Beach. This was another equally exciting experience for me because, again, it was so different. On the east coast, the land is pretty flat along the ocean. Therefore, our coast is lined with salt marshes (another one of my favorite places). Being able to see the rocky coasts in Santa Cruz was cool because it’s something I’ve only seen in pictures. When we teach beach ecology, we use this coast as an example because the ecological boundaries are so visually obvious, and I saw it for the first time in person. We explored some of the tidal pools, and they were teeming with little organisms. Now the next time I teach about them in class, I can use my own pictures!
Long story short, I had a blast! I am so genuinely grateful for the opportunity to participate in something like this. As someone who started out in Marine Biology, it is near and dear to my heart. I like to think I knew a few things coming in, but I learn so much during this trip. I learned about how much has changed since the last time I did this type of research, like the importance of being able to read and write programming language to analyze data. I personally enjoyed working with people whose work has the potential to impact the environment and people alike. I also learned a lot about how many people it takes to get the work done. It included every individual on the ship, no matter his or her role.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned from my cruise. I had some time off to catch up with home life, and then had to get back in the office and prepare for the summer. Since our program is an out-of-school program, we are running programs and opportunities year-round. I have a group of Seniors who completed the program, the current 9th-11th grade students move up a grade, and we have a brand-new group of rising 9th grade students beginning the WINS journey. Everyone, from family to colleagues to students, has been asking to hear about my experience. I have a few dates in place to present what I’ve learned and how they too can get involved. I am looking forward to the next stage of the process, writing the activities based on my experience.
I especially want to thank everyone from the Science Team, all of the NOAA Corps. Officers, and the crew of the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker. I truly enjoyed my time while aboard the ship, and appreciate that you all welcomed me and treated me with kindness. I hope this is not my only visit to the Reuben Lasker!
My last few days at sea were rather exciting. Wednesday, I got to attend some medical training necessary at sea in the morning, and then in the afternoon we practiced safety drills. The whole crew ran through what to do in the case of three different ship emergencies: Fire, Abandon Ship and Man Overboard. These drills were pretty life-like, they had a fog machine which they use to simulate smoke for the fire drill. Once the alarm was triggered people gather in their assigned areas; roll was taken, firemen and women suited up and headed to the location where smoke was detected, and from there teams are sent out to assess damage or spreading of the fire, while medical personnel stood prepared for any assistance needed. The abandon ship drill required all men and women on board to acquire their life preserver and full immersion suit, and head to their lifeboat loading locations. Roll is then taken and an appointed recorder jots down the last location of the ship. Once this is done, men and women would have deployed the life rafts and boarded (luckily we did not have to). And for the man overboard drill they threw their beloved mannequin Oscar overboard in a life vest and had everyone aboard practice getting in their look out positions. Once Oscar was spotted, they turned the ship around, deployed an emergency boat and had a rescue swimmer retrieve him.
These drills are necessary so that everyone on board knows what to do in these situations. While no one hopes these emergencies will happen, knowing what to do is incredibly important for everyone’s safety.
Thursday was maybe my favorite day on board. Due to the fact that there are a handful of new personnel on board, practice launching and recovering the survey launch boats was necessary. There are 4 launch boats on top of NOAA Ship Fairweather, each equipped with their own sonar equipment. These boats sit in cradles and can be lowered and raised from the sea using davits (recall the video from the “Safety First blog a few days ago). These four boats can be deployed in an area to allow for faster mapping of a region and to allow for shallower areas to be mapped, which the NOAA Ship Fairweather may not be able to access. Since this is a big operation, and one which is done frequently, practice is needed so everyone can do this safely and efficiently.
Launch boat on a davit
Davit lowering a launch boat
Ali Johnson inside one of the launch boats
With the aid of Ali Johnson as my line coach, I got to help launch and recover two of the survey launch boats from the davits on the top of the ship into the Bering Sea. This is an important job for all personnel to learn, as it is a key part of most survey missions. Learning line handling helps to make sure the survey launches are securely held close to the ship to prevent damage and to safely allow people on and off the launch boats as they are placed in the sea. From learning how to handle the bow and aft lines, to releasing and attaching the davit hooks, and throwing lines from the launches to the ship (which I do poorly with my left hand), all is done in a specific manner. While the practice was done for the new staff on board, it was fun to be involved for the day and I got to see the beauty of the NOAA Ship Fairweather from the Bering Sea.
And I truly enjoyed being on the small launch boats. I then understood what many of the officers mentioned when they told me they enjoyed the small boat work. It’s just fun!
Me on a launch boat, taken by AB Colin Hogan
NOAA Ship Fairweather from a launch
My trip ended in Nome, Alaska, which was in and of itself an experience. Students, you will see pictures later. I am extremely thankful for the crew on board NOAA Ship Fairweather, they are a wonderful mix of passionate, fun professionals. I learned so much!
Being a Teacher at Sea is a strange, yet wonderful experience. Being a teacher, I normally spend the vast majority of my day at work being in charge of my classroom and beautiful students; leading lesson and activities, checking-in with those who need extra help and setting up/tearing down labs all day, as well as hopefully getting some papers graded. However during this experience, I was the student, learning from others about their expertise, experience and passions, as well as their challenges; being in charge of nothing. And given that I had no prior knowledge of hydrography, other than its definition, I was increasingly impressed with the level of knowledge and enthusiasm those on board had for this type of work. It drove my interest and desire to learn all I could from the crew. In fact, I often thought those on board were older than they were, as they are wiser beyond their years in many area of science, technology, maritime studies, NOAA Ship Fairweather specifics and Alaskan wildlife.
NOAA offers teachers the opportunities to take part in different research done by their ships throughout the research season as a Teacher at Sea. The 3 main types of cruises offered to teachers include (taken from the NOAA Teacher at Sea website):
Fisheries research cruises perform biological and physical surveys to ensure sustainable fisheries and healthy marine habitats.
Oceanographic research cruises perform physical science studies to increase our understanding of the world’s oceans and climate.
Hydrographic survey cruises scan the coastal sea floor to locate submerged obstructions and navigational hazards for the creation and update of the nation’s nautical charts.
I was excited to be placed on a Hydrographic Survey boat, as this is an area in my curriculum I can develop with my students, and one which I think they are going to enjoy learning about!
While I was sad to leave, and half way through had a “I wish I would have known about this type of work when I was first looking at jobs” moment (which I realize was not the goal of this fellowship or of my schools for sending me), I am super excited to both teach my students about this important work and also be a representative of this awesome opportunity for teachers. I will wear my NOAA Teacher at Sea swag with pride!
Weather Data from the Bridge of the California-based whale watching boat Islander on 7/2/18 at 08:29
Latitude: 34° 13.557 N
Longitude: 119° 20.775 W
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft
Wind Speed: 5-10 knots
Wind Direction: NW
Visibility: 15 miles (seems a little off to me, but that is what I was told)
Air Temperature: 65° F (ish)
Water Temperature: not recorded
Barometric Pressure: not recorded
Sky: Grey and cloudy
Wow! What an incredible experience! When I was first accepted into this program I knew that it would be great and I knew that I was going to be working on research, but I feel like I ended up getting way more than I had expected. While filling out my application for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program we were given the opportunity indicate a preference for locations and types of research. I indicated that I would have been happy with any of them, but I was honestly hoping to be on a fisheries cruise, and my first choice of location was Alaska. That’s exactly what I got! I could not have picked a more perfect match for myself.
When I first received my specific cruise offer to join NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson it was pointed out to me that 23 days at sea was a LONG cruise, and I was a little bit worried about being at sea for that long when I had never even slept on a ship like that before. What I didn’t realize, was that the hardest part of this research cruise, would be leaving at the end of it. Saying goodbye to the scientists and friends that I had worked closely with for the past 3+ weeks was pretty tough.
The natural beauty of Alaska, and Unalaska specifically, is breathtaking. I kept saying that I can’t believe that places like that existed in the world and people weren’t tripping over themselves to live there. This is a part of Alaska that very few ever see. I loved getting to explore Dutch Harbor and see some of the beaches and do a little hiking while in port, and seeing the different islands and volcanoes while at sea. I also was incredibly excited to see all of the wildlife, especially the foxes, eagles, and of course, whales.
Video of a whale swimming and then diving in the distance.
From the moment that Sarah and Matthew picked me up from the airport, I knew that I was in great company. They immediately took me in and invited me to join the rest of the science team for dinner. Bonding happened quickly and I am so happy that I got to work with and learn each day from Denise, Sarah, Mike, Nate, Darin, Scott, and Matthew every single day. I looked forward to (and now miss) morning coffee chats, and dancing in the fish lab together. I have so many positive memories with each of them, but here are a few: sitting and reviewing and discussing my blogs with Denise, taking photos of a stuffed giraffe with Sarah, go pro fishing (scaring the fish) with Mike, watching Scott identify and solve problems, listening to Darin play the guitar, fishing with Nate on the Bridge, and exploring on land with Matthew. These are just a few of the things that I will remember and cherish about these wonderful people.
I know that it happens in all workplaces eventually, but it’s weird to think that the exact same group of people on the ship will never again be in the same place at the same time because of rotations and leave, and whatnot. I feel very grateful that I was on the ship when I was because I really enjoyed getting to know as many people on the ship as possible, and to have them teach me about what they do, and why they do it.
Not only did I learn about the Scientific work of the MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) team, I learned so much about the ship and how it functions from everyone else on the ship. Every single time that I asked someone a question or to explain how something works, I was always given the time for it to be answered in a way that was understandable, and meaningful. I learned about: charting and navigation (thanks Aras), ship controls (thanks Vanessa), The NOAA Corps (thanks CO and Sony), ship engines and winches (thanks Becca), fancy ship knots (thanks Jay), water data collected by the ship (thanks Phil)… I could go on and on.
After landing back in port in Dutch Harbor, I got off of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and turned and looked at it, and my perception of it had changed completely from the beginning of the cruise. It sounds totally cliché, but it wasn’t just a ship anymore, it was somewhere I had called home for a short time. As I looked at the outside of the ship I could identify the rooms behind each window and memories that I had in that space. It was surreal, and honestly pretty emotional for me. On the last day, once we got into port, my name tag was taken off of my stateroom door and it was replaced with the names of the new teachers heading to sea. It was sad to realize that I really was leaving and heading home. It’s weird to think that the ship will continue on without me being a part of it any longer.
A valuable part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program was me stepping back from being a teacher, and actually being reminded of what it feel like to be a learner again. I was reminded of the frustrations of not understanding things immediately, and also the exciting feeling of finally understanding something and then being able to show and explain it. I loved learning through inquiry and asking questions to lead to newer and better questions. These are the things that I am trying to implement more in my classroom.
While on the ship I was able to come up with 3 new hands on activities that I will be trying out in my classes this year. This is in addition to the one that is directly related to my research. The new labs that I have created will help me to focus my efforts and give my students the skills that they will benefit from in the future. I am also even more excited to go and pursue my Master’s Degree in the near future than I was before, even though I am more confused on what to go back to school for.
I love being able to participate in research in addition to teaching. I really feel like it makes me a better teacher in so many ways. It really reminds me what is important to try and teach my students. In the world of Google searches and immediate information, learning a bunch of facts is not as practical as learning skills like how to test out a question, collect data, and share knowledge learned. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I really hope that I am able to continue to find other research experiences for myself in the future. I would love to be able to further my research experiences with MACE by visiting them in Seattle, and I would be happy to hop back on the Oscar Dyson, or another NOAA ship, at any time (hint, hint, wink,wink). Thanks for the memories.
Video of TAS Lacee Sherman on the deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
[Transcript: Ok so right now it is 9 o’clock at night and the sun is still way up in the sky. It will not go down until like almost midnight. And that’s why they call it the midnight sun!]
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather April 29 – May 13, 2018
Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska
Date: May 19, 2018
Weather: It is SPRING in Wisconsin!
I got home this week from an absolutely amazing experience on NOAA Ship Fairweather! I arrived so excited to share what I have learned with students and other teachers alike! I went to school 30 minutes before the end of the day bell when I arrived. I felt like I was welcomed back like a hero! My students and the staff were happy to see me, and I was very happy to see them! I got lots of hugs and high fives. It was especially exciting to hear that the students had enjoyed and learned from my blog. They especially liked to learn what I had eaten!
I was able to share some pictures and stories this week as our year winds down. I have begun organizing my photos and have plans with the staff to give a presentations to all the 4-8 grade students in the fall. Ideas are flowing through me about how I will incorporate my new knowledge and experiences into my different curriculums. There is so much potential!
I have not stopped talking about my experience with people in and out of school. I love having so many experiences to share. The people of NOAA Ship Fairweather where so willing to teach me about hydrography and ship life. I have strong memories of people asking if I wanted to try doing something, or calling me over to explain something they were doing. I, of course, hopped in and tried everything I could! I got to drive the ship on my first morning! I also was able to drive the launches! (Thanks Colin!) I learned so much about being a hydrographer thanks to all the surveyors! What a wonderful group of people. I could thank everyone really, the deck crew, the engineers, the stewards, the NOAA Corps officers, and the great leadership of the XO and CO. I was able to learn from all of them. Everyone always made me feel like they had time to teach me how to do things, and to answer questions. It is exciting to be in a place with so many talented educators!
This is a trip that will influence how I approach my teaching and my everyday life. I will never forget the kindness and caring of NOAA Ship Fairweather personnel, or the beauty and splendor of SE Alaska!
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 7 Mph
Wind Direction: W
Air Temperature: 20 degrees C (68 degrees Fahrenheit)
Barometric Pressure: 29.81″ Steady
Sky: scattered clouds
And just like that, it’s over. I am back in Flagstaff and have finally stopped feeling the boat rocking while on solid ground. Students have been working on a shark project in my absence and we are finishing it up this week. My first day back was a day of show and tell. The students were excited and full of questions about my trip. As I presented to my students, I realized how much I learned and how much more I still want to know! Here are some pictures from Monday.
jaws of a blacktip shark
checking out the longline and gangions
blacknose jaws and sharpnose jaws
barb from a southern stingray
barb from southern stingray
red snapper otolith
As I reflect back on my adventure, I have many thoughts and wonder how the fourth and final leg is going. I think back to last year when I first learned I was selected to be on this adventure and how impossible it was to imagine that I was actually going to work with sharks. Then, as the date loomed closer, trying to best prepare for something that was a big unknown to me. And then I was at the dock looking at the Oregon II tied up for the weekend. I recall when I first reached the dock in the evening looking at the ship and thinking wow, pinch me, this is really happening. I remember being awed and out of my element those first few days just learning to navigate the ship. And then the first haul in! Now that was a rush as we pulled in not only small sharpnose sharks but larger sandbar sharks that needed to be cradled. It was unbelievable watching as the team worked and I was thrust into being a viable team member. After a week, it was a game I had to see if I could bait the hooks as fast as the veteran scientists. I automatically logged the fin clips and helped enter the data we had collected. Working on the ship became the new normal — knowing what to to do at each station’s deployment of the line and the haul back. I was feeling competent in my role. Even pulling in some sharks became routine…routine! Wow, had I come a long way. And then, just like that, I was on my last haul back and heading back into port.
Here are some of my favorite videos and photos from the adventure.
Below a time lapse of what a haul back at night looks like
Measuring a sandshark
And a video of my favorite shark- the great hammerhead being released out of the cradle.
And a baby hammy
So here I am, back in Flagstaff, reflecting back on my adventure. Did it really happen? I have pictures to prove it and stories I am sharing but it does seem like a lifetime ago that I was touching a shark and looking into the doe eyes of a ten foot hammerhead shark. The more I talk about what I have done, the more I realize how much I learned and how much more I still don’t know. The two weeks flew by but I am grateful for it. So for those of you out there reading this blog, make time for adventures, get out there and do it, follow your passion and immerse yourself. You might be surprised at what you can do!
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Latitude: 42.2917° N (Back home again!)
Longitude: 85.5872° W
Wind Speed: 6 mph
Air Temperature: 65 F
Weather Observations: Rainy
Here I am, three weeks deep in a new school year, and it’s hard to believe that less than a month ago I was spotting whales while on marine mammal watch and laughing at dolphins that were jumping in our wake. I feel like telling my students, “I had a really weird dream this summer where I was a marine biologist and did all kinds of crazy science stuff.”
If it was a dream, it certainly was a good one! Well, except for the part when I was seasick. That was a bit more of a nightmare, but let’s not talk about that again. It all turned out okay, right?
I didn’t know what to expect when signing on with the Teacher at Sea program, and I’m amazed at how much I learned in such a short period of time. First of all, I learned a lot about marine science. I learned how to differentiate between different types of jellyfish, I learned what a pyrosome is and why they’re so intriguing, I learned that phytoplankton are way cooler than I thought they were, and I can now spot a hake in any mess of fish (and dissect them faster than almost anyone reading this).
I also learned a lot about ship life. I learned how to ride an exercise bike while also rocking side to side. I learned that Joao makes the best salsa known to mankind. I learned that everything – everything – needs to be secured or it’s going to roll around at night and annoy you to pieces. I even learned how to walk down a hallway in rocky seas without bumping into walls like a pinball.
Well, okay. I never really mastered that one. But I learned the other things!
Beyond the science and life aboard a ship, I met some of the coolest people. Julia, our chief scientist, was a great example of what good leadership looks like. She challenged us, looked out for each of us, and always cheered us on. I’m excited to take what I learned from her back to the classroom. Tracie, our Harmful Algal Bloom specialist, taught me that even the most “boring” things are fascinating when someone is truly passionate about them (“boring” is in quotes because I can’t call phytoplankton boring anymore. And zooplankton? Whoa. That stuff is crazy).
Lance taught me that people are always surprising – his innovative ways for dissecting fish were far from what I expected. Also, Tim owns alpacas. I didn’t see that one coming. It’s the surprising parts of people that make them so fun, and it’s probably why our team worked so well together on this voyage.
I can’t wait to bring all of this back to my classroom, specifically to my math class. My students have already been asking me lots of questions about my life at sea, and I’m excited to take them on my “virtual voyage.” This is going to be a unit in my eighth and ninth grade math classes where I show them different ways math was used aboard the ship. I’ll have pictures and accompanying story problems for the students to figure out. They’ll try to get the same calculations that the professionals did, and then we’ll compare data. For example, did you know that the NOAA Corps officers still use an old-fashioned compass and protractor to track our locations while at sea? They obviously have computerized methods as well, but the paper-and-pencil methods serve as a backup in case one was ever needed. My students will have fun using these on maps of my locations.
They’ll also get a chance to use some of the data the scientists took, and they’ll see if they draw the same conclusions the NOAA scientists did. A few of our team were measuring pyrosomes, so I’ll have my students look at some pyrosome data and see if they get the correct average size of the pyrosome sample we collected. We’ll discuss the implications of what would happen if scientists got their math wrong while processing data.
I am so excited to bring lots of real-life examples to my math classroom. As I always tell my students, “Math and science are married.” I hope that these math units will not only strengthen my students’ math skills, but will spark an interest in science as well.
This was an amazing opportunity that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am so thankful to NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program for providing this for me and for teachers around the country. My students will certainly benefit, and I have already benefited personally in multiple ways. To any teachers reading this who are considering applying for this program – DO IT. You won’t regret it.
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean Date: June 20, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge Latitude: 41 18.06 N
Longitude: 68 42.35
Wind Speed: 20.3 knots
Air Temperature: 15.3 C
Science and Technology Log
I’ve had a lot of people ask “So what is the purpose of this trip?” I thought it would be fitting to answer that question in this last blog from sea. I’ve explained the process of collecting the data out here at sea. I’ve explained the technology and methods we’ve used to collect it. But the logical question now is, what happens once this data has been collected?
I’ve had the pleasure serving on the second half of this trip with NOAA Mathematical Biologist, Dvora Hart. Dvora is the lead scientist for the scallop fishery. She is well known in the New England area for her work with scallop fisheries. To many of you in the Midwest, scallops may not seem like a big deal, but did you know that scallops are the second largest commercial fishery market in America? In 2016 scallops were a 485 million dollar industry. They are second only to the lobster market in terms of commercial fisheries value.
NOAA has been completing scallop surveys with lined dredges since 1978. The methods have changed over the years as the technology and research methods have advanced, and these methods have yielded success. However the scallop fisheries have not always been as plentiful as they are now. In 1994 several measures were put in place to help a struggling scallop fishery. The changes were larger dredge rings so smaller scallops would pass through, less crew members on board a vessel, and sections of one of the most productive fisheries in the Atlantic, Georges Bank, would be closed for portions of time to scallop fishermen.
These kind of changes come from a Regional Fisheries Management Council. This council has appointed members from the governors of the New England states involved, head of NOAA Greater Atlantic Fisheries gets a seat, and then 3 more members from each state are nominated. The end result is 19 members who make up this council to decide how to best run a variety of commercial marine organisms in the Northeast Atlantic. There is also a technical committee, which advises this council. This is where Dvora Hart and the data from the scallop survey come in.
The scallop survey, which started May 16th, has been meticulously planned out by NOAA Fisheries. The area where the scallop survey has been preformed has been broken up into regions called strata. These strata areas are determined by their depth and their general geographical area. Once scallops are collected in a strata, a weighted mean, a size frequency, shell heights, and a mean number of scallops of each size category are taken. From the meat weights that were collected, a total biomass of scallops for the area is taken. There is a relationship between the meat weight and the shell height which gives researches an idea of the total biomass of scallops in the area. At any given depth there is a conversion of shell height to meat weight. These numbers can be plugged into software which can model the biomass for an area.
All of the data collected during the NOAA scallop survey is combined with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) scallop survey. Dvora and the NOAA scientists created forecasting models for 19 different areas in the Northeast Atlantic. Forecasts are made using the predicted biomass for the strata areas, by aging the samples of scallop shells collected, fishing mortality (amount of caught by fishermen), and natural mortality rates. Models are then created to forecast 15 years out to predict the consequences of fishing an area heavy. Dvora is part of a technical team that advises the Regional Fisheries Management Council using the data collected in this survey and the models her and her team have created. Scallop fisheries are very healthy currently due to the data collected, data interpreted, and models created by NOAA scientists, commercial fishermen, and Regional Fisheries Management Council.
Personal Log These 16 days have been quite an experience. I’d like to share just 5 of the more memorable moments from this trip.
5. Amazing sites of nature. What a unique experience to be out only surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean for over two weeks. I’ve seen so many awe inspiring moments. Sun rises, sun sets, full moons over the ocean in a clear sky, rainbows that span the horizon, thousands of stars in the sky, and thick ominous fog which lasts for 24 hours. Truly once in a life time sights.
Only caught one sun rise, but it was beautiful.
Most nights there was an amazing sun set.
Huge rainbow after a storm.
Picture doesn’t do the full moon nights on the ship.
4. The 12 hour shifts. Whether it was running the Habcam and joking around with the crew while we watched computer screens for 12 hours or working the dredge station in all kinds of conditions, the work was fun. Being out on the deck working the dredge was my favorite type of work. To be out in the open air was awesome regardless of how hard the work was. The last day the waters were crazy as we worked on the deck.
I was able to be the “cutter” in the lab and shuck the scallops to be prepared for weighing and preserving.
I was given the ability to “start and event” and communicate with the crane workers running the dredge.
3. The awesome animals that came up in the dredge. Too many pictures to post here, but my favorite animal was the goosefish. That fish looked like it wanted to take a bite out of your arm even if it was out of water. Such an awesome animal.
2. The awesome animals that would come near the boat. Crew members saw whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish, and mola mola. Though my favorite was my first day out when the humpback whales surrounded the boat, the dolphins riding by the boat is was a close second.
1. General life about the Hugh R. Sharp. What a great group of people to be with for 16 days. I felt accepted and looked out for the whole time I was here. Mike Saminsky dropping what he was doing the first day I got to the ship to show me around and grab some dinner, TR sharing his hidden stash of snacks with me, a variety of crew members trying to help me through my sea sickness, and every body on the cruise allowing me to ask questions and interview them. Just the general down time and laughs had will be very memorable.
Thank you to the people of NOAA, the Hugh R. Sharp, my wife and kids (Hannah you are amazing for shouldering the extra load at home!), and family, friends, and students that followed the blog at home. This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I’m grateful to all of you who made it possible. Specific thanks to my work crew chief Nicole Charriere who was an awesome leader during this cruise. I learned a lot about how to lead a group watching her. Thank you to Larry Brady and Jonathan Duquette the Chief scientists for this cruise. Their organization and decision making made this a smooth experience for me. Thank you to Katie Sowers, Emily Susko, Jennifer Hammond, and Huthaifah Khatatbeh for help with the trip arrangements and all of my blog questions, you all made this experience much easier.
Did You Know?
I will travel over 1,000 miles to go home today. Yes that’s crazy to me. But I have traveled over 1,000 nautical miles on the Hugh R. Sharp since this cruise has began.
I am back settled into the crazy weather that is spring in Arkansas. Supposed to be 90 degrees today and then storms tomorrow.
Science and Technology Log
The second leg of the Oregon II’s experimental longline survey is now complete. The ship and all the crew are safely back in the harbor. Fourteen days at sea allows for a lot of data to be gathered by the science crew.
Now, an obvious question would be what do they do with all the data and the samples that were collected? The largest thing from this experimental survey is looking at catch data and the different bait types that were used to see if there were differences in the species caught/numbers caught etc. They are also able to look at species compositions during a different time frame than the annual survey and different depth ranges with the much deeper sets. Fin clips were taken from certain species of sharks. Each fin clip can be tied to a specific shark that was also tagged. If anyone ever wanted or needed to they could trace that fin clip back to the specific shark, the latitude and longitude of where it was taken, and the conditions found in the water column on that day. Everything the scientists do is geared towards collecting data and providing as many details as possible for the big picture.
Occasionally sharks are captured and do not survive, but even these instances provide an opportunity to sample things like vertebrae for ageing studies or to look at reproductive stages. Science is always at work. With the ultrasound machine on board we were able to use it on a couple of the sharpnose sharks and determine if they were pregnant .
Parasites… did you know sharks and fish can have parasites on them? Yes, they do and we caught a few on this leg. Sharks or fish caught with parasites were sampled to pass along to other researchers to use for identification purposes. Kristin showed me evidence of a skin parasite on several of the small sharks. It looked like an Etch-A-Sketch drawing.
Red snapper were also sampled at times on the survey to look deeper into their life history and ecology. Muscle tissue was collected to look at ecotoxicity within the fish (what it has been exposed to throughout out its lifetime); along with otoliths to estimate age. We are using muscle tissue to examine carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur. Each element looks into where that fish lives within the food web. For instance, carbon can help provide information about the basal primary producers, nitrogen can help to estimate the trophic level of the fish within the ecosystem, and sulfur can try to determine if the fish feeds on benthic or pelagic organisms. Otoliths are the ear bones of the fish. There are three different types of ear bones; however, sagittal ear bones (the largest of the three) will be sectioned through the core and read like a tree. Each ring is presumed to represent one year of growth.
Now that I am home and settled I still had a few things to share. One it was great to get home to my family, but as I was warned by the science crew it does take a couple of days to adjust to the usual schedule. It did feel good to go for a jog around town instead of having to face the Jacob’s Ladder again!
Everyone asks me if I had a good time, if it was scary, if we caught any sharks. I just don’t think there are words to express what an amazing experience this was for me. Of course, seeing the sharks up close was just beyond words, but it was also being made a part of a working science team that are working year-round to monitor the health of the ocean and the species that live there. For me this was a two-week section of my life where I got to live on the ocean and catch sharks while learning a little about the data the science crew collects and how they use it. The science crew will all be back out on the ocean on different legs over the next few months.
I confess I am not super hi tech, so I am not proficient with a Gopro so I probably missed out on making the best films. However, I did get some excellent photos and some good photos of some impressive sharks. Thanks to technology I will be able to create slide shows to my K-12 students so they can see the experience through my eyes. I am looking forward to showing these slide shows to my students. My elementary students were so excited to have me back that they made me feel like a celebrity. I was gone a little over two weeks and to my younger students it seemed forever. Many of the teachers shared some of my trip with the students so they would know where I was and what I was doing.
I am settled back into my regular schedule at school. One awesome thing about my job is that I deal with students from kindergarten through seniors. I started back with my elementary students yesterday. Let me just say that young people can make you feel like a Rockstar when you have been gone for 15 days. I knocked on a classroom door and could hear the students yelling “ she’s here! Mrs. Grady is here!” and then there were the hugs. Young kids are so genuine and they have an excitement and love of learning. I have to get busy on my power point to share with them. They wanted a list of sharks we caught, how big they were, etc. I am getting exactly what I hoped, the students want to understand what I did on the ship, why we did these things and what did I actually learn.
For my last blog, I have decided to share some of my favorite photos from my time on the Oregon II.
We arrived in Nuku Hiva with a bright sun beginning to set behind a band of gorgeous clouds. There was an air of excitement flowing through the group as land came into view. Because it’s customary to raise the flag of the country that you’re visiting, Steve, the ablebodied seaman and the XO, Doug, raised the French flag before arriving in port. We had a morning all hands (all on board) meeting to collect passports and explain procedures for docking. I spent most of the afternoon answering emails and working on lesson plans, two things I hadn’t had time to do this week because of the daily broadcasts that we completed. I also packed my books and clothes and began taking more pictures of all the spaces and people I hoped to remember on the ship. Aaaahhhh, I had such mixed feelings about leaving. We slowly made our way into the middle of Taihoae Bay, anchored, and raised a round black flag on the front mast designating that the ship is anchored. As we were waiting to hear from the gendarmerie, Nemo spotted three manta rays off the port side of the bow. They sailed through the water with kite-like bodies. Rain began to fall and we were finally told that we could take the RHIB to shore and that our passports would be stamped the next morning. A group of us decided to visit one of few local restaurants, a place that serves pizza, and we all enjoyed an evening together on land. Many people said that they still felt the rocking of the ship, even though we were on land, but I felt firmly planted. Don Shea and I felt so good that we decided to run back to the pier after dinner. Oh, what a feeling to run on solid ground!
Day 21: Saturday, August 31
I awoke early on the ship to depart on the 7:00 AM boat taxi to town. We wanted to make sure that we received the appropriate departure paperwork so we wouldn’t have a challenging time leaving French Polynesia in four days. With all paperwork complete a group of us walked along the one main road in the small fishing village to the bungalows at Pearl Lodge where John Kermond and I would stay. Wow, what a wonderful place! It overlooked the bay and had a beautiful (very small) pool with a pretty patio. I filled out the necessary paperwork for my room, but it wasn’t quite ready so I decided to return to the ship to gather my luggage. After a final goodbye to the KA (or so I thought), John and I returned to the Pearl Lodge, found our rooms, and were able to unpack and settle in for two nights. The Captain led a group hike over the mountain behind the lodge to beautiful Colette Bay where we swam in the waves and imagined that we were part of the Survivor series. We then scaled the volcanic cliffs to the end of the peninsula where a group of people were fishing for barracuda. Upon return to the hotel, I showered and decided to return to the KA one last time to check and reply to emails from my students. The ship was quiet because almost everyone was cherishing the last moments on shore before ship departure the next morning. I walked around the ship and a real feeling of sadness came over me. I was very surprised at my response to bidding farewell to this ship and the people I’d learned so much from during the last two weeks. I could really get used to life at sea. With a wave to the XO and Fred Bruns on the ship deck, I hopped back onto the boat taxi around 9:00 PM, was whisked away into the night air, and then returned to the bungalows for a much needed rest.
Day 22: Sunday, September 1
Nuku Hiva is predominantly Catholic and so the 8:00 AM Catholic service in town was the place to be on Sunday morning. The entire town was there. The church was absolutely beautiful and the music lifted the roof (as John said) off the building. The service was in both French and Tahitian, but very traditional and so easy to follow. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE sang the songs and that made it very powerful. After the Mass, we walked back to the bungalows to film the ship’s departure, however, it didn’t leave until nearly noon and so we waited for 2 hours on the hotel’s patio while the weather changed from hot and sunny to a torrential downpour with strong winds. After its departure we were then invited to take an afternoon jeep tour to the Typeevai, the valley where Herman Melville wrote his book Typee. We hiked to a ceremonial site with 11 Tikis carved in 1200 AD from the volcanic rock of the island – beautiful! It poured on us and our guide broke off a huge banana leaf that we used as an umbrella. I managed to receive about forty mosquito bites on my legs and arms and our guide picked a lime, cut it open, and applied it to the bites to relieve the itch – marvelous. What a gorgeous island.
Day 23: Monday, September 2
After a few hours making final arrangements for our flights and filming the last shots of Taihoae, we departed by four-wheel drive Land Rover later in the morning for a two-hour exciting trip to the airport northwest across the mountains and valleys of the remote, rugged island of Nuku Hiva. In the pouring rain the trip was treacherous. At times, the mud was up to the top of the tires and, although we had a difficult time seeing through the fog, we could tell there were steep cliffs on one side. Our driver had clearly made this trip before. We arrived safely and waited for our 3-hour flight to Papeete, Tahiti. We flew over atolls and through beautiful trade wind clouds.
Day 24: Tuesday, September 3
This was our only day in Tahiti. We awoke early and called Meteo France to see if we could have a tour of the weather station at the airport. We were trying to discover where the meteorological readings had been taken for the 100+ years of data recorded and now used to determine the Southern Oscillation Index. After a challenging conversation half in French, half in English, we were finally able to ask the necessary questions and receive a historical summary of the station. We were given a tour of the airport’s weather station and pamphlets to provide to my classes. John filmed the entire meeting. I was especially excited about this side trip because I’d always wanted to visit this specific weather station. Next on my list is Darwin, Australia, the sister site to the Tahiti station – maybe in a few years.
This experience has been like no other for me. I am so grateful to Dr. John Kermond, Jennifer Hammond, Rear Admiral Evelyn Fields, NOAA, NSF, Shippensburg University and all those responsible for my incredible journey. I will use the information that I learned on this trip in my classes, but more importantly, I hope to share the excitement and wonder of science with my students and my teaching colleagues so that they can understand the importance of conducting scientific research to discover more about our world and ourselves. Thank you to all!
Signing off for now, but I hope to hear from you again at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best wishes, Diane