Allison Irwin: The Journey Extends, August 15, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7 – 25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Embarkation Port: Newport, Oregon

Cruise Start Date: 7 July 2019

Days at Sea: 19

Conclusion

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge Just After Sunrise

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.

  • Sea Lions at Pier 39
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • San Francisco Bay Trail

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.

Erica Marlaine: Last Boat Not Least, July 19, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 17, 2019


Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 19, 2019

Weather Data from Woodland Hills, California:

Latitude: 34º 16.54 N
Longitude: 118º 60.90 W
Wind Speed: 5 km/hr
Air Temperature:  33º Celsius
Pool Temperature 29º Celsius


Conclusion

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.

Some favorite memories:

Ashley Cosme: The Ocean Stirs the Heart, November 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ashley Cosme

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 31 – September 14, 2018

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: November 8th, 2018

 

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.

Robert Wyland

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.

Two students hold shark jaws

Students checking out a few samples that I brought back from my Teacher at Sea exploration.

 

Ocean Adventure Camp

My co-teacher, Ashley Henderson (8 months pregnant), and me on our last day of Ocean Adventure Camp 2018.

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.

 

 

Ocean Adventure Camp 2018

A group of kids from my community at Ocean Adventure Camp 2018. This is my passion!

Meredith Salmon: An Incredible Adventure! July 31, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 31, 2018

Latitude: 36.85°N

Longitude: 76.28°W

Air Temperature: 28°C

Wind Speed:  4.2 knots

Conditions: Cloudy

Personal Log 

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.

 

Norfolk

Returning to Norfolk!

norfolk 1

Headed under the draw bridge on our way to the shipyard.

 

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 utilized to design classroom activities, laboratory experiments, and cross-curricular materials 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 associations between the ocean and their local ecosystems to put the research into context.

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.

Okeanos MAPPING TEAM!

The Okeanos Explorer Mapping Team

norfolk 3

Some of the Mapping Team navigating the shipyard!

Okeanos at Norfolk

This photo of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was snapped by the mother of one of the Senior Survey Techs! She was waiting for us to arrive the morning of the 31st and got this shot on the drawbridge!

 

Okeanos inbound Norfolk

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer inbound to Norfolk, VA. [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN] [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN]

Eric Koser: Concluding Matters, July 17, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22-July 9, 2018

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 17, 2018: 900 HRS

 

Weather Data From the Front Porch
Lat: 44°9.48’          Long: 94°1.02’
Skies: Clear
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.

 

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.

Intermodal Truck

Shipping containers like this one are very common on Minnesota roadways and railways!

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.

 

 

 

Intermodal Truck

Many carriers distribute merchandise via the intermodal system.

 

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.

Salmon isn't native to Minnesota!

This looks like a tasty ocean treat!

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.

Hydro Team

Here the hydrographers work together with the cox’n to assure our launch captures the needed data.

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.

Ocean Sunset

Sunset on the ocean is an occasion in itself! Its easy to be captivated by such beauty at sea!

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!

Teacher at Sea

This Teacher at Sea has had a great experience!

 

Kimberly Godfrey: Back in Philly… June 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

 

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.

Redwood Tree cookie

Kimberly Godfrey TAS 2018 with Emily Susko visiting Henry Cowell State Park.

Coastal Redwood

Coastal redwood tree in Henry Cowell State Park

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!

Tide Pool

Tide pool from Natural Bridges State Beach. I cannot wait to use these pictures in class in the Spring!

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!

Victoria Obenchain: Launching Boats, July 9, 2018

Teacher at Sea Blog

Victoria Obenchain

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 25 – July 6, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest, Alaska

Date: July 9, 2018

Science and Technology Log

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.

Fast Rescue Boat

Deployed emergency boat for rescue of the beloved mannequin, Oscar.

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.

 

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!

 

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!

Personal Log

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.

Crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather

Crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather

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!

Teacher at Sea gear!

Me in my awesome Teacher at Sea gear!