NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 8-28, 2017
Mission: MACE Pollock Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 21, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54 38.9 N
Longitude: 161 39.2 W
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 185
Wind Speed: 9 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell
Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars
Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C
Air Temperature: 7.0°C
Science and Technology Log
Every morning when I come to start my shift, the scientists on the previous shift are in the middle of doing “DropCam’s.” The DropCam is a camera that drops down to the ocean floor and takes pictures of what is going on down there. We have been getting some amazing pictures from the DropCam. The camera goes down about 150 meters (depending on the depth of the ocean floor). Sometimes, the ocean is very sandy and has very little (that we can see) activity going on. Other times, the video feed is full of fish and other marine life. We have seen so much diversity on the ocean floor.
Since being on the Oscar Dyson, we now have seen two octopuses on the boat (well, one was on the DropCam); one was in the juvenile stage and one in the adult stage of life. I’d like to take a moment to talk about how amazing an octopus is. First of all, let’s talk about how they can change color to match their surroundings. They use special pigment cells in their skin to change colors. They have the ability to even blend into patterned rocks and corrals. When we caught the baby octopus, we saw it change its color to white to blend into the white cup we were holding it in.
An octopus can fit through spaces as small as the size of its beak (photo credit: factsandideas.com).
They are considered to be very intelligent animals. They have been known to be able to open jars, escape from enclosures, solve mazes, and squirt water at targets. They have the ability to squeeze through things that are as small as the size of their beaks. In aquariums, they have also been known to mimic (and actually learn from) other octopuses.
Even though they can get up to be 16 feet long and weigh up to 110 pounds, they only live to be about 4 years old. That is a very short lifespan. After the females lay their eggs (they lay about 100,00 eggs), they brood over them for many months. During this time, they often do not eat. She protects her eggs for 6-7 months, and then she dies shortly after they are born.
When they are looking over their eggs they do eat, they primarily eat shrimp, fish, clams, and lobsters. They have a beak-like mouth that they can use to puncture and tear fish. They have also been known to eat sharks and birds. During the first 3 months of their lives, they eat plankton. Plankton are small and microscopic organisms that drift or float in the sea. They consist of diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals.
After the last DropCam is retrieved, a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) is usually deployed, which collects data from various depths of the oceans. The primary function of the CTD is to measure the conductivity and temperature of the water column at various depths. Conductivity is related to the salinity, or saltiness, of the water. Studying the salinity of the water is a very critical part of studying the ocean, which is made up of salt water. The conductivity, along the temperature and depth, provide scientists with profiles of various parts of the ocean.
The CTD is attached to a larger frame called a rosette. This holds various water-sampling bottles and other sensors that measure the physical and chemical properties of the water at various depths. With this information, scientists can make inferences about changes that they may be seeing in the data and this can give them a better understanding about the oceans. The data collected daily from the CTD is analyzed by Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the end of the survey.
Things on the boat are definitely becoming more routine. We continue to work in 12-hour shifts (mine starting at 4 am). The days consist of getting up, having coffee and a bagel, coming down to the Chem Lab to relieve the night shift, where we take over doing DropCams. After our DropCams, we get to watch the sunrise or other spectacular views.
We then will go up for breakfast at 7. I have really been enjoying having someone else (Lenette and Kimrie) not only make meals for me every day, but also do my dishes. What a luxury! After breakfast, we’ll “go fishing” and suit up to analyze the catch. (I’ll go into details about in the next blog) and then we’ll go have lunch. After lunch, we brainstorm the plans for the afternoon and take care of small projects. Before we know it, 4 pm rolls around and the next crew starts their shift.
Chief Scientist, Darin Jones, shows me how to conduct a trawl.
I make it to dinner at 5, and then I slowly make my way back to the stateroom. If it is nice out, I will go up to the bridge to look for marine animals or walk around looking at the amazing landscape. I find myself extremely tired around 7 and get ready for bed. I am usually asleep by 8. It’s “good night” and sweet dreams for me!
Despite the occasional wind, the views are breathtaking.
Did You Know?
The oldest octopus fossil is from an animal that lived 296 million years ago — millions of years before the dinosaurs lived.
Question for my class:
What is the name of this weather instrument?
This year we learned about various tools to help measure weather. I saw this on the bridge of the ship. It measures the speed and direction of the wind. Do you remember what it is called?
answer: A ___ ___ M ___ ___ E ___ ___ R
Interview with Darin Jones
Darin analyzes backscatter from a recent transect.
What role do you play on this survey?
I am the Field Party Chief which means that I am the member of the science party that is responsible for making sure as much of our original objective gets completed as possible and I also serve as the main contact between the officers that operate the ship and the science party when important decisions or changes in the plan occur.
What inspired you to pursue this as a career?
I was a contract observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service following college and dreamed about one day working directly for them. I thought that would be an awesome career and I feel lucky to have had my dreams realized.
How long have you been working in this field?
I have been in my current position for 10 years but have been in the marine biology field for the last 25 years.
What sort of training/education did you receive?
I got my Undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Fisheries Resources. I was also an observer aboard commercial fishing vessels for 5 years which provided invaluable sea going experience and knowledge.
Are fisheries something that more people need to know about? Why?
I think fisheries and the health of the oceans is something that people should know more about because they are vital to life on land and important indicators of the status and health of our climate and planet. The oceans are the heart of the earth and drive many other processes.
What interests you most about the data collected on this survey?
The data that we collect is directly used to sustainably manage the pollock fishery so I am proud to contribute to that. It’s neat to be able to track a fish population as it grows through the years and watch how many survive from one year to the next. We are also collecting interesting data on the percentage of certain rockfish species in different types of habitat that can be used to help determine the abundance of those species.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my job is being away from my family for long periods of time. Another challenging aspect is the time management of planning and executing the survey objectives in a finite amount of time. Plans have to be constantly monitored and adjusted depending on weather, equipment malfunction, and other unexpected circumstances. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am contributing to the scientific knowledge that is helping to sustainably manage fisheries.
What words of advice do you have for my students if they want to pursue a career is biology or the sciences?
Math skills are a very important part of biology and the sciences so learn as much as you can. Also getting experiences in fields that you are interested in is very important so volunteer with organizations that interest you and unexpected opportunities will open up.
What is your favorite marine animal?
I think my favorite marine animal is the Pacific viperfish. It is a creature from the deep and has very long teeth and looks very ferocious, however they only grow to a maximum of about a foot long, but I’ve only seen specimens that were about 2 inches long. It amazes me how creatures can survive in the dark depths and immense pressures of the deep ocean.
The Pacific viperfish can be found 200-5,000 feet below the ocean surface. (photo credit: Earthguide & Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
Do you have anything else that you would like to add or share?
Do your homework and get all the extra credit that you can, kid!