Lollie Garay, May 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

The camera is attached to the dredge

The camera is attached to the dredge

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Scattered showers, thunderstorms
Temp: 9.28˚ C
True wind: 13.4 KT

Science and Technology Log 

Today a video camera was attached to the dredge.  Using the camera they are able to see when the dredge is actually on the ground to determine the amount of bottom contact.  It is important to verify sensors like these anytime you work in science. The inclinometer records angle changes that we can interpret into a time on bottom which can be used to calculate a tow distance or bottom contact. This is compared to the tow distance calculated from the GPS recorded by FSCS.   Unfortunately, the inclinometer angle change is not abrupt enough to determine the start time, so the camera is used to determine the amount of time before we start recording tow distance with FSCS.

Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!

Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!

We have two days of sampling left and then we begin to clean and pack. The first dredge today brought up so many sand dollars that they had to shovel some away before they could even secure the dredge! By late afternoon we were back into starfish; in all the dredges the scallop count was comparatively small.

Personal Log 

Around 4PM the skies cleared and we had sunshine again! It was a welcome sight after days of fog, cloud cover, and cold. That, along with calmer seas, made for a great day. Sitting on deck in the warmth of the Sun watching the wave action, I reflect all the different moods of the sea I have seen. I also think about all the wondrous animals I have seen; and wonder about how much more life there is that we didn’t see.

Lollie and a heap of Sand dollars!

Lollie and a heap of sand dollars!

Lollie Garay, May 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 17, 2009

It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!

It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!

Weather Date from the Bridge 
Showers/scattered thunderstorms
Temp: 12.2˚C
Winds: 11.1KT
Seas: 5-8 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We have completed 138 stations and are halfway through today’s shift. Our transit today will take us to the closest we’ve been to the coast. Having said that, we are still about 40 miles offshore. The weather today has been better than we expected. Seas are still choppy, and the air is very cool.

Captain Jimmy Warrington

Captain Jimmy Warrington

Working out on deck requires us to bundle up. The fog has lifted after cutting visibility down to 100 ft yesterday! The captain said that he had three different computers going at the same time to insure safe navigation. This led to a conversation about how technology has changed on ships. Captain Warrington said in the old days all they used were 2 radars, a stopwatch, and “dead reckoning” where they lay out a line of travel (their course) on paper. As you can see from my past conversations about the science night crewmembers, people come from all walks of life to work in NOAA’s Fisheries Service. I have not written about the science day crew because the other Teacher At Sea, Elise Olivieri is working with them. Check out her logs to see what’s happening on her shift! And what about the ship’s crew?

First Mate Chris Bogan

First Mate Chris Bogan

We have Vessel Master James Warrington (the Captain). He has been with the University of Delaware for 25 years, and a Captain for 18 years. He started out as an engineer and decided he would like it better on the bridge! He has to go through re-certification periodically to maintain his license. I asked him what his most interesting assignment of all time was and he said it was working at the Bermuda Biological Station. Chris Bogan has been a Vessel Master since 1983 and is the First Mate on this cruise. He told me that 90% of his family had been sea captains, on both sides of his family!

Cook Paul Gomez

Cook Paul Gomez

One of the most important crewmembers on board is Paul Gomez, the cook! Paul is originally from Ecuador. His family lives in New York, but Paul, his wife and children live in Delaware. Paul has worked with the University of Delaware for 5 years and stays out at sea most of the year. He has been out at sea for 165 days already this year. Paul says he really enjoys his work because of all the people he meets.  You can ask anyone on this cruise and they will tell you that he is a fabulous chef! And he is always smiling.

Personal Log 

Lollie in Foul Weather Gear

Lollie in Foul Weather Gear

We had a lot of smiles this evening. We are within satellite range that has brought our cell phones back to life, at least for awhile. We are just off the coast of Manhattan, so everyone got busy with a call home. We also got a glimpse of city lights off in the distance. As I was getting into my foul weather gear again tonight, I started thinking about how many times this has happened this week. We have averaged 9 stations per day on our shift and have been working for 9 days so far, which means that I have put on this gear 81 times. This may sound trivial to you, but it’s one of those little details that help you laugh as you near the end of another long 12 hour shift!

New animals Seen Today 

An interesting little crab (Parchment worm Polyonyx) that makes its home in Parchment Worm tubes.

Lollie Garay, May 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!

Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 14.11 C
True wind: 11KT
Seas: 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Our day begins with calmer seas and some sunshine, the fog lingers, draped softly over the sea. We are making good progress in the number of stations sampled. However, there is word that a storm may be approaching on Sunday. We expect to be closer to the coastline by then, so perhaps we won’t feel the full brunt of the weather system. Wave action will determine if the dredge is deployed or not.

Looking through a Windowpane fish!

Looking through a Windowpane fish!

By late afternoon through tonight the winds have picked up again. Waves are pounding the ship as we move between stations. We’ve had some interesting catches today, mostly sand dollars with few scallops. But this evening we pulled up a large boulder! Then we had a catch with no scallops at all. Another dredge brought up a Windowpane flounder also known as daylight. If you hold it up to the light, you can see right through it! Another interesting specimen is the black rectangular egg sac of a Skate. You can see the embryo of the fish inside when you hold it up to the light as well. You just never know what‘s going to come up in the net. Yesterday I was talking about the green slimy secretion from sand dollars. Today Shad was telling me about Horseshoe Crabs. Turns out they have blue blood, the result of using copper to oxidize their blood instead of oxygen like we do!

Personal Log 

Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?

Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?

In the few minutes that we have between stations, it‘s not unusual to hear the crew talking about their families and loved ones. Anecdotes shared accentuate the human factor in this service. Especially late in the shift, it’s fun to exchange stories about home. I’m back in my cabin ready to call it a night. As I lay in my bunk I feel the ship fighting against the waves. A funny thought occurred to me: the cabins are below the water! We’ve been sleeping “in the sea”!

New animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth fish Liparid (sea snail)

A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.

A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.

Lollie Garay, May 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚C
True wind: 4.1 KT
Seas: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?

See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?

We’ve been at sea for seven days now and the daily sampling continues. Winds are not as strong as yesterday and we’re all glad. Skies are overcast and a thick fog surrounds us. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred today. By the time our shift ended we had completed 9 sampling stations. The majority of the dredges brought up were full of sand dollars. Lots of sand dollars mean slimy green secretions all over everything! Live sand dollars have a felt-like coating of fine spines. They shuffle through loose sand and feed on diatoms and microorganisms. Flounders and other bottom fishes feed on them. Their color is highly soluble and stains.

Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.

Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.

I’ll continue my conversations about my day shift crew. Larry Brady is a Biological Science Technician with the NOAA Fisheries Service. A former business manager with McGraw-Hill, he began volunteering with the Northeast Region Fisheries Services Sandy Hooks Lab in New Jersey. He found he really enjoyed what he did. One thing led to another and he has now been with the NOAA fisheries for 9 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the FSCS hardware and auditing data.

Dr. Shayla D. Williams is a research chemist at the Howard Marine Science Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She is researching fatty acid chemical tracers in two Northeast fisheries key resource species: Summer Flounders and Black Sea Bass. Fatty acids are a reflection of one’s diet.  As Dr. Williams says, “You are what you eat.” Gary Pearson is on his first survey cruise. Formerly with the Massachusetts Military Reservation, 102nd Fighter Wing division, he has been with the NOAA Fisheries Service maintenance department for three years. Gary works with just about every physical aspect of this survey, except for data entry. 

Personal Log 

Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.

Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.

As the night shift came on duty tonight, “Doc” A.J. told me that he had sandwiched his head between pillows to keep from rolling around and slept just fine through the tempestuous day. So, once I finally got to my bunk I thought about what he said. I only had one pillow, but I did have my life jacket. So, I tucked myself between the life jacket and the wall. He was right! I didn’t roll either and slept all through the night!

New Animals Seen Today 

Spiny Dogfish (2) Pipe fish

Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.

Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.

A Pipe Fish

A Pipe Fish

Lollie Garay, May 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 14.89C
True Wind: 18KTs
Seas: 4-6ft

Science and Technology Log 

Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab

Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab

We are at station 90 as I write, or try to write.  A front has moved in and brought wind and wave action that has us rolling. As I sit in the wet lab, the wind data on the computer jumps from 20-24 KTs. I had to write this journal entry by hand first because it was too difficult to work on the computer! However work proceeds, we just need to secure anything that can fall or roll. So how do we get on “station”? Stations are a pre-determined number of sampling stratums identified by beginning and ending Latitudes and Longitudes. Stratum is defined by depth intervals. Sampling is done in the same stratums every year, but the actual stations may not be the same.

Last night I was out on deck and saw lights dancing in the middle of the darkness. I was told they were the lights from other vessels. I asked why there were fishermen here if this was a closed area. Turns out that some commercial fishermen have special access permits that allow them to fish in pass-by zones. They can only use these permits a certain number of times for a certain number of years. I also learned that they are monitored by a satellite system that can see who is there.

A front brings fog and high seas, again!

A front brings fog and high seas, again!

I have mentioned some members of my shift crew in my logs. I would like to talk a little more about who they are, what they do and why they are here, in my remaining logs. Chief Scientist Kevin has been with the Fisheries Service since 2002. He is responsible for the overall operations on the science side. He oversees the Watch Chiefs; is responsible for data auditing and cruise track planning; and maintains communication with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute about the progress of the survey.

Vic Nordahl is a Fishery Biologist at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole and is part of the senior staff of the group. He mentors and supervises the fisheries survey team and is out at sea two times a year with the scallop survey. He also does a triennial Surf Clam and Quahog survey. He is currently working on calibrating a time series between the NOAA Ship Albatross and the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp. The Albatross has been retired after 36 years of service. Shad Mahlum, our Watch Chief, is a Sea Tech with NOAA Fisheries Service. Before joining NOAA a year ago, he served 7 years in the Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard, Shad attended school in Bozeman Montana where he studied Zoology and Fresh Water fisheries.

Personal Log 

This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.

This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.

Before I had even opened my eyes, I felt the ship rolling. Winds from a front that moved in are churning up the seas which make simple things like showering a real challenge. I know that while we are towing the dredge the ship moves slower so I waited in bed until I felt us slow down. Then I jumped up and raced into the shower hoping I could make it through getting dressed before we picked up speed. I almost made it! During one of our last stations a HUGE wave crashed all the way across the stern. I was in the wet lab processing scallops when I heard and saw the action. Wish I had had my camera ready! I think we work harder during these wave events because it’s just so hard to do anything without straining those sea legs and arms to maintain your balance! Hope we have a calmer day tomorrow.

New Animals Seen Today 

Chain Dogfish 

Lollie Garay, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚ C
Wind: E-SE 8.9 KT
Seas: 3-5 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

“Monkey Dung”

“Monkey Dung”

The seas have been favorable to us again and we begin work under sunshine skies. We are still sampling in the Elephant Trunk area.  At this writing we are approaching station #75. We have had a variety of different catches today; in fact most dredges are different. One might be full of starfish, another full of sand or mud and crabs, and others full of scallops – every one of them is different. The biggest dredge of the day brought up about 4000 scallops!

Starfish and crab are also sorted and counted at every third station. There are primarily 3 different types of starfish in this area. Researchers do a representative sampling to estimate what types are out here. So far the biggest starfish I have seen had arms about 24 cm long (Asterias vulgaris); the smallest about .5cm. (Asterias forbesi). Starfish are natural predators to scallops. I have noticed that when the catch has lots of starfish, the numbers of scallops goes down. I asked Vic Nordahl about this and he said that it may be possible that the number of starfish suggests the results of predation, or it could simply be that this area is not good for scallops. Crabs are counted to determine numbers and distribution. The majority of crabs in this area are from the Genus Cancer: Rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) and Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis).

A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!

A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!

Sulphur sponges, or Monkey Dung, also come up in the dredges. It‘s a yellow thick sponge with pores so small that there don’t appear to be any. It smells like sulphur and looks like monkey dung! Are sponges plant or animal?  There is still some question about whether a sponge is an individual or a colony of sponges. Sponges are the most primitive of multi-cellular animals, and lack organs or systems. What we see in the dredges is only a very small sampling of the variety and numbers of species that call the sea “home”. And every organism that comes up in the dredges validates the reason for conducting fishery surveys.

Personal Log 

The 12 hours of work we put in each day goes by fairly quickly. My shift crew members lighten up the long day with their sense of humors and laughter.  But make no mistake, they take their work very seriously. I am always asking questions (as usual) and they always respond patiently. I really feel like a contributing member of this team now, not just a visitor. The night was cold on deck, so I head to my cabin with a cup of hot tea at the end of my shift. Tomorrow is a new day!

Answer to the question: What’s the difference between a Deep Sea scallop and a Bay scallop? 

Unusual eggs—what kind are they?

Unusual eggs—what kind are they?

A deep sea scallop is orange or cream colored, is a larger scallop and has a larger meat (adductor muscle).  The shell is not as concave and lacks the ridges of the bay scallop shell. They are distributed in depths from 20 meters to 150 meters.  A Bay scallop is smaller in size and has a smaller meat in proportion to the shell size. The shell is ridged and usually mottled colored in shades of red, white, brown and tan.  They tend to be distributed in depths from right at shore to 20 meters.  They occupy different habitats.

New Question of the Day 
What is the connection between false Quahogs and the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts?

Animals Seen Today 
Razor clams, Ocean Quahogs, False Quahog, Pod of Dolphins (racing around the ship again!), Cragmon shrimp, Red spiked Sea Urchin, Storm Petrels, Sheer water gulls, and Common gulls.

Elise Olivieri, May 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.56 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 88%

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge

The dredge

Sea Scallops are found in western North Atlantic continental shelf waters from Newfoundland to North Carolina in waters cooler than 20 Degrees Celsius.  Commercial fishing is conducted in waters off the Gulf of Maine, on Georges Bank, and in the Mid-Atlantic offshore region.  Scallops grow rapidly during the first several years of life. Scallops increase 50-80% and quadruple their meat weight between the ages 3 to 5. Sea Scallops become sexually mature at age 2, but scallops younger than 4 contribute little to the overall egg population studies explain. Spawning occurs in late summer and early autumn. Eggs become buoyant after fertilization, and larvae remain in the water column for 4 to 8 weeks before settling to the bottom of the sea floor.

Communication between all the people on board is key to successful sea scallop tows.  Operational procedures must be put in place to ensure all parties know exactly what is expected of them and when.  The bridge has a list of all station numbers which is provided by the Chief Scientist. The bridge announces over radio “10 minutes to station” and the science team lets the bridge know if more time is needed to prepare for the tow.  Every third tow and twice per day a water sample is taken.  These samples are collected before the dredge enters the water.  One technician ensures the inclinometer has been offloaded in time before the dredge is emptied and sorted. The bridge makes sure the tow passes through the middle of the station and retains 75% of the catch. If there is a problem the bridge notifies the science team.  The science team then checks the Knudsen Depth Display to determine the designated wire out or scope that is needed for the station.  The bridge will then come up to speed of about 4 knots. At this time the bridge will announce to begin deployment of the dredge and the winch operator (dredge operator) will set the dredge over the stern.  The winch operator will stream enough cable to reach the “0” mark in the wire and then set the winch metering to zero.

The dredge is then deployed as quickly as the winches can spool which is approximately 60-65 m/sec.  When the winch man has achieved the desired scope and locked the brakes, they should observe the trawl tension.  Start tow begins once this occurs. The scientist will then start the countdown for the 15 minute tow.  The bridge sets the speed over bottom at 3.8 knots.  The scientist in the lab running the event will give several warnings; 1 minute warning, 10 second warning, and then finally haul back.  The winch operator will start hauling back at maximum allowable speed to pull the dredge off the bottom. Once the dredge is on deck, inclinometer should be offloaded, the catch is dumped, and the dredge is secured. The vessel then heads to the next station on the Chief Scientist’s list.  These standard operational procedures discourage any errors that might occur if procedures were not in place. 

After the catch is on the table it is sorted and sampled by using a FSCS computer database.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data.  FSCS uses tough screen monitors and motion compensation scales with electronic measuring boards.  This helps reduce human error and is a very sophisticated instrument.

Personal Log 

We started out the night shift with two medium sized clean tows.  There was very little sand and clay which helps the sorting process go very quickly.  I personally counted 236 cancer crabs and over 300 sea scallops. The nature of sorting is becoming very familiar to me, and I enjoy learning new things everyday. I spoke with the Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl for a while and discussed various ways of incorporating all the data being collected into the classroom.  Vic is extremely busy but makes time to discuss and plan out activities for the Teachers at Sea to bring back to the classroom.  Lollie Garay is the other Teacher at Sea aboard the Sharp. She is a middle school teacher from Houston, Texas.  We both enjoy learning how research is collected out at sea.  There are 22 people total aboard the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp and everyone communicates and is friendly with one another. I really learned a lot about protocol today and now I completely understand how everything runs so smoothly.  I can’t wait to get some sleep.  Fisheries work is not easy!