Terry Maxwell: An Advanced Operation, June 11, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard RV Hugh R. Sharp

June 6 – June 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: June 11, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 42 06.73
Longitude: 67 18.80
Wind Speed 20.9 Knots (24 miles per hour)
Air Temperature 13.3° Celsius (55.9 Fahrenheit)

Science and Technology Log

Upon my first entry into the Hugh R. Sharp, the one thing that really stuck out to me was the amount of visible technology.  In the dry lab alone, there are over 20 computer screens, close to as many hard drives, and Ethernet cords crossing and spanning the entire dry lab area.  In the laboratory van, where much of our species counting and data collection takes place there are three more touchscreen monitors, motion compensated electronic scales (a scale that measures accurately regardless of boat movement), and electronic meter sticks.  It is overwhelming at first, but as I have settled in now for four days it becomes commonplace.

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What is more impressive than the amount of technology in the dry lab, is that the NOAA crew hooks up all the equipment before the mission starts.  The before picture of the room is on the right.

On the 9th we were delayed due to some rough water, and the need to fix some of our equipment.  Specifically, the ramp, which launches our underwater camera, was broken due to some strong waves.  The engineers and technicians of the boat reinforced the ramp quickly on the morning of the 9th and we were headed back out to our location in Georges Bank in short order.  The science crew I am a part of has the noon to midnight shift, so this gave me a chance to talk with one of the NOAA Fisheries experts Nancy McHugh about the technological advancements she has seen in recent years on the NOAA surveys.

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Nancy McHugh sorts and identifies fish from a recent dredge station catch.

Nancy has been with NOAA for 26 years, and has been on many survey missions.  In my last blog, I gave an overview of our dredge missions, and how the data were collected during those missions.  During this blog entry I would like to tell you about the technology that makes all this data easier to collect, analyze, and organize than it once was.  This technology has made all the collection of data more accurate, reliable, and accountable.  I have seen first-hand now how serious NOAA Fisheries is about collecting data that is accurate as possible, down to the last and smallest scallop.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the NOAA Fisheries staff used waterproof paper forms and pencil to collect the information from their surveys.  Separate forms were used for each species collected.  To give you an idea of how many different species are collected during a survey, our survey has collected over 50 different species of organisms, and we still have 11 days left.  That means that during this survey would have had 50 different paper charts about the organisms collected.  Each organism collected would be hand tallied onto a chart about the specimen’s length, weight, gender, and if a stomach content examination was performed. Each species was given a code number so that code number could be entered into a database for retrieval at a later date.

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Old fisheries survey data form used in the late 90’s.  Much has changed since then.

Once the data for each species was recorded on its own form, the summary of the information about each species was transferred onto a main master form.  All the scallops were hand measured, and length tallies made for the scallop at each millimeter mark.  Once the dredge station survey was complete, someone would hand total all of those numbers to get a total amount.  The total data sets would be sent out to a prison in Kansas, which would be responsible for key punching (entering on a computer).  This data would take around 3 months to get back.  Once the keypunched data was sent back to NOAA Fisheries, it would then have to go through an intensive audit process before it was considered clean and ready for the stock analysts use.

Today NOAA Fisheries relies on a program called Fisheries Scientific Computer System, or FSCS for short (sounds like Fiscus).  NOAA scientists and programmers created this computer program to replace the tedious method of pencil and paper data recording.  My crewmember Nancy was one of the scientist involved in the creation of FSCS.  The FSCS program has helped to create not only a faster more efficient data collection system, but also one that is more accurate and reliable than the old paper and pencil model.  First, the FSCS system is an offshoot of the Scientific Computer System (SCS), which is able to store information about ship board sensors, ship positioning, latitude and longitude, winch data, and depth.  When we are about to start a dredge station, the NOAA scientists start “an event” in the FSCS computer program.  The program then begins to collect a snapshot of information from the SCS system while the dredge is fishing.

lab van
The laboratory van is set up with three touch screen monitors that all run the FSCS program, ichthysticks (electronic measuring sticks), motion compensated scales, and barcode readers to enter data into the FSCS program.  This was a empty room before the mission.  NOAA Fisheries workers set up this room before the start of the Scallop Survey.

Once the process of pulling up the dredge, and collecting of species, and sorting of species has happened the efficiency of FSCS is revealed. There are three stations in the laboratory van; each station containing an “ichthystick,” a small motion compensated scale, a touch screen monitor, a bar code scanner, and a printer.  Each station has science crew members working in teams of two.  At station one in the laboratory van, our watch-chief begins to enter in data from the different species that are collected.  The bucket the specimen is in is scanned; this bucket’s weight has been pre-programmed into a computer.  By having the bucket weight already in the program’s database, that weight is automatically deducted on the digital scale when the specimen bucket is set on the scale.  This tare process once was done manually, by pressing the tare button on the scale.   Once the specimen buckets have been scanned and weighed, many of the specimens are measured for length.  Again, the new technological advancements help with efficiency and accuracy.  NOAA scientists have developed their own “ichthystick” which essentially is an electronic meter stick.  These “ichthysticks” are at each of the three stations in the laboratory van.

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Measurements made using the icthysticks go straight into the FSCS program. There is no hand transferring of the data. This allows for fast and efficient data collection.

Before a measurement is taken, a scientist selects a specimen from a list in FSCS of possible collected specimens and scans the barcoded bucket tag to ensure the correct species has been chosen.  For this example, if a scientist was examining sea scallops the user simply places a sea scallop on the board up against a block that is at zero mm, and then places a magnet on the other side of the specimen.  The computer will make a sound to indicate the length is acknowledged, and the data is collected in the program.  Here is the cool part: the computer program knows the general ranges of the specimen’s size.  That means if someone accidentally put the magnet down at 350 mm while measuring a sea scallop, the computer would automatically put up a warning message (visually and audibly) noting that the measurement is beyond the known range of expected sea scallop lengths.  This cuts down on accidental measuring errors.

At station 3 where scallops are shucked and examined, all of the information which I discussed in the last blog goes into the FSCS database as it is recorded.  Again, the program checks for errors.  For example, if a meat weight is entered that is too light for the size of the sea scallop being examined, the computer will alert the user that the meat weight is too small for the examined sea scallop.  Then the cutter can ensure that he removed all of the meat properly.

Once all this data is recorded, it is merged with the SCS data for a complete picture of the survey.  The merged data can then be accessed by NOAA Fisheries scientist to analyze the data and create predictive models.  Essentially the NOAA Fisheries survey crew can leave the boat with data that used to take over three months to finalize after a survey had ended.

Personal Log

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I finally have my “sea legs.”  The waves are pretty rough today, but I’m not really fazed by the motion.  Yesterday we spent a lot of time on the computers, annotating images from the underwater camera, HabCam.  During that time working, I almost forgot I was on a boat.  Part of that is that the water was calmer yesterday.  But today we have much more chop in the water and I still feel okay.

The 9th was a hard day for me, as I missed my son Zebadiah’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Z!  It’s hard to be away from my family, but as I talk to some of the NOAA Fisheries people or the crew that runs this ship I realize how short my time is away from my family.  Some of the NOAA Fisheries crew is out 120 days at sea each year!  The ship crew will work this mission and then head to another mission right after ours is done.  There are some very hard working people that work for NOAA Fisheries, and the crews that run NOAA’s fleet of ships.

It has only been six days since I arrived at Woods Hole, but I’ve seen some amazing sites.  Even though some of the crew is out so often at sea each year, I’m realizing the amazing sunsets never get old to them.  It is an awesome site each night, as is the moon over the water at night.

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Amazing sunsets every night when you are over 100 miles from the coast.  Being aboard the Hugh R Sharp has been a great experience so far.

Did You Know?

Sea Stars are one of the main predators of scallops.  It’s an interesting correlation.  When we have done dredge station surveys there is definitely an inverse relationship between the number of sea stars caught and the number of scallops caught.  Meaning the more star fish that are in a dredge tow, the less scallops and vice versa.  When using the underwater camera (HabCam) to take pictures of the ocean floor, there are sections with sea stars that litter the ocean floor.  Not surprisingly, there are very little scallops in those sections.  Sea stars have suction cup like structures on their arms, which help them latch onto a scallop.  When that happens, the sea star then slowly attempts to pry the shell open.  Some sea stars are then able to push their stomachs out of their body, and digest the externally.  Another interesting ability of the sea stars is their ability to regenerate arms if they are lost.

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Sea stars attacking a razor clam shell.  This picture was taken by the underwater camera on board called the HabCam.
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Sea star with two arms regenerating.
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A gigantic sea star out of our dredge collection.  The normal size one is on the right.

Terry Maxwell: Scallop Pails and Humpback Whales, June 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6 – 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 7, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 30.90 N
Longitude: 69 18.76 W
Air Temp 14.1° Celsius ( 57.3° Fahrenheit)
Wind speed 4.7 Knots (5.4 mph)

Science and Technology Log

Due to the poor weather delay on the 6th, June 7th was our first day out for the crew I am working with. Our ship is divided into two crews so we can work our operations around the clock.  The crew I am working with works from noon to midnight, while the other crew works midnight to noon.  On the 7th, were able to drop the dredge and attempt to collect scallops to assess the health, size, and population of those organisms.

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Sometimes the dredge brings up more than scallops!  This goosefish uses it’s illicium which act like fishing lures to attract fish close enough to be gulped by its large mouth.

We work those hours mainly using the collection process of dredging the ocean floor for scallops, but along the way, several other bottom dwelling ocean creatures are caught in the dredge.

A crane operator with the help of two deck workers lowers the dredge into the water.  Once the dredge is in place to go into the water the crane operator releases cable until the dredge reaches the ocean floor.  Depth readouts are calculated beforehand to determine how deep the dredge will need to drop.  With this information the dredge cable is let out at a 3.5:1 ratio, meaning for every meter of ocean depth we are in, 3.5 meter of cable is let out.  With this ratio the dredge is dropped with an angle that keeps it flat to the ocean floor.  The crane operator is also reading a line tension readout in the crane booth to determine when the dredge has hit the ocean floor.  We are typically in 200–350 ft of water when these dredges occur.  The dredge travels behind the boat for 15 minutes, and is then pulled in.

On the dredge is a sensor called the “Star-Oddi.” This sensor detects the pitch and roll to make sure it was lying flat on the bottom of the ocean.  The Star-Oddi also collects temperature and depth information as the dredge is traveling.  The sensor is taken out of the dredge once it is brought up so watch-chief can see if the dredge was functioning properly throughout the tow.

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University of Maine student Dylan Benoit is taking out the Star-Oddi after a dredge.

Once the dredge is hauled up, it is dumped onto a large metal table that the science crew stands around.  Two of the Hugh R Sharp’s vessel technicians then scoop the collected haul to an awaiting science crew.

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The dredge is unloaded with a good haul of scallops.

The science crew will then divide the haul into several different collection pails.  The main objective of this crew is to collect scallops.  Scallops collected are organized into different sizes.  Fish are also collected and organized by a NOAA scientist who can properly identify the fish.  At some of the dredge stations we collect numbers of crabs, waved whelks, and sea stars as well.

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This dredge was especially sandy.  In a typical day we reach around 6-8 dredge stations during our twelve hour shift.  Here I am sorting through the sand looking for scallops, fish, crabs, and wave whelks.

Once the haul is collected and sorted, our science team takes the haul into a lab station area.  In the lab, several pieces of data are collected.  If we are at a station where crabs and whelks are collected, then the number of those are recorded as well.  Fish taken from the dredge are sorted by species, some species are weighed and measured for length. Some of the species of fish are measured and some are counted by NOAA scientists.

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In the dry lab the midnight to noon science crew takes measurements and records data.

 

Also in this lab station, all of the collected scallops are measured for their shell height.  A small sample of scallops are shucked (opened) to expose the meat and gonads, which are individually weighed and recorded.  Once opened we also identify if a scallop is diseased, specifically looking for shell blisters, nematodes, Orange-nodules, or gray meats.

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Scallop disease guide posted in the dry lab.

Also at this station, the gender of the scallop is identified.  You can identify the gender by the color of the gonad.  Males have a white gonad, while a female’s looks red or pink. Finally at this station, commensal organisms are checked for.  A common relationship we have seen during this trip is that of the scallop and red hake.  The red hake is a small fish that is believed to use the scallop shell as shelter while it is young.  As they get older, red hake have been identified to be in the depression around the scallop, still trying to use the scallop for shelter, even though it can no longer fit inside.

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A shucked clam that had a red hake living inside of it when it was collected in the dredge.

After that has happened the shells are cleaned and given an ID number.  These scallop shells are bagged up, to be further examined in NOAA labs by a scientist that specializes in scallop aging.

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These scallops have been shucked, and now their shells will be researched by a scallop aging expert at NOAA.  My job is to be the recorder for the cutter.  I do the final cleaning on the scallop shells, tag them, and bag them.

If you’d like to know how this process works, watch the video below.   The watch-chief, Nicole Charriere, of the science crew members I work with, explains the process in this short clip.

 

Transcript:

(0:00) Nichole Charriere. I’m the watch chief on the day watch, so working with Terry. I’ve been working at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center for about 6 ½ years. When we’re out here on deck, basically, we put a small sensor on the dredge that helps monitor the pitch, the roll, and kind of whether the dredge is fishing right side up or upside down. And we offload that sensor after every tow, put a new one on, and that sensor will tell us basically how that dredge is fishing, because we always want the dredge to be in contact with the bottom, fishing for the entire 15 minutes if we can.

(0:45) The dredge is deployed 15 minutes for the bottom and then it comes back up and then the catch is dumped on the table. Then depending on how far away the next station is, sometimes we take out crabs and whelks, and we account for the amount of starfish that are in each tow because those are predators of scallops. So we want to make sure that we’re kind of tracking the amount of predation that’s in the area. And you usually find if you have sometimes a lot of starfish, a lot of crabs of certain sizes, you’ll find less starfish. I mean you’ll find less scallops. 

(1:22) After the entire catch is sorted, we’re bringing it to the lab. We have scallops, we have scallops “clappers,” which are dead scallops that still have the hinge attached, and that’s important for us because we can track mortality. Once the hinge kind of goes away, the shell halves separate. Can’t really tell how recently it’s died. But while that hinge is intact, you can tell it’s basically dead recently. So you kind of get a decent idea of scallop mortality in that area like that.

(1:52) Scallop, scallop clappers, we kind of count fish, we kind of measure usually commercially important ones as well. Then we take scallop meat weights, so we open up the scallop– Terry’s been doing a lot of that too– open up the scallop, we kind of blot the meat weight so it’s like a dry meat weight, and we measure, we weigh the gonad as well, and that kind of tracks the health of the scallop.

(2:21) And then the rest of us are doing lengths of the scallop, and that’s so that we get a length frequency of the scallops that are in the area. Usually we’re looking for about… if you look at the graph it’s like a bell curve, so you kind of get an average, and then you get a few smaller scallops and a few larger scallops. And that’s pretty much it. We’re taking length frequencies and we’re looking at the health of the scallops. 

 

Personal Log

From the time I woke up on Tuesday till about the time I went to bed that night, sea-sickness was getting the best of me.  I listened to the advice of the experienced sailors on board, and kept working through the sickness.  Even though I felt sick most of the day, and I just wanted the day to end at that point.  However, I was rewarded by sticking it out, and not going to my room to lay down, by one of the most incredible sites I’ve ever seen.  From about 4pm til about 8pm, many humpback whales were all around our boat.  We had a little down time waiting to get to the next dredge spot, so I was watching the horizon just trying to get my sea-sickness in check.  As I was sitting by the side of the boat, I saw a whale towards the bow of the ship.  I got out my camera and was in the right place at the right time to get a video of it.   It was one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever seen.

 

Video of a humpback whale diving near R/V Hugh R. Sharp

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Fluke of a humpback whale diving next to R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Did You Know?

The typical bleached white sand dollars that most people are accustomed to seeing as decorations are not the actual look of living sand dollars.  In one of our dredge catches, we collected thousands of sand dollars, and only a couple were bleach white in color.   Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family.  They move around on the ocean floor, and bury themselves in the sand.  The sand dollars use the hairs (cillia) on their body to catch plankton and move it towards their mouth.  The bleached white sand dollars that most people think of when they think of a sand dollar is just their exoskeleton remains.

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Sand dollars brought up in the dredge

 

Donna Knutson: Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016, June 24, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard the Research Vessel Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 24, 2016

Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

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Latitude:  41 29.84 N

Longitude:  070 38.54 W

Clouds:  partly cloudy

Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles

Wind: 3.58 knots

Wave Height: 6 in.

Water Temperature:  53  F

Air Temperature:  67 F

Sea Level Pressure:  30.0 in of Hg

Water Depth: 26 m

 

It has been an action packed two weeks.  The men and women who dedicate themselves to the scallop survey are extremely hard working scientists.  It is not an easy job.  The sorting of the dredged material is fast and furious, and it needs to be in order to document everything within the catch before the next one comes in.  The baskets are heavy and it takes a strong person to move them around so quickly.

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Han, Jill, Mike, Vic, Me and Ango

In small catches every scallop is measured.  In dredges with many baskets of scallops, a percentage is measured.  It is a random sampling system, taking some scallops from each of the baskets to get a general random sample of the whole.  Mike led an efficient team, he told us what to look for and oversaw the measuring.

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Mike and Nikki

He often set samples aside to show me later, when we were not as busy. A few examples were how to tell the difference between the red and silver hake or the difference between the Icelandic and Atlantic sea scallop.  He showed me how the little longhorn sculpin fish, “buzz bombs” known to fisherman, vibrate when you told it in your hand.

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Longhorn sculpin

Mike even took the time to dissect some hake and to show me the differences in gonads, what they were feeding on by opening their stomach, and the otolith within the upper skull.  The otolith is a small bone in the inner ear that can be used to identify and age the fish when in a lab looking through a microscope.  Mike answered my many questions and was always eager to teach me more.

Another helpful team member was Vic.  Vic taught me how to run the HabCam.  He has been involved in the HabCam setup since it started being used four years ago.  There is a lot of work to do to set up the multiple monitors and computers with servers to store all the images collected by the HabCam.  Vic overlooks it all from the initial set-up to the take down.  I admire Vic’s work-ethic, he is always going 100% until the job is completed.  Sometimes I just needed to get out of his way, because I knew he was on a mission, and I didn’t want to slow him down.

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Control center for Habcam and Dredging

When we weren’t dredging, but rather using the HabCam, there was a pilot and copilot watching the monitors.  The HabCam, when towed behind the ship, needs to be approximately 1.7 m off the ocean floor for good resolution of the pictures, and keeping it at that elevation can be a challenge with the sloping bottom or debris.  There is also sand waves to watch out for, which are like sand bars in a river, but not exposed to the surface.

When not driving HabCam there are millions of pictures taken by the HabCam to oversee.  When you view a picture of a scallop you annotate it by using a measuring bar.  Fish, skates and crabs are also annotated, but not measured.  It takes a person a while to adjust to the rolling seas and be able to look at monitors for a long period of time.  It is actually harder than anticipated.

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HabCam Picture of a skate.

Han was making sure the data was collected from the correct sites.  She works for the Population Dynamics branch of NOAA and was often checking the routes for the right dredges or the right time to use the HabCam.  Between the chief scientist Tasha and Han, they made sure the survey covered the entire area of the study as efficiently as possible.

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Tasha, Han and Mike discussing the next move.

Dr. Scott Gallager was with us for the first week and taught me so much about his research which I mentioned in the previous blogs.  Kat was with us initially, but she left after the first week.  She was a bubbly, happy student who volunteered to be on the ship, just to learn more in hopes of joining the crew someday.  Both vacancies were replaced by “Ango” whose real name in Tien Chen, a grad student from Maine who is working on his doctoral thesis, and Jill who works in Age and Growth, part of the Population Biology branch of NOAA.  Both were fun to have around because of their interesting personalities.  They were always smiling and happy, with a quick laugh and easy conversation.

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Jill, Ango and Han after dredging.

The Chief Scientist, Tasha, was extremely helpful to me.  Not only does she need to take care of her crew and manage all the logistics of the trip, plus make the last minute decisions, because of weather or dredges etc, but she made me feel welcome and encouraged me to chat with those she felt would be a good resource for me.  On top of it all, she helped me make sure all my blogs were factual.  She was very professional and dedicated to her work, as expected from a lead scientist leading a scientific survey.

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Evan, Tasha and Jimmy discussing route.

I spent as much time as possible getting to know the rest of the crew as well.  The Master, Captain James Warrington “Jimmy” always welcomed me on the bridge.  I enjoyed sitting up there with him and his mates.  He is quick witted and we passed the time with stories and many laughs.  He tolerated me using his binoculars and searching for whales and dolphins.  There were a few times we saw both.

He showed me how he can be leader, responsible for a ship, which is no small feat, but do so with a great sense of humor, which he credits he inherited from his grandmother.  The other captains, Chris and Evan, were just as friendly.  I am sure all who have been lucky enough to travel with them would agree that the RV Sharp is a good ship to on because of the friendly, helpful crew and staff.

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KG, oceanic specialist, helped with dredges.

Because this was my second experience on a survey, the first was a mammal survey, I have really come to appreciate the science behind the study.  It is called a survey, but in order to do a survey correctly, it takes months of planning and preparation before anyone actually gets on a ship.

There is always the studying of previous surveys to rely on to set the parameters for the new survey.  Looking for what is expected and finding, just that, or surprising results not predicted but no less valued, is all in a scientist’s daily job.  I admire the work of the scientist. It is not an easy one, and maybe that is why it is so much fun.  You never know exactly what will happen, and therein lies the mystery or maybe a discovery to acquire more information.

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I had to hold the largest goose fish we caught!

It was a challenging two weeks, but a time I’m so glad I had the opportunity to have with the members of Leg III of the 2016 Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey.

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

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

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

Teacher at Sea?
Teacher at Sea?

Science and Technology Log

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

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

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

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

Operations

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

HabCam

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

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

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

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

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

Dredge

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

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

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

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

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

More Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our simple classroom system
Our simple classroom system

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

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

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

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

Our new compost system
Our new compost system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predators
Predators

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

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

DSCN0158

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lagniappe: Dr. Burton Shank

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photoblog:

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

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

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

Mr. Hance

Trevor Hance: Day 4 Aboard The Beagle, June 14, 2015

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

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 14, 2015

Deck selfie
Yours truly (note:  quite fun to break out the overalls!)

Science and Technology Log

It’s Day 4 aboard the Beagle, and the crew has full confidence in Captain Fitz Roy… Okay, I’m not Charles Darwin, but, I am reading two very inspiring books while on this cruise.  First, as this is my first scientific voyage, I am revisiting Darwin’s trip aboard the Beagle to channel some of the wonder and “magic” of that extended journey.  The other book I’m reading is the sequel to my favorite book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  If you teach G4-G8, I highly recommend you get to know “Callie Vee.” The book is a wonderful bit of historical fiction that details the life of a young woman/girl in central Texas in 1899 who wrestles with her interest in science and the conventions of “proper” society.

Life Aboard Ship and the Science Behind the Voyage

Thus far aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp we have enjoyed favorable seas, good food and very welcoming company.  Shifts for the science-crew last 12 hours and run 12-to-12, and there are about six people assigned to each shift (note:  the captain and ship’s operational crew keep a different schedule.)  I am on the day shift, so I work from noon to midnight — which I imagine would fit quite nicely with the schedule many of my students are currently keeping now that they are on their summer break!  Our mission is primarily to perform a scallop survey, moving from point to point while making observations related to population densities and spatial distribution.  Late in the cruise we will be doing some exploratory work in an effort to better understand the lobster populations in this area of the Atlantic Ocean.  Our work centers on two primary observation methods:  habitat camera (aka – “HabCam”) and dredge.

Scallop shell
An Atlantic Sea Scallop shell. They have different patterns, and are beautiful shells

Atlantic sea scallops are a bivalve, along with clams, mussels, oysters, etc. that can get up to about 200 mm (about 8 inches) across, and most three year olds are in the 80-90 mm range.  Commercially, they are targeted between 4 ½ – 5 years old.  Scallops feed by filter-feeding through their mantle, which is housed inside the beautiful orange and white outer shell.  Scallops move using a form of jet propulsion that makes it look like they are swimming (they “bite” at the water as they propel themselves up from the seafloor, pushing the water out of the openings near the umbo at the back of the scallop shell).  The physics changes as they get bigger, so it gets more difficult to push themselves off of the sea floor, but the little ones can get up to about 10 feet off the bottom of the sea floor.

Natural predators of scallops include various species of starfish, such as Astropecten and Asterias.  These starfish use distinct predatory tools.  The larger starfish, the Asterias, has a hydrologic musculature that allows it to essentially pull apart the shell of the scallop, inject digestive enzymes (aka – “putting its stomach inside the scallop”) and enjoy! The Astropecten is quite different because they completely engulf the scallop and digest it internally.  The two types of starfish target different-aged scallops: Astropecten eat them when they are small enough to be fully engulfed, and Asterias when the scallops are older and the shells are larger and harder, making it too difficult for digestive fluids to assist with the process.  Other predators of the scallop include humans and Cancer crabs.

Starfish Comparison
Astropecten vs Sclerasterias (same family as Asterias, different genus):  the size makes the feeding distinction pretty obvious

 

NOAA has been conducting these surveys for approximately 40 years.  Before the mid-1990s, scallop fishing was largely unregulated, meaning that commercial and private fishers could operate anywhere at any time.  In the 90’s, the government started to use various management tools to support population sustainability through efforts such as limiting the number of people allowed aboard a commercial vessel, limiting the number of days available in a season, changing the ring-size used on the dredges to catch the scallops and closing fishing areas on a rotational basis.  The commercial fisheries have also set aside funds that are used to support research that will help keep the scallop populations healthy.

After the regulations went into place, scientists observed a strong, positive development in size and overall population of scallops.  With strong data that covers a forty year period, policy makers are sufficiently informed to manage scallops on finer and finer spatial scales, including things like small scale, temporary closures and altering the timing for re-opening temporary closures.  (note:  Over the next few blogs, I will show how this science and these relationship relate to our state learning standards, but for now, let’s just set the table.)

Operations

The first day of the cruise was spent steaming out to the first observation point while getting the HabCam system running on all cylinders.  The HabCam (pictured below) is a 3,400 pound, steel-framed “camera cage” that is towed behind the vessel as it moves (we’ve been traveling at about 6 knots) through a determined course in areas that have been observed using the camera for the past four years (note:  dredge surveys in this area have been conducted for the entire 40ish year period).  We moved towards the south for the first two days along the Great South Channel and are now heading east along the southern edge of Georges Bank.

HabCam is towed and controlled from the ship by a winch with fiber-optic wire connected to the dry lab where all pictures are received and can be assessed while in motion
HabCam is towed and controlled from the ship by a winch with fiber-optic wire connected to the dry lab where all pictures are received and can be assessed while in motion

The science crew uses three primary areas aboard the vessel:  the back deck, where all dredge-related operations are conducted; the wet lab, where samples are weighed and measured; and a dry lab, which houses about 25 computers that run various programs relating to everything from weather to analyzing the positioning of the dredge underwater.

A dredge in action.  Fish, scallops, crabs, starfish and "trash" are sorted into baskets and buckets, then taken into the wet lab where they are measured and weighed
A dredge in action. Fish, scallops, crabs, starfish and “trash” are sorted into baskets and buckets, then taken into the wet lab where they are measured and weighed
Dr. Scott Gallager and me taking measurements of scallops we caught on a dredge
Dr. Scott Gallager and me taking measurements of scallops we caught on a dredge
NORAD… I mean, the scientific dry lab
NORAD… I mean, the scientific dry lab

Over the first two days, I (tried to!) learn how to drive the HabCam, keeping it about 2 meters off the bottom of the seafloor.  The seafloor in this area has been a relatively smooth mix of sand and shell hash, but, there are naturally occurring topographical changes that require the HabCam driver to remain constantly vigilant and adjust as appropriate.

Katie, seated next to me, is a PhD candidate at Cornell.  I’ll share her research in a future blog
Katie, seated next to me, is a PhD candidate at Cornell.  I’ll share her research in a future blog

There are two cameras on the HabCam and they are set to take 6 photographs per second (standard sample rate).  The two cameras give a scientist the chance to view images in 3-D.  This point is important when you remember that scallops swim, which means scientists can use the 3-D imagery to tell whether the scallops are in motion or stationary when photographed (as well as how far up in the water column those scallops are swimming).  At 6 shots per second, there can be millions of photos taken over the course of a season (likely 8,000,000 pairs of photos over 4,000 km of track this year!), and NOAA scientists are recruiting YOU, dear Citizen Scientists, to help filter through the photographs through websites like projectfishhunter.org (set to launch this fall) or seafloorexplorer.org, which is a project started by one of the scientists on this mission, who is a researcher and professor at MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

My students will find a parallel between the HabCam and the six game cameras we have set up in our Preserve that take 3 shots in succession when triggered.  We monitor those cameras weekly and depending on traffic and false hits due to wind-noise, we could have as many as 2,000-3,000 photos on a camera in a given week.

Can you loan me five (sand) dollars?
Can you loan me five (sand) dollars?
Belly-side of a yellow-tail flounder
Belly-side of a yellow-tail flounder
Dr. Gallagher using a 3-D handheld camera (wow!) to take pictures of male and female scallop.  The ones with the bright pink are the females and the white and grey are males.
Dr. Gallagher using a 3-D handheld camera (wow!) to take pictures of male and female scallop.  The ones with the bright pink are the females and the white and grey are males.
Big mouth monkfish
Big mouth monkfish
At Mother’s Café in New Orleans, they’d call this the makings of a debris sandwich.
At Mother’s Café in New Orleans, they’d call this the makings of a debris sandwich.
We caught this little seahorse and I know my daughters will have a million questions about it!
We caught this little seahorse and I know my daughters will have a million questions about it!
Fair winds, my friend
Fair winds, my friend

Lagniappe

In Cajun parlance, “lagniappe” means a little something extra.  In my classroom blog I include a “lagniappe” section at the end to help extend lessons, give folks a chance to plug in to what we’re studying from a different perspective, or just include a “little something” that I find interesting.  Because I can’t really do additional research while aboard this vessel due to limited internet availability, I’ve decided that my Lagniappe section will be more like a “People In Your Neighborhood,” which we all remember from watching Sesame Street as kids.

One of the challenges we face as teachers is capacity building, meaning we have to work to inspire and encourage all students to pursue any areas of learning that interest them, paying particular attention to defeating stereotypes regarding barriers to entry in certain industries.  Our cruise has a pretty broad group of people aboard, so I’ll use my blog to introduce you to “the people behind the science” in this section.  The first “person in my neighborhood” you’ll meet is our Chief Scientist, Nicole Charriere.

Nicole’s early interests in marine studies stemmed from her experiences scuba diving and snorkeling while visiting her mother’s family in Belize.  Her love for the ocean did not waiver as she grew, and she received her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island.  Prior to graduation, she did an internship at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography and one of her advisors invited her to crew aboard a 29-day scientific mission to the Pacific side of Panama/Costa Rica aboard a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel.  During that experience, Nicole realized that sea-life was the life for her because it gave her a chance to be on the front end of data collection and analysis for a broad spectrum of scientific missions, while simultaneously working with a diverse group of people from around the world who were passionate about their work.  She’s been working aboard vessels for several years, with her recent work centering primarily on scallop and shellfish surveys and other research experiences aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, as well as on commercial vessels.  Her career keeps her at sea between 130-140 days per year.

Science Chief, Nicole Charriere
Science Chief, Nicole Charriere

As the Chief Scientist, she is in charge of the flow of scientific operations, meaning she oversees the scientific operations, helping to insure that the equipment needed to conduct the studies is available and in working order (obviously, the salt-water, constant-motion, marine environment requires you to be ready and resourceful!), makes sure that the relationship between the ship’s operational crew fits with that of the science party, and (where I’m concerned) helps to coordinate a fair transition to understanding your role as part of the working team aboard a vessel.  One very interesting point I learned is that there are many opportunities for people interested in research to volunteer to be part of a research team aboard a vessel, and Nicole said she rarely remembers being on a cruise where volunteers weren’t part of the crew.  I highly encourage any students who might read my blog that have an interest in marine science to explore this opportunity while an undergrad to see if sea-life really fits with your-life!

I’ll update about our dredge operations and another member of our science crew in the next blog post.

Current dry lab playlist:  Tom Petty, Bruno Mars, Abba

Carol Glor: Back from the Beyond, July 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third Leg)

Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 12, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind 12 knots, 005*, Seas 1-3 foot swells, Visibility – unlimited!!

Science and Technology Log:

Maritime meets Science

NOAA has a unique relationship with the shipping industry. Ships are traditionally built with specific uses in mind. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and was completed in 2006 as a state-of-the-art research vessel. Marine architects and engineers designed mechanical and electronic  systems to launch scallop dredges, the HabCam, and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) scanner. The ship can accommodate 9 crew members and 12 science staff members. The University leases the vessel to the NOAA scientific crew for specific missions or surveys. Each year NOAA sets up research surveys to collect data concerning many aspects of the fishing industry along with studies centered around conservation. The sea scallop survey is one such research project which has been a yearly event since 1977. It began as a bottom trawling event taking place for several legs (mission time periods) between May and July.

Sea scallops are a bivalve subgroup of mollusks. They take years to mature to a size that is sought after by fishermen. As with any species, overfishing is a major concern. Ideally, a species’ survival is dependent upon a consistent population. The Northeast Fisheries Association determines the scope and location of “open” fishing areas for all species of fish and shellfish. NOAA is called upon to collect data concerning the abundance or lack of scallops in a traditionally rich fishing locale or in a closed area. During our leg of the survey, we collected data using the HabCam as well as towing a scallop dredge. A map of the fishing locations is analyzed to determine the dredge or HabCam areas that are to be investigated.

Each dredge “catch” contained a variety of marine species with the inclusion or exclusion of scallops. At one event, we hauled in 16 baskets of baby scallops. These were an encouraging sign that the scallop population is prolific. At other times, no scallops were present but there was a bumper crop of sand dollars. This was because the area that they were collected is considered an “open” scallop fishing area. The range in size of the scallops that were brought in varied between 55 and 155 mm?

Fourspot Flounder
Fourspot Flounder
Carol on Sharp
Carol prepares to sort the dredge.
Silver and Red Hake
Silver and Red Hake
wet lab
Data collection inside the wet lab of the Sharp.

 

Personal Log:

Yesterday we completed our dredging events. A glorious sunset was the backdrop for this momentous occasion. Too bad there were no scallops in the dredge. We did, however collect many scallops of different sizes throughout our watch. The fog that was present for most of our dredging days finally burned off to reveal calm seas and a blue sky. The watch team that I was a member of worked like a well-oiled machine. Each member had a specific task to complete to carefully collect scientific data from each dredge event. Science is messy work and handling different species is not for sissies.

shucking scallops
The research team and crew members gather to shuck scallops.
sunset
Another spectacular sunset aboard the RV Sharp.

 

I look forward to returning home to be with my family and friends. The life of a sailor/scientist was an incredible experience and I am excited to share all that I have learned with my students at West Genesee.  Many thanks go out to the Captain and crew of the R/V Sharp and the NOAA science staff for making my journey unforgettable.

Final dredge
The final dredge for the third leg of the scallop survey 2014.

The following quote sums up my experience as part of the Teacher at Sea program.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

Carol Glor: Awe Shucks! The Mission Continues, July 9, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey, Third Leg

Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 9, 2014

Weather data from the bridge: Wind 204* 15 knots, Seas 4-6-10-12 ft. mixed directions, Visibility – overcast

Science and Technology Log:

Today we began dredging for scallops. The ship follows a predetermined path and the dredge is lowered to the ocean floor at specific locations along the path. These locations are chosen by the Scallop Assessment Biologist at NOAA because they are an accurate representation of the scallop population in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The area that we are focused on is known as Georges Bank. It is a broad, shallow submarine plateau forming the seaward boundary of the Gulf of Maine. The average depth is between 30 and 75 meters deep. It is home to an assortment of marine life including the Atlantic Sea Scallop. Several computers are employed to record all of the data that is pertinent to each dredge event. These include: ocean depth, air temperature, salinity, barometer, air speed, wind direction, fluorometer, and wind direction. The lab is in constant communication with both the bridge and the engineer who operates the winch system. Depending upon the ocean depth at the dredge station location, a specific amount of dredging cable (called line) to which the dredge net is attached, is released in order to create the best angle for the dredging operation.

 

map of Georges Bank
3D map of Georges Bank at the Woods Hole Aquarium.
map
Map of dredge stations.
offloading the dredge
The dredge is offloaded onto the sorting table.

After 15 minutes the dredge is hauled up to the surface and the net is emptied out onto the sorting table. All members of the science team are poised and ready to sort the catch. Each sorter is outfitted with foul weather gear. This consists of rubberized jacket, coveralls and rubber boots. Also required is a life vest, heavy duty gloves, and a hard hat (if the winch is in use). Several baskets and buckets are arranged around the sorting table. One is reserved for scallops, one for assorted fish and skate, one for crabs and whelk, and the last is for items that are not part of the study. This is known as trash.

When everyone has completed their preliminary sorting, it is time to count and sort each species that was collected. Trash is also accounted for. Each basket that is returned to the ocean is counted and data is recorded. The sorting and trash data is entered into the computer system inside the wet lab (also known as the van). At the three stations inside the van, a measuring tray is utilized to quickly measure and record the length of certain fish, scallops and skate. The first large scallop from each dredge event is photographed as a representation of that event. All large scallops are then weighed and shucked and the scallop is sexed (recorded as a male or female). The sex organ is weighed as well as the meat. The shells of the large scallops are cleaned, labeled, and placed into a muslin bag in order to be further analyzed at a NOAA laboratory back on shore. At the conclusion of the dredge event and sorting process, the lab is cleaned and prepped for the next event.

During our first watch, our team completed seven dredge events. Each event can take more than an hour from start to finish. Our catches included a variety of marine species: scallops, sand dollars, ocean pout, windowpane flounder, yellowtail flounder, four spot flounder, and gulfstream flounder, silver and red hake, quahogs, barn-door and winter skate, haddock, sand lance, cancer and hermit crab, sea mouse, sea sponge, fawn cusk eel, wave whelk, and monkfish (goosefish).

Sorting
Sorting the dredge.
skate
Carol measures a skate inside the lab
Baby Scallops
Baby Scallops to be counted, weighed, and measured.

 

Personal Log:

As an inexperienced sailor and scientist, the NOAA staff all worked hard to train me to complete many of the tasks required during our watch. Scientific method and protocol was followed to a “T”. It was an awesome and intense responsibility to fly the HabCam, annotate images recorded by the HabCam, monitor environmental data, set up the dredging event on the computer system, and record the sample data. Throughout the scheduled watch we witnessed whales spouting and breaching, and porpoise antics. During our down time we enjoyed the company of each other as well as the delicious meals prepared by Chef Paul.

Life at sea can be challenging. The weather is checked often in order to adjust the dredging route. High waves can make a dredge event difficult. They can also be a safety issue out on deck. For this reason, each person is required to wear a life vest and boots. Anyone on deck during a dredge drop or haul back is also required to wear a hard hat.

After a long, hard day, sleep is usually the best thing that you can do for yourself. The cabin area is quiet at all times because everyone is on a different shift. I am in a 4-person cabin but my roommates are all on the opposite shift. The rocking of the ship, and background engine noise makes it easy to fall asleep for long periods of time.

Did you know?

Scallops can be male or female. The simplest way to determine the sex is to open the scallop shell and examine the gonad. Female scallops have a pink gonad and males are cream-colored.

male and female scallops
Female scallop is on the left and a male scallop is on the right.

Photo Gallery

sea stars
An assortment of Sea Stars
Fin back whale
Fin Back Whale sighting
dolphins
Dolphins at play
Ocean Pout
Ocean Pout – eats sand dollars

Answer to last poll:

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp has at least 88 computer monitors on board. An equal number are part of the navigational  and monitoring systems as well as the scientific research components.

Alicia Gillean: Strange Ocean Critters and Science at Sea, July 3, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 – July 7, 2012

 

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 13.20 N
Longitude: 066 35.21 W
Relative Wind Speed: 2.3 Knots
Air Temperature: 18.72 degrees C
Humidity: 78%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 15 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

The HabCam-ing and dredging continue here in the North Atlantic in calm seas and clear skies!

Alicia Star Oddi
Alicia installing sensor on dredge

I learned a new part of the data collection process with the dredge.  Each time the dredge goes out, a sensor that tracks the pitch and roll (side to side and up and down movement) of the dredge on the ocean floor needs to be installed on the dredge.  When the trawl is complete, the sensor is removed and the data is uploaded to the computer.  It is automatically plotted on a line graph that visually tells the story of the dredge’s movement on the ocean floor.  This data is eventually combined with all the other data gathered at each dredge station.  Installing and removing the sensor has been my job for the last couple of shifts.  To do this, I have to climb up on the sorting table when the dredge is first brought to the surface, remove a metal pin and plastic holder that keeps the sensor in place, remove the old sensor and add a new sensor, then reinstall the holder and pin.  This all happens before they dump the dredge. On a funny note, on my way to the sorting table to add the sensor to the dredge earlier today, I managed to trip on a hose that was on deck and turn it on, watering myself and the lab technician that was on the deck with me and entertaining everyone else watching, I’m sure!  Luckily, we were all wearing our foul weather gear, so no one was soaked!!

It’s interesting to experience all the different pieces that make a successful dredge tow.  Before coming to sea, I guess I just assumed that you lowered a big net to the ocean floor and hoped to catch something.  I had no concept of how methodical and detailed each deployment of the dredge really is, from the locations, to the timing, to the number of people involved, to the detailed data collection.  The process is still being refined, even on this third leg of the sea scallop survey.  One of the scientists on my watch is an engineer who helped design and build the latest version of HabCam.  When a part that holds the sensor in the dredge was not working correctly, he was asked to use his engineering skills to create a better way to hold the sensor, so he made the needed modifications right on the ship.

Sorting
Day shift starting to sort a dredge haul

While sorting the haul from dredging stations, I sometimes run across ocean critters that I’ve never seen before.  I usually set these to the side to snap a picture after we finish sorting and to ask a scientist, usually Karen or Sean, to identify it for me.  It turns out that the strange hairy, oval-shaped creature I keep running across is a type of worm called a sea mouse. In my pictures it looks like a grassy ball of mud, but it’s much more interesting in person, I promise!  I consulted a field guide in the dry lab to learn a little more about it.  Its scientific name is Aphrodita hastate and it is usually about 6 inches by 3 inches and can be green, gold, or brown.  There are 15 gills hidden under the bristly fur.  They like muddy areas and often live in the very deep parts of the ocean, so they are only seen when brought up with a dredge or after being tossed ashore in a storm.  I haven’t seen any of them in the HabCam images, so I’m wondering if they tend to burrow in the mud, if their camouflage skills are really impressive, or if we just haven’t flown over any. The HabCam moves so quickly (remember, it takes 6 pictures per second) that it’s impossible to see everything in enough time to figure out what it is.

 

Sea mouse
Belly of a sea mouse

Another item that keeps coming up in the dredge looks like a clump of pasta shells and cheese and it crumbles easily.  My initial guess was that it is some type of sponge, but I was wrong. It turns out these are moon snail egg cases. Once I’m back ashore, I think I’ll have to find out more about these.

moon snail eggs
Moon snail eggs

We’ve seen lots of sea stars, scallops, sand dollars, crabs, clams, hermit crabs, flounder, several species of fish called hake, and skates (relative of the stingray) in the dredge hauls.  We’ve also seen most of these on the ocean floor with the HabCam.  One of the scientists found a whale vertebrae (part of the backbone) while sorting. It’s at least a foot and a half wide and 8 inches high! Can you imagine the size of the whale when it was alive?  Each haul usually has a monkfish or two in it.  I’ve heard that these fish are pretty tasty, but they sure look mean!  I was warned early on to keep my hands away from their mouths unless I want to get bitten!

 

Alicia with monkfish
Alicia with monkfish

Today is supposed to be a day of mainly flying the HabCam, so I’m hoping to be able to interview a few people on the ship about their jobs for use back at school when I’m not flying the HabCam or co-piloting.

Sea stars
Pretty sea stars that came up in the dredge

Personal Log

I ate my first real meal in the galley tonight and it was pretty tasty!  The steward, Paul, has worked on this ship for eight years and seems to have cooking a sea down to a science.  He has to work and sleep some unusual hours to keep everyone aboard well-fed, but he does it with a smile on his face.  Between the meals, snacks, and limited space to exercise, I imagine that keeping fit while at sea for long periods of time can be a challenge. There is a stationary bike next to the washer and dryer, but other than that you have to be creative with getting your exercise.  I saw one crew member on the deck this morning with a yoga mat doing crunches and using a storage container to do tricep dips.  He said that it’s a challenge, but that you can find ways to keep in shape at sea if it’s a priority for you.

I actually slept better the first few days at sea when I was seasick than I do now that I’m feeling better, thanks to the anti-nausea medication, I expect.  I’ve found that earplugs are essential for catching sleep aboard the ship when I’m not medicated!  There is one washer and dryer aboard the ship and I’ve had a bit of trouble finding a time when it’s not in use, so I decided to do my laundry at 5 am a day or so ago when I was having trouble sleeping. I figured I may as well use insomnia to my advantage and it was so nice to use a towel that is finally completely dry for the first time in a week!

There are 22 people aboard this ship; 12 scientists and 10 crew members.   Four of the scientists and two of the crew are women.  Because of watch schedules, most of the time I see only two other women while I’m awake.  All that to say, the ship is a pretty male-dominated arena, with lots of ESPN, toilet seats left up, and guy humor.  I feel very welcome aboard the ship, but I find that I spend most of my down time doing my own thing, like working on this blog or just enjoying the view, since I’m not much of a movie or sports watcher.  With fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful weather, this doesn’t bother me a bit!  In fact, I find that I see the most animals swimming in the ocean during these down times.  Today it was a huge group of jellyfish swimming next to the ship!

I’m still enjoying my time at sea and am looking forward to learning even more in my last few days.

View from science lab
View from the science lab at night

Alicia Gillean: Adventures in Dredging; July 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 – July 7, 2012

 

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 40 48.43 N
Longitude: 068 04.06W
Relative Wind Speed: 8.9 Knots
Air Temperature: 17.61 degrees C
Humidity: 92%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 16 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Dump dredge
Dumping dredge onto sorting table

My last shifts have been a mix of HabCam work and dredging. Remember, dredging is when we drag a heavy-duty net along the ocean floor for fifteen minutes, then bring it up and record what ocean critters we catch.  Dredging involves a lot more physical work and is much dirtier than flying the HabCam, so time goes much faster when we are dredging and it’s exciting to see what we will catch.  However, it is also kind of sad to see all the animals we bring up in the dredge, because most of them are dead or will soon be dead.  You can watch a video about sea scallop dredging here and here.

There are three two-week legs to this sea scallop survey.  I am on the last leg.  Before the first leg began, a computer program, with the assistance of a few people, decided which spots in the sea scallop habitat we should dredge and fly the HabCam.  These points were all plotted on a computerized map and the chief scientist connects the dots and decides the best route for the ship to take to make it to all the designated stations in the available time.

Here’s how our typical dredging process works:

About 10 minutes before we reach a dredge station, the Captain radios the lab from the Bridge (fancy name for the place at the top of the ship where the Captain and his crew work their magic) to let us know we are approaching our station.  At this point, I get on a computer in the dry lab to start a program that keeps track of our dredge position, length of tow, etc.  I enter data about the weather and check the depth of our dredge station.  When the engineer and Captain are ready, they radio the lab and ask for our depth and how much wire they need to send out to lower the dredge to the ocean floor.  I get the wire length from a chart hanging in the dry lab that is based on the depth of the ocean at the dredge site and use the radio to tell the engineer, who lets out that amount of wire until the dredge is on the ocean floor.  When the dredge hits the ocean floor, I use the computer program to start timing for 15 minutes and notify them when it is time to bring the dredge back up.

Alicia sorting fish
Alicia sorting the haul

The lab technicians and engineer raise and dump the dredge on a giant metal table, then secure it for the scientists to come in and begin sorting the haul.  Meanwhile, the scientists get dressed in foul weather gear to prepare for the messy job ahead.  That means I’m wearing yellow rubber overalls, black steel-toed rubber boots, blue rubber gloves, and a lovely orange lifejacket for each dredge.  Sometimes I add a yellow rubber jacket to the mix, too.  Science is not a beauty contest and I’m grateful for the protection!  Each scientist grabs two orange baskets, one large white bucket, and one small white bucket and heads to the table. The lab technicians shovel the catch toward each scientist as we sort.  Scallops go in one orange basket, fish go in the white bucket, crabs go in the small white bucket (sometimes), and everything else goes into the other orange basket.  This is considered “trash” and is thrown back overboard, but the watch chief keeps track of how many baskets of “trash” are thrown overboard during each haul and enters it into a computer database along with other data. After sorting the haul, much of the data collection takes place in lab called a “van”.

Research Van
Research “van” where we gather data from haul

The fish are sorted by species, counted, weighed, sometimes measured, and entered into a special computer system that tracks data from the hauls.  Sometimes we also collect and count crabs and sea stars.  The baskets of sea scallops are counted and weighed, and then individual scallops are measured on a special magnetic measuring board.  You lay the scallop on the measuring board, touch the magnet to the board at the end of the scallop, and the length is automatically entered into the database.    Some hauls have lots of sea scallops and some don’t have very many.  We had a couple hauls that were almost completely sand dollars and one that was almost completely sea stars.  I learned that sea stars can be quite slimy when they are stressed. I had no idea!

Sand dollar dresge
Dredge haul with LOTS of sand dollars

Sometimes my watch chief, Sean, will select a subsample of five sea scallops for us to scrub clean with a wire brush.

Alicia scrub scallops
Alicia scrubbing scallops at about 11pm

Next, we weigh and measure all five sea scallops before cutting them open to determine the gender.  We remove the gonad (the reproductive organ) and weigh it, then do the same with the “meat” (the muscle that allows the scallop to open and close its shell and the part people like to eat).  All of this information is recorded and each scallop is given a number.  We write the number on each shell half and bag and tag the shells.  The shells and data will be given to a scientist on shore that has requested them for additional research.  The scallop shells can be aged by counting the rings, just like counting the rings on a tree.

Alicia scrub scallops 2
Scrubbing scallops is dirty work!

Meanwhile, other people are hosing off the deck, table, buckets, and baskets used.  The dredge ends by shucking the scallops and saving the meat for meals later.  A successful dredge requires cooperation and communication between scientists, lab technicians, the Captain, and the crew. It requires careful attention to detail to make sure the data collected is accurate. It also requires strategic planning before the voyage even begins.  It’s an exciting process to be a part of and it is interesting to think about the different types of information that can be collected about the ocean from the HabCam versus the dredge.

Personal Log

Hallway to shower
Hallway to the shower and bathroom

Living on a ship is kind of like living in a college dorm again: shared room with bunkbeds, communal shower and bathroom down the hall, and meals prepared for you.  I can’t speak to the food prepared by the steward (cook) Paul, as I haven’t been able to eat much of it yet (I’m finally starting to get a handle on the seasickness, but I’m not ready for tuna steaks and lima beans just yet), but I do appreciate that the galley (mess hall) is open all the time for people to rummage through the cabinets for crackers, cereal, and other snacks. There’s even an entire freezer full of ice cream sandwiches, bars, etc.  If my husband had known about the ice cream, he probably would have packed himself in my duffel bag for this adventure at sea!

Taking a shower at sea is really not much different than taking a shower at the gym or in a college dorm… in the middle of a small earthquake. Actually, it’s really not too bad once you get used to the rock  of the ship.  On the floor where the scientists’ berths (rooms) are, there are also two heads (bathrooms) and two showers.  The ship converts ocean water into water that we can use on the ship for showering, washing hands, etc.  through a process called reverse osmosis.  Sea water is forced through a series of filters so small that not even the salt in the water can fit through.  I was afraid that I might be taking cold showers, but there is a water heater on board, too!   We are supposed to take “Navy showers”, which means you get wet, press a button on the shower head to stop the water while you scrub, then press the button to turn the water back on to rinse.  I’ll admit that I find myself forgetting about this sometimes, but I’m getting much better!

Shower
Shower on Hugh R Sharp

Today there was about an hour and a half of “steam” time while we headed to our next dredge location and had nothing official to do.  Some of the people on my watch watched a movie in the galley, but I decided to head to one of the upper decks and enjoy the gorgeous views of ocean in every direction.  I was awarded by a pod of about 15 common dolphins jumping out of the water next to the ship!

I’m starting to get a feel for the process of science at sea and am looking forward to the new adventures that tomorrow might bring!

Question of the Day

Which way do you think is the best way to learn about the sea scallop population and ocean life in general: dredging or HabCam?  Why do you think so?

 You can share your thoughts, questions, and comments in the comments section below.

Janet Nelson: Steaming for Home, June 25, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area: North Atlantic
Monday, June 25, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 41 24.21 North
Longitude: 069 54.98 West
Wind Speed: 13.7 kt
Air Temperature: 17 C                    

Final Log:

We are steaming for home. Woods Hole, MA that is. In the past ten days we have conducted 71 scallop dredge tows and processed 15, 979 scallops. We also took over 4 million images with the HabCam in 691 nautical miles of this leg. We have been a little busy.

A tow of scallops

This morning (0600 hrs.) we mustered in the dry lab and began our assignments, ranging from swabbing the decks to vacuuming our state rooms. Tonight I will be in Boston and then on my way back to Minnesota. I am ready to go home, but I know I will think back fondly on a few things. The rocking of the boat when I’m going to sleep.  Meals prepared for me. The sound of waves and water. The hum of the engines. Seeing what comes up in the scallop dredge. Being on deck and on the bridge. A hap chance at seeing whales or dolphins. New friends and fun banter. Even though this journey began with an unpleasant introduction, it is ending with fond feelings.

Me and a barndoor skate!
Me and a barn door skate!

Being on this boat has been interesting for several reasons. I have learned new things about ocean life that I can take back to my classroom as well as a few souvenirs. I can honestly say I have never seen more scallops in my life, not to mention sand dollars and sea stars! I am looking forward to sharing this experience with my family, students, and friends. As I write this last blog, I am thinking of what a privilege it has been to be a member of this team of researchers. I am honored to learn from them. To my team: Jon, Nicole, Mike, Jess, Alexis, Ted, Nick (TG), and TR, thank you!! This experience would not have been the same without you! I will remember you fondly for many, many days to come.

Cheers!

L to R, TR, Ted, Mike, Jess, Jon, Nicole…my crew

Janet Nelson: Third Day at Sea – June 17, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area: North Atlantic
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 39.48.57 North
Longitude: 07226.9 West
Wind Speed: 12 kt
Air temp: 17.8 C
Approximate wave height: 4-6 feet

Science and Technology Log:

Current time: 1630 hours. We have been operating the HabCam since I came on duty at 1200 hours. It is interesting watching what the HabCam is flying over. Depending on the area, it might be littered with sea stars (a predator of small scallops) or it may be littered with hundreds of sand dollars (a food of ocean pout – ugly looking fish). In the case of sea stars, you won’t see many adult scallops, which, makes sense if the young ones are getting eaten. All in all, the research here is pretty straight forward. We are looking to see what predation is affecting the scallops, basically, food chains and habitat. On the side scan sonar, you can see past dredge marks from fishing vessels that have come through. We have passed over some old fishing nets, gear, a shoe, a can, odd things like that.

I have been “flying” the HabCam which is pretty cool. You need to keep the cam approximately 2.5 to 1.5 meters off the sea floor which can be a tricky thing to do. Fun, but tricky. While the cam is flying, the “co”pilot” is scanning images looking for various critters, specifically scallops. It can be a process that makes your eyes go buggy after about 1/2 to 3/4 hours so we switch off every now and then. This specific episode of the HabCam has been running for approximately 14 hours and has traveled about 177 nautical miles. That is a lot of sea floor!!

In approximately 35 minutes we will deploy the scallop dredge. The dredge will run for 15 minutes spurts. We will run six of them back to back. When the dredge comes up we will sort all the species into their buckets, count and measure the scallops, count and measure the fish, toss back the sand dollars, star fish and most often the crabs. The scallops that are two years old or younger we measure and toss back into the sea. The older scallops get measured, sexed, weighed and sometimes shucked. Word is there will be scallops for supper!

Personal Log:

I now understand what it is like to be in a washing machine with no end! I have not been able to blog prior to now because I have been spending a great deal of time in my bunk and in the head. My diet consists of saltine crackers and water. Occasionally, I can sneak in a piece of fruit, but not often. So far, this experience has not really begun yet. I have, however, been able to go 24 hours with no loss of stomach content. That’s a good sign, I hope. Sleep has been good and I feel rested (for the most part). The crew on the ship is awesome and I could not ask for a better chief scientist! Everyone was very understanding when I was sick and cut me slack for not being able to pull my weight. I think the crying helped soften them up. I was looking forward to big seas and water, not so much any more. I beg for calm seas and light winds. Perhaps I will be able to get some photographs of me working for the next blog, but until then, I will be happy with just keeping my lunch down!

Cheers!


Janet Nelson: Introduction – NOAA Teacher at Sea – June 14-25, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Pre-Cruise:

Greetings from Lewes Delaware! I am Janet Nelson Huewe. I live in Bemidji, MN with my husband, Gary. Together we have five grown children and two grand children. Bemidji is the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Good thing Mr. Bunyan left so many footprints that created lakes because my husband LOVES to fish! I have been teaching biology for ten years at Red Lake High School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. I enjoy learning and doing new things that I can bring back into my classroom. I am very excited to have been selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to participate in their Teacher at Sea program. I will be working on the R/V Hugh R. Sharp in the North Atlantic conducting a sea scallop survey.

I arrived into Lewes on June 13th and boarded the ship. The winds have been high, blowing anywhere from 25 to 40 mph causing waves to reach around 12 feet, so we are still in port, waiting for calmer seas. When we do set sail, we will be using a device called a HabCam (HABitat mapping CAMera system). HabCam is a tool that will provide us with a unique glimpse at the seafloor through optical imaging.

The HabCam vehicle is lifted over the edge of the ship by a winch and then “flies” over the ocean bottom taking six images a second creating a continuous image ribbon. On the surface we will get real-time images and data in a completely non-invasive way.  From the images we can learn about ecosystem change over different time and space scales, calculate biodiversity, classify habitats, map hard to survey species, learn about invasive species, and promote interest in ocean and ecosystem science. HabCam can also provide data to scientists and fishery managers to help them make more informed decisions and to help understand ecosystem change.

We will also deploy a scallop dredge (on the right). This device, however, is more invasive. The dredge will physically skim the bottom of the ocean to collect live specimens. From there, I will help sort and count the scallops and any other critter that gets taken up by the dredge. Maybe I will be able to eat a few scallops later? We’ll see. Until then, keep checking my blog to find out more exciting news from the R/V Hugh R. Sharp!

Alicia Gillean: Introduction, April 29, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Soon to be aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 — July 8, 2012

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012

Personal Log

Alicia Gillean
Alicia Gillean, 2012 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello from Oklahoma!  My name is Alicia Gillean and I am ecstatic that I was selected as a 2012 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Teacher at Sea!  I am passionate about adventure, lifelong learning, and the ocean.  I can’t wait to merge these three passions together for twelve days at sea this summer and to share my learning with all of my students and coworkers back in Oklahoma. I will be blogging about my adventure and learning while aboard the ship and you are invited to follow my journey and get involved by asking questions and posting comments. I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself, then I’ll fill you in on the details of my Teacher at Sea adventure.

A Bit About Me

When I’m not pursuing adventure on the high seas, I am the school librarian (also known as a library media specialist) at Jenks West Intermediate School, a school of about 600 5th and 6th graders in the Jenks Public Schools District, near Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I might be a bit biased, but I believe that I have the best job in the school and that I work with some of the finest teachers and students in the world.

You are probably wondering, “How did a librarian from Oklahoma become part of an ocean research cruise?”  I’m glad you asked.  It just so happens that this blog entry answers that very question.

I’ll admit it; I was born and raised a landlubber. There just aren’t many opportunities to visit the ocean when you grow up in the Midwest.  Rumor has it that I touched the ocean once when I was about 3, but I didn’t touch it again until I was 21. More on that later.

My passion for the ocean began in high school when I took a Marine Biology class where my mind was blown by the diversity and beauty of life in the sea and the complex network of factors that impact the health of an ocean environment.  I took Marine Biology 2 and 3 the following years where I set up and maintained aquariums in elementary schools and taught ocean-related lessons for elementary students.

Aquarium newspaper photo
Alicia showing a shark jaw to a three year old at the Oklahoma Aquarium

I started to become a little obsessed with marine life, went to college to become a teacher, and did a happy dance when I learned that an aquarium was going to open in Jenks, Oklahoma.  I landed a job as a summer intern in the education department of the Oklahoma Aquarium and was overjoyed to be a part of the team that opened it in 2003.  When I graduated from college, the aquarium hired me as an education specialist, where I worked with learners of all ages to promote our mission of “conservation through education” through classes, camps, fishing clinics, sleepovers, animal interactions, crafts… the list goes on and on. 

In 2006, I became a 6th grade teacher in Jenks Public Schools, then I earned my Masters degree and became the school librarian in 2010.  I love to work with all the kiddos in my school as they learn to develop as thinkers, scientists, and citizens who have the power to impact the world.  They are just the kind of advocates that the environment needs and I want to help prepare them for this important role any way possible.  My experiences as a Teacher at Sea will certainly help!

Let’s go back to my actual experiences with the ocean for a moment.  After graduating from college and marrying my high school sweetheart David, I hightailed it to an ocean as fast as possible.  We honeymooned in Hawaii where we snorkeled, explored tidepools, went on a whale watch, and temporarily filled the ocean-shaped void in my heart.

Alicia in ocean
Alicia on a Maui Beach

I’ve been back to the ocean several times and each time I am reminded of the delicate balance that must be maintained for the fascinating world under the waves to survive and thrive.  It is critical we protect the oceans and that people realize that their actions impact the oceans.  Even in the landlocked state of Oklahoma, our actions matter.

So, that’s why a school librarian from Oklahoma will spend the summer of 2012 on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, counting sea scallops.  I can hardly wait for the adventure to begin!  Enough about me, let’s talk about the research cruise now.

Science and Technology Log

I’ll be participating in a sea scallop survey in the Atlantic Ocean, along the northeast coast of the United States, from Delaware to Massachusetts.  My adventure at sea will begin June 27, 2012 and end July 8, 2012.

What is a sea scallop?

A sea scallop is an animal that is in the same category as clams, oysters, and mussels. One way that sea scallops are different from other animals with two shells (bivalves) is that a sea scallop can move itself through the water by opening and closing its shells quickly.  How do you think this adaptation might help the sea scallop?  Watch these videos to see a sea scallop in action:

 

Importance of  Sea Scallops/Sea Scallop Survey

People like to eat scallops, so fishermen drag heavy-duty nets along the ocean floor (called dredging) to collect and sell them.  Most of them are harvested in the Atlantic Ocean along the northeastern coast of the United States. The United States sea scallop fishery is very important for the economy.

Sea Scallop Habitats
Map of sea scallop habitats from NOAA’s fishwatch.gov

The problem is that sometimes people can harvest too many scallops and the sea scallops can’t reproduce quickly enough before they are harvested again.  Eventually, this could lead to the depletion of the sea scallop population, which would be bad news for the ocean and for people.

This is where the NOAA Sea Scallop Survey comes in.  Every year, NOAA sends scientists out in a ship to count the number of Atlantic sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) in various parts of their habitat.  The sea scallops live in groups called beds on the ocean floor 100-300 feet deep, so scientists can’t just peer into the ocean and count them.  Instead, they have to dredge, just like the fisherman, to collect samples of scallops in numerous places.  The scientists record data about the number, size, and weight of sea scallops and other animals. Based on the data collected, decisions are made about what areas are okay for people to harvest scallops in and what areas need a break from harvesting for a while.  I’m considered a scientist on this cruise, so I’ll get to participate in this for 12 hours a day.  I hear it is messy, smelly, tiring, and fascinating.  Sounds like my type of adventure!  I think most good science is messy, don’t you?

The Ship

I’ll be sailing on the research vessel Hugh R Sharp. You can take a virtual tour of the ship here.  It was built in 2006, is 146 feet long (a little bit shorter than the width of a football field), and is used for lots of different scientific research expeditions. When I’m out at sea, you can see where I am on the journey and track the ship here.

RV Hugh R. Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp; photo from NOAA Eastern Surveys Branch

What I hope to Learn

I’m very interested to experience what daily life is like on an ocean research vessel, how scientists use inquiry, data-collection, math, and other skills that we teach our students in a real-world setting.  Of course, I’m also hoping to see some fascinating ocean critters and get my hands dirty doing the work of a real scientist.

I’d love for you to join me on this adventure by following this blog and leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of each blog entry.  Let’s make this a learning experience that we will all remember!

Jessie Soder: Drag It Along, Dump It Out, Count ‘Em Up, August 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  16:00
Location:  41°47N, 67°47W
Air Temp:  18°C  (64°F)
Water Temp:  16.5°C  (62°F)
Wind Direction:  SE
Wind Speed:  6 knots
Sea Wave height:  0
Sea Swell:  0

Science and Technology Log

A fellow volunteer, Rebecca, and myself measuring clams

When I found out that the Teacher at Sea trip that I would be on was a clam survey, I thought, “Oh, clams.  I see those on the beach all the time.  No problem.”  I learned that the clams are collected using a hydraulic dredge.  I knew  that a dredge was something that you dragged along the bottom of the ocean.  That seemed simple enough.  Drag it along, dump it out, count ‘em up, and you’re done.

Quickly, I learned that this project is not that simple!  A few questions came to mind after we had done a couple of tows:  How many people are needed to conduct one tow for clams and quahogs? (operate the machinery, the ship, sort through a tow, collect the data, etc.)  How many different jobs are there during one tow?

Sorting through contents of a dredge

Those questions are hard to answer, and I don’t have a precise answer.  What I have learned is that it takes a lot of people and everyone that is involved has a job that is important.  I asked the Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, how many people he preferred to have on a science team per watch.   He told me that it is ideal to have six people dedicated to working on sorting the contents of the dredge, processing the catch, and collecting data per watch.  Additionally, he likes to have one “floater,” who can be available to help during each watch.  This seems like a lot of people, but, when there is a big catch this number of people makes the work much more manageable.  There are six people, including myself, on my watch.  Four of us are volunteers.

Each time the dredge is lowered, pulled along the ocean floor, and then brought back onto the ship it is called an “event.”  In my last post I included a video of the dredge being hauled up onto the deck of the ship after it had been pulled along the bottom.  An entire tow, or “event,” is no small feat!  During my watch Rick operates the machinery that raises and lowers the dredge.  (Don’t forget the dredge weighs 2500 pounds!)

There are also two people working on deck that assist him.  (You can see them in the video from my last post.  They are wearing hard hats and life vests.)  Additionally, an officer on the bridge needs to be operating and navigating the ship during the entire event.  There are specific times where they must speed up, slow down, and stop the ship during a tow.  They also have to make sure that the ship is in the correct location because there are planned locations for each tow.  Throughout the entire event the science team, deck crew, and the bridge crew communicate by radio.

Rick, in front of the controls he uses to lower and raise the dredge

As I said, this project is not simple!  To make it more complicated, equipment often breaks, or is damaged, which means that the deck crew and the science team have to stop and fix it. On this trip we have stopped to fix equipment several times.  Various parts of the dredge get bent and broken from rocks on the ocean floor.  Before the dredge is lowered, the bottom is scouted with a depth sounder to try to avoid really rough terrain.  On the screen of the depth sounder different substrates are shown in different colors.  For example sand is shown in green and rocks are shown in red.  We try to avoid a lot of rocks.  However, all the rocks cannot be avoided and sometimes we hit them!

Personal Log

Vic getting a hair cut

Before coming on this trip I was told that the work can be strenuous and, sure enough, it is.  Sometimes a tow brings up hundreds of pounds of rocks (with some clams mixed in!) that we need to sort through and, as you know, rocks are heavy!  The work is also a bit, well, gross.  We have to measure all the clams, whole and broken and we also have to collect weights of “clam meat.”  That means that we have to open the shells and scrape the meat out.  I have a pretty high tolerance for gross things, but I am starting to grow weary of clam guts!

In between tows there is a little bit of down time to catch your breath, drink coffee and eat cookies, watch the ocean, and read a book.  During one of these breaks, the Chief Scientist Victor Nordahl, took the moment and had his hair cut!

Jessie Soder: Happy as a Clam, August 12, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  12:00
Location:  41°47.405N, 67°21.702W
Air Temp:  18.4°C  (65°F)
Water Temp:  17°C (63°F)
Wind Direction:  South
Wind Speed:  8 knots
Sea Wave height: 1 foot
Sea Swell:  2 feet

Science and Technology Log

TK holding a monkfish caught in the dredge

When I was a little girl I was always excited to pull the minnow trap up from the end of the dock to see what oddities I had caught accidentally while trying to trap minnows.  I am reliving this excitement on a much larger scale on this research cruise.  The dredge we are using to fish for ocean quahogs and surfclams is 5ft x 20ft, weighs 2500lbs, and is pulled for ¼ nautical mile each time it is towed.  (That means it covers an area of about 9000 square feet.)  As you might imagine it accidentally catches things besides the ocean quahogs and the surfclams that we are fishing for.

The dredge is lowered into the water off the back of the ship.  Once it hits the ocean floor a powerful jet of water is sprayed into the ocean floor in front of it to “liquefy” the sand or mud on the ocean bottom.  This loosens the clams and suspends them in the water, just above the bottom.  (Ocean quahogs and surfclams aren’t far below the bottom; just a few inches.)  Then, while they are suspended in the water the dredge scoops them up.  The dredge is brought back up to the ship and dumped and we sort through the catch.  The ocean quahogs, surfclams, and a few other species are kept to weigh and measure.  Below is a video of the dredge being hauled back on the back deck of the ship.

After three watches I am getting pretty good at identifying ocean quahogs and surfclams.  What is the difference between an Atlantic surfclam and an ocean quahog?  Well, they are very similar!  They are both bi-valve mollusks, which means that they have two shells covering a soft body.  They both burrow into the sand so that only their siphon sticks out.  Both of them filter their food, algae and plankton, through their siphon.  One of the biggest differences between them is in the way that their shells connect, or hinge together.  Another difference is their lifespan.  The ocean quahog lives for more than 150 years and the Atlantic surfclam lives for approximately 30 years.  Their size and shape are different too.  Ocean quahogs are rounder than the Atlantic surfclams, which have a triangular shape.  The  Atlantic surfclam also grows larger than the ocean quahog.

Ocean Quahog (left) Atlantic Surfclam (right)

Just like I was excited as a kid to find crayfish and bullheads in my minnow trap I am excited to see what the dredge brings up each time.  So far our biggest catch was 4400 quahogs!  Conversely, our smallest catch was just three quahogs! Sometimes the dredge is filled with empty shells, or empty shells and sand dollars, or thousands of clams, or sometimes it is really sandy.  Each time it is a surprise and it gives you a brief glimpse of what the bottom looks like.

Personal Log

Empty shells and sand dollars

There are many potential dangers that you can face every day while working on a ship.  In fact, since being aboard we have run three drills; man overboard, fire, and abandon ship.  These drills are run on every trip so that everyone knows exactly what to do.

I think that there is something about being at sea on a ship that heightens your awareness of yourself.  I have experienced that same sort of feeling when I am sea-kayaking in big water, or hiking on a bear trail.  It is the feeling that there is something out there that is bigger than you are.  You sense things in a much clearer and acute way.

This evening the sun was going down on the starboard side of the ship and the moon was coming up on the portside.  We could see for miles and miles.  Earlier today we watched a school of tuna swim past and dolphins in the distance.  It was a beautiful clear and sunny day and we were 140 miles from land.  We are lucky.

Questions to Ponder

The clams and quahogs are collected on this research cruise from the sea floor using a hydraulic dredge.  The dredge is lowered and run along the seafloor for about 5 minutes in order to pick up the clams and quahogs.  Each time this is done it is called a “tow.”  How many people do you think are needed to conduct (operate the machinery and collect the data) one tow for clams and quahogs?  How many different jobs are there during one tow?

Jessie Soder: Steamin’ and Swimmin’, August 10, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  16:00
Location:  40°41.716N, 67°36.233W
Air temp: 20.6° C (69° F)
Water temp: 17° C (63° F)
Wind direction: West
Wind speed: 11 knots
Sea wave height: 3 feet
Sea swell:  5-6 feet 

Science and Technology Log

View from the flying bridge departing Woods Hole

Our departure from Woods Hole has been delayed a number of times due to several factors.  We were scheduled to leave the dock on Monday at 2pm, but due to rough seas (8ft on Georges Bank—which was where we were planning to go first) and a crane that needed to be fixed our departure was rescheduled for Tuesday at 10am.  On Tuesday, the crane was fixed, but then it was discovered that the ship’s engineering alarm system was not working properly, so our departure was delayed again for a few hours.  The crew worked hard to get the ship off the dock and we departed at 1:15 on Tuesday.  Yay!  We were on our way to Georges Bank, which was about a 15 hour “steam,” or, trip.

The purpose of the NOAA Fisheries Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog survey is to determine and keep track of the population of both species.  This particular survey is done every three years.  NOAA Fisheries surveys other species too, such as ground fish (cod, haddock, pollock, fluke), sea scallops, and northern shrimp.  These species are surveyed more often—usually a couple of times each year.  Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs are surveyed less often than other fished species because they do not grow as fast as other species.  In fact, the ocean quahog can live for more than 150 years, but it only reaches about 6  inches across!  In comparison, the sea scallop lives for only 10 to 15 years and reaches a size of 8 inches.

There are 27 people on board this cruise.  Each person is assigned a watch, or shift, so that there are people working 24 hours a day. The work never stops!  Seventeen people on board are members of the crew that are responsible for the operation and navigation of the ship, machinery operation and upkeep (crane, dredge, etc.), food preparation, general maintenance, and electronics operations and repair.  There are a lot of things that need to happen to make things on a research ship run smoothly in order for the scientific work to happen!

NOAA Ship Delaware II docked in Woods Hole

Twelve people on board are part of the science team, including me, who collect the samples and record the data.  We are split into two watches, the noon-midnight watch and the midnight-noon watch.  We sort through the material in the dredge for the clams and the quahogs.  We measure and weigh them as well as document the location where they are collected.  Several members of the science team are volunteers.

Personal Log

A swimming beach near Nobska Lighthouse

Our delayed departure has given me a lot of time to talk to crew and to explore Woods Hole—which I have really enjoyed.  I have learned a lot about the responsibilities of the different members of the crew and about the maritime industry, which is something that has always interested me.  I was also able to visit the Woods Hole aquarium (twice!) and attend a talk given by crew from the R/V Knorr. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute operates the R/V Knorr and it was on this ship that the location of the wreck of the Titanic was located for the first time in 1985.  Additionally,  in 1977 scientists aboard this ship discovered  hydrothermal vents  on the ocean floor.  And, lastly, I had time to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean!  The water was a bit warmer off the coast of Massachusetts than it is off the coast of Alaska…

Questions to Ponder

What is the difference between an ocean quahog and an Atlantic surfclam?

Anne Artz: July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 26, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location: 40 32.672 N070 43.585 W
Temperature: 18.5 C
Winds:  Easterly at 3-4 knt
Conditions:  Sunny today, some clouds, ocean calm

Science and Technology Log

Our first full day at sea (and at work)!  We left the dock at Woods Hole, MA yesterday at 2 pm and headed out past Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  While steaming towards our sampling site, we practiced two very important safety drills — a fire drill and the abandon ship drill.  The abandon ship drill was unique in that we had to don our survival suits (supposedly in a minute but I think I took longer than that) that protect us in the water from hypothermia and also help keep us afloat.

Survival Suit
Anne Artz in her survival suit

Around 6 pm we reached our first sample location and the “day team” (that’s me and some fellow volunteers) started our work.  The testing protocol is fairly simple: sample sites have been predetermined by computer.  Survey sites are selected based on depth and location (latitude and longitude).  When we reach those locations, a large sled-like cage called a dredge is lowered into the water and dragged along the ocean floor for a prescribed amount of time (generally 5 minutes).

Sampling dredge on the Delaware II
This cage goes on the ocean floor scooping up samples for our analysis.

The dredge is then brought up and the contents emptied onto the deck.  Our work then takes 10-15 minutes to sort through what is brought up, keeping those items we are surveying or counting, and throwing the rest back into the water.  We attempt to identify organisms we bring up and we count all live bivalves, any gastropods, hermit crabs, starfish and all fish.  Species we identify and measure are the surfclam, the ocean quahog, the southern quahog, and sea scallops.  Once we’ve separated out what we need, we weigh the catch then measure the size of each item collected.  We throw everything back into the water and clean up the deck while heading to our next location.  The procedure is repeated about twice each hour.  For our work on the deck we wear protective clothing, hard hats, and of course, a life vest.

Personal Log

There are seven volunteers aboard this trip, including myself.  They are a varied group from all over but are all very interested in ocean science.  Some of them are college graduates, some are still in college and we are all first-timers on this type of research vessel.  We were assigned a 12-hour shift, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon.  I feel fortunate to be on the noon-midnight shift as that means I don’t have to alter my sleeping pattern much.  It’s tiring work but the good part is there are breaks between each haul so most of us have our books with us on the deck (so handy to have a Kindle!).  The crew here is as varied as the volunteers, from all over the country and they are all very good at what they do.  I initially thought having 4 girls sleeping in a room the size of a walk-in closet would be difficult but it’s not.  At any given time two of us are on deck, on duty, so the room is available for sleeping, changing, showering, etc.  We all respect quiet below deck because at any given time, someone is always trying to sleep!

Interesting Things Seen Yesterday

A shark with a rather large fin above the water was following us from a distance for a while — maybe curiosity?  We brought up several skates (they look like rays) the largest being about 12 inches long.  They are incredibly beautiful up close, looking almost angelic.  It seems a shame they have such a bad reputation!

Kathleen Brown: This Week at Sea! June 12-14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Brown
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 7 – 18, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 12-14, 2011

June 14, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 3:32 PM
Winds 13.0 KTs
Air Temperature: 10.78 degrees C
Latitude 41 40.26N Longitude 068 19.96W

Science and Technology Log

Basket of Scallops
Basket of Scallops

Today I have been thinking about sampling. On this leg of the Scallop Survey, we may dredge up to 150 times. Each dredge is called a station. The stations on the trip are generally selected at random, from the places along the bottom of the ocean that scientists expect to find scallops. Once in a while we stop at a non-random station. This is a location that scientists have been studying for a number of years. By selecting the same location over and over again, scientists can see how the scallop population is changing. One scientist uses the data collected at the non-random stations to age the scallops. Scallop shells have rings that scientists can count to see how old the scallop is. (This is similar to the way that a scientist might tell the age of a tree.)

Every time the net is hauled onto the table, we sort every item that has been pulled up from the ocean. Of course sea scallops are the species that are being studied, but we count all the fish as well. The scallops are placed in orange baskets, similar in size and shape to a round laundry basket. Once a basket is filled to the top, we grab another basket. On some tows, there are no sea scallops. On tows where scallops are abundant, there have been as many as 30 baskets full of scallops. If we have collected a few baskets of scallops, we will measure the length of each animal. However, imagine trying to measure and count every scallop in thirty baskets. (My fellow scientist Aaron and I have found that we typically measure 250-300 scallops per basket.) It would not be practical, especially in locations where stations are close to each other. There just wouldn’t be enough time. In those cases, the Crew Chief will select, randomly, the baskets that will be sorted and measured. Usually, it is one fourth of the total sea scallop catch. This is called a sub-sample. Scientists can use the data to extrapolate (estimate) the size and character of the catch.

Smaple a scallop
Sampling a scallop

Scallops that come up from the tows vary in ways other than in size and age. Some of the oldest sea scallops that have been dredged up have been covered with small ecosystems. Barnacles, sea sponges, and algae are firmly attached to the shell. Many of the sea scallops have been so crusted that we had to remove the colonies of barnacles before we could measure them.

We have not been able to see any stars at night, as it has been overcast the whole trip. I had hoped to see a brilliant night sky. Last night I was able to count three other vessels out on the water – small lights bobbing off in the distance.

Personal Log

The day crew has developed a great bond. We have fun joking and telling stories. Before we head out on deck, we each guess the number of species that we might see in the tow. The friendly competition makes us laugh. In the galley, there is a satellite television. If the ship is traveling in a certain direction, we can receive a signal. Can you imagine being 200 miles out in the ocean and watching the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks play in the Stanley Cup finals? Go Boston!

Question of the Day

In areas where American sea scallops are abundant, what other marine animals would scientists expect to find?

 

June 12, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 12:50 PM
Winds 18.7 KTs
Air Temperature: 11.33 degrees C
Latitude 41 18.20N
Longitude 066 49.56W

Science and Technology Log

The Chief Scientist, Kevin, shared some information with me this morning that helps to put our work into perspective. NOAA conducts an annual sea scallop survey, which covers an area from Cape Hatteras to Georges Bank. I am traveling on the second leg of the 2011 survey. Over time scientists and fisherman use the data to track the distribution of the sea scallops. The scallop catch is reported in numbers and disaggregated (broken down) by the size of the animals. Catches are categorized by the size of the scallops’ shell height: less than or equal to 90 mm, greater than 90 mm, and greater than or equal to 100mm. (Notice how scientists use the metric system of measurement to report their results.)

To be sure that the information being compared is valid, scientists use the same type of equipment and the same procedure on every tow and on every trip. According to Kevin, fifteen-minute tows are made at the speed of 3.8 KTs. That means that the dredge is pulled behind the boat for the same time and at the same speed. The dredge (think big, square fishing net) is called a modified 8-foot New Bedford type scallop dredge and it travels along the bottom of the ocean floor to get the sample. It is made of chains linked together and has a liner made out of nylon rope that helps to keep the small scallops in the dredge. Nate, the Crew Chief on my watch, and Sam, a graduate student studying scallops, share with me their experiences on a commercial scallop boat. Those vessels typically have two dredges, each one approximately fifteen feet wide. Imagine the numbers of scallops those ships can catch!

On selected tows, random scallops are studied. On one tow, Aaron and I work together to sample five scallops. First we scrub the outside of the scallop really well, using a wire brush. When we measure and weigh the scallop, we will work to get as accurate a result as possible. Once we have collected data on the exterior of the scallop, I cut it open. Immediately we can tell if the scallop is a male or a female. If the scallop is a male, the gonad is white. If a scallop is a female, the gonad is red. We weigh the gonad and then we weigh the “meat.” The meat is the part of the scallop that most people eat. It is the muscle of the animal. Finally, we save the shells for the scientist back on land who has requested the data.

I have been taking lots of photographs of everything that we have been studying on the cruise. I will upload them when I return to land because of the limited Internet connection on the ship.

Personal Log

I have been sleeping really well on this ship. It doesn’t take very long, once I get to my cabin and climb into my bunk, for me to fall asleep. Working twelve hours in the salt air can make a body tired! Once in awhile, the ship will rock back and forth in a way that wakes me up. I look at my wristwatch and return to sleep. What a great feeling to wake up rested in the morning.

Question of the Day
What does by-catch mean? Why is it important that scientists measure the number and size of the by-catch in each tow?

Anne Byford, June 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location:  off the coast of New England
June 8, 2010

Weather Data at 6pm EDT: Calm, Clear, 23˚C
Location at 6pm EDT:
Lat: 39 42.68 N
Long: 73 24.98 W
Water Depth: 86.4m

First day at sea

The first day was mostly spent steaming to the first dredge site, about 14 hours away from Lewes, Delaware. In the morning, all of the safety information was covered and those of us who had not tried an exposure suit before put one on. After the ship reached the ocean, we did a test dredge to ensure that all of the equipment was working and that we all knew what to expect.

The process is basically the same for all dredges on the Sea Scallop survey. Each tow is at a specific, pre-selected random site, using the same type of dredge, at the same angle to the bottom for the same amount of time and at the same speed as all other tows. This ensures that the data gathered is comparable from tow to tow and particularly from year to year. Once the dredge is pulled back up, it is dumped onto a sorting table on the rear deck of the ship. Everything is sorted into 4 categories: scallops, fish and squid, sea habitat (which is anything that is not scallops or finfish), human trash. Once the initial sorting is done, the sea habitat is counted by the bucket-load and dumped back into the ocean; the fish are sorted by species and weighed and counted. Some species (skates, flounder/flukes, and goosefish, also called monkfish) are also measured for length. Scallops are weighed, counted and measured. Some specific samples may be kept for researchers on shore and the rest is thrown back. Human trash is kept aboard for proper disposal later. After all of the sorting and measuring is finished, the buckets are rinsed and stacked for the next dredge, which isn’t usually that long in coming.

Sorting

Fortunately, we are not measuring things with a tape measure or having to manually input lengths into the computer. The ship has 3 “fish boards” that are electronic magnetic measuring devices that automatically send the data to the shipboard computers. Operators choose the species of fish being measured and then each fish is put on the board and a magnetic wand is used to mark the end of the tail of the fish. Each length is sent to the computer and stored. Historically, the data was collected on paper and the lists sent to a prison to be hand entered into a database. The database then had to be proofread and corrected if necessary. While the data still must be audited, it is much faster and easier, and less prone to error, to take the hand written stage of data collection out of the process.

Fish Board

Species Seen:

At the dock in Lewes: Osprey pair and at least one chick in the nest, Sea gulls

At sea: Pod of dolphins playing in the ship’s wake, jellyfish, pelicans

In the dredge: Squid, gulfstream flounder, windowpane flounder, summer flounder, spotted hake, sea robins, small skates, clearnose skates, several kinds of crabs (spider and rock), moon snails, sea stars, sand dollars, whelks, sea urchins, scallops, sea mice (polycheate worms)

Personal log:

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, clear and calm. After the safety meeting and test dredge, there was a great deal of down time until we reached the first site at about 10pm. I am on the day watch from noon to midnight and so got to sort the first real dredge. We did find scallops, ranging from about 1 inch across to about 5 inches across, but we found more sand dollars. After spending countless hours walking beaches to find even a few sand dollars, it was amazing to see hundreds or thousands on the sorting table to be tossed back as sea trash. I also discovered that you can easily loose track of time simply sitting in the sun on the deck watching the world go by.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Julianne Mueller-Northcott
University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Location: Off the coast of Virginia
Date: May 12, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air temp: 13.72⁰C, 85% humidity, overcast

Science and Technology Log
When the dredge gets pulled up the ramp of the ship, I always strain to try to see past the chain and netting to see what amazing creatures might have gotten caught in the dredge.  I can see the pale-as–a-ghost face on the underside of skates and flounders.  The sea stars fall to the table in a big mound and you can see the crabs trying to climb the net.  And of course the scallops!  They get dumped out onto the table in a wave.  The pile of creatures undulates as organisms try to right themselves and seek cover.  Each dredge so far has been different.  Some are chock full of sea stars such as Asterias forbesii and Asterias vulgaris which we have at home, but by far the most abundant sea star species is Astropectin sp.   There was one dredge that was all sand dollars and they tumbled out onto to the deck, like hundreds of poker chips, hockey pucks and small frisbees.  I noticed that all of the fish in the dredge were green and then everything else started turning green. Apparently, sand dollars turn everything green! No one was quite sure why—this will be something to investigate once I get home.

So you can imagine how exciting it is to see hundreds (in some cases maybe thousands) of your sea friends, dumped out in front of you to examine!  I think about all the hours toiling at Odiorne Point with my students searching under rocks and peeling back algae in the intertidal zone looking for a hidden gem.  Here on the sorting table at the back of the boat there are so many species, so many things waiting to be discovered.  I think about my marine biologists at home and how excited they would be to have some of these critters for our tank!  (And while the thought has crossed my mind to try to kidnap some, that might be a difficult situation to explain going through security at the airport—a cooler full of crabs, sand dollars, sea stars and scallops!) The object here is not to study all the cool creatures for hours under a microscope which is what I would love to do (there isn’t even a microscope on the ship!) but instead, to sort.  My job, with 5 other people, is put out all the scallops and fish.  Those get measured and counted and everything else goes back into the water.  It all happens very quickly.  Because the goal is to do so many dredges in a relatively short amount of time, the faster you process everything the faster we can move on to our next sampling location, which means the more data that can be collected.  Also time is money on this high tech ship we are on.  For the scientists to use the R/V Hugh R. Sharp it costs $12,000 a day.  So it is imperative to work quickly to get the job done. But I am learning some tricks so that I can spend a little more time with the creatures I really want to check out.  I usually sneak a couple of neat things to photograph off to the side and after we are finished with the work at hand take a few minutes to study them.  And the scientists have figured out that when they have an organism that we haven’t seen yet, they have to show it to me before it gets tossed back overboard!

We were just pulling up a dredge last night when Ben pointed to the starboard side of the ship.  There in the starlight were about eight dolphins riding in the wake of the boat.  They were porpoising in and out of the water.  They were gray, with speckled black dots—we don’t have a mammal field guide on board—so I am not sure which species it was.  It was the first night that we could see stars, other than the sea star variety. I thought of Kat S. who was the first person who got me excited about the prospect of seeing stars at night from the boat.  Between the starlight and the spotlights on the ship, the sea below sparkled.  Even in the dark water you could see the water shimmer and change to a light green color, letting you know where the dolphins were just before they surfaced.  I have a list of top wildlife encounters in my life (swimming with whale sharks and eagle rays, saving stranded pilot whales in the keys, viewing humpbacks breech in a storm in the Bay of Fundy, nesting sea turtles Mexico, watching baby orcas play in the San Juan Islands, etc) but even with this list, watching the dolphins at night beneath the stars was pretty magical!

Captain Bill nonchalantly mentioned that he had seen an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) yesterday morning.  “What?!” I guess I hadn’t made it clear that I wanted to witness any such animal encounters.  I had told my students that the ocean sunfish was the one species I was really looking forward to seeing on this trip.  I had seen them in various aquariums but never in the wild. The ocean sunfish has always seemed to me a freak of natural selection.  How could something so big, clumsy and awkward looking have survived evolution?  Something about the way it lazes around without a care in the world has always appealed to me.  This morning, I took my usual watch on the bow of the boat (as I do every morning before my watch begins at 12:00). There, about 50 ft from the boat, I saw two large fins, flopping this way and that without an apparent purpose.  It was Mola mola! We didn’t get very close and our boat was traveling fast but through my binos I at least got a glimpse of its round, disc body.  And a couple of hours later, I saw another—this one a little further away.  So I know there are lots out there—now the goal is to get an up-close view and hopefully a photo!

Personal Log
It is pretty awesome now that the weather is brightening and we are seeing some beautiful species!  I love being on the top decks watching the sunlight dance on the water.  I love that everywhere I look all I see is ocean.  Yesterday we saw many other ships on the water—but today it is really just us steaming along. At first it was a little hard to get used to seeing lots of dead fish in the dredge and lots of animals that don’t survive the sampling.  There is a lot more by catch than I would have expected. It is going to take a little more time for me to process my thoughts about it all, but I am starting to understand that for now this is the best way for the data to be collected.  While it might not be the best thing for individual organisms, these sampling techniques are important for protecting the fisheries and ultimately the ecosystem.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott 
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Date: May 11, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Overcast, rainy, in the 50s

Science and Technology Log – Data Collection/Sampling Methodology
For NOAA’s scallop survey, it is divided into three different legs or cruises, each sampling a different area along the east coast.  This cruise that I am on is the first in the series.  During this time, since we will be working around the clock, we will probably do somewhere between 150-200 dredges and the NOAA team will sample about 500 total for the season. But how do scientists determine where to dredge?  How can they be sure that the sites that are sampled will give them an accurate representation of the number of scallops on the sea floor?  To determine where to sample, scientists use the Stratified Random Sampling Design.  This is the method for determining the average number of an animal in a given area. This sampling technique is based on the fact that the scallop population density depends on the ocean depth.  Scallops like to hang out in 50-100 m of water.  Scientists break up the coastline that their studying into different “strata” or quadrants. And then instead of a totally random sample in a given area, the stratified random sampling design uses a computer to select more collection sites in the depths where you would be likely to find the most scallops, since that is what scientists are interested in.

Scallop Fisheries

The US scallop fishery is an economically important fishery, maybe second only to the lobster industry in the Atlantic. One question that one of my students asked was, “Is the scallop population growing or is it in danger?” I asked our chief scientist that question this afternoon.  His response was very promising, that the scallops are doing very well.  Part of the reason for their success is due to the regulations that are set in place, the same regulations that are based on the data collected by this trip.  One type of regulation that has been helpful is the temporary closure of certain areas.  These closures give scallops in a particular area a chance to grow.  So if during a scallop survey cruise, scientists notice a lot of young scallops in a given area, that data will get reported an maybe lead to the temporary closure, meaning that you can’t fish for scallops there for a couple of seasons.  Then after some time for the animals to grow, the area will be reopened.  By rotating these closed areas, it allows the time necessary for population growth.  Astrid B. asked the following question, “Does the dredge hurt the ocean bottom?” Our dredge is fairly small, about eight feet across.  But a commercial fishing boat has two dredges that are about 15 feet wide that go down at the same time.  And at a given time, there might be as many as 500 boats out fishing for scallops.  Before and after photographs have shown that the dredges do impact the bottom.  It works to flatten everything in its path, including living organisms.  It also affects an important habitat.  Fish species like cod like to hang out around the nooks and crannies that are created by benthic creatures, but without that important living structure, the cod population doesn’t have the habitat it prefers (which may be an explanation for why that population has been slow to recover).  While more research needs to be done to find out how long it takes for the substrate to recover and return to its pre-dredge state, dredging does have some pretty clear impacts on the sea floor habitat.

Brandon O had a fun question, “What is the funniest thing that got brought up by the dredge?” The chief scientist said that once they brought up pieces of an airplane in a dredge.  I asked if it hurt the dredge and it didn’t because the plane was made of light aluminum.  And then he said that they have also found mammoth teeth. That is very cool!  A long time ago this whole area was not covered by water, but instead it was land for wooly mammoths to walk over. I think this is especially neat after just seeing lots of skeletons of mammoths at the Natural History Museum during our trip to New York City over vacation. I can’t wait to find out what will be the most interesting thing we’ll find during this trip!

Personal Log
We just officially set out to sea! It was a long day waiting for all the preparations to be finalized and for the water to be high enough so we could leave port.  It is a chilly day, with the wind blowing on the ocean and a little drizzle coming down—but so exciting to be moving and heading out!  Lots of students had many questions for me about food, especially considering my mantra, “Fish are friends, not food.” So far so good, lots of chicken, pasta and the most unbelievable snack cabinet—featuring all sorts of goodies that we never keep at home (Oreos, cheese-its, candy bars, soda).   And then today, I saw for the first time–the ice cream freezer.  And entire freezer, dedicated to the storage of frozen treats—what a beautiful concept! As it turns out, there used to be a treadmill on the boat, but they had to move it off to make room for the ice cream.  I like where their priorities are and it is clear that I won’t be going hungry!

Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass. 
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F

Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.
Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts.  Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land.  Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface.  They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

lawrence_log6The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi.  We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer.  These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm.  It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed.  Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency.  These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.

The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!
The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!

Personal Log 

The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters.  When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now.  There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans. 

Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge
Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge

Questions of the Day 
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
1015mb pressure
Seas 2-4ft
Partly cloudy early, clearing sunny skies late afternoon

Science and Technology Log 

The bridge of a ship is a very busy place where all activities that are occurring on the ship being managed from this location.  When any equipment is going overboard it is the responsibility of the captain or first mate to ensure that it is done safely and correctly.  The ship must follow a predetermined route for each stations sampling and be kept on tract by precise navigating from the bridge. Whenever anything goes overboard the bridge has to be notified, it is important for the bridge to know everything that is in the water to avoid the boat from being fouled up by miscellaneous line in the water.  This could be dangerous and costly for the ship and crew.

Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures
Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures

Captain Bill Byam has been very helpful to me and my fellow teacher at sea making sure we have the availability of the crew and ship to write our journal entries and then submit them online to NOAA. The ship’s crew is also responsible for deployments and retrieving of all instruments put overboard the ship. Along with the dredge and occasional CTD is deployed to get a profile of the water column and collect water samples at varying depths.  The water samples can be used for a variety of things, such as water filtering to see what microscopic critters may be present, chemical analysis, as well as conductivity or salinity of the water.  The CTD is standard instruments used on most science research vessels.  The crew on the Sharp are very proficient, professional, and hard working as they also help with assisting the scientist with some of the work on deck.

Personal Log 

Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges
Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges

The cruise has gone very smoothly with lots of scientific data have been collected for future analysis. I have worked closely on the deck with members of the noon to midnight shift for almost two weeks.  In that time we have collected many samples of scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, many varieties of fish, and even occasional pieces of trash left from man’s misuse of the ocean.  I hope to be able to take the knowledge gleaned from this experience and the scientist onboard the ship and give my students back in Oklahoma a better understanding of our oceans and how their health impacts everyone around world even those in land-locked Oklahoma.  It has been my goal to better inform my 5th-8th grade students, my college students who are training to become teachers, and the general lay member how all of us impact the health of the oceans and how important the oceans are to us all in maintaining a homeostatic balance with the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere.   We all have much to gain with a healthy ocean system and much more to lose if we are not adequate in our stewardship of our oceans.

I would like to give a special thanks to Chief Scientist Stacy Rowe for allowing me to participate in all aspects of the cruise and collecting samples.  The team I am with are very cordial and extremely helpful in answering all my questions.  They made me feel a part of the team and not an outsider. It was great to work with a group of people who are so dedicated.  When one team member finished a task they simply moved to help another team member until the whole catch was sorted, measured, and weighed.  It is good to work with people who are equally vested in their work. No one person stood and watched as others worked, each did an equal share of the work and made sure the task was completed in a timely and organized fashion.  This made the long hours of the shift seem shorter and the days went by much quicker.  It is always good to be a part of a good team.  Thanks to the crew aboard the Sharp, and the scientist that made this trip a profitable one, not only for me but also for my students back in Oklahoma.  Thank you Bill Byam, captain aboard the Sharp and all of his dedicated crew.  The ship’s crew, were hospitable host and I really enjoyed meeting you all.  Thanks to NOAA for allowing a previous teacher at sea another opportunity to learn more about the oceans and have another lifetime memory to share with others. 

Questions of the Day 
What instrument does a ship use today to navigate in precise lines? (hint cars use it also to find their way around town)

Who is Hugh R. Sharp? (ship is named after him)

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
Temperature: 13˚C
Seas 3-4ft
1015 mb of pressure

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of sophisticated equipment aboard a science research vessel of today. Shad who is one of the scientists aboard the ship explained to me how they used to do scallop surveys on older ships just a few years ago. Then they would catch scallops using the dredge net that was then hauled onboard and dumped on the deck.  The scientist would then get on their hands and knees and sort through the pile for scallops or whatever they were looking for. The pile would have to be scoured twice to ensure everything was accounted for. There was a lot of shoveling and moving of the pile as things were being sorted. The work was long, dirty, and backbreaking.

Today the Sharp has a sorting table onboard which makes the job much easier and gives the ship and crew the availability of adding more stations to the survey and getting much more work done than in past seasons. Below is a photo of a magnetic measuring board.  The scallop or fish are placed on the board and a magnetic wand is put at the end of the sample where an accurate measurement is made and placed into the computer showing the size of the sample.  This process is much faster than measuring and recording by hand.  They are also weighed in large baskets to determine average weight of the catch.

Personal Log 

Scallops opening in the warm sun!
Scallops opening in the warm sun!

Some days have been very long at times yet fruitful.  A week has passed and we have collected thousands of scallops, hundreds of thousands of starfish, and many other species of bottom dwelling fishes and animals.  I have observed many varieties and species of animals that I have never seen before except on TV or in a textbook.  This hands-on experience will leave an indelible picture in my mind for many years of what research life is like onboard a research vessel. There are many dedicated scientist and crewmembers in NOAA fisheries that are insuring the viability of certain species so that commercial fishing does not over fish areas of our oceans.

These scientists do valuable research in the labs around the United States but also go out on research vessels and get their hands dirty, work extremely hard, and commit a large part of the personal lives to preservation of species in our oceans so that future generations can enjoy the wide diversity that our oceans provide for us today.  NOAA has scientist working all around the oceans of the United States as well as other parts of the world to give science a better understanding of the vital role each species has in its environment and how that species overpopulation or disappearance could impact the immediate area, larger habitat of the ocean, and the world as a whole. I feel more at ease knowing that there are dedicated people in the world ensuring not only the interest of humans but are also advocating for all species.  The diversity on earth is better understood every year giving scientist and the general public a better understanding of each species role on the world stage of life.

Question of the Day 
What does the term Keystone species mean?

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
NE winds 15-20KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving off land
Temperature at Sea 68˚F
Foggy with low visibility, light rain periodically

Science and Technology Log 

The crew is busy collecting scallops.  Occasionally between tows, the crew shuck scallops to eat onboard, this is allowable in open areas.  A meal of freshly shucked scallops will be enjoyed by those onboard the ship.  Shucking scallops is a skill that can be learned over several days.  A long curved skinny knife is inserted between the shells and part of the scallop is cut away from the shell.  With a little skill one more quick cut of the knife and all the inside parts of the scallop are whisked away leaving behind a cylinder shaped piece of white meat that is the part of the scallop enjoyed by people around the world.

TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).
TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).

Some dredges produced scallops exclusively, while others produce very few scallops and lots of starfishes or sand dollars.  Scientists are trying to understand the dynamics between the starfish and scallop populations as well as other species.  Getting rid or over fishing one species can have a profound effect on other species especially if that species is considered a keystone species in that particular environment.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)
The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp is one of the newer ships in the fleet of research vessels along the Atlantic coast. The ship is 146 feet long with state of the art equipment onboard to help it complete missions vital to ocean research.  It cost about $14,000 dollars a day to keep the ship doing research while at sea. The ship is very versatile and has completed a varied amount of differing research cruises along the east coast of the United States.  I am amazed at how quiet the ship is when running. I have been on two other research vessels, and they were much louder when underway.  The Sharp has diesel engines that run electric motors making it run much quieter and smoother than other research ships. The ship will also turn on a dime usually it takes quite of bit of time and space to turn a ship around. This is not true on the Sharp it will turn very quickly due the bow thrusters onboard the ship. The ship may be smaller than many research vessels, however it is versatile and efficient when conducting research along the Atlantic coast.

The crew which are captained by Bill Byam are well trained and prepared for the task required of them to make sure the science is completed in a timely manner and efficiently for the scientist aboard. I have found working with the crew to be an enjoyable experience.  The food onboard is superb, Paul is a great cook and prepares unique dishes for every meal and is also an avid fellow soccer fan.

Question of the Day 
What and how do scallops eat to survive?

Name two predators of scallops. 

Jeff Lawrence, June 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
S winds 5-10KT
Seas 1-2ft
Barometric pressure 1029mb
Air Temperature 78˚F
Visibility clear
Cold front moving offshore towards us later today, rain expected.

The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.
The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The sorting table is full of activity as soon as the dredge is pulled aboard the ship. After the crew secure all lines and dump the load the volunteers and scientist begin to sort through the biological that has been brought up from the bottom or the Atlantic Ocean.  Each dredge can bring a varied amount of sea life on the ship.  We are always looking for scallop, yet every third dredge we also sort for crabs. All fish are also sorted and counted.

After all the sorting is done the fish, scallops, and crabs are weighed and measured for length. They are then logged into the onboard computer for analysis of results for each catch.  We are trawling along closed areas for scallops. These areas have been closed for commercial fishing to ensure that the population has time to recover in that area. Scallop surveys are carried out by the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, in three phases during the summer.  Duane and I are on the second leg, which encompasses the area to the east of Delaware, areas around Long Island, and the area around Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Personal Log 

You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.
You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.

The work aboard the ship can be very long and laborious. The days are long, as each member of the cruise will do a 12-hour shift.  My shift is from noon to midnight.  The conditions can vary greatly during a shift. During the day the sun may be out with light winds and it gets very warm with all the wet weather gear that is worn during sorting. It is necessary to leave the gear on between dredges, since they occur so often. As soon as the sun goes down the temperatures can drop very rapidly.  It is important to keep a hooded sweatshirt and other warm weather gear nearby for the changing conditions.  All gear must be taken with you when you leave your cabin so that the other shift can sleep uninterrupted.  The days are long, with the goal of all who are onboard to get the science completed in a timely fashion.  Keeping a ship stored with goods and running is very expensive so the goal is to get as much science completed in the allotted time as possible.

Question of the Day 
What other bottom dwelling species in the Atlantic are under protection from over-fishing?

Animals Seen Today 
Scallops, eels, crabs, starfish, clams, silver dollars, urchins, goose fish, and many varieties of bottom dwelling fish.

Elise Olivieri, May 19, 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 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 10.78 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1030 mb
Humidity: 71 %

Still sorting!
Still sorting!

Science and Technology Log 

Taking part in the 2009 Sea Scallop Survey has been an experience of a lifetime.  I learned how to identify many different species of fish, to use the FSCS computer system, and the many sampling techniques that are involved in fisheries research. I met some incredible people that inspire me to continue volunteering whenever I can for the sake of scientific research.  I am very familiar now with many jobs and careers that one can have working for NOAA. My students will be very excited to see all the photographs and data that were collected on this survey. I have planed numerous activities where my students will use the data collected in the sea scallop survey which will help prepare them for the New York Schools Regents Examination. Some research scientists that I have met have promised to come and speak to my classes and educate my students on the many careers that NOAA offers. My roommate Lollie Garay and I had such a remarkable time on the Hugh R. Sharp. Although we worked different shifts, we had a few hours each day to discuss some lesson plan ideas and share pictures with each other.

The watch team: (in order from left to right) Gary Pearson, Cristina Bascunan, Vic Nordahl, me, and A. J. Ward.
The watch team: (left to right) Gary Pearson, Cristina Bascunan, Vic Nordahl, me, and A. J. Ward.

I really enjoyed working with the night watch.  My Watch Chief Geoff Shook really knows how to manage a team.  He is full of information, patient, and extremely helpful.  Cristina, Geoff, Steve, Glynn, A.J., and I really worked well together.  The Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl is an amazing guy.  He can multitask like no other person I have ever seen.  He works on several different tasks at once while checking the data, and even making a little time for Lollie and me too!  Kevin McIntosh is another incredible scientist.  He and Vic are very busy running the Sea Scallop Survey but he also has made himself very available to Lollie and me whenever we have any questions. Kevin is always there to help with data and explain how different instruments work as well.

I really feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a great group of people.  I will never forget it!  I have taken so much away from this trip, and my students will appreciate all the new knowledge I will continue to share with them.  I am very excited to be returning home tomorrow morning.  We are expecting a 10-hour steam tonight and hopefully we will arrive in Lewes, Delaware around 6:00 AM. The last thing we have to do tonight is clean our stateroom and the labs.  This is easy work compared with all the tows we are accustom to sorting and measuring. 

Elise Olivieri, May 18, 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 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 10.44 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1020 mb
Humidity: 62 %

Scallops and sea stars
Scallops and sea stars

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a great day. It was a little cooler than usual but many tasks were accomplished.  I am now able to identify almost every species of fish that comes up in the dredge. I know how to run events and my night watch team works together in harmony.  Everything ran so smoothly today, and I believe it is all due to the fact that we get along so well. I have become good friends with everyone on my watch and some day crew as well.  Relationships are important when you’re living with all different people in close quarters.

I had a chance to talk with Steve Ellis today. He is a port agent for NOAA Fisheries North East Regional Office. He works with management plans and is a Fisheries Reporting Specialist.  Port agents like Steve are stationed where major commercial activity is located.  He works under the fisheries statistics office and monitors commercial fisheries landing in order to supply data for proper fisheries management.  Steve tracks fishery events and maintains reporting requirements that operate in U.S. waters. This helps the government get quota for different species of fish along with their age and growth. This also becomes a part of our Gross National Product.  Steve also helps interpret regulations and provides a link between fishermen and managers. 

Glenn Rountree (left) and I sorting the animals in our buckets
Glenn Rountree (left) and I sorting the animals in our buckets

I also got a chance to sit and talk with Glynn Rountree. He is a volunteer on this NOAA Sea Scallop Survey and he has been volunteering on many cruises since graduate school. So far he has been a volunteer on at least 50 cruises for the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA. Glynn has a Master’s Degree in Oceanography and is very helpful in answering almost any question you have about various animals and fish. Glynn worked in research administration for 8 years, and now has a job with environmental regulation of home building.  It is important to understand that you do not have to be a scientist to work in a science field.  There are so many significant issues that will affect us directly that it is very important we stay educated on issues like global warming, climate change, and endangered species. We need more college students studying these issues not business administration.

Animals Seen Today 

Windowpane Flounder, Fluke, Sea Cucumber, Gulf Stream Flounder, and Fourspot Flounder. 

Elise Olivieri, May 17, 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 17, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 13.61 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1012 mb
Humidity: 97 %

Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.
Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.

Science and Technology Log 

So Far the sea scallop survey has collected 76,170 sea scallops which can also be expressed as 9,251 kilograms.  This is a tremendous amount of scallops and the survey is not even a third of the way complete.  At stations where crabs and starfish were sampled we have collected 8,678 cancer crabs and 279,768 starfish (Asterias) so far. Without a reliable database like FSCS it would be impossible to keep up with such a large amount of information.

Today I got a chance to talk with Shad Mahlum.  He is a seagoing technician for NOAA and was born and raised in Montana. He has experience working with freshwater surveys.  In the past years he has studied how beaver dams influence native and non-native species of freshwater fish.  Shad also spent some time looking at various cattle grazing strategies and how they affect food chains. Shad loves working on the open ocean and the physical process of sea scallop surveys.  Shad hopes to work with freshwater and saltwater projects in the future.

Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.
Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.

As I was gazing out into the deep blue sea a very large animal caught my eye.  I was so excited to see another Finback Whale.  They are the second largest animal on earth after the Blue Whale.  They are known to grow to more than 85 feet. Finbacks are indifferent to boats. They neither approach them nor avoid them.  Finback Whales dive to depths of at least 755 feet. They can grow anywhere from 30-80 tons. Finbacks eat Krill, fish and squid and their population numbers are approximately 100,000 or more.  The only threats Finbacks have are polluted waters.  It is incredible to see such a large animal breaching out of the water.  I will never forget it.

Animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth Squid, Eelgrass Slug, Razor Clam, Lobsters, Green Sea Urchin, Macoma clam, Sea Stars (Asterias), Horseshoe Crab, Fourbeard Rockling, Palmate Sponge, Hermit Crab, Black Clam, Golden Star, Tunicate, Winter Flounder, Surf Clam, Yellowtail Flounder, and Sea Mouse. 

Elise Olivieri, May 16, 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 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.33 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1022 mb
Humidity: 96%

Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.
Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had some extremely large tows of sand dollars. Thirty-two baskets filled to the brim with sand dollars in one particular tow. It’s hard work when you have to sift through hundreds of thousands of sand dollars looking for little Cancer Crabs. Too bad they were not real dollars. Today I got the opportunity to sit with my Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl. Although he is very busy he sits and talks with Lollie Garay and me daily about how we will implement all the information we are gathering into the classroom.  Today was different; I got a chance to ask Vic about his demanding daily tasks, and his career. Vic is a Fishery Biologist.  He has been working for NOAA’s NEFSC (Northeast Fisheries Science Center) for 17 years. His main job is to standardize the shellfish surveys and maintain the gear.  When he is not working on equipment like the dredge for example, he is performing a quality check on all the data that is collected.

In 2007, the NOAA Ship Albatross IV was retired, which was the vessel the sea scallop survey was always conducted on. This vessel had the old dredge which is similar to the new dredge. The new dredge has some modifications such as rollers on the goose neck to prevent digging into soft substrate. Another addition to the new dredge is the twine top which allows fish to escape easier that the old dredge. The equipment was very hard to come by for the old dredge, so this made repairs exceptionally difficult. With the new dredge there are some very fresh and innovative ideas.  Vic plans to introduce a Habitat Camera which can take many overlaid digital pictures of scallops which will have a continuous stream of real-time data.

There are many advantages to this new method.  The most important being the habitat camera would mean far less tows which is less intrusive and damaging to the habitat.  With this habitat camera it would be possible to see an absolute abundance of sea scallops due to the fact you would be able to see approximately 90% of the sea floor, and have digital images on file as well.  You would have to dredge much less to see three times more.  This new technology is very promising and some steps will be given a test run on Leg 3 of the sea scallop survey a few months from now.  I can’t wait to read all about how this new technology will improve the quality of sea scallop surveys.

Personal Log 

Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.
Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.

When you think about 2 weeks you do not think of it as being an extremely long amount of time. Well, when you’re on a ship for 2 weeks it can feel like a lot longer.  I must say I miss my husband Alex very much.  Regardless, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with scientists like Vic Nordahl and Kevin McIntosh.

During the summer I participate in a two year fellowship with Columbia University called The Summer Research Program for Science Teachers.  This is a great program where NYC science teachers are working with state-of-the-art technology along side research scientists.  We participate in and bring back to our classrooms the newest information on some groundbreaking research going on at the moment.  This program has endless advantages. The networks created are for a lifetime, and teachers in the program get the chance to collaborate ideas and share lessons and tips with each other. There are speakers, seminars, and fieldtrips that inspire science teachers to go the extra mile to interest students in research science.  Jay Dubner and Sam Silverstein run this incredible summer research program and I can’t wait to tell them all about the research I am taking part in and how the program inspired me to become a Teacher at Sea.  During the summer 2009 I will continue working with Dr. Robert Newton at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory studying and sampling water at Piermont Marsh.

Elise Olivieri, May 15, 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 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 14.50 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 94%

Science and Technology Log 

What a morning we had today.  It was sand dollar heaven aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. At least 3 of our tows were filled with hundreds of thousands of sand dollars. My work on this Sea Scallop Survey is pretty regular now that I have the hang of it. The dredge goes down and scallops, cancer crabs, starfish, hermit crabs, sea sponges, sand dollars, and sea slugs come up.  We manually sort through the catch and weigh and measure the fish, and sea scallops. Every third station we count all the cancer crabs and starfish. Depending on the strata, various stations require five sea scallops to be measured for age and growth and their shells are preserved for later lab work. This work is very important for maintaining a long term study.  With FSCS all the data can be organized and used to draw conclusions about the overall health of areas along the Mid-Atlantic.

A big pile of sand dollars!
A big pile of sand dollars!

Today I got a chance to talk with Kevin McIntosh. He is on the day watch so I do not get a chance to work closely with him, but he is a great scientist.  He is a Biological Science Technician and also plays several roles along different cruises.  He is often a Chief Scientist, FSCS Administrator, and he specializes in combing over data, and auditing data.  Sometimes he serves as Watch Chief. At the moment he is working on a Scallop Imaging Machine where scallops can be photographed which would reduce the manual work load of the scientists with even better data collection resources. There would be a record of every scallop collected which means sub-sampling would be obsolete. Kevin is also working on a team which is collaborating to create FSCS 2.0 capabilities.  Some highlights of FSCS 2.0 include a GPS location where data can be automatically retrieved and stations can be programmed to display directions and sampling requests.

This would also cut the sampling time in half.  You would be able to have all the stations’ information at your fingertips.  These new improvements would also make data cleaner and easier to audit and help double check your work. Kevin works very hard.  Every time I see him he is working on something new.

Personal Log 

A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic
A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic

I really enjoy sitting and talking with the crew here on the Hugh R. Sharp. Everyone has so many great projects going on and new goals for fisheries research.  I found out today many of the crew have served time in the military. I now have even more respect for them.  Fisheries research is hard work and there is so much that goes into this research that is often ignored.  Especially the long hours of manual labor and the time needed to plan out each stations sampling routine.  Today the seas were rough again. When the boat is rolling all over the place it is very hard to walk from one place to another.  I learned a new trick today.  Always keep your knees bent in rough seas; it makes walking a lot easier. Looking at the horizon also helps one from becoming sick, at least for a little while.

 

Elise Olivieri, May 14, 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 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 13.39 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1028 mb
Humidity: 84%

Sorting the catch!
Sorting the catch!

Science and Technology Log 

Sampling the water column is a vital part of oceanographic work. Aboard the Hugh R. Sharp casts are conducted every third station using a special instrument called a CTD. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. Water samples are brought back aboard collected by a Niskin bottle two times a day.  These samples are used to calibrate the CTD. Scientific research should always be double and even triple checked to calibrate all the various instruments being used and guarantee they are functioning properly.

Today I got a chance to sit and talk with my Watch Chief, Geoff Shook.  He is extremely organized and very helpful. He ensures the data is correctly entered into the FSCS computer database and watches over the night crew. Geoff was always interested in oceanography but during his undergrad he had an opportunity to study fisheries instead.  Geoff is mainly interested in fish populations. He spends about 140 days out at sea every year.  About a week before this Sea Scallop cruise Geoff just returned from a 2 leg bottom trawl fish population survey.  Directly before that he was on a Monkfish Survey that concentrated on locations Monkfish are found along with the population index. Geoff spends his time on cruises auditing data, servicing all the gear and fixing the scallop dredges. He is the head of inspections and we can thank him for that.  Geoff organizes all the data so the ships have all the latest information. Geoff is very hardworking and patient. It takes a lot of hard work to do his job.  I commend him for his dedication to fisheries research. 

I also got a chance to sit and talk with Cristina Bascunan.  Cristina is a physical science technician. I really enjoy talking with her and look forward to working with her and Geoff every night. Cristina was a biology major in college and started volunteering on sea scallop cruises her sophomore year.  She got a job with NOAA and started working on oceanography cruises that follow Plankton. There were 40 set stations on Georges Bank where Plankton were collected and sampled.  Cristina also worked on SOOP cruises. SOOP stands for Ships of Opportunity Project. Once

a month this cruise would take a scientist along and travel to Bermuda and complete a CPR.  A CPR is a Continuous Plankton Recorder. The Plankton is sampled by a silk cloth tow that is dragged behind the boat. The silk cloth is treated with a preservative so further tests can be conducted later on. This helps create a time series where surface temperature could also be measured and mapped out.  This data collected aided in many other studies and is extremely important. Cristina works very hard and she definitely has my respect.

From left to right: Geoffrey Shook, Kevin McIntosh, and Shad Mahlum
From left to right: Geoffrey Shook, Kevin McIntosh, and Shad Mahlum

Personal Log 

Today was pretty exhausting. All these 12-hour work shifts with no days off are finally catching up to me.  I have a newfound respect for the crew of technicians and scientists that work these hours year round. Today the seas were really rough.  We had at least 6-foot waves and water crashing onto the deck. When the moon makes a circle in the sky you’re moving.  It’s very hard to work when the ground is moving below your feet.  I spent a bit of time today hanging over the ship’s railing. Can you guess what I was doing? I sure was seasick for a little while this morning, but it passes quickly which is good. Every night before I go to sleep I listen to the ship’s noises. I hear some bangs and clicks, but my favorite sound is the waves crashing into the side of the boat. I literally rock and roll until I fall asleep.  It’s about that time right now.  I can’t wait to climb up to my bunk and get some rest.

 

Elise Olivieri, May 13, 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 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.06 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 89%

Here I am holding up a skate.
Here I am holding up a skate.

Science and Technology Log 

Sea Scallops’ number one predator is starfish.  Starfish are very strong. They pry open the shell and then push their stomach inside and devour it.  Starfish are very abundant in the Mid-Atlantic.  Many tows yield hundreds of starfish.  It would be too time consuming to count every one of them so sub-sampling is done to attain an estimate of starfish.  The entire catch is sorted but only a portion of the catch is measured.  This is a good method when there are many starfish and little substrate (trash). The substrate is then collected in buckets and volume can be determined.  The data is then entered into the FSCS computer system.  As I mentioned before FSCS is extremely advanced and is a one-ofa-kind biological data system.  Prior to 2001, Fisheries Surveys information was sent to federal prisons to be entered into a computer data base.  This took an extremely long time to process.  Inmates would get compensated as little as a penny per log sheet. This was dangerous and the data could have been destroyed or lost. Today all data is backed up on a server in three different locations to secure data entries. This long-term study about age and growth of sea scallops helps scientists see a trend in different area’s ecosystems.

I have met some intriguing scientists aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. Shayla Williams is a research chemist for NOAA.  She specializes in fatty acid analysis of Fluke.  A fatty acid analysis is like a fingerprint of what you eat. By studying fatty acid in certain types of fish she can make generalizations about the health of an area. Shayla has done research on NOAA cruises since 2006. She has sailed on the Hudson Canyon Cruise, the Fall Fish Survey, and the Spring Fish Survey to name a few.  It takes a whole crew to run a ship and the Hugh Sharp has a very sharp crew. Wynn Tucker is an Oceanographic Technician aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. She has worked for NOAA, EPA, and the Navy. She loves being out on the open water and I don’t blame her.  It is magnificent to look out and be surrounded by blue as far as the eye can see. A.J. Ward is another crewmember aboard the Sharp. He works the inclinometer which lets the scientists know of the dredge is in the right spot on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.
Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day! It was beautiful weather and I got a chance to talk with some of the crew members on the Sharp. I saw a whole school of dolphins less than three feet from the boat.  It was incredible!  I ran up to the bridge to get a better look and saw a couple of Finback whales as well. It is extremely hard to get pictures because they surface for a few seconds and then dive back under water.  There are many fish in this area known as the Elephant Trunk. I can’t wait for tomorrow!  Another exciting day where I have the opportunity to be working with cutting-edge technology and incredible scientists.  For now I can’t wait to get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Little Skates, Goose Fish, Gulf Stream Flounder, Sand Dollars, Sea Mice, Razor Clams, Surf Clams, Hermit Crabs, Sea Sponge, Red Hake, Monk Fish, Cancer Crabs, Sea Scallops, White Back Dolphins, Finback Whales, and Starfish.

Elise Olivieri, May 11, 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 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.83 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1021 mb
Humidity: 83%

The dredge
The dredge

Science and Technology Log 

There were 5 tows today on my  shift. I discovered open areas have far fewer sea scallops in each tow compared to closed areas.  In the open areas each catch was mostly starfish and cancer crabs. In the closed areas there were many sea scallops and various fish collected. Five scallops from each basket collected were processed for weight, length, gonad weight, and meat weight.  The sex of each sea scallop is also identified and all data is entered into the FSCS computer system.  The sea scallop shells were labeled and stored away for further identification.  If the sea scallops rings are clear and visible, lab tests can be done to identify its exact age and health. The Nordic Pride which is a commercial vessel contacted us today. The Nordic is working its way through the areas the Hugh R. Sharp already sampled.  The Sharp will compare tows with the Nordic. The Nordic surveyed with NOAA research vessels before and is taking this opportunity to survey with NOAA again. In the next few days we expect to see the Nordic Pride a few miles away. 

Personal Log 

A scallop opened up—the bright orange thing is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (they’re white in males).
A scallop opened up—the bright orange is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (white in males).

Today I feel much more confident about the tasks at hand. I have a lot of support from the crew and the Watch Chief. I am always up for new assignments and am very confident I can complete them correctly. Around 5:30 AM I saw about 12 white-sided dolphins. It was incredible. They are curious and fast animals.  They swarmed around the Hugh Sharp for a while until they got bored with us and continued on their way. Not long after the dolphins appearance 2 Finback whales surfaced. What an incredible night. I hope to see more dolphins and whales and hopefully get a picture of them.

Animals Seen Today 

Starfish Sea Scallops, Horseshoe Crabs, Hermit crabs, Cusk-eels, White Sided Dolphin, and Finback Whale.

Sea stars and sea scallops!
Sea stars and sea scallops!

Elise Olivieri, May 10, 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 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 16.3 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 78%

Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp

Science and Technology Log 

Today around 08:00 we set sail to begin the Sea Scallop Survey that will be conducted on this cruise.  This annual series of quantitative data is collected to determine the distribution and abundance of Sea Scallops. This survey will randomly collect sea scallops from Virginia all the way to Canadian waters. The Chief Scientist and his field operations officers randomly selected stations with in depth boundaries called strata. These selections are either in closed areas where commercial fishing is prohibited, or open areas where commercial fishing is allowed. Areas may be closed to protect the population growth for 2-3 years.  The government will most likely allow closed areas limited access with recommendations from NOAA.  Samples of sea scallops are taken randomly by using a dredge.

The dredge is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  It has a metal frame with a ring bag off the back.  Each ring is 2 inches in diameter and the bag is lined with a 1.5 inch twine mesh liner.  The bag is closed on the top and open on the bottom.  This survey consists of three Legs.  Leg I will complete approximately 200 tows.  Each tow is deployed to the bottom of the sea floor.  An inclinometer is used to ensure the dredge is completely at the bottom of the sea floor. This instrument measures time on the bottom.  If you know your average speed and multiply it with time this equals the distance towed on the bottom. Timestamps are matched up between the data collected at FSCS and the inclinometer.  Each tow lasts for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots.  Tows can be as shallow as 20 meters, and as deep as 150 meters.  After a tow is pulled up from the sea floor, 4 to 6 people manually sort through the catch and pull out Sea Scallops, Starfish, Cancer Crabs, and all fish.  All samples that are collected are placed into baskets.  The baskets are weighed and sea scallops and fish are measured. 

Personal Log 

Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge
Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge

Today I spent most of the day feeling sea sick.  I thought it would never end.  Now I feel like a million bucks.  It took me a little while to get my sea legs. Today I learned so much.  I spent most of the day asking a lot of questions and watching everyone closely.  I work the night shift from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM. There is much excitement when a tow comes in and is emptied on the sorting table. The crew gets excited to see what we brought up. Today we deployed 9 tows on my shift.  We had quite a few clean tows and many muddy tows. A clean tow has many scallops and very few mud clumps.  Life at sea is not easy, it is hard work. The living conditions are great on the Sharp. The galley is stocked with anything you can imagine.  Meals are excellent and snacks are a part of sea life. My stateroom is very comfortable and the showers are very nice too.

I really enjoy sea life. The scenery is incredible.  At night you can see the moon so clearly and the light gently reflects off the rolling waves.  During the day there is blue sea for miles.  It is very relaxing.  Everyone is so nice and willing to explain how things are done.  I feel great and I am looking forward to resting for a while.

Animals Seen Today 

Sea Scallops, Starfish, Black Sea Bass, Hermit crab, Spider Crab, Sea Squirts or Tunicates, 4 Spot Flounder, Goosefish, Northern Sea Robin, and Scup.

Lollie Garay, May 10, 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 10, 2009

The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table
The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Stationary front persists
West winds 10-20KT Seas 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We began our shift today sampling in an area called Del Marva Closed Area, which is an area currently closed to scallop fishing. We conducted 8 dredge hauls last night in spite of the turbulent weather that pursued us. But today, we had calmer seas and beautiful blue skies.

The serious work of sorting and measuring the catch begins right after the dredge is brought up and secured. As it is coming up, someone on either side of the dredge uses a rake to shake the net which allows the catch to fall out. After the net is secured, readings are taken using from a sensor mounted to the dredge. The sensor is called an inclinometer; it measures the dredge angle during the 15minute tow.  This allows the scientists to calculate the amount of time the dredge is on the bottom. Then I hop on the table to hold a whiteboard with the pertinent station information written on it next to the catch which is photographed for documentation. Then the frenzy begins! I leave and someone else gets on the sorting table to rake the catch towards waiting sorters who have several buckets and baskets ready.

The sorting begins!
The sorting begins!

The catch is a mixture of scallops, crabs, fish, lots of starfish, assorted other specimens and sometimes sand. We are primarily sorting out sea scallops and fish, but have had some stations that require us to sort out crabs as well. We work quickly to separate the catch which is then taken into the wet lab for measurement. I have been working with Larry Brady from NOAA Fisheries, learning how to measure scallops using the FSCS system. The FSCS is the Fisheries Scientific Computer System which is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data. FSCS uses touchscreen monitors, motion compensation scales and electronic measuring boards. I feed Larry the scallops one after the other as he measures them using a magnetic wand. This information is automatically recorded into the data base. Last night we had a large number of scallops to process. However, today we have seen less and less; in fact we had one catch with none! The fish are not as plentiful either although we have seen various different specimens.

Starfish are plentiful on this catch!
Starfish are plentiful on this catch!

There are also special scallop samples that need to be processed. First, the scallops are cleaned with wire brushes. Then they are weighed in their shells. After this is recorded, they are opened to remove the meat and gonads, which are weighed separately. This information provides us with the gender of the scallop and can approximate their age. I dry the shells and number them. Then I put them into a cloth sack, tag them with identifying information and put them into the deep freeze.

The fish are also weighed and their species is recorded. Sometimes specimens need to be counted (I counted small crabs today).  Once all the measurements are taken, everything is washed down! That includes the deck, the sorting table all the catch buckets, the FSCS measuring boards and the lab floors. We are then ready for the next dredge haul which follows approximately 20-30 minutes later. This pace continues throughout the shift, barring any mechanical or weather issues.

Personal Log 

Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.
Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.

I am very impressed by the precision of the work that the science team does. As I waited for the dredge to unload a catch this evening I reflected on how everyone does their job quickly and efficiently. It’s something I never fully appreciated – that there are people out on the seas doing this very thing all the time! Already in one full day, they have taught me so much about how the fisheries system works, and they have expanded my knowledge of different marine organisms. Even as we sort quickly through the catch, they are always identifying specimens to me and answering my questions.

Loligo Squid
Loligo Squid

One of the most amazing sights for me has been the incredible number of starfish that each catch brings up! I have never seen so many, and I am learning about the different types. I am also learning how to shuck scallops for the galley for dinner. So far this has not been strength of mine, but I am determined to master this skill! By the way, our lunch today was scallop soup! The beautiful sunset today gave way to the almost-full moon shining on the seas. My shift is over for tonight, I’d best get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Dolphins—made a quick but too brief appearance alongside the ship today. I caught a glimpse as they raced by. Polka dot Kuskeel; Baby Goosefish; Loligo Squid (pronounced Lollie go!) Snake Eel; and Clear Nose Skate.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

Lisbeth Uribe, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: August 5, 2008

Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.
Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.

Ship Log 

In the last 48 hours the engineers, crew and scientists have had to re-attach the power cable to the dredge (see photograph), fix the cracked face plate of the pump, replace the blade and blade assembly, change the pipe nozzles that direct the flow of water into the cage, and work on the dredge survey sensor package (SSP). Dredging is hard on the equipment, so some mechanical problems are to be expected. The main concern is for lost time and running out of critical spare parts.  So far we have had great success with making the repairs quickly and safely.

Science and Technology Log 

Collecting Tow Event and Sensor Information for the Clam Survey 
Over the weekend I was moved up to the bridge during the towing of the dredge. I was responsible for logging the events of each tow and recording information about the ship and weather in a computerized system called SCS (Scientific Computer System). I listened carefully to the radio as the lab, bridge (captain) and crane operator worked together to maneuver the dredge off the deck and into the water, turn on the pumps, tow the dredge on the seafloor bottom, haul the dredge up, turn off the pump and bring the clam-filled dredge back on deck. It is important that each step of the tow is carefully timed and recorded in order to check that the tows are as identical as possible.  The recording of the events is then matched to the sensor data that is collected during dredge deployment. As soon as the dredge is on deck I come downstairs to help clean out the cage and sort and shuck the clams.   

Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.
Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.

My next job assignment was to initialize and attach to both the inside and outside of the dredge the two mini-logger sensors before each tow. Once the dredge was back on deck I removed both mini-loggers and downloaded the sensor data into the computers. Both sensors collect pressure and temperature readings every 10 seconds during each tow. Other sensors are held in the Survey Sensor Package (SSP), a unit that communicates with onboard computers wirelessly.  Housed on the dredge, the SSP collects information about the dredge tilt, roll, both manifold and ambient pressure & temperature and power voltage every second. The manifold holds the six-inch pipe nozzles that direct the jets of water into the dredge.  Ideally the same pump pressure is provided at all depths of dredge operation. In addition to the clam survey, NOAA scientists are collecting other specimens and data during this cruise.

Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.
Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.

NOAA Plankton Diversity Study 
FDA and University of Maryland Student Intern Ben Broder-Oldasch is collecting plankton from daily tows.  The plankton tows take place at noon, when single-celled plants called phytoplankton are higher in the water column. Plankton rise and fall according to the light. Plankton is collected in a long funnel-shaped net towed slowly by the ship for 5 minutes at a depth of 20 meters. Information is collected from a flow meter suspended within the center of the top of the net to get a sense of how much water flowed through the net during the tow. Plankton is caught in the net and then falls into the collecting jar at the bottom of the net.  In the most recent tow, the bottle was filled with a large mass of clear jellied organisms called salps. Ben then filters the sample to sort the plankton by size. The samples will be brought back to the lab for study under the microscope to get a sense of plankton species diversity on the Georges Bank.

An easy way to collect plankton at home or school is to make a net out of one leg of a pair of nylons. Attach the larger end of the leg to a circular loop made from a metal clothes hanger.  Cut a small hole at the toe of the nylon and attach a plastic jar to the nylon by wrapping a rubber band tightly around the nylon and neck of the jar.  Drag the net through water and then view your sample under a microscope as soon as possible.

Biological Toxin Studies 

NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).
NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).

Scientists from NOAA and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are working together to monitor clams for biological toxins. Clams and other bi-valves such as oysters and mussels, feed on phytoplankton. Some species of phytoplankton make biological toxins that, when ingested, are stored in the clam’s neck, gills, digestive systems, muscles and gonadal tissues.  If non-aquatic animals consume the contaminated clams, the stored toxin can be very harmful, even fatal.  The toxin affects the gastrointestinal and neurological systems. The rate at which the toxins leave the clams, also known as depuration rate, varies depending on the toxin type, level of contamination, time of year, species, and age of the bivalve. Unfortunately, freezing or cooking shellfish has no effect on the toxicity of the clam. The scientists on the Delaware II are collecting and testing specimens for the two biological toxins that cause Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

NOAA Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) Study 
A group of naturally occurring diatoms, called Pseudo-nitzschia, manufacture a biological toxin called Domoic Acid (DA) that causes Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) in humans.  Diatoms, among the most common organisms found in the ocean, are single-celled plankton that usually float and drift near the ocean surface. NOAA scientist Amy Nau collects samples of ocean water from the surface each day at noon. By taking water samples and counting the numbers of plankton cells, in particular the Pseudo-nitzschia diatoms, scientists can better determine if a “bloom” (period of rapid growth of algae) is in progress. She filters the sample to separate the cells, places the filter paper in a test tube with water, adds a fixative to the tube and sets it aside for further study in her lab in Beaufort, NC. 

Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.
Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.

FDA Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) Study 
Scientists aboard the Delaware II are also collecting meat samples from clams for an FDA study on the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. When clams ingest the naturally occurring dinoflagellate called Alexandrium catenella, they accumulate the toxin in their internal organs. When ingested by humans, the toxin blocks sodium channels and causes paralysis. In the lab, testing for the toxin causing PSP is a lengthy process that involves injecting a mouse with extracts from shellfish tissue.  If the mouse dies, scientists know the toxin is present. The FDA is testing the accuracy of a new quick test for the toxin called the Jellet Test Kit. After measuring and weighing a dozen clams from each station on the Georges Bank, Ben and Amy remove and freeze the meat (internal organs and flesh) from the clams to save for further testing by scientists back on land. At the same time, they also puree a portion of the sample and test it using the Jellet strips for a quicker positive or negative PSP result.

Personal Log 

Pilot whales sighted off the bow!
Pilot whales sighted off the bow!

The problems that we have experienced with regard to the dredge over the past few days are an important reminder of the need for the scientists and crew to not only be well prepared but also flexible when engaged in fieldwork. All manner of events, including poor weather and mechanical difficulties, can and do delay the gathering of data. The Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, is constantly checking for inconsistencies or unusual patterns, particularly from the dredge sensor readings, that might need to be addressed in order to ensure that the survey data is consistent and accurate. The time required to repair the dredge meant I was able to do a load of laundry. Dredging is very dirty work! Good thing I am using old shirts and shorts. I also caught up on a few emails using the onboard computers. Though the Internet service can be slow at times it is such a luxury to be able to stay in touch with friends and family on land. I still have two very special experiences that I wish to share before ending my log.

Late in the evening a couple of days ago, as we steamed toward our next tow station, I was invited to peer over the bow. The turbulence in the water was causing a dinoflagellate called Noctiluca to sparkle and glow with a greenish-blue light in the ocean spray.  The ability of Noctiluca and a few other species of plankton and some deep-sea fish to emit light is called bioluminesense. A few days later we had the great fortune to see five pilot whales about 100 meters away, gliding together, their black dorsal fins slicing through the water, occasional plumes of air bursting upward through their blowholes (nostrils located on the tops of their heads).

Answers to the previous log’s questions: 

1. What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean? The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is 10,852 meters deep, (deeper than Mount Everest is tall – 8,850 meters).  Speaking of tall mountains, the tallest mountain in the world is not Mount Everest, but the volcano Mauna Kea (Hawaii).  It reaches 4,200 meters above sea level, but its base on the sea floor is 5,800 meters below sea level.  Its total height (above base) is therefore 10, 000 meters!

2.What is the longest-lived animal on record? In 2007, an ocean quahog was dredged off the Icelandic coast.  By drilling through and counting the growth rings on its shell, scientists determined it was between 405 and 410 years old. Unfortunately it did not survive the examination, so we do not know how much longer it would have lived if left undisturbed. This ancient clam was slightly less than 6 inches in width.

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

Lisbeth Uribe, July 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 31, 2008

“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim
“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim

Ship Log 

Man Overboard Drill 

Just as the day watch started our shift we heard three short blasts of the ship’s horn, signaling a “Man Overboard” drill.  While the crew was on deck (both on the bow (front of the ship) and stern (back), the Chief Boatswains Jon Forgione and Leno Luis put on life vests and safety helmets and were lowered into the water in a rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB).  When those on board the ship sighted the dummy victim, we raised our arms and pointed in its direction. The rescuers then headed in the direction the crew were pointing.  At the same time, the Operations Officer and Medical Person in Charge (MPIC) Claire Surrey readied her gear to perform life saving measures once the victim was safely brought on the deck.  Rescue protocols are taken very seriously as they are designed to keep all members of the crew safe.  Once the MPIC determined the dummy victim was breathing on their own and required no further medical assistance, the drill was over and the crew returned to their stations or berths (sleeping rooms).

Scuba Divers to the Rescue! 

Not long after the man overboard drill, the dredge rolled when it was being hauled from the sea floor, wrapping the hawser (floating tow line) underneath the cage.  To make matters worse, as the dredge was being lifted up the ramp on deck, the hawser became caught in the ship’s rudder.  Our three NOAA Working Divers, Executive Officer (XO) Monty Spencer, Chief Steward (chef), MPIC Jonathan Rockwell and MPIC Claire Surrey suited up in scuba suits for a dive to untangle the rudder. NOAA Working Divers must complete a 3-week training course. They are skilled at ship husbandry, such as working on the rudder, propellers, zincs (metal zinc objects that are placed on the hull of a ship to attract corrosion), and the bow thruster (a tunnel through the ship with a propeller to help direct the bow when docking).  

Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.
Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.

The diver breathes air through a mouthpiece, called a regulator, from a scuba tank of compressed air that is strapped to the diver’s back. The regulator, connected by a hose to the tank, adjusts the air in the tank to the correct pressure that a diver can safely breathe at any given depth. Originally called the “aqua-lung”, “scuba” stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Scuba gear has helped scientists explore the ocean, however, the equipment does have limitations.  The deepest dive that can be made by a NOAA scuba diver is about 40 meters, but the average depth of the ocean is about 3,800 meters.  The increased water pressure of the dive limits the depth of the descent of a scuba diver.

As Monty and Jonathan plunged into the ocean, the rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB) was deployed with General Vessel Assistant (GVA) Adam Fishbein and Chief Boatswains, Jon Forgione at the tiller arm, to assist in diver rescue operations if needed. On standby in full scuba gear was MPIC Claire Surrey in case the divers ran into any trouble. In no time at all the divers freed the tangled hawser from the rudder and were back on board. At each step of the job, great care was taken to check all gear and ensure the safety of the crew.

Question: What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean?

Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog
Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog

Science and Technology Log 

As I mentioned in my first log, we are targeting two species of clams during our survey, the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). They are very easy to tell apart, as the surf clam is much larger (about 18 cm in width) and lighter in color. “Quahog” (pronounced “koh-hawg”) originated from the Narrangansett tribe that lived in Rhode Island and portions of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Atlantic surf clams are a productive species, in that they are faster growing, with a lifespan of about 15 years, with variable recruitment (reproductive cycles). They are much smaller and typically found in more shallow waters (<50 meters) from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland than the ocean quahog. The Quahog lives in depths of 50-100 meters in US waters (from Cape Hatteras up to the north Atlantic (Iceland), and also in the Mediterranean). Quahogs grow slowly, and typically live for more than 100 years, with infrequent and regional recruitment.

There is a great variety of material, both organic and inorganic that is collected by the dredge providing a snapshot of the habitat below.  At times it is sandy, sometimes the sediment is the consistency of thick clay, in which case we must re-submerge the dredge for a few minutes to clean the cage. At other times large rocks and boulders are captured.

Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge.  All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.
Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge. All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.

Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs live in a part of the ocean called the subtidal zone. Their habitat is the sandy, muddy area that is affected by underwater turbulence but beyond heavy wave impact. In addition to clams, our dredge is capturing a variety of organisms perfectly adapted to this environment, such as sponges, marine snails and sea stars that are able to cling to hard materials to protect them from being swept away by ocean currents and waves. Marine snails and hermit crabs are also able to cling to surfaces.  Like the clam, many organisms have flattened bodies, thereby reducing their exposure to the pull of waves and currents.  We find flat fish, such as flounder and skate, which avoid turbulence and their enemies by burying themselves in the sand.  Flounder prey on sand dollars, another flat organism living in the subtidal zone.  In many hauls of the dredge, the cage is filled with sand dollars. We have collected lots of other interesting animals, such as hermit crabs, worms, sea jellies, sea mice and, less often, crabs and sea urchins. The Sea Mouse is plump, about 10 cm in length, segmented and covered in a large number of grey brown bristles that give it a furry appearance.

Question: What is the longest-lived animal on record?

Personal Log 

The main difficulty I have with writing this log is choosing what to cover. Each day is filled with new and interesting experiences. I am learning so much, not only about the science behind the clam survey, but also about the ship itself and the skills necessary to operate the ship and conduct a marine survey.  Everyone has been extremely generous with sharing his or her knowledge and experience with me.   While cleaning the inside of the dredge last night one of the wires made a small tear in the seat of my waterproof overalls. Now I know to pack a bike inner tube repair kit if I am lucky enough to be invited to join another survey cruise! One of those small rubber patches would have been the perfect for the job. I was able to find a sewing kit and in short order sewed the tear and sealed it with a layer of duct tape. Now I am ready to get back to work!

Tiffany Risch, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: July 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Hazy in the morning with less than 6 miles visibility
  • Calm seas with little cloud cover
  • Wind speed = 5 knots
  • Waves = Wind drives waves < 1 foot
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Science and Technology Log 

Today started with an early morning shift, working from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.  As my watch took over, the DELAWARE II began steaming towards the first station of the day to conduct a survey of the surf clam and quahog size and abundance inhabiting this specific area. In order to complete a survey of the area, a dredge is used to capture any surf clams or quahogs that are pushed out of the bottom sediment.  On the top of the dredge are hoses that push pressurized water onto the bottom to loosen up any bivalves.  A bivalve is an organism that has shells consisting of two halves, such as in a clam or a scallop. The dredge is towed behind the DELAWARE II for five minutes at a speed of 1.5 nautical miles per hour.  Attached to the dredge are sensors which transmit dredge performance information back to scientists in the dry lab to record and analyze.  The accuracy of the survey depends greatly on the credibility of the sensor data, and therefore, scientists must monitor variability of the dredge.  After the dredge is brought back to the surface, the load must be sorted, measured, and then discarded.

After listening to a presentation by Larry Jacobson, I learned a lot of new facts about both Atlantic sufclams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean quahogs. Surf clams live only about 15 years, grow very fast, and can inhabit ocean waters stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Newfoundland.  These bivalves are found in waters less than 50 meters of water. Ocean quahogs on the other hand can live for greater than 100 years, are very slow growing, and are found in ocean waters between 50 and 100 meters deep from Cape Hatteras, around the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Giving power to the hydraulic pump.
Giving power to the hydraulic pump.

Scientists on this cruise are also interested in studying other aspects of the clam populations, such as a condition called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Because bivalves are filter feeders, they eat by filtering food out of the waters around them.  Sometimes, algae can contaminate clams using a toxin that is harmful to humans.  When this happens and humans eat the shellfish, they themselves can become quite sick.  Samples of clam meats are being taken during this research cruise to be studied back at a lab and determine what exactly is happening in regards to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Personal Log 

Today has been quite interesting, as I moved through the many stations that are involved with conducting this survey. I was trained on how to measure clams in the wet lab, how to apply the power to the dredge in the dry lab, and even how to shuck a clam to retrieve the meat which is also measured.  I was also quite amazed regarding how efficient everyone is on the ship, as we all have a job to do, and it all gets done before we arrive at the next station.

One of my highlights today was overcoming my sea sickness and finally getting my sea legs!  Everyone is so supportive, from the officers, to the scientists, and to the volunteers who are all so nice and helpful. I’m looking forward to my next eight days at sea and learning more about the research being conducted.

Lisbeth Uribe, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Prior to our departure on the survey, all the volunteers attended presentations by NOAA scientists about the work we would be doing. The purpose of the clam survey is to provide consistent, unbiased estimates of the relative abundance for many shellfish in the North East region. The target species for our survey are the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). We also went to a NOAA storeroom and were outfitted with our foul weather gear (heavy waterproof boots, fluorescent yellow rain pants and rain jacket). While on board we received several briefings about safety and the expectations for behavior during the cruise.  During an emergency drill we each tried on our survival suit. I keep the suit in a bag at the foot of my bed, ready for any emergency!

We set sail at 2:00 pm on Monday, the 28th of July, and headed south towards our first tow location in the Southern New England region. The first 10 survey points or stations of our cruise are repeats of points surveyed in the last trip. This means we will be heading south toward the Long Island region before sailing for the Georges Bank region. We are conducting repeat surveys because after the last survey, the dredge’s electrical cable was replaced with a longer cable (formerly 750 feet, now 1,100 feet long). The added length in the cable results in a voltage drop that is expected to be enough to cause the dredge pump to loose pressure slightly. The pump, attached to the dredge itself, is designed to churn up sediment and shellfish as the dredge is towed along the sea floor. By rechecking the survey data collected in the last trip, the scientists will be able to calibrate the data obtained using the new cable. The scientists and crew are very concerned about accuracy of data collection during all parts of the Clam Survey.  

Problems with the Dredge 

For the first repeat survey station, our CO (Commanding Officer), Captain Wagner, warned the crew that the bottom might be rocky.  Once the dredge hit the bottom and began to be towed, we heard some loud noises indicating that there were indeed rocks on the bottom.  We pulled the dredge out of the water after the standard 5-minute tow time.  Rocks had twisted, bent and even severed various pipes and rods that make up the cage of the dredge. The row of outlet pipes (called nipples) that direct powerful jets of water towards the opening of the cage had been severed at the points in which they screw into the main pump pipe.

Though the damage was a setback in terms of lost time, it was amazing to see the engineers swing into action and make the necessary repairs over the next six hours. Out of the hold came an assortment of tools, such as metal cutters, jacks, soldering equipment, wrenches, pliers, and mesh wiring.  I was put to work extracting the broken ends of pipes and handing tools to the engineers as they either replaced or repaired broken parts.  By the end of my work shift (midnight) the dredge was fully repaired and ready for work again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 

I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.
I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.

I am fortunate to be working with a great team on the day shift crew (noon to midnight).  My Watch Chief, Shad Mahlum, and the Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, are excellent teachers, patient with my mistakes and quick to offer words of encouragement. There are several work assignments during each station.  I help by turning on and off the power for the pump on the dredge, clearing out the shellfish that get caught in the cage, and weighing and measuring the clams we catch. My favorite job is cleaning out the inside of the dredge. After the dredge has been hauled up the ramp onto the deck, the back door is released and the clams and broken shells tumble onto the sorting table. My job is to climb up inside the cage of the dredge and toss down the shells and organisms that get caught along the edges. I like the challenge of climbing around up high in a small space. We have been lucky to have very calm seas over the past couple of days.  This job will get quite a bit more challenging when the deck starts to move around more.

The dredged material is sorted into different wire baskets, also known as bushels, each contain either clams, other sea life or trash to be thrown back out to sea once we have moved past the survey site. The clams are weighed and measured.  At some stations we also collect meat specimens for further analysis.  All the information goes into the computer, including data collected by the sensors on the dredge.

Personal Log 

As part of the day shift crew, I work from noon until midnight.  It may sound tough working a 12-hour shift, but in reality the time passes very quickly as we are always busy either preparing for a station, processing the clams, or cleaning up after a dredge.  We are not permitted to return to our room until the end of our shift as our roommates are on the opposite shift and are sleeping.

When sailing out in the open water it easy to lose one’s sense of direction.  On the second day of the survey I knew that we were headed south for the repeat dredges, but it was not until one of the crew members showed me the site “Ship Tracker for NOAA” that I realized we were collecting samples just off the coast of Long Island all afternoon—not far from my home town, New York City! We are so busy moving from station to station that I often lose track of where I am.

I am grateful for the clear weather we have had so far on the cruise.  Learning to work with the dredge and scientific equipment would have been much more difficult if the seas were not so calm. Each day brings something new and interesting to learn and experience.

Well, my shift is almost over.  Time to think about eating a late night snack and then getting some rest, – lulled by the gentle rocking of the waves.

Question for the Day 

What is the origin of the word “Quahog”? What is the difference between Atlantic Surf clams and Ocean Quahogs? What is a sea mouse?

Laurie Degenhart, July 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 170° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 18.9° C
Air temp 22.6° C
Swells: 1
Atmosphere: Clear

Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge
Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

The last two days have been less hectic.  The scientists have had to make several repairs.  The sensors on the dredge were having problems recording data.  Sean Lucey, Chris Pickett, and TK Arbusto, as well as other scientists have spent several hours replacing sensors and making sure that the sensors were logging accurate data.  In order for the survey to be reliable the scientists at sea and in the lab decided that the ship needed to return to previously tested sites to  insure that the sampling techniques had not changed with the changes in the sensor.

We have sampled both Quahogs and Surf Clams today.  It seems that some locations are dominated by the Quahogs, while others are mainly Surf Clams. The weather has been hot and humid.  So far in the trip, the Delaware II has been able to avoid the storms farther to the south. Tonight however, the winds are starting to pick up. We may see rain! Today I climbed up in the dredge compartment when it was full of clay.  Even though I knew that the dredge was very safe, I still worried that I might fall into the ocean.  The clay was very dense with rocks. Sean Lucey, chief scientist, used a high pressure hose to loosen the majority of the mud, but it was still a big slippery muddy job.  John, the Chief Bosun, told me that a full load of mud weighs almost 9000 pounds!  There were very few clams in the load.

Personal Log 

This shift has been very busy. The tows have been pretty much back to back.  All the people on my shift have formed a great team.  Though the work is hard we seem to be able to make it fun….

I continue to be impressed with the NOAA officers and scientists.  The scientists have to have knowledge of oceanography, marine biology and statistics in order to execute accurate sampling.  Another area of expertise is in trouble shooting all the scientific equipment… after all there is no running to the hardware store for spare parts. Today when the sensors broke the scientists, mechanical engineers, and the bosun had to work together to correct the problem.

Both the NOAA officers and the scientists have to be able to cope with volunteers (me included) that have no knowledge of life at sea. Each new crewmember has learn to fit in…I’m sure that this tries the patience of the seasoned crew.  Being aware of all the ins and outs of life at sea is quite a learning process. For example, I went to the bridge after dark… it seemed to be pitch black…. actually the Executive Officer was “on watch”  having the lights out made it easier for him to see both the ocean and the electronic equipment that he had  to use in order to safely captain the ship.

One of my goals for the trip is to put together a collection of photographs that depicts all the aspects of life aboard the Delaware II.  So far I have over 300 photographs.  The crew seems quite pleased…many members ask if I can take more pictures.

During this voyage I have learned a great deal about how a ship runs.  I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work aboard the Delaware.  I will create a DVD with the images and video clips that I have gathered. I want to share my experience with students, teachers, and student teachers. NOAA offers great resources for educators and a vast selection of careers for those who wish to live a life that is rewarding and exciting.

Laurie Degenhart, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 24.2° C
Air temp 24.6° C
Swells: 0
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.
Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.

We are now into day 7 of our clam survey.  Everyone on the ship pulls together as a team to make each tow a success.  Each location for a dredge site is called a station.  The NOAA crew in charge of the ship must not only be at exactly the correct longitude and latitude, but the depth of the water, the speed of the tow, and the condition of the sea (waves and swells) must also be considered. There are three separate places on the ship where these decisions are made.  The bridge controls the location of the ship and notes the conditions of the sea.  The chief bosun controls the dredge towing. He manages the cables, depth, and length of the tow. The scientist in the lab choose the exact location of the tow and the depth.  The scientists use sensors attached to the dredge to log data about the tow. The bosun reels the cable back to the ship and onto the platform.  After the tow has been made the deck hands secure the dredge compartment where the catch is.

The scientific crew then measures and counts the clams.  A scientist from the FDA, Stacey Etheridge, has the science crew shuck a certain number of clams.  She then homogenizes them in a food processor to take back to the laboratory to test for possible toxins.  The NOAA scientists collect data on the different types of clams as well as the size and weight.  They are also trying to determine the age of the clam given the rings on the shell. In addition to the scientist on the Delaware II, there is an entire NOAA crew.  There are engineers, ship’s officers, and fishermen.  Everyone has specific assignments.  The NOAA officers are at sea approximately 244 days a year.  The NOAA careers website here.

Personal Log 

The scientists must have many skills in order to keep the study going.  Not only do they have to know about the clams, but also how to fix problems with the computer program and its sensors, as well as the mechanical operation of the dredge equipment.

The weather at sea has been very hot and humid.  The hours are long. We do approximately 10 tows on a twelve-hour shift.  Think about this… each tow gathers around 4 thousand pounds of material off the ocean floor.  That makes 40,000 pounds.  There are 7 people on our shift. That means each of us sorts and moves around 5700 pounds in a shift…. that’s as much as a small car!  I guess I can have dessert with lunch today.  The work is enjoyable.

Tina and I have shucked over 500 clams.  We ROCK, or should I say CLAM, at shelling Quahogs.  The Captain told me that we may feel the effects of tropical storm, Cristobol.  I sure hope I don’t get seasick.  I learned a new skill…swabbing the deck.  It is amazing the range of tasks each crewmember has to have to keep the ship running smoothly.

Our Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, oversees all of the roles of the scientists and volunteers.  It’s a big job and he sets the tone for the rest of us.  Everyone is positive and willing to do whatever is needed. Jakub, the Watch Chief, oversees the general operation of sorting and measuring the clams.  Both Sean and Jakub are great at teaching me the ropes so that I can do my best.  One time as I was on my way to my “station” Sean remarked,  “I know you’ll be ready.”  I thought that was great, sometimes I get anxious about doing the exact right thing at the right time.

I am starting to think about the lesson plans that I am going to write.  I want to make a simulation of a clam survey for elementary students using Oreo Cookies to gather data.  Sean is going to give me data from the trip to use in my lesson plans.  One of my goals for my presentations is to go to various Vocational Classes to talk about all the facets of NOAA as a career path. I also want to develop a presentation about the roles of a scientist, showing the different aspects of the skills that they have.

Once again the meals have been great.  I was told that the Stewards, John and Walter, have a reputation for providing the best food of all the NOAA ships.  Sure seems right to me!  We have had great meals. One night we had Sea Bass, another night we had lamb chops.  There is always an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Then there is dessert… apple pie!

Laurie Degenhart, July 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 7 knots
Sea temperature: 20.7° C
Air temp 24.4° C
Swells: 160 4’ 12 sec.
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log (Monday, July 14 – Thursday, July 17) 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.

We set sail midday on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. Monday was spent with repairs. We heard a presentation by Dr.Larry Jacobson, the head of the Clam Survey Project.  He explained that there was a general shift in the populations of Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs.

This study is collecting data for his team to use in determining the changes and possible causes of the change.  NOAA and the clam fishing industry enjoy a good relationship, working handin-hand to protect the clam population and promote clam fishing. We were taken to the NOAA storeroom and outfitted with our “foul weather gear.” We wear the gear on board to sort and shuck clams. We each were issued boots, yellow bib overalls, and an orange rain slicker….I look quite dashing.

Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.
Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.

Chief scientist, Sean Lucey, gave us a general description of the work that we would be doing.  Sean stressed how important accuracy is in all the facets of the Clam Survey.  There are several assignments.  Each person is assigned a shift.  My shift is from Noon until midnight.  That’s 12 hours! We are not to return to our room until our shift is over, because the other women I share the room are on the opposite shift and will be sleeping. I am on a team with Jakub Kircun, as the Watch Chief.  He is very patient and kind, even when I make a mistake.  There are seven people on our team: four NOAA scientists, one graduate student who is studying plankton, one volunteer, and me, the Teacher at Sea.

General Description of a Clam Dredge 

The back of the Delaware II has a large metal dredge (it looks like a giant square shifter-See photo.) The cage is lowered to the sea floor at pre-determined random locations and dragged by a special cable called a hauser for exactly 5 minutes.  Then the dredge is hauled back to the boat and its contents are dumped on a platform.  We all sort through the dredged material sorting out clams and other sea life, throwing the rest back out to sea. The clams are measured, weighed, and some meat specimens are taken for examination.  Computers record a vast array of information for the scientists.  Sean Lucey (Chief Scientist) is always making decisions where we go and provides the lab and other scientists information about the catch.  The team does around 10 or so tows in a twelve hour shift.

First Assignment 

I was assigned by, Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record information about the tow a using computerized data collection system called SCS (Scientific Computer Systems). I go into a room on the bridge and listen to the deck department communicating with the bridge and I record when the dredge is on the bottom, towing, and back on deck.  The information is tracked in SCS with button pushers. I also log information about wave height, swell direction, and swell height, which I receive from the officer on watch.  I also need to record depth, time, and speed of the boat during a dredge tow. This provides accurate data for the scientists back on land to analyze. As soon as that part of my job is finished, I come down stairs to help sort and shuck the clams..

The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II
The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II

Personal Log 

Holy Cow, a 12 hour shift….from noon until mid-night!  I was worried, but the shift seems to fly by. There is always something that needs to be done.  I was assigned by Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record the sensors for the dredge itself.  What a responsibility!!! Talk about pressure.  Sean, Chief Scientist, has been really great. His sense of humor has helped ease my stress.  I never realized how much computers are used aboard a ship to monitor experimental data.  Not to mention the general running of the ship….. There are 31 computers in all. For each tow which Sean and Jakub call a station, I do the recording for the dredge then come down stairs…put on my boots and bib overalls and head out to sort the clams with the others on my team.  It’s a big job…good thing I am used to working in the woods of Wyoming… otherwise, I don’t think I could keep up!!!

Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.
Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.

After we sort the clams, Tina, a graduate student from University of Connecticut, and I measure and weigh the clams using a special computerized machine called a Limnoterra Fish Measuring Board. Tina and I are becoming great clam shuckers. We need to weigh the clams both with and without the shell. Joe, the other volunteer, also helps weigh and shuck the clams.  Sometimes they are sweet smelling… but sometimes not!  They look nothing like Howard Johnson’s Clam Strips!

I have started a shell collection to bring back to my school.  I will be working with the Science Coordinator to design science experiments that use data from our trip.  The Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, is working with me to develop lesson plans that use the data being collected. Just learning to find my way around the ship has been a challenge.  I’ve learned to find the galley…. great food. Walt and John, the ship’s stewards, are fantastic chefs.  Today we had crab cakes with lemon sauce, vegetables, and peach cobbler with whipped cream for dessert.  I am telling myself that as much physical work as I am doing I can eat what I want….that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

All the crew has been welcoming and accepting.  Richie and Adam, NOAA crewmembers, take care of securing the dredge. It looks like a dangerous job to me!  They both have a great sense of humor.

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 5, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Today’s weather e-mail: 

UNCLAS //N03144// MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN NORFOLK VA// SUBJ/WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// July 5th, 2008 REF/A/MSG/NOAAS DELAWARE II/022000ZJUL08// REF/B/WEB/NOAA SHIP TRACKER/041747ZJUL08// NARR/REF A IS MOVREP. REF B IS NOAA SHIP TRACKER PAGE.// POC/SHIP ROUTING OFFICER/-/NAVMARFCSTCEN/LOC:NORFOLK VA /TEL:757-444-4044/EMAIL: MARITIME.SRO(AT)NAVY.MIL// RMKS/1. METEOROLOGICAL SITUATION AT 051200Z: A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE LABRADOR SEA WITH A COLD FRONT EXTENDING ALONG THE NORTHEASTERN SEABOARD HAS AN ASSOCIATED STATIONARY BOUNDARY ALONG THE TRAILING EDGE OF THE COLD FRONT WHICH EXTENDS INTO THE MID ATLANTIC STATES. STRONG HIGH PRESSURE REMAINS ANCHORED IN THE NORTH CENTRAL ATLANTIC.

2. 24 HOUR FORECAST COMMENCING 060000Z FOR YOUR MODLOC AS INDICATED BY REFERENCES A AND B.

A. SKY, WEATHER: PARTLY CLOUDY TO MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH ISOLATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS.

B. VSBY (NM): 7, 3 TO 5 IN SHOWERS, 2 TO 4 IN THUNDERSTORMS.

C. SURFACE WIND (KTS): SOUTHWESTERLY 5 TO 10, INCREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 LATE PERIOD.

D. COMBINED SEAS (FT): SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 2 TO 4, BUILDING 4 TO 6 LATE PERIOD.

  1. OUTLOOK TO 48 HOURS: WIND SOUTHWESTERLY 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 INCREASING 15 TO 20 GUSTS 25 EARLY PERIOD, DECREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 BY LATE PERIOD. SEAS SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 4 TO 6, BUILDING 5 TO 7 EARLY PERIOD.
  2. FORECASTER: AG2(AW/SW) SCOTT//

V/r, Command Duty Officer Naval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

http://www.weather.navy.mil http://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil

PLA: NAVLANTMETOCCEN NORFOLK VA

Ship tracker
Ship tracker
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Ship Tracker 

NOAA has a Web site that can show you the path of each of its ships in near real time.  Below is the track of the DELAWARE II from June 30 – July 5, 2008. The red line shows exactly where the DELAWARE has gone. If you’d like to track the DELAWARE or any other NOAA ships yourself, then go to this Website.

Clam Surveys 

On the DELAWARE II our team is in the process of conducting a clam survey. This particular fishery survey is on clams. After dredging, collecting, sorting, counting, measuring and weighing (clam with shell and shucked clam meat only) – the data obtained is recorded and entered into computers filed under the specific station number that was dredged. All data is then sent to a central data base. The compiled data can then be compared to past surveys.  If the actual meat weight, size, quantity or quality of clams collected has reduced in comparison to past surveys, this could be an indication that some factor is influencing the reduction. Possible influencing factor: Clams are being over-fished.

However, clam fisheries are a very important part of the economy, especially in the northeastern part of the United States. Many people depend on clam fishing for a living. As long as clams are not over-fished, the balance between economy and ecology can remain stable.  Not only could this affect the clam population, but other marine life in this particular ecosystem could be affected as well because in an ecosystem ~ all living and nonliving things in the environment must interact and work together for the ecosystem to be productive. This is why it is vital that NOAA scientists continue to survey and keep track of the productivity in our ocean environments for future generations.

Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.
Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.

We document and record the data on all marine life that is pulled out from the dredge. These species are important documentation in clam surveys because in an ecosystem, all living organisms (and non-living things) depend on each other, interacting to produce food chains and food webs. Early this morning, we entered 2 separate stations, just a few miles apart. These 2 stations were loaded with a huge quantity of very healthy, large sized, heavy meat clams.  Vic noticed that not only did these 2 stations contain lots of large, healthy clams but that there was a lot of clean, sand sediment with very little other types of sediment. Sediment is defined as organic matter or mineral deposited by ice, air, or water. Sediment can be mud, clay, rock, gravel, shell fragments, silt, sand, pebbles or dead organic material (called detrius). The various sediments are sometimes mixed and are found in various textures, consistency and colors. Unlike these 2 sandy stations, the 69 stations we had already dredged all contained various other types of sediment.  Above and to the right are some pictures of a prior station that contained sediment of dark, hard clay.  

Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.
Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.

Vic instructed the crew at this point that we needed to get a sediment sample from the two nearby stations that we were fixing to dredge. I was asked to retrieve it with the aid of Jimbo Pontz and Lino Luis who operated the bottom grab (a device used to lower down into the ocean operated by an electric cable, for the purpose of retrieving sediment.)  First, Vic instructed me to “GEAR UP”; safety gear is a major priority on all NOAA ships.  I was given a safety harness to put on, along with a life jacket, and a hard helmet.

Then, the bottom grabber was lowered into the water and it collected the samples, towed back up by Lino Luis and emptied by Jimbo Pontz. I collected 2 cups of the sand sediment at both locations, prior to the dredge being hauled back up to the deck.  Note how clean and “new” the sand sediment looks. It is not mixed with a lot of other sediments. Sure enough, we again collected a huge load of healthy, large size, weighty meat clams covered in the same sediment seen in the picture above.  

Big Question of the Day 

Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment
Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment

Science Researchers have concluded that over the past century, sea level is rising at increasing rates, (possibly linked to Global Warming). Global warming is defined as the observed increase in the earth’s air and oceans in recent decades due to greenhouse gases and the theory that this temperature rising will continue to increase.

The rising of sea level causes an “environmental change”.  Some environmental changes on Earth occur almost instantly, due to Natural Disasters (like a hurricane or other massive storm events). Scientists that study environmental changes due to past storm events are called Paleotempostologists.  Other environmental changes can take decades, centuries, or thousands of years (like the rising of sea level). These environmental changes often cause new sediment to be deposited on top of older sediment. The adult, large, healthy, meaty-weight surf clams found today in the location where we sampled medium to coarse-grained sand were retrieved at stations offshore in cold and deep water; (the depth recorded by Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician as 70 feet). Could it be that environmental changes on the ocean floor are taking place due to the rise of sea level?  Could the medium to coarse-grained sand sediment sampled today possibly be a new layer of sediment due to rising sea levels causing a relocation of some marine species (like surf clams)? 

Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.
Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.

Abundance of surf clams in New York Harbor in June 1995, from this Web site.

Surf clams utilize an unusual behavior in response to stress: they leap from the sediment surface in order to relocate. Surf clams have been observed using this avoidance behavior in response to crowding and the presence of predators. Surf clams are mostly oceanic in distribution, preferring turbulent waters at the edge of the breaker zone. They can be found in some estuarine areas, but their distribution is limited by salinity (Fay et al. 1983). In New York/New Jersey Harbor, surf clams are found predominantly in the area where the harbor opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile clams prefer medium to fine, low organic sands averaging 9 to 25 meters in depth. Adults prefer medium- to coarse-grained sand and gravel, burying themselves just below the sediment surface. They are often found at evenly distributed positions relative to one another, with spacing interval negatively correlated to density. Additionally, adults often remain in their juvenile burrows unless they are displaced by storm events (Fay et al. 1983).  Predation by crabs, gastropods, and bottom-feeding fish have been observed to limit development of beds in nearshore areas colonized by larval surf clams, relocating to colder, deeper water.”

The Bottom Grab
The Bottom Grab

New Term/Word/Phrase: Ecosystem: an environment where living and non-living things interact and work together. Bottom Grab: A device used to lower onto the ocean floor for the purpose of gathering sediment.

Something to Think About: Are surf clams relocating?

Animals Seen Today 

Asterial boreal, Lady crab, Eel, Moonsnail, Shark eye northern snail, Stargazer fish, Whelk, and Sea cucumber.

hylton_log5h

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 3, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Daytime: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft.

Evening: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft with a chance Of showers and thunderstorms

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.11.10 PMScience and Technology Log 

Today, we experienced mechanical problems on the ship. I learned that this is why there are so many crew members on board. It takes the expert knowledge of many people in different careers to repair necessary equipment imperative to operate mechanical devices onboard.  The problem we had is that a power cable connected to the pump blew out.  Then they had to cut out the bad part of the cable and replace it to the power box that connects to the pump on the clam dredge.   However, adding the new cable means that we had to reconnect all of the smaller wires to the power box. Then we had to check the power to the switch inside the pump.  It took all hands on board to correct the problem, with Vic Nordahl, the chief scientist, in charge.

The problem was corrected with Vic Nordahl’s knowledge and the assistance from the chief engineer, Brian Murphy, the 1st engineer, Chris O’Keefe, the 2nd engineer, Grady Abney, along with many other crewmembers. Following is a sequence of photos that show the problem: I was amazed at the way so many people were involved in fixing the problem. The following people are crew members on board the DELAWARE II; many who helped to resolve the problem.

NOAA Crewmembers on the DELAWARE II and Their Titles and Careers 

Vic Nordahl – Chief Scientist In command of all scientific people on the ship. In command of what each person does on the survey. Has complete control of the numerous tasks involved in the survey. He teaches and explains all procedures involved in survey to new crew members and gives advice to old crew members in a very patient and very informed manner. Vic also has expert understanding in engineering, equipment maintenance and electrical mechanics and was the crucial person who solved the problem with the power cable connected to the pump. His understanding and mechanical ability enabled us to complete this survey; otherwise we would have had to return back to port.

Captain Stephen Wagner – Captain of the ship. Responsible for everything and everyone on the ship.

Lt. Monty Spencer – XO Executive Officer Second in command on the ship. Oversees all general operations of the ship and personnel. Does all the accounting on the ship, keeps the budget, take care of making sure there are sufficient personnel on all trips.

Richard Raynes – Gear Specialist Maintains all gear equipment on the ship.  Makes all fishing nets for ship.

ENS Chuck Felkley – Junior Officer of the ship In charge of safety, navigation ad driving on board the ship under Lt. Monty Spencer

Engineer Staff: (Brian Murphy) the chief engineer , the 1st  engineer (Chris O’Keefe) and the 2nd engineer (Grady Abney)

Francine Stroman – Marine Technician Enters technological data of marine species under survey.

Jim Pontz  and Mark Bolino – ABS (Able Bodied Seaman) Handle all equipment on ship’s deck department.  Lower and raise anything that goes in or out of water.

Mark Harris – High School Biology Teacher (ARMADA Teacher at Sea) Layton High School, Layton, Utah

Lisha Hylton – Third Grade Elementary Teacher (NOAA Teacher at Sea) Pelion Elementary School, Pelion, South Carolina

Patrick Bergin – Electronical Technician Takes care of all of the electronic equipment on the ship; phones, radar, computers, electronic equipment to operate ship.

Lino Luis – Lead Fisherman Radios when dredge pump is to be activated and deactivated.

Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician In charge of the team that takes care of the biological specimens on the ship. Maintains all computers for storing data for specimens collected.

Richie Logan – Works on back deck (maintains machinery)

Kira Lopez – Sophomore at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Volunteer scientist

Alicia Long – Sea-Going Technician Takes care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Steph Floyd – Biological Science Technician Summer employee trained by the sea-going technicians to take care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Erin Earley – Oiler/Wiper Assistant to engineers on ship

Jonathan Rockwell – Chief Steward Prepares and cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for entire crew.

Walter Coghlan – 2nd chef Works with Chief Steward in preparing and cooking all meals.

Christi and Russell – College Seniors majoring in biology.

Sharon Benjamin– College Graduate majoring in biology.

Question of the Day 

How many crew members are on board THE DELAWARE II for The Clam Survey? Answer: 32

New Term/Word/Phrase: Conductive Electric Cable

Something to Think About: Vic Nordahl (at 2:00 A.M.) started thinking about and telling us possible solutions to the problem if it could not be fixed while out at sea.

Challenge Yourself : I will learn all I can about equipment maintenance and repair from the experts on board.

Did You Know? 

It is highly difficult to fix an electrical problem on a ship because supplies are limited at sea.

Animals Seen Today 

Seagulls and a Pelican

 

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Coastal Waters From Sandy Hook To Manasquan Inlet Nj Out 20 Nm
* 930 Pm Edt Wed Jul 2 2008*
* Overnight*
Sw Winds 10 To 15 Kt With Gusts Up To 20 Kt.
Seas 2 To  4 Ft.

The Clam Dredge
The Clam Dredge

Science and Technology Log 

This information is general on working stations. My objective is to follow up on following daily logs into more specifics on how each station is operated and maintained. The crew is now learning more technicalities on entering data into the computer system as we continue to pull out quahogs and surfclams. The two species look a lot alike; a surfclam is more elongated in width where a quahog is rounder with a definite hooked shape at the top that connects the two shells. A quahog is also heavier in weight than a surfclam. After hauling in loads at frequent stops, heading north at pre-determined stations, the crew sorts through miscellaneous sediments to separate the clams. Surfclams are put in one basket, quahogs in another. If they are broken but the 2 valves are still intact, these go into 2 more baskets. Any living marine life goes into a bucket. We have documented the various sediments at each haul since this may prove to be a factor in the quantity and size of the clams. So far, the various sediments include rocks, pebbles, sand and shells, a dark oozy mud and grey clay. 

Kira Lopez in the lab
Kira Lopez in the lab

Once separated, we break up into teams and work at different stations entering the data into station computers that input the information into one database. Stations we have worked include: measuring the length, weighing the clams in the shell, shucking the clams and then weighing the meat only, determining the age, identifying other live marine organisms. Entering data for weight involves turning on the weight machine with a prod. Once this is done, Vic records the station # we are working at into all computerized machines. Input into the weight machine involves the following steps:

  • Key in the names of crew members working the station
  • Identify the clam
  • Specify living or broken
  • Measure the clam
  • Weigh the clam in the shell
  • Shuck the clam and enter the meat weight
  • Add any specific notes
  • Go to next clam until all clams are recorded
  • All data goes into a central data-base.

Questions of the Day 

  • How long does a surfclam usually live? A surfclam can live up to 15 years.
  • How long does a quahog live? A  qhahog can live up to 100 years.
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background

New Term/Word/Phrase: Bivalve (A Mollusk) 

Something to Think About 

  • Why are there more surfclams and quahogs at different stations or locations?
  • Why do some stations or locations have older surfclams and quahogs?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to learn to operate a station and be able to teach someone else to do it.

Did You Know? 
A surfclam has 2 abductor muscles.

Animals Seen Today 
Starfish Sea Squirts Rock Crab Sea Biscuit Sea Worm

Lisha on Delaware II
Lisha on Delaware II

Lisha Lander Hylton, June 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: June 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Each day, the ship receives an e-mail about the weather.  Following is the e-mail the ship received for today’s weather: 

Subject: WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// From:  “CDO.NMFC_N.002.fct” <cdo.nmfc_n.002.fct@navy.mil> Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2008 12:57:31 -0400 To: CO.Delaware@noaa.gov, OPS.Delaware@noaa.gov

CC: “Maritime.CDO” <Maritime.CDO@navy.mil>

UNCLAS //N03144//MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN NORFOLK VA//SUBJ/WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II//REF/A/MSG/NOAAS DELAWARE II/301900ZJUN08//REF/B/WEB/NOAA SHIP TRACKER/011147ZJUN08//NARR/REF A IS MOVREP. REF B IS NOAA SHIP TRACKER PAGE.//POC/SHIP ROUTING OFFICER/-/NAVMARFCSTCEN/LOC:NORFOLK VA/TEL:757-444-4044/EMAIL: MARITIME.SRO(AT)NAVY.MIL//RMKS/1. METEOROLOGICAL SITUATION AT 011200Z:LOW PRESSURE OVER QUEBEC WILL RETROGRADE WESTWARD AS ASECOND LOW FORMS OVER LABRADOR. THE ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT EXTENDS SOUTHWEST FROM THE GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE ALONG THE COAST TO NORTHERN FLORIDA. THE TRAILING EDGE OF THE COLD FRONT WILL SLOWLY DISSIPATE OVER THE WESTERN ATLANTIC. HIGH PRESSURE OVER THE NORTH CENTRAL ATLANTIC WILL REMAIN STATIONARY AND INTERACT WITH THE FRONT AS IT MOVES OFF THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST. ANOTHER LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM FORMING OVER ONTARIO WILL MOVE EAST-NORTHEAST TOWARDS LABRADOR THROUGHOUT THE PERIOD.

2. 24 HOUR FORECAST COMMENCING 020000Z FOR YOUR MODLOC AS INDICATED BY REFERENCES A AND B.

A. SKY, WEATHER: PARTLY CLOUDY TO OCCASIONALLY MOSTLY CLOUDY.

EXPECT PATCHY COASTAL FOG OVERNIGHT AND EARLY MORNING.

B. VSBY (NM): 7, 1 TO 3 IN PATCHY COASTAL FOG.

C. SURFACE WIND (KTS): SOUTHWEST 5 TO 10, INCREASING 10 TO 15BY 03/00Z.

D. COMBINED SEAS (FT): SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 3 TO 5, GRADUALLYABATING 2 TO 4 BY 02/12Z. SEAS WILL BE LOWER IN PROTECTED WATERS.

  1.  OUTLOOK TO 48 HOURS: WINDS SOUTHWEST 10 TO 15, INCREASING 18TO 23 WITH GUSTS TO 28 AFTER 03/12Z. SEAS SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 2 TO 4,BUILDING 4 TO 6 BY LATE PERIOD. SEAS WILL BE LOWER IN PROTECTED WATERS.
  2.  FORECASTER: AG1(SW) JONES//

V/R, Command Duty OfficerNaval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

Web Page: http://www.weather.navy.milhttp://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil

PLA: NAVLANTMETOCCEN NORFOLK VA

NOAA Ship DELAWARE II at its port in Woods Hole, MA
NOAA Ship Delaware II in Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log 

Mission 

The mission of my trip with NOAA is to provide me (a teacher of third grade students) an extraordinary opportunity to take part in genuine-world experiences being conducted by NOAA in order for me to achieve a clearer insight into pour ocean planet and a superior understanding of NOAA-related careers. With the comprehension that I obtain, I will be able to make lesson plans created on my field study for my students, giving them insight as to how much power they have on their lives and this world we live in. I will be able to generate lesson plans allowing my students to play a part in maritime activities as we study together, to value the work and expertise that is required to sustain oceanic and atmospheric research. The students’ enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and yearning to learn will only heighten with the hands-on, motivational activities that I gain from my research with this NOAA team. The educational experience that I gain from NOAA will certainly provide for an exceptional setting for knowledge and instruction.

Why Does NOAA Conduct Clam Surveys? 

DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate
DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate

Clams are a very important part of economy and ecology along the eastern United States Coast. NOAA is keeping track (surveying) of clams for the purpose of conserving clams to stabilize fishery industries without wiping out the clam population completely. Clams play a very important part in marine ecosystems; therefore these surveys are helping to maintain stability in the economy and ecology of United States. Today was our second day at sea. Our ship departed from Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday at 3:30 p.m. So that new crewmembers could learn their jobs and responsibilities from our Chief Scientist (Vic Nordahl), we participated in a “practice” dredge.

On Monday, June 30th – the crew onboard The Delaware II undertook our first clam survey (Station 1). I was on the 12:01 a.m. night crew. I was put in charge of operating the power switch for the clam dredge. The dredge operator (Lino Luis; THE LEAD FISHERMAN) would radio me when the dredge was set into the water, radio me again when he was preparing to dredge “hauling” and then radio me “GIVE ME POWER”. At this point, I would check the DEII device, which read the meters of the surface voltage, which detects the power for the speed of the ship. This machine needs to read between 2.5 and 3.0 knots. Wearing a rubber glove and standing on a rubber mat, I immediately turned the switch on the SURF CLAM CONTROL to “ON”. This supplied the dredge with approximately 900 amps (A-C AMPERES) and a voltage of approximately 450 volts. As soon as I turned on the switch, I would radio back to Lino “THE POWER IS ON!” He would radio me back when it was time to turn off the power switch (after the dredger was off the bottom). He would signal to me “Turn the power off”. I would turn the switch to off and radio him back “POWER OFF”.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.

Personal Log 

Once the clam dredger was hauled onboard the back deck of the ship and the dredger was secured and inspected by Vic Nordahl (Chief Science Researcher), the clam load was released. Wearing protective clothing and hardhats, the crew began to sort the variety of marine animals. Richard Raynes (Gear Specialist) and I were involved in this task. Large buckets were used for this purpose. Broken quahogs were separated from undamaged quahogs. Surfclams went into another bucket. Other living sea creatures like sand dollars, stingrays and sea scallops along with shell fragments and sediment were put into a separate bucket and immediately released back into the ocean. I worked closely with Vic Nordahl and Francine Stroman (Biological Technician) watching, learning and participating in sorting the load and recording data for Station 1 Clam Survey. The clams were weighed and counted (this data imported into a computer system). The second step was measuring the length of the clams on a LIMNOTERRA (a measuring board) and importing this data into the computer system as well. I assisted in the sorting, weighing, counting and measuring. Once the data was stored, the clams were released back into the ocean.

The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!
The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!

There are 3 legs to this research survey. I am on the 1st leg. Some general conclusions will be obtained at the end of the 1st leg from the data we collect. Vic Nordahl (our chief scientist) is going to explain these general conclusions to our team; however, more conclusive evidence of the clam survey will be evident after the 2nd and 3rd leg has been completed. On my last log, I plan to show evidence of some of the general conclusions our team has made.

Question of the Day 

How much does the clam dredge weigh?

Answer: 9,500 pounds

New Terms/Words/Phrases: 

  1. Clam Dredge
  2. DEII Device
  3. Ocean Quahog
  4. Surfclam
  5. Limnoterra Measure Board
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!

Something to Think About: How can we conserve and preserve fisheries along the eastern United States coast?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to pursue a career with NOAA in researching and surveying fisheries along the eastern coast of the United States.

Did You Know That?  

The abundance of clams is declining because of 2 factors:

  1. Climate change
  2. Fishermen are taking more clams than the clam population can reproduce.

Animals Seen Today

Ocean Quahogs (Mollusca), Surfclams (Mollusca), Sand Dollars (Echinoderm), Annelida Polychaeta, Atlantic Sting Ray (Skate), Sea Scallops (Mollusca), and Sea Mouse (AnnelidaPolychaeta).

Adrienne Heim, September 2, 2007

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

Colorful sea stars!
Colorful sea stars!

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

Science and Technology Log: Ocean Diversity

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

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

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

Alligator fish
Alligator fish

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

Sea cucumber
Sea cucumber
Spoonarm octopus
Spoonarm octopus

Adrienne Heim, August 24, 2007

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

Working at night
Working at night

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

Science and Technology Log: Sample Sorting

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

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

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

Sorting on deck
Sorting on deck

Elizabeth Martz, August 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 8, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility = <1 nautical miles
Cloud cover = fog
Wind direction = 200 degrees
Wind speed = 21 knots (kts.)
Sea wave height = 2-3 feet
Swell wave height = 2 feet
Seawater temperature = 15.1 degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure = 1004.2 mb

I love finding the sea scallops in the pile of all items from one dredge tow. I am having a remarkable time on the ALBATROSS IV
I love finding the sea scallops in the pile of all items from one dredge tow. I am having a remarkable time on the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

12:00 midnight—Today my 12 hour shifts began.  This is an amazing experience.  I am loving my time onboard the ALBATROSS IV.  It is quite exciting.  Today was outstanding. I am experiencing being a researcher at sea. The ALBATROSS IV has 12-hour shifts. The researchers are organized into two different shifts which are each 12 hours. I am on the midnight to noon shift.  It is very different than my “teacher hours”. I usually work from 7:30 to 5:00 at school. I am only required to be at school from 7:45- 3:15, but I can never accomplish all of my responsibilities in that brief of a time.  I love school and I love being prepared. To work on the ALBATROSS IV, you need to be prepared and ready for a hard day’s work! I am loving the work and at this time it is not too hard. 

My Responsibilities 

Steve is assisting with sending the dredge into the water.  It is about 2 am and we are 2 hours into our watch shift.  The dredge is over 1,600 lbs. and there are many pieces of equipment that help the dredge function properly!
Steve is assisting with sending the dredge into the water. It is about 2 am and we are 2 hours into our watch shift. The dredge is over 1,600 lbs. and there are many pieces of equipment that help the dredge function properly!

I am a working member onboard the ALBATROSS IV.  I am making every moment count and I am learning so much. The dredge haul experience is unbelievable. There are two fishermen that help to release and the dredge.  The two fishermen on my watch are Steve and Mike.  They are amazing at fixing the net, loading the dredge, releasing the dredge, retrieving the dredge, cleaning the deck, helping to sort the organisms in the  tow, and so much more.  These fishermen have the expertise of sending the dredge into the water and helping it return back after a 15-minute tow.  The Chief Boatswain (head fisherman), Tony, controls the mechanical devices that assist the fishermen in sending the dredge to sea.  Tony is so talented. He has the ability to communicate and accomplish any task onboard the ALBATROSS IV!  The fisherman and all the scientists on my watch observe the dredge coming onboard the ship. Once the dredge is on deck there is so much to do!!! When the dredge returns from being in the water for 15 minutes, there is so much to do.  First, the fishermen need to bring the dredge up on deck. There are strong metal wires that bring the dredge up on deck. There are metal pulleys that help move the wire.  There are mechanically parts that are controlled so that the dredge lands on deck without damaging anything… including the dredge. The entire process is so awesome and neat.

The scientists are all so excited to discover new things in this pile.  Every dredge tow is full of biotic (living) and abiotic (non –living) items.  It is so wonderful to discover new things.
The scientists are all so excited to discover new things in this pile. Every dredge tow is full of biotic and abiotic items. It is so wonderful to discover new things.

After the dredge is placed on deck, the fun begins. First, a scientist checks the dredge to see if it laid correctly on the ocean floor.  The equipment that records the behavior of the tow is called an inclinometer. The inclinometer is placed inside the top of the dredge and the information is recorded.  The scientist then needs to go to a different room to read the information from the inclinometer.  It is an interesting piece of scientific equipment.  The next experience is the best!!  After a quick photo of what materials are found in the dredge, all the scientists gather around the dredge materials.  We all marvel at what we dredged and then sort the items.  We place all fish in one bucket and all skates in another.  The scallops are all collected.  The scallops are even organized by size. (Very small scallops are placed in a different bucket.)  All the extra items go in a different bucket. When all biotic items have been discovered, then we shovel all the “habitat” (rocks and sand) into baskets.  Every object that lands on deck is counted and documented.

I love all the amazing things I have found from this experience

Elizabeth Martz, August 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 7, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility = <.2 nautical miles
Cloud cover = Fog
Wind direction = 185 degrees
Wind speed = 5 knots (kts.)
Sea wave height = <1 feet
Swell wave height = 2 feet
Seawater temperature = 15.2  degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure = 1013.8 mb

Science and Technology Log 

8:00 a.m.—Breakfast.  Yummy!  Breakfast is one of the best meals of the day.  Great food and selection.

9:30 a.m.—I went to the local post office!  I went to the Marine Biological Laboratory.  I viewed information on the Alvin launch in 1964.  This submersible is amazing!  It can withstand such water pressure changes. Science Rules!

11:00 a.m.—Sea Scallop research and information: Presentation by Victor Nordahl:  Chief scientist!

The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms.  The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!
The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms. The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!

The dredge has a net liner and its purpose is to keep fish and scallops in the dredge. The liner is often damaged by rocks & boulders that enter it. These 2 scientists are repairing the ripped net liner on our standard dredge. On a common dredge found on fishing boats, there is no liner. Fishermen finding scallops do not want to catch & analyze fish. They just want the scallop meats.  As scientists, we want to study everything.  The basic dredge haul provides us with lots to study.  It is 7’ wide metal rod covered with rubber disks across the bottom of the dredge.  There are dumping chains attached to the clubstick that help with the dumping of materials out of the dredge. The dredge goes out three times the water depth. For example:  If the water depth is 100 meters, the dredge will send 300 meters of metal cable out.  To calculate the distance of the dredge from the ship, you could use the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2.  BUT the net curves & the equation doesn’t give you the most accurate results. So, you can calculate the amount and make a estimate of the net distance from the ship.  In this example, the dredge is about 260 meters away from the ship. The dredge’s bag has an opening where all the organisms enter. The ring bag is built to hold rocks, living organisms, movement on the floor, and store many organisms for study. The dredge sometimes needs to be repaired due to weather conditions or course substrate (items found on the ocean floor).

LOOK at the dredge above. This is showing the longer top side. Try to imagine a metal opening on the other side. This opening is about 6 feet from the top of the dredge. When the dredge is in the water, the longer side is on top. The part with the opening is found underneath. The dredge runs along the bottom floor and collects the organisms.  It is amazing how many organisms you can find on the ocean floor. It is incredible how many diverse species are located in the Atlantic Ocean.

More Notes about the Dredge 

This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship.  The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water.  When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds. The pulleys and metal cable help scientists bring the dredge back up on the ship’s deck!
This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship. The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water. When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds.

We have 5 dredges on board the ship. When we get to the end of the Leg III, we will be conducting surveys in areas with lots of rocks and materials that will harm the dredges.  We will determine the strength of the dredges. We will be using different dredges.  We will use the standard dredge and the rock- chain dredge. The standard dredge can capture large rocks or boulders during the dredge haul. The rock-chain dredge is designed to stop large rocks from entering the dredge. With the rock-chain dredge, the scientists who analyze the findings from the dredge have fewer rocks to

Sea Scallop Survey = Goals and Information 

The Sea Scallop Survey is an important and interesting task for scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV. Purpose of the scientific expedition of learning:

1. What is range of the scallops?  Do you find them in shallow water?  Do you find them in deep water?   Where do scallops prefer to grow and survive?  Do we find more scallops in areas of a smaller rocks, bigger boulders, or small particles of sand?

2. Scientists can estimate how many scallops we will find.  Marine biologists would like to learn more about the population of scallops in various areas.  Scientists would like to come to an understanding about where most scallops reside on the ocean floor.

3. Scientists have randomly selected stations from Cape Hatteras, NC to Georges Bank (east of Cape Cod). An area close to Nova Scotia is where scientists test to see the existence of scallops.

4. Scientists ask, “How many scallops are out there?”

5. Scientists ask, “How will the scallop population be different in the future?”

      • I ask: Why will the population be different?
      • I ask: What makes one species survive and another species not survive in an area?
      • • I ask: How can science help the scallop population increase?  Will helping the scallop population help or hurt the ecosystem? Other questions:
      • What bottom substrate is most prevalent in areas with large sea scallop harvests? (This year, the scientists found the most scallops on an area with a sandy bottom.)
      • Why is that bottom substrate a better environment for sea scallop growth? {little scallops = gravel, sand; bigger scallops orientate to areas by the current (moving water)
      • How long do sea scallops live? (10-15 years)
      • What temperature is the best for sea scallop survival? (The most important temperature is one that produces the most spawning. When more scallops are born, then more scallops survive.
  • How much do sea scallops cost to buy in the store? (about $12/pound)
  • How much do the fisherman make for spending a day at sea catching scallops that they sell to the local restaurant or buyer?
  • What topics do scientists find interesting about scallops? (Each scientist has their own ideas and opinions.)
This picture is taken right off the fantail of the ALBATROSS IV.  It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck of the ship.
It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck.

6. How can scientists protect fisheries (the scallops) and those who harvest them (the fishermen)?

7. Various universities, scientists, and government agencies closed water areas around Nantucket in 1994. In this area, no fishing or dredging is allowed.  All citizens must not remove anything from the area.

      • If you have a permit to fish, you need to be knowledgeable of the fishing rules.   When water areas are closed for fishing, you need to know where they are and what to do.
      • When they closed the area, the fish did not return.
      • The scallop population has greatly increased.
      • Many areas of the ocean are under a rotational management plan. (This is also called limited access areas).  In these areas of the ocean, fishermen are allowed into an area for various times.
      • Sometimes fishermen are not allowed to capture a specific type of fish.
      • There are times when fishermen cannot collect any scallops.
      • These rotational management areas are created due to research and scientific studies that are completed at sea. In other words, all the scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV are making a difference in the regulations that fishermen adhere to.
      • Scallops are a resource. They are a biotic (living) thing. Many people spend their lives harvesting this resource from the ocean. Many people spend their lives eating this resource.  No matter who you are, you can impact the health of the water and the home to this resource. We all need to make an effort to protect our waterways and care about the resources that benefit our lives. 
This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms and sea scallops are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals and species from our ocean.
This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals from our ocean.

8. The ALBATROSS IV has surveyed over 525 randomly- generated locations.  The ALBATROSS IV has selected over 25 basic locations to compare studies year after year. The scientists have been collecting data since 1975. (I think that is so outstanding and AWESOME!)

9. Here is a small lesson about how the stations are randomly-generated.  First, think of an area in the ocean. Then, divide that area into 100 squares.  Next divide those 100 squares into small areas.  The randomly-generated stations are determined from all those small areas.  Finally, the researchers need to decide the best way to travel to all of those randomly-generated areas.

10. The tow “what you catch” naturally changes year after year.  You will never catch all the same organisms every year.  You will discover that fish populations change for many reasons.  Here is a list of some reasons why a population may be different each year:

      • Birth rate/death rate
      • Habitat change
      • Fish movement
      • Fish maturity
      • Number of fish caught by the fishermen
      • Amount of water in the area
      • Environmental factors = salinity over time, temperature, rainfall, hurricanes, tsunamis, and more…
      • 13. Sometimes ships are retired and new ships replace them.  When a new ship surveys an area, the scientists need to make sure that the new ship’s equipment is consistent with the old equipment.  Long-term data is analyzed.  The new equipment and old equipment must keep the data valid. Many factors are taken into consideration:
  • Do ships have the same power, dredge, wire used, and same liner?
  • If the equipment is different, how can we control bias?
  • Do the ships test areas with the same water level, salinity, disease, same amount of fishermen in the area, wind, etc.?
  • There are so many factors to consider and to control!
  • A few ways to control bias and determine an average number of scallops include: = determine fish mortality: death due to being caught = natural mortality: predation/ death = don’t factor in temperature, salinity, water currents, food availability, recruitment (spawning and growing)

11. The ALBATROSS IV keeps a constant 3.8 knots speed when the dredge is out in the water. The ALBATROSS IV can reach 10- 11 knots when cruising along.  I think it is an amazing how it feels on the water.

This is a winter flounder.  It is a resource to many fisherman and scientist.  There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.
This is a winter flounder. It is a resource to many fisherman. There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.

12. The sea scallop study is a great arena to start an ecosystem investigation. We need to know more about other organisms to determine details about ecosystem!  Animals help and hurt each other.

13. As a scientist, you map habitat with a multibeam, tow camera, and dredge an area.  The dredge validates the information from the tow camera.  (The efficiency issue is solved.) The multibeam shows the entire habitat and determines everything there is to validate animal documented.

14. There are so many characteristics about the sea scallops.

      • Thickness of the sea scallop shell
      • Weight of the meat
      • Color of the meat
      • Shape of the shell
      • Texture of the shell
      • Weight of the shell
      • On the ALBATROSS IV, many procedures are followed for each dredge tow!
      • There is an inclinometer on the dredge.  The inclinometer will show if the dredge flipped.
      • A photo is taken right when the dredge tow is dumped on the deck.  The picture shows the station number, tow number (location), if it is open or closed area, and more. (See picture above.)
      • When sorting the tow, there are procedures to follow.  Always sort what is in front of you. By sorting all animals right in front of you, true randomness and validity of diverse sizes are discovered.  Place all fish in one bucket. Put all skates in one bucket.  Place all crabs in another (if you need to collect them.) Put all small scallops in a blue bucket.  Place all large and medium scallops in another bucket. Put all other animals in another bucket.  Place all “habitat” in an orange basket.
      • What do sea scallops eat?  Well, they eat starfish.  They eat the Asterias Boreal and Elptarstius Tenera. So neat. 

Elizabeth Martz, August 6, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 6, 2007

Wood’s Hole is an amazing place of nature, water, and other environmental benefits.  Notice how many boats & people benefit from the water.
Wood’s Hole is an amazing place of nature, water, and other environmental benefits. Notice how many boats & people benefit from the water.

Science and Technology Log

7:15 a.m.—Breakfast.  I met many scientists, crew, teachers, officers, & more… details about Sea Scallop Leg III will occur at 10 am.  Awesome food for breakfast.

8:30 a.m.—Free time in the town.  I saw the countryside, the marina, & visited the town of Wood’s Hole. We had a scientist’s meeting for all watch shifts.  (I am on the 12 a.m. (midnight) -12 p.m. (noon) watch.) We discussed expectations, responsibilities, and ideas about this adventure/experience. We were informed of sexual harassment, drug possession rules, and other NOAA policies.  I clearly understood my expectations and responsibilities.  The ALBATROSS IV is 187 feet in length, 38 feet in width. The major reason that the ALBATROSS IV is out to sea is to learn more about the sea scallop population. We sample for sea scallops from Virginia to Eastern Georges Bank (off the coast of Nova Scotia). This is the Leg III of the Sea Scallop study.  We will be surveying sea scallops from Northern part of Georges Bank that borders on the Gulf of Maine to the Great South Channel east of Massachusetts.  The dredge is towed for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots.  The dredge covers about 1.0 nautical miles of ocean bottom.  A nautical mile is compared to 1.15 land mile.

Questions for the Day (I am always thinking about how my students can benefit from my experiences!)

  1. How many students in my class have been to the ocean?
  2. How many students in my class have touched an aquatic or marine organism?
  3. How many students can name 10 different aquatic organisms?
  4. How many students have been on a large ship or cruise ship?
This sea a scallop was collected during a night dredge onboard the ALBATROSS IV on 8/9/07.
This sea a scallop was collected during a night dredge onboard

Details about sorting the dredge haul:

Sea scallops are collected, measured, and weighed. This scallop is upside down. The top of a scallop is more convex (curves out) and the bottom of a scallop is more flat.  Do you see how the convex side (the top of the sea scallop) fits nicely in your hand? The white area you see is the male gonad of the sea scallop. The fleshy, white section that a customer eats is found deeper inside the sea scallop. All the diverse organisms we find in the dredge are collected in blue buckets. Each organism is sorted by type and measured individually by a researcher.  Many studies are being conducted onboard the ALBATROSS IV.  Some of the studies include: sea scallop shell analysis for age, sea scallop size analysis, sea scallop health analysis, human health when consuming sea scallops, skate analysis, populations of starfish and crabs, water characteristics are analyzed, and so much more.  The focus of the ALBATROSS IV’s voyage is to count the number of sea scallops from each dredge.  The scientists also collect fish, skates, and other unique organisms at each station.

Shawn McPhee & Adrienne Heim are measuring scallops.  Over 350 scallops were collected on one dredge haul.
Shawn McPhee & Adrienne Heim are measuring scallops. Over 350 scallops were collected on one dredge haul.

The fish include American plaice flounder, Atlantic Hagfish, fourspot flounder, goosefish, longhorn sculpin, northern sand lance, ocean pout, red hake, sea raven, windowpane flounder, winter flounder, yellowtail flounder, and more. The skates include  barndoor skate, little skate, winter skate, smooth skate, and more.  Unique organisms include octopus, squid, and lobsters. If there are more scallops than we can sort or measure, we conduct a subsample.  A subsample is when you choose a smaller amount to measure and expand by volume.

For example, if you have 10 baskets of scallops, you choose 5 to measure and your expansion is two.

  •  Orange baskets hold “habitat”. Abiotic habitat items include rocks, boulders, gravel, sand, and shells. Biotic habitat items include: brittle stars, shrimp, sand dollars, clams, and spider crabs.  All of these biotic and abiotic items are counted and documented for each station.

The number of crabs and starfish is calculated every third station. The CTD shows the details of the water column and helps determine where scallops are found.

The dredge is equipped with an inclinometer.  This equipment is a sensor that measures dredge angle relative to the bottom of the ocean floor.  The sensor has an internal clock that allows us to determine the amount of time that the dredge is on the bottom and in fishing position.

We collected this many sea scallops from one dredge.  It is outstanding how many scallops live in one area of the Atlantic Ocean.  I counted and learned details about scallops.
We collected this many sea scallops from one dredge. It is outstanding how many scallops live in one area of the Atlantic Ocean. I counted and learned details about scallops.

Good Questions for My Students 

  1. If you know the average speed (V) of the vessel during that time (T) you can calculate the distance that the dredge travelled. The students can use the equation : Distance = Velocity x Time
  2. Would you be a researcher out at sea(on the ocean)? If you had the chance to investigate the number of sea scallops in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, would you go?
  3. Why are research vessels, like the ALBATROSS IV, so important for the study of science?

ALBATROSS IV Topics of Investigation 

  1.  Sea Scallop study and investigation.
  2.  FDA sea scallop study. The FDA is dissecting and analyzing the health of the sea scallops. The sea scallop gonads and viscera are being tested for hazardous toxins: a marine biotoxin called saxitoxin.  It causes PSP:  Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The sea scallop is unharmed because saxitoxin is part of their diet.  The sea scallops are filter-feeders. The saxitoxin is produced by a dinoflagellate called Alexandrium Species.   Saxitoxin is a neuron toxin that affects your nervous system.  It specifically causes concerns in the nervous system where your breathing and muscle movement is controlled. If saxitoxin is consumed by a person, the affected person can be incubated (a tube is placed down your throat and air is forced into your lungs), then you will be fine.  If you do not seek medical attention, you will have major difficulty breathing and the person will have concerns with their nervous system (all other functions).  Not good!!

A Tour of the ALBATROSS IV 

There are 3 outside wet work stations, inside dry station, CTD station, Watch Chief station, and more! There is a galley, Researcher work areas, hurricane deck, computer room, Officer’s staterooms, our living quarters, exercise room, “the bridge”, and other areas that I will discover throughout the boat. There are 14 scientists onboard this vessel.  I am one of those scientists.  It has been stated that the research collected would not be possible without the help of volunteers.   Very cool. I feel like I am an important part of this journey out to sea.

Important fact:  When I am on watch:  It is so important to take everything with me! Do not go back to the room.  Be sure to have your computer, notes, change of clothes, and more. Be prepared.

All stations (randomly picked sites) give scientists about the sea scallop population and details about their survival. Victor has a map posted in the dry lab.  It is awesome.  It is really, really cool and neat.

Victor stated over and over again!!!!  ASK QUESTIONS!

Questions I Have 

  1. What is the basic sea scallop population in the Atlantic Ocean?
  2. How do the populations change from one site to another?  The distribution is relative to depth, latitude, bottom type, and temperature/ salinity!  If we go to an area more shallow we will not locate as many sea scallops.
  3. Why does the population change over several years in the same area? Recruitment is a factor. This means that baby scallops larvae will settle  in an area and they will grow.
  4. In what water depth can you find the most sea scallops?  Why?
  5. What environmental conditions are best for sea scallop survival?
  6. In what other areas of the world are sea scallops present and prevalent?
  7. What helps the sea scallops survive?

Drills 

Fire/ collision drill:  bring life vest and emergence suit; go to the wet lab and listen for announcements Abandon ship drill: 7 short sounds and one long sound ;  bring life vest, emergent suit, long sleeve shirt, long pants, and go to raft #6 Man overboard: go to lookout area and point the entire time!

This is the standard dredge used on the ALBATROSS IV. This dredge is extremely important in collecting sea scallops from the ocean.
This is the standard dredge that is extremely important in collecting sea scallops from the ocean.

Other Announcements 

Always report concerns! Be vocal when you have a problem and let’s solve it.  Please don’t keep it inside and cause you concern… share what you feel.

This Sea Scallop survey has viewed, documented, and calculated organism counts in over 500 stations. The Sea Scallop survey is analyzing information about the location of sea scallops, the growth of sea scallops, and so much more.  The Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, would love to use this information about sea scallops to begin more studies about the ecosystem.  He stated “The sea scallop information is an excellent start to understanding the entire make-up of the ecosystem where the scallops are found.  If we discover more about where we find the sea scallops, then we can help the sea scallops and more organisms survive.  The ALBATROSS IV may be retired soon.  The boat has experienced and investigated numerous events.  The vessel is beginning to show wear and tear.  It has equipment that shows age and needs repair. Each boat needs to stay in compliance with NOAA standards and the ALBATROSS IV continues to make repairs to keep up with those standards.

The major goal of a research vessel is to collect accurate and reliable data.  When an old ship is retired (no longer used to collect scientific information), then scientists need to compare the equipment on the old ship with the equipment on the new ship.  This is called calibration. The new ship will use information from the old ship for at least one year. The data needs to be compared and analyzed because all data is used for long-term studies. If one ship makes scientific conclusions and another ship makes conclusions that are totally different from the first ship, then the data is not valid.  The data could not be used and the scientists work would be a waste.  So, NOAA and other research companies who collect scientific data need to make sure that their research procedures are accurate and reliable.

We will actually collect information about the sea scallop population using 2 different nets. The information will be analyzed and conclusions will be calculated about the reliability of the different dredges.  The research outcomes will allow scientists to determine how the dredges and nets are different.  The scientists will calculate the differences between the equipment and make a calibration.  Neat stuff.

10:45 a.m.—Tour of Marine Biological Lab.  Bill Kramer, an information technology scientist for NOAA, gave us a tour MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory).  We learned about the marine environment and observed animals in the aquariums.

12:20 p.m.—Lunch.  Excellent selection and many healthy choices.  Great food.

1:20 p.m.-12:30 a.m.—ALBATROSS IV needs a special type of fuel/oil.  We had free time.  I explored Wood’s Hole on 8/6/06, so I took the ferry to Oak Bluff!  It was outstanding. I did get caught in an enormous rain storm, but I made it safely to Wood’s Hole. I am so honored to be a part of the NOAA crew and I look forward to my adventure! I had the chance that night to speak to many other volunteers.  We stayed up and talked all evening about our ideas and hopes for this trip.  We are all excited and motivated to be a part of the crew of the ALBATROSS IV!!

I am very enthusiastically anticipating what I am going to do and what I will learn.

  1. Will I personally collect sea scallops? I think so!
  2. Will I see other marine organisms? Whales?  Dolphins?  Fish?  Birds? I hope!!
  3. How can I share with my students what I learned from this experience? Pictures, lessons, stories, and interviews
  4. How will I organize all the information I learn so that my students have a better understanding about being a researcher?  Computer documents and more
  5. How can I document everything I see and do using my digital camera? Take 1,000 pictures
  6. How can I motivate my students to be life-long learners?   Smile and share stories of my adventures at sea!
  7. How many of my students participate in fun summer activities involving science? I do hope that many students get involved in science camps and more.  After I return, I plan to share stories and I hope this motivates them to attend science events!!
  8. Why should students want to be scientists and researchers? I think it is obvious!! Science rules!!!
  9. How will I help the marine organisms survive or how will I make a difference in the lives of others who study marine life?  Be happy!
  10. I am so excited and I am ready!

Elizabeth Martz, August 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Martz, works aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Martz, works aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV.

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 5, 2007

Personal Log

12:50 p.m. I boarded the airplane at BWI for its journey to Boston, MA. This little plane handled the changes of air pressure, air currents, take off, landing, and so much more… Excellent experience. I documented my journey in the air by taking numerous pictures with my camera.   This photo shows the details of the land about 25 minutes into flight from BWI to Boston.  3:20 p.m. Bus to Wood’s Hole:  It was an experience. I loved the plane ride. I did not enjoy the bus ride. It took forever to reach Wood’s Hole.  6:30 p.m. Arrive on NOAA boat: Awesome vessel!  I discovered details about the ship’s size, location of my room, crew members, & security personnel.  I am so thankful that NOAA allowed me to stay onboard the ALBATROSS IV the night before I began my duties as a researcher. I was able to see and understand more about the life on a sea vessel.

The ALBATROSS IV is docked at Wood’s Hole preparing for its journey on the high seas.  It is an impressive ship with lots of equipment.
The ALBATROSS IV is docked at Wood’s Hole preparing for its journey on the high seas. It is an impressive ship.

Other volunteers arrived to board the ship. Adrienne, a Teacher from New York, teaches Spanish and more.  Vickery and Greg are scientists from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) who are researching the Sea Scallops. Sean, cousin of the Chief Scientist, is heading towards a degree from the University of Maine.  We are all enthusiastically ready for this trip on board the ALBATROSS IV.

7:00- 11:50 p.m. Walked at Wood’s Hole: I am so impressed by this town (small & sweet).  I had dinner at Shucker’s Seafood Restaurant.  Yummy!  Upon returning to the boat, I talked with scientists and security about their experiences and what they love about being out at sea.

The view from the plane.
The view from the plane.

Susie Hill, August 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 2, 2007

The “Day Crew”From Left to Right: Larry Brady (Watch Chief), Nikolai Klibansky, Jakub Kircun, Stacy Rowe (Chief Scientist), Sarah Pregracke, Claude Larson, Susie Hill, and Melissa Ellwanger
The “Day Crew”From Left to Right: Larry Brady (Watch Chief), Nikolai Klibansky, Jakub Kircun, Stacy Rowe (Chief Scientist), Sarah Pregracke, Claude Larson, Susie Hill, and Melissa Ellwanger

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 18.9° C
Sea Temperature: 20.1° C
Relative Humidity: 78 %
Barometric Pressure: 1016.6 millibars
Windspeed: 3.5 knots
Water Depth: 60.6 meters
Conductivity: 43.21 mmhos
Salinity: 32.05 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

My final day aboard the NOAA ALBATROSS IV is here! I’ve had such a wonderful experience learning about the marine life at the bottom of the North Atlantic, working with the Scientist and NOAA Corp staff, and getting the real feel of what it’s like to live and have a career out at sea. I cannot wait to get back to last two weeks. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, we get to develop curriculum based on our trip that can be used by our local schools, or in my case, a maritime and marine science themed museum, as well as could be used by teachers around the country through NOAA. I’ve got so many cool ideas brewing through my head about what I want to develop lesson plans on. Once again, I came here thinking that we’re only going to be studying scallops, but I’ve learned so much more! Thank you, NOAA!

Susie Hill, August 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 1, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 16.4° C
Sea Temperature: 18.1° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1012.8 millibars
Windspeed: 2.70 knots
Water Depth: 83.3 meters
Conductivity: 42.72 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Chris Daniels, Operations Officer, and Kurt Zegowitz, Executive Officer, on the bridge sailing the NOAA ALBATROSS IV
Chris Daniels, Operations Officer, and Kurt Zegowitz, Executive Officer, on the bridge sailing the NOAA ALBATROSS IV

This morning was awesome! We’re heading our way into Canada and we see whales! There were about 4 of them scattered around the ship. Unfortunately, they were too far away from the ship to get good pictures. We think they were humpback or fin whales by seeing the fluke (or tail fin) and the way they arched their back.  The best place to get a great view of the wide ocean or see the big marine life is the bow, or front of the ship. The bridge is also up there. This is the command center where the ship’s officers sail the ship. There are six NOAA Corps officers aboard the ship including Commanding Officer (CO), Steve Wagner, and Executive Officer (XO), LCDR Kurt Zegowitz. Kurt has many responsibilities as XO including sailing the ship (of course), supervising the four Junior Officers, managing the ship’s budget, being the ship’s Safety Officer, being the Dive Master, and serving as Acting CO if Steve is unavailable to sail. Formerly known as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps before 1970, the NOAA Corps is recognized as one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The officers manage the vessel and work together with the scientists to ensure that the scientific missions of each ship are accomplished. 

Claude Larson, July 31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 31, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 17º C
Water Temperature: 18.3º C
Wind Speed: 10.8 knots
Wind Direction: W Latitude: 41 24.54 N Longitude: 66 34.50 W
Cloud Cover: 8/8
Humidity: 100%

Dive Master and Executive Officer Kurt Zegowitz (left) and Commanding Officer Steve Wagner (right) inspect the hull of the ALBATROSS IV prior to setting sail.
Dive Master and Executive Officer Kurt Zegowitz (left) and Commanding Officer Steve Wagner (right) inspect the hull of the ALBATROSS IV prior to setting sail.

Science and Technology Log 

NOAA ships are equipped with the necessities for successful scientific research and sea voyages. Much of which goes unnoticed, unless a specific set of circumstances arises.  With these capabilities, there is an understanding that not only does the ship have a wealth of material resources, but the ship’s crew has been trained in the operation, maintenance and procedures required for use of all of these devices.  One aspect of gear and training I’d like to focus on is this log entry is the SCUBA capabilities on board. I caught up with the ship’s Dive Master and Executive Officer, LCDR Kurt Zegowitz to get a better understanding of what the SCUBA team does on board the ALBATROSS IV.

The ALBATROSS IV SCUBA team also includes crew members Commanding Officer Steve Wagner, Operations Officer ENS Chris Daniels, and Navigation Officers ENS Chad Meckley and ENS Chris Skapin. Their primary responsibility is ship husbandry or taking care of the ship’s hull. To ensure proper operation of the ship the hull must be inspected, usually before each sail.  The propeller is checked for line entanglement.  The bow thruster, transducers and sea suction intake grates are also cleaned.  The sea suction intake grates allow sea water to be brought in to cool the engine as the boat steams along.  While in Woods Hole, the crew also helps the aquarium by clearing the intakes for their sea water supply.

Some other aspects of SCUBA team work throughout NOAA include research, sample taking and fish collecting. For example, on research trips off of the Hawaiian Islands scientists will have the divers collect species of fish and other sea creatures for scientific study. In order to collect fish, the divers use a Hawaiian sling and collect the fish in a bag that is attached to their leg and towed behind them at a distance of about 30 feet.  This precaution protects the divers in the event that a shark in search of the injured fish is in the area.

NOAA Corps personnel who choose to receive SCUBA training can go to one of two sites, Seattle, Washington or the Florida Keys.  The basic training requires three intense weeks of work with SCUBA gear and dives.  Upon completion of the training they receive the title of working diver and with increased experience and training can move up to advanced diver, master diver and diving instructor.  NOAA divers are required to dive every six weeks and do so in both warm and cold water.  They have wet suits for warmer weather and dry suits for colder months.

Now for a quick physics lesson. The SCUBA air tanks are filled with compressed air and weigh approximately 35 pounds when full.  Which is quite a lot to tow around on land however, in the water the buoyant force equalizes the weight and the divers can float easily even with the 35 pound weight on their backs.  The air lasts for approximately 40 minutes give or take, depending on their rate of breathing and lung capacity.  The divers must also wear weight belts to help them stay submerged easily.  Some physics here again, the larger you are the more buoyant you are and the leaner you are the less buoyant you are. This means that if you a larger person you will need a heavier weight belt to keep you submerged, whereas a thinner person will only need a small amount of weight.  Again, these belts feel like they’d be rather uncomfortable to wear on land, but with the counter force of buoyancy the divers do not feel the weight once they are in the water.

Although modest about his skills, it is obvious that Kurt is an accomplished diver and that he enjoys it thoroughly. SCUBA training has given Kurt opportunities to dive in Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, New England and the Chesapeake Bay.  He’s been up close and nosey with tiger sharks at 80 foot depths and has seen giant kelp beds and coral reefs.  Executive Officer LCDR Kurt Zegowitz encourages anyone from the Corps who is interested in becoming SCUBA certified to go through training with NOAA.

Susie Hill, July 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 30, 2007

Mesh netting in the dredge
Mesh netting in the dredge

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 17.5° C
Sea Temperature: 18.6° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1014.8 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.62 knots
Water Depth: 65.3 meters
Conductivity: 43.45 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I can’t believe it’s already been a week already since we left from Woods Hole, MA. I’m still getting a hang of the time schedule, but it’s working out okay. The weather has been beautiful. The staff is great—I’ve learned so much from them. The food is delicious, too! Today’s focus will be on the dredge. This is a metal frame with a metal ringed and meshed net that we use to dredge or scoop the sea bottom in hopes of finding our prize catch, sea scallops. The bag is about 8 feet wide with 2” rings and mesh netting. The mesh netting, called a liner, is in the dredge to ensure catching of the smaller scallops as well as the other species that coexist with the scallops. The dredge is lifted, put into the water, and dragged using a motorized gantry with a block and tackle system. The dredge is towed for 15 minutes at each station. The depths for this trip have been ranging from 29 meters to 112 meters. Sea Scallop dredge surveys have been conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Services since 1975.

The dredge is prepared for deployment.
The dredge is prepared for deployment.

 

Susie Hill, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 28, 2007

Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.
Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.4° C
Sea Temperature: 19° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1013.6 millibars
Wind Speed: 10.78 knots
Water Depth: 62.4 meters
Conductivity: 44.76 mmhos
Salinity: 32.58 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I am completely exhausted! We had about 12-14 stations almost back to back last night. Down on your knees picking through the sort to find scallops and fish to back bending of lifting up full baskets and cleaning the deck, I’m tired. It was loads of fun, though. We went from collections of sand dollars to big scallops, quahogs (clams), flounders, big sea stars, and sticky, slimy skates.  When the scallops, flounders and skates come in, we weigh them on a scale and then measure their length and count them using the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). It’s pretty cool how it works. You lay the species on the electronic board, and it gets measured by us using a magnetic stick to mark it. Once marked, the measurement goes right into the computer as well as counts it. One station, we counted 788 scallops! That is a lot, but they say there’s more where that came from!

Susie Hill, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21° C
Set Temperature: 22° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.76 knots
Water Depth: 67.0 meters
Conductivity: 45.75 mmhos
Salinity: 32.13 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

The weather has been very nice, sunny, and calm. Conditions were so clear last night that we could see fireworks far off into the distance. I’m getting into the routine of all of the stations- sorting for fish and scallops, weighing, measuring the length (or in scallop terms, shell height), counting starfish, and cleaning off the deck.

Today’s focus is on the CTD meter that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. This is the instrument that they use to determine the conditions of the water. It is lowered down to about 5-10 meters from the ocean floor about twice in a shift (12 hours). Some other results they also receive are pressure and salinity levels. These measurements are collected at the surface as well as at the bottom. Once they receive all of the data, it is loaded into a computer and turned into a very colorful graph.  Scallops like to live in water temperatures of < 20° C and in water depths of up to 200 meters south of Cape Cod (Dvora Hart, WHOI, 2002).

The CTD
The CTD

Susie Hill, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 26, 2007

Sunfish (Mola mola)
Sunfish (Mola mola)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.6° C
Sea Temperature: 22.6 ° C
Relative Humidity: 97%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.36 knots
Water Depth: 57.2 m
Conductivity: 46.15 mmhos
Salinity: 31.56 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

From noon to midnight, we go from being hot under the shining sun searching for the treasure of scallops in the collected pile to sitting under the beautiful moonlight shining across the vast ocean waiting for the next tow. It’s wonderful no matter how you look at science!

Today, I got to start up the starfish study. We are counting starfish from the sort to figure out the abundance and distribution of the Asterias sp. and Astropecten sp. in the researched area. Depending on the location of the station will determine how many of sea stars you have. The first station, we had loads of starfish! The starfish are randomly collected off of the remaining pile after everyone has been through it for their studies. Out of 4.5 liters (about 5 large handfuls), I counted 340 Astropecten sp. I can’t imagine how many there really were! With the passing of the stations from each night, the majority species of the pile has shifted from starfish to sand dollars. I’m glad I don’t have to count those because there’s so many of them. Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family with the sea stars. I always thought that they were white like you buy them in the beach souvenir shops, but they’re a dark purple color when they’re alive. Pretty cool! I’ve got lots of samples to bring home!

With being in the middle of the ocean, you also get to see the big marine life! It was kind of gross, but amazing at the same time! We thought it was a dead whale, but it ended up being a basking shark that has been dead for maybe a week. You could see the decaying skin, bloated belly, and the now showing gill rakers (the cartilaginous structures that filter food and sediment out of the gills when the shark eats). We also saw a sunfish (Mola mola)! We show a mini-movie of one of them as you’re going up the moving escalator at Nauticus, but it is so awesome seeing it in real life! It looks like a whale that’s been flattened. So cool! 

Claude Larson, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 26, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.9º C
Water Temperature: 22.6 º C
Relative Humidity: 91%
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Wind Direction: S

Melissa Ellwanger (left) and Stacey Etheridge (right)check the results from the test strips for PSPs.
Melissa Ellwanger (left) and Stacey Etheridge check the results for PSPs.

Science and Technology Log 

The ALBATROSS IV is well underway with the second leg of its Sea Scallop Survey for this year. After several tows we have collected, counted, weighed and measured not only sea scallops but, several types of fish, crabs and starfish.  As a teacher, I would like to focus on the application of some the science that is going on here on the ship. Specifically, I want to explain the work of two scientists on board Stacey Etheridge and Melissa Ellwanger who work at the FDA, Food and Drug Administration.

Sea scallops are studied by NOAA because of their importance commercially.  People enjoy them baked, fried, sautéed and served up hot. In other parts of the world, Europe and Asia, certain parts of the scallops are valued commercially as a food source. These parts are the gonads and viscera, or internal organs and membranes.  Last year the FDA had to close certain fishing areas were closed to bivalve molluscan harvesting because PSPs, paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins were too high for human consumption.  These toxins accumulate in filter feeders and thus harvesting was closed to organisms such as surfclams, mussels and quahogs. Sea scallops could still be harvested for the adductor muscle only. Toxins in scallops, however, build up in the gonads and viscera. If a person were to eat these affected seafoods they could actually become paralyzed and it could be fatal unless the victim receives respiratory support.

The toxins are produced by certain algae that are found in the environment with the scallops. The toxins vary in potency and can actually become stronger after the scallops eat them by interacting with the digestive processes of the sea scallop.  This leads us to Stacey and Melissa’s experiment. At each collection of sea scallops, they collect twelve random sea scallops to test.  They dissect the scallop and separate the gonad and viscera and test them separately.  They puree the organs, add extraction chemicals, filter them and then test the liquid that they filter from the organs on little test plates that look like test strips people use when they are trying to find out if they are pregnant.

The preliminary results from some of the samples they have collected have been positive for PSPs. This raises the question about whether or not those collected scallops can be sold for all of their parts or just the meaty section.  The work Stacey and Melissa are doing with NOAA and the FDA is an excellent example of applied science that benefits people and helps improve one of their food sources.

Susie Hill, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.8 ° C
Sea Temperature: 21.8 ° C
Relative Humidity: 93%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.4 millibars
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Water Depth: 58 meters
Conductivity: 44.91 mmhos
Salinity: 31 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

It’s the morning after my first shift, and surprisingly, I still have energy! It was so much fun! It took us about 8 hours to get to our first tow station, and then we went right to work. At each tow station, the dredge is emptied out onto the deck for us to sort. In addition to the standard sampling to assess the stock, scientists request certain species samples for additional research before each cruise. The samples that are being pulled this trip are scallops, skates, hake fish, starfish (some of us call them sea stars), and monkfish (or goosefish). So, we pull these out of the catch and the rest is thrown back out to sea. It’s a race from there to get all of the research done before the next tow. The scientists everywhere (including me!) are weighing , dissecting, and recording the data into the FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). It’s awesome!

One of my stations was to help take the data on the sea scallops. We measured the gonad, meat, and viscera (pretty much everything else in the shell) weights of 5 randomly chosen sea scallops to determine the sex and shell height/meat weight relationships. The shells will be measured back at Woods Hole to determine the age. Do you know how scientists determine the age of a scallop? They count the rings on the outer shell just like you would to determine the age of a tree. We also collected these samples to help with a study being done by Scientist Stacey Etheridge and Melissa Ellwanger from FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to determine PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels. They are also testing for Alexandrium sp., a dinoflagellate phytoplankton, in the water sample that can also cause PSP in humans.

It is pretty cool that the scientists let us help out at the different stations so we could get a hand in everything that is going on. When I came on, I thought that we were only going to be doing one study- studying just scallops. It turns out that we get to experience so much more!

Claude Larson, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.7° C
Water Temperature: 22.9
Relative Humidity 93%
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: SE 120

Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.
Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the beginning of our first 12 hour watches. The tows were relatively well spaced which allowed for ample clean up time between tows and even for a little down time as we steamed for over an hour and I have a few minutes to write this log entry.

As I learn the skills needed to be useful on the Scallop Survey, I want to give you an idea of how a tow is carried out. The bridge generally gives us a ten minute alert before a tow over the all call system.  From that point we can finish up what we are doing and prepare for the tow. A crew member operates a huge winch and block and tackle that moves a thick metal cable. The cable is attached to a large metal hook that is attached to an 8 foot wide dredge net. The net is raised from the aft deck of the ship and put in the water.  The dredge net is then towed for fifteen minutes and then lifted onto the deck.  At this time, a probe that measures inclination is inserted in the dredge rigging and information about the collection of the tow is recorded and loaded onto another computer for later use.

While the probe is being read, someone takes a picture of the pile of organisms on deck with a small whiteboard with important information.  This information includes the station number, stratum and tow number, as well as whether this area is open or closed to commercial fishing.

The watch crew then brings baskets and buckets over to the edges of the pile and kneels on cushions to sift through the collected material.  We sort the collection into sea scallops, fish and, on each third tow, we also collect crabs. After a few minutes we shift areas and continue to look for certain animals, this helps us to make sure we have found all of the organisms we are looking for.  The fish are then further sorted by species.  The watch chief weighs each separate species and records that information on the FSCS, Fisheries Scientific Computer System. There are three FSCS stations and we all get to work at one of them.  The computer allows you to take the scallop or fish and lay it on a long board. The organism is held along the front panel of the system and a magnet is placed at the other end. The magnet causes the computer to automatically record the length of the scallop or fish. From there some of the scallop shells are cleaned for a scientist back in Woods Hole, Dvora Hart, and carefully labeled and placed in a cloth bag. Some of the scallops are also dissected for an FDA study on PSPs, paralytic shellfish poisoning. When ever we catch a monkfish, also known as a goosefish, one of the scientists on the watch crew dissects it for vertebrae for a study they are doing on aging the fish and its reproductive stage.

Once all the organisms are measured, weighed, dissected or cleaned, the remainder of the pile is shoveled in large baskets and thrown back into the ocean.  Each basket and bucket is rinsed as is each FSCS station.  If another tow is arriving shortly, the watch crew prepares for repeating this process. The steps happen in relatively that order, however they also occur in a sort of unison and the watch crew starts to form a rhythm.  The watch chief and veteran crew members help any of the new folks on board, which is great since we are sometimes unsure what to do next or how to do a new task.  The old saying of many hands make light work definitely applies here. With each tow there are surprises to dig for. Sometimes you get to see large egg cases or beautiful shellfish and unusual fish.

With all of this said, the all call has just given us a ten minute to station call.  I must get ready for whatever treasures will be brought up with this collection.

Claude Larson, July 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 24, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots SW
Atmospheric Pressure: 1019 mB
Cloud cover: 4/8 cirrus, stratus and cumulous
Air temperature: 18.3º C 65º F
Water temperature: 18.9 º C 66 º F

Teacher at Sea, Claude Larson, waves hello from the aft deck of the Albatross IV as she dons her immersion suit during an abandon ship drill.
Claude Larson waves hello from the aft deck as she dons her immersion suit during an abandon ship drill.

Science and Technology Log 

Although our departure date was delayed by one day due to some problems with the air conditioning system that cools the staterooms, we are glad that the problem has been resolved and we are underway on Tuesday, July 24. We left from the dock at approximately 9:00 AM under partially cloudy skies and with a light breeze. Just as I was standing on the hurricane deck enjoying the view of the diminishing landscape, there is an all call onboard and we are asked to muster in our stations for a fire drill.

We gathered all of our emergency gear and met in the wet lab area of the ship. In a few minutes, an abandon ship drill is announced and we head out to our life raft assignments and don our bright red immersion suits.  They are a bit of a task to put on, but provide ample protection should we ever actually abandon ship. They are known as the “Gumby Suits” and I have made that my first image in my log of this cruise.

A few minutes after we put away our emergency gear, the Chief Scientist, Stacy Rowe asks the crew for a test tow to ensure that all of the equipment we will need to survey the scallops is in working order. This is a great opportunity for those of us who are new on board to see how the procedure works. The deck hands skillfully direct the large dredge net over the back of the boat and release a specific length of cable based on depth of the water.  Unfortunately, during the first attempt the net flips and does not collect any specimens.  However, the second tow is more successful and allows us to get a collection of organisms large enough to sample.

Those of us who have never been on a scallop survey before get to work.  While kneeling on mats we sort through the pile for any living organisms.  These are put in blue buckets. The organisms are then sorted by species and we get a hands-on lesson from Larry Brady, our Watch Chief on how to identify certain organisms.  Once all the species are identified and sorted, we weigh them, count them and measure the length of a few using FSCS, the Fisheries Scientific Computer System. The deck, baskets and buckets are cleaned and put back until the next tow. Our next tow is south of Long Island, approximately 87 nautical miles away, so we take the opportunity to enjoy a quick lunch break and some down time until we are on our modified watch schedule from 6 PM to Midnight.

I am looking forward to our first official tow and the treasures we will find there.  Hopefully my body will have made some adjustments to the rocking and rolling of the ship as we steam through the Atlantic.  In the meantime, I will leave you with my question of the day.

Why would scientists who are studying the overall health of an ocean environment collect and study organisms from the bottom of the ocean? 

Susie Hill, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 19.4° C
Sea Temperature: 20.9 ° C
Relative Humidity: 83%
Barometric Pressure: 1019.4 millibars
Windspeed: 19.32 knots
Water Depth: 48.5 meters
Conductivity: 045.16 mmhos
Salinity: 33 ppt

Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)
Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)

Science and Technology Log 

My NOAA Teacher at Sea Journey begins! We set sail this morning at 9:00 a.m. on the NOAA ALBATROSS IV Ship out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts to assess the scallop populations between Long Island, New York and Georges Bank of the Altantic Ocean. The areas being studied are chosen by the stratified random sampling method that is based on depth and bottom composition. Some other stations are specially selected by the scientists for further studying.  Among the sea, calico, or Icelandic species of scallops, we’ll also be pulling up species of fish and crab that will be studied by other scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, pronounced as Hooey around here). Stacey Rowe is our Chief Scientist for this trip.

We started off our day with the fire drill where we find our assigned stations and wait for directions by the Ship’s Captain. My station was the wet science lab near the stern (or back) of the ship with the other scientists. Next was the abandon ship drill where we grabbed our “gumby” survival suit and life jacket, and went to our next station which was Life Raft #5. The gumby suit was cool! Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy following orders to get in station. Then, we did a “test tow” of the dredge to see if it worked. The dredge is the metal net that the ship uses to scoop up the animals from the sea bottom for sampling. Last, we caught species of flounder (left eye and windowpane), cancer crabs, and sea robins. The area that we dredged is not popular with scallops, so we didn’t pull any up. Our job as volunteers was to sort and weigh the collected species.  I am working the noon-midnight shift, so I’ll be getting ready now to take my place in prepping for our wonderful catch! Wish me luck!

Cool Fact for the Day 

The Virginia fossil is the scallop, Chesapecten jeffersoni.

Mary Ann Penning, July 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 19, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 7 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 166 degrees
Wind speed: 7 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2 feet
Seawater temperature: 23.1 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1010.0 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 24.0 degrees C
Cloud cover: partly cloudy; hazy

Science and Technology Log  

This is our last full day on the ALBATROSS IV; it’s hard to believe that we’ve reached this point. We were not far from New York City this afternoon, when we did our final two tows. In our last tow, found among the scallops that we caught, was a ten pound goose fish, the biggest caught on our watch. (I understand that their tails are good to eat.)  Getting our picture taken with the goose fish for the “picture of the day”, signaled the end of the towing operations for this trip. We then took time to clean our areas and equipment.  We did the fantail, while the night shift did the interior wet room and the Chief Scientist’s office. We scrubbed all the baskets and buckets, the measuring equipment and our foul weather gear.  It was time consuming, but with a team approach, it didn’t take long. The Chief Scientist and the skilled fishermen were repairing the netting in the dredge. I would never have guessed the amount of effort it takes to run a scientific survey such as this one, until I participated in one.

The only part of the ship I hadn’t been to was the engine room.  So this afternoon, when life was much slower, I asked if I could see it. It was certainly noisy in the lower bowels of the ship, even with protective “earmuffs.” I learned that the ship took on 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel before we left Woods Hole.  The ship can carry 30,000 gallons total.  There are two big diesel Caterpillar engines that operate the ship.  The ship generates its own electricity, too. Two diesel generators drive the generators that manufacture electricity.  One diesel generator drives the hydraulic pumps for the winch operations. I had been curious about the fresh water on board the ship, when I first learned that the hoses we used to clean our equipment, used sea water.  The ship can carry 22,000 gallons of water. At the end of our two week trip, we had less than half of that left. The engineers said that the ship uses about 1000 gallons a day.  If the ship goes out for three weeks, two desalinators, located below the ship, are used to turn sea water into fresh water.  (They are not used exclusively for providing fresh water because of the slowing down and stopping process involved in towing the dredge.  There is not enough heat from the engine for the system to be the primary source of fresh water.  There are a series of filters that are used in the process.)  Big vessels, it seems, can be self sustaining, floating cities.

Personal Log 

I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to participate in this experience.  Before I could even be considered a candidate for the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, I had to be cleared medically.  One lieutenant called me with a few questions and he cautioned me by saying, “You know this program is very competitive.  A lot of teachers want to participate.” I replied by saying that you never know until you try.  And try I did! Both in the application process and now while on board the ALBATROSS IV.  We actually measured and recorded electronically 53,077 scallops from the 210 various stations in the Mid-Atlantic that we surveyed. Expanding those numbers mathematically, the projected amount of scallops caught for these areas is – drumroll, please – 148,063 scallops.  From my perspective, these amounts are astounding, just astounding!  What more can I say.  When these statistics are analyzed, the actual number of scallops in the resource will be determined.  Then openings and closings of various scallop fishing areas will be decided; it is a complex process.

It was the people, ultimately, who helped make the trip enjoyable.  I enjoyed talking to the young NOAA officers about the NOAA Corps and their program at the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island. Many of them have science backgrounds – meteorology, ecology, oceanography, and geography.  One is going on to NOAA flight school soon. He might be responsible for monitoring whale migration for ships one day.  Their commanding officer, Kurt Zegowitz, a very kind, patient, and personable man, welcomed me aboard and offered his help.  His patience was certainly appreciated because he was instrumental in helping me get my logs published.

The other NOAA paid staff, with their varied interest and background in science, were wonderful to me.  Jonathon, Laura, and Heath, responsible for the day watch, were very patient and helped me identify the various fish so that I could help sort and weigh them.  When one fish couldn’t be identified immediately, Laura looked at the gills to help her make the decision.  Identification guides were available to help determine the identity of any specimens of which they were unsure.  It was fun to hear their stories of the numerous and varied NOAA survey trips with which they’ve been involved.  Dvora Hart and Victor Nordahl, whom I’ve mentioned throughout my logs, were dynamite individuals.

From the support staff – the computer techs, the cooks, the engineers, and the skilled fishermen – I heard interesting stories.  Many of them have worked, fished, and sailed all over the world. Their team approach and camaraderie was evident and neat to see.

On board with us, too, have been five awesome college volunteers who are interested in science careers. There were three women and two men from various universities in the Northeast. One young woman was from the Coast Guard Academy; she’ll be a senior next year. She’s coming back for the second leg of the trip when the vessel and scallop survey head north to Georges Bank. Another young woman, working on her Master’s Degree, has a dual major in Marine Biology and Marine Policy.  They were impressive, young and energetic; it felt good to be able to keep up with them.

Tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM our young officers will back the ship into the dock at Woods Hole after our whirlwind 1,554.3 nautical miles’ adventure into sampling sea scallops. The survey will continue for two more legs; each two week trips.  Their fish and terrain will be somewhat different, but the scallops the same.  I’m anxious to read the logs of the Teachers at Sea participating in those portions of the trip.  Because of this trip, I have greater respect for the scientific community and survey work such as this and for fishermen who make scallop fishing their life work.  Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program I have had a wonderful opportunity to participate in an amazing, once in a lifetime, learning adventure.

Mary Ann Penning, July 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 17, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 278 degrees
Wind speed: 6 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 3 feet
Seawater temperature: 25.2 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1017.1 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 24.9 degrees C
Cloud cover: hazy

Dvora Hart is counting astropectin, a type of sea star (also called starfish), for sampling.
Dvora Hart is counting astropectin, a type of sea star (also called starfish), for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

For a person who has rarely eaten scallops, I’m really getting an up close and personal look into the lives of these mollusks.  Dr. Deborah, aka Dvora, Hart is our resident scallops’ expert traveling and working on this trip. She has studied scallops for eight years and travels internationally speaking on behalf of scallops everywhere. She is an intermediary between the science side of scallops and with the fishermen and the fishing industry. While incorporating her mathematics background, she works closely with our Chief Scientist Victor Nordahl developing these surveys. Talking with her over the course of the trip and just listening to her wealth of knowledge have taught me a lot about scallops in such a short time.  She is passionate about scallops and knowledgeable about other organisms that we saw on the trip. In a nutshell or should I say “in a scallop shell”, I’ll share what I’ve learned about scallops in just a little less than two weeks.

Scallops have been around for millions of years.  Five to ten million years ago, in the Chesapeake Bay area, there used to be a shallow sea.  Much later, scallop fossils, found by Indians living in this area, were used for bowls.  In fact Virginia’s state fossil is a scallop measuring up to 200 mm, named Chesapecten jeffersonius, obviously named after Thomas Jefferson.  I didn’t even know there were state fossils!

These sea stars, also known as starfish, are classified as Astropecten americanus.
These sea stars, also known as starfish, are classified as Astropecten americanus.

Sea scallops like living in about 40 – 80 meters of water in the Mid-Atlantic. It is neither too warm in the summer nor too cold in the winter at these ocean depths for them to develop. In deeper water, one of their nemesis, Astropecten americanus, a type of starfish, will eat the baby scallops whole. (There are over 100 different species of Astropecten around the world.) Scallops swim, eat phytoplankton, and spawn when their food source is higher in the spring and fall.  They can range in size from a few centimeters to 15 centimeters from their hinge to their tip. The family of scallops includes our Atlantic Sea Scallops, (called Giant Scallops in Canada), Bay Scallops, and Calico Scallops.

In the US, the scallop industry wholesale at the dock brings in about $400 million dollars, while the retail value is worth about $800 million.  All fisheries in the northeast bring in about 1.2 billion dollars and scallops and lobsters are responsible for about one third each, while all other fish comprise the other third.  Full time scalloping permits can range in the three to four million dollar range; one can somewhat understand why these permits would be highly desirable. There are a limited number available.

In 1998, only 12 million pounds of sea scallops were caught in the U.S.  Since 2002, they have been bringing in over 50 million pounds each year.  Why the change?  Part of it is skill, part of it is good luck, but the main reason is that areas were closed for three years to allow the baby scallops to grow to bigger sizes.  In some of our surveyed areas that have been open to harvesting scallops, we have seen fewer and smaller scallops.  In Elephant Trunk, which just opened for scallop fishing in March, we have generally seen more scallops which are bigger. Data collected over time by surveys such as this one have supported the closings and reopening of areas.

This sea scallop survey is collecting data about sea scallops and other species to manage the sea scallop fishery properly in the southern part of the range of sea scallops. Our trip has spanned from New Jersey to the tip of North Carolina and back again. We have targeted underwater areas such as Hudson Canyon, Elephant Trunk, and a station on the edge of Norfolk Canyon to name just a few.  The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service manages the area from 3 miles to 200 miles across the continental shelf.  The waters from shore to three miles out are managed by the various states and operate under different rules. The restrictions for scallop fishing are managed by a fishery management board comprised of 19 representatives from various states.

Scallop boats are allowed to retrieve about one fourth of the total scallops a year.  If they catch more than that, they fish out too many of the big ones in an area. If they catch too few a year, more will die from natural causes.  It takes about four years to deplete an area of scallops. (The four inch rings in their dredges allow smaller scallops to escape.)

My interview with Dvora has spanned the entire cruise.  As we have asked questions, whether kneeling in the pile on the fantail or in the workrooms or at the dinner table, she has been generous with her information and we have become more aware and knowledgeable about scallops and their economic impact on the US.

Scientists in front of the NOAA map showing the location of the scallop sampling stations.
Scientists in front of the NOAA map showing the location of the scallop sampling stations.

Personal Log 

Thinking back over the trip, there have been some exciting highlights.  Three that come to mind are the following.  I finally went up to the bridge, about 1:00 AM one morning to see how the operations are run at night. I had been up there during the day and so I was familiar with the equipment during the daylight.  I walked into a quiet, dark room with only red lights showing. (I understand they don’t destroy your night vision.)  The side doors were open and a cool breeze was coming in.  It was hazy outside; I thought I couldn’t see any stars, something I had hoped to see.  The officer in charge said to look straight up and there were definitely some stars to see.  He helped me find the big dipper through the haze.  After craning my neck for awhile, I stepped to the starboard side and I found Cassiopeia, like a big, wide “W” in the sky.  He brought out a star chart to help me identify the constellations. Even though I was tired, it was definitely worth staying up a little later than usual.

Another job I learned how to do was check the inclinometer when the dredge came up on deck. (I had to wear a hard hat for safety.) It is a device which checks the dredge’s towing efficiency. A hand held wand type device transfers information from the inclinometer, which is stored in a protective steel tube at the top of the dredge.  Once back in the workroom, I would download the information onto a computer and print out a copy in graph form.  We could see from the graph if the dredge flipped when it went into the water. If it did, then we would have to turn around and retow.  This happened only twice that I am aware of during the entire trip.  The Chief Scientist ultimately analyzes all the data.

And I learned how to shuck a scallop! We could shuck scallops for the galley in our down time if the scallops came from an open area.  I’ve had them smoked, baked, sautéed, and even raw, marinated in special sauces.  Not that I’m a connoisseur now, but I’ve certainly learned to enjoy them.

Questions of the Day 

Estimate how many miles we will have traveled on our entire trip.  Remember we have zigzagged on our course from Woods Hole to the southern end of Virginia and back.  We left Woods Hole on the afternoon of July10th and we will be returning at 7:00 AM on Friday, July 20th.

How many gallons of diesel fuel does the ship hold? The ALBATROSS IV is a 187 foot long vessel with a breadth of 33 feet, and a draft of 17 feet 3 inches.  (It displaces 1115 tons of water.)

How does the ship get fresh water?

Mary Ann Penning, July 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 15, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles(nm)
Wind direction: 196 degrees
Wind speed: 59 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 2 feet
Swell wave height: not available
Seawater temperature: 24.3 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1013.2 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 25.1 degrees C
Cloud cover: partly cloudy, hazy

Penning at the Limnoterra Boards (measuring boards) measuring the length of a goose fish caught along with the scallops in the dredge.
Penning at the Limnoterra Boards (measuring boards) measuring the length of a goose fish caught along with the scallops in the dredge.

Science and Technology Log 

We have traveled along the continental shelf of the eastern seaboard since we set sail from Woods Hole almost a week ago. The route of the ship zigzags from one location to another, visiting previously selected underwater stations, where scallop and fish specimens are collected. Some areas are in shallower water than others and some have been closed to commercial fishermen, while others have just recently opened.  NOAA maps showing these locations are posted in our workroom outside the fantail (rear deck of the ship where we work) along with charts showing the distance between the tows.  The NOAA officer on the bridge works in tandem with the three skilled fishermen who control the dredge equipment – the gantry and the winch.  We wait for 15 minutes while the dredge is towed over an area approximately 4500 square meters.  The ALBATROSS IV is working nonstop. The teamwork is incredible!

Before the sorting begins, the pile dumped from the dredge is photographed with location information.
Before the sorting begins, the pile dumped from the dredge is photographed with location information.

When the dredge is opened on deck, it is amazing what we find.  Usually eight of us, on hands and knees, sort a pile that can be about eight by six feet wide and about one to two feet high. It’s like playing in a sand pile looking for hidden treasure.  Sometimes the pile is somewhat dry and packed with sand and rusty red sand dollars that camouflage the scallops. Sometimes the catch seems to be wet and slimy and filled with nothing but astropectin, the starfish that gobble the baby scallops whole.  As a result there are very few adult scallops in that area. At one station it was projected that there were about 30,000 astropecten. That would be about five per square meter.  And if we took into account the ones that we missed, there could be approximately ten per square meter.  When we first entered an area named Elephant Trunk, recently opened in March, the pile dumped from the dredge seemed nothing but scallops.  The catch was very clean and we just shoveled them into baskets.  At another station we measured 792 scallops.  Expanding on the sampling size with a special formula, it was determined that there were 7,920 scallops at this location.  Imagine the economic value of this one station alone.

Mixed in with the haul can be a variety of other organisms such as crabs, starfish, little skates, goose fish with their big mouth and ugly teeth, various sizes of four spotted flounder, and sea mice with their spiny edges. Usually we find a variety of hakes: red, spotted or silver, (commercially known as whiting). These fish seem to “hang around” scallops. We collect and count the fish and crabs, too, at some points.  At one such “crab station” I counted 146 crabs.  I’m getting a “hands on” course in fish and scallops.

After sorting scallops into round, laundry type plastic baskets and fish into separate buckets, the residue is shoveled into baskets and accounted for too.  Using various sampling techniques, it is determined how many scallops or baskets of scallops will be weighed and measured on three sophisticated, computerized measuring devices.  But still everything has to be done by hand. Age and growth samples on five scallops are taken at various sites which are packaged and taken back to the lab to be evaluated.  At one site we analyzed 60 scallops for age and growth. The rings on scallops are analogous to tree rings. After cleaning our equipment with hoses spraying sea water, we’re ready for the next station. All these techniques are employed about once an hour around the clock for an expected total of 200 stations. That’s a lot of scientific data for someone to analyze.

Personal Log 

Where can someone spend their “down time” on a cruise like this?  While waiting for the catch to come in, most of us like to sit around the Chief Scientist’s office or the similar space across the hall.  It’s close to the fantail where we do most of our work.  I like to read if I only have a few minutes.  I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this way. I brought a laptop computer with me and I finally realized I could work on my logs from there.  A lounge upstairs, where you can watch satellite TV or movies, provides ample entertainment.  In that same area is the computer room where we can e-mail from the ship, however no internet is available.  Occasionally, I like to go to the galley for a snack which, fortunately or unfortunately, is right down the hallway from our workspace.  Fresh fruit is available, along with cereal and popsicles or ice cream.  There may be leftover dessert from dinner, too.  Our rooms are downstairs one level, but as a courtesy to those sleeping from the opposite watch, we don’t enter our rooms then.  Sometimes I like to go out and just look at the water. There was a sliver of a moon last night with the planet Venus peering over it.  That was an awesome sight!

Questions of the Day 

How big can scallops grow? What is their habitat like?  Why is this data on scallops collected?  Who or what benefits from this labor intensive work?  Join me in my next log as I discuss these important mollusks with Dr. Dvora Hart, a scallops’ expert, participating in our scientific survey.

Mary Ann Penning, July 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 14, 2007

An example of a “Gumby” suit.
An example of a “Gumby” suit.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 006 degrees
Wind speed: 16 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 2-3 feet
Swell wave height: 4 feet
Seawater temperature: 22.8 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1010.9 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 22.3 degrees C
Cloud cover: cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Our ship has been rocking and rolling – literally and figuratively.  I think I have my sea legs now, for the most part, but I still sometimes take a zig-zag route over the deck getting from one point to another.  The weather has been varied. There have been some cloudy days where the fog can creep in unexpectedly. The sunny days are great, but that promotes very sweaty working conditions. I’ve seen two beautiful sunsets; I want to get in at least one sunrise before I leave the ship. As I begin to write this, our room is rolling gently from one side to another. Is this how a baby might feel rocked in their cradle? 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mary Ann Penning, measures a fish.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mary Ann Penning, measures a fish.

After we left the dock Tuesday afternoon, the staff gradually got us into the routine of shipboard life.  We had a disaster drill and tried on the famous, heavy foam – like, bright orange survival suits. They come rolled up in their own little sleeping bag.  Remember Gumby?  Think of him and imagine all of us on deck getting ready to go trick or treating on Halloween!

Not far from Martha’s Vineyard, we did two trial dredge deployments.  The Chief Scientist tested the equipment and the exercise gave the volunteer scientists a chance to run through the exercises of sorting, weighing, and measuring the catch.  We donned our foul weather gear – boots and slickers.  We did a modified twelve hour work schedule that evening. While the night shift tried to sleep, we went on duty from 6:00 to midnight.  Since there was really nothing to do, it was fun watching a movie in the lounge, but I found it hard to stay awake. I was glad to crawl into my bottom bunk and finally drift off to sleep.

Crew of the ALBATROSS prepare the dredge.
Crew of the ALBATROSS prepare the dredge.

With a twelve hour work schedule, I’ve been trying to get into a routine of work, writing my logs, answering e-mail, doing some light reading and, oh yes, squeezing in time for eating.  I’m still adjusting and find myself tired at various points throughout the day.  I’m finally delving into the Harry Potter series.  I need to keep up with my fifth graders who are enthralled with the books and movies. I brought the first three books with me.  Reading is a good way to spend the 20 minutes we might have between the scallop collecting duties. It just feels good to sit down after the physical labor of collecting specimens from the dredge.

Our dredge, designed by NOAA fisheries staff, drags along the surface layer of the marine habitat for scallops and other benthic organisms.  Benthic means animals that live on the sea floor. The dredge is eight feet wide and about 20 feet long.  It is made of heavy steel and metal rings that are linked together to create the bag behind the dredge frame.  There is an inside liner of netting which allows us to catch the smaller scallops, too.  Our Chief scientist , Victor Nordahl, is responsible for the standardization of the gear.  He describes it like dragging a butterfly net along the bottom of the Atlantic.  This envelope of rings and netting comprise about ten feet of the total length.  (It is similar to what commercial scallop fisherman use except that they can’t use the inside liner.  Their nets are bigger too -two fifteen foot dredges with 4” rings.) The ALBATROSS IV tows the dredge for one nautical mile for 15 minutes while traveling at 3.8 knots.  It takes a heavy duty winch below the decking to recover the dredge back on deck.  A typical dredge haul weighs about 2,000 lbs and the dredge itself weighs 1,500 lbs.  Its catch is what we’re after.

A small fishing ship as seen from the ALBATROSS.
A small fishing ship as seen from the ALBATROSS.

Personal Log 

Our state rooms are small, yet big enough for three people to sleep.  There is a bunk bed and one single bed on the opposite wall. Both are metal and are built into the wall.  One built in desk with six drawers for clothes sits between the beds.  There is one freestanding chair. Underneath the beds are three drawers for extra storage.  Surprisingly we have two closets which are great for storing luggage. There is a small sink with a mirror and medicine cabinet across from the dresser/desk. A bathroom with toilet and shower sits between our room and the room next door.  Two of us are on the day watch and one is on at night.

Questions of the Day 

Can you estimate how many square meters we cover during that time? Can you guess the number of scallops we catch in one haul, depending on the station?  Or the astropecten, a type of starfish that love to feast on baby scallops? Over the course of one day, after visiting about fourteen different stations during each shift, while using various sampling techniques, the answers are astounding. Look for these amazing statistics in my next log. 

Mary Ann Penning, July 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mary Ann Penning, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV out of Woods Hole, MA.
NOAA TAS, Mary Ann Penning, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV out of Woods Hole, MA.

I am Mary Ann Penning, a fifth grade teacher at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, VA.  I am sailing aboard the NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries Research Vessel ALBATROSS IV with NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program.  I will be part of the crew of scientists collecting sea scallop data on the first leg of this three leg expedition. The mission of the entire cruise is to collect information about sea scallops and other species to help manage the sea scallop fishery properly. Our trip spans twelve days from July 9-July 20 and will cover the southern range of the sea scallop habitat on the continental shelf from New Jersey to the tip of North Carolina. I have been excited for several months waiting for this trip to begin.

It’s the evening of July 9th, sailing day, and we’re still in port in Woods Hole. There have been several unavoidable mechanical issues in today’s plans and, hopefully, tomorrow morning at 8:00 we’ll be leaving the harbor. It seems that many people have been working hard behind the scenes to make our delayed departure a reality. The volunteers are anxious to put the sea scallop survey into production.  Most people on the ship seem to be patient, though, and the unexpected is taken in stride. Those living within a reasonable driving distance have gone home and will return early tomorrow morning.

I had stayed on the ship last night, when I first arrived.  There were just a few people on board and it was pretty quiet, except for the normal ship noises.  But this morning was a different scene. There was crew rushing back and forth through the narrow hallways all morning. College volunteers with an interest in science and other crew members were arriving from various parts of the US.  Meetings and orientations were held to acquaint the newcomers with various aspects of the cruise and its sea scallop mission under the guidance of chief scientist Victor Nordahl and Operations Research Analyst Deborah Hart. Foul weather gear was gathered and rules and regulations were dispensed with a smattering of good humor thrown in.  After my first day of meals, I can tell that I am going to have to watch my calorie intake; the brownies will have to suffice for two meals – they’re too big for just one! What a whirlwind of activity.  Nice people all around.

I’ll update my log as soon as I can. I learned today that I’m on the day shift from noon until midnight.  It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, once we’re underway.

Linda Depro, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge caught a monster lobster today.  The scientists seemed to think it was more than twenty years old. When held up it was the size of an adult’s length from shoulders to knees, and two hands were needed to hold it!  A spiny dogfish (looks like a shark) was also caught. I held it to have my picture taken and I plan to hang it on my classroom door! Otherwise the catches were the usual—some with lots of rocks, some with sand, others with many star fish or skates.  All these fantastic sea creatures that I have only seen in books have become part of my life here on board the ALBATROSS IV.  The star fish and hermit crabs are my favorites, skates are cool to look at and pick up by the tail and put in the bucket, goosefish (known as monk fish in the grocery store) have a face that “only a mother could love”, and the scallops, even though I’ve seen thousands of them are each a little different.

Personal Log 

Sunset was beautiful again tonight and the moon is spectacular.  With my binoculars the craters were very clear. A lone seagull followed us for a while; his white body against the black sky would have inspired me to write a poem if I were a poet.  Hard to believe the adventure is coming to an end, and what an adventure it was.  The crew has been super, very kind, and willing to talk and answer questions.  The scientists have an important job collecting and recording data; they are an interesting group to work with.  Thanks to all for making my time on the ALBATROSS IV the adventure of a lifetime.

Patti Conner, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2006

Data: (collected very early morning, 3AM) 
Air temperature = 18 C0 (65 F0 )
Water temperature = 18.9 C0 (68 F0)
Weather = rain
Depth of trawl = 98 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.28 ppm
Wind speed = 18 knots

Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk
Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk

Science and Technology Log 

We have been very busy collecting samples of scallops and fish.  We are weighing and measuring the scallops.  Some of the dredge amounts are huge so we collect all the scallops and take a sub-sample and weigh and measure those.  Another sample of scallops is cleaned, measured and frozen to determine the age of the scallops which is done at a lab on shore. We collect cancer crabs and starfish and count them as they eat scallops and we want to see the amount of predation. We are covering all 24 hours so there is a day watch from noon to midnight, and there is a night watch (mine) from midnight to noon.  When you eat a scallop, you are eating the abductor muscle.  This muscle can be quite large in a Sea Scallop which allows it to “swim” across the ocean floor and not creep along like a clam does.

Personal Log 

Two days ago the weather was warm and sunny.  I was lucky enough to see whales. I have never seen a whale out of captivity before and it was beautiful to see.  This morning there were very heavy rains and lightning. It didn’t take long for that weather front to move on. I am tired as my body is still adjusting to the work schedule. The work is also very physical as much of what we are sampling ends up back in the ocean.  We are collecting, shoveling, measuring and cleaning all the time. A few more day and we’ll be back to port at Woods Hole.  I will be returning to finish teaching summer school on Monday.  I can’t wait to be in the classroom and see my students again.

Answer to last log: The picture was the internal structures of a scallop, a two-shelled mollusk. The black dots were eyes. I read that the eyes are fairly complex structures with retinas, lenses, and a large nerve fiber.

Linda Depro, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a small world here on the ALBATROSS IV.  Chad Meckley is a 1996 Wilson High School graduate. Wilson is in Berks County and I live in Lancaster County, less than forty minutes away.  If you want to talk to Chad, look on the bridge.

Chad earned a geography/environmental science degree from Shippensburg University and moved to Colorado to be near the mountains.  After working several years in sales, Chad happened to be talking to a friend who knew about the NOAA Corps.  He applied, was accepted, and began training in February 2006.

We are on Leg 2 of the Sea Scallop Cruise and it is Chad’s third cruise with NOAA.  He enjoys being on the ocean and plans to continue his NOAA career.  Chad has two goals: to become Officer of the Deck (so he can command the ship) and to experience his first winter at sea.

It is evident that Chad enjoys what he’s doing; you can see it in his smile.  Best Wishes, Chad!

Last watch was not quite as busy as the night before.  We had two stations that were mostly Brittle Stars, very interesting little starfish.  They are a tannish color about the diameter of a coffee mug, with long thin arms that visibly move. When they were shoveled into laundry size baskets each time we had two baskets full, and that’s a lot of Brittle Stars!

Personal Log 

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous day on the ocean.  The sun was out and the water was calm.  Whales were sighted, but in the distance.  I did see them surfacing and took pictures. Imagine a 4×6 all bluish-green and a fourth-inch dot of black. Sunset was working on spectacular, but just as the sun reached the water it went behind a layer of clouds. We are almost at full moon and the night time was just as beautiful in its own way.

Linda Depro, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was quite a day—many stations, lots of scallops, and BIG rocks.  I am amazed that the trawl net liner was not damaged.  Last night, though, a rock the size of a small car was hauled onto deck—that one did tear the liner.  It’s interesting to watch the winch drop it in the ocean.

My new special position (I’m still sorting, shoveling, and measuring) is taking the inclinometer, or bottom contact sensor, reading.  To you landlubbers, it’s a device attached to the trawl that gathers data and tells the scientists whether the net was parallel to the bottom of the ocean. So when the net comes up with very little the information from the inclinometer is helpful.

Here’s what I do. I have an optic shuttle (about the size of a hot dog) that I secure in the inclinometer located on the trawl.  Each part has sensors and when put together properly the inclinometer sends the data to the optic shuttle (like a zip) and when all information is received and a little green light flashed I take in into a computer and transfer the data onto the hard drive. It’s an important piece to the mission.

What I have been doing here is an example of how important hands-on learning really is for understanding and transfer. I could have read all about this experience (like you are with this journal), but until I held the fish, scrubbed the scallops, cut into a Monk fish to discover the ovaries, etc., I had no real understanding.  Amazing!

Personal Log 

The weather remains beautiful, the people are great, and the food is delicious.

Linda Depro, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 4, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

If you are observant you will notice that I’m on my second Friday in a row.  Time is a hard thing to keep track of here on the ocean.  Last watch, Thursday I think, we entered Canadian waters. I was looking for a sign the said “Welcome to Canada”, but I must have missed it.

I am a scallop scrubber!  With each haul five scallops are chosen at random to gather in-depth data on (all other scallops are weighed and measured only).  The shells are scrubbed clean so the scientists on shore can determine the age.  Scallop shells are a little like a tree trunk. Age is determined by growth rings.  The larger scallops can be five years and older. The scallop is measured for length and weighed individually then opened. The sex is entered into the computer next.  Male scallops have a white gonad and females have a pink gonad.  The gonad is weighed, and then the muscle (what we would call the “scallop”) is cut out and weighed.  The shell is dried and numbered to match the data, bagged, and frozen.  Some scallops are very clean, but others can have barnacles, “weeds”, sponges, and/or slime (don’t know the scientific term!) growing on their shells. As a shell scrubber you get to know these things and the best way to remove them!!  Finally the whole station is hosed down for the next haul.

Personal Log 

The noise of the engines and the rocking of the ship are becoming second nature.  The weather has been kind and swells small.  I am really, really hoping that is stays this way.  Laundry is my goal for the morning.  The washer and drier are behind a metal door called a hatch. There are six dogs (big metal latches) that must be closed when the ship is at sea. I have opened and closed those six dogs so many times I’ve given them names: King, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Lady, Spot, and ToTo!  So many things to learn.

Patti Conner, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 4, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C(62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 19.2 C0 (66 F0)
Weather = hazy
Depth of trawl = 85 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.06 ppm
Wind speed = 10.56 knots

I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV
I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

The 12 hour shift is going very well. It is a little cooler out here than I expected, but the water temperature does affect the air. It is quite foggy today as we continue to travel northeast around Georges Bank. We have been in a little deeper water today, and have collected fewer scallops but we continue to bring in fish and many broken mollusk shells. Surprisingly, we brought up more algae than before even though the water is deeper. The main fish we are collecting are: Flounder, Hake, Skates, Sculpin, and Goosefish (also know as Monk Fish). I will be sending some pictures of the fish as well as some more invertebrate pictures.

Personal Log 

I miss being at home and respect those who are at sea working. It is demanding work, but when the sun rises over the water it is an impressive site and makes everything seem worthwhile. I wouldn’t care to be out here in the winter, but the boat and crew are except for a few weeks of the year. Next time we have a snow day, I’ll be thinking of my friends out here on the boat in howling winds. Today we had a little time between dredging so I was able to come up with several new labs for next year. My students will have a few new labs for our Under The Sea Unit. We will have some fish, and reptile (Sea Turtle) identifications to make using taxonomic keys. I am also working on a Squid dissection lab in addition to the Starfish dissection lab. Of course there will be a lab on Scallops (no, we are not going to eat them!).

Invertebrate identification from previous log = Echinoderms (Sunstars), and Vertebrate identification = Me! 

What invertebrate is this?  Look at the number of shells.  What are the small black spots?

connor_log3a

Linda Depro, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 3, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Life happens here aboard ALBATROSS IV in twelve-hour intervals. My watch is from twelve noon until twelve midnight and the other watch is from twelve midnight until twelve noon.  I feel fortunate to have the “day watch” because at midnight I fall into bed dead tired and let the ocean rock me to sleep.  After breakfast I have time to write in my journal, read, do laundry, or sit and talk to the many interesting people who are aboard.  Lunch at 11:15 and then it’s off to work at 11:50.  If the stations are close together that means there is not much steam time and hauls can come in in 45 minutes or less.  So far that has been enough time to log all the data from the previous haul, freeze any biological samples to be worked up at the on shore lab, and clean up.  If steam time is longer I can read a book, get a snack (there is always fresh fruit out – I am a happy camper!), or eat dinner.

Personal Log 

Yesterday morning I was showering before breakfast.  As I was soaping I looked out the port hole that is in the shower. It was one of those “wow” moments.  Where else can a person take a shower with white caps splashing against the window?  I recounted my experience with the watch chief. She said, “Wait until the porthole is underwater.”  I certainly will be holding on the grab bars!

I’ve talked to the head cook and his assistant several times, both very kind men who obviously enjoy their jobs. Their food is excellent.  Each meal includes two entrees and many sides.  One lunch entree was unbelievable – blackened scallops prepared by using the scallops that had been part of the biological sampling in the wet lab.  Talk about fresh – and were they delicious!!

Patti Conner, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 2, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C0 (62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 15.5 C0 (60 F0)
Weather = sunny, windy
Depth of trawl = 45.4 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.54 ppm
Wind speed = 13.52 knots

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are sailing northeast of our sailing position yesterday. We are going to circle Georges Bank counterclockwise. Our dredges today were interesting. We continue to bring scallops in, but my watch team tells me there are more plentiful spots to come.  At one site, we found so many sand dollars that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This particular species of sand dollar produces a very brilliant green colored pigment which stains everything (starfish, algae, fish and me!).  I am learning to identify the many species of starfish that we bring in.  One of my jobs is to count them at various sites by randomly selecting from the dredge material.  At one site, I was counting hundreds of them.  It’s amazing how well they can hide and are camouflaged in the algae.  Many of the scallops have thick red layers of red algae on them (remember that red algae can grow at deeper depths because the red pigment can trap the minimal amount of sunlight needed for photosynthesis), and they also can be found carrying Porifera (sponges) on them which also helps them to be camouflaged.

Personal Log 

I do love it out here. My inner ear and brain has adjusted to the perpetual motion of the boat. I have not had a problem with seasickness yet.  It has helped that the weather has been nice. I am also doing well with the midnight to noon work schedule.  It is a little funny to see the fog roll across the deck of the boat in the darkness of the night.  Sunrise is my favorite time as the light changes how everything looks, especially the dredge samples, and it is nice to see the waves and the great expanse of the water.

Yesterdays invertebrate sample: Starfish (phylum = Echinodermata).

Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!
Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!

Linda Depro, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 1, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

To quote that famous seaman, Popeye, “A sailor’s life for me!!”  I’m thinking about joining him and changing careers – this experience is fantastic.

The ALBATROSS IV is conducting the second leg of the Atlantic scallop survey, and we are in Georges Bank off the coast of New England.  In specific stations (areas of the ocean) the scientists are keeping data;  the number of scallops, their size, and weight, the number and kind of fish, the volume of the entire catch, and at specific stations the number of crabs, or the number of starfish.

The vessel steams to each station where the dredge is lowered and then AIV trawls for fifteen minutes.  The haul is brought in and emptied onto the aft deck where the scientists, volunteers, and me (teacher at sea) sort through and put the scallops and fish into different baskets. With that completed we go back and shovel all unneeded shells, sand, etc. into baskets that are recorded (for volume) and returned to the sea.  The scallops and fish are taken into the wet lab where they are counted, weighed, and measured.  Five random scallops are chosen to be individually surveyed.  The shells are scrubbed clean (one of my jobs) so their age can be determined later; each is measured, weighed, and opened. The sex of the scallop is recorded, the gonad weighed, and the abductor muscle weighed.  Finally the shell is numbered to correspond to the data (in a computer) for each.  The shells are bagged, marked, and frozen for later study.

Personal Log 

All my expectations about this adventure pale to the experience that it has been so far.  When Patti Connor (the other Teacher at Sea) and I saw the ALBATROSS IV for the first time we were awe-struck.  My excitement at that moment wiped away any worries or fears about the adventure. Tony, the first bo’sun, was on deck and welcomed us aboard.  He was the first, and with each new crewmember, from the steward to the engineer to the captain we met I felt more and more “at home.”

The staterooms hold three scientists; my bed is on the bottom of the bunk bed.  We have two portholes for light, a sink, two closets, and some storage drawers.  The head and shower are shared with the next stateroom.  The room is pretty much for sleeping and showering because I cannot go in while one roommate on the opposite watch is sleeping.  It is amazing how the roll of the boat puts me to sleep, and so far I have been sleeping quite well.

Sorting through the piles that are brought up from the bottom of the sea is very exciting.  Even those who have been doing this for a while are enthusiastic about the catch.  I am picking up REAL LIVE hermit crabs, flounder, scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and more!

Patti Conner, July 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: July 31, 2006

Weather Data
Air temperature = 17 C0
Water temperature = 18.3 C0
Weather = Fog, haze
Depth of trawl = 60.9 meters
Water salinity = 31.03 ppm
Wind speed = 13 knots

The ALBATROSS lV moored at port, Woods Hole, MA
The ALBATROSS lV moored at port, Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log 

I woke up at 11:00 PM (23:00) Monday and started to get ready for my first 12-hour watch.  The ship changed to two 12-hour watches this year instead of the 6 hours on, 6 hours off, 6 hours on, 6 hours off watches.  I would think that the 12 hour watches are less disruptive to our biological clocks, and would make it much easier to get into a working, eating and sleeping pattern.  The scientists and crewmembers on my watch seem quite happy with this schedule.  We are sailing around Georges Bank, and doing 15-minute dredging samples at computer predetermined sites.  Some of the sites are close together and others are spaced farther apart.  When the dredging gear is brought aboard, there is a scramble to sort through the material.  We are separating fish and scallops and counting them, and then the other invertebrate animals are returned to the sea. The scallops are taken to the wet, biology lab and weighed and measured using computerized equipment and a program which tallies the data for scientists to interpret here and on shore. Since the scallop industry is such a large economic industry, these studies help to ensure the survival of the business and ecosystem.

Personal Log 

What an amazing journey this has been. I will never forget seeing my first sampling of marine organisms dredged up from the bottom of the sea.  Sorting through the algae, fish and invertebrates is just an exciting experience. It is fabulous to see fish that I have never seen before, and see their mouth shape and structure which allows them to eat and survive. The invertebrates such as mollusks, sponges and echinoderms are fabulous and abundant. To reinforce our invertebrate phyla, I will be posting an animal picture of the day and asking you to identify the phylum.  I will post the answer the next day. Do you remember these guys (or gals)?

What phyla do these animals belong to?

Joel Jaroch, July 10-28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joel Jaroch
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Dates: July 10-29, 2006

I will be presenting my experience on the ALBATROSS IV a bit different from the typical Teacher at Sea log format because of some challenges we faced in getting to sea and given the work schedule we kept—12 hour shifts, leaving me a bit exhausted from the work.

So, from this entry you will get an overall “look” at what took place during the time at sea for the Sea Scallop survey. Since the work done for each 12 hour shift was the same procedurally and only the change was in content of what was caught, I believe you will find the way in which I am presenting my experiences as more reader friendly.

As my shift ended at noon each day, I will present the weather data from the bridge in a chart for the 1200 hour each day we were at sea. This allows you to see change in the weather over the days at the same time each day. What do you see in terms of sea and air temperature change as we steamed north at the end of our survey? Can you guess which day(s) we felt the effects of Tropical Storm Beryl?

The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.
The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.

Science and Technology Component: 

In a 12 hour period of sampling for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop a wide array of organisms were taken from the sea floor bottom with the dredge. The dredge was run for a set amount of time, always 15 minutes. Over those few minutes and the ALBATROSS IV running at about 3.85 knots, the dredge tow covered about 1 nautical mile.

When this is done a station would have been sampled. There are a certain number of stations that are sampled within what is called a stratum. The number of stations sampled in any given strata is dependent upon strata size. A strata is defined by an area of uniform depth AND what substrate exists on the sea floor. Substrate is the living and non-living things found on the sea floor bottom.

The number of stations per stratum is determined based on two factors – area of stratum and the importance of that area to the scallop assessment (the computer randomly picks the locations but the number or stations is predetermined.) A non-random station becomes part of the survey sample when a site is picked on purpose by NOAA scientists or other scientists because there is a specific reason to go there for sampling. For example, one reason a station is non-random is because a scientist wants to develop a history for a station to monitor changes over time.

Along the North Atlantic there are many strata and the potential for hundreds of stations for NOAA scientist use to assess the sea scallop population. Therefore, for the first leg of the 2006 Sea Scallop survey 295 stations were sampled. This was done with two teams of 8 to 9 people working 24 hours a day. One shift worked from noon to midnight while the other team began work at midnight and finished at noon. The following chart shows how many stations were sampled by each team for the dates July 13 through 27. The primary reason for the wide range of stations sampled from shift to shift and day-to-day has to do with the distance between stations. The greater the distance the longer it took the ALBATROSS IV to steam to the next station. Also weather conditions had certainly slowed some of the sampling. With any thunder and lightning, the NOAA officers would not permit the team to be on the back deck sorting a sample for obvious safety reasons.

Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.
Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.

A TEAM: So, who is on a team? Two people on the bridge at all times, a NOAA officer and lookout. As safety is the number one priority of the NOAA officer on the bridge, the lookout helps the officer by looking out for anything that may not be caught by the ship’s radar so that the officer can navigate the ship from station to station. There are two people on constant watch of the two 565 horsepower engines, the two smaller engines that generate electricity, the units that produce freshwater from sea water, the hydraulic machinery that power the boom, Gantry and winch along with all the other mechanical parts and machinery, the two cooks that keep us fueled for the long shifts, a watch chief (Sean Lacey for my shift) who is under the guidance of the chief scientist (Stacy Rowe) for this leg, two other NOAA Biological Science Technicians (Bill Duffy and Alicia Long), the two fisherman – deck crew that manage the boom, Gantry, and winch cables because of safety issues (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway for my shift), the boom, Gantry, and winch operator (Lino Luis) and three volunteers.

Teamwork and constant communication between ALL parties took place to ensure that sampling success was achieved and safety was always observed.  A STATION: What happened at the end of any 15 minute dredge tow? A series of events would be put into action by all members of the shift. Those on the bridge move the ship to the next station, the engineers ensure that the machine components are running properly, and the science and volunteer crew, along with the greatly appreciated help of the fisherman (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway on my shift) and the Gantry operator (Lino Luis) got to the task of analyzing the haul. THE routine on the stern of the ALBATROSS IV was always the same when it came to going through a station haul—the only change seen from station to station was the contents of a haul.

So, for the 14 days that the two teams worked, 295 stations were sampled and the work to analyze each haul looked the same. Needless to say, as each station and day passed, the actual processing of a haul was done more efficiently.

And what would this work look like for a team? Below are the procedures we used to analyze each haul. In addition, you will find the data we collected for one 12 hour shift combined in a chart to give you an idea of what was caught. The data was for the midnight to noon shift on July 16th.

PROCEDURES FOR ANALYZING A STATION HAUL:

  1. Gantry hauls the dredge from sea floor bottom and nearly aboard the ship after the 15 minute tow through the designated station. A winch does the final work and brings the dredge aboard the ship on the back deck.
  2. An Inclinometer reading is gathered from dredge using the Optic Shuttle to transfer data to computer so as to check how the dredge ran on sea floor bottom. NOTE: Only twice did the dredge flip in the process of sampling the 295 stations! Although the graphed data from the inclinometer verified this, the NOAA scientist also suspected a dredge flip given the amount of material hauled from sea floor bottom as well as the marks on the top of the dredge as it ran upside down on the sea floor bottom – the sand shining the metal of dredge top.
  3. Dredge tow contents are emptied onto deck for processing using boom.
  4. Digital camera records haul pile along with a small white marker board that gives strata number, station number, tow number, whether it is a random or non-random station, and if the stratum was open or closed to certain fishing. Closed area regulations vary – often it does not mean that it is closed only to scallop fishermen, some areas are completely closed to all fishing, some are open at certain times of the year to certain types of fishing.
  5. The crew systematically searched through the haul to pull out all specified living organisms and nonliving items to be placed in either 5 gallon buckets (white) or bushel baskets (red)—fish generally placed into the buckets and scallops into the baskets. The watch chief tells all members to switch spots at the pile once the first search is done so that we all look through the pile a second time, working from a spot that someone else worked to ensure all required items are pulled from the pile. Sometimes so many scallops were brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV, that every available bushel basket was filled.
  6. Every third station a member takes handfuls from the haul—moving around the haul to get as random sample as possible, and fills a one gallon bucket to sub-sample the entire haul for starfish. The sub-sample is searched for all starfish which are then sorted by species and counted. The actual number of starfish, by species, is expanded to an Expected Number of starfish for the entire haul using an expansion factor. In addition, all Cancer species crabs were counted in total while other crabs are not counted. The reason Cancer species are counted is because there appears to be a relationship to the number of these crabs and scallops – ie. more of these crabs means less scallops.
  7. Every third station the CTD test is deployed to the sea floor bottom using the SeaBird Sensory Device to test for three specific water parameters: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. Twice a day a water sample is also collected—in the General Oceanics 12 tube and bottled during this same CTD cast for the purpose of calibrating the Sensory Device. The software used to record this data was created by NOAA with the wiring from the device running all the way into the designated computer from the boom where the CTD sensor instrument is lowered to sea floor and brought back by the boom.
  8. All specified specimens—living and non-living, are entered into the NOAA created software: Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). There are three processing stations to do this, each with their own touch screen monitor to activate and record the data to FSCS. All members helped in the processing of the catch, first by sorting fish by species, counting crabs and starfish when required as third station.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.

9. The sea scallops is generally the first to be entered into FSCS for weight. If the haul contains a great number of bushel baskets, a sub-sample will be used to represent the whole and then expanded to represent the whole catch for that station. For example, if 12 bushel baskets of sea scallops were collected from the haul, approximately 500 scallops are to be measured for length. This could be 2 to 3 baskets from the 12. Say it is 2 baskets given the size distribution—that is, they are nearly all the same size OR the size varies greatly among the scallops, all the scallops in those 2 baskets will be measured using the Limnoterra FMB IV measuring board —an magnet wand that will activate a signal to record the scallop length to the FSCS. The program then expands, in this case, the sub-sample to the entire catch by an expansion factor of 6 to give an Expected Number of scallops for this haul.

10.The weight of all fish, by species is recorded into FSCS while only certain fish species (see chart below) are measured for length to go along with the number of fish caught by species.

Sampling baskets
Sampling baskets

11.For non-random sites or for specific requests from scientists, certain fish species and specific scallop data may need to be collected, processed, and put into the flash freezer. For example, a scientist want all Fawn Cusk-eel fish for sound production study while another scientist wants scallop meat weights and gonad weights for an age and growth study. Labels for such requests are printed on an Eltron TLP 2742 printer. Specimens are put into either ziplock plastic bag or cloth sacks.

12.Using the saltwater hoses, processing stations and deck area is cleaned for the next station haul. We all take a breather—especially necessary when we have a large haul of scallops requiring a lot of processing.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.

Catch Data for Stations 45 – 57 North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2006 

1 Recorded Number: Actual number of organisms collected, counted, and recorded. 2 Little Skate: A certain number of this fish is also evaluated for sexual maturity and recorded. 3 Expected Number: When a large number of organisms are caught for any given haul (in our case only for starfish and scallops) a small subset of the specific organism catch would be randomly selected. That subset would be counted and recorded. Using an expansion factor, an expected number of the specific organism for that haul would be determined to represent the entire catch for that haul.  4 StarFish: For this chart I have combined all starfish species into one group whereas NOAA scientists record the starfish by species. In addition, starfish are sub-sampled every third station only from the entire haul. 5 Sea Scallop Clapper: This refers to sea scallop shells that are still attached at the hinge, as a bivalve, but do not have a living scallop inside. NOAA records this data because the number and size of clappers provides a means for determining recent death in a given area.

As the chart above represents the entire catch for stations 45 through 57 over a given 12 hour period of July 16th, the next 12 hour period of work, or the next could look completely different from a data point of view. For example, during several of my 12 hour shifts we caught few scallops compared to the data given above—an expected number of scallops of 22,142 for stations 45 through 57. Certainly for that 12 hour period we had a significant work load given the number of scallops hauled aboard the ship with the need to put them all in the bushel baskets and then measuring the length of a sub-sample of the entire haul when such a large number were brought aboard.

Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.
Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.

Summary of Science and Technology Component: 

After reading all of the above information there are a few things that I would like you to understand completely. The procedures that we carried out each 12 hour shift was the same. This allowed us to become familiar with the steps we needed to take in analyzing each haul and therefore work more efficiently as a team. Following the same procedures on every tow allows for tows to be comparable with other tows – this is true for all tows conducted this year and throughout the history of the scallop survey. This is very important when it comes to analyzing the data. The aspect that changed was the contents of each haul brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV at each station that we sampled. For me there was always that little bit of excitement in seeing if something new would be in the next haul. Inevitably I was able to see new and different organisms with each haul. The pipe fish and sea horse being just two examples.

Finally, I appreciate the work that ALL aboard the ALBATROSS IV are doing to continue this North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey. As such a long ongoing survey, the amount of data that NOAA has and continues to build year to year, their work and efforts seem to prove truly worthwhile as the vitality of the sea scallop population is healthy. I think of the relationship that must exist between the fisherman making their livelihood from the sea scallop and entire NOAA crew that studies the scallop and believe the relationship is a good one. The wild stock sea scallops that you and I can buy from the local grocery store is evidence that all involved parties are making this marine resource a well managed one based upon a cooperative relationship between many parties. Three cheers for all involved!!!

Conversations I had with NOAA Crew: 

1. Who needs more “fuel” in one 24 hour period, 33 hard working individuals aboard the ALBATROSS IV or a 565 horse power engine?

In talking with Kevin Cruse, Chief Mechanical Engineer, he had told me that the 565 hp Caterpillar engine will consume about 1000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel in a 24 hour period. He went on to tell me that, on average, the total water use during a similar 24 hour period is also about 1000 gallons of water. The ship is equipped with two Maxim Evaporators that can produce 1900 gallons of fresh water a day from the sea water. Usually just one of the evaporators is running at a time. The ALBATROSS IV can hold up to 22,324 gallons of freshwater. Kevin said that it is important to keep as much freshwater in the holding tanks because as the diesel fuel is used up, with the loss that weight (1 gallon of diesel fuel is about 7 pounds) the ship loses a little bit of stability as it does not ride as low in the water.

2. The conveniences of “staying in touch….”

Although the technology in not truly that new, Billy Dowdell, Electronic Technician, gave me an explanation as to how the integration of computers and a satellite helped me keep in touch with my family while I was at sea. The Skycell Satellite Transceiver takes stored emails from the crew aboard the ship and sends them out two at a time while receiving emails destined for those of us aboard the ALBATROSS IV, also two at a time and only for $6.00 per minute. As a regular schedule, emails are sent and received three times a day. Billy allowed me to help send and receive a batch of emails one afternoon. It all took just a few moments. This technology is a great feature for those at sea so that we can keep in touch with our loved ones. I appreciated the contact from my family.

3. What would be some of your initial thoughts and ideas if I say ALBATROSS IV Engine Room?

I wonder if ‘loud’ and ‘hot’ come to mind? Tim Monaghan, General Vessel Assistant, gave me the grand tour of the engine room, ear protection required. It is a world unto itself! Aside from being loud and hot the next thing that struck me was the overall neatness of the entire place, not to mention what must be miles and miles of wiring and piping. Of course, it also could be the five engines that are so obvious: two 565 hp Caterpillar engines that power the 8 foot diameter—3 blade propeller cursing at 10 knots, three smaller engines for ele