Story Miller, July 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 22, 2010

Black-legged Kittiwake

Time: 0754 AKST
Latitude: 58°31N
Longitude:175°45W
Wind: 13-20 knots (approx. 14.96 – 23.02 mph)
Direction: 239° (SW)
Sea Temperature: 8.28°C (approx. 46.9°F)
Air Temperature: 8.03°C (approx. 46.5°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1017
Wave Height: 4 feet
Sea Swells: 6 feet
Combined Wave Height: 10 – 12 feet

Scientific Log 

This afternoon, we conducted a test with a drogue which is like a large sea anchor. Sea anchors allow a boat that is simply sitting in the water to not drift so far with the waves. This drogue will stabilize the camera of an experimental trawl net device, called a Cam-Trawl, and prevent it from fluttering when it is photographing the fish. The Cam-Trawl was designed by Kresimir Williams. Currently the objective of this new device is to observe the fish we see in the backscatter which are the animals we can see in the echosounder

(See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Image of the echo sounder in the acoustics lab. The image on the top in the blue is representing a swarm of jellyfish. Jellyfish tend to be best seen using the 18 kHz transducer.

In short, the ship’s hull has transducers that send pings of sound energy down through the ocean and when they hit some object, such as the bottom of the ocean or a fish, some of the energy in the sound ping is returned to the ship and received by our echo sounding system in the acoustics lab of the ship.

When we locate a group of fish we want to study with the echo sounder, we have two primary methods of collecting data from the fish. The device we use the most is the AWT(Aleutian Wing Trawl) net and the other is an 83-112 bottom trawl net. The AWT is used for catching fish located at midwater depths and the other, as stated in the name, trawls the sea floor. To imagine the shape of these devices in the water, imagine a large funnel with a catch sack on the end. The beginning portion of these nets, nearest to the boat, has large meshes and its primary function is to funnel the fish toward the catch sack. As fish move farther down the net, the meshes get smaller until they reach the catch sack, which we call the codend, and once in there, the fish cannot escape. We then pull them to the surface and begin collecting data, such as size and species. The largest drawback to these methods is that the fish caught in the net will most likely die. To understand why, think of a diver in the deep ocean. If the diver comes up too fast, the body cannot adjust to the pressure fast enough as air expands, potentially causing lungs to rupture. For the fish, bringing them up too quickly causes their swim bladders to rupture. Rockfish tend to have their stomachs inverted out of their mouth. While killing the fish for research is unfortunate, it is one of the few ways we can learn about their patterns of behavior, health, and diversity.

Chris Wilson in the process of attaching buoys to stabilize the Cam-Trawl

The Cam-Trawl is an innovative experimental design that may help reduce the killing of fish and allow us to collect data from endangered or nearly extinct fish species. For example, many Rockfish species off the west coasts of California, Washington and Oregon are endangered and as a result, we do not want to catch them in our nets because we would most likely kill them. The Cam-Trawl would remedy that and would allow us to receive continuous data at each depth along its path. The other trawls catch all the fish in their path which means the collection of fish is mixed and we cannot tell the depth at which they were originally swimming or which species was at what depth. To picture how the Cam-Trawl works underwater, imagine a funnel again, except this time, there is no codend attached. At the end of the funnel, the stereocamera is positioned to photograph the fish that pass through the funnel. The resolution of the fish photos is much more advanced than what we have ever had before. This sampling technique is supposed to give us a better resolution of what we are able to “see” using acoustics (echo sounder) than the traditional midwater (AWT) and bottom trawls (83-112).

 
Personal Log:

Sleeping at sea was a new experience for me. The seas were only four to eight feet high which are marginal compared to the conditions this ship experiences in the winter months. Overall, I enjoyed being rocked to sleep but my 0330h alarm was not as pleasant. My room is located four flights of stairs below the bridge deck and I’ve been told it is one of the better places to be because the rocking of the boat is not as intense. The rooms are pretty cozy as space is limited but there is room for a desk, two closets and a bathroom (called a head on a ship) that reminds me of the sizes found in European hotels. I have the top bunk and each has a curtain that wraps around the entire bed so that if your roommate has a different shift than you, the light to the main room won’t be a disturbance. Of course, since I have lived in Alaska for two years, I have become accustomed to sleeping in bright conditions.

Something the non-boating community may not realize is that on a ship, it is very important that there is a night crew and a day crew operating. On the bridge where the main controls of the ship are located, there must always be a NOAA Corps Officer, with qualifications to drive the ship, on watch 24/7. However, all crews, with the exception of the kitchen, on the ship are operating around the clock. For example, there are always engineers operating in case there is some type of mechanical issue and scientists operate because there are still fish in the ocean and their behavior needs to be observed at all times.

Me trying on my “Gumby” Suit during the fire drill

The entire crew participated in a fire drill and abandon ship drill yesterday so that all hands on the ship knew where to muster for a head count and to learn how to operate the life rafts in case the ship was sinking. Additionally we needed to learn how to get into our survival suits (Gumby Suits). My first experience putting on the suit was during a field trip onto this vessel with my seventh and eighth grade students in May so I was aware of the cozy fit! Fire and abandon ship drills are practiced once a week when the ship is underway, which is very important as the crew onboard are not just NOAA employees but also in charge of fighting fires and responding to any onboard emergencies. So, if you want to be a fireman and a scientist and cannot choose, perhaps serving aboard a NOAA ship would be right up your alley!
To end my day (remember bedtime for me is early as my alarm is set for 0330) I had a “late” supper of sushi, spring rolls, meatloaf, and for dessert a fabulous set of s’mores! Who says you can’t have them on the ship?
 

Animals Observed:
Northern Fulmar
Crested Auklets
Tufted Puffin
Black-legged Kittiwake
Orcas

Something to Ponder:

When we are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” usually we say one occupation – firefighter, actor, scientist, teacher, soldier, waitress. However, most jobs require many skills. For example, the scientists on board put a variety of skills into practice and as mentioned in the Scientific Log, scientist Kresimir Williams engineered the Cam-Trawl which employed his knowledge of the biological sciences (fish/oceanography), physical science (how to deploy the device without it breaking), and photography! So for my students, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Michele Brustolon, July 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 10, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1400
Latitude: 59.12N
Longitude: 174.02W
Cloud Cover: 5/8
Wind: 17 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.00 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1006.9 mb

Science and Technology Log

Weather, weather everywhere!
Aside from weather helping you decide what to wear for the day, weather is critical on board a research vessel. Each hour the bridge collects the same data that is then input into the AMVER Sea system and sent to NOAA Weather. Some of the information included is: time, latitude, longitude, cloud cover, air and water temperatures, wind, barometric pressure, visibility, and swell height. This helps determine our exact location (check out shiptracker.noaa.gov) as well as the weather at sea and also weather inland. It is not uncommon for marine weather systems to move inland. This information also helps us understand long term climate changes, precipitation, and ocean currents.

Exactly where are we?
The latitude and longitude help determine the position of the ship and the time is recorded to understand how the ship is moving and in what direction. This allows the scientists to follow the transects to conduct their research. If I told you at 1500 hours (3pm) our mark was 58.00N and 171.48W, you would be able to pinpoint our location on a map. Our latitude so far on this trip (July 7th) has been in the range of 56.12N-58.69N depending on the transect that we are following and the longitudes’ range is between 170.01W-171.48W.

Transect lines for Leg II onboard Oscar Dyson

It’s cloudy again?
It tends to be quite cloudy and foggy here in the Bering Sea and cloud cover is measured in eighths of the sky. For example, on July 6th the cloud cover at 1500 hours was 7/8 which means that 87.5% of the sky was filled with clouds. Cloud type and location can help predict the type of weather. The majority of our days have been 8/8 or 100% cloud cover with stratus clouds and lots of moisture in the air.

Stratus Clouds

This is definitely not the heat wave they are getting back home!
This brings us to air temperature and wind. The temperature is always taken on the windward side of the ship because this is the side of the ship in the stream of air fresh from the sea that has not been in contact with or passed over the ship. There are two types of thermometers in each case on the deck in front of the bridge. The dry bulb measures the air temperature and the wet bulb has a muslin wick which absorbs heat from the thermometer. The temperature difference between the two, called the depression of the wet bulb, can help determine what the percent humidity is by referring to the humidity chart. Wind can affect these readings which is why there are thermometers on either side of the bridge. The wind direction is logged as the same direction from which the sea waves are coming. Average temperature through July 7th for Leg II has been 5.680C/420F with winds averaging 10.29 knots.

The weather mentioned has been the trend for Leg II; however, this could be changing by the end of the week…stay tuned!

Wet and dry bulb thermometers

Hold on tight!

It’s July 10 and we are still waiting for the big seas to hit us. (not that I am complaining about calm weather!) The swells have gotten larger and the wind definitely picked up yesterday. The strongest wind recorded yesterday was 26 knots while on my shift. There is still a chance for NW sustained winds up to 25 knots and 10 foot seas before the weekend is up. Part of the reason for calmer seas yesterday was that we were so far north and the low pressure system was to the south of us. It was actually the farthest north I have ever been, and we will go even farther north before it is time to head back to Dutch Harbor.

Weather forecast

Personal Log

While we have had some quiet days, the fishing has been picking up. Unfortunately, the fish seem to be accessible more for the night crew than our shift. For example, we may fish once in a twelve hour shift, but the night crew may fish 2-3 times! We did have a couple of fishing mornings where there was enough time for a quick coffee and piece of toast and then on to the wet lab. Let me paint a picture for you… its 0430, the four of us (Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I) are keeping the beat to the tunes on the iPod of choice for the day in our full foul weather gear while we sort, sex, weigh, and find the lengths of pollock. It’s quite the jam session- all before breakfast! It may seem like a strange way to start the day, but it’s pretty cool!

Pollock on the sorting table

Processing Pollock: we record data about length, weight, stomachs, and otoliths.

Another benefit to having the day shift is that I was able to experience sunset as I looked west (off the port side of the ship) from my stateroom at 0330 and by the time we finished fishing at 0645, the sun was rising! Between 0400 and 0700 is one of the quieter times during my shift. It is a good time to get laundry done, regroup for the day, and one of the most peaceful places to go is the bridge. As you finish climbing the stairs you enter the darkness of the bridge; no fluorescent or incandescent lights staring you in the face. Even the headlamps worn and the covered monitors are red. I found myself closing my eyes and rocking as the boat swayed back and forth. Definitely a different atmosphere then being in the wet lab processing fish. This of course all changes after breakfast when more people are up for their shift. I find it amazing how many different environments there are on one ship throughout a day.

Sunset: 0400

Sunrise: 0645

The bridge at sunrise

Another new experience for me occurred by the time I made it to the Acoustics lab on Friday morning. The echo sounder was already in the water collecting data. The advantage of this single transducer is that it has the ability to be dropped closer to the fish (about 50m) to allow for more precise data. It still functions like the transducers that are on the centerboard of the ship: sending “pings” or sound waves and recording target strength. The transducers that do not interfere with the echo sounder continue to collect the same data but from farther away (around 80m), and then the two sets of data can be compared. There is also a small CTD that is attached to the unit. To make it even better, I was able to see the North Star and the moon while on the deck where the echo sounder comes on board!

The echo sounder

This might be too much excitement for some of you, but like I said before I need things to do. This brings me to the new challenge on the ship; Ensign Amber Payne spearheaded a “European Challenge of the Century.” It is a series of exercise challenges that include all members on board the Oscar Dyson. Now, this challenge continues throughout this season which ends in October, so the scientists (that’s me!) were randomly placed on teams to contribute while onboard. Even before the challenge, Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I have made a habit of heading to one of the two gyms to rip it up while blasting tunes. That’s right- two gyms on this ship! You can chose to run, bike, row, lift, and there are plenty of other options as well. Even though the gym has become part of my daily routine and running on a boat MUST burn more calories than on land, I don’t think it has been enough with Ray’s cooking. It’s like eating out at your favorite restaurant EVERY day!

Animals seen
Chrysaora melanaster
pollock (1-2 years)
fulmars
murres
puffin

Word of the day
guile: deceit

New Vocabulary
barometric pressure: the downward force that the atmosphere exerts per unit of a certain area.
swell height: measure of wind waves generated locally; vertical distance between trough and crest
muslin wick: plain woven cotton fabric
humidity: the amount of moisture in the air
gale force winds: strong winds between 28-47 knots
target strength: strength of the sound waves returning after reaching the fish

Deborah Moraga, June 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Log: Deborah Moraga
NOAA Ship: Fulmar
Date: July 20‐28, 2010

Mission: ACCESS
(Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies)
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
Date: June 27,2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Start Time: 0700 (7:00 am)
End Time: 1600 (4:00 pm)
Position:
Line 10 start on western end: Latitude = 37o 20.6852 N; Longitude = 122o 56.5215 W
Line 10 end on eastern end: Latitude = 37 o 21.3466 N; Longitude = 122o 27.5634 W
Present Weather: Started with full could cover and cleared to no cloud cover by mid day
Visibility: greater than 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wave Height: 0.5 meters
Sea Water Temp: 14.72 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 14 C Barometric Pressure: 1013.2 mb

Science and Technology Log
We left Half Moon Bay at 0700 (7:00 am) to survey line 10. We traveled out to about 30 miles offshore then deployed the Tucker trawl.

Tucker Trawl

Tucker Trawl

When the team deploys the Tucker trawl the goal is to collect krill. They are relying on the echo‐sounder to determine where the krill are located in the water column. The echo‐sounder sends out sound waves that bounce off objects in the water and works much like a sophisticated fish finder. Dolphins hunt for their prey in much the same way. A computer connected to the echo‐sounder is used to display the image of the water column as the sound waves travel back to the boat. By reading the colors on the screen the team can determine the depth of krill.

Collecting krill

Collecting krill

Collecting krill

Collecting krill

Collecting krill

Collecting krill

The scientists send weights (called messengers) down a cable that is attached to the Tucker trawl as it is towed behind the boat. Once the messenger reaches the end of the line where the net is located, it triggers one of the three nets to close. Triggering the nets this way allows for the researchers to sample zooplankton at three different depths.

image of water column on computer screen

Image of water column on computer screen

When the cod‐ends of the nets were brought onboard Jaime Jahncke (scientist for PRBO Conservation Science) examined the contents. Some of the organisms that were collected were…

When the cod‐ends of the nets were brought onboard Jaime Jahncke (scientist for PRBO Conservation Science) examined the contents. Some of the organisms that were collected were.

• Thysanoessa spinifera – a species of krill

• Crab megalopa larvae
Euphausia pacifica – a species of krill

Nicolle von der Heyde, June 25, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicolle Vonderheyde
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Nicolle von der Heyde
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, June 25, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10 am)
Position: latitude = 27°53.9 N longitude = 093º 51.1 W
Present Weather: 5/8 cloudy (cumulonimbus/cumulus clouds)
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: E Wind Speed: 4 knots
Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Water Temp: 30.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2°C, wet bulb = 26.3°C

Science and Technology Log

Video from the camera array

Video from the camera array

Echo Sounder

Echo Sounder

The technology on this ship is amazing! The picture on the left is video of what the camera array filmed yesterday. The fish just swim around and sometimes they even come right up to the camera like they are “kissing” it. Then they back away and swim off. It’s beautiful to watch. The picture on the right is the EK60 Echo Sounder. The red line that you see shows the bottom of the seafloor. The blue above the red line is the water itself and the white specks that you see are fish. The most recent reading is located on the right side of the screen. The echo sounder sends a “ping” to the computer and that “ping” is a fish. Sometimes we can see definite shark outlines in the images below our ship. If you look at the bottom right hand corner of the echo sounder photo, you will see a large white speck along the red line. This indicates a large fish (possibly a shark) trolling the bottom of the ocean. When we came upon the dead sperm whale, the Electronics Technician (ET) came to the lab and told us there were a lot of “large fish,” most likely Mahi Mahi or even sharks, swimming under the ship.

Techonology on the Pisces

Techonology on the Pisces

The Pisces would not be able to operate without the engineers who make sure that everything onboard is functioning properly, including the 4 massive diesel generators that power the ship, the freshwater generators that convert seawater into fresh drinking water, and the hydraulics that power the cranes to lift the cameras in and out of the water. Chief Engineer Garet Urban leads the team of engineers, oilers, and electrical experts who take care of all the mechanical issues on board the ship.

First Engineer, Brent Jones, took us on a tour of the very impressive engine room on the lower deck of the Pisces. He showed us the incinerator which burns all the trash, oil filters, and other waste at a temperature of 1200°C (2192°F). Paper, plastic, and aluminum is brought back to shore and recycled. Before entering the engine room, we were told to put in earplugs because the sound can damage your eardrums. In addition to not being able to hear a thing inside the engine room, the heat is incredible! The engineers need to be careful to stay hydrated while working in these conditions.

Engine Room

Engine Room

Generators in the Engine Room

Generators in the Engine Room

The Pisces is powered by 4 diesel fuel generators which generate electricity that drives two large electric motors. The photo above on the right shows one of the generators in yellow. The engineers are constantly monitoring the mechanics of the ship to make sure everyone on board has a safe and productive voyage while conducting scientific research on board.

Personal Log

Every week the ship is required to conduct emergency drills. Yesterday after dinner, the alarm sounded 6 short bursts and an announcement came on saying, “This is a drill…abandon ship, proceed to your muster stations…this is a drill.” We had to go to our rooms and grab our PFD’s (personal flotation devices), survival suits, a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat. We then proceeded to the 0-1 deck where two officers were in charge of making sure that everyone on their list was present and accounted for. After attendance was taken the drill was over; however Melinda and I wanted to try on the survival suits because no matter who you are, you can’t help but look and feel silly in what the crew refers to as a “Gumby suit” – for obvious reasons. Two of the officers joined us in this cumbersome and entertaining task.

Emergency Drill

Emergency Drill

Melinda Storey and I in our Gumby Suits

Melinda Storey and I in our Gumby Suits

Getting into my gumby suit

Getting into my gumby suit

Never has the routine of an emergency drill seemed more significant than the next morning, shortly after arriving in the lab, when the general alarm sounded and an announcement came on saying, “This is NOT a drill…smoke has been detected near the bow thrusters on the lower deck…repeat, this is NOT a drill.” It took a second for me to register that this was a real emergency and we all quickly moved to the conference room – the muster station for the scientific party. On the way into the room, I smelled something burning and heard in my head the ominous words of one of the scientists during a previous fire drill, “One of the worst things that can happen at sea is a fire.” Now I was nervous. The Chief Scientist called the bridge to let them know that we were all accounted for and asked if we could move because we smelled smoke. We moved to the main deck and waited…not very long actually. Within a matter of minutes an announcement signaled that the fire was secure and we were free to carry on with our business.

The bow thrusters had overheated and fortunately, someone was working near them when the smoking started. Because the ship conducts fire drills on a regular basis, including the simulation of putting out specific types of fires, everyone knew where to go and the crew had the smoking under control very quickly. It was reassuring to know that the crew is so prepared to handle emergencies at sea. I will never again complain about the routine task of emergency drills, especially at school. Preparation and planning is the key to keeping everyone safe.

Patricia Schromen, August 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2009

Bringing in the nets requires attention, strength and teamwork.

Bringing in the nets requires attention and teamwork.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet
17 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

In Science we learn that a system consists of many parts working together. This ship is a small integrated system-many teams working together. Each team is accountable for their part of the hake survey. Like any good science investigation there are independent, dependent and controlled variables. There are so many variables involved just to determine where and when to take a fish sample.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

The acoustic scientists constantly monitor sonar images in the acoustics lab. There are ten screens displaying different information in that one room. The skilled scientists decide when it is time to fish by analyzing the data.  Different species have different acoustical signatures. Some screens show echograms of marine organisms detected in the water column by the echo sounders. With these echograms, the scientists have become very accurate in predicting what will likely be caught in the net. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) is responsible for driving the ship and observes different data from the bridge. Some of the variables they monitor are weather related; for example: wind speed and direction or swell height and period. Other variables are observed on radar like the other ships in the area. The topography of the ocean floor is also critical when nets are lowered to collect bottom fish. There are numerous sophisticated instruments on the bridge collecting information twenty four hours a day. Well trained officers analyze this data constantly to keep the ship on a safe course.

Here come the hake!

Here come the hake!

When the decision to fish has been made more variables are involved. One person must watch for marine mammals for at least 10 minutes prior to fishing. If marine mammals are present in this area then they cannot be disturbed and the scientists will have to delay fishing until the marine mammals leave or find another location to fish. When the nets are deployed the speed of the boat, the tension on the winch, the amount of weight attached will determine how fast the nets reach their target fishing depth.  In the small trawl house facing the stern of the ship where the trawl nets are deployed, a variety of net monitoring instruments and the echo sounder are watched. The ship personnel are communicating with the bridge; the deck crew are controlling the winches and net reels and the acoustic scientist is determining exactly how deep and the duration of the trawl. Data is constantly being recorded. There are many decisions that must be made quickly involving numerous variables.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

The Hake Survey began in 1977 collecting every three years and then in 2001 it became a biannual survey. Like all experiments there are protocols that must be followed to ensure data quality. Protocols define survey operations from sunrise to sunset. Survey transect line design is also included in the protocols. The US portion of the Hake survey is from approximately 60 nautical miles south of Monterey, California to the US-Canada Border. The exact location of the fishing samples changes based on fish detected in the echograms although the distance between transects is fished at 10 nautical miles. Covering depths of 50-1500 m throughout the survey. Sampling one species to determine the health of fish populations and ocean trends is very dynamic.

Weighing and measuring the hake is easier with automated scales and length boards.

Weighing and measuring the hake.

Personal Log 

Science requires team work and accountability. Every crew member has an integral part in making this survey accurate.  A willing positive attitude and ability to perform your best is consistently evident on the Miller Freeman. In the past few days, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist in collecting the data of most of the parts of this survey, even launching the CTD at night from the “Hero Platform” an extended grate from the quarter deck.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Before fishing, I’ve been on the bridge looking for marine mammals.  When the fish nets have been recovered and dumped on the sorting table, I’ve sorted, weighed and measured fish. For my first experience in the wet lab, I was pleased to be asked to scan numbers (a relatively clean task) and put otoliths (ear bones) into vials of alcohol. I used forceps instead of a scalpel. Ten stomachs are dissected, placed in cloth bags and preserved in formaldehyde. A label goes into each cloth bag so that the specimen can be cross referenced with the otoliths, weight, length and sex of that hake. With all the high tech equipment it’s surprising that a lowly pencil is the necessary tool but the paper is high tech since it looks regular but is water proof.  It was special to record the 100th catch of the survey.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.

Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Questions for the Day 

How is a fish ear bone (otolith) similar to a tree trunk? (They both have rings that can be counted as a way to determine the age of the fish or the tree.)

The CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) unit drops 60 meters per minute and the ocean is 425 meters deep at this location; how many minutes will it take the CTD to reach the 420 meter depth?

Think About This: The survey team directs the crane operator to stop the CTD drop within 5 meters of the bottom of the ocean.  Can you think of reasons why the delicate machinery is never dropped exactly to the ocean floor?  Some possible reasons are:

  • The swell in the ocean could make the ship higher at that moment;
  • An object that is not detected on the sonar could be on the ocean floor;
  • The rosetta or carousel holding the measurement tools might not be level.

Launching the CTD is a cooperative effort. The boom operator works from the deck above in visual contact. Everyone is in radio contact with the bridge since the ship slows down for this data collection.

Retrieving the CTD

Retrieving the CTD

John Schneider, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 14, 2009

Position 
Shumagin Islands

Here I am in the data acquisition chair.

Here I am in the data acquisition chair.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: light overcast
Wind: light & variable
Sea State: gentle swells

Science and Technology Log 

Today I spent quite a few hours in the plot room learning about the methods being used on Fairweather for recording bathymetric data. In the picture below and to the right you are looking forward at the starboard side of the Plot Room.  From the left are Chief Survey Tech Lynn Morgan, Survey Tech Dave Franksen, survey crew members Damian Manda and Gabriel Schmidbauer.  Dave is in the chair that I’m occupying in the shot above.

At first, it’s a baffling array of monitors and programs and people.  There are 11 stations for survey personnel in the plot room and it is operating 24/7 when we are under way. In the adjacent compartment are the FOO (Field Operations Officer) and the CST (Chief Survey Technician.)   The FOO on the Fairweather is LT Matt Ringel. The future FOO is LT Briana Welton (who will become the FOO when LT Ringel rotates off the ship); and the CST is Lynn Morgan. While the crew is quite casual in addressing one another, there are three individuals who are addressed by their titles. Commanding Officer Doug Baird is addressed as “CO,” Executive Officer David Zezula is “XO,” and LT Ringel is “FOO.” Everyone else on board is addressed by casual names.  These three officers and the CST are integral to getting our mission accomplished.

More data acquisition!

More data acquisition!

I’ll address the monitors I’m viewing from top to bottom and left to right. Once you’ve sat in the chair it’s not terribly difficult to follow what’s being displayed . . . but a novice like me isn’t able to decode issues that pop up sometimes.  Though I sat a 4hour watch, for the vast majority of that time I had an experienced tech (Will Sauter) very close to help when it was needed. The top right monitor is a closed-circuit TV monitor of the ship’s fantail1 (aft deck.) This is where the remote MVP is deployed from (The MVP is the ship’s equivalent of the CTDs2 we deploy from the launches.)  It’s on the starboard quarter and is deployed with a couple of mouse clicks from the chair. Its mouse is the white one to the right and its keyboard is the white one.

The data acquisition monitors

The data acquisition monitors

To the left of the closed-circuit TV monitor is the control screen for the MVP.  It indicates how deep the “fish” (the sensor) is, the tension on the line, how far behind the ship it is, the GPS accuracy, who is capturing data on the watch and about 20 other parameters.  Whenever something is going that involves the ship or its operations, the bridge must be apprised so the Officer of the Watch is on the same page as the survey and boat teams.  You key the intercom to the bridge and say something like, “Bridge, we’d like a cast, please.”  And they will respond “yes,” “OK,” “affirmative” or something along those lines.  Then we follow with “fish is deployed,” “fish on the bottom” and “fish is back.”  The MVP gets a sound-velocity-in-water throughout the water column.  It can vary by as much as 10 m/s which affects the recorded distance.

The graphic display of the Multi-Beam Echo Sounder called the beam “cone”

The graphic display of the Multi-Beam Echo Sounder called the beam “cone”

The far monitor you see below is a graphic display of the beam-spread from the 8111 Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.  The sounder can cover an angle of 150º (which is 75º to either side of the Nadir3.) Ideally, this line should show blue dots across from one point of the cone to the other.  As you can see, the left side is a bit higher than the right. This could indicate either that the ship is rolling or the bottom is sloped.  The control for adjusting the beam is the left roller ball in the top picture. (The right one is for a different MBES.) The next 3 displays are all controlled with the black keyboard and mouse on the lower shelf in my lap. The left monitor of these three displays technical data about the ship and MBES. One of the devices integrated into the system is an Inertial Motion Sensor which quantifies the amount of roll4, pitch5 and yaw6.

This screen depicts various graphic displays of data.

This screen depicts various graphic displays

Having this information allows the raw data to be corrected for some environmental factors.  Also in the display are accuracy and precision indicators for the GPS positions, personnel on watch, logging verification to begin and cease, and more. The next display is broken into four subordinate windows. On the top left and center are visuals on the nadir beams directly under the ship.  It seemed a bit odd not to simply include the nadir in the bottom half of the display, but the bottom half is processed a bit differently and needs to be segregated. One of the Officers (ENS Patricia Raymond) actually got a screen capture of what appear to be whales directly below the ship. I swear you can identify flukes and fins, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I’d have included it here, but there’s just the one copy in plot.  The top right in this display shows a minimized version of the path we’re “mowing.”  You can see the most recent data in green. Finally, on the bottom, are the side-scan views of the bottom. In this particular shot it’s kind of interesting with what appear to be the remains of glacial moraines and scour on the seafloor. 

This display shows technical data about the ship and Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.

This display shows technical data about the
ship and Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.

The last screen, on the far right, is the screen showing our progress on the polygon. The recently scanned area shows up in a different color than those previously scanned and every time you update the plot, the colors begin anew.  Fairweather frequently uses about a 50% overlap to ensure redundancy of data points. On the lower right side of this screen is a graphic of the beams under the ship.  It usually looks very much like the image of the “cone” displayed above. The “70.55” indicates the depth (in S.I. Units of meters) and the top right indicates the status of whether we are logging/retaining the data or if it is just reading it. We don’t log when the ship is turning because the data points get too spread out on the outside of the turn. 

This screen depicts various graphic displays of data.

This screen shows the ship’s progress on the polygon.

Personal Log 

At first glance, it seems that mastering all of this would be daunting, but the ease and confidence that are displayed by the team show that it can be done. Again, the Professional Learning Community idea comes into play as they collectively debug issues and plan for future advancements in the technology even as they are using what is current. Listening to the technical banter and seeing how that much brainpower is focused on a task is really cool. Having spent most of the day in plot, it was real nice to spend the (endless) evening just watching the ocean around me.  When the sun sets at 2315 (11:15 pm) it’s cool.  When it sets at 2313 behind a mountain island off the coast of Alaska it’s unbelievable!

Questions for You to Investigate 

  • How are your inner ears similar to the Inertial Motion detector?
  • How are your semicircular canals contributors to seasickness?

New Terms/Phrases 

  1. Fantail – The aft deck on the ship.  It’s where the majority of overboard work is done
  2. CTD’s – Conductivity/Temperature and Depth sensors
  3. Nadir – The beam that runs the shortest distance to the bottom
  4. Roll – the left/right rocking of the ship
  5. Pitch – the front/back rocking of the ship
  6. Yaw – the swinging of the ship to either side of its course (picture a wagging tail)
Just another day in Paradise!

Just another day in Paradise!

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3720.718 N Longitude: 12230.301
Wind Direction: 69 (compass reading) NW
Wind Speed: 12.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.056

Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day

Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day

Science and Technology Log 

A lot of physical science is involved in oceanographic research.  An understanding of wave mechanics is utilized to obtain sonar readings. This means that sound waves of certain frequencies are emitted from a source.  The concepts to understand in order to utilize acoustic readings are:

  1. Sound and electromagnetic waves travel in a straight line from their source and are reflected when they contact an object they cannot pass through.
  2. Frequency is defined as the number of waves that pass a given point per second (or another set period of time).  The faster the wave travels, the greater the number of waves that go past a point in that time. Waves with a high frequency are moving faster than those with a low frequency. Those waves travel out in a straight line until they contact an object of a density that causes them to reflect back.
  3. The speed with which the waves return, along with the wavelength they were sent at, gives a ‘shadow’ of how dense the object is that reflected the wave, and gives an indication of the distance that object is from the wave source (echo sounder). As jellyfish, zooplankton and other organisms are brought up either with the bongo net or the trawl net, examinations of the acoustic readings are done to begin to match the readings with organisms in the area at the time of the readings.  On the first leg of the survey, there were acoustic patterns that appeared to match conditions that are known to be favorable to jellyfish.  Turtle researchers have, for years, observed certain characteristics of stretches of ocean water that have been associated with sea nettle, ocean sunfish and leatherbacks. Now, by combining acoustic readings, salinity, temperature and chlorophyll measurements, scientists can determine what the exact oceanographic features are that make up ‘turtle water’.
Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering at night.

Computer images of acoustic scattering at night.

Acoustic data, consisting of the returns of pulses of sound from targets in the water column, is now used routinely to determine fish distribution and abundance, for commercial fishing and scientific research. This type of data has begun to be used to quantify the biomass and distribution of zooplankton and micronekton. Sound waves are continuously emitted from the ship down to the ocean floor. Four frequencies of waves are transmitted from the echo-sounder.  The data is retrieved and converted into computerized images. Both photo 1 and photo 2 give the acoustic readings. The “Y” axis is depth down to different depths, depending on the location.  The frequencies shown are as follows for the four charts on the computer screen; top left is 38kHz, bottom left is 70 kHz, top right is 120kHz and bottom right is 200 kHz.  In general the higher frequencies will pick up the smallest particles (organisms) while the lowest reflect off the largest objects. Photo 1 shows a deep-water set of images, with small organisms near the surface. This matches the fact that zooplankton rise close to the surface at night.  Photo 2 gives a daylight reading.

A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.

A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.

It is more difficult to interpret.  The upper one-fourth is the acoustic reading and the first distinct horizontal line from the top represents the ocean floor.  Images below that line are the result of the waves bouncing back and forth, giving a shadow reading.  But the team here was very excited: for this set of images shows an abundance of organisms very near the surface. And the trawl that was deployed at that time resulted in lots and lots of jellyfish.  They matched.  Periodically, as the acoustic data is collected, samples are also collected at various depths to ‘ground truth’ the readings.  This also allows the scientists to refine their interpretations of the measurements.  The technology now can give estimates of size, movement and acoustic properties of individual planktonic organisms, along with those of fish and marine mammals.  Acoustic data is used to map the distribution of jellyfish and estimate the abundance in this region. By examining many acoustic readings and jellyfish netted, the scientists will be able to identify the acoustic pattern from jellyfish.

Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.

Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.

The sensor for the acoustic equipment is mounted into the hull, with readings taken continually.  Background noise from the ship must be accounted for, along with other types of background noise. Some events observed on board, such as a school of dolphins being sighted, can be correlated (matched) to acoustic readings aboard the ship.  Since it is assumed that only a portion of the dolphins in a pod are actually sighted, with the remaining under the surface, the acoustic correlation gives an indication of population size in the pod.  The goal of continued acoustic analysis is to be able to monitor long term changes in zooplankton or micronekton biomass. This monitoring can then lead to understanding the migration, feeding strategies and monitor changes in populations of marine species.

A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.

A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.

Personal Log 

Several small birds have stopped in over the week, taking refuge on the Jordan. Many bird species make long migrations, often at high altitude, along the Pacific flyway.  Some will die of exhaustion along the way, or starvation, and some get blown off their original course.  Most ships out at sea appear to be an island, a refuge for tired birds to land on.  They may stay for a day, a week, or longer. Their preferred food source may not be available however, and some do not survive on board.  Some die because they are just too tired, or perhaps ill, or for unknown reasons. We have had a few birds, and some have disappeared after two days.  We hope they took off to finish their trip. Since we were in site of land all day today, it could be the dark junco headed to shore. ‘Our’ common redpoll did not survive, so he was ‘buried at sea’, with a little ceremony.  About half an hour ago, a stormy petrel came aboard.  He did not seem well, but after a bit of rest, we watched him take off.  We wish him well.

Words of the Day 

Acoustic data: sound waves (sonar) of certain frequencies that are sent out and bounce off objects, with the speed of return an indication of the objects distance from the origin; Echo sounder: device that emits sonar or acoustic waves Dense or density: how highly packed an object is  measured as mass/volume; Distribution: the number and kind of organisms in an area; Biomass:  the combined mass of a sample of living organisms; Micronekton: free swimming small organisms; Zooplankton: small organisms that move with the current; Pacific flyway: a general area over and next to the Pacific ocean that some species of birds migrate along.

Animals Seen Today 
Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa
Herring gull Larus argentatus
Heermann’s gull  Larus heermanni
Common murr  Uria aalge
Humpback whale  Megapterea novaeangliae
California sea lion Zalophus californianus
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus
Brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Harbor seal Phoca vitulina
Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens
Moon jellies Aurelia aurita
Egg yolk jellies Phacellophora camtschatica 

Questions of the Day 
Try this experiment to test sound waves.  Get two bricks or two, 4 inch pieces of 2 x 4 wood blocks. Stand 50 ft opposite a classroom wall, and clap the boards together. Have others stand at the wall so they can see when you clap. Listen for an echo.  Keep moving away and periodically clap again. At some distance, the sound of the clap will hit their ears after you actually finish clapping. With enough distance, the clap will actually be heard after your hands have been brought back out after coming together.

  1. Can you calculate the speed of the sound wave that you generated?
  2. Under what conditions might that speed be changed?
  3. Would weather conditions, which might change the amount of moisture in the air, change the speed?