NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Fulmar
July 23–29, 2013
Mission: ACCESS (Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies) to monitor ecosystem health in the national marine sanctuaries off the central and northern California
Date: Friday, July 26, 2013
- Wind Speed: 7.8 kts
- Surface Water Temperature: 58.3 Degrees Fahrenheit
- Air Temperature: 55.4 Degrees Fahrenheit
- Relative Humidity: 90%
- Barometric Pressure: 30.05 in
Science and Technology Log:
ACCESS is a project that contributes to a regional characterization and monitoring of the physical and biological components of the pelagic ecosystem of Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and northern Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. During our cruise we are collecting data in these sanctuaries. Over the last three days I have observed and helped the ACCESS scientists collect physical, chemical, and biological properties of the water, plankton, marine mammals, and sea birds. Each of these are measured by a different ACCESS team of researchers in a different area of the research vessel, R/V Fulmar.
Plankton and water are collected and measured on the back deck of the ship. The water is measured in a few ways. First, a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) and Niskin are lowered into the water between 35- 200 meters depending on the location on the line and depth of the water. The CTD measures the conductivity to calculate salinity, temperature, and relative depth within the water column. The Niskin collects a water sample at the same location as the CTD. These water samples are to tested for pH to measure the acidity of the water. Finally, Dru Devlin and I are collecting a surface water sample for nutrients and a phytoplankton samples for the California Department of Public Health, as part of an early warning program for harmful algal blooms that can impact the shellfish we eat.
There are four different plankton collections. The first collection is with a small hoop net (0.5 meter diameter) used to sample very small plankton, from where foraminifera will be separated later in the lab. Foraminifera shell morphology and the oxygen isotopes of the shell are examined to investigate past and present climates and impacts of acidity on shell formation. Next, a larger hoop net (1 meter diameter) collects samples of plankton in the upper 50 m of the water, which will be used to investigate the abundance, species, reproductive patterns, and locations. When the research vessel was close to the end of the line and the continental shelf, the Tucker Trawl was released to collect three samples of plankton near the bottom. When we processed these samples the majority of the organisms were krill. Finally, Dru Devlin and I collected plankton samples 30 feet below the surface to send to the California Department of Health Services because they are interested in the presence and abundance of species that produce toxins.
On the top deck, the ACCESS observers watch for marine mammals and sea birds and call them out to the data recorder to log the sightings into a waterproof computer. This data will be used to relate the spatial patterns of bird and mammal distribution with oceanographic patterns and to understand the seasonal changes in the pelagic ecosystem.
My favorite sighting so far was the leatherback sea turtle. Seven years ago and last summer I took a group of Berkeley High School students to Costa Rica to participate in a sea turtle conservation project with Ecology Project International. On these trips we saw a female leatherback laying her eggs and a hatchling making its way to the ocean. It was great to see the next stage of development when the leatherback popped its head out of the water several hundred miles from their breeding grounds.
Did you know?
Humpback Whales have bad breath? Yesterday we got to smell it first hand when two humpback whales decided to circle our boat and were close enough for us to smell their breath. It’s like rotting fish and sour milk mixed together.