Michael Wing: Seabirds to starboard, whales and seals to port, July 18, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michael Wing
Aboard R/V Fulmar
July 17 – 25, 2015

Mission: 2015 July ACCESS Cruise
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean west of the Golden Gate Bridge
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind Southeast, ten knots. Wind waves less than two feet. Swell 4-6 feet ten seconds. Patchy morning fog.

Michael Wing and Fulmar
Michael Wing and the R/V Fulmar

Science and Technology Log

We loaded the boat yesterday at 3:00 PM and I met a lot of people including the three co-principal investigators Jan Roletto of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Danielle Lipski of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and Jaime Jahncke of Point Blue Conservation Science. There are others, including volunteers and visitors, and I will try to introduce some of them in future posts.

Today we didn’t collect water or plankton samples. We’ll do that tomorrow.  We sailed west from the Golden Gate Bridge on a track called “Line 5” at ten knots until we passed the edge of the continental shelf and then dropped south and cruised back to our dock in Sausalito on another line called “Line 7.” Plankton and water samples are for the even-numbered lines. Our purpose today was to count seabirds, whales and seals and sea lions. It’s not simple. By 7:30 AM we are assembled on the “flying bridge” (the highest part of the boat) with Jaime and the Greater Farallones Association’s Kirsten Lindquist on the starboard side and volunteers Jason Thompson and Rudy Wallen on the port. Kirsten notes birds, focusing just on the area from dead ahead to the starboard beam and calls out things like “Common murre, zone two, thirteen, flying, bearing 330 degrees.” This means she saw thirteen common murres flying northwest together not too far from the boat. This time is called being “on effort” and she is really focused on it. I don’t talk to her unless spoken to. Jamie enters all this into a database on his laptop.

On bird patol
On bird patrol

The guys on the port side are doing the same thing for marine mammals and saying “Animal, by eye, bearing 320, reticle seven, traveling, immature California sea lion, one-one-one.” These last numbers are estimates of the most probable number of animals in the group, and maximum and minimum estimates. Obviously, in this example just one animal was seen.

I am in awe of their ability to identify species, maturity and other things from just a glimpse. Kirsten can tell the difference between a Western gull and a California gull from hundreds of feet away, even if the gull is flying away from her. They also record floating trash, dead animals, and boats and ships.

So what are we seeing? Common murres, western gulls, California gulls, Sabine’s gulls, sooty shearwaters, pink footed shearwaters, storm petrels, black footed albatrosses, red necked phalaropes, tufted puffins, Pacific white sided dolphins, northern fur seals, a bottlenose dolphin, humpback whales, a dead seal, Mola molas (ocean sunfish), one flying fish, mylar balloons (4), a paper cup, a piece of Styrofoam. The flying fish was totally unexpected because they are mostly tropical and everyone talked about it all afternoon.

Port side
The port (left) side is for spotting marine mammals

Some of these birds have come here from Chile, New Zealand, or Hawaii in their “off” (non-breeding) season because there is a world-class food supply here for them. The sooty shearwaters start in New Zealand and fly to Japan, to Alaskan waters, and then down the west coast of North America before returning to New Zealand across the Pacific! However, a lot of these were far away. Visually, the ocean looks pretty empty from the flying bridge.

striped crab
This little crab was clinging to a piece of kelp we caught with a boat hook

Personal Log

The specter of seasickness haunts us on the first day of a cruise. Most of us are snacking on starchy treats like pretzels and Cheez-Its and drinking carbonated drinks. Paradoxically, these foods help prevent nausea. I have not taken any seasickness medicine and I am feeling a little queasy during the morning, but by noon I feel great. Nobody throws up. The Fulmar doesn’t roll from side to side very much but she does lurch when smacked head-on by a wave. It helps that the waves weren’t very big today. Soon we’ll all get our “sea legs.”

Also, you might appreciate these photos of me getting into a “Gumby suit” in under a minute, as part of my safety training. This is a survival suit meant to keep you from freezing to death if the boat sinks. You have to be able to get into it in less than a minute.

survival suit
Getting into the survival suit. I have 1 minute, and the suit is stiff. Photo credit: Ryan Hartnett
into survival suit
I am into the survival suit. Photo credit: Ryan Hartnett

Did You Know? Here’s what you need to untangle fishing nets from a frustrated humpback whale: Boathooks, sharp knives, and a GoPro digital camera on the end of a pole. The GoPro helps you study the tangles so you can decide where to make that one cut that causes the whole mess to fall apart and off the whale.

 

life ring
R/V Fulmar’s life ring

Susan Kaiser: Introduction: A 7th Grade Memory, June 26, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Kaiser
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 24 – August 4, 2012

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical area of the cruise: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A California coast tide pool.
A California coast tide pool.
Can you find the Sculpin fish?

My first ocean encounter happened while on an overnight field-trip to San Francisco in 7thgrade. Our Science Club traveled from Reno, Nevada by school bus to visit a museum, the Fisherman’s Wharf, and the tide pools on the coast. I had no idea how this experience would eventually impact my life. Our teachers, who were our guides, lead the group to a steep drop off where the land ends and the beach lies below.  Carefully we picked our way single file down a worn path cutting through a sea of ice plants descending slowly to the sandy shore. Outcroppings of rocks trapped the cold ocean water, forming small natural containers for water AND living sea organisms.  We had to step carefully to be sure of our footing and to avoid crushing the live inhabitants of these rocks. California mussels closed tight to preserve their moisture, and slippery seaweed covered most of the rock surface. They were waiting for the sea level to rise again. Peering into the sparkling pools revealed spiny purple sea urchins, colorful sea stars and tiny crabs, betrayed by their movement across the pool bottom. Seeing these organisms up close was amazing to me and created a lifelong memory.  It awakened a curiosity about living things that inspired me to study biology in college and become a science teacher.

I am Susan Kaiser and I teach 7th grade Life Science at Pine Middle School in Reno, Nevada. Soon, I will be embarking on a voyage that combines all of these elements: biology, sea organisms and teaching. It promises to be even more memorable than my first trip to a tide pool.  Best of all, I get to bring my students at Pine along with me! Well, at least through this blog…read along and see what is in store.

Since, 1990 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has been including teachers on board their research vessels through a unique program called Teacher at Sea. Each year teachers apply from across the county and about 25 are selected to participate. After several years of wanting to apply, I finally mustered my courage and completed an application. I am proud to have been selected and will sail aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster leaving from the port of Key West, Florida.  I will have the opportunity to observe and learn about organisms in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary with the help of the crew and scientists led by chief scientist, Scott Donahue. Their research includes monitoring sensitive marine organisms over a long period of time. In this way, scientists can detect population changes that may occur due to extreme events such as hurricanes, harmful algal blooms (HAB) or more recently, impacts of possible oil spill contamination. You can see that I have some homework to do to prepare for this adventure. I am reading the websites you can click on and learning all I can to contribute to the success of the mission.

Kaiser Family snorkeling in 2005
Here we are snorkeling and meeting a ray in 2005! That is me on the left. Then my sons, Nathan and Stefan, my daughter, Rachel, and my husband , Phillip.

If it could get any more exciting, I saved the biggest news for last. In addition to working alongside the scientists and living on an ocean-going vessel for two weeks,  I may also have the opportunity to snorkel in the coral reef study areas. To be truthful, my snorkeling skills are a little rusty. Living in the desert makes it a challenge to stay in practice! The last time I snorkeled was on a family vacation in 2005. But not to worry, I have a plan. I have been spending time at the pool practicing with the snorkel equipment I borrowed from my friend and colleague at Pine Middle School, Jencie Fagan. It turns out that Ms. Fagan is SCUBA certified and willing to help me build my skills before I set sail next month. Thank you Ms. Fagan, you rock!

My snorkeling tutor
Me and my snorkeling tutor, Jencie Fagan.
Photo by Larissa Hirning

It is time for my practice session at the pool. The next time you read my blog I will be writing from the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Join me on this  adventure of ocean learning. What memory will you make of your 7th grade year in Science?

Jillian Worssam, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 30, 2008

Today is our last day at sea. We are scheduled to arrive at Dutch Harbor tomorrow morning at 09:00, and I am a bit sad. After 27 days I feel a part of a new family and do not think I can ever thank the scientists or the crew of the HEALY enough for the amazing experience they have provided.

David has many boxes all getting ready for the trip back to Seattle in ...October
David has many boxes all getting ready for the trip back to Seattle in …October

I have learned science about the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf, I have learned dynamics about the U.S. Coast Guard. The science leaves me wanting more, to delve a bit deeper into this amazing ecosystem that I know so little. The Coast Guard makes me want to talk to students, to let them know about the remarkable career options they could have, and the benefits of such an exciting job.

With a scientific tool for filtering water Chief Gray and I had some photographic fun!
With a scientific tool for filtering water Chief Gray and I had some photographic fun!

Everyone works hard to get the research of science accomplished on a cruise like this, but it is important to also have time for play, and to laugh. I have laughed a lot this month, laughed at three in the morning when I grabbed a stinging jelly fish, laughed at eleven at night when I lost in a game of cribbage, I especially laughed when we played a five person round of running ping pong, that also involved spinning. I almost threw up with that one, but the laughter was the most prevalent action.

Rich is working hard handling the crane to move the now empty MOCNESS, but he too has a great sense of humor!
Rich is working hard handling the crane to move the now empty MOCNESS, but he too has a great sense of humor!
As the crane swings the MOCNESS to its resting point for the enxt three months we watch and say farewell!
As the crane swings the MOCNESS to its resting point for the enxt three months we watch and say farewell!
The nets have been removed and now the MOCNESS is ready for a rest, I am too.
The nets have been removed and now the MOCNESS is ready for a rest, I am too.
Day is done, and as the sun sets I have fond memories of the past, and great expectations for the future!
Day is done, and as the sun sets I have fond memories of the past, and great expectations for the future!

**Quote of the Day: **

Never look back, use the knowledge you have gained to move forward. Never question decisions you have made, learn from them even if the lessons were hard.

And never forget, for it is the life that we live that gives meaning to our lives! ~Jillian Worssam

Jillian Worssam, July 29, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 29, 2008

was told yesterday that if you want too much, or have expectations too high you will be disappointed.  Well I disagree.  I believe in going full tilt into everything I do, and well, I want to do pretty much everything.

We have two more full days at sea and still I am learning.  Yesterday was busy for me, a 22 hour busy day.  The funny thing is, I slept in until 8:30 am, but didn’t go to bed until 6:30 this morning.

MK2 Jeffrey Coombe covered in grease after he emerges from the depths of the engine.
MK2 Jeffrey Coombe covered in grease after he emerges from the depths of the engine.

It all started with the Webinar and ended with three successive MOCNESS as Alexei tried unsuccessfully to catch pregnant Krill.  But I digress.  Yes the science is winding down, but there is still so much to do.  After the webinar I went to the engine room to watch the successful removal of a piston cylinder liner in one of the four main engines.  Salt water is used to cool fresh water to cool, I think, jacket water that cools the engine.  This is not a typical repair while at sea, but the engineering team in charge knew exactly what they were doing and proceeded with care and skill.

That is actually MKC John Brogan in the Engine.
That is actually MKC John Brogan in the Engine.

After the engine room, and dinner I joined FN Angela Ford as she did her TOW rounds.  The TOW (technician of the Watch) is responsible for walking the ship from stern to bow, covering all engineering spaces.  The TOWs are looking for water leaks, electrical concerns, fire, pretty much everything and anything out of place or potentially hazardous.  Even though I had already taken a tour of the vessel this trip was predominantly focused on safety and I was able to see new spaces I had not previously ventured into.

There is a right and wrong way to open, enter and leave all hatches aboard an ocean going vessel.
There is a right and wrong way to open, enter and leave all hatches aboard an ocean going vessel.

We even managed to find a crew member I had not previously met, Oscar.  This poor headless fellow is used in man overboard drills as well as other casualty drills during the voyage.  Oscar is also no light weight, weighing in at over 50 lbs he is a great way to practice and for crew members to realize what it would be like to actually work on an injured individual.

Oscar is also the designation of the flag flown when there is a man overboard.
Oscar is also the designation of the flag flown when there is a man overboard.

But the day is not over yet, we still had THREE MOCNESS drills to complete.  Alexei wants to find pregnant krill so that he can develop a baseline for aging.  Unfortunately after over four and a half hours of work all we had to show for our labors were some shrimp and krill that were not pregnant, bummer.

This could be a scientist, or a crew member, all we know is that the past 29 days have worked them to exhaustion!
This could be a scientist, or a crew member, all we know is that the past 29 days have worked them to exhaustion!

Quote of the Day: The “Control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.      Rachel Carson

FOR MY STUDENTS: Please find three authors who predominantly write about knowledge and preservation of the earth’s ecosystems and the species within.

Jillian Worssam, July 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 28, 2008

Today will be the last installment of my meet the crew Monday.  There are so many people that I would love to interview and share in this forum, but there is just not enough time in the day.

To start today we have MK1 Allan Whiting, and an amazing list of responsibilities he and his department have on board.  MK stands for machinery technician, and is within the engineering division. Allan’s “A gang” is responsible for EVERYTHING that doesn’t move the ship, thus auxiliary equipment, refrigeration, cranes, hydraulics, water (can make up to 8000 gallons of drinking water a day), winches, therefor a lot of responsibility.

Working on refrigeration is only one part of his job!
Working on refrigeration is only one part of his job!

I think I have previously talked about the scientists as being a web of different fields that drive a bigger picture of how this entire Bering Sea Shelf Ecosystem is changing and adapting with global climate differences.  Well the vessel is not too dissimilar.  Each person, each division is a vital link to the effective and smooth running of the ship, and if the vessel didn’t work, neither would the scientists.

Another responsibility for the “A gang” is the transfer of the starting 1.3 million gallons of fuel from storage tanks while we are underway.  These “A Gang” members are the “FOWK’s” of the vessel; Fuel, Oil, Water, Kings,” and out technical gurus should any fuel casualty occur.  So as you can tell a lot of responsibility with this department.

Where Allan is a lead with the “A Gang,” EM1 Hans Shaffer works with all things wires.  Yes, he is one of our electrical specialists and if it generates, or uses power Hans is part of the team that is responsible for making sure it works.  From all monitoring systems, to the propulsion and even lighting systems, without the electricians the ship wouldn’t move.

While working on the cyclo-converter I stood way back!
While working on the cyclo-converter I stood way back!

Hans also works with the cyclo-converters, and I must be honest, I know that they take 1444 volts at 60 hrtz and convert it to usable power, but that is about all.  This technology is one that I have never studied.  It is a shocking shame I am not more wired in on the intricacies of electricity.  All I know is this electricity is directly proportional to the speed of the propellers and for a vessel, propeller speed is very important.

I usually do only two people on my meet the Crew Mondays, but today I would like to add two more individuals into the mix.  There is camaraderie on this vessel that is amazing, it really is a family.  And a family that exponentially doubles every thirty days or so with the advent of the scientists, yet still all are welcome.  Smiles abound and I have not once felt unwelcome.

FN Angela Ford learning how to operate the winches with excellent guidance from MST1 Chuck Bartlett.
FN Angela Ford learning how to operate the winches with excellent guidance from MST1 Chuck Bartlett.

FN Angela Ford is one of those people who always has a smile, and who appears to always be learning new skills.  Angela started out in the deck department, and then transferred to engineering (which I have heard is a bit difficult to do).  Angela is also studying to get rated as an YN3, Yeoman third class.  If you see Angela she is either studying, doing rounds with engineering or learning new components of the vessel.  Yesterday while in Aft-Con Angela was supported by the MST crew and took a hand at running the winch to deploy and retrieve the CTD, it was great to watch.  Under the guidance of MST1 Chuck Bartlett, Angela jumped right in, ready to learn something new.  As an educator I was not only impressed with her desire to learn, but Chuck’s patience in teaching.  The whole experience was an educational gift!

XO Commander Bateman teaching me how to make a delicious pie.
XO Commander Bateman teaching me how to make a delicious pie.

Unfortunately I could not stay too long, because I had my own educational experience waiting for me.  The XO, Commander Dale Bateman was preparing to give me a lesson in making a Chocolate French Silk Pie.  Ok, get that smile off your face, because, well, let me tell you, it was one of the tastiest lessons I have had in a while.

For those interested here is the recipe:

(multiply all ingredients times 3 for a standard pie crust)

½ cup butter

½ cup sugar

1 oz chocolate

1 egg

A smidgen of brown sugar

A splash of vanilla

To make this recipe, you first construct a pie crust, then in a mixer blend the butter and sugar.  According to the XO, you can never blend too much.  Add the chocolate and blend, add the eggs and blend some more.  To be precise once all the ingredients are in the bowl blend for at least 15 more minutes, you want this no bake wonder to be frothy and smooth.  Place in a refrigerator over night, and in two hours I will be able to get a piece of our masterpiece, and let you know how the finished product tastes.

Meet 1C Jennifer Peterson a senior at the Coast Guard Academy and MK3 Betty Brown, always smiling these two are.
Meet 1C Jennifer Peterson a senior at the Coast Guard Academy and MK3 Betty Brown, always smiling these two are.

I would like to add a special thanks to all those who participated in the webinar today.  It was wonderful to hear your voices, and even better to share with you this amazing adventure of discovery I have been fortunate enough to experience, thank you!

Quote of the Day:  Since water still flows, though we cut it with swords.  And sorrow returns, though we drown it with wine, since the world in no way answers to our craving, I will loosen my hair tomorrow and take to a fishing boat. – Li Po

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Are you prepared for school in two weeks?

Jillian Worssam, July 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 27, 2008

Today is Sunday, and there is change in the air. For one, we have left the sun and re-entered fog. We have also started the 70 meter line back to Dutch Harbor. A large portion of the scientists have completed their work, and each station is now predominantly the CTD, calvet, and optics. With three days left, the tenor of the vessel is mellow, the frenzy of departure just a warm memory. Three full days and then on the morning of the 31st we arrive in Dutch Harbor. I am not ready to leave; there is still much to learn, and this goodbye will be bittersweet. Needless to say I need to get busy; there are words to be written.

U.S. Coast Guard Healy
U.S. Coast Guard Healy

I recently received a blog asking questions about the vessel and yes, I have been lax about sharing information about the HEALY and what it is like to live on a four hundred and twenty foot cruising scientific ice breaking mobile command center that floats!

Here are the facts: –Four decks are dedicated to berthing –The Main deck is predominantly the Galley forward, the Engine space a mid ship and the science labs aft. –There are three more decks below the main deck and the bridge above the 04 deck. It is approximately 70 feet from the bridge to the water line. –There is a helicopter hanger and flight deck.

The flight deck without a helicopter is perfect for social functions.
The flight deck without a helicopter is perfect for social functions.

Each deck has shared open space all with TV, computers and other lounge type equipment

With the permission of the room mates here is a corner of a crew room, quite large.
With the permission of the room mates here is a corner of a crew room, quite large.

There is a weight room far forward and a cardio room off the flight deck aft.

With a tv and all this equipment, anyone would be happy here!
With a tv and all this equipment, anyone would be happy here!

And the best of all, there are mapped out distances on the weather deck for those who wish to jog (stairs are part of the experience) –Don’t forget the ships store, they even have latte!

Hi Andy, any new merchandise today? hehehe
Hi Andy, any new merchandise today? hehehe

There it is the bare bones of the HEALY, plenty of places to go, lots of things to do. Bingo on the mess deck every Saturday, ping pong in the hanger. Not a moment passes when I am not trying something new.

Everything on a sea going vessel is always strapped down.
Everything on a sea going vessel is always strapped down.

Even as the science of our cruise slows down my days are full. There is much still to learn and experience. This afternoon I was able to assist the XO in making a chocolate silk pie…tomorrow we eat!

I am in heaven licking the beaters, and chocolate, perfect!
I am in heaven licking the beaters, and chocolate, perfect!

 

Nautical Expression: “Square Meal” originally when ships were close enough of shore to get fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fare. The meals were served hot on square plates., thus a healthy most nutritious meal was a square meal.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Think up an entire square meal based only on items you can eat from the sea?

Jillian Worssam, July 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 26, 2008

Saturday’s on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY are morale dinner nights. This is when different divisions within the crew prepare, cook and then clean up the evening meal. Well today was the scientists turn, and under the direction of Scott Hiller game on!Right after lunch was served and cleaned, it was our turn to invade the galley. Let’s see, hamburgers, dogs, salmon patties…to start. Potato salad, pasta salad, green salad, and baked beans, were just a few of the accessories. For dessert apple crisp (my contribution) with vanilla ice cream.

It was a lot of fun working with happy people in making other people happy!
It was a lot of fun working with happy people in making other people happy!

When I say we invaded the galley, we really did. Kristen Blattner and I took charge of the crisp, we recruited Chris Moser and the pealing began. There are two types of crisp, the home version when the cook is too lazy to peel apples, and then the social version, naked apples. Once we had our large supply of pealed, cut apples I started the crisp, and having never made such a large quantity before was blown away by the volume of ingredients used.

Grilling the burgers
Grilling the burgers

Once all the fixings were completed it was up to the flight deck. Now was the time for Pat and John to work on grilling the burgers. I managed to get a quick “calvet” in and then helped with the set up.

The clock struck five, crew and scientists arrived, dinner was served. It was a beautiful sunny day, calm seas, perfect picnic weather. No fog in sight.

With all sorts of tasty morsels, no one should have left hungry.
With all sorts of tasty morsels, no one should have left hungry.
As far as morale evenings went, I think this one was pretty good. After dinner bingo was on, and then at eight o’clock a movie in the hanger. We might be on a four hundred twenty foot ice breaker, but that does not limit anyone in the pursuit of “good morale!”
With plates laden, the crew and scientists alike sit down for a glorious evening on board the HEALY.
With plates laden, the crew and scientists alike sit down for a glorious evening on board the HEALY.

Quote of the Day: It’s so bright out my face hurts. Rachel Pleuthner

FOR MY STUDENTS: Imagine it is the start of the day and you have worked all night, what would be your quote for the day?

Lots of hands made the clean up quick and easy.
Lots of hands made the clean up quick and easy.

Jillian Worssam, July 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 25, 2008

As you might be able to tell, I am about a day behind in my journaling so I thought this would be a perfect time to really explain my “typical” day. One of the hardest parts of explaining a classic day is knowing when to start, because I go to bed when most people are getting up, soooo I will start at six o’clock in the morning and give you a glimpse into a typical twenty four hours.

I have always hated making the bed, now I can just close the curtains.
I have always hated making the bed, now I can just close the curtains.

06:00 Between six and seven in the morning we will have completed our scientific sampling station so I go to bed. There is no fanfare, I collapse!

11:00 The alarm usually rings by eleven, I head down for my breakfast/lunch (today I had chicken nuggets and fries, I know I have a lot of running to catch up on)

Washing down the nets with salt water for any additional copepods.
Washing down the nets with salt water for any additional copepods.

12:00 Alexei finally trusts me so I take the day shift of deploying, retrieving and collecting the samples from the calvet. Yesterday I did approximately five stations, each 1.5 hours apart. Today I had the calvet stations and managed to squeeze in observing a casualty drill in the “bow thruster void.” This was a training drill, flooding in the compartment with an injury. After watching the drill I returned to the back deck for another calvet.

Notice the size of the hatch, not an easy rescue for an injured person.
Notice the size of the hatch, not an easy rescue for an injured person.

17:00 Dinner, even if I am not hungry no way will I miss this social experience. After dinner Alexei returns and I get work on my journals, talking with scientists interviewing the crew, learning more about how this amazing vessel works. (might squeeze a trip to aloft con to visit with Gary)

20:00 A trip to the mess deck reveals a heated game of trivial pursuit, though my journal is incomplete I sit in for an hour.

22:00 My head is falling over, I need a nap, off to my room for a two hour refresher.

23:00 If interested, Mid-Rats are being offered, our fourth meal of the day.

00:00 Is that my alarm, yes, time to check when the MOCNESS will deploy, night time fishing. As most of Alexei’s team left a week ago I am actually needed, it feels great. While waiting to deploy I again try to work on my journal, and squeeze in a game of cribbage.

After the sampling tow and the work of processing samples begins.
After the sampling tow and the work of processing samples begins.

03:30 We get the deploy signal, and start to fish with the MOCNESS. Remember we are fishing for micro-zooplankton, so no big fish at all. Some evenings the tow is late and we do not begin the station until after four.

06:00 If I am lucky back to bed. There is something to be said for not missing anything and it has been very important to me that I see everything. This is a once in a life time experience, to miss even a single moment would be a moment lost. Oh and I pretty much always skip breakfast at seven, I am unconscious by then. And showering, I will hold off on that story.

Just another wonderful sight from the HEALY.
Just another wonderful sight from the HEALY.

Quote of the Day: Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man ~ who has no gills. Ambrose Bierce

FOR MY STUDENTS: It is summer, what has been your busiest day, why?

Jillian Worssam, July 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

While looking at the collected sediment trap, it is obvious that many unsuspecting pieces of debris were caught within its clutches.
While looking at the collected sediment trap, it is obvious that many unsuspecting pieces of debris were caught within its clutches.

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 24, 2008

One of the pleasures while at sea is the concept of time; which is in a word, timeless. Last night the sun set around three in the morning, and if you had asked me what day it was when I went to bed, I could not have answered. I know the date because I made files prior to this cruise so that I could keep track, in some infinitesimal way, of my journals. Right now I know for sure that I am a day behind in writing, that the cruise will be over in less than a week, I still have a lot more science to learn and this afternoon I am making Apple Crisp for the Morale dinner. These things I know, what I am still learning is the science of a sediment trap.Pat Kelly is from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, and he is here, in part, to collect sediment samples that float in the ocean.

There are many components to the research Pat is working on; one is in collecting particles sinking vertically in the ocean. By using an established brine (denser NaCl) solution in an array of floating tubes Pat is able to catch these falling sediments. The process is to deploy his trap, a series of tubes for the falling sediments held aloft by floats that drift in the ocean, for no more than 24 hours.

After the brine from the sediment trap is filtered and dried the collected sediments will be analyzed.
After the brine from the sediment trap is filtered and dried the collected sediments will be analyzed.

When collected, Pat will remove the sediments from the brine, looking at the thorium and organic carbon, there is a relationship between these two elements and Pat wants to focus particularly on the carbon. Now this is where it gets sticky for me as I am not a chemical oceanographer. Pat is looking at the carbon flux. The team wants to look at the carbon transfer as it changes from atmospheric carbon, to organic carbon in the oceans, thus taking it out of the carbon cycle.

The scientists making sure the trap is ready before being deployed off the back deck of the vessel.
The scientists making sure the trap is ready before being deployed off the back deck of the vessel.

One of the underlying questions in this component of the HEALY research is how the oceans will respond to all the increased carbon due to global climate change. Pat’s group is actually looking at carbon cycling in many different oceans, with their hypothesis: The arctic will respond faster to increases in carbon (changes more apparent, faster), due to decreased ice, and the fact that it is dark for ½ the year. Think of it this way, after a long dark winter with good nutrient build up, a higher yield is to be expected with 24 hours of sunlight. The sinking particles Pat studies are also very important to the benthos species providing nutrients and food as they sink.

The scientists are carefully retrieving the tubes of brine that for the past 24 hours have collected ocean sediments.
The scientists are carefully retrieving the tubes of brine that for the past 24 hours have collected ocean sediments.

Like many of the scientists on board, Pat is doing multiple investigations. The ocean as I talked about before is layered and Pat’s team is looking at productivity in the mixed layer using 02 isotopes. This data will give the scientists the rate that phytoplankton is growing.

The team also uses radium isotopes to estimate advection of deep water to the surface along the shelf break. The information will tie in with the scientists studying iron. There is belief that the iron is up welled from the sediments in the deep water to the surface layers.

I am still learning about the chemistry of ocean science, and do not fully understand all of Pat’s research. I do though see that everything is intimately linked, that all components of this ecosystem are dependent upon each other and if one component is changed then ALL will change as well.

I hope to never be so jaded as to not appreciate the beauty in nature.
I hope to never be so jaded as to not appreciate the beauty in nature.

Quote of the Day: Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. -William Wordsworth

FOR MY STUDENTS: No question for today, go out and enjoy the sunset!

Jillian Worssam, July 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 23, 2008

Last night I went to bed at four, my wake up call was for seven forty five this morning, needless to say if I have a little difficulty explaining micro-zooplankton there is an excuse.Today I am spending time with Diane Stoeker and Kristen Blattner, both from The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

If she is not at the computer Diane is either at the microscope, the incubators or working on her phytoplankton experiments.
If she is not at the computer Diane is either at the microscope, the incubators or working on her phytoplankton experiments.

Diane and Kristen are studying phytoplankton and micro-zooplankton, and it is amazing how these small components of an oceanic ecosystem are vital for the survival of pretty much the entire environment. Diatoms are small single-celled organisms, called phytoplankton. Diane is studying how fast phytoplankton are eaten by micro zooplankton, and how this “grazing” effects phytoplankton populations.

It is a long process to measure water and extract chlorophyll, Kristen is up for the challenge.
It is a long process to measure water and extract chlorophyll, Kristen is up for the challenge.

Let’s try a visual

Phytoplankton = the microscopic “plants” of the ocean. These organisms photosynthesize and drift with the current. Although some phytoplankton do have locomotive capabilities they cannot swim again the current.

Diatoms are a type of phytoplankton. Zooplankton = small animals who also move with currents and eat phytoplankton as well as micro-zooplankton.

Now enter Diane and Kristen, they look at phytoplankton to find out what is eating them, predominantly micro-zooplankton, and are even looking at their relationship with zooplankton pee and how it might work as a fertilizer for phytoplankton. What these ladies do is collect samples of sea water once a day. They use a mixture of 20% whole sea water and 80% filtered sea water (which removes most of the algae, copepods and protozoa), and a 100% whole sea water sample.

This is part of the larval stage, nauplius of a copepod.
This is part of the larval stage, nauplius of a copepod.

Kristin then strains both types of water pre and post incubation, and will compare the chlorophyll samples. What Kristin is hoping for is that after 24 hours there will be more chlorophyll in the 20/80 sample indicating greater phytoplankton growth, due in part, to the fact that there are fewer predators (micro-zooplankton) in this water. Micro-zooplankton eat nearly 50-60% of the phytoplankton, which they are fertilizing at the same time. This relationship is fundamental to a healthy oceanic ecosystem; you could even say these micro-zooplankton help sustain the growth if phytoplankton in the ocean.

After the 24 hour incubation, samples are taken for further study back at the lab. One specimen they often see is a heterotrophic dinoflagellate. This guy has no chlorophyll and wants to eat phytoplankton; it is in other words a micro-zooplankton.

This little gem does not photosynthesize and locomotors by the little hair like tenacles.
This little gem does not photosynthesize and locomotors by the little hair like tenacles.

As I look at the pictures Diane has taken, I am transported to a word that is so small that to tell the difference between plant is animal is very difficult.

Isn't this a great looking microzooplankton, can you see how it moves?
Isn’t this a great looking microzooplankton, can you see how it moves?

Quote of the Day: The great sea has sent me adrift, it moves me, it moves me, as the weed in a great river. Earth and the great weather move me, have carried me away and moved my inward parts with joy. Uvavnuk Eskimo Song

FOR MY STUDENTS: What other areas of study can we focus on while using microscopes?

Jillian Worssam, July 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 22, 2008

I have spent the past twenty days discussing science and life aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Ice Breaker, and do not think I have done justice to the “WHY” I am here, and the “WHAT” this will tell us.A grant was written for an extensive five year study of the Eastern Bering Sea shelf, (BEST)The Bering Ecosystem Study. This program involves the collaboration of many scientists, and multiple agencies that research marine ecosystems.

Can you believe it is only ten o'clock at night?
Can you believe it is only ten o’clock at night?

One component of this cruise which I find extremely fascinating is the link between all the sciences of the scientists. It is as if the HEALY is its own food web. Water samples that the krill grazers use are also vital for people studying oxygen, in turn used by people studying phytoplankton, and again by those studying the benthic region, and again by scientists looking at nutrients. Where each team of scientists has their own particular niche of study, or specialty, all together they are making a collaborative map or picture representing the Bering Ecosystem. This data will be used as a benchmark for future research while adding significantly to the knowledge base provided by decades of previous Bering Sea research. The Earth is changing. For scientists it is important to see how these changes will affect the health and productivity of different ecosystems.

From aloft-con the viewing is endless, especially on such a marvelous day
From aloft-con the viewing is endless, especially on such a marvelous day

Today I spent some time with two scientists on board the HEALY that we have not yet met, one of the ornithologists and the mammalogist. First there is Gary Friedrechsen, he spends his day in “aloft-con,” approximately 25 feet above the ship’s bridge, in a little room with a glorious view of the sea. Gary is looking for right whales and works for the National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of NOAA, and “right” now is looking for the “rights!” Historically considered the “right” whale to hunt due to the fact that they did not sink when harpooned, these majestic beauties were hunted to the brink of extinction. Gary is on the HEALY hoping to get a glimpse of the remnant northwest population who are believed to number less than one hundred. These whales have not been seen in quite some time with surveys dating from 2005 with no whale sightings.

This fall the northwest marine mammal lab will even hire a crab boat out of Dutch Harbor and dedicate two months to finding this illusive pod. The BEST cruise is very diverse because we will now go down the stairs from “aloft-con” to the bridge and there is Tom van Pelt, marine scientist for BSIERP ( Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program). Tom spends his day recording bird species found in a 300 meter sampling area port side of the center line of the ship. He uses specialized computer software to log all observations; so that once he enters his user input the computer will attach the longitude, latitude, weather data, and seas to each of his sightings. One of the goals in his part of this project is to try and understand where birds and mammals are feeding. Zooplankton, phytoplankton, even ocean currents all directly drive sea bird distribution, so correlating the observed species with all the other scientific data collected during the day really does allow for the development of an excellent ecosystem model.

When the fog rolls in it is hard to spot bird species, when it rolls out, the landscape is glorious.
When the fog rolls in it is hard to spot bird species, when it rolls out, the landscape is glorious.

One of the great components of the BEST/BSIERP study is that time was written into the grant to take the data collected by the various scientific teams and compile the results. Often grants do not have a lot of analysis time, and in this case there will be a synthesis between all the different teams to make a comprehensive document on the current state of the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf.

The time is always close to four in the morning when the back deck comes alive with the dancing of the "euphas-ettes."
The time is always close to four in the morning when the back deck comes alive with the dancing of the “euphas-ettes.”

Hopefully by 2012 this integrated study will provide a model of the Bering Sea from the benthic regions to the surface and above showing the relationships between marine species and ALL ecosystem components that affect and change living conditions.

A little salty, very wiggly, definitely a one time only experience.
A little salty, very wiggly, definitely a one time only experience.

But again, all work and no play, makes Jillian sad…

**Poem of the Day: ** Wild Nights! by Emily Dickinson Wild Nights! Wild Nights! Were I with thee, Wild Nights should be Our luxury! Futile the winds To a heart in port, — Done with the compass, Done with the chart! Rowing in Eden! Ah! the sea! Might I but moor To-night in Thee!

FOR MY STUDENTS: Could we develop an ecosystem study for the area surrounding school to include the pond, and Mars Hill?

Jillian Worssam, July 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 21, 2008

Today is “Meet the crew Monday,” and the two sections you will meet today are both fundamental to the smooth running of the HEALY. One, you never want to visit, the other you visit three to four times a day, so with that introduction meet the “Galley, with Tysin Alley” Due to the great quality of the food I usually make it to the galley at least two and in some instances for three meals a day. I am also up most nights and I do not think a day has gone by when I have NOT seen Tysin cooking. He is always there, baking pies, cleaning, boiling crab legs the man never stops.

Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.
Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.

When living aboard a floating ice breaker, kilometers from land out for 30 days you need to think of priorities, yes maps and scientific operations are important, but full bellies vital. No one wants to work when they are hungry. And to be honest I think many individuals are gaining weight, especially with four meals a day.

There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.
There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.

There is not a time, 24 seven when food is not accessible. Bread and the fixings for sandwiches between meals, always cereal, and in the rare instance when zoning out after midnight a possible taste of something new Tysin has created. And yes, I am one of the few who have gained weight.

The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.
The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.

Since we are now satisfied gastronomically, let’s talk about the Medical division, a place where no one really wants to end up, yet, the proficiency I saw today makes me feel very safe should an injury occur.

From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.
From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.

Jason and Corey are always on, 24 – seven and constantly available should a medical emergency occur. They work with training teams practicing scenarios involving injuries and offer classes to the crew in topics such as CPR. These responsibilities are not only their duty, but a chosen profession to care for the welfare of everyone on board the HEALY.

Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.
Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.

Both men entered the U.S. Coast Guard when they were young, and in Corey’s case 17. Both men also entered as enlisted personnel and choose to go through “A School” as Health Services Technicians. Corey and Jason are also within the five year mark for retiring, with over 15 years of amazing service to the United States Coast Guard…

While talking with Jason I was amazed to follow his Coast Guard career. Here is a sample: Oregon→Alaska→Hawaii→Texas→Nebraska→New Jersey→Virginia→Bering Sea…

…and all this with the total support, financially, and physically, from the U.S. Coast Guard. Jason was also able to not only become a Physicians assistant, but also received a fellowship to do post graduate work at the Navy hospital in Portsmith, Virginia in orthopedics.

I find the career paths of both men fascinating and an excellent recruiting example for the Coast Guard. Two men with high school degrees and now look at them, pretty darn impressive! I am hoping my students take the hint!

Well they can't work all the time!
Well they can’t work all the time!

Quote of the Day: “The art of medicine is in amusing a patient while nature affects the cure.” -Voltaire

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you figured out yet how many career paths are available within the U.S. Coast Guard? How about in Science, have you figured out yet how many different types of scientists are aboard?

Jillian Worssam, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 20, 2008

It is Sunday, I am relaxing. Alexei and I finished our MOCNESS last night around 4:30 am, I looked at copepods for about 30 minutes then went to bed. Got up this morning ( at 9:30am ) for a tour of the medical center and the two men who run it, they will be the focus of tomorrow’s meet the crew Monday, but for now…I am relaxing. There is not another scientific sampling station for about four hours, so it is time to kick my feet back and relax. Yes, all work and no play will make ANYONE dull!

Burgers, fries, onion rings, ice cream...delicious!
Burgers, fries, onion rings, ice cream…delicious!

Now you might think there is no life on board a four hundred and twenty foot ice breaker, but you would be greatly mistaken. Let’s take yesterday afternoon for our “Moral” dinner. At 4:30 pm the “First Class Petty Officers” made dinner and let me tell you the best burgers and “stuff” I have had in ages. You name the topping it was on the burger.

Greg and his burger of delight, it was a super moral dinner.
Greg and his burger of delight, it was a super moral dinner.

Then at 7:00 pm weekly Saturday bingo began. I bought three cards, won nothing, ate popcorn and had a blast. But wait I am not yet done.

Doesn't look like the Bingo was in BMCM Thomas Wilson's favor.
Doesn’t look like the Bingo was in BMCM Thomas Wilson’s favor.

We still had time before getting on station so of course a midnight game of hacky sac on the flight deck. I watched, it would have been too easy to shoot my “crocs” through the air. And after observing all this physical activity, I settled down to…

MST3 Thomas Kruger as he goes for a kick.
MST3 Thomas Kruger as he goes for a kick.

You guessed it a rousing game of cribbage. I am in the lead right now. We are counting wins and I am up by two. Oh I hope I didn’t just jinx it by boasting of my prowess and considerable luck.

Not that I am at all competitive, I just like to win.
Not that I am at all competitive, I just like to win.

But now it is Sunday, I am relaxed, though a bit tired. Was just up on the aloft-con with Gary looking for whales, and well…Summer time and the living is easy, the spray if flying and the swell is alive. The deck is wet and the walking is slippery, but hush little scientist it is warm inside.

Do you see what I see? Ops Department discussion during the Friday quarters meeting.
Do you see what I see? Ops Department discussion during the Friday quarters meeting.

Quote of the Day: Now I hear the sea sounds about me; the night high tide is rising, swirling with a confused rush of water against the rocks below… -Rachel Carson

FOR MY STUDENTS: Did you have as good a Saturday and Sunday as I have had?

Jillian Worssam, July 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 19, 2008

Numerous times over the past two and half weeks I have mentioned the CTD, small ones attached to moorings, there is one on the MOCNESS, there are even CTD sensors aboard the HEALY, but what does this CTD really tell the scientists?

For every sampling station the CTD needs to be prepared ahead of time so that all the equipment is functioning fully.
For every sampling station the CTD needs to be prepared ahead of time so that all the equipment is functioning fully.

As a review, let’s remember that a CTD records the Conductivity of the water that when adjusted for Temperature gives us salinity. The Depth of each sample is recorded because the ocean is not static; it is constantly moving both vertically and horizontally, and changing as it moves. When you sample with the CTD you can add a variety of accessory sensors to measure other ocean parameters: O2 salinity, temperature, pressure, fluorescence, turbidity and on our specific cruise we are also collecting data in regards to micro-zooplankton, nitrates, iron, and radon.

Each line represents a different element that the CTD is measuring.
Each line represents a different element that the CTD is measuring.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about ocean currents. There are three ocean currents that affect the ecosystems of the Bering Sea: The Alaska Coastal Current, heavily freshwater, colder runoff that shoots through Unimak Pass; The North Pacific Gyre, warmer(relatively) water that seeps through the entire Aleutian chain, like water through a sieve. And the deep ocean conveyor belt, this one actually comes from the Mediterranean…water that has not seen the surface for a thousand years or more! This dense and cold fluid flows through Kamchatka pass, and has traveled from the north Atlantic through the Pacific to get to the Bering Sea, and is really rich in nutrients. No wonder it takes a thousand years. Anyway here we have all this water filtering into the Bering Sea, and here on the HEALY we have the CTD to give us precise data on the composition of this water.

The scientists all getting their water samples out of the 30 liter bottles.
The scientists all getting their water samples out of the 30 liter bottles.

During the actual cast of the CTD at each recorded station 24 data points are collects each second, giving an excellent representation of each specific water column. It is Scott’s job to run the CTD and let me tell you this is no easy task. The electronic equipment has to be constantly calibrated, the physical instrument array maintained, and all the collected data cataloged and stored for transmission to all the scientists both during and at the end of this cruise. None of this is an easy task. I also find Scott’s role on the vessel fascinating. Scott is an engineer who works for Scripts out of California and is hired on as outside technical support. He is not technically one of the scientific team, not technically part of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the HEALY could not technically collect most of their data with out him!

Hamming it up, Scott shows us the real science behind the CTD.
Hamming it up, Scott shows us the real science behind the CTD.

Quote of the Day: If you plan for a year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate your children. Chinese Proverb.

FOR MY STUDENTS: What is a pycnocline?

Jillian Worssam, July 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 18, 2008

So there I was feeling really confident on my introductory journal on krill only to realize I really knew nothing at all. Tonight I sat down with Alexei Pinchuk and Rachel Pleuthner, wow, I am so impressed with the depth of their knowledge and expertise. But now I am tasked with trying to open a small window into this vital part of an oceanic food web.You have met Kirby the krill, but we should have called him Sam the spud, for the krill is the potato of this ecosystem. These little guys fuel this bionetwork like there is no tomorrow. But I am getting away from myself. Let’s get back to the krill science going on aboard the HEALY.

Part of Tracy's day is spent in front of a microscope keying out different krill species.
Part of Tracy’s day is spent in front of a microscope keying out different krill species.

The krill team is currently involved with at least three different experiments, and I will try to describe each, but please cut me some slack, this is a field of discovery I am just beginning to learn and as Rachel was explaining I would find myself not writing notes and becoming totally engrossed with the discussion.

This machine is one of five different incubators aboard, fresh sea water is constantly run through so that the temperature stays constant for a krill environment.
This machine is one of five different incubators aboard, fresh sea water is constantly run through so that the temperature stays constant for a krill environment.

Experiment # 1: Krill grazing /aging

We already touched on this aspect of the krill work, looking at the diet of krill over a 24 hour period. But what we didn’t hit on was what is then done with the krill after they have grazed. Tracy will measure and key out the specific species of each animal and then pass the krill off to Rachel…Rachel in turn will remove the eyes. Yes, this delicate operation will give a general idea on the age of the krill. Basically our team will extract from the eyes a substance called lipofusion which can then be used to age the krill.

This machine is able to quantify the lipofusion extracted from the krill.
This machine is able to quantify the lipofusion extracted from the krill.

Did that make sense? Because now Alexei comes into the picture, he is trying to actually raise krill in a controlled setting, providing valuable baseline data on how old a krill is to the day. When lipofusion is removed from wild krill it gives a general idea on aging, but is not completely quantitative, thus the two experiments work together to finding the exact age of a krill.

Experiment #2: Starvation is another component to the work the krill grazers are completing. At the start of the voyage, 14 days ago, approximately 20 krill were placed in filtered sea water. What that means is that the krill salad bar was empty. Then, once a week a sample has been removed to look at the lipids. The type of lipids in a krill will tell the scientists what they had been eating, and how the components are breaking down in their systems.

This is actually a female Krill, how can you tell?
This is actually a female Krill, how can you tell?

A krill can live up to three years, with their specific ecosystem and species as two variables that can affect longevity, but what about the source and timing of food. If the juvenile (nauplii – first stage in krill development) hatch when there is no food and they need food well, you can guess what will happen. There are though some krill who store their lipids all winter so that they pass this nutrient source to their young, really fat babies, who are in turn not as dependant on the first zooplankton bloom.

Ughhhhhhh I really do have a beginning understanding to this krill research, but explaining it has been a challenge. I still have more to share, but need to do a bit more of my own fact finding and research.

There can be up to twelve stages in the life cycles of some krill.
There can be up to twelve stages in the life cycles of some krill.

Photo of the day:

Which of these three items is krill poop?

Quote of the Day: For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea. -E.E. Cummings

FOR MY STUDENTS: Are there any microscopic organisms that might live in our aquatic ecosystems that you think we could study?

There can be up to twelve stages in the life cycles of some krill.
There can be up to twelve stages in the life cycles of some krill.

Jillian Worssam, July 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 17, 2008

To fully understand the today I need to go back two nights. I had been up for over 20 hours and was ready for bed. The educational team and I had been working fiendishly ( love that word) on a power point presentation with fun activities for the students. I was also working on putting together the slides for next Monday’s webinar. Anyway, after dinner, I went to bed. The next I knew my clock said eight thirty, and I had slept 13 hours! Frantically I got up got, dressed, and went to “Aft Con” to check on the retrieval of a floating sediment trap. MST Rich Layman told me that the pick-up would be the next day. I of course disputed his time analysis; it had been 24 hours why weren’t we picking up the trap? Rich of course replied, “We just set the trap this morning, we have to wait 24 hours.” My rebuttal was fun and sassy. There was discussion about a quarter and well to make a long story short. Here it is, I had slept for, you got it, an hour. It was still Tuesday night, I was really confused and a great laugh for many people, including myself. The moral of this story; there really is a purpose for military time!But now it is Thursday, and time to take our traveling science show to St. George. The day did not turn out as we had planned, and with the advent of really thick fog well our adventure was different than what we had planned.

Thus today’s journal will be a photo montage, a sequence of eleven shots highlighting (for me) the pleasure in the day!

"Bridge, do we have permission to launch the small boat?"
“Bridge, do we have permission to launch the small boat?”
As the HEALY fades into the background I really get a good glimpse of how huge she really is.
As the HEALY fades into the background I really get a good glimpse of how huge she really is.
The ride was cloaked in fog, a bit choppy and a blast.
The ride was cloaked in fog, a bit choppy and a blast.
I bet John James Audubon knows who these little beauties are.
I bet John James Audubon knows who these little beauties are.
A brief glimpse at the coast as the surf pounded.
A brief glimpse at the coast as the surf pounded.
BM2 Gaines Huneycutt patiently waits to return us to the ship.
BM2 Gaines Huneycutt patiently waits to return us to the ship.
The small boats are ready to leave while getting last minute advice on the change in weather.
The small boats are ready to leave while getting last minute advice on the change in weather.
The swells at over eight feet provided a wonderfully exciting ride, for most!
The swells at over eight feet provided a wonderfully exciting ride, for most!
Both Tasha and I were loving the ride as we crested each swell.
Both Tasha and I were loving the ride as we crested each swell.
At one point we stopped and listened for the fog horn, a muffled sound to the left.
At one point we stopped and listened for the fog horn, a muffled sound to the left.

Today’s quote is from one of my most favorite individuals, and has summed up the day gloriously!

Quote of the Day: The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences. -Eleanor Roosevelt

MY STUDENTS: DO you have a hero, someone you look up to as a role model?

From beginning to end an amazing day.
From beginning to end an amazing day.

Jillian Worssam, July 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 16, 2008

Today I would like you to meet Kirby Krill, well not really Kirby, it could be Kathy. Whatever the gender “The Krill Grazers” are interested!

(From left) Tracy Shaw, Karen Taylor, Rachel Pleuthner, Megan Bernhardt and Gigi (Virginia) Engel
(From left) Tracy Shaw, Karen Taylor, Rachel Pleuthner, Megan Bernhardt and Gigi (Virginia) Engel

These five women work nights, waiting until dark to collect their samples.  They only need one sampling station an evening where they send down the “bongo net” and retrieve their live critters.  What the “Krill Grazers” are interested in is: What krill eat, and if their food choice changes seasonally.  They also want to know: if the krill are given a choice, what would they choose to eat.  This is similar to a salad bar mentality, give the krill everything, and see what food they prefer, thus the need for a live experiment.

This krill has a parasite attached, can you find the parasite?
This krill has a parasite attached, can you find the parasite?

For the first part of our experiment, enter Tracy. She is after the live samples and will choose 4 – 8 krill, depending on size.  She will then place the krill in a four liter plastic container with fresh sea water and observe them for 24 hours.  Prior to placing the krill in the container, Megan and Gigi will take a sample of the sea water, and at the end of the 24 hours will take another sample of the same water from the krill containers.  They put the water through a filtering process and preserve the flora and fauna. Megan’s job then continues back at the lab in Washington.  That is when she will count and identify both pre and post samples to determine what the krill are eating.  In the mean time, while still on the ship, at the end of the experiment, Tracy will remove the krill from their incubator, measure them, and figure out what species they are.  This information will be important later when looking at the results of the experiments in order to understand whether larger krill are eating more or different types of food than smaller krill.

When you work all night it is important to have a sense of humor.
When you work all night it is important to have a sense of humor.

The sea water is collected with a CTD so the scientists can exactly match the depth from their live tow on the bongo and the CTD.  So why are five women from three different states (Oregon, Washington and Maryland) working collaboratively on krill?  Krill are a food source for many other species: fish, birds, baleen whales, and many other animals eat krill to live.  Even the seals that eat fish need krill, for the fish have eaten krill.  An oceanic food web is not complete without our little zooplankton buddies.

This BONGO is set up so that the samples are not crushed, thus live krill.
This BONGO is set up so that the samples are not crushed, thus live krill.

There is a lot more science to the grazing of krill, I haven’t even touched on what Rachel does and it involves the removal of the krill’s eyes.  So check in tomorrow for “Grazing with krill.”   

Gigi wondering if the krill soup is finished. Just kidding!
Gigi wondering if the krill soup is finished. Just kidding!

Quote of the Day: One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.  William Shakespeare

FOR MY STUDENTS: What is an example of a microscopic plant or animal that might live in an Arizona aquatic ecosystem?

Jillian Worssam, July 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Ron Heinz
Ron Heinz

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 15, 2008

For the past thirteen days I have predominantly been working with the MOCNESS team. These scientists have opened their nets to me, and I have entered a world of plankton, juvenile fish, copepods, jelly fish, crab larva, and even juvenile squid.  There is though one member of our team who I have been remiss in mentioning, meet Ron! Ron Heinz is the head of the nutritional ecology lab for AFSC (Alaska Fisheries Science Center) in Juneau, Alaska. And well Ron collects samples of species and literally blows them up!  Yes you heard me, he combusts his samples.

Ron has a quest, he wants to know how much energy is stored in a fish and how it is partitioned, specifically in either fat or protein.  Basically juvenile fish want protein to help them grow muscle to avoid predators, they also want to store fat for the winter when there is nothing to eat.

The underlying question in Ron’s research is:  what happens to juvenile fish as the climate warms and there is a “mis-hatch” between when the food is available and the fish, hatch.   Ron’s current project is collecting fish, identifying the species, and saving samples for the lab in Juneau.  He will freeze his samples for transport, and then the fun begins again.

The MOCNESS is deployed ready to catch juvenile fish, and other micro critters.
The MOCNESS is deployed ready to catch juvenile fish, and other micro critters.

To extract fat from juvenile fish the process is simple: -Grind up the sample. -Add solvents to the sample to dissolve the fat. (the fat is trapped in suspension with the solvent) -Filter the sample to remove all other “stuff.” -Evaporate the solvent and weigh the left over and voila, you have fat.

Ron and Elizabeth are working together in identifying these juvenile fish; it is not an east task.
Ron and Elizabeth are working together in identifying these juvenile fish; it is not an east task.

To extract protein we now need the other “stuff.”    Nitrogen is found in protein, so simply put, burn the fish sample, remove the CO2 and you have Nitrogen.  Multiply by 6.25 and voila, you have the amount of protein.  To do this he… drum roll please, combusts the sample,  torches it, and poof.  Since there is not a lot of existing data on larval fish Ron is a forerunner in his field.

Ron is ready to collect a sample from this cod-end from on of the MOCNESS nets.
Ron is ready to collect a sample from this cod-end from on of the MOCNESS nets.

Basically Ron is developing nutritional labels for marine species.  He finds out what the different species are made of and in turn can then figure out what would be considered a healthy ecosystem for that specific species.  Right now the target species in his research are pollock, pacific cod, and arrow tooth flounder.  Ron has also made nutritional  labels for other species including a five foot sleeper shark.    In a nutshell his “nutritional labels” tell of metabolic demand, and how who eats whom when and why is so important.

I think I have been up for a day, really bad hair but over 120 fish at this sampling station.
I think I have been up for a day, really bad hair but over 120 fish at this sampling station.

Right now the pollock we are collecting have approximately less than 1% body fat, in the fall it is hoped that they will have 3- 4% body fat so as to survive the winter.  The diet of pollock is predominantly micro-zooplankton.  And for those of you who do not know pollock, every time you eat a fish stick, you are eating pollock! So there you have it “Ron’s World.”  It might be a small and microscopic world but in marine ecology it is very important!

Can you find the pollock, the lumpsucker, and the copepods?
Can you find the pollock, the lumpsucker, and the copepods?

 

Quote of the Day: The Earth, like the sun, like the air, belongs to everyone – and to no one.  -Edward Abby

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you find a quote about nature that inspires you?

Seven to Eight fin whales sighted off the port bow, close enough to hear and see.
Seven to Eight fin whales sighted off the port bow, close enough to hear and see.

Jillian Worssam, July 14, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 14, 2008

Prior to sailing on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY I had no idea what it took to run such a huge floating, moving, science sampling community. Everyone that works aboard appears to be constantly busy not only with their formally assigned duties, but also with collateral duties, so that each one of the 15 separate divisions is constantly hopping. This was the case yesterday for the deck division, the largest aboard the HEALY with 17 crew members.

The deck department working with the scientists to retrieve an optical array.
The deck department working with the scientists to retrieve an optical array.

The ship was working with scientists to retrieve an optical array, thus the need for small boats and the deck crew. It was through the guidance of Chief Boatswain’s Mate Kidd that not only were two boats launched with appropriate crew, but that they had the equipment necessary to try and accomplish their task.

Always prepared Chief Kidd always keeps a sharp lookout while operations are underway.
Always prepared Chief Kidd always keeps a sharp lookout while operations are underway.

Chief Kidd is a career military man who started as a combat photo journalist. It was while I was listening to his account of the past that I learned even more about the history of the Coast Guard and how technology has really changed their world. Chief Kidd used to be a quartermaster, a traditional navigator aboard a sailing vessel. For twelve years he worked on the bridge of ships using tools such as a compass and sextant to plot and record courses. Then came the GPS. Thus the Chief’s “Legacy skills” became obsolete. Now he runs the deck division, responsible for: Having his crew stand bridge watches. Providing bridge lookouts. All small boat operations. Crane operations (not related to science). Armed bear watch when working in the ice. Rescue swimmer when scientists are on the ice. Line tending/deck work…the list is endless.

Working for Chief Kidd is enlisted crew Chelsey Rheyann Kaleoalohalanimalamalama Fernandez. Chelsey works on the Bridge for four hours a day, her primary duty is to record all ship operations while the HEALY is underway. The rest of her time is spent in, of course, collateral duties: maintaining and checking all float coats, checking the weapons locker, checking immersion suits, regular PMS (Preventative Maintenance Systems) checks of small boats and again the list is endless.

Working on the Bridge using the computer to record all ships operations during her four hour watch.
Working on the Bridge using the computer to record all ships operations during her watch.

Chelsey is new to the U.S. Coast Guard and will have her three year anniversary this winter when she hopes to get accepted into “A School,” to start her training to become a Health Services Technician/Corpsman. There are many opportunities for enlisted personnel within the Coast Guard, and this one will be Chelsey’s path.

The deck department retrieving a mooring.
The deck department retrieving a mooring.

 

Quote of the Day: The survival of the human species is inescapably linked with the survival of all other forms of life. Michael Frome

**FOR MY STUDENTS: **How many different careers do you think there are within the U.S. Coast Guard?

Everyone works hard on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY!
Everyone works hard on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY!

Jillian Worssam, July 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

First there is the disclaimer, then the alarm rings indicating a general emergency.  The Crew jumps to action and the science personnel report to their designated standby stations.

I was very lucky when DCC (Damage Control Chief) George Marsden said that I could observe today’s training.   Three teams were involved in this specific drill: Medical, Damage Control and Engineering with approximately 10 people per team observing the actions of the crew as they responded to the reported emergency scenario.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn't turn into an actual casualty.
It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn’t turn into an actual casualty.

Our situation is a fire in the number two boiler room with a collateral injury, a crew member with a broken arm.  Prior to the drill all training personnel met to discuss the risk assessment and make sure all safeties were in place so that an actual casualty would not occur.    The crew knows that a drill is impending, they just don’t know the specific details of this drill.  The DCC and I first traveled to the CO2 room to discuss the situation with Chief Kidd who was responsible for simulating the release of the CO2 into the Boiler room compartment.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.
Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

The set up prior to the drill was that a hot work chit (notice) was placed in the engineering control center that hot work was being done in Boiler Room two.  This notice set the stage for DCC Marsden who then began to set up his props for the drill, a smoke machine, identifying flags and a strobe light.  All vital components in alerting the crew as to exactly what casualty they were responding to.

Finally the black smoke flag was placed in front of a shipboard closed circuit camera system and we were off.  Bells and whistles, crew doing exactly as they were trained and I an active observer with a  camera!

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.
Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Here are the steps to extinguishing a fire in number two boiler room.   Shut off ventilation TOW first responder CO2 released Investigators set up for fire suppression team.

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety
Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Simultaneously on the vessel, boundary compartments are checked, water tight doors closed and ALL personnel are accounted for. Once the CO2 has been activated the fire suppression team waited fifteen minutes before entering the space, and checked the door for heat.  AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) was also discharged .

Once the all clear was issued for entering the space in went the fire suppression team, with DCC Marsden and me right on their heals.  I was amazed at how effective the smoke machine was, there was literally no visibility.  DC2 Petty Officer Redd had a thermal imaging camera which was used as soon as they entered the space.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.
Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Had this been an actual fire it would have taken the crew up to a day and a half to clear the space as safe.  And I was fascinated to learn that in an enclosed space at around 1800° degrees a fire can actually do structural damage, which  to me is terrifying.  And so I say again, thank goodness the crew is trained and maintains these types of training drills so that if a casualty similar to this did occur, we would no doubt be in good hands!

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.
I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

**Photo of the Day:*

Thermal imaging!

Quote of the Day: Man is whole when he is in tune with the winds, the stars, and the hills…Being in tune with the universe is the entire secret. -Justice William O. Douglas

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you ever thought of a career in the U.S. Coast Guard?

Jillian Worssam, July 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

Yesterday I watched the deployment of the “Spider C40” a bottom mounted instrument mooring.  Today I will spend some time with Jimmy Johnson as he builds a new mooring, from scratch, right here on the HEALY.

The parts

Jimmy is building a subsurface mooring, but this one is barely subsurface, designed to float about 10 meters below the surface.  But wait a minute, I think I need to back up a bit.  Check out this drawing, the potion of the mooring Jimmy is building is at the tippy top.
BEST N55-08

This is the BEST (Bering Ecosystem STudy) mooring to be deployed on the northwest side of Nunivak Island.

The entire length of this mooring is over 55 meters.  But for our build a mooring experience we are only focusing on the top component of the mooring, which lies at the 10 meter mark.

Jimmy’s mooring has an ISCat, Inductive Sacrificial microCat, phew… This piece of equipment is designed for shallower depths, and works like a CTD, collecting information on the Conductivity of the water, Temperature, and Depth.  This microCat is an inductive device, it uses sea water to complete a circuit (similar to a potato clock) to send the data it collects to the ISCAT logger found 11 meters lower.  So what does all this mean?  If seas get rough, the mooring caught in fishermen’s nets, or the ice gets too thick, Jimmy’s sacrificial mooring has a 600 lb weak link that will snap and sacrifice his creation.  But there is no need to worry, all the data the device already collected has been sent to the logger at the end of the cable, safe from the unpredictable conditions close to surface.  Thanks to this great design scientists are able to sample areas previously un-sampleable do to the conditions I already mentioned.

Voila!

The final product, you can’t see the microcat, it is on the other side.

If you look carefully at the design for this mooring you will see that it includes a:    -Flurometer:  which measures chlorophyll (primary productivity organism) concentrations. -MicroCats (3):  This measures conductivity, temperature and depth. -HOBO sensors:  Temperature sensor to look at the water column and temperature changes. -ADCP:  An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler sends out a frequency, gets a return signal that has bounced off small animals and or particles that FLOAT/MOVE with the current (not swim) which can give them the speed and direction of the current.

Can you find the microCat?

A scientific work station is a sacred place, there is even a HOBO in here.

Wow, I think my brain is tired, it took a while to understand the concept of the mooring, and then to transcribe was a challenge.  Needless to say these amazing oceanic devices collect valuable data. These records are then used in scientific research papers to better explain and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, thus BEST!

The nuts and bolts of any operation!

If you need it, Jimmy has it, all the hardware to make a mooring.

**Photo of the Day:*

Waiting to retrieve!

It was a little chilly yesterday as Chief Rieg and MST3 Kruger patiently waited in the cold for the signal to retrieve.

Saying of the Day:  “Rummage Sale” From the original French, Arrimage, a rummage sale historically was when damaged cargo that could not be delivered was sold at cost, or discounted.  As a source of great discounts, the present day rummage sale was originally nautical.  I wonder if Jimmy ever needed a rummage sale while making a mooring aboard a sea going vessel?

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you make up a list of the equipment we will need to make our mooring?   I need to add a post script…The deployment of a mooring is not the most thrilling science I have seen on board.  A lot of work, and then, well it is gone.  There is though one part that is a hoot, which I really love.  When the quick release is activated and the 800 lb train wheel plummets to the sea floor, the floats shoot across the surface before they are pulled under.  It is great and reminds me of the movie Jaws!

Jillian Worssam, July 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 11, 2008

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!
Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Science Log

They are the men of the back deck, working diligently to prepare and then release their moorings in depth determined locations, where they will settle (literally) for a year.  These unsung heroes are the mooring men!

For the past week I have been observing a lot of scientific research and much has been based on living critters, but there is so much more occurring on the HEALY this summer.  Under the guidance of Tom Weingartner, the mooring men have been working diligently to not only construct, but then release their moorings which will stay here in the Bering, collect data and then be retrieved, next year!

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40
With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

So what then is a mooring, well this specific example is a bottom mounted instrument, or “Spider C40.” You will notice that the “Spider” is chock full of sampling equipment, there is an: acoustic Doppler current profiler, flurometer, Sea Cat, and transmissometer.  Each one of these instruments is designed to collect specific data, which will be saved then interpreted next year.

The “spider” commonly referred to as Helen, is the second of three instruments being placed on what is known as the central ray to the south of Nunivak Island.  There are three ” mooring rays,” central, southern and northern,  and placed on each will be a series of three mooring. At this time Tom is working on a three year NSF grant. What exactly is Tom learning from this data, well check in tomorrow for a more in-depth look at what scientists learn from moorings? I would though like to go into a bit of detail on the deployment of a “spider” to the bottom of the Bering.

This Spider was deployed in 25 meters of water.  Its objective to sit firmly on the bottom.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.
AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

Not only is this mooring going to the bottom, but it has two acoustic release mechanisms, one to be used in a year to bring the entire mooring back to the surface, and the other to be used, right now.  For a controlled fall, the spider is securely placed on the sea floor by the MST team using a 3/8inch winch wire. Kevin will then send a 12 kilohertz signal telling the second release mechanism to let go.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.
Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Once the signal is sent to the acoustic release, the line to the ship is let loose, and then a GPS bearing taken so that in a year the scientists will be able to retrieve the mooring and all the wonderful data it has collected.

Check in tomorrow for a continuation with the mooring men and the science behind why they are setting these moorings, and what they will do with the data.  We will also look at the actual construction of a mooring onboard.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.
Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Quote of the Day:  What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and looses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Do you think we could construct a simple mooring to record data from the pond?

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!
Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!

Jillian Worssam, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 5, 2008

02becce
A pre-drill brief, to discuss props, expectations and safety issues that the trainers might see. If a real casualty happens during a drill, the ETT would let the individuals who are training take control unless there were difficulties in responding to the casualty. Remember a casualty in this respect does not infer human.

At dinner last night I was invited to meet BECCE, and after a moments confusion I realized I had not been invited to meet a person, but to observe a readiness drill.  BECCE stands for Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercise and I was on my way to watch as the experienced crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY maintains their skills, and passes that knowledge on to new cadets (students from the CG Academy in New London, CT who are here for a month during their summer break) and enlisted personnel. There is an expression in the engineering department, “Slow it down or shut it down,” and that is what BECCE is all about.  Once a crew member on watch finds a problem it is their responsibility to report it to engineering and then take appropriate action, thus BECCE a drill.

The steps to take when there is a problem or alarm in Engineering are simple: investigate the alarm, take initial action to control the casualty, stabilize the plant and report status to the bridge.
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak...the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak…the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT

This procedure might sound simple, but if 250 gallons of lube oil is rushing from a punctured pipe individuals can easily get flustered.  That is why BECCEs are such a great idea!  Drill, practice and make sure all personnel are prepared for the advent of anything, and you then have a smoother running vessel.

On a side note, as I learn more about the roles and responsibilities aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel I am constantly stumped by acronyms.  The EOW is in charge of the “plant” during this drill and is being evaluated on his responses to the various “casualties”.

LCDR Petrusa (The officer in charge of all engineering on the ship) is observing and watching protocol, with the results of this drill falling on his shoulders.  Simultaneously MKC Brogan evaluates the EOWs during their drill sets.  How about CWO3 Lyons who is in charge of all machinery technicians, both main propulsion and auxiliary divisions? Do you see what I mean, lots of acronyms, and it gets confusing.   Everyone has collateral duties, and don’t even think you can figure out what an OSG is????  I also learned that there are nicknames as well, you could be a twidget (electronics technicians), or a snipe (who are mechanics), sparky (electricians), all of which are vital positions on the boat.  There is a lot of humor as well with the use of slang, for instance I wonder if anyone knows the difference between a Clean EM and a Dirty EM?
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged...the team is discussing the situation.
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged…the team is discussing the situation.

Expression of the Day: “A Clean Slate” Before we had the technology of the 21st century, and there were no onboard computers, or GPS, vital information such as course and distance were written on slates.  At the end of each watch this information was copied into the ship’s log.  The slate was then…”wiped clean.”

Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O'Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.
Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O’Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you think of any other nautical expressions we now use in everyday language?

LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry (pressure, temp, and speed) represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.
LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.
Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.
Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.
Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.
Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.

Jillian Worssam, July 4, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 4, 2008

Science Log

Today will be my first day as part of the MOCNESS team, so I though you should meet these amazing scientists.

From left to right: Alexei, Nicola, Elizabeth, and Ron, ready to deploy the MOCNESS.
From left to right: Alexei, Nicola, Elizabeth, and Ron, ready to deploy the MOCNESS.

Nicola studies the early life stages of fish and how they are effected by environmental changes, and how these changes affect their ecology.  Nicola works out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Juneau. Alexei studies zooplankton ecology with an emphasis on krill (euphausiids).  Alexei also works for the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Seward. Ron is a biochemist who works for NOAA, Auke Bay Lab in Juneau.  Ron studies fish lipid and fatty acid signatures, and looks at the energy stored in a fish’s body.  Ron also blows up fish, but that I will save for a later journal. Elizabeth is a PhD Graduate student for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she works with Nicola studying ichthyoplankton, and also looking at drift patterns with data on abundance and distribution of sample populations.

Nicola is blowing air into the flow meter making sure it is working correctly.
Nicola is blowing air into the flow meter making sure it is working correctly.

Before I forget, I guess you should know what “MOCNESS” stands for: Multiple Opening Closing Net Environmental Sampling System.  Quite simply a name for a wonderfully complicated piece of machinery.  The MOCNESS actually can take multiple samples of ichthyoplankton (small fish and different types of plankton) at multiple depths while on the same tow, or station.  There is a nine net capacity so theoretically the team can collect nine different samples at one station.

The scientists stand by as the Healy MST crew uses a wench to raise the MOCNESS prior to releasing it to fish behind the ship.
The scientists stand by as the Healy MST crew uses a wench to raise the MOCNESS prior to releasing it to fish behind the ship.

On a last personal note, I have been handling salt water today, so my hands have the most interesting consistency, dry like finely tanned leather.  I have a feeling that this will be the norm for the next month, and though it is not uncomfortable, it is interesting.

Quote of the Day: I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown; for going out, I found, was really going in. -John Muir

FOR MY STUDENTS: Why do you thin it is important to understand more about different types of plankton, where they live, how they travel, and how many there are?

Jillian Worssam, July 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 3, 2008

Science Log

We are underway, a tug helped our vessel move away from the dock and we are now heading towards station number one.

Local tug used to get the Healy from the dock.
Local tug used to get the Healy from the dock.

Before we get to our first sampling point, which will be a CTD deployment and Mocness, I would like to give you a little background on some of the science that will be accomplished over the next 30 days.  At first I was told there would be approximately seven concurrent scientific data sampling experiments being conducted, well that estimate is off by a bit,  The scientists on board are studying:

Physical Oceanography and water circulation Hydrography Carbon productivity Nitrogen uptake and cycling Particle flux Iron Analysis Euphausiid and microzooplankton Euphausiid rate measurements Organic tracers and trophic transfer Ichthyoplankton Microzooplankton grazing Benthic biogeochemical fluxes Bird distribution and abundance Marine mammal observation: right whale observer Bio-optical and phyto plankton variations Water column bio-optics and phytoplankton  characteristics.

Alexie and team working on deployment of the Mocness.
Alexie and team working on deployment of the Mocness.

Phew, I am out of breath, and to be honest hope to by the end of the cruise to know more about each and every one of these scientific studies, how to pronounce their names, and explain their importance to this amazing ecosystem called the Bering Sea!

Stop in tomorrow to learn more about quantitative zooplankton studies with Alexei Pinchuk.  We will use the Mocness collect samples and well, I can’t tell it all today, there needs to be some surprises for tomorrow.

Here is today's photo challenge, what is this item, and what do you think it is used for?
Here is today’s photo challenge, what is this item, and what do you think it is used for?

Quote of the Day: On the path that leads to nowhere I have sometimes found my soul.  Corrine Roosevelt Robins

FOR MY STUDENTS: How long do you think you can go without sleep and still function effectively?

Jillian Worssam, July 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 2, 2008

Science Log

I am not sure if today is the first day, or yesterday, or was it last March when I had my PolarTREC training, but either way a new component of my Bering Sea Research started today.  I have met the boat; she is a grad old dame, with an amazing crew, and now 49 new scientists completing about seven different Bering Sea experiments.

This is the Healy, my home for the next 30 days, and so large I can not get the entire vessel into the picture.
This is the Healy, my home for the next 30 days, and so large I can not get the entire vessel into the picture.

We have not had our briefing, tomorrow 10:00, and all the parties will meet and greet.  For today though I explored the ship over 400 feet of floating science, and assisted those scientists who could use my untrained skills.

This is Chris Moser, we have set up the multi-corer and it is ready to take a bite of Bering Sea Shelf Sediment.
This is Chris Moser, we have set up the multi-corer and it is ready to take a bite of Bering Sea Shelf Sediment.

Chris Moser is one of those scientists, and gratefully put me to work on the multi-corer a sediment sampler.  I was fascinated and for over an hour plagued him with question after question.  I know a lot more now, and can’t wait to work with the \team in collecting not only the sediment samples but then seeing what information they collect and how this information is used.

Here is today's photo challenge, what is this item, and what do you think it is used for?
Here is today’s photo challenge, what is this item, and what do you think it is used for?

Quote of the Day:  If you understand,  things are just as they are:  if you do not nderstand, things are just as they are.    {Zen Verse}

FOR MY STUDENTS:  How much do you think it costs to operate the Healy for one minute of use?

Jillian Worssam, July 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 1, 2008

Science Log

Our plane from Anchorage arrived at 12:30 in the afternoon and it has been a whirlwind ever since.  Robert, one of the scientists, and John, the Armada teacher were on my flight so we rented a car and decided to explore Dutch Harbor and the surrounding countryside.

While checking out hundreds of crab pots we found these amazing net structures and still haven't figures out what they catch.
While checking out hundreds of crab pots we found these amazing net structures and still haven’t figures out what they catch.

Our first objective was to look for the vessels from the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, and well we found no boats, but lots of crab pots.  It was then on to this amazing coastal road, wow!  What scenery! We spent over four hours driving around the island and even though it was after eight o’clock at night upon our return, the sun was high in the sky when we spotted what appears to be an arctic fox on the bluff on the side of the road.

While driving around the coast of Unalaska, this is the type of scenery we were fortunate enough to see.
While driving around the coast of Unalaska, this is the type of scenery we saw.

I am at the edge of the Bering Sea, I have been given a gift and today is just the beginning of my adventure, isn’t life grand! As this is my first journal from the field I think it will end with a quote, who knows I might even start a trend.

“Tough the earth, love the earth, honor the earth: her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas: rest your spirit in her solitary places.”     Henry Beston

This could be an arctic fox, and as we watched, it continued to howl in a voice I have never heard before. I still have goosebumps from the sound!
This could be an arctic fox, and as we watched, it continued to howl in a voice I have never heard before. I still have goosebumps from the sound!

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you find another author who has quotes honoring the earth?

Beth Lancaster, April 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 13, 2008

reported surface sea water temperatures for the California coast from satellite data.  The region of sampling is indicated by the box.
Reported surface sea water temps for the CA coast from satellite data. The region of sampling is indicated by the box.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

April 11, 2008 
Wind – Northwest 4-17 knots
Swell Waves – 3-8 Feet
Surface Sea Water Temperature – 9.3-11.9oC

April 12, 2008 
Wind – Light Swell Waves –1 to less than 1 foot
Surface Sea Water Temp – 9.2-12.5oC

Science & Technology Log April 13, 2008 

At the onset of this cruise, ocean winds and swells kept scientists on alert for the next rock of the boat or wave crashing over the side, and into the fantail work area. These winds play an important role in delivering nutrient rich cold waters to the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of Farallones marine areas – this process is referred to as upwelling.  Conditions on Thursday April 11 marked a noticeable change in the weather for this research cruise.  Winds hit a low of 4 knots and swells of three feet were reported from the bridge for the majority of the day.  On April 12 it was hard to believe that we were conducting research out on the ocean.  Conditions were magnificent.  Winds were light and swells were less than one foot.  This change in conditions is termed a period of “relaxation.” 

The term relaxation refers to a period when winds decrease, allowing for conditions that promote a boost in primary productivity.  These conditions include decreased turbulence and the presence of sun and nutrients. The nutrients are readily available from the upwelling and phytoplankton are retained in the well-lit surface waters due to the decrease in wind mixing and the resulting stratification (layering) of the surface waters – thus, providing the optimal conditions for photosynthesis to take place.  Figure one shows surface water temperatures from April 12, 2008.  There was a visible change over the course of the research cruise in surface temperatures with the decrease in winds and swells indicating conditions suitable for primary productivity.

Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.
Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.

Continuous samples of plankton were taken during the day-time throughout the course of the research cruise. My observations suggest that samples collected early in the trip revealed little macroscopic (visible to the eye) plankton, while samples collected later in the trip during the relaxation event are more diverse and robust. Samples will be examined following the research cruise to draw conclusions based upon quantitative data. Night-time operations included targeted sampling for krill to look at species composition, overall abundance, age and sex.  Krill feed on phytoplankton, and will at times appear green after feeding. The optimal conditions for phytoplankton growth during a period of relaxation will result in a feast for krill that migrate up the water column at night to feed. A large portion of many resident and migratory bird and mammal diets consists of krill, indicating their importance to this marine ecosystem.

Weather conditions over the last few days also provided great visibility for mammal and bird observers. Nevertheless, there were still very few sightings of birds and mammals during this time period.  One sighting of importance was of a short-tailed albatross, an endangered species that is an infrequent visitor to the California Current ecosystem.  The short-tailed albatross population is estimated at 2000, and is currently recovering from feather harvesting in the late nineteenth century and loss of breeding grounds to a natural disaster.  For more information on the short-tailed albatross visit here.

Putting it all together….. 

All of the sampling done over the course of this cruise will allow scientists to look at the dynamics of the food chain during the early springtime.  This is just a small piece of a larger puzzle. The same sampling protocol has been utilized at different times of year in the same research area since the projects beginning in 2004.  This will allow researchers to look at the entire ecosystem, its health, and the interdependence of species to drive management decisions.

Laysan Albatross.
Laysan Albatross.

Personal Log 

As the trip comes to an end I’m grateful to both the scientists and crew members onboard the McARTHUR II. I now have a better understanding of physical oceanography, and the Cordell Bank and Farallones Escarpment ecosystem which I am looking forward to sharing with students for years to come. The McArthur crew has been kind enough to answer every one of my many questions, made me feel welcome, and given me an idea of what life is like at sea. Thank you! This was truly an experience I will remember and look forward to sharing with others.

Animals Seen April 11, 2008 

Cassin’s Auklet (36), Black-legged Kittiwake (1), Western Gull (61), Herring Gull (1), Red-necked Phalarope (8), Sooty Shearwater (12), Northern Fulmar (6), Steller sea-lion (35), California Gull (6), Rhinoceros Auklet (9), Black-footed Albatross (6), and Bonaparte’s Gull (1).

Animals Seen April 12, 2008 

Black-footed Albatross (11), Northern Fulmar (6), Western Gull (48), California Gull (5), Cassin’s Auklet (25), Common Loon (2), Common Murre (58), Bonaparte’s Gull (4), Sooty Shearwater (8), Dall’s Porpoise (6), Red-necked Phalarope (26), Pink-footed Shearwater (3), California Sea Lion (2),  Rhinoceros Auklet (10), Humpback Whale (1), Harbor Seal (1), and Glaucous-winged Gull (2).

Beth Lancaster, April 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 9, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind – Northwest 20 – 35 knots
Swell Waves – 4-12 feet
Sea Water Temp – 9.4 – 10.5oC

A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells that range from 12 to 15 feet.
A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells 12 to 15 feet.
Reported sea surface temperatures from April 7, 2008 for coastal California from satellite data.  The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast.  The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5oC and the blue 8.6-10oC.
Today’s reported sea surface temperatures for coastal California from satellite data. The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast. The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5 degrees C.

The weather reports collected from the bridge of the McARTHUR II reported that the waters traveled over the course of the day did in fact reach 12 feet.  The winds from the northwest cause an upwelling effect, which brings deep, nutrient-rich cooler waters to the continental shelf area off the coast of California. This nutrient-rich water plays a large role in the food web of the area, increasing primary productivity, which will then result in large numbers of marine mammals and birds due to the availability of prey items.  This period of upwelling in the area of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries marks the beginning of a productive time of year.

Science and Technology Log 

Part of the mission on this cruise is to gather oceanographic processes data to look at the relationship between biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors within the study area.  While many samples are being collected through observation and survey equipment outside of the ship, there is just as much being collected in the laboratory onboard the McArthur II. The ship is equipped with several pieces of equipment that report physical features and measurements throughout the day.  This information is recorded for scientists onboard to utilize in their data analysis.  The following is a list of equipment, and their functions being used to measure oceanic processes:

Thermosalinograph (TSG) – Surface water is pumped from the ocean through a hose to this piece of equipment which measures temperature and salinity.  There is an additional probe that measures CO2. All information collected during the course of the cruise will be given to researchers to use in data analysis.

Scientific Echosounder – Sends a sound wave into the water column.  If there is anything in the water column this sound wave will reflect back to the ship. The longer it takes for the reflected wave to get back to the ship the farther away the target is.  Comparing three different frequencies emitted by the echosounder allow scientists to identify different types of plankton in the water column, and set sampling sites.

Navigation Software – Allows researchers to track where they have been and where they are going. Because nets and other equipment are being deployed from the ship this computer software allows scientists to view the charted underwater topography to determine placement and depth of equipment.  By marking sample sites using the software, scientists can look at the relationship between the ocean’s topography and living organisms collected.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.
NOAA TAS Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.

Personal Log 

Pteropod collected from a hoop net.
Pteropod collected from a hoop net.

I have been onboard the McARTHUR II for four days, and have enjoyed every minute of helping out with the research project. Scientists have been so patient and willing to answer all of my questions. The crewmembers onboard the McARTHUR II are very friendly and helpful. I now have a much better understanding of the marine physical environment than I did upon my arrival!  I am enjoying living at sea, even the small bunks!  The ship is actually very large you would never know there were more than twenty people onboard!

Animals Seen Today

Black-footed Albatross, Pteropod, Pigeon Guillemot, Copepods, Brandt’s Cormorant,  Ctenophore, Sooty Shearwater, Krill, Northern Fulmar, Microscopic Plankton, Black-legged Kittiwake, California Gull, Western Gull, Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, Rhinoceros, Auklet, and Bonaparte’s Gull.

Beth Lancaster, April 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 7, 2008

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster bottles a surface water sample that will be tested for the presence of nutrients.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the first full daytime operations.  We began shortly after 7:00 a.m., and covered a 90 kilometer transect throughout the course of the day ending at 6:00 p.m.  At each sampling point along the transect a series of measurements and observations were made to look at relationships between the physical ocean environment, and abundance of living organisms that are observed and collected to gain a better understanding of the physical and biological features of the area, and how they interact. The daytime crew was divided into two groups: the marine mammal and bird observers, and a second group that was responsible for collecting water and plankton samples as well as other various physical measurements of the water.  I worked with the second group, and will share what sampling I assisted with.

At each sampling point we used the CTD, which is a piece of equipment that has several probes on it, to collect a vertical sample of the water column.  When the CTD is deployed into the water it is sent down 200 meters below the surface and collects water conductivity (used to calculate salinity), temperature, depth, and turbidity. There is also a fluorometer attached to the CTD that measures the fluorescence of chlorophyll-a, which approximates the abundance of phytoplankton.  The CTD collects all this data, and can then be downloaded onto a computer.  Surface water samples were also collected at each sampling point, and will be tested for the presence of nutrients which would also have a direct impact on the abundance of organisms in the area.

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton
sample collected using a hoop net.

To gather information on the living organisms present at each site, a hoop net was used to collect samples of plankton.  The net was sent down approximately 50 meters, and collected all of the tiny living organisms (zooplankton) on a screen as the net was pulled through the water column. When the hoop net was brought back onboard, the cod end of the net (where the sample is collected) was transferred to a sample bottle, and preserved for further investigations in the laboratory. In addition to the living organisms collected in the hoop net, marine mammal and bird observations are being made from the flying bridge of the ship. That would be the highest point on the boat, and not the location for people who are afraid of heights. Due to rough sea conditions (10-12 foot swells), sightings were few and far between today.  Springtime within Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a time where strong winds cause upwelling of deeper waters towards the surface near the coast.  This upwelled water is colder and has higher nutrient concentrations.

Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.
Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.

This influx in nutrients means the ecosystem becomes very productive. Given this high influx of nutrients, prey items for birds and mammals are readily available. The food of choice for a lot of these organisms is krill (a shrimplike zooplankton.)  We did collect some krill in the hoop net during the day, but the abundance of krill in shallower water is much greater in the evening, when krill migrate from deep depths towards the surface.  The night crew is collecting krill using a tucker trawl, which has three separate nets that are opened and closed at different depths. Krill play a vital role in the ecosystem scientists are currently studying. They provide nourishment for resident and migratory birds as well as marine mammals.  There is sufficient nutrient availability for primary producers which are then food for primary consumers such as krill, and therefore food availability for secondary consumers such as fish and tertiary consumers such as whales and dolphins.

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Throughout the week the same measurements will be taken at different sights along the continental shelf and continental slope in the region of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Farallones Escarpment (within Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary). This information will allow scientists to better understand the dynamic relationship between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes.  Data gathered will also be used in conservation planning of the marine sanctuaries.

Some Animal Sightings 
Black-footed Albatross, Ancient Murrelet, Northern Fulmar, Laysan Albatross, and Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

Amy Pearson, August 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 27, 2007

A full moon over the Gulf of Maine
A full moon over the Gulf of Maine

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 15.6
Water temp: 15.1
Wind direction: 003
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

What a gift. After what seems like many days of fog, it is a perfect day in the Gulf of Maine. I witnessed it at about 1:30 a.m. from the bridge where I went to photograph a full moon from the “darker” end of the ship. The deck where we work (stern) is well lit all night, so there is light pollution.  The reflection of the moon on the water is hard to reproduce in a photo, but worthy of the attempt. The air has also cleared, replaced with dry, crisp Canadian air, and as a bonus, the seas are calm.  After a good six hour sleep I head to the deck for what I think is the best morning yet.  Clear skies with visibility that seems infinite, deep blue water with barely 1 ft. waves, and a gentle breeze mark the morning hours.  The air feels so clean, almost brand new.

Shearwaters are gliding onto the top of the water and dunking their head in for a quick taste.  It is the first time I’ve see herring gulls at sea in at least a week.  There are large mats of yellowish sargassum floating in the water.  There have been humpback whales spotted but I haven’t seen them yet.  It is still quite deep here, about 200 meters.  The plankton samples contain a lot of Calanus which is almost a salmon color and appears like small grains of rice in the sieve. It is a tiny crustacean, and food for so many large organisms…a favorite of young cod. I was late for breakfast but had some freshly cut honeydew melon, toast and cheese. Some warm coffee cake was soon put out.  I’m so lucky to have this great experience. I spotted a grey triangular shaped dorsal fin in the water. It was quite wide at the base and a lighter grey near the top. It appeared twice then disappeared.  Claire on the bridge confirmed sighting, a Mola Mola, a large sunfish.

On one side of the ship a lunar eclipse was taking place, while on the other the sun was rising.
On one side of the ship – a lunar eclipse, the sun was rising on the other

Today is such a spectacular weather day. The Chief Steward pulled out the barbecue grill and charcoals were lit late in the afternoon. He added some hickory wood and grilled steaks and tuna. What a feast! We took samples in the Gulf of Maine today and tonight. They were a salmon pink color due to the calanus but contained a mix of zooplankton including amphipods, glass shrimp, and a few large, clear jellyfish.  I preserved a jar from the baby bongo net for my students. Because I work into Tuesday morning, I wanted to include a special event on 7/28 at about 4:50 a.m.  There was a lunar eclipse going on one side of the ship and a gorgeous sunrise on the other. Photos of both are below, as well as the moon rise the evening of 8/27, above.

Thanks to Kim Pratt, a fellow teacher, & Jerry Prezioso, a NOAA scientist.
Thanks to Kim Pratt, a fellow teacher, & Jerry Prezioso, a NOAA scientist.

A Shipboard Community 

Nineteen people living aboard a ship, working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for seventeen days. A very unique community. Thirteen of them are there to support the scientific research of four science staff and to maintain the ship for its use as a scientific research vessel.  The four-man deck crew maintains the ship and runs the heavy equipment for the scientists. The four-person NOAA Corps staff navigate, drive and manage the ship.  They re-adjust courses when conditions force a change, deal with fog and rough seas, lots of other boats that want to be in the same place we do, and make sure everyone has their needs met.  The two-person kitchen staff feeds this team of nineteen as they work on twenty-four hour shifts. Good food is so important on a ship.  The Four-person engineering team seems to stay behind the scenes (below deck!) and keep all systems running like clock-work.  Last, but certainly not least is the electronic technician, a genius with anything that has wires. He told me the favorite part of his job is problem-solving, and quite frankly, that is what is required of him each day.  From email to satellite TV reception to the electronics in the winch, he is constantly fixing new problems or finding ways to make things work better.  Each person has a different background and reason for being here.

Thanks to Betsy Broughton, also a scientist.
Thanks to Betsy Broughton, also a scientist.

The age range of the members of this community begins at 23 and goes to the upper 50’s. The key to a good working ship is respect, consideration, and cooperation between people.  There are many personal stresses on everyone, from lack of personal space, lack of sleep, seasickness, little contact with family, and inability to “go home”.  In addition, each person needs to think of the needs of others so as not to disturb them or make their jobs any harder than they already are.  This may seem like a utopian ideal.  I suspect it is achieved on many vessels, though I can only speak for the DELAWARE II. What a great team to work with.  Thank you for your support.

Teachers Kim Pratt and Amy Pearson say thanks to the crew of the DELAWARE II.
Teachers Kim Pratt and Amy Pearson say thanks to the crew of the DELAWARE II.

Amy Pearson, August 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 25, 2007

Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt deploy a drifter buoy
Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt deploy a drifter buoy

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4130  Longitude: 6650
Air temp: 17.8
Water temp: 16.7
Wind direction: 220
Wind speed: 16 kts.
Sea wave height: 2 ft.
Visibility: 4 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke to another foggy day, though the air temperature is warm (18.6 at 1:30 p.m.).  When a humid air mass hits the cooler Gulf of Maine water, fog results.  At about 1 p.m. we got a call from the bridge saying we just crossed into Canada – could we see the line in the water? (everyone has a sense of humor here). Yesterday we decorated the surface drifter buoy that will send location, air and water temperature data to a satellite. Our school logos and websites are written on the buoy as well as the message “leave in the water”.   NOAA will post this data on the Internet for anyone to track. Today we will deploy the buoy. Our school communities can watch this for over 400 days! Deployment went well, but the cloth drogue (holey sock) came apart and seemed to disappear below the buoy. We wore inflatable life vests and were tethered to the boat when we tossed the buoy off the ship.

Amy and Kim decorate the buoy for launch
Amy and Kim decorate the buoy for launch

Shortly after this, we took a plankton sample and as the net was coming up, I spotted some pilot whales about 40 ft. off the starboard side of the ship. There were six together, then another group appeared off the stern. They seem to stay very close together. Length was approximately 12-16 feet. They seemed to enjoy riding the stern waves.  They were very cute, as the photo below shows.

Science Topic 

This cruise is called an Ecosystems Monitoring Cruise. They happen four times per year, during January, May, August and November.  Additional data to support this data set is collected on Fish Survey Cruises that occur in March, April, September and October.  As I said in an earlier log entry, its mission is to assess changing biological and physical properties which influence the sustainable productivity of the living marine resources of the mid-Atlantic Bight, southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank portions of the northeast continental shelf ecosystem.

Amy Pearson with a harnass connecting with ship for buoy deployment.
Amy Pearson with a harness connecting with ship for buoy deployment.

The plankton that is collected and analyzed must be collected in the same exact manner during each cruise in order to compare it from season to season and year to year. The constant materials used are identical 61 cm diameter Bongo Nets with mesh size of 335 microns.  The net is towed at a constant speed of 1.5-2 knots, 5 meters from the bottom or to a maximum depth of 200 meters.  The rate of release of the nets into the water is constant as is the rate of return. There is always a 45 kg weight at the end of the wire that the nets are clipped to. The angle of the wire with the water is maintained at 45 degrees. Keeping these parameters constant allows scientists to compare the net catches because the only variable is what is very enthusiastic and dedicated. Even when I offered to take over the hosing of nets at the end of his shift, his response was, “I live for this!” NOAA is fortunate to have so many dedicated scientists and employees who work at sea.  This is definitely not like any job I’ve experienced. The challenges of life at sea make it not something everyone can do. Betsy Broughton, the other scientist aboard is also high energy when it comes to this work. She clearly loves every minute and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.  I have learned much from both of them.

A flowmeter in each net measures how much water passes into each net and its data is part of the equation when amount of plankton per amount of water is calculated. Jerry Prezioso has been involved with this project since the 1970’s and is very enthusiastic and dedicated.Even when I offered to take over the hosing of nets at the end of his shift, his response was, “I live for this!” NOAA is fortunate to have so many dedicated scientists and employees who work at sea. This is definitely not like any job I’ve experienced. The challenges of life at sea make it not something everyone can do. Betsy Broughton, the other scientist aboard is also high energy when it comes to this work. She clearly loves every minute and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. I have learned much from both of them.

Pilot whale observed in the Gulf of Maine, following our ship.Others were underwater when I snapped the photo!
Pilot whale in the Gulf of Maine, following us. Others were underwater when I shot the photo!

Amy Pearson, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 24, 2007

Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton
Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 19.9
Water temp: 16.8
Wind direction: 185
Wind speed: 10 kts.
Sea wave height: 1to2 ft.
Visibility: 4

Science and Technology Log 

Early this morning we were at the southeastern edge of George’s Bank. Last night my team (Betsy and I) had collection stations at about 5:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 2:20 a.m. (today!). At 2:20 a.m. we were at a very deep location (305 meters depth) and about 200 miles offshore. I was surprised to come on deck and see 3 lights from other boats.  Two were just small single lights. The other ship had bright lights on and was moving away from us, probably fishing.  We first did a vertical drop of the CTD to get the temperature and salinity with depth all the way to the bottom. At 298 meters it was 6.7 degrees Celsius.  One can look at the salinity and temperature here and predict if this continental slope water is coming from the north (Labrador Current) or from the continental shelf.  It will be less salty and cooler if coming from Labrador.  Betsy predicts it is coming from Labrador, based on the data.  go to sleep around 3 a.m. and wake several times, hearing foghorns from our ship.  At 10:30 a.m. there is pretty dense fog, and while we are underway we must sound a foghorn once every 2 minutes.  If we are limited in our movements (plankton tow) we must sound one long and two short sounds. It is quite humid (we are in a cloud!) and the air temperature at 1 p.m. is about 19 degrees Celsius.  Our 75th station samples were loaded with gammarid amphipods that Betsy nicknamed clingons because they cling to the plankton net. This fog does make seeing whales more challenging.  Hope it lifts soon!

Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise
Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise

What Is the Mission of This NOAA Cruise? 

The primary objective of the cruise is to assess changing biological and physical properties which influence the sustainable productivity of the living marine resources of the mid-Atlantic Bight, southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank portions of the northeast continental shelf ecosystem.  The following items are being measured: water column temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and ichthyoplankton and zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. The teachers aboard will deploy a surface current drifter buoy that will allow our students to track water movements and temperatures in near real-time on an Internet website.  We will also collect Pseudonitzchia (a red-tide pinnate diatom) samples from the ship’s flow-through seawater system for mapping the distribution of it in the Gulf of Maine and George’s Bank.  Zooplankton is also being collected for the Census of Marine Zooplankton Project (formerly called the Zooplankton Genome Project).

Small puffer fish and salps mixed w/ other plankton
Puffer fish and salps mixed with plankton

From my perspective, I never thought there would be such big differences in the type and amount of plankton we collect at different locations.  The diversity is very interesting, from large jellies to small zooplankton.  We have seen amphipods (tiny crustaceans), tiny crabs (still maturing), brownish phytoplankton, salps (clear jellies the size of a small walnut), to brownish creatures too small to see, krill, arrow worms…and many more.  The scientists are quite knowledgeable and usually predict what we will be seeing at each spot. I’ve put a few photos here to illustrate the diversity.

 

Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
A plankton sample full of amphipods
A plankton sample full of amphipods

Amy Pearson, August 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 22, 2007

Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor
Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 18.7
Water temp: 17
Wind direction: 75
Wind speed: 15kts.
Sea wave height. 2 ft.
Visibility: 7 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke to the sound of engines warming up.  We were docked in Woods Hole having arrived at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to exchange scientists.  Scientist Joe Kane who supervised my shift was departing and a new scientist, Betsy Broughton, was joining us.  Yesterday, the crew and scientists were very excited for the chance to get on land.  Many joined their families who live nearby.  I met my husband for dinner at a location about half-way between here and my home.  It was great seeing him. The DELAWARE II would be departing Woods Hole at 6a.m. The water was very calm and the morning light just beautiful. Everyone seemed recharged for the final leg of our cruise. After an early morning walk, I got on the exercise bike for a while.

Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored
Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored

Today I had a tour of the engine room, a place I had observed engineers entering with earphones but hadn’t seen. I followed Engineer Chris O’Keefe down a ladder into a very warm and noisy engine room.  It is huge and very clean. We first went into the office/control room where it was quiet and he showed me the many dials, switches, and screens that monitor the different systems of the ship.  There is one engine, two generators for producing electricity, and another generator in the bow to run the bow thrusters and hydraulic winches. There is also a system for making fresh water from sea water, utilizing a heat exchanger. Cool salt water condenses the steam to form fresh water, which is then chlorinated. The ship has about 10 fuel tanks and can carry 70,000 gallons of fuel. There is also a machine shop below with tools and some space to work.  I am very impressed with the organization of materials, cleanliness of the space and the size of the engine. There is a lot to keep track of down here, and it is well organized and clean.

Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries
Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries

As we left Woods Hole, we passed north of Martha’s Vineyard and I noticed a light house with an orange ladder next to it. I recalled that a friend of mine, Marty Nally, was going to be restoring this lighthouse at this time.  Right is a photo of the lighthouse with the orange ladder, Marty must be nearby! The CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) unit that we use can work for about 90 times before it needs a battery change. It is close to 60 stations and Jerry decided to change the batteries. He and Betsy (our new scientist on board) did this today during a calm moment.

My first plankton sample was done at around 9 p.m., and loaded with amphipods, tiny crustaceans that have little hook-like structures on their legs that make them very hard to remove from the nets.  Our midnight sample was about the same.  We were collecting at an area called Nantucket Shoals, east of Nantucket. It is shallow and has a hard bottom. I was surprised to get on deck to see at least 15 lights from fishing boats, fairly evenly spaced in a long line.  I heard that we had to change our collection site a bit due to the position of all of these boats.  I was quite tired and went to sleep at about 12:30 until 2:20 a.m. when I thought we would be at our next station.  I discovered that it would not be happening on our shift and went to sleep.  One thing about this ship, there is always noise, humming of some piece of equipment.  Headphones are very helpful in blocking it out…whether there is music, a book on tape, or just no noise.  It looks like tomorrow will be a much busier night, so I hope to stock up on some rest tonight! 

Amy Pearson, August 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 19, 2007

Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net
Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 24.8
Water temp: 24.3
Wind direction: 200
Wind speed: 11 kts.
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

Woke at 8 a.m., had some breakfast, and then went back to my cabin to read and sleep more.  Lunch was wonderful, including smoked salmon Sunday and some great butternut squash soup. I visited the bridge to collect some data and learned that the ship receives XM satellite radio to gain weather data.  As I was shown the Nobeltec software system along with a map that showed the currents in different locations, LT Monty Spencer remarked that sometimes he felt like he was “driving the ship with a mouse”….so much important computer-based navigation.

Opening the cod end of net to release plankton
Opening the cod end of net to release plankton

It was a busy sampling shift, with collections at about 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 11 p.m., 1:10 a.m., and 2:45 a.m., though the other shift workers came early and told us to go to sleep. Our first sample occurred off Delaware Bay and was loaded with lots of heavy jellies and brownish green phytoplankton. As we moved north the plankton changed. The 8:30 p.m. sample was still high in jellies and phytoplankton but had some amphipods.  The 11 p.m. sample had a small puffer fish puffed out, several worms, and amphipods.  The 1:10 a.m. sample had a worm and lots of amphipods.  The photos in this log show me hosing down the plankton within the nets, and then hosing it into a sieve which will be taken into the wet lab where the plankton will be preserved with formalin.  I saw the glow of Atlantic City from the sea—it was a long white light with a red light near the middle.

A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish
A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish

Life on a Research Vessel 

Working on a scientific research vessel requires adjusting to some changes from life/work on land. Basics like smaller living space, meals at designated hours, a limited area to live, are changes I have observed. Working 24 hours means shifts for all.  The scientists work from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. and another group works from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. The NOAA officers on the bridge work 4 hours on, 8 hours off, then 4 hours on again. At night a crewmember joins the officer on the bridge, to provide a second set of eyes.  I was amazed to find the bridge dark at night with the exception of the instruments.  This allows them to see what’s on the water clearly. The engineers work similar hours: 4 hours on, 8 hours off. The crew works 12 hours on, 12 hours off, from 12 to 12.  The wiper works a day shift beginning about 6 a.m., for about 8 hours. The chief steward (head chef) and second cook work over 12 hours, as breakfast begins at 6 a.m. and dinner ends at 6:20 p.m.

Amy takes a spin on the stationary bike
Amy takes a spin

Then there is clean up. Because someone is always off shift, one must be quiet so as not to wake up those sleeping. If you share a room with someone who is sleeping, you are not supposed to go into the room when they are sleeping. Free time can be spent sending email, on deck (there are some chairs), in the galley, or in your room if no one is sleeping. The galley has satellite TV at one end and a big screen at the other where movies can be watched.  The ship receives about 20 new movies per month that rotate among ships. ENS Claire Surrey has the responsibility of updating a movie list. There are also many other movies that stay on the ship. There is also an exercise bike and some free weights for those interested in this form of exercise. 

Amy Pearson, August 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 18, 2007

Chief Steward, Jonathan Rockwell, and CO of the DELAWARE II, Jeff Taylor
Chief Steward, Jonathan Rockwell, and CO of the DELAWARE II, Jeff Taylor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 24.1
Water temp:  26.4
Wind direction:  030
Wind speed:  12 kts.
Sea wave height: 3 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

What a beautiful day. Humidity is gone and there is a nice breeze, bright sun and 2-3 ft seas.  Up at 7 a.m. just in time for breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon and an egg sandwich. Email checked and data collection for logs happened. I went to the bridge and interviewed the Commanding Officer (CO) Jeff Taylor and the ship’s navigator, Ensign Claire Surrey. I also interviewed and taped Patrick Bergin, the ship’s electronic technician. Information from them will be in another log entry.  We also observed a large pod of bottlenose dolphins (at least 25) swim with the boat for a short time in the morning. A smaller group with larger individuals came by around 3:30 p.m.  I did get some video of the first group—very beautiful creatures.

Ensign Clair Surrey at the bridge
Ensign Clair Surrey at the bridge

After lunch I sent my first four logs to the NOAA office in Maryland. We do not have Internet access here, just email access on 3 computers.  This all went quite smoothly.  My evening watch begins with a sampling at about 6 p.m., another at about 9 p.m. and one more at approximately 12:20 a.m. During the evening we headed inshore, the ocean depth decreased, and flies were annoying us on deck. Contents of the plankton tows have increased in volume with more jelly-like creatures, such as Salps.  We observe more ships in the area. Learning about NOAA’ s mission and how this ship fits into the mission took place today. The organization NOAA falls under the auspices of the Department of Commerce (DOC). It used to be under the Dept. of Interior.  NOAA’s many divisions support the mission of DOC. The organization has just 299 NOAA Corps officers, a congressionally approved maximum. All others who work for NOAA (99% of workers) are civilian marine workers employed by the government.  They include scientists, crew, who are called wage mariners, and the many support staff who work for these people. To become a NOAA Corps officer, one must apply and compete with many worthy candidates.

LT Monty Spencer at the bridge
LT Monty Spencer at the bridge

The maximum age to apply is forty-two years old. One must have a bachelor’s degree in an area of science or engineering with two semesters of both calculus and physics. Upon being accepted, one would begin with a sixteen-week training program at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.  Then the individual would receive their first sea assignment that would last two to three years.  Following this, a three-year land based assignment would happen. For both of these assignments the officers can submit a rank of requests for location. After twenty years, they may retire with a pension. On this cruise there are four NOAA Corps officers: LT Jeff Taylor, the acting Commanding Officer, LT Monty Spencer, the Executive Officer, ENS Francisco Fuenmayor, operations officer, and ENS Claire Surrey, navigation officer. More information on their job descriptions will appear in another log.

Amy Pearson, August 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 17, 2007

A beautiful moth landed on the plankton net
A beautiful moth landed on the plankton net

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp:  21.7
Water temp:  24.3
Wind direction: variable
Wind speed: variable
Sea wave height: 4kts.
Visibility: 2 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Slept till 9:30 though woke several time during the night.  Much bigger rolling than before. Had a banana and some coffee cake for breakfast, after taking a shower and putting in a load of wash. Lay down for about an hour, then moved wash to dryer, ate a little lunch, half a burger, asparagus, and a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie.  Have been working on logs and then to laundry – good news is the laundry chemicals got out most of the grease that I got on my shorts.  This is a working ship and one does get dirty!

An amazing lunch menu and the delicious food served.  Cheers to Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell and second cook Terence Harris
An amazing lunch menu and the delicious food served. Cheers to Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell and second cook Terence Harris

The crew said there had been some lightning this morning, and it was raining lightly at 10a.m.  Several things to record on boat life – floor is sometimes not where you think it is, hold on to railings…including the shower which does have railings.

Sample from a Bongo net with some jellyfish—a finch flew into the wet lab to check it out!
Sample from a Bongo net with some jellyfish—a finch flew into the wet lab to check it out!

Getting out of my lower bunk continues to be a challenge. I am not big but the opening requires planning to exit the bed! We have been told some rough weather is on the way for later today.  Deployment of scientific equipment is halted if seas are over 12 ft. and winds are 30 knots. Today’s first station for me was at 5 p.m.  This timing went well and we were able to eat dinner when it was served. I made some photo transfers with Kim Pratt, the other teacher, and did more log work as well as email.  Two more stations to work—I’m on deck for the later two.  Our last station was at 10:45 p.m., and I was able to sleep at about 12:00 a.m.  Very fortunate to get a good night’s sleep!  Did not notice any rough weather!

The other nice discoveries are the bright lights on deck for night sampling and rock and roll music we hear when on deck.  Lots of good oldies!

Amy Pearson, August 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 16, 2007

Scientist Jerry Prezioso and teacher Amy Pearson in the wet lab of DELAWARE II
Scientist Jerry Prezioso and Amy Pearson in the wet lab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 20.0
Water temp: 20.1
Wind direction: 215
Wind speed: 11 kts.
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Visibility 10+ nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke up after a good night’s sleep. Slept from about 3:00-10 a.m. Meals are served at certain hours so I had missed breakfast, but was able to get some cereal and coffee cake.  I worked on my logs. Lunch is pictured below, amazing food!  As the seas were reasonably calm, I decided to video-tape Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso and teacher Kim Pratt going through their duties during a bongo net drop. This went well, and then I showed it to them.  With seas rolling, and staring at the small camera screen, I began feeling ill.

Data collection station for scientists on the DELAWARE II
Data collection station for scientists

Yes, I did become seasick, feeling really awful. I took a Bonine at about 3 p.m., then tried wrist bands about an hour later, and then went to my cabin to lie down. It got worse and yes, I lost lunch. This does make one feel a little better, though not much. I thought I’d feel better out on deck in the fresh air, which is where I stayed. I felt quite weak and unsteady on my feet.  About 6:45 p.m. I had a little water and some crackers, which tasted good. I decided I had to try a patch of scopolamine that I had brought just in case….good thing. I put it on and remained on deck, feeling weak and drowsy until the captain suggested I’d be better off in my cabin.  Scientist Joe Kane was very understanding and he took over the whole task of sampling this evening. A good sleep ensued and I woke up feeling much better.

My cabin aboard the DELAWARE II
My cabin aboard the DELAWARE II
Ensign Claire Surrey and Scientist Jerry Prezioso enjoying a delicious lunch. Bravo to the chefs!
Ensign Claire Surrey and Scientist Jerry Prezioso enjoying a delicious lunch. Bravo to the chefs!

Amy Pearson, August 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 15, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 23.0
Water temp: 22.1
Wind direction: 195
Wind speed: 13 kts.
Sea wave height: 3-4 ft.
Visibility: 7nm

After dark, Amy Pearson operates the A-frame, which is used to lower the CTD and Bongo Nets.
After dark, Amy Pearson operates the A-frame, which is used to lower the CTD and Bongo Nets.

Personal Log 

Not ready to eat much food, the cook let me make some toast.  Lunch was rice and as the day progressed I felt much better.  During the day we saw a pod of dolphins, length of about 4 feet (grey upper body and light underside) riding the ship’s bow waves, some as close as 20 ft. to ship. I ate steak and tuna (also a little sushi!) for dinner with a little pasta. I rested a bit today and did some work on logs and email. Sampling occurred from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. (3 stations – with me doing the outside work for several of them), and as the next station was at 3:45 a.m., we got to sleep at 1 a.m.

Science and Technology Log: What I have learned about ship life and some of the jobs on this ship…… 

One must work when the weather/seas are good as it’s difficult to focus or do certain tasks when the ship is rolling. The deck crew had been painting yesterday but today it was not conducive to that. Also, everyone is on a shift, with people working around the clock. Someone is always sleeping so one must be quiet when opening doors and talking near people’s cabins. There is a policy of only loud equipment use (sanders) between 9 am and 3 pm as this is when shifts change for some. The deck hands do ship maintenance (painting, some repairs) and help the scientists in their work.  The CTD/Bongo nets are dropped from wire connected to a winch.

A crewmember bringing in the CTD and Bongo Nets after sampling
A crewmember bringing in the CTD and Bongo Nets after sampling

One crew member is in charge of the winch and has radio to communicate w/ the computer person who is watching the depth of the equipment.  A second helps position the CTD/Bongo nets so they go out and away from the ship, and the when they come in, helps to get them on deck safely.  A third deck person, this being a scientist works the A-frame controller that carries the equipment away from the side of the boat for deployment.  I got to do this last night and it was a thrilling experience. When the equipment comes up, I had to pull the lever to bring the A-frame back in. It is very exciting to control this big piece of equipment.

We had some very deep sampling tonight. We went off the continental shelf for a short time with depths of over 400 meters. Here the maximum drop is 200 meters.  There was not a lot of plankton retrieved in this cast.  When we came back in to shallower water the contents of the cast did increase, with lots of amphipods and Calanus. Scientist Joe Kane said these are found in deeper colder waters this time of year.

Amy Pearson, August 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 14, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 18.2
Water temp: 19.0
Wind direction: 160
Wind speed: 13 kts.
Sea wave height: 2 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Amy Pearson dons her survival suit during a safety drill
Amy Pearson dons her survival suit during a safety drill

Personal Log 

I got up around 7 a.m. and had some breakfast, a delicious egg sandwich on a bagel w/ bacon on the side. The ship is supposed to depart at 1 p.m., but due to some mechanical problems the time is bumped to 5:30 p.m.  Kim Pratt, an ARMADA Teacher at Sea, and I helped Jerry with organization of jars, labels, supplies and received a second lesson in CTD data acquisition from Tamara.  We had time to squeeze in another walk through Woods Hole, a great village, devoted to marine science study.  The town is perfectly developed for working with the sea—many places for boats to tie up, great research facilities (MBL, WHOI, and National Marine Fisheries with NOAA), and just the right amount of shops and restaurants.

We departed Woods Hole at 5:45 p.m.  It was very exciting to pull away from the dock.  We looked back at a village devoted to science and saw the majestic Knorr that had just arrived yesterday and is tied up at the WHOI dock.  We had drills to insure all are prepared for fires, abandoning ship, and man overboard.  The photo shows me in a survival suit (nicknamed a Gumby suit) that we had to bring to deck in the event of having to abandon ship. We also had to bring along a long-sleeve shirt, hat and blanket, and were assigned life rafts. We headed out passing Martha’s Vineyard on our port (left) side and the Elizabeth Islands on our starboard (right). Dinner was a pork roast in mango sauce or fish.  Great veggies. Our first station to sample was at about 10:00 p.m.

Science and Technology Log 

Lots of science to learn and experience today. One goal of this trip is to collect plankton samples at over 100 stations ranging from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine and east to Georges Bank. Some stations are offshore, over 200 miles offshore.  Others are closer to the coastline called inshore stations.  This plankton will be preserved for identification and counted at a later date.

We collected the plankton in Bongo Nets – two round metal frames (look like bongo drums) that have fine netting attached.  As we traveled slowly through the water, the nets collected plankton of a certain size, letting smaller plankton (phytoplankton) through.  We are collecting large zooplankton (animal-like creatures-many crustaceans) and ichthyoplankton (fish larva).

As we head south from Woods Hole we will start doing offshore stations as the weather is good and if it deteriorates, we will move in-shore.  For our first sample, my job was to man the computer, recording the data collected.  At this station, there were 3 monitors to watch, one that has basic navigational info such as latitude, longitude, water and air temperatures, wind speed and direction, depth and more.  The other monitor has the software that I am to input data on the cast.  A third showed real time views of the stern deck where the scientific equipment was being deployed.  Here I watched what was happening on deck and communicated with the winch operator who was lowering the equipment.

Another role here is to monitor the depth of the scientific equipment being lowered.  Besides the Bongo Nets, a CTD is lowered. There is also a large lead weight at the end of this equipment to make it go down.  The CTD unit (costing about $14,000) collects data on Conductivity, Depth, and Temperature.  The conductivity reading produces data for ocean salinity. If this scientific equipment hits bottom it may be destroyed so I had to watch the depth reading to insure safety for the equipment.  Based on the depth of the ocean, I check a chart to determine the rate of output wire release and input wire return, telling this to the winch operator.

All of this data is recorded on paper logs and the computer.  Once the plankton is brought to the surface, the cod end of the net (tied end) is opened and the plankton is washed out of the net into a sieve that retains this plankton.  This is then rinsed into a collection jar and formalin is added to preserve this.  Labels are marked to identify its station location.  All of this takes about thirty to forty minutes depending on the depth of the cast.

Amy Pearson, August 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 13, 2007

Amy Pearson helping Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso load equipment onto  DELAWARE II
Amy Pearson helping Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso load equipment onto DELAWARE II

Science and Technology Log 

DAY 1 – Onboard, pre-cruise work Woods Hole, MA.

Arrived in Woods Hole at 11:45 to an overcast, humid day. Upper 70’s.  Felt privileged to be able to drive into a shipside parking lot. There he and Kim Pratt, another teacher on our cruise, helped me load my gear onto the ship. Everyone was friendly, and I was shown my room – meant for 4 w/ 2 bunk beds. Great to feel the air-conditioning!!! All to myself, how wonderful, and its own bath, a shower and head in one room, sink in the room w/ the bunks.  Under the bunks were latched drawers, four in total. There were also four hanging lockers, which I filled w/ hanging stuff, shoes and was able to place things on the top shelf. Assorted activities included lunch in the galley- delicious choice of crab cakes (my choice-awesome), rice, asparagus, creamy pot-onion soup and fresh green salad.  Bravo to John the Chief Steward. In the galley there is a fridge w/ milk, juice, and a freezer w/ ice cream plus snacks and sandwich supplies for those who work at times that cause them to miss a meal.

Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt during their first evening on DELAWARE II
Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt during
their first evening on DELAWARE II

On to unloading supplies from a nearby storage area using wheeled carts.  Boxes of jars, bongos, and much more, several trips. We were introduced to Cristina who would later instruct us on CTD data collection, but as the CTD was being repaired that was moved until later in the afternoon.  We met Betsy who would be on board during the second week, saw her lab and the cool fish larva – ichthyoplankton, that she studies the stomach contents of. Met some of the crew and visited the helm to see equipment and borrow a 3-hole punch. Unpacked our stuff a little, then had lessons on CTD data collection. Free time for the rest of the evening. Time to explore the village of Woods Hole. Fish were jumping in water, seemed to be small stripers, lots of action. Tired and turned in – cannot sit up in lower bunk w/o hitting head, that’s ok. Finished unpacking as once we get moving, it may be difficult. There is a good light above my bunk for working here. I will have 3pm-3 am shift….We leave at 1 pm tomorrow, which is slack tide. The ship only goes 8 knots so the idea is to leave when the tidal flow into Woods Hole is best for departure.

Turtle Haste, June 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Turtle Haste
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 -7, 2007

Mission: CalCOFI Survey: Ecosystem Survey and Seafloor Recovery Evaluation
Geographical Area: Central CA National Marine Sanctuary
Date: June 5, 2007

The Oblique Bongo nets.
The Oblique Bongo nets.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  6 miles
Wind Direction: Northwest
Wind Speed: 10-20 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Height: 3-5 feet at 10 second intervals
Surface Water Temperature: 13.96 – degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 16.1 – degrees Celsius
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.6 millibars

Science and Technology Log 

Bongo Nets-Upon arriving at station 60-50, Kit Clark and I began the zooplankton tows with the oblique Bongo nets, also referred to as the “bongos.” The process involved is to tow the nets an oblique angle acquired by calculating the wire put out with the angle it is towed at. There is an angle measuring tool that looks like a level attached to the payout line that is monitored. Adjustments are made depending on the angle to achieve  an angle of 45 degrees +/-3 degrees for the nets to reach  an approximate depth of 200 meters. The bongo device itself has a 22 kg weight attached to the bottom of the yoke frame to cause it to sink. As the ship is traveling at 1-2 knots, a fixed amount of cable is paid out; the net is held at depth for 30 seconds and then is retrieved at a constant rate of 20 meters per minute.  Upon retrieval of the bongo, samples are hosed into the cup at the end of the net to collect as much material as possible. A volume displacement measure is acquired by subtracting the amount of water the zooplankton displaces in a 1000 milliliter cylinder.  The time to reach depth, time at depth, and retrieval time are recorded to monitor angle and depth.  

Kit Clark identifies various zooplankton caught in a Bongo net to Charlotte Hill.
Kit Clark identifies various zooplankton caught in a Bongo net to Charlotte Hill.

A tow was made at each station along the 60 survey line after the first station. The first station had too many crab pots and was too shallow to acquire a depth of 200 meters. At night, the anticipated nocturnal rising of krill occurred to present a sample dominated by krill as compared to the daytime samples of copepods.  Daylight hours also presented samples of ctenaphore tendrils that “gunked” up the net. An obvious difference between daylight and night tows was the presence of krill in greater numbers. This is expected as especially near Monterey Bay over the canyon is known for Humpback and Blue whales who stop to feed on their migration. Kit noticed that the krill out past the continental shelf and along most of our tows with the exception of the ones conducted in Monterey Canyon were not as “fat and well fed” as the ones within the canyon area itself. Krill over the canyon are in overall better condition due to a localized upwelling feature in the canyon that brings nutrient rich deep water up to increase the productivity of phytoplankton.

Kit Clark strains zooplankton from the bongo nets to evaluate the displaced volume of organisms trapped while towing.
Kit Clark strains zooplankton from the bongo nets to evaluate the displaced volume of organisms trapped while towing.

A general list of zoo plankton collected: Euphausiid (krill) and Copepods Pteropods (sea butterfly) Heteropods (Gelatinous Molluscs) Velella velella (By the Wind Sailors) a surface traveling creature Doliolids and Salps Ostracods Argyropelecus aculeatus (Hatchet fish) Atolla (deep water jelly) Cephalopods Tomopferiids Myctophild Ichthyoplankton Flashlight fish Siphonophore Radiolaria have used with students is identifying water masses in the Atlantic by physical characteristics. We use Temperature-Salinity (T-S) diagram at specific depths to identify water masses based on the density. I was hoping to collect water samples from various depths in the Pacific as well to use in the same activity. In discussions with Dr. Collins of the US Naval Post-Graduate school I learned that the Pacific is less uniquely identifiable than the Atlantic. The layered masses of the central Atlantic would not be as easily recognizable. We spent several days discussing the formation and circulation of deep waters in the Pacific in an attempt to understand the interaction between the atmosphere, chemistry, and surface current contribution to deep water mixing.  From these discussions I learned that there are actually three sources of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW).  Furthermore, I learned that the mixing of NADW and Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) in the Pacific created what is known as Common DeepWater (CDW) and that it is more difficult to actually identify Pacific water masses that I originally understood.

The bottles on the CTD rosette. In the foreground is the bottle containing 4380meter water at 1.518 degree water, the background contains the water from near the surface at 14.169 degrees.
The bottles on the CTD rosette. In the foreground is the bottle containing 4380 meter water at 1.518 degree water, the background contains the water from near the surface at 14.169 degrees.

The two casts were made at the farthest points from shore with the collection of water in the bottles to be used specifically for evaluation of dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Dr. Collins asked for my input to for the overall bottle collection depths to ensure that I would have a set of samples from similar depths to match the Atlantic set I use. The Pacific deep water cast bottles are from the following meter depths for the first cast: 4462, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 7500, 500, 250. The Pacific deep water cast bottles are from the following meter depths for the second cast: 4380, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 7500, 500, 250, and 14. The Atlantic deep water samples that I already have are from the following meter depths and associated water masses: 4000 (Antarctic Bottom Water), 2000 (Antarctic Intermediate Water), 1000 (North Atlantic Deep Water), 500 (Mediterranean Intermediate Water), and 100 (North Atlantic Central Surface Water).  Once the CTD was brought on deck, I noticed that the bottles containing the deepest water, although insulated showed condensation. Even though I understand that the temperature of the deep water is considerable colder than sea water at the surface, the ability to observe this drove the point home. Erich Rienecker of MBARI suggested that I feel the water around the rosette of bottles to really understand the temperature difference. This was the first time I had the opportunity to work with the CTD as I was working specifically with the Bongo nets. The bottle from 4380 meters had a temperature of 1.518 degrees Celsius and the surface bottle (14 meters) Another activity that the MBARI folks made sure that all of the science team and MCARTHUR II crew members had the opportunity to participate in was to send a decorated Styrofoam cup down in a mesh bag to “squish” it, or remove the air as a result of the pressure differential. Science team members spent quite a bit of time decorating cups. We even sent down a cup decorated with Flat Stanley. 

Charlotte Hill of the US Naval Academy prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
Charlotte Hill of the US Naval Academy prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.

Zooplankton – Wikipedia has a good general description of most of the organisms listed. I found specific information as I used Google for the unique species, although some of the more specific critters were really hard to find. For further information visit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A census of plankton is being conducted through the Census of Marine Life.

AABW = Antarctic Bottom Water;  NADW = North Atlantic Deep Water;  AAIW = Antarctic Intermediate Water;  SACW = South Atlantic Central Water;  NACW= North Atlantic Central Water.

Water Mass – a body of water with a common formation history. “This is based on the observation that water renewal in the deep ocean is the result of water mass formation in contact with the atmosphere, spreading from the formation region without atmospheric contact, and decay through mixing with other water masses.”

Flat Stanley – A character from a story by Jeff Brown who has adventures as a result of being flattened by a bulletin board. Classes read the story, send out their versions of Stanley to friends and associated with a scrapbook to record his adventures here.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
The CTD on the fantail of the MCARTHUR II with Styrofoam cups in the green mesh bag for the second deep cast of -4500 meters.
The CTD on the fantail of the MCARTHUR II with Styrofoam cups in the green mesh bag for the second deep cast of -4500 meters.
This is a “regular” Styrofoam 10 oz cup and the two cups that returned from 4500 meters. The far right cup has a Flat Stanley drawn on it.
This is a “regular” Styrofoam 10 oz cup and the two cups that returned from 4500 meters. The far right cup has a Flat Stanley drawn on it.

haste_log2h

Turtle Haste, June 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Turtle Haste
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 -7, 2007

Mission: CalCOFI Survey: Ecosystem Survey and Seafloor Recovery Evaluation
Geographical Area: Central CA National Marine Sanctuary
Date: June 4, 2007

Charlotte Hill and Erich Rienecker collect water samples from a CTD cast.
Charlotte Hill and Erich Rienecker collect water samples from a CTD cast.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 0 – fog
Cloud Cover: 100 %
Wind Direction: 280 – degrees
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot in AM, 2 foot in PM
Swell Height: AM swells of 2-3 feet, PM mixed swells of 4-6 feet
Surface Water Temperature: 14.15 – degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 14.16 – degrees Celsius
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.15 millibars

Science and Technology Log 

Established survey lines on this cruise have been monitored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute or MBARI, since the early 1990 by collecting the same biological and chemical data. I was referred to http://www-mlrg.ucsd.edu/data/data.html for more details and the overview of the survey. Our particular survey lines begins outside of the Golden Gate Bridge, traveling westward  for a while, then we will perform a cast of 4500 meters then travel south to for another 4500 meter cast and turn East to finish the survey line near Monterey Bay. The survey lines are numbered in a particular pattern that will be used to identify all samples from each station. At some points we will be beyond the Territorial Seas of the United States, but within the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Kit Clark and Troy Benbow demonstrate the bowline to NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber.
Kit Clark and Troy Benbow demonstrate the bowline to NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber.

What is collected at each station:  A CTD measures specific properties of seawater including salinity, temperature and fluorescence as it is lowered off the stern of the ship. The CTD descends under the supervision of the CTD technician, crane operator and assisting crew member to the prescribed depth while generating real-time data in graph form through the descent. Once at depth, the technician is in radio contact with the crane operator who raises the CTD to prescribed depths where bottles are tripped to collect water samples at stated intervals. Generally the prescribed depth is 1000 meters with exceptions at the near shore stations where the depth is less than 1000 meters. Other data is collected from HyperPro Optical sensor casts, made at midday stations and Secchi disk casts made at all daytime stations following CTD casts. Oblique bongo net tows for zooplankton are made after the CTD casts at a depth of 200 meters.  As the water is collected, several chemical tests are performed, including dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Dissolved oxygen is tested from each cast using a set of chemicals that is very similar to ones I have used in fresh water chemical analysis as well as nutrients to assess the changes in sediment load. Phytoplankton samples are collected for processing and culturing. In addition, a surface observer is stationed on the flying bridge to document all marine mammals and birds that are encountered. There is an interest in cetaceans, specifically beaked whales.

Marguerite Blum models under the Bay Bridge while loading science gear.
Marguerite Blum models under the Bay Bridge while loading science gear.

Personal Log 

I found a ship’s billet on my door to tell me where to muster for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  I made sure to visit all the locations to ensure that I knew where to go. The “plan of the day” is posted in convenient locations by ship’s personnel and is required reading in order to know what activities and meetings, are planned. I was able to try on my “gumby” suit and heavy PFD. I identified what is now called the “Leedo Deck” reminiscent of the television show Love Boat where science team members have placed a few lawn chairs for relaxing on aft section of  deck one, near the phytoplankton incubation trays. As we depart San Francisco, we will sail out of the Golden Gate, under the Golden Gate Bridge. Although I had hoped for clear weather for the trip under the bridge, it was foggy.

Dr. Kurt Collins listening to the ball game on the “Leedo deck” off watch.
Dr. Kurt Collins listening to the ball game on the “Lido deck” off watch.

Question of the Day 

How does the collection and evaluation of phytoplankton assist with monitoring oceanic primary production and our understanding of the role the ocean plays as a global carbon sink? 

I need to read more about the total project and perform more interviews of the cooperating scientists to better answer this.

Addendum : Glossary of Terms 

An overall map of all the stations is here.

Exclusive Economic Zone – extends for 200 nautical miles (370 km) beyond the baselines of the territorial sea.

Territorial Waters or sea-an area of coastal waters that extends at most twelve nautical miles from the mean low water mark of a littoral state that is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state.

Nautical Mile – is 1852 meters.

Erich Rienecker sets up the filter system to process phytoplankton from the CTD casts.
Erich Rienecker sets up the filter system to process phytoplankton from the CTD casts.

CTD – A CTD recorder, which stands for Conductivity-Temperature-Depth recorder, measures salinity, the amount of seawater conductivity in practical salinity units. It also measures pressure recorded in decibars. Since depth and pressure are directly related, a measurement in decibars can be converted to depth in meters. Temperature is measured as well and other sensors may be placed on the device as well. The one used had an altimeter to compare to the ships depth sounder and deployed cable for an accurate measure of the depth of the device.

HyperPro Optical sensor – measures light refraction at different wavelengths through the water column as compared to the surface measurement. This device is lowered by hand to a set depth. It is a hyperspectral radiometer, recording optical data in the wavelength region between 350 and 800 nanometers.

Oblique bongo net – a set of rings (thus the name bongo as it looks like a bongo drum) designed for oblique plankton tows. The rings are connected to nets which cone into two catch devices at the ends. Bongos are towed at 200 meters , devised by allowing 300 meters of cable out and towing it at an angle of 45-degrees. Adjustments in cable length are made depending on the angle reached. 

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares the seawater phytoplankton incubation trays.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares the seawater phytoplankton incubation trays.

Secchi disk – is used to measure how deep a person can see into the water. It is lowered into the ocean by unwinding the waterproof tape to which it is attached and until the observer loses sight of it. The disk is then raised until it reappears. The depth of the water where the disk vanishes and reappears is the Secchi disk reading. The depth level reading on the tape at the surface level of the ocean is recorded to the nearest foot.

Sea Level Pressure (from Wikipedia) Also referred to as Mean sea level pressure (MSLP or QFF) is the pressure at sea level or (when measured at a given elevation on land) the station pressure reduced to sea level assuming an isothermal layer at the station temperature. This is the pressure normally given in weather reports on radio, television, and newspapers or on the Internet. When barometers in the home are set to match the local weather reports, they measure pressure reduced to sea level, not the actual local atmospheric pressure.  Average sea-level pressure is 101.325 kPa (mbar) or 29.921 inches of mercury (inHg). 

Visibility – how far in front, or around the ship one can see. In this case, using the marine mammal observer’s scale, based on nautical miles.

Wind Direction- Which direction the wind is blowing FROM. 0 is north, 180 is south, 270 is west. This may also be recorded using the abbreviation of the direction in capital letters.

Sea Wave Height and Swell Height – estimates (based on an average of waves passing under buoys) the height of a wave (from crest to trough) of individual waves and larger waves.

Dissolved oxygen- the amount of oxygen that is available in the water for organisms to use for ventilation, typically referred to in parts per million, or ppm.

Phytoplankton – (from Wikipedia) are the autotrophic component of the plankton that drift in the water column. The name comes from the Greek terms, phyton or “plant” and πλαγκτος (“planktos”), meaning “wanderer” or “drifter”. Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. However, when present in high enough numbers, they may appear as a green discoloration of the water due to the presence of chlorophyll within their cells (although the actual color may vary with the species of phytoplankton present due to varying levels of chlorophyll or the presence of accessory pigments such as phycobiliproteins).

Zooplankton – (from Wikipedia) are the heterotrophic (or detritivorous) component of the plankton that drift in the water column of oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The name is derived from the Greek terms, ζον (“zoon”) meaning “animal”, and πλαγκτος (“planktos”) meaning “wanderer” or “drifter”[1]. Many zooplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. Zooplankton is a broad categorisation spanning a range of organism sizes that includes both small protozoans and large metazoans. It includes holoplanktonic organisms whose complete life cycle lies within the plankton, and meroplanktonic organisms that spend part of their life cycle in the plankton before graduating to either the nekton or a sessile, benthic existence. Through their consumption and processing of phytoplankton (and other food sources), zooplankton play an important role in aquatic food webs, both as a resource for consumers on higher trophic levels and as a conduit for packaging the organic material in the biological pump. 

Gumby Suit – big, plastic, orange suits that are designed to protect a person from the cold water. Made of a material similar to what scuba divers wear. The suit is thicker, more buoyant and designed to remain dry inside. Suits are very bulky and are supposed to cover the entire body except the face.

PFD – personal floatation device, lifejacket, or “puff-duh”

Flying Bridge – located on the very top and most forward deck of the ship. On the MCARTHUR II, the flying bridge is above, or on top of the bridge. All ship personnel and crew when engaging in science activities keep in contact through the bridge with radios. Radio protocol requires the location being called to be stated first, followed by the calling location. For example,” bridge, flying bridge” If one is calling the bridge from the flying bridge.

Plan of the Day – is posted throughout the ship in common locations. This bulletin informs both crew and science personnel as to ship activities, wave height and safety issues.

Maggie Prevenas, May 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 15, 2007

Science Log

I waited until most people had left the airplane before I gathered up my gear, treasures, and technology equipment. So many people, in such a hurry, and my senses were overloaded; the bright lights and loud sounds of rush hour in a huge international airport shook me to my toes. I continued through the terminal as I had approached my entire journey, one step at a time.

I realized there were only one or two airlines in this terminal so I knew I had to do some investigating. Walking, walking, walking past many, many, many people, gosh that was something! I had to kindly interrupt a Security Guard, an airport cleaning staff, and a sky cap before I even approached the terminal of my last flight.

Los Angeles airport is set up like a big horseshoe with the terminals like nails in the hoof. In the center is the giant Star Wars Air Control Tower that looms over the site like Darth Vader. Everything is concrete, or blacktop, or steel, or glass. The cars, and taxis, and police vehicles zoom around the loop at racecar speeds. No lie, I ran into the same police motorcycle three times as I walked from one end of the terminal complex to the other.

I got into my home terminal and had to check through security once again. Since my breakfast yogurt was ‘safe and under control’ in the wastebasket in Anchorage, I had to purchase my protein and calcium from yet another vendor. I found my gate and a good wall with an outlet and floor space . I sat down, plugged in my computer and stretched out my legs. Leg room would be precious on the flight.

There was a layover of at least an hour until the gate began to fill with excited tourists getting ready to go to the vacation of their dreams. So I worked away on my computer, updating images, and cleaning up photo files. Even though the flight was delayed, then delayed again, and then delayed indefinitely, I wasn’t upset. One step at a time I got here, and one step at a time I’d get home.

I saw a grown woman throw a temper tantrum. I saw another man talk in a mean voice to the airline check-in lady. I saw a baby child take wobbly steps around and around the gate. “Would you please watch HIM!” the mother hissed at the father. The father rolled his eyes and opened his cell phone, attempting to reschedule a flight that may or may not be cancelled due to repair. “What is the hurry?” I thought and then I realized that if I lived there I would be desperate to go to paradise as well.

Finally, whatever had been broken, was fixed. The pilot gave her thumbs up, and I was on a plane bound for my home on an airplane that was full, full, full of people. Five short hours later, I was home, the air full of honey sweet plumeria and humidity. Without rain there are no rainbows.

I saw my husband before he saw me and I choked up, just a hitch. I was home. I was really home. He had kept the house clean, and fed all the animals, had done all the yard work, and managed everything while I had spent 38 days in a galaxy far, far away. For that and him I will be forever grateful.

But there are so many to thank.

My risk-taking principal who believes in his teachers.

My uber substitute student teacher, who taught ME about fighter planes and MY STUDENTS so much more.

My mumma, who gave birth to more than just me. She kept an entire binder of my journals and questions.

My sister, who kept me in the dark, so I wouldn’t slip into a crack.

My daughter, who is a source of constant interest and growth.

My students who delight in learning from me as much as I do from them. Their warm Aloha from the boots they signed always kept my feet and my heart warm.

My Inupiat Eskimo friends, who gave me so much more than I could ever offer. All I had to do was listen with my eyes.

PolarTrec support staffers who make it all look so easy but know that it’s not.

NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program. Now it’s my turn to tell stories and inspire the next generation of marine biologists, waitresses, gardeners, truck drivers, and the homeless not hopeless.

The kind Fed Ex shipper, Ed, who gave me a box, wrapped up half my cold weather gear and offered to take me to the post office because it was too expensive to ship it from there.

All the researchers on the Healy for having so much patience with me and my questions, and tolerating me. But especially the bird men and women, the ice seal team, the algae population explosion experts, the nutrient decoders, the fish stalkers, the lovers of marine mammals when they aren’t studying plankton (a life style). Heck, everyone who had to put up with me and my eternal enthusiasm. Thank you.

The Coast Guard women and men of the Healy, I was never afraid because I knew you’d keep me safe. Look for an increase in enlistment from Hawaii in about 5 years…

And thank you, for following my mission. I hope you will continue to check back as I will continue to post and share what I am doing with what I heard when I listened with my eyes.

Maggie Prevenas, May 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 14, 2007

Science Log

Monday arrived cold and snowy. I peeped out of the warm hotel room and looked at the snow blusters that swirled and danced across the gravel. I had a number of things to mail, and the USPO was right across the road. Guess I better start my day.

It wasn’t planned, but I made three separate trips to the post office that day. I needed to mail a beautiful large map of Alaska to Hawaii. I needed to mail the squished decorated styrofoam cups back to my new friends from St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands, and I needed to send my cold weather gear back to VECO in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In between the trips to the PO, I was drawn to the edge of the bay as it licks the main drive that curls around the mountains of the island. I heard it before I saw it, the musical sound that cold ocean water makes when colliding with smooth round stones. I knew that sound. It was the same sound as the beach at Yaquina Head outside of Newport along the Oregon coast. I closed my eyes and felt the snow sting my face. The smell was the same too. Rich and fecund, the north Pacific.

I stumbled along the stony beach, watching my feet, watching the stones, measuring the bull kelp from holdfast to shorn bald bulb. I decided to take some beach memories home to Hawaii, a discarded plastic ice cream bucket held my treasures until I tucked them in my pregnant duffels, still wet and cold.

By this time the air was a white whizzy chaos. I could not see the mountains. Rumor had it that if you couldn’t see the mountains, the plane wouldn’t land. The weather forecast told of snow showers, especially towards evening. I thought I might try to hang out at the airport in hopes I could fly standby with an earlier flight.

Luck was with me and I got the last back seat of that tiny plane. Three hours later, I was in Anchorage, an airport in the throes of remodeling. I slipped off the plane into another dimension, in which I had to give up two perfectly good containers of yogurt to the TSA. Yes, those are really dangerous, those cups of yogurt. I had forgotten about the horror of terrorists when I was in the Bering Sea.

Somehow my white pure world of Bering Sea memories was about to collide with reality. I would have yet one more gentle midnight flight. On board Alaskan airlines, I flew south, to a megalopolis named Los Angeles. Little did I know, as I munched my warm pumpkin scone, a rude reintroduction to civilization was about to say, ‘Hey wake up!’

Maggie Prevenas, May 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 13, 2007

Science Log

It took Robyn and me quite a while to get off the boat. I was waiting around to send my cold weather gear via parcel pick-up. Robyn had a great idea that we could take our time and say our goodbye to our friends, eat one last lunch, and then take a taxi into town.

So we hugged and hugged all our Bering Sea Shipmates and called a taxi to the hotel. Just as our taxi arrived, the Alaska Maritime Shipper did as well, so we departed the Healy and took on a new residence at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in town.

After we hauled out duffels to our rooms, we took time talking to our loved ones still at home, a long shower, and then rendezvoused for supper with whoever was in the dining room. All the food was delicious! We had fresh green salads again, and so much more.

I went back to my room, sprawled across the huge bed. As soon as I closed my eyes, I found the sleep of a person transforming from sea to cement.

I woke in Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was created by a mother who wanted to recognize the sorrow of mothers who were losing their sons in war. I pondered that sorrow as I shared my last meal with Robyn. I had a different kind of sorrow today, it was a bittersweet feeling for sure.

After eating we left for the airport and said our goodbyes. Was it coincidence that the next chief scientists arrived on the same plane that Robyn was about to depart on? The science continues in the Bering Sea, a mission passed on as surely as any relay racer passes on their baton. Goodbye Robyn! Good life and happy memories. As we hugged goodbye our life changing experience spent on the Healy was realized and acknowledged.

The afternoon was spent with one of my Healy roommates. She rented a car and we bravely went where we had never been before. We found the ‘wild herd’ of horses that roams the Dutch Harbor mountains. After our hike, we were very tired and accepted the warmth and rest our rooms afforded.

Tomorrow would bring a new day, a new week, and a return to civilization. Was I ready?

Maggie Prevenas, May 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 9, 2007

Science Log

I had learned from Dr. Michael Cameron, that we were about to pass through the most concentrated seal soup of the entire mission around 9:30 yesterday evening. He said that there were so many seals in that region, that the helo opps (helicopter observations) had to take turns recording their seals, waiting for one to finish until the other could sight verbally.

So what do YOU see? There are two walrus here.
So what do YOU see? There are two walrus here.

So I rambled up the three ladders to the bridge, and as I have for so many days this cruise, screwed the binocular eye cradles into my eye sockets and swooped back and forth across the magnified ice vista.

I LOVED to go up to the bridge and observe.
I LOVED to go up to the bridge and observe.

What did I see? Lots and lots of seals! There were spotted seals, and ribbon seals, and even a bearded seal pup or two. The Coast Guard crew assigned to watch those few hours were taking the ‘Seal Avoidance Mission’ seriously, much to my relief.

And then what?

There it was, the edge of the ice.
There it was, the edge of the ice.
It was obvious on the horizon.
It was obvious on the horizon.
The ice was changing too.
The ice was changing too.

Not so much large ice cakes anymore. There were smaller pieces honeycombed with holes and meltpools.

The concentration of small pieces jumbled together became thicker, and thicker.

Until there was no more.
Until there was no more.

And the ice melted away. Behind us.

Maggie Prevenas, May 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 8, 2007

Science Log

During this scientific mission to the ice pack of the Bering Sea, I have met many new creatures. Let me introduce you to yet one more.

**Dr. David Hyrenbach**

Scientific name: *Hyrenbachia daveediosus PhD***

Where does Dr. David live? Dr. David lives in Greenlake, slightly north of down-town Seattle. In the summertime he migrates down to central California to rendezvous with black-footed albatross. During the school year he forages around the University of Washington.

Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.
Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.

How many Hyrenbachs are there? Just him. He is an only child, however, there are close species in Spain and in France.

What are Dr. David’s identifying characteristics? David is an exemplary teacher. He is able to take complex ideas and explain them to others. He hangs out with Carleton, the walrus puppet. He is often seen carrying binoculars and on Sundays he wears his green penguin shirt.

What does he eat? David totally enjoys curry and coffee. He consumes bananas and his favorite vegetable is bok choy with tofu and soy sauce. Mahi mahi is one of his favorite fish to eat.

Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.
Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.

How was Dr. David educated? He went to high school in Spain. At 17, he was a YFU (Youth for Understanding) exchange student in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After that, he went to the University of California San Diego and earned a Bachelor’s degree and PhD in ecology and oceanography. Then he went to the Duke University Marine Laboratory in North Carolina. In 2005, he returned to the west coast to the University of Washington.

How old is he? Dr. David has lived 37 years; longer than a ribbon seal. His main predators are mosquitoes, viruses, and possibly zombies. There seems to be little interaction between him and cigarettes or any tobacco products.

Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.
Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.

Do you know what is really cool about Dr. David Hyrenbach? He owns an albatross hat that his mother has made for him. It comes in very handy when he has to pick up other species at the airport.

He moves about the city by bus or by flex car. He really likes the flex cars because they are mostly hybrid cars and are gentle on gasoline.

He enjoys silly walks, especially when he launches from the curb.

Dr. David likes to hang out at the arboretum. He frequents Freemont, where there is a large troll statue that is of great interest to him.

Dr. David has a commensal relationship with Chorbiken, the beanie baby.

Why do we know so little about Dr. David Hyrenbach? Dr. David is an elusive being. He is always running around. The only place he sits is in his office. The best way to find him is by e-mail.

Take the Dr. David Hyrenbach quiz! Write the number of the question with the letter of the best answer on any ‘Ask the Team’ comment form. Make sure to include your name ? Thanks!

Which of the following is true?

a. David drives his big SUV smoking a cigarette on his way to work. b. David works at a circus training chickens to play the piano c. David thinks the Bering Sea is boring d. None of the above

Which of the following animals is David’s favorite?

a. cockroach b. centipede c. Black footed albatross d. mosquito

What would David order from the following menu?

a. seal steak b. steak tartar c. spoiled milk d. mahi-mahi

What does Dr. David like to do more than anything else in the whole wide world?

a. Make money b. Teach the next generation to be stewards of their environment c. Smoke cigarettes d. Super glue his fingers together

Why has David spent two years coordinating the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) program?

a. So he can make money to buy cigarettes b. To understand how the Bering Sea Ecosystem will respond to global warming. c. To find the Seattle Seahawk. d. To put on MS 900 survival suits

Maggie Prevenas, May 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 8, 2007

Science Log

I’ve been feeling a little sad these past few days because the Healy 0701 mission is coming to a close. There’s been so much data taken, so many measurements done, and more than a few hypotheses tested.  So WHAT has been learned?

The CTD was lowered and fired over 200 times in rough water
The CTD was lowered and fired over 200 times in rough water

This research here, this Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, has been some of the first research done with SEASONAL ice during this time of the year. SEASONAL ice is ice that melts and then reforms each year. The algae blooms occur because the seasonal ice melts, creating a stable freshwater layer, a place for the algae to grow.  The algae take up nutrients, which act as a fertilizer, and explode in numbers. The nutrients are quickly used up. The bloom for that year is over.

Rob tested the water for iron, getting baseline data to see if it is a limiting factor in Bering Sea productivity.
Rob tested the water for iron, getting baseline data to see if it is a limiting factor in Bering Sea productivity.

In areas of the Bering Sea that we visited that were really shallow, like around Nunivak Island, the ice has melted and the nutrients have been used. The bloom is over.

Nancy Kachel collected many samples from the CTD during this research mission.
Nancy Kachel collected many samples from the CTD during this research mission.

What has been a surprise to some of the scientists is that the very productive algae blooms occur at the ice edge, not so much under the ice.

When phytoplankton reproduce very quickly they can actually turn the color of the seawater green. Photo from Ray Sambrotto.
When phytoplankton reproduce very quickly they can actually turn the color of the seawater green.

The algae need sunlight, and the sunlight just doesn’t seem to penetrate ice. Algae explode in large numbers when the ice, under which they have been growing, melts away.

Although this seems to be a small observation, it is actually HUGE!  Or at least it was for me. Look at areas of the Arctic that do not have the seasonal ice.  The flow of energy in that ecosystem is different. The energy transfer from sunlight through the high Arctic permanent ice to the algae that populate the Arctic Ocean is different. Same thing with the Antarctic permanent ice.

This is one of the deepest drops that the CTD made. Over 3000 meters!
This is one of the deepest drops that the CTD made. Over 3000 meters!

If the Arctic or Antarctic holds more seasonal ice, i.e. starts melting, the model of how energy is transferred in the polar region will change. Knowing how seasonal ice acts as a medium to facilitate algal blooms will be very important. Right now is a critical time to research this key component.

TAS Maggie observing the sea ice
TAS Maggie observing the sea ice

I learned a huge amount about ice. I made ice observations many, many times. The scientists on this mission to help them interpret their data will use that information.

The science community has named this an International Polar Year (IPY). What I am doing, in trailing along with scientists, is acting to translate and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, and to act to educate others about cutting edge scientific research of climactic change. I think I can begin to start telling you the story.

Maggie Prevenas, Week 4 in Review, May 6, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 6, 2007

Science Log: Week in Review

Monday, April 30: The ice is here so ice observations take place every two hours. I had a feeling today was going to be a wildlife bonanza and it was. We saw lots of ribbon and spotted seals and birds. As always the time up in the bridge turned into hours.

I learned how to filter seawater and replace filter papers in Dr. Ray Sambrottos Lab. He is measuring the productivity of the Bering Sea.
I learned how to filter seawater and replace filter papers in Dr. Ray Sambrotto’s Lab. He is measuring the productivity of the Bering Sea.

After lunch I concentrated on getting my presentation to Dr. Ray to edit for the webinar on Thursday. Robyn and I worked out the times for the last webinar and got some images together for the Thursday show. David Hyrenbach as always came through with a good baseline Powerpoint for others to work off.

The ship is tracing a path we have gone before. It is tracing the path through the most productive areas we’ve been to. Much of that area is not under ice. Needless to say, I noticed that there was very little ice algae growth on the ice. The researches say the productivity is in the water, not on the ice. I am sure there will be some new conclusions brought forward.

Tuesday, May 1: Learn to Burn. First it was ‘learn to return,’ our survival safety class. Now it is ‘learn to burn?’

Well, the Healy works hard to be ‘green.’ There are only certain amount of resources available for a big 422 foot ship going out to sea for a whole month. Conservation of resources is a necessity.

We have been told how to conserve water when we take showers and wash and brush our teeth. We sort our trash into burnable, recyclable, and food compost. We only wash full loads of laundry.

The majority of the trash we are able to burn. However, not EVERYONE can burn. One has to be trained to burn. The two scientists that burned on the first leg of this trip, left on Saturday. The large pile of burnables present in the science conference room spurred Robyn and I to volunteer for a job that nobody wanted to do.

Steven Elliot, our coast guard science liason, took time out to teach us the specifics of burning. Lucky for us, two Coasties came in while we were being trained and put a bag of trash in the incinerator that was WAY too big. One of the ship engineers came down to the incinerator room and scolded them. We watched with eyes large, and vowed never to make the engineers angry at our burning ways.

Robyn and I were very happy to finish burning the bags of trash.
Robyn and I were very happy to finish burning the bags of trash.

It took the bulk of the afternoon to burn the many bags of burnable trash the science conference room had to offer. We collected bags from the science lab too. When we left the incinerator room it was 90 some degrees. Robyn named us the ‘Fire and Ice’ team. We observe the ice and we burn the trash.

Wednesday, May 2: The cups that the students from St. Paul decorated have been sent down to the deep and back up. They will be so excited to see the results. I will be sending them from Dutch when I get there next Monday.

St. Paul students will be happy to get their teeny weeny cups back.
St. Paul students will be happy to get their teeny weeny cups back.

The scientists have been named as chefs for the Morale Night Dinner on Saturday. It was decided we would cook with a Mexican theme, since it was the fifth of May. I wanted to make a piñata. After all who doesn’t like a piñata? We used paper mache and bright green gloves to try and make a hard ball. No go. It collapsed. So I talked with some guys who have made piñatas in the past and tried to follow their guidelines.

Our first attempt at making a pinyata out of paper mache failed.
Our first attempt at making a piñata failed.

The trick was NOT to use paper mache, but duct tape and cardboard to fashion a hollow container. I chose to make a diatom using cardboard and discarded egg dividers. At 7 pm, Janet Scannell, our dinner coordinator, told me the piñata was out. I was disappointed. After all that work, no piñata. I cleaned up my mess and focused on Thursdays IPY webinar.

The ice is back. As a loose loose pack. Still lots of open water amid the flows. Skimming the waves between the flows were Laysan and Short-tailed Albatross, my Hawaiian friends!

Thursday, May 3: An IPY webinar at an early hour on ship. 9:00! We had two very important guests so we wanted to do our best.  Somehow, between all the planning e-mail, a time reminder went out with the incorrect time.  Now a half hour of time is a precious thing to busy people. We told our guests to hang tight, we would let them know when time had come. Thirty minutes of time has never passed more slowly.

But pass it did, and a very informative hour followed. Between Dr. Ray Sambrotto, the cruise Principal Investigator, and Captain Tedric Lindstrom, the Healy captain, the internet audience was wowed.

Immediately after the webinar, the Arcus folk had arranged for me to talk directly to my students. This was a huge special treat for me. I teach very active seventh graders, and their attention span and the schools technical equipment did not lend itself to easy listening. For a whole half hour I was connected to my Green Honus (fourth period students) who asked me any and all kinds of questions. Oh my, how I missed my students.The rest of the day was spent catching up with journal writing, editing pictures, and ice observing.

Friday, May 4: Today, we decided to try and work with our mp3 voice recorders. Robyn had recorded Carleton Ray discuss walrus ecology and I wanted to work with a Frank DeLima presentation from my school. Ice observations, writing, answering questions from the webpages, cleaning our rooms, the day was done, and we weren’t any closer to our mastering the mp3 podcast platform.

To the Coast Guard, it’s all about safety.
To the Coast Guard, it’s all about safety.

There were many last-minute dinner problems that came and went. And the ice was always present and changing, we made sure of that.

Saturday, May 5:

Between cooking a Mexican banquet for 130, I ran up to the bridge to take ice observations.
Between cooking a Mexican banquet for 130, I ran up to the bridge to take ice observations.

Started like any ordinary day, but soon morphed into a remarkable one. Check out my journal entry for May 5 to fill in the blanks between. OH, by the way, we also took in a tour of the ships engine, and cooked a Mexican banquet for 130. It was fun and delicious. And so ended our next to the last week on the icebreaker Healy.

Maggie Prevenas, May 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 5, 2007

Science Log: Tagging Ice Seals

Saturday May 5, started off ordinary, as ordinary as a Saturday on an icebreaker in the middle of the Bering Sea can be. I was lingering over lunch with Gavin Brady and Dr. Michael Cameron, two members of the NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory ice seal team. They were telling leopard seal stories and fun factoids about other seals. Unfortunately, I had to excuse myself, as it was time for me to make an ice observation up on the bridge.

In that very short period of time that it took me to lumber up the five flights to the bridge of the Healy, something happened. We were stopped at a station, a ribbon seal had been recorded close to the ship, and the ice seal team was going to try and tag it.

Much of the ice we encountered last week was soft and honeycombed. You wouldn’t want to go ice hopping on this.
Much of the ice we encountered last week was soft and honeycombed. You wouldn’t want to go ice hopping on this.

I stopped right smack dab in the middle of my observations and flew down three flights to the hanger, where the seal team was hastily putting on their zodiac safety gear. Our last week on the Healy had us in rotting ice, or fog, or no ice at all with few opportunities to tag ice seals. This was a golden opportunity, as the boat was stopped and on station. Zodiacs away!

Jay Ver Hoef, the newest member of the ice seal team, geared up in a MS 900, bunny boots, white stocking cap, helmet, and ice camoflage overshirt.
Jay Ver Hoef, the newest member of the ice seal team, geared up in a MS 900, bunny boots, white stocking cap, helmet, and ice camoflage overshirt.

Permission was granted and the seal team was good to go.

Dr. Mike talks netting strategy to the ice seal team.
Dr. Mike talks netting strategy to the ice seal team.

They met together, refreshed their netting strategy, and waited.

The purpose of a strategy meeting is to review boat approaches and answer any questions that might arise.
The purpose of a strategy meeting is to review boat approaches and answer any questions that might arise.

The Coast Guard worked as quickly as it was able to.

Lee Harris stands next to Captain Lindstrom. The Healy supports scientific research by facilitating technology and equipment dispersal.
Lee Harris stands next to Captain Lindstrom. The Healy supports scientific research by facilitating technology and equipment dispersal.

This was only the second time these zodiacs were launched; the crew was working out protocol and safety procedures.

The ice seals rolled the zodiacs onto the deck so that they could be lifted into the icy Bering Sea.
The ice seal team rolled the zodiacs onto the deck so that they could be lifted into the icy Bering Sea.

Time ticked, ticked, ticked away.

The ice seals tracked the ribbon seal as they waited patiently for the Coast Guard to get the three zodiacs onto the water below.
The ice seal team tracked the ribbon seal as they waited patiently for the Coast Guard to get the three zodiacs into the water below.
Each zodiac had to be lifted by crane up and over the helo deck fencing.
Each zodiac had to be lifted by crane up and over the helo deck fencing.
Zodiac one contained Dr. Mike and his driver Dave Withrow.
Zodiac one contained Dr. Mike and his driver Dave Withrow.
Sean Dahle and driver Lee Harris scooted off in zodiac two.
Sean Dahle and Lee Harris scooted off in zodiac two.
This was Jay’s first decent down the Healy Jacobs Ladder.
This was Jay’s first decent down the Healy Jacobs Ladder.

Gavin Brady with driver Jay Ver Hoef descended the Jacobs ladder into the zodiacs below. They chugged off into the frosty fog, and were gone.

The zodiacs slipped into the fog and out of sight.
The zodiacs slipped into the fog and out of sight.

They had radios, GPS and other contact equipment. We knew they would be safe.

Steven Elliot, Tom Bolmer, and Captain Lindstrom help the zodiacs find the seal in the ice-maze.
Steven Elliot, Tom Bolmer, and Captain Lindstrom help the zodiacs find the seal in the ice-maze.

The rest of the seal tagging was done within a quiet and serene ice flowscape.

Dave Withrow, one of the ice seal team, took pictures of the Healy from the zodiac.
Dave Withrow, one of the ice seal team, took pictures of the Healy from the zodiac.

The three boats split up and surrounded the ice piece upon which the ribbon seal reclined. Sean Dahle and Gavin Brady quickly took control of the animal, it was a juvenile male.

The ice team wasted no time in getting measurements and data from the juvenile male ribbon seal. Photo by Dave Withrow.
The ice team wasted no time in getting measurements and data from the juvenile male ribbon seal.

The rest of the team measured its weight, some blood, it’s length, sex and attached the flipper tag.

The team attached the tag on the right rear flipper.
The team attached the tag on the right rear flipper.

Ribbon seals are willing subjects. They are true ice seals; they never touch land and rarely encounter humans. Because of their naivety of humans, they can often be approached more easily than other arctic species.

Ribbon seals can often be approached more easily than other arctic seal species.
Ribbon seals can often be approached more easily than other arctic seal species.
This young male waited patiently for the ice seal team to finish taking data.
This young male waited patiently for the ice seal team to finish taking data.

This young male was true to its breed.

The ribbon seal slipped off the ice and into the Bering Sea. The tag will send out valuable information for roughly a year.
The ribbon seal slipped off the ice and into the Bering Sea. The tag will send out valuable information for a year.

So tagging number two can go down in the ice seal journal and in the event log of the 0701 Healy Science cruise as uber successful. Ordinary days? There are none, when you are on an icebreaker somewhere the middle of the Bering Sea!

Maggie Prevenas, May 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 4, 2007

Science Log

I have watched a lot of science happen these past three weeks. I have asked a lot of questions and taken a lot of pictures. See I needed to understand what was happening here in the middle of the Bering Sea. And I need to know it so well that I can go back home and tell my students all about it.

The producers in the Bering Sea ecosystem are diatoms and other phytoplankton. They are productive because there are lots of nutrients in the water.
The producers in the Bering Sea ecosystem are diatoms and other phytoplankton. They are productive because there are lots of nutrients in the water.

I have been trying to synthesize ecosystem science and understand. Gradually, oh so slowly, I can see. And it hasn’t been easy. Scientists often do research with a very specific topic or organism. They work in small teams.  They need to gather accurate data during the mission and/or store samples to continue research back in their labs.

The scientists on-board Healy work in small teams, with one scientist named again and again as contributing essential data to the Bering Sea Ecosystem STudy. This scientist works alone but is a huge team player.  Meet Dr. Calvin Mordy.

Dr. Cal Mordy figures out what nutrients are in the water samples pulled from the Bering Sea.
Dr. Cal Mordy figures out what nutrients are in the water samples pulled from the Bering Sea.
Cal figures out what nutrients are in the water samples pulled up from the varying depths in the Bering Sea. These nutrients are like fertilizer for the tiny phytoplankton producers that cling to the bottom of the ice that covers the Bering Sea. Understanding why, how and when these tiny green food factories grow and multiply is another researchers problem. Yet another researcher is cataloging what zooplankton consumers are present and in what quantity. Cal? He’s all about the nutrients in the water of the Bering Sea.
Cal tirelessly and exactingly tests hundreds of samples of Bering Sea water.
Cal tirelessly and exactingly tests hundreds of samples of Bering Sea water.

Remember that the zooplankton (consumers) depend on the phytoplankton (producers) for food. Nutrients are key in this research. Cal tirelessly and exactingly tests hundreds of samples of Bering Sea water, at different depths in the water column, and returns information back to the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) scientists so they may integrate that information in their research.  Lots of people depend on him for their data. They make calculations of different solutions from his cue.

Many researchers on the Healy depend on Dr. Mordy for his data.
Many researchers on the Healy depend on Dr. Mordy for his data.

With so many people depending on him for data, does he ever make a mistake? ‘Never,’ he says, and I believe him. Mistakes  advertise themselves, he explains. Any data that is out of sort is flagged. Those samples are run again, to verify the data in question. Often those samples are the result of a leaky bottle or a misfired bottle. That data is pulled. That’s that.

Somehow it is so comforting to know that Cal has such a strong grasp of this key piece of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study. Deep in the lab onboard the USCG Cutter Healy, there is a scientist at work. Cal systematically finds out what nutrients are in this icy cold water and in what concentration. In the BEST cruise, it all starts here.

Maggie Prevenas, May 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 3, 2007

Science Log

I stuffed the cups with some sturdy brown paper towels to keep them separate and then placed them in a mesh laundry bag.

Here is Claire’s cup before we sent it down.
Here is Claire’s cup before we sent it down.

The Marine Scientist Technicians (MSTs) connected them to the CDT sampler that was dropped below 3300 meters!

I took this picture of the screen as the CTD was reeled up from the bottom.
I took this picture of the screen as the CTD was reeled up from the bottom.

How much pressure was down there? Scott Hiller, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, plugged some numbers into an equation and told me that there was some 5100 psi (pounds per square inch) acting on those little white cups. The temperature was just above freezing.

Cups are strapped onboard the CTD
Cups are strapped onboard the CTD

Two hours after dropping them down to the bottom of the Bering Sea, they emerged strapped and dripping.

And MUCH smaller.

Oh how CUTE!

It will be a lot easier mailing these to the St. Paul students. My have they shrunk!
It will be a lot easier mailing these to the St. Paul students. My have they shrunk!

So what did we learn from this?

Well, there are lots more questions that arise. How far do the cups have to drop in order for them to compress? What is the tipping depth, the depth that they begin to compress? Does the length of time that they are submerged make a difference in how they compress? Where does the gas that is in the cup go?

Ah, science, sweet science, raising more questions than answering once again.

Maggie Prevenas, May 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 2, 2007

Science Log

We did an experiment a few weeks back. Our students decorated Styrofoam balls, bowls and cups. We asked them to predict what they thought would happen to the object if we sent it down to the bottom of the deep Bering Sea.

Some thought it would expand and become huge, others thought it might be crushed. Still others thought nothing would happen.

So one late Saturday night and super early Sunday morning we strapped the materials to the CTD rosette and let it drop down down down.

Something happened all right.

The opportunity came to us from the St. Paul students to do the experiment again.
The opportunity came to us from the St. Paul students to do the experiment again.

So when the opportunity came to us from the St. Paul students to do the experiment again using cups that they decorated, we were ready. I gathered them up from teacher Tonia Kushin, tucked them into my backpack and counted the days until I would send them to the deep deep deep.

The cups have been sent to the deep deep deep.
The cups have been sent to the deep deep deep.

Today is the day. We have gathered them together and stuffed each one with two paper towels so that the cups won’t piggy back into each other. I have deposited them in a mesh laundry bag with Scott Hiller, oceanographer supreme-o, and rest assured they will be strapped to the next CTD down.

And now we wait.

At 60 meters per minute, why not calculate how many minutes it will take to go down 3000 feet and then back up. That’s your assignment for today.

You’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s log to find out what happens.

Maggie Prevenas, May 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 1, 2007

Species Profile: Dall’s Porpoise and Northern Fur Seal

The place to be on the ship is up in the bridge. That is the place to see all the animals. We have two different groups of scientists up there from sunrise to about nine at night. We have scientists looking for different kinds of birds and we have scientists looking for ice seals. Sometimes they see other animals. Like today. They saw another kind of cetacean, a porpoise. If you’d like to learn more about them, read on.

Dall’s Porpoise: Phocoenoides dalli

Where do Dall’s porpoises live? Dall’s porpoises only live in the North Pacific Ocean from Japan to Southern California and as far north as Bering Sea.

How many Dall’s porpoises are there? We don’t know.  Although population numbers are unknown, Dall’s porpoises appear abundant through their range.  Dall’s porpoises are not considered endangered.

How can I identify a Dall’s porpoise? Dall’s porpoises are beautiful!  Though individual animal coloring varies slightly, Dall’s porpoises are easy to identify as they are mostly black with white along their sides, on the top half of their dorsal fins and on the trailing edge of their flukes.  Dall’s porpoises mature to around 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and have 19-23 spade-shaped teeth.  When swimming, Dall’s porpoises leave a characteristic splash called a ‘rooster tail.’

How well can a Dall’s porpoise see or hear? Scientists don’t really know.  Captive Dall’s porpoises emit low frequency clicks that are presumably used for echolocation.

What do Dall’s porpoises eat? Dall’s porpoises are thought to have a rather varied diet consisting of hake, squid, lanternfish, anchovy, sardines and small schooling fish.

How do Dall’s porpoises have babies? Female Dall’s porpoises reproduce at approximately six years of age while male Dall’s porpoises mature at 8 years of age.  Dall’s porpoise calves are born in mid-summer after a 12 month gestation period.  They are about 3 feet (0.9 meters) long. Calves and their mothers live separate from main porpoise herds for a time.  Dall’s porpoise mothers usually have calves every 3 years.

How long do Dall’s porpoises live? How do they die? Dall’s porpoises usually live about 16-17 years.  Very little is known about their mortality however many believe that Dall’s porpoises are very susceptible to “incidental” capture by certain types of fishing gear. These porpoises become so intense upon the pursuit of their food that they fail to anticipate or see gill nets set for fish.  Porpoises that get entangled in nets usually drown.

Northern Fur Seal: Scientific name: Callorhinus ursinus

The Healy made a stop at St. George and St. Paul Island this past week. Collectively, they are called the Pribilof Islands. The history of these two islands is very interesting. There is a deep Russian influence as well as Native Alaskan Aleut. The animal that the islands based their economy on was the Northern Fur Seal. Read on if you’d like to learn more!

Northern fur seals range extends from Southern California, up the North American coast, west along the Alaskan coastline, across the sub Arctic sea to the Russian coast and down to waters of northern Japan.

How many Northern fur seals are there? The estimate of the world’s population of Northern fur seals is 1,130,000.  There are about 880,000 northern fur seals in U.S. waters and most breed on the Pribilof Islands. A smaller population of Northern fur seals are found on San Miguel Island off the California coast. But in 1909, there were only 200,000 to 300,000 left to breed on the Pribilof Islands because of commercial seal harvests.  The seal hunters harvested the Northern fur seals for their fur.

How can I identify a Northern fur seal? Males are gray to black, and females are light gray on the back and reddish-brown on the chest with a light patch.  Both have extremely dense fur, so dense that it keeps the cool ocean water from the skin, thereby preserving body heat; but it is not waterproof.  Because of this dense fur they have large, hairless flippers to keep them cool.  The females weigh 90 to 110 pounds on average, and the males between 300 and 615 pounds.  Like all fur seals and sea lions, the Northern fur seal has ears that stick out from its head.  By rotating their flippers forward, they can walk, run and climb out of the water.

What do Northern fur seals eat? Northern fur seals feed mainly at night and may dive to depths of 600 feet (180 m) in search of small schooling fish and squid and prey are typically eaten underwater.  Larger fish are brought to the surface and eaten there.

How do Northern fur seals have their young? After giving birth on one of the rookeries, the mother nurses her pup for 8-10 days.  She then begins a pattern of leaving to feed at sea for 4 to 10 days, and returning for 1 or 2 to nurse her pup. During this time she usually makes short shallow dives at night to feed. The pups are weaned after 4 months.

How long do Northern fur seals live? How do they die? The Northern fur seal can live for 25 years, but most females live to be 18-20 years old and the males to their low teens.

Natural predators of the fur seals include sharks, foxes, killer whales and Steller sea lions. El Ñino and entanglement also are hazardous to the Northern fur seal.

Do you know what is really cool about Northern fur seals? A Northern fur seal bull, that has territory, will defend it against any intruding bulls, and even humans!!

The Northern fur seal can spend extremely long periods in the open ocean.  Before returning to the breeding colonies many pups will remain at sea for up to 22 months!

A Northern fur seal mother find her pup by moving through the breeding colony and listening for the pup’s distinctive voice!

Northern fur seals mainly feed at night, when prey species are closer to the ocean surface!

Northern fur seals have huge flippers, proportionally bigger than a Steller sea lions.  They help keep them cool.

Northern fur seals are famous for the dense fur that covers all but their flippers.  That fur consists of approximately 46,500 hairs per square centimeter.

Maggie Prevenas, Week 3 in Review, April 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 28, 2007

Week in Review

Monday, April 23: The ice is back so we have resumed our ice observation. Every two hours we haul ourselves up to the Bridge and write down our observations in a form. It averages about 7 times a day, and Robyn and I split up the observations so we have equal numbers. We are contributing ?

Weather was really icky. The morning helicopter observations were canceled because of poor visibility and wind. The wind has calmed down a bit, but the fog is still present. It will make for difficult observations in some areas. The rest of the research team is working steadily in the labs. They are all looking forward to the sampling of the ice algae for tomorrow. Robyn and I are trying to prepare for the webinar for Thursday. The scientists who will be on the show have been super helpful in providing us with materials for the webinar.

Tuesday, April 24: Scientists on ice. We hit very thick ice last night. The scientists are ready to go out for an ice sample. The ship just tucked up, into the ice. It let down a metal ramp, and down we went. All of the scientists were very excited to get off the boat. They have been stuck in a lab since the cruise started.

Most of the scientists are doing experiments associated or needing seawater. The stop on the ice was the first for all of them, to drill ice cores, collect ice and melt it down. When they return to the ship, they test it to see what secrets it may tell. The visit to the ice had almost a party-like atmosphere. Remember the reason they were collecting ice samples, was because of the puzzling results they were getting. I believe every single scientist and assistant were on the ice except the marine mammal and bird folks, who are doing a different kind of sampling. The scientists were on the ice from 8:30 am through 11 am. That is the time when oxygen release and chlorophyll is dramatically observed and measured. They will be returning to the ice in the future to continue to take the ice samples.

Seal Tagging: Oh, but my day was not over yet. I was about to get a hands-on experience in tagging ice seals. Instead of re-explaining it all here, I thought I could ask you to go into my journals and check the entry ‘Seal Tagging Adventure.’ You can get very good details and photos of the event. We got back to the ship around four pm. My tail was dragging from leaping over snow banks and falling over ice chunks. Tagging seals is a very rigorous science occupation.

Wednesday, April 25: Getting ready for the webcast. This was the last full day we had to deal with all the background of materials that needed to come to us for the webinar. Both of the scientists Alex DiRobertis, and Jeff Napp, provided us with a nice powerpoint presentation for our audience to see while we talked.

It was also time for me to start preparing for the classroom visits to St. George and St. Paul Islands. There were activities to write, brochures to track activities, and materials to hunt down. That took a lot of time for me, because I decided to take the students K-8. Robyn took the 4 high schoolers. All of my students would rotate through two different classes. In each class there were three different stations. I wanted to engage the students in some kind of active learning.

It was also time to write and reflect on the seal tagging.

I took almost 150 pictures of the seal tagging adventure. I needed to select the best for the Journal Article on tagging seals. I also needed to write an article and highlight those images in the Journal. I completed it by the end of the day, and turned it back to the Polartrec website along with the 18 pictures I selected to illustrate the activity.

Thursday, April 26 Webcast day. A zillion details to wade through. To make matters a bit more complicated, the place where we normally have our webinar was going to be used by the science team, so we had to seek out an alternative spot to broadcast.

At first we chose the chief scientists room. But the static and noises from the phone made us try yet another room. Down on the third floor to try two other rooms. Time was tight, it was 12:30 time to broadcast! So we decided to start it going in the regular spot and then move out into the hallway as the scientists meeting continued.

However, as soon as we moved, the feedback from the speakers overwhelmed us. For every word we spoke there was an echo. We were just about to hang up early when someone got the bright idea to go into my room and continue the webinar. All 7 of us picked up one piece of the telephone system and moved as one into my small stateroom.

We were good to broadcast for another 10 minutes, before the iridum phone broke connection. We tried and tried to call back. On the last try, Robyn got through. After 60 minutes of technological torture, we were done! Yahoo! And now back to the St. George presentations we were developing for the next day. I stayed up until 1:30 making pollack, krill, and phytoplankton puppets. I also needed to put all my Hawaii products out for the kids to try. Dried pineapple, mango, ginger, candy postcards, and pencils. I hoped the students would enjoy learning about my students on Maui. I checked and double checked my duffle bag to make sure I had all the materials and then some more!

Friday, April 27, 2007: The zodiac to St. George. Right after breakfast, the team of scientists and others (us teacher kine) were directed to the helo area (where the helicopter is stored) to put on our survival suits. The MS 900. Since I was going to have my students try on the suit I was wearing, I was able to keep it on, and change into my street clothes at the school.

The zodiac ride over was so much FUN! Splash, splash, kersplash, the person at the front of the bow got very wet. The rest of us hid behind him and let him take the salty spray. Once on the island, we were transported to the school via a little white bus.

THAT’S when the fun really began!

We did an icebreaking activity (person bingo) that was a real hit! Each person had a piece of paper with 20 questions. Each person had to find someone in the general meeting area who could answer that question right. Then, they put their name on the sheet. The first one with a complete blackout wins.

Then we rolled into our next activity, ‘Which creature do you identify with best?’ There were loads of people who stood by the polar bear, humpback whale, and walrus. The phytoplankton and pollack were ignored by everyone.  Hopefully by the end of the day, they might warm up to this microscopic creature and learn that it controls the entire ecosystem.

The elementary students and middle schools funneled through my stations. Of course their favorite was the station about Hawaii, mostly because of the treats I offered, perhaps? I do believe they have learned a little more about my island home and the students I teach. I hope we can continue or friendship via a blog spot I recently set up. They were incredibly respectful and curious students!

We brought the four high schoolers and some teachers and community members back o the ship with us. They were given a nice tour of the boat and supper. Back to the zodiacs they went. We waved Aloha to our new friends.

Saturday, April 28: St Paul. The other Pribilof Island. Stormy seas were forecasted. To the Coast Guard it was all about safety. To Robyn and me it was all about getting there and back. We had a presentation scheduled for the school from 11-12:30. We wanted to connect with the community.

St. Paul is larger than St. George. The helicopter was an efficient way to transport people off the boat (those who were going home) and pick up people coming to the boat (those scientists who were joining our adventure). Robyn, David Doucet (air safety manager) and I were the first flight out. Robyn and I were very excited and nervous at the same time.

Up and off we flew, 6 miles from the ship to the airport over the freezing cold Bering Sea. One minute on the ship, blink twice, we were landing safely at the airport in St. Paul. Tonia Kushin, teacher from St. Paul and I had been in contact with each other since late March. We wanted to bring her students culture to my students culture and make a meaningful connection. She took us on a tour of St. Paul, and then took us to her school. Both Robyn and I took in her tour like a sponge.

It was a wonderful time! We were set up in the library, a most fantastic place to learn. Surrounded by student made kayaks, a seal skeleton, and many antique photos from the olden time, we began our introductions.

Our education activity stations were a hit. I think the one the students enjoyed most was getting into and out of the MS 900 suit and bunny boots.

We talked to the audience about marine mammals, then broke into activity stations, then were treated to a celebration of dance. Their costumes were gorgeous!

Their dance lively!

Their song rang clear and sweet.

It brought tears to my eyes.

I went back to the Aleut classroom to see their costumes up close and was rewarded with the students coming up to me and answering all my questions. Their wonderful teacher too!

She told me that the dancing group is getting smaller and younger with each passing year. Seems many teenagers are no longer interested in learning the Aleut ways. I understood what she said. It is difficult to compete with videogames and the internet. I see some of my students in Hawaii making those same choices.

Before we knew it, it was time to go. The wind had picked up considerably and we needed to leave the school, WIKI WIKI!

We said a hurried good-bye, and left St. Paul behind. I left the island with a treasure trove of memories, and a stack of Styrofoam cups for the St. Paul students experiment “Down to the Deep.”

That kinda says it all for me.  This experience is all about science and making cultural connections. It is all one ocean, one voice, one earth.

Maggie Prevenas, April 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 27, 2007

Science Log

We took the zodiac to St. George Island today, an island that is part of the Pribilof Islands, north of the Aleutian chain. Right after breakfast, the team of scientists and others (us teacher kine) were directed to the helo area (where the helicopter is stored) to put on our survival suits. The MS 900.

Emily Davenport and I were very happy to ride in a zodiac!
Emily Davenport and I were very happy to ride in a zodiac!

Since I was going to have my students try on the suit I was wearing, I was able to keep it on, and change into my street clothes at the school.

The zodiac ride over was so much FUN! Splash, splash, kersplash, the person at the front of the bow got very wet.

The ride over to St. George was so much fun!
The ride over to St. George was so much fun!

The rest of us hid behind him and let him take the salty spray. Once on the island, we were transported to the school via a little white bus.

THAT’S when the fun really began!

Although St. George School is very small, it has a BIG heart.
Although St. George School is very small, it has a BIG heart.

We did an icebreaking activity (person bingo) that was a real hit! Each person had a piece of paper with 20 questions. Each person had to find someone in the general meeting area who could answer that question right. Then, they put their name on the sheet. The first one with a complete blackout wins.

Everyone had to ask everyone their name and a few questions. It’s an icebreaker that takes the edge off of meeting new people.
Everyone had to ask everyone their name and a few questions. It’s an icebreaker that takes the edge off of meeting new people.

Then we rolled into our next activity, ‘Which creature do you identify with best?’ There were loads of people who stood by the polar bear, humpback whale, and walrus. The phytoplankton and pollock were ignored by everyone.  Hopefully by the end of the day, they might warm up to this microscopic creature and learn that it controls the entire ecosystem.

The phytoplankton puppet was a little strange looking. After I explained it to a few students, one decided that he wanted to rule the ocean with me.
The phytoplankton puppet was a little strange looking. After I explained it to a few students, one decided that he wanted to rule the ocean with me.

The elementary students and middle schools funneled through my stations. Of course their favorite was the station about Hawaii, mostly because of the treats I offered, perhaps? I do believe they have learned a little more about my island home and the students I teach. I hope we can continue or friendship via a blog spot I recently set up. They were incredibly respectful and curious students!

We brought the four high schoolers and some teachers and community members back to the ship with us. They were given a nice tour of the boat and supper. Back to the zodiacs they went. We waved aloha to our new friends.

Maggie Prevenas, April 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 26, 2007

Science Log

So there I was just working on my journal entry when a phone call came through into the science conference room. Dr. Michael Cameron, Ice Seal Team leader, was on the line. “We are going to try to tag a seal on the ice,” he said, ”meet us in the helo hanger.” I dropped the phone and exited the conference room as fast as my rubber boots would allow. What a great opportunity this was. I was going to see what it would be like getting a tagging event together!

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Mike came thumping down the ladder from helo headquarters, “Get dressed, you’re coming with.” My heart was beating in my throat.

Me? Coming with! I MUST be dreaming!

The rest of the seal team was casually slipping on their ice gear suits and white overcoat. I wriggled into an extra large survival suit, my bunny boots, and the white lab coat, which acted as camouflage. All I needed was a red safety helmet and off we went.

I needed to gear up in a MS 900 in order to participate in the seal tagging event. I might not look fashionable, but I certainly am prepared for the unexpected. The MS 900 is a survival suit that is insulated and waterproof, just in case you fall through the ice.
I needed to gear up in a MS 900 in order to participate in the seal tagging event. I might not look fashionable, but I certainly am prepared for the unexpected.

We were transported to the ice via the ‘Man Basket.’ The ‘Man Basket’ is a steel cage suspended from a long cable and driven by a crane. The crane operator lifts the basket, steers it, and then lowers it down to a stable section of the ice. Once the basket has stopped moving, you slip out of the basket, and there you go.

The seal team and bear watch designee were the first group taken down to the ice. As soon as they landed, they were scrambling over the rounded pack ice berms and bumps towards the seal threesome. I knew the importance of them getting out there quickly in order to catch either of the adult spotted seals.

The seal team quickly goes to work to try and catch the spotted seals.
The seal team quickly goes to work to try and catch the spotted seals.

Before too long, the basket returned, lifted us up into the air, and down onto the frozen Bering Sea. Gavin Brady, the last of the seal team, was off like a shot. I urged him forward to do the job he was here to do. My clumsiness held him back like an anchor. I tried hard to hurdle the icy ridges and rafts, but the MS 900 worked as an efficient brake to dull my progress.

I’m OK! Just GO!

The short sprint to the seal location took my breath away. The seal team worked lightening fast to net the two adult spotted seals. They used a huge net, that looked like a huge butterfly net,  to trap them, and then transferred the animal quickly into a hoop net. My job was to watch the baby and make sure she wouldn’t separate from her mama and get lost in the open water.

I wasn’t the only one seal sitting. Dr. Mike restrains the spotted seal while seal team takes valuable data.
I wasn’t the only one seal sitting. Dr. Mike restrains the spotted seal while seal team takes valuable data.

But I wasn’t the only one seal sitting. In order to restrain it safely, one of the researchers straddles the seal, sits on it’s back, and controls its head and front flippers. Spotted seals have sharp, sharp teeth and they can telescope their neck to inflict quite a nasty bite. One researcher volunteers to act as a restrainer, which allows the scientists to collect their data quickly and effectively

The team concentrated on the two adults, one female and one male. I watched the baby. Of all the tasks that were available at the seal tag site, I think that was the best.

Of all the jobs available at the tag site, I think mine was the best.
Of all the jobs available at the tag site, I think mine was the best.

Taking advantage of my close but respectable distance I took many pictures of the furry bundle with very sharp teeth.

A baby spotted seal, aka furry bundle with very sharp teeth.
A baby spotted seal, aka furry bundle with very sharp teeth.

I was totally impressed with the speed and agility of the seal team. One of their major goals is to gather the data, and tag the seal as quickly and painlessly as possible. Their teamwork and communication was exemplary and allowed the mother seal to return to her offspring in a surprisingly short period of time.

Happy reunion between mother and pup.
Happy reunion between mother and pup.

Because I was preoccupied with the baby seal watch, I had missed out on what samples the scientists were collecting. Remember they are gathering data, some of it baseline for ice seals.  The tagging will produce information that is original and first of its kind. So if you were to gather information on ice seals, what kind of information would YOU collect?

The male spotted seal and I were soon to find out.

Sexing is first on the agenda. Male or female? One hole or two?

Next is tagging the seal. The seal tags are marvels of technology. They contain computer chips and batteries that will permit the researchers to discover how deep the seals dive and when, where, and how often do they haul out. Two small holes are pierced through webbing between its toes, and the tag is securely attached. As soon as the seal returns to the sea, the salt water activates the tag. It will continue satellite transmission for up to a year.

Shawn Dahle and Josh London prepare to attach the tag to the back flipper of the spotted seal.
Shawn Dahle and Josh London prepare to attach the tag to the back flipper of the spotted seal.

Then the tissue from the flipper is placed in a small vial for DNA testing. Scientists can map the DNA and discover information about the different individuals and populations. Following tissue sampling, blood is taken to learn of the seal’s health. The researchers use a syringe and insert it into a special cavity (dorsal sinus) of the spotted seal, an easy target for them to tap. After the tagging event, the team will take the blood back to the boat and separate the solid red blood cells from the light colored serum. It is the serum that contains the antibodies and information.

Dr. London puts the blood into a ‘tiger tube,’ a special test tube that has a  layer of wax to separate the high density red blood cells from the serum.
Dr. London puts the blood into a ‘tiger tube,’ a special test tube that has a
layer of wax to separate the high density red blood cells from the serum.
 The serum is suctioned from the tiger tube and placed into a smaller sample tube.
The serum is suctioned from the tiger tube and placed into a smaller sample tube.

This serum will be frozen, along with the tissue, for another scientist who specializes in blood work to decipher its content. Lastly, measurements are made. We didn’t have enough time to weigh the animal. The researchers use numbers recorded from tape measurements at the hip, belly, front flipper, and neck. They put the numbers in a special equation that use a special ratio to determine a good estimate of the weight of the animal.

Measuring the length and width of a seal is a quick way to get a fairly accurate measure of weight.
Measuring the length and width of a seal is a quick way to get a fairly accurate measure of weight.

The seal team does a quick check and double check to make sure all the numbers have been recorded. But there is an additional sample that the male spotted seal has left for the science party.

You know poop? Doo doo? Number two?

I was told that all wildlife biologists start out as scat collectors. Scat or vomit is commonly used to figure out what, how, and how much animals eat. The seal team was very happy to delegate scat collection in a whirl bag (special sample bag) to me.

The seal team was very happy to delegate scat collection to me.
The seal team was very happy to delegate scat collection to me.

They even had a special little shovel to transfer the scat to the bag.

triumphsealteam2-01-400x300

The trek back to the ship was more relaxed than the sprint out. We needed to wait for the helicopter to take two members of the ice algae productivity sample group back to the sampling site we were at in the early morning. We got Andy, our Bear-Watcher-Outer, to take pictures of us all. Dr. Mike and the rest of the ice seal team were incredibly happy.

So there you go. From start to finish, a whirlwind of valuable data gathering, done in an efficient and non-invasive way. Yeah, this is science.

This is science done right.

Maggie Prevenas, April 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 24, 2007

Science Log: Science on Ice

We hit very thick ice last night. That is exactly what the scientists were waiting for.  So the ship just tucked up into the ice, let down a metal ramp, and down we went.

The scientists were able to walk off the boat by way of this metal ramp. They had to grasp the handrails and walk backwards down the ramp. It was like climbing down a ladder.
The scientists were able to walk off the boat by way of this metal ramp. They had to grasp the handrails and walk backwards down the ramp. It was like climbing down a ladder.

All of the scientists were very excited to get off the boat. They have been researching in a lab since the cruise started. Most of the scientists are doing experiments associated with or needing seawater.

Most of the scientists are working with sea water. The collection of sea water  directly from these holes was a new protocol.
Most of the scientists are working with sea water. The collection of sea water directly from these holes was a new protocol.

The stop on the ice was the first for all of them, to drill ice cores, to collect ice and water directly from the hole.

Dr. Ned Cokelet drills an ice core using a gas powered engine. It allows the scientists to take samples quickly and efficiently.
Dr. Ned Cokelet drills an ice core using a gas powered engine. It allows the scientists to take samples quickly and efficiently.

When they return to the ship, they test it to see what secrets it may tell. Remember the reason they were collecting ice samples, was because of the puzzling results they were getting.

Ice samples were brought back onboard the Healy by attaching a rope and dragging them up the ramp.
Ice samples were brought back onboard the Healy by attaching a rope and dragging them up the ramp.

I believe every single scientist and assistant were on the ice except the marine mammal and bird folks, who are doing a different kind of sampling. The scientists were on the ice from 8:30 am through 11 am. That is the time when oxygen release and chlorophyll is dramatically observed and measured. They will be returning to the ice three more times to take the ice samples.

Seal Tagging: Oh, but my day was not over yet. I was about to get a hands-on experience in tagging ice seals. Instead of re-explaining it all here, I thought I could ask you to go into my journals and check the entry ‘Seal Tagging Adventure.’ You can get very good details and photos of the event. We got back to the ship around four pm. My tail was dragging from leaping over snow banks and falling over ice chunks. Tagging seals is a very rigorous science occupation.

Maggie Prevenas, April 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 24, 2007

Science Log

Before I started this adventure onboard the Healy, we were told about the opportunity to run a deep-sea pressure experiment with our students. All that was needed was a Styrofoam object decorated with Sharpie pens. I got some Styrofoam balls and bowls, a package of Sharpies and the students went to work decorating the objects.

They were a bit difficult to pack. The goal was to get them here in one piece. The TSA at most airports did all they could to protect my fragile cargo (NOT!) When I got on the ship, I put them on my desk and waited for the opportunity.

This little mesh bag held the Styrofoam balls.
This little mesh bag held the Styrofoam balls.

It just so happened that on Saturday night, April 21, we were going to have a deep, deep, station collection. The CTD (rosette water sampling machinery) was to be dropped down to 2500 METERS. So we gathered our travel mesh bags together, stuck the Styrofoam in the bags, and went in search of the CTD operator, Scott Hiller, from Scripts Oceanography Institute. He said no problemo! He’d make sure the Styrofoam balls, bowls and cups got down there and back.

Scott Hiller from Scripts Oceanography Institute said he would make sure the balls,  bowls and cups would be taken down and up again.
Scott Hiller from Scripps Oceanography Institute said he would make sure the balls, bowls and cups would be taken down and up again.

So in the interest of science, I stayed up late, determined to see the experiment through from start to finish. The hours ticked away. 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock. The rosette sunk deeper and deeper. 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 1:30 it hit the bottom.

These Styrofoam objects were tucked in a mesh bag and tied to the side of the CTD rosette.
These Styrofoam objects were tucked in a mesh bag and tied to the side of the CTD rosette.
That’s 2500 METERS. So how many feet is that?
That’s 2500 METERS. So how many feet is that?

It had to sit on the bottom for 45 minutes, and then get hauled back up to the surface. 2:00, 3:00. Wow, I was up, witnessing a science experiment at 6 hours past my regular bedtime. Now this is science!

Scientists regularly stay up to do their research at all hours of the night.
Scientists regularly stay up to do their research at all hours of the night. I never expected to be up this late.

When the rosette hit the surface, attached were the Styrofoam forms, but what did they look like? Your assignment is to write a hypothesis as to what you think happened to the balls and bowls that were lowered into the deep deep Bering Sea.

Stay tuned!

Maggie Prevenas, April 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 23, 2007

Science Log

I am sure that you know that there are many different scientists on board, all researching pieces of the Bering Sea ecosystem puzzle. Recently, some of the scientists started talking with each other because some of the results have not been what they expected. They asked, why is this happening and what is causing this to happen?

There were some puzzling results that couldn’t be explained from the data samples.
There were some puzzling results that couldn’t be explained from the samples.

Their conclusion?

No dirty snow here. This ice is covered with ice algae. Ice algae is the producer of the Bering Sea.
No dirty snow here. This ice is covered with ice algae. Ice algae is the producer of the Bering Sea.

What the heck, you might say. How come this piece of the puzzle has gone unchecked? Might I remind you that many of these scientists are doing baseline studies? They are collecting data from one or more of the factors in the ecosystem. Never been done, at this time, in this place before.

The information that is being collected is fed into a computer and displayed as a graph.
The information that is being collected is fed into a computer and displayed as a graph.

So a meeting was called. At that meeting were the researchers who were discovering that there was something missing. These researchers told the group of scientists that they believed their missing data had to do with the ice algae. That they needed access to algae samples that were not sent into shock from the collision of the icebreaker and the ice.

Scientists often have to make their own data sampling equipment. It is a mixture of science, engineering, and creativity.
Scientists often have to make their own data sampling equipment. It is a mixture of science, engineering, and creativity.

Now here is the interesting part. Everyone agreed. EVERYONE agreed. This aspect of the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) cruise had not been included in the research plans. Time to develop another protocol and possibly another piece of equipment that would permit the researchers to gather untouched pieces of the algae.

Researchers need to get samples of the water and sea algae. In order to get it, they need to pump the stuff up out of a teeny tiny hole they will punch through the ice.
Researchers need to get samples of the water and sea algae. In order to get it, they need to pump the stuff up out of a teeny tiny hole they will punch through the ice.

So it became a true collaboration. Everyone worked together to create the protocol, make the sampler, to decide time of day to collect and for how long and for how many. The nutrient scientists worked with the zooplankton folks worked with the mud researchers worked with fish acoustics. Now there is a plan, and a protocol, and scientists who will be sampling ice algae from undisturbed areas in the ice. The plan was created in just two short days, in addition to their crazy research schedule. This group of scientists is pumped to find out the role of ice algae in the ecosystem of the Bering Sea.

This is a new ice filter that was created especially for this machine.
This is a new ice filter that was created especially for this machine.

Stay tuned to this website as I am sure there will be more interesting data that will come out of all this.

And me?

I’ll be there 😉

Maggie Prevenas, Week 2 in Review, April 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 22, 2007

Week in Review

It’s hard to believe another week has passed. There have been so many exciting projects, and unexpected problems. I am in awe of the creativity and the toughness of the scientists on board!

Monday April 16: We started the rotation last week Thursday. It’s time to rotate into our next scientist group. For me that is the ‘mud guys.’ David Schull and Al Devol. These scientists get samples of the bottom sediment (mud) and are able to figure out what’s going on by measuring the amount and type of gas produced. There is a lot happening in terms of Nitrogen fixing and natural radon gas presence. These are serious scientists that like to play in the mud. Robyn and my ice observations continue to take place every two hours. That’s about 7 or more a day.

Tuesday April 17: Our first live event from somewhere in the Bering Sea. The topic of the event was ‘Scientific Research -Life Onboard Ship” We invited Dr. David Hyrenbach and Mr. Steven Elliot to field questions from the virtual audience. Considering we ARE in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by ice, we thought the connection and the whole project went very well! Robyn and my ice observations continue to take place every two hours. That’s about 7 or more a day. Our next Live Event will be THURSDAY April 26. We hope to hear you there ?

Wednesday April 18: We are trying to keep up with the research schedule. It’s time for the next rotation into the fishes. Dr. Alex De Roberis does some amazing things using acoustics to measure the population and tracking of fishes. Fishing is one of the most important industries in the Bering Sea. Understanding how fish populations might be influenced by climate change is a timely issue. I learned about Euphausids (krill) and other teeny tiny copepods. I also learned about fishes like Pollack; fishing Pollack is a major, MAJOR industry in the Bering Sea. Robyn and my ice observations continue to take place every two hours. That’s about 7 or more a day.

Thursday April 19: Onto Rotation 3 and the Marine Mammal group. This group, headed by Dr. Michael Cameron from the National Marine Mammal Lab in Seattle, WA is doing baseline studies with ice seals to document their population and distribution. About twice a day, two or three of the ice seal team wiggle into survivor suits and bunny boots. They follow a transect in the helicopter and count the animals.

They see much more than ice seals. They have seen belugas, polar bears, walrus, and orcas from their 400-foot observatory in the sky. Other members of the team include Dr. Josh London, Gavin Brady, Dave Withrow, Shawn Dahle and Lee Harris. This stuff is very cool. Robyn and my ice observations continue to take place every two hours. That’s about 7 or more a day.

Friday April 20: Flight in a helicopter! So I was working with David Hyrenbach and Robyn Staup to coordinate our outreach program on the Pribilof Islands next week when Dr. Mike gave me the signal that it was my turn to fly.

Me Fly?!

So I jumped into a survivor suit MS 900, got fitted with a flight helmet, slipped on my bunny boots and there I was ready to go. The scariest part of all this was giving the helicopter facilitator my true weight. Women out there can easily identify with this. Giving out your age and weight to a male not related to you, is something that you don’t do until you are married. I mumbled the tonnage and closed my eyes, expecting it to go on the Coast Guard ‘pipes’ (in ship speaker announcement system.) I lucked out.

The flight was just totally amazing. Sitting in the front seat of the helo and watching the boat slide away from underneath your big white feet is a bit un-nerving But soon you adjust to the fact that you are at 400 feet altitude, zipping along at 80-90 miles per hour. Suddenly, little dark shapes turn into seals but they are not. And other dark colored seal bodies, turn into ice, which they are. It takes someone with way more experience than me to count seals.

This I learned many times as we flew over the solid white sea. At this point in the cruise we were very close to Russia. I saw a few seals and some walrus. Trying to spot the ice seals was as tough as trying to see those white-tailed deer that my Dad pointed out to us during trips up to Gramma’s house as a child. ‘Look a deer!’ And six children’s’ heads swiveled and eyes strained to see that beast. I never could see that deer, and I never did see too many ice seals.

Saturday April 21: Out of the ice and into open water. Tons of wildlife including a huge pod (20+) of Beluga whales as viewed from the helicopter.  With the help of the evening science team, I stayed up way late, running the Styrofoam experiment. We attached the Styrofoam cups, bowls and balls to the rosette, CTD sampler as it descended to 2700 meters. It was time I modeled scientists round the clock behavior. I never expected the CTD sampling to run past midnight. But 3 o’clock in the morning? I hope my students realize that science is not for sissies. Because we left the ice behind us, our ice observations were cancelled until we return to the ice sometime tomorrow. It was a banner day for animals and we discovered that birds, ribbon seals, spotted seals, and orcas all enjoy life in the loose pack as it cycles into the southern Bering Sea.

Maggie Prevenas, April 20, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 20, 2007

Species Profiles

Bald Eagle: Haliaeetus luecocephalus

When I walked around the back of the hotel in Dutch, I surprised a big ‘ol bald eagle dumpster diving with three of

Bald eagle (Credit: Michele Brustolon)
Bald eagle (Photo by TAS Michele Brustolon)

his raven friends. Later I found out the ravens were not really his friends. They tricked him into surrendering his meal! Bald Eagles play an important role in this ecosystem. They are scavengers, not only in Nature, but out of garbage dumps too.

The eagle is called ‘bald’ because of white feathers on their heads. Its yellow eyes and beak stand in contrast to its dark brown body. Eagles can reach flight speeds between 35 and 44 miles per hour.

How big are bald eagles?

The bald eagle is 32 to 40 inches long with a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet. Males are smaller than females.

How many Bald Eagles are alive today?

80,000 to 110,000 eagles exist in the wild. There are 4,500 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states.

How long do they live?

Over 30 years in the wild. They live longer in captivity because they have a better diet and are protected.

Where do they live?

Bald Eagles live in Canada, Alaska and lower 48 states. They like to hang out in forests, valleys, mountain regions, lakes, rivers and along waters’ edge.

They build nests in the limbs of tall trees. Their nests are used year after year with new additions of mosses and sticks. Nests can reach 5 feet across, 2 feet high and weigh 4,000 pounds!

What do they eat?

Bald eagles eat fish, waterfowl, and small to medium mammals. They kill their prey with their talons (feet and claws) and use their beaks for tearing flesh. They are scavengers that will eat anything from dead fish, to road kill, and dumpster food.

How do they reproduce?

Bald Eagles often mate for life. Once paired, the female lays two eggs in the spring. After 35 days, one or two chicks hatch. If two are hatched, usually only the chick that is more aggressive, and takes most of the food, survives. At 15 weeks of age, the young permanently leaves the nest.

What threats do they have?

Bald Eagles have lost their homes to humans in many coastal areas. Since they scavenge (eat dead or decaying food) heavy metals and other poisons can concentrate in their body and kill them.

Did you know?

Bald eagles can swim! They use an overhand movement of the wings that is very much like the butterfly stroke.

Most all of the information for this creature feature was taken directly from:

http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/bald_eagle.html Word for word, just copied and pasted. I’d like to credit them for writing and researching it. You can find lots more information there too! Make sure you give them credit if you are using this information for reference!

NOAA Ocean Explorer: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands 2002
Hawaiian Monk Seal, NOAA Ocean Explorer: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands 2002

Hawaiian Monk Seal: Monachus schauinslandi

Since I am going to be learning a lot more about ice seals, I thought that I’d do a creature feature on the Hawaiian Monk Seal so when the time comes, you will be able to compare and contrast them.

The Hawaiian monk seal has a streamlined body to aid in swimming. Their front and back limbs are flipper-like. The front flippers are smaller than the back flippers. The front flippers have five fingers. The hind flippers cannot be turned forward, so they must wiggle when on land. In the water, they propel themselves by moving the hind flippers and use their front flippers as rudders. They are dark gray on their backside and silvery gray on their stomachs.

How big are monk seals?

Males are approximately seven feet long and weigh about 400 pounds. Female Hawaiian monk seals are larger than males, up to 7.5 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds.

How many monk seals are alive today?

The population is estimated around 1300.

How old do they get?

Hawaiian monk seals can live for up to 30 years.

Where does it live?

Once found all over the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiian monk seal is now found only in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It likes to hang out in reefs, shallow lagoons, open ocean and beaches.

What do they eat?

Fish, eels and crustaceans.

monk seal and baby
Monk seal and baby

 

Do they have any special adaptations that allow them to survive in the very warm water of the Pacific Ocean?

These seals do not have special physical adaptations to deal with the warm climate in which they live. Instead, they remain inactive during the heat of the day, finding a resting spot with shade or wet sand. They are solitary animals. The Hawaiian monk seal evolved in an area without people or other land predators. Therefore, it did not learn to fear people and is easily approachable and disturbed.

How often do they reproduce?

A pregnant female gives birth to a single pup from mid-March to late May. Pups are about three feet long and weigh about 37 pounds when they are born. Pups stay with their mothers for 35 to 40 days while they nurse. During this time the mother gives the pup swimming lessons each day. While the pup is nursing, the mother fasts and may lose up to 200 pounds during this time. When the pup has been weaned, the mother returns to the sea and the pup must fend for itself.

What are the threats to the Monk Seal?

Humans; commercial hunting for skins, entanglement in fishing nets and long lines. They also die from disease.

Did you know?

A close relative of the Hawaiian Monk Seal, the Caribbean Monk seal, went extinct 10 years ago.

Most all of the information for this creature feature was taken directly from:

http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/monk_seal.html

Word for word, just copied and pasted. I’d like to credit them for writing and researching it. You can find lots more information there too! Make sure you give them credit if you are using this information for reference!

Maggie Prevenas, April 20, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 20, 2007

Species Profiles

Bearded Seal: Scientific name: Erignathus barbatus

For the past few days, we have been seeing bearded seals. Bearded seals are extremely important to the Alaskan Native population that live along the Bering Sea. They use their skins for watertight boats, and their meat for food. They are solitary, love to hang out by themselves and are bottom feeders. Many times their heads appear reddish brown, stained from the benthic muck.

Alaskan Natives carve beautiful animals from walrus ivory. This carving is located on the  second floor of the Anchorage Airport.
Alaskan Natives carve beautiful animals from walrus ivory. This carving is located on the second floor of the Anchorage Airport.

Where do bearded seals live?
Bearded seals live in areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans that freeze and form ice during the winter.

How many bearded seals are there?
There is no accurate population count at this time, but it is estimated that there are probably over 500,000 bearded seals worldwide.

Bearded seals often have reddish heads from grubbing for  their food in the bottom sediment. Photo by Gavin Brady.
Bearded seals often have reddish heads from grubbing for their food in the bottom sediment.

How can I identify bearded seals?
A bearded seals most distinguishing feature is the beard of white whiskers they use to find food on the sea floor. Adult bearded seals are gray to brown, pups silver-gray, and do not have spots or other identifying markings. They do have small heads and flippers for the size of their bodies. The average length of adult bearded seals is 6.5 to 7 feet. They can weigh as much as 700 pounds, but the average weight is 400 to 500 pounds.

What do bearded seals eat?
Bearded seals are mainly bottom feeders that eat shrimps, crabs, clams and whelks. They will prey on fish such as cod and sculpin when they get a chance.

How do bearded seals have their young?
The bearded seal pups are born on the ice from the middle of March to the early May. Pups are weaned in approximately 3 weeks, and during those three weeks they gain a lot of weight. Their mothers then leave them to fend for themselves. The bearded seal pups learn to swim and dive within the first week of life. The pups then live a solitary life-like the rest of the bearded seals.

How long do bearded seals live? How do they die?
The life span of bearded seals is believed to be up to 31 years. The main predator of the bearded seal are the polar bear. Sharks, and walrus have been known to feed on pups, and humans also hunt bearded seals for subsistence.

Bearded seal pups usually stay on the ice. The mother seal will dive into the water but hangs around the pup.
Bearded seal pups usually stay on the ice. The mother seal will dive into the water but hangs around the pup.

Do you know what is really cool about bearded seals?
Bearded seals will ram their heads through thin ice to produce breathing holes!

Bearded seals lay on the edge of the ice looking downward into the water. They can then get away if a predator approaches!

The bearded seal gets its name from the white whiskers on its face! The whiskers are very sensitive and are used to find food on the ocean bottom!

Within a week of birth pups are capable of diving to a depth of 200 feet!

The bearded seals can be easily recognized because the body looks too big for the size of its head and front flippers!

Orca: The Killer Whale

The pilot from the helicopter gave us a heads up. Two killer whales headed our way. The announcement resounded through the ship via the pipes (announcement system). For some people on board ship, this was their first glimpse of the orca. Keep on reading if you are interested in learning more about the whale called Killer.

We saw a pod of killer whales all eating heartily. What was on their menu for dinner? Take a guess.
We saw a pod of killer whales all eating heartily. What was on their menu for dinner? Take a guess.

Killer whales are social animals that live in stable family-related groups.  Killer whales display a high level of care for their offspring.  In addition to the mothers, various pod members (mainly adolescent females) perform most of the care for the calves.  As with most mammals, killer whales are very protective of their young.

Different killer whale pods “sound” different.  Each pod has their own dialect of sounds.  They can easily recognize their own pod from several miles away based on the differences in calls.

Killer whales are often compared to wolves because both species are top predators, maintain complex social relationships, and hunt cooperatively.

To some, killer whales look exactly alike however they can be distinguished from one another by the shape and size of their dorsal fins, the distinctive grayish-white saddle patches behind their dorsal fins, as well as distinctive scars, nicks and marks on their dorsal fins.

What are killer whales like?
Though killer whales, also called orcas, are considered whales by most people, they are actually members of the Delphinidae (dolphin) family. Killer whales are excellent hunters that a wide range of prey, including fish, seals, and big whales such as blue whales. Despite their hunting of other animals, free-ranging killer whales have never been reported killing a human being.

Where do killer whales live?
Killer whales can be found in all oceans but they seem to prefer coastal waters and cooler regions.  Killer whales occur in family groups called pods.  Three types of pods have been described:

* Resident pods: remain stable over time     * Transient pods:  dynamic in structure (are constantly changing)     * Offshore pods:  Are seen only in outer coast waters and not much else is known of them.

Killer whale pods are based on the lineage of the mother (mothers, daughters, and sons form groups); the whales live and travel with their mothers even after they are full-grown, forming strongly matriarchal whale societies.

How many killer whales are there?
There are no official killer whale worldwide population estimates.  There are minimum counts in local areas.  For example, approximately 1000 whales have been individually identified in Alaskan waters through photographs. Killer whales are at the top of the food chain and are not considered endangered.

How can I identify a killer whale?
Killer whales are extremely distinctive with jet-black bodies and white patches usually over the eyes, under the jaw, on the belly, and extending onto their sides.   Female killer whales can grow up to 26 feet (7.9 meters) with a 3 foot dorsal fin while males are larger than the females growing up to 28 feet (8.5 meters) with a 6 foot (1.3 meters) dorsal fin. Killer whales have 48 to 52 teeth that are large and conical shaped as well as slightly curved back and inward.

How well do killer whales see or hear?
Killer whales have well-developed, acute senses.  They can hear a vast range of sounds and possess skin that is sensitive to touch.  Killer whales have excellent vision in and out of water.  It is not known whether or not they may have some sort of sense of taste.

What do killer whales eat?
The killer whale diet consists of fish, squid, seals, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, porpoises and large whales like the blue whale.  Some killer whales have been known to slide on to beaches in order to capture a good meal.   Resident pods (pods that primarily reside in one area) prefer fish whereas transient pods (pods that travel over a relatively wide area) appear to target other marine mammals as prey.

Killer whales are very successful hunters due to their cooperative hunting, where all animals within the pod  participate.  This coordination is apparently developed and learned within pods.

How do killer whales have their young?
Killer whale males reach breeding age when they are around 22 feet (6.7 meters) long while females can breed when they are about 16 feet (4.9 meters) long. Killer whales breed all year around and calves are born about 8 feet (2.4 meters) long after a 17 month gestation period. Female killer whales usually give birth every 3 to 10 years.

How long do killer whales live? How do they die?
Killer whales have no natural predators (they are the top predators of the oceans) and can live to about 50-80 years old. Killer whales have been hunted by humans but not with enthusiasm as it takes 21 killer whales to produce the same amount of oil as 1 sperm whale.

Ribbon Seals: Phoca fasciata

I saw my first ribbon seal today! These beautiful creature are the most highly vulnerable critter that live up in the Arctic. Why? They never touch land. They spend their entire lives on ice flows, even give birth there. What will happen to them if there is less and less ice? Think about it.

Where do ribbon seals live?

Ribbon seals range northward from Bristol Bay in the Bering Sea into the Chukchi, Okhotsk and western Beaufort Seas.

This walrus tusk caving is a perfect minature of the beautiful animals know as ribbon seals.
This walrus tusk caving is a perfect miniature of the beautiful animals know as ribbon seals.

How many ribbon seals are there? In the mid-70s, the estimate of the world’s population of ribbon seals was thought to be 240,000, but there is no accurate estimate at this time.

How can I identify a ribbon seal? Ribbon seals are very distinctive. Males are dark brown to black with four ribbons of white. Females are lighter with less distinctive stripes. The stripes are located around the front shoulders, the neck and the rear section. Young seals are gray and will acquire the distinctive ribbons by the age of four. Ribbon seals have large eyes and small teeth.

Ribbon seals are generally easy to catch because they do not fear humans.
Ribbon seals are generally easy to catch because they do not fear humans.

What do ribbon seals eat? Ribbon seals feed mainly on groundfish and shrimp, along with some crustaceans.

How do ribbon seals have their young? Ribbon seal pups are born on the ice in the spring. They are white at birth and become silver gray in 3 to 6 weeks. They are weaned in about at month and then spend time learning to move on ice and to dive.

How long do ribbon seals live? How do they die? The life span of ribbon seals is believed to be up to 25 years.

The main predators of the ribbon seal are the killer whale, sharks and humans. There seems to be little interaction between commercial fishing and the ribbon seal.

Do you know what is really cool about ribbon seals? Ribbon seals have an internal air sack, over their ribs on the right side of their body. They are the only seals with this air sack! We do not know what it is used for!!

Ribbon seals move on the ice differently than other Arctic seals, they move one fore flipper at a time at a time, while other seals pull with both their front flippers to move forward! For short distances, they can move on the ice as fast as a man can run!!

Ribbon seals hang out where humans are not. They love to spend time out in the Bering Sea. The ice flow is their home.
Ribbon seals hang out where humans are not. They love to spend time out in the Bering Sea. The ice flow is their home.

Why do we know so little about ribbon seals? Ribbon seals are hard to study because of the amount of time they spend floating on pack ice and in open water, away from land. Luckily, this also makes it harder for predators to prey on them. At birth the pups are pure white. We know that ribbon seals stay close to the pack ice, but after most of the pack ice has melted, the ribbon seals are believed to be in the open sea.

Maggie Prevenas, April 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 19, 2007

Inupiat rely on materials at hand in order to survive and flourish in the tundra of the North. These goggles were carved from ivory.
Inupiat rely on materials at hand in order to survive and flourish in the tundra of the North. These goggles were carved from ivory.

Native Culture

A few days ago, the sun was quite intense. Shining down on the white ice, the glare was blinding. Most of us up on the bridge put on polarized sunglasses. But what if you didn’t have sunglasses?

One of the native Alaskan people, the Inupiat, relied on their wits in order to survive and flourish in the tundra of the North. In spring, the light from the sun becomes more intense and lasts for longer periods of time. (Last night it was still light at 11:30 when I finally went to bed). The brightness can result in temporary snow blindness if one isn’t careful.

Inupiat hunters and whalers often made snow goggles from pieces of driftwood or bone. The goggles have a long narrow slit that permit sunlight to enter and the hunters to have a good view of the world. There are lots of variations on the basic slit style seen among different Alaska peoples.

Why not give it a try and make some snow goggles for yourself out of driftwood, or some other material that you have around the classroom. See how your snow goggles compare to the traditional form the Inupiat Eskimo made.

Maggie Prevenas, April 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 18, 2007

Ship Crew: Lee Harris, Native Alaskan

I ate breakfast this morning with Lee Harris, a member of the National Marine Mammal Lab, NOAA’s ice seal team. Lee is also an Inupiat Eskimo. I enjoy listening to and learning about what he says. It is obvious in the harsh Arctic environment, that Native people have the edge in making observations and finding the ice seal. After all, they have been living in the Arctic and sharing their environment with ice seals their entire lives.

Lee’s village is Kotzebue, Alaska, a small town about 30 miles north from the Arctic Circle. Many of the people there rely on the native animals for their food, boats and some clothing. It didn’t occur to me until I talked with him this morning, that he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle in joining this scientific expedition.

These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet
These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet

Take eating and diet. I piled the fresh pineapple, melon and strawberries high in my bowl, and spooned strawberry yogurt over the fruit. Two warm hard-boiled eggs gave me a little protein boost, to keep me going until lunch.

Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.
Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.

But the food on the ship is not ordinary for Lee. He told me dried caribou, seal meat, and walrus are what he enjoys. The Native Alaskan diet needs to be high in protein and energy in order to sustain their active lifestyle and brutal cold weather. High in cholesterol, unhealthy? No way! Lee has been told he is as healthy as can be by the doctor in the local clinic. By far, more healthy than some youngsters that stray from the traditional diet and consume fast foods and white sugar.

Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.
Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.

I have lots to learn from Lee. His quiet way of talking and humble nature are as natural and true as the ice seals presence here in the Bering Sea.

Maggie Prevenas, April 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 18, 2007

Species Profile: The Walrus

Yesterday the helicopter crew flew over some walrus. Walrus are touchy feely kinda animals. They love to get together in great big piles and just sprawl all over each other. It’s also a way they keep warm. You can read more about the walrus below.

Scientific name: Odobenus rosmarus

This healthy walrus is hanging out in its favorite place, the ice!
This healthy walrus is hanging out in its favorite place, the ice!

 

Everyone knows what a walrus looks like! Its long ivory tusks are used for many things, including protection from attack by polar bears, killer whales and local hunters in kayaks.

Walrus are very slow on land because they are so big and clumsy, but in the water they are very fast and strong.  They can dive down 300 feet to retrieve their favorite food, clams, from the sea bottom. A walrus can eat 4,000 clams in one feeding!

Air sacs in the walrus’ neck allow it to sleep with its head held up in the water. Nursing females use this standing position as they nurse. The pups, born approximately every two years, nurse upside down.

Walrus will dive into the water at the faintest scent of a human.  Walrus numbers were very reduced by commercial hunters until 1972 when the Marine Mammal Act started protecting them.  Now only native people in the Arctic may hunt them and the populations have grown in size. Native peoples in the Arctic hunt the walrus for food and put every part of its body to good use. They use the tusks for the delicate art of carving called “scrimshaw.”

 

Uglat is walrus poop. Scientists can tell where walruses have been by these dark brown patches. They can also tell what they’ve been eating.
Uglat is walrus poop. Scientists can tell where walruses have been by these dark brown patches. They can also tell what they’ve been eating.

 

DESCRIPTION: Walruses are large animals with a rounded head, short muzzle, short neck and small eyes. They are able to turn their hind flippers forward to aid in movement on land. Their front flippers are large and each has five digits. Males have special air sacs that are used to make a bell-like sound. Both males and females have large tusks that are used for defense, cutting through ice and to aid in getting out of the water. The tusks can be more than three feet long in males and about two and a half feet long in females. Walruses are cinnamon brown in color.

SIZE: Females are smaller than male walruses. Male walruses stand up to five feet tall, are nine to 11 feet long and weigh 1,700 to 3,700 pounds. Females weigh 880 to 2,700 pounds and are seven to ten feet long.

POPULATION: 250,000

LIFESPAN: Walruses can live for 40 years.

RANGE: Coastal regions of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.

HABITAT: Moving pack ice in the shallow waters found near land, coastal beaches. They spend the majority of their time in the water.

FOOD: Clams, mussels and other bottom dwelling organisms that are located by their sensitive whiskers.

BEHAVIOR: Most groups of walruses migrate north in the summer and south in the winter. During the nonbreeding season, males and females tend to stay in groups segregated from one another. Many interactions between walruses are agonistic and may end in fighting.

OFFSPRING: Walruses breed in January or February. Following a 15 to 16 month gestation, a single calf is born. Females are very protective of their young. Female walruses help one another in raising calves. Babies are weaned from their mother at about two years of age.

THREATS: Historically, walruses were hunted commercially for their ivory tusks, oil and hides.

19th Century Naturalist Edward Nelson Recounts:

“To many of the Eskimo, especially on the Arctic shores, this animal is of almost vital importance and upon Saint Lawrence Island, just south of Bering Straits, over eight hundred Eskimo died in one winter, owing to their missing the fall Walrus hunt.

To these northern people this animal furnishes material for many uses.  Its flesh is food for men and dogs; its oil is also used for food and for light in oil lamps and heating the houses.  Its skin when tanned and oiled makes a durable cover for their large skin boats; its intestines make waterproof clothing, window-covers, and floats.  Its tusks make lance or spear points or are carved into a great variety of useful and ornamental objects, and its bones are used to make heads for spears and other purposes.”

This material taken directly from the following URLs, just copied and pasted. Make sure you give them credit should you use it in a report!

http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/walrus.html

http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/walrus.html

Maggie Prevenas, April 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

These small creatures are one of the many producers in the Bering Sea ecosystem.
These small creatures are one of the many producers in the Bering Sea ecosystem.

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 17, 2007

Science Log

I realized that I was doing you all a great disservice by not featuring the most important creatures of all, the producers. Producers are organisms that take the radiant energy from the sun and transform it into food (chemical) energy. These little bitties form the first link in a food web or chain. They are the link between the physical and the biological. They are the photosynthesizers.

It’s easy to feature the cute seal pup, or majestic bald eagle, but phytoplankton? Sea algae? Where’s the glamour in that? Come closer and have a look at the backbone of the ecosystem, come meet the microscopic creatures of the most productive marine ecosystem on Earth, the Bering Sea!

It actually starts with the rich nutrients that are circulated in complex cycles through the icy sea.

The first indicator that something is going on is the ICE. This isn’t dirt on this monster ice cube. It’s ice algae, one of the main producers in the Bering Sea. There are many different kinds of Diatoms that live here, use the rich nutrients dissolved in the sea and transform the energy of the sun into food.

This ice isn’t dirty. It’s colonized by ice algae, one of the backbones for the Bering Sea Ecosystem.
This ice isn’t dirty. It’s colonized by ice algae, one of the backbones for the Bering Sea Ecosystem.

Enter the copepods, krill, bigger zooplankton that chow down on these little ‘plants of the sea’ and in doing so transfer energy from the phytoplankton into them. Next it’s a free for all with something eating something else, a living luau that bubbles and brews and transforms and transfers. From creature to creature to creature and then one more. Nothing is wasted, everything is a part of and needed.

Enter the copepods.
Enter the copepods.

And suddenly, it’s over, but not really, it’s just reformed and recycled. The body decomposes, enters the nutrient cycles, and becomes part of the growing phytoplankton bloom ready to explode as soon as the ice melts.

What’s the ground floor of this uber productive sea? Say, ‘Hello Sunshine’

Maggie Prevenas, April 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 17, 2007

Species Profiles

belugawhale-368x400Beluga Whale

Today a beluga whale was spotted from the helicopter. The whale was swimming in a small open area in the middle of an ice flow. This open water is called a ‘polynya.’ Read on to learn more about these beautiful whales. In the next few days, I will have the chance to add photos from Belugas we see.

What is really cool about beluga whales?

Beluga whales (also called white whales) are known to strand on mud flats without apparent harm. They are able to wait for the next high tide to swim away.

Adult beluga whales have been observed carrying odd objects such as planks, buoys, and even caribou skeletons during calving seasons. It is believed that if a female beluga loses her newborn, she might interact with these objects as a calf surrogate.

Beluga whales have a flexible neck due to cervical vertebrae (backbone) that are not fused, as in other cetaceans. This allows them to move their head up, down, and to the side. Their bulbous forehead, called a melon, is also very flexible allowing them to make many different facial expressions. Movement of the melon is associated with the production of sounds.

Beluga whales are known as the “canaries of the sea” because they produce a vast repertoire of sounds including whistles, squeals, moos, chirps, and clicks. These sounds are used for communication within their social groups and also use to locate prey through echolocation.

What are beluga whales like?

The name beluga comes from the Russian word “bielo” meaning white. Beluga whales live, hunt, and migrate together in pods of a few, to hundreds of whales. Beluga whales are extremely social. In the summer, they are often found near river mouths, and sometimes even venture up river (as far as 621.4 miles (1000 kilometers) in the Yukon River). However, recent satellite tagging research has shown that beluga whales also spend time offshore, diving to depths of at least 1,148 feet (350 meters) where they are likely feeding on deepwater prey.

Where do beluga whales live?

Beluga whales inhabit the Arctic and subarctic regions of Russia, Greenland, and North America. Some populations are strongly migratory, moving north in the spring and south in the fall as the ice forms in the Arctic. As the ice breaks up in the spring, the whales move north again feeding near river mouths and offshore. There are a few isolated populations that do not migrate in the spring, including those in the Cook Inlet, Alaska and the St. Lawrence estuary in Canada.

How many beluga whales are there?

Beluga whales are not considered an endangered species however some stocks are faring better than others. NMML has done extensive work with some stocks of beluga whales including the Beaufort Sea, Eastern Chukchi Sea, Eastern Bering Sea, Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet stocks. You can read more about these stocks in the NMFS Alaska and Atlantic stock assessment reports.

How can I identify a beluga whale?

Belugas are born dark gray. They turn white as they mature sometimes taking 3-8 years to reach their adult coloration. Adult beluga whales can grow up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long. Females are generally smaller than males. Belugas have large melons and very short snouts. Interestingly enough, unlike other cetaceans, beluga whales also have the ability to move their head independent of their body.

Beluga whales do not have dorsal fins. Dorsal fins would be a major hindrance during the winter when they live in the loose pack ice of the Arctic. A dorsal fin would cause extra heat loss when Arctic animals, such as belugas, need to conserve heat. They do have a tough dorsal ridge which, along with their head, can be used to break ice for breathing holes.

How well can a beluga whale see or hear?

Beluga whales have well-developed, acute senses. They can hear a vast range of sounds and have excellent vision in and out of water. Belugas may have some sense of taste, but they do not have the brain receptors or olfactory structures for the sense of smell.

Belugas often hang in pods. This huge pod was seen on Saturday April 21 by the Ice Seal team as they were recording a transect.
Belugas often hang in pods. This huge pod was seen on Saturday April 21 by the Ice Seal team as they were recording a transect.

What do beluga whales eat?

Beluga whales are diverse eaters, with more than 100 prey species identified including salmon, capelin, herring, shrimp, Arctic cod, flounder, and even crab. They feed in both open water (pelagic) or on the bottom (benthic) and in shallow and deepwater habitats.

How do beluga whales have their young?

Female beluga whales are old enough to reproduce at 4-7 years of age and males at 7-9 years. Beluga whales mate in the spring, the exact time varying geographically. The following year, after a 14-15 month gestation period, females give birth to single calves (and on a rare occasion twins) that are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Calves nurse for at least 12-18 months, but may continue to nurse for another year after beginning to eat solid food.

How long do beluga whales live? How do they die?

Beluga whales are thought to live for 35-50 years. Beluga whales are prey to killer whales and polar bears. They can also die when entrapped by ice.

Some beluga whale populations have been greatly reduced as a result of hunting practices. Historically, large numbers of beluga whales were hunted commercially. Today only subsistence hunting is allowed in U.S. waters. Beluga whales’ affinity for shallow coastal waters puts them at risk as humans alter coastlines and estuaries with pollution, dams, and off-shore petroleum exploration and extraction. Canada’s St. Lawrence Estuary is an example where industrial pollution has caused high beluga whale mortality.

More information can be found on the internet at:

This material was taken word for word from the following website. Please give them all the credit in the world should you wish to use this information in a report.

 

On the hunt
On the hunt

Polar Bear: Ursus maritimus

On board the Healy, there is one helicopter that is being used by the folks from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory to do population studies. Today they went out for two runs. In the first run, the team saw a Polar Bear eating walrus. The photos for polar bear will be added as soon as they become available. If you’d like to learn more about them, read on.

Polar bears live year round near arctic waters hunting seal and other animals, rarely coming on land except on islands and rocky points.  In winter they hunt along the Arctic shelves looking for tasty seals, fish, and even humans!  Their white coats provide camouflage in the ice and snow which make them almost invisible as they stalk their prey.

In winter, when they are far from land they search for breathing holes made by seals.  When the seal comes up for air, the polar bear will kill it and flip it out of the water with a single blow of its great clawed paw! Polar bears are very dangerous, and grow to a huge size and weigh as much as small automobile (1000 pounds). They have longer legs than other bears and large furry feet. These big feet help to distribute their weight as they walk on thin ice in the arctic waters. Polar bears are strong swimmers and can stay submerged for two minutes at a time. Their fur is made of hollow hairs which trap air and help to insulate them in the frigid waters.

After the kill
After the kill

In November polar bears retire to dens dug out of the snow or permafrost. The females remain until the spring when they emerge with one or two cubs who stay with them for the next year and a half. The males spend a shorter time in the dens and may be seen out and about at any time of the year.

19th Century Naturalist Edward Nelson Recounts:

“The Eskimo of Saint Lawrence Island and the American coast are well supplied with firearms which they use when bear-hunting.  In winter, north of the straits, the bears often become thin and very savage from lack of food.

A number of Eskimo on the Alaskan coast show frightful scars obtained in contests with them in winter.  One man, who came on board the Corwin, had the entire skin and flesh torn from one side of his head and face including the eye and ear, yet had escaped and recovered. One incident was related to me which occurred near Point Hope during the winter of 1880-’81. Men went out from Point Hope during one of the long winter nights to attend to their seal nets, which were set through holes in the ice.  While at work near each other, one of the men heard a bear approaching over the frosty snow, and having no weapon but a small knife, and the bear being between him and the shore, he threw himself upon his back on the ice and waited.  The bear came up and for a few moments smelled about the man from head to foot, and finally pressed his cold nose against the man’s lips and nose and sniffed several times; each time the terrified Eskimo held his breath until, as he afterwards said, his lungs nearly burst. The bear suddenly heard the other man at work, and listening for a moment he started towards him at a gallop, while the man he left sprang to his feet and ran for his life for the village and reached it safely.  At midday, when the sun had risen a little above the horizon, a large party went out to the spot and found the bear finishing his feast upon the other hunter and soon dispatched him.  Cases similar to this occur occasionally all along the coast where the bear is found in winter.”

This material was copied and pasted from the following website. Please give them all the credit in the world should you use it in a report or in other ways. http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/polar_bear.html

Maggie Prevenas, April 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 16, 2007

Ship Tour

So what’s on board a scientific research vessel and Coast Guard Icebreaker? Come take a tour with Kolehe, my naughty monkey friend.

Walk the gang plank
Walk the gang plank

That’s how you get on the ship. You are looking at the PORT side of the ship. It faces the port. The other side, starboard, doesn’t. The gangplank enters at the 01 level. My stateroom (where I sleep) is located one floor above. You need to take very steep steps to get from one level to the next. Going up is easier than going down.

Water Fountain
Water Fountain

You get REALLY thirsty walking up and down steps, so there are lots of water fountains and the water is nice and cold.

My State Room: I share a nice room with a nice scientist, Ana Ajuilar-Islas. Scientists have to work for 12 hour shifts, sometimes even more. They sleep when they can. That means I need to be respectful of her. Look I’ve made myself right at home. My desk looks just like my teacher desk on Maui!

My Desk
My Desk

Science Conference Room: Just down the hall from me is the science conference room. That’s where many of the scientist go to use the public computers and talk story. Attached to it is the TV video entertainment area. There is a huge TV screen where everyone gathers to watch movies.

Opening up Doors: I have the hardest time opening up the water tight doors that lead to and from different areas of the ship. You have to crank them all the way open and then all the way closed. I am developing my arm muscles for sure!

doorhandle

Good Morale: The crew has a group of people who work on keeping the attitude of the ship very positive. They play bingo on some nights, have fun food entrees and on Saturday nights…

Movie Night
Movie Night

A movie in the helicopter hanger with free popcorn and soda! This past week it was a James Bond Movie, ‘Casino Royale.’

More Movies
More Movies 

The Bridge I love to spend time on the bridge. That’s where you go if you want to see any wildlife. I spend as much time as I can up there because it is so interesting for me. I also get to take ice observations for the scientists, valuable data that they will use to help analyze the data they are getting right now.

The captain hangs out on the bridge.
The captain hangs out on the bridge.
I have to keep Kolohe close to me. He is always getting into trouble!
I have to keep Kolohe close to me. He is always getting into trouble! 
This is Tim Sullivan. He's the ship's navigator which is a really important job. The ship doesn't go anywhere with his knowing about it.
This is Tim Sullivan. He’s the ship’s navigator which is a really important job. The ship doesn’t go anywhere with his knowing about it.
All this touring has made Kolohe hungry. He's stopping by the galley to enjoy some snacks to renew his energy.
All this touring has made Kolohe hungry. He’s stopping by the galley to enjoy some snacks to renew his energy.

The galley is five ladders down from the bridge.

Do you think he will burn off all those candy calories walking back up to the bridge?

Time for Bed… After a long hard day of experiments and data generation, we are ready for sleep. Did you know the sun sets at around 10:30 at night here? That’s right, it stays light very late. But that doesn’t stop us from getting a good night’s sleep! Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of the boat. Make sure you email any questions you might have to me!

Maggie Prevenas, Week 1 in Review, April 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 15, 2007

Week in Review

On Monday, April 9: we loaded the ship with many bags and boxes of gear. Everyone moved into their rooms, unpacked and then headed for the science lab. In order to do science experiments, the scientists had to set up their labs.

The food is yummy onboard the Healy. There are always many fresh fruits, vegetables, beverages and snacks in the galley. Some of the food I have eaten includes fresh mixed fruit, creamy vegetable soup, and lo mein with vegetables. The salsa is to die for. There are fresh baked pies, coconut macaroons, brownies and ice cream.

Tuesday, April 10: we shipped out of Dutch Harbor and steered north. The water has been amazingly calm. We have seen many gulls and some smaller waterfowl. One of the research groups is counting and identifying our fine-feathered friends. Since they don’t have very much equipment besides binoculars, they were busy from the first day out, collecting data.

Wednesday, April 11:  was the first big push for samples from the rosette. Because so many teams need seawater in order to do their experiments, there are many sampling stops. The water is below freezing, but it is still liquid because salt is dissolved. Many of the scientists are using the water samples to test for the concentration of various nutrients and plankton.

Why nutrients? They are one very important limiting factor in the growth of the producers. Yes, without sunshine there’s no life, but algae and other phytoplankton need fertilizers to grow like crazy. Measuring the concentration of these nutrients allow the scientists to check on the health of the ecosystem and make predictions about what might happen to the delicate balance in the Bering Sea.

Thursday, April 12: was a very interesting day because the Ice Seal Team, from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, did some practice runs using the zodiacs. The Healy had never launched zodiacs of this size before so it was practice for the Coast Guard as well. The scientists in the lab were in full experiment mode, working on perfecting their technique or tweaking their new setup.

Friday, April 13: started our rotations through the science labs. We arranged our rotations around the theme of ‘Energy and Nutrient Transfer Through the Ecosystem.’ Dr. Cal Mordy was my first scientist mentor. He is looking at concentration of nutrients and oxygen in seawater. Robyn Staup, the other onboard teacher, was connected with the physical oceanographers, Drs. Nancy and David Kachel and Dr. Ned Cokelet. She fired tubes and learned many different techniques they are using to test the water of the Bering Sea.

The helicopter did a launch from the flight deck on Friday afternoon. The NMML (NOAA) is doing population counts for ice seals in the sea. Much work has to go into creating a flight plan. Time is made to communicate concerns. It was all done right, thanks to the careful attention of Ice Seal Team Leader Mike Cameron.

Today we saw our first ice.

Saturday, April 14: was a trial day for both Robyn and I as we are training for being the Ice Observers for the cruise. We had training in ice observation yesterday, but today we were on our own. Every two hours we look at the ice and interpret what kind and how much. We get help from the Coast Guard as they tell us the visibility in nautical miles and track our latitude and longitude too. We take ice observations as long as the sun is shining in daylight. After the scientists have completed their investigations in May, our ice observations will provide information about how much ice was there when they collected our data. The helicopter did another transect and observed ice seals and walrus.

Sunday, April 15: a great day to submit ice observations and look for walrus and ice seals. The animals are becoming more common and the birds are becoming scarce. Why? There is hardly any open water anymore, we are surrounded by ice.

The Ice Seals had another transect using the helicopter.

Robyn and I are working on the pictures we need for our first Live from IPY event. Our theme will be life on board a scientific research vessel that is also a Coast Guard Icebreaker.We believe it will be at 10:30 Hawaii time, 12:30 Alaska time, 1:30 Seattle time, 2:30 Mountain time, 3:30 Central time, 4:30 Eastern time. We expect to have representatives from both the Coast Guard and our scientists present.

Maggie Prevenas, April 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 15, 2007

Species Profile: A Member of the Team!

Yes! I am an official ice observer, a real member of the scientific team. My job is to tag team with Robyn Staup, my fellow PolarTREC teacher, to record the conditions of the ice every two hours.

The Healy breaks a path through the ice. But what KIND of ice?
The Healy breaks a path through the ice. But what KIND of ice?

It’s not as easy as it sounds. So every two hours one of us takes flights of steps up to the bridge. We are set-up in a corner. Our station is made up of a computer, camera, pencil, piece of paper and the guide for Official Ice Observers.

I get help and advise from my friends up on the bridge.
I get help and advise from my friends up on the bridge. 

I try to time my observations to be at the same time that the ship has stopped to take some samples. I need to take three pictures there, all in certain places, upload them to a website form, and interpret certain environmental conditions.

This satellite image of ice on the Bering Sea is very accurate.
This satellite image of ice on the Bering Sea is very accurate.

How much ice? What kind of ice? How cloudy is the sky? How cold is it? Is there ice algae? How much? What is the visibility?

Is this cake ice or pancake ice?
Is this cake ice or pancake ice?

After that’s all recorded in the form, I have to stop the observation so that the observation has a start and end time. I reread what I wrote, check the links to the photos and upload the form. Then I double check it again by going out of the website and back into it and rechecking the data and photos.  At first it took us over an hour. Now we have it down to about 15 minutes.

Kolohe gives me advise sometimes. But he gets into so much trouble I have to keep him close to me when I am on the bridge.
Kolohe gives me advise sometimes. But he gets into so much trouble I have to keep him close to me when I am on the bridge.

The hardest part is getting outside to take a picture of the ice horizon. On one side of the boat, there is a big gust of wind that takes your breath away, it’s that cold. I don’t stand around, I just take the picture and get back into the bridge.

Spotted seals are found by ridges and waffles on the ice. They are often hiding. Can you spot the spotted seal?
Spotted seals are found by ridges and waffles on the ice. They are often hiding. Can you spot the spotted seal?

Why are we doing this? All the scientists need to see how abiotic factors influence their sample. Ice is an ever-present factor here in the Bering Sea. When scientists get off the ship and go back to their research labs, they will want to know what the weather was like and what the ice was like on the days and times they took samples.

Jeff Napp, a senior scientist onboard Healy, puts fine nets in the water to trap phytoplankton and zooplankton. He will use the ice observation data.
Jeff Napp, a senior scientist onboard Healy, puts fine nets in the water to trap phytoplankton and zooplankton. He will use the ice observation data.

We were told it’s the first time anyone has been so regular in reporting this data. And what we are doing is very valuable to them.

Hooray for science and teamwork!

Maggie Prevenas, April 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 14, 2007

Species Profiles

Spotted Seal

Studying the spotted seals
Studying the spotted seals

 

Today was our first close encounter with a spotted seal. Spotted seals are the most common ice seals in this area. They are known for their spicy personality.

Where do spotted seals live?

Spotted seals live along the continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering, and Okhotsk Seas, south to the northern Yellow Sea and west to the Sea of Japan.

How many spotted seals are there?

There is no accurate population count at this time, but it is estimated that there are under 300,000. They are the most common ice seal up in the Bering Sea.

How can I identify a spotted seal?

 

Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. This one was a bit heavier.
Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. This one was a bit heavier.

Spotted seals are wary and hard to get close to. Adult spotted seals are silvery-gray with dark grey on the back and covered with brown to black irregular spots. Pups are born with a white coat but molt to the adult colors after 3 or 4 months. It is believed they winter in the Bering sea. Following the ice front, they travel north in the spring and summer. They reverse the process and follow the developing ice south in the fall. Spotted seals may get to be 270 pounds, but males and females average 180 to 240 pounds. Length of grown seals is between 4.5 and 5.5 feet. Newborn pups weigh 18 to 26 pounds (8 to 12 kg) and average about 33 inches (84 cm) long.

What do spotted seals eat?

Spotted seals eat many things, depending on the season and their location, including Arctic cod, sand lance, sculpins, flatfishes, cephalopods, and a variety of shrimps.

During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water.
During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water.

How do spotted seals have their young?

Spotted sea pups are born anytime from early February to the first part of May, depending on their location. Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. They are nursed for three to six weeks, during which time they more than double in weight. During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water. Spotted seal pups take longer than other ice seals to learn to swim and dive! In the spring, spotted seals will form small groups of a male, female and her pup.

How long do spotted seals live? How do they die?

The life span of spotted seals is believed to be up to 35 years.

The predators of the spotted seal include the polar bear, sharks, Steller sea lions, brown bears, humans and walrus. Wolves, foxes and large birds have been known to feed on pups.

Did You Know? Spotted seal are the only seal that breeds in China!

Maggie Prevenas, April 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

The three person crew from left, Shawn Dahle, Josh London, and Mike Cameron.
The three person crew from left, Shawn Dahle, Josh London, and Mike Cameron.

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 13, 2007

Science Log: Launching the Helicopter and Zodiacs

One thing you can say about the BEST mission is that it’s full of adventure! Take today for example.

April 13 was the launch test date for the helicopter that the National Marine Mammal Lab (NOAA) uses for transects of seal populations. There was an air of excitement about the boat. The helicopter, pilot, and three-person crew were going to test out the machine and the instruments they needed. And they did.

This beautiful machine will carry up to three seal scientists to study ice seal populations.
This beautiful machine will carry up to three seal scientists to study ice seal populations.

The helicopter was a thing of beauty. It carries 600 pounds of cargo including human passengers. It is equipped with a camera that can take a picture of what is directly below the machine every two seconds. Seals missed in a count can be seen in the photos. It lifted straight up from the flight deck. No glitches. So fast. It circled over us and was gone. Zoom, zoom, and zoom.

After more than an hour, the helicopter returned to the ship. It approached from the starboard (right side) of the flight deck, slowly, slowly, and then landed as soft as a snowflake on the rough textured cement.

They waited for the blades to stop, then jumped out of the helicopter from doors in the passenger and navigator positions. They were covered from head to foot in safety gear, bundled against a potential problem. No problems surfaced.

Climbing down
Climbing down

They saw the ice boundary just 14 miles away. They saw a seal.

Being a scientist requires you to have top-level problem solving and analyzing skills. The scientific team from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) is a great example of this skill in practice.

Michael Cameron led a team of six skilled seal experts through a practice run of a seal launch. It may sound easy, but the Healy had never launched a zodiac of the 17-foot or 14 foot variety before. A joint dry run was held to test the abilities of the Seal Team to change into survival gear and the abilities of the Coast Guard to get the zodiacs into the water. Right after breakfast, the teams made a beeline to the heliport, where the three zodiacs patiently rested. While the Coast Guard gathered together and assigned duties to the staff, the Seal Team pulled and tugged on their safety gear.

Setting up
Setting up

Next, the entire team got together and the Coast Guard brought up potential problem areas. The seal team regrouped for a few reminders. And the dry run began. The Coast Guard scrambled into position, using ropes, cables, and a ‘headache ball’ (a modified hook attached to a pulley). Soon the ball and hook were attached to the zodiacs’ rope harness.

The headache ball is a modified hook and pulley that is used to haul heavy objects.

A crane operator plucked the first zodiac away from its trailer cradle and gently, so gently lowered it to the icy 31-degree water.

The first two scientists, Mike Cameron the seal catcher and David Withrow the skilled driver, descended the Jacob’s Ladder. I have always known Jacob’s Ladders to be toys that you can flip over and over again by twisting your wrist. That was not this. This was not a toy. This is science!

Strong hands held the three zodiacs together.
Strong hands held the three zodiacs together.

The scientists had to descend to the zodiac along a suspended ladder. The ladder was a twisty moving thing. They were wearing bunny boots the size of watermelons on their feet. It must have been hard hanging and balancing. But they made it. Yay, they made it! But, you can count on something going wrong on a dry run. And it did.

The first zodiac had a very nice outboard motor, that wouldn’t start. David and Mike took turns pulling. And pulling. And pulling. And pulling.

David told me later in the day, that even though the motor was a bit temperamental, it was still better than some of the motors he had to work with in the past. It was David who finally started the motor. By the set of his jaw, and the strength of the pull, I could tell that pull was the one. And it was.

Off they went waiting for the other two zodiacs. Each launch of the zodiac proved faster and smoother than the previous. Soon the flotilla circled and took off flying across the water. Two short miles later, the zodiacs slid into position on the starboard side of the Healy. They reversed the process of boarding into the process of deboarding. First they stopped the motor. Then they connected the ‘headache ball’ to the rope harness.

One at a time, the driver and seal catcher climbed the ladder. After they were safe on the Healy, the skilled Coast Guard crane operator and rope tethers eased the zodiac back into her trailer cradle. Each time they pulled in a zodiac, it was smoother. At the end of the exercise, I don’t know which group had the wider smile, the six seal scientists or the Coast Guard Zodiac Crew.

Maggie Prevenas, April 12, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 12, 2007

Ship Crew

Ray Sambrotto is the PI (principal investigator) for this expedition. His job, besides doing investigations in the lab, is to coordinate the entire BEST mission. He has to meet daily with the Coast Guard Officers, check accountability and coordinate sampling, but there is a lot more.  He is constantly on watch to fix potential problems that might arise. And they do arise.