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?