Susan Kaiser: Blue Planet Connections, August 5, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Kaiser
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 25 – August 4, 2012

Mission: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Coral Reef Condition, Assessment, Coral Reef Mapping and Fisheries Acoustics Characteristics
Geographical area of cruise: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Date: August 5, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude:  24 deg 34 min N
Longitude:  81 deg 48 min W
Wind Speed:   2.5 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 32.1 C
Air Temperature:  29 C
Relative Humidity: 71 %

Science and Technology Log

Sunrise on the last day at sea.
Sunrise on the last day at sea.

It is easy to see why the Earth is nicknamed the Blue Planet. Its dominant physical feature is the sea water which covers approximately 70% of the surface making it appear blue even from space.   People have depended on the oceans for centuries not just for the obvious things such as food, transportation, jobs and recreation but also for the very oxygen we breathe and the fresh water we drink to survive.  Humans need the ocean for all these things and more. We are inextricably interconnected to the ocean; our survival depends on it.

The vastness of the ocean allows us to believe that human actions won’t have a major effect on it. For example, pollution that leaks into the ocean would be diluted by the huge amount of water so that no real harm would be done to the habitat or the organisms living in the ocean. This may have been true for a time when the human population was less than the 7 billion people now living on Earth. However, the fact is human actions do influence the ocean and in ways that matter. Often these impacts are unintended or accidental but they still lead to a change in the marine ecosystem.   Sadly, many times these effects are negative such as  the Deepwater Horizon/BP MC252 oil spill In 2010, an explosion on an oil drilling rig in the Gulf  of Mexico released almost 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean immediately changing the marine habitat and harming the organisms that lived there. Scientists are still determining the long term effects of this spill and helping to restore the area. In the past other spills have occurred such as the grounding of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989 that released 11 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaskan coast.

Not all ocean impacts are large events related to the petroleum industry. Even small individual human decisions can be significant. For example, if a pet owner no longer wants to keep his exotic species pet he might release it into the wild or an environment where that organism isn’t usually found.

Mrs. Kaiser holding a speared Lionfish. Photo by Jeff Renchen.
Mrs. Kaiser holding a speared Lionfish. Photo by Jeff Renchen.

This is probably how the Lionfish,  scientific name Pterois volitans, has become established in the coastal waters near the Carolinas and Florida, according to Paula Whitfield, a NOAA marine scientist. It may seem like a minor problem that the Lionfish is now living in Gulf Coast ocean water. What do you predict will happen to the number of Lionfish in this area knowing that they have everything they need to flourish: food, water, space but no predators to hunt them?  They will reproduce and increase their numbers quickly. Lionfish will out number native species of fish and beat them out for those resources displacing them in their ecosystem. Lionfish will out compete native species decreasing their numbers and the diversity of organisms. While on our cruise the science team encountered groups of Lionfish living under large rocks at depths of 100 feet. They speared a specimen and brought it aboard to examine it closely. Lionfish are invading this marine habitat taking it over from the native species. Any organism that is introduced into a new ecosystem where it can rapidly increase numbers taking over native habitat is called an invasive species. One solution to this problem is to start catching Lionfish to eat! I am told they are yummy. People just need to be taught how to safely remove their poisonous fins and taste them!

These tiny (15-20mm) fresh water bivalves are invasive species.
These tiny (15-20mm) fresh water bivalves are invasive species.

Both animal and plant organisms can be invasive species squeezing out more desirable native organisms. In Nevada, we are on the alert to an invasion of  Quagga Mussels (Dreissena bugensis) that have been detected in Lake Mead near Las Vegas. These fresh water mollusks are transported on boat exteriors or in bilge water to other fresh water lakes across the United States. It is important that boaters carefully inspect and maintain their equipment to halt the progress of this invasive species to other lakes in Nevada and elsewhere.

The Blue Planet is home to us all. Our decisions and actions make a

Roof of the Nancy Foster Complex in Key West, Florida. Note the native plants.
Roof of the Nancy Foster Complex in Key West, Florida. Note the native plants.

difference on both a small and large scale. Each of us has a responsibility to make informed choices about these actions. Realizing our reliance on the ocean and other aspects of the environment and working within in these systems really benefits all of us. For example, when architects designed the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environment Complex in Key West, Florida they created a Green Building.  This means they made choices to  “recycle”  a neighboring building saving building materials and using it for a new purpose. Office furniture was re-purposed to fit in the new energy efficient building that is LEED Silver certified. Contributing to the ecosystem, the roof is planted with native species of grasses that provide habitat for insects and birds. The plants are watered by rain. Excess rain water is collected and stored for other uses in the building helping to conserve water. While the Dr. Nancy Foster Complex building design is indirectly related to ocean preservation it represents a human action that benefits our Blue Planet. As with the release of a hand full of Lionfish, so can many small actions together can create a big impact. Choose to be connected to our  ocean in a positive way. Through a small act you do each day we can preserve and even improve our environment and oceans. The Blue Planet is a great place to call home.  Let’s help keep it that way.

Personal Log

Science Team. Photo by Lt. Josh Slater.
Science Team. Photo by Lt. Josh Slater.

As I finish writing this last blog from my home in Reno Nevada, I am reflecting on the many people I have met and the experiences I have had as a  NOAA Teacher at Sea. It is through NOAA’s interest in connecting scientists, mariners and educators that I was able to participate in this amazing experience but also because I took a chance and applied.  I might not have been chosen but I didn’t let that stop me from taking the risk. If I had not made the time to apply and prepared my essays and sample lessons look what I would have missed. The chief scientist, Scott Donahue, also took a chance on me and accepted me as an active participant on his research cruise. He and the science team went out of their way to make sure that I stayed safe and got an outstanding experience as an observer of their research. Everyone took  time to answer my questions and describe their research to reach a larger audience, YOU!

On the last day we sailed into port at Key West, few people aboard knew that

Ensign Richard De Triquet  (right) maneuvers the ship. Executive Officer CM Donn Pratt (left) observes.
Ensign Richard De Triquet (right) maneuvers the ship. Executive Officer CM Donn Pratt (left) observes.

Ensign Richard de Triquet was given the task of bringing the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster into dock.  It was his first time to manage this procedure! Commanding Officer LCDR Holly Jablonski knew he had the skill and took a risk  assigning Ensign De Triquet to maneuver the ship into port. Working as a team, the other officers on the bridge used binoculars to spot potential obstacles in the channel. They discussed the best course for the ship and provided input to Ensign De Triquet who announced the orders.  By the way, the docking was was smoothly accomplished and I got to observe the entire process including the debriefing. Congratulations Ensign De Triquet, nice work!

My NOAA Teacher at Sea experience is one that I will never forget! It was a pleasure to be a part of this science research cruise and to

Mrs. Kaiser snorkeling Ft. Jefferson. Photo by Alejandro Acosta, PhD.
Mrs. Kaiser snorkeling Ft. Jefferson. Photo by Alejandro Acosta, PhD.

meet such a wonderful group of people. My blog would not be complete without acknowledging several individuals in the group who were especially helpful.  Danielle Morley who cheerfully provided me with an overview of the VR2 research including a power point presentation and got me involved in the data collection. Hatsue Bailey who acted as my photographer whenever needed.  Sarah Fangman who provided ground transportation. Alejandro Acosta, PhD who took me snorkeling after a tour of  Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. He also was the underwater photographer of the organisms we saw that day. Thank you, everyone!

Just as people are interconnected to the ocean they are also interconnected to each other. All of the people I met on this adventure worked together toward a common purpose. Each one of them making their own contribution to reaching that goal. They did it by doing their best work and trusting that each member of the group would in turn do their part to their best ability. Effort and communication were key to their success. From what I witnessed it worked out perfectly.

These 2 sponges are over 100 years old. They are known as the "Redwoods of the Reef." Photo by Hatsue Bailey.
These 2 sponges are over 100 years old. They are known as the “Redwoods of the Reef.” Photo by Hatsue Bailey

Summer is quickly coming to an end and with it the excitement of a new school grows. My students and I  have the opportunity to make connections, to each other, to the Blue Planet and the organisms that live here. This year, if you are faced with a challenge, be brave and take it on. Assess an opportunity and take the risk to try something unfamiliar. Extend kindness to someone outside your existing circle of friends.  Put your toe in the water and get comfortable listening, observing, thinking and asking questions. You will be amazed what you will learn and the things you will experience. Take a chance. Reflect, communicate and work together.  Scientists and NOAA Ship Nancy Foster officers and crew showed how well this works to get the job done. Let’s follow their example so that your 7th grade year in science a memorable one too.

Mrs. Kaiser wearing the survival suit. Photo by Hatsue Bailey.
Mrs. Kaiser wearing the survival suit. Photo by Hatsue Bailey.
A crab exploring the ocean floor. Photo by Hatsue Bailey
A crab exploring the ocean floor. Photo by Hatsue Bailey
Scientist Danielle Morley changing out a VR2. Photo by Sean Morton.
Scientist Danielle Morley changing out a VR2. Photo by Sean Morton.

Elizabeth Bullock: Day 5, December 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Bullock
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: December 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 3:15pm
Air Temperature: 23.6 degrees C
Wind Speed: 15.8 knots
Relative Humidity: 56%

Science and Technology Log

Liz takes a water sample
Here I am taking a water sample from the CTD.

Let’s talk about the flurometer!  The flurometer is  a piece of equipment attached to the CTD which is being used on this cruise to measure the amount of chlorophyll (specifically chlorophyll_a) in the water being sampled.  It works by emitting different wavelengths of light into a water sample.  The phytoplankton in the sample absorb some of this light and reemit some of it.  The flurometer measures the fluorescence (or light that is emitted by the phytoplankton) and the computer attached to the CTD records the voltage of the fluorescence.

The flurometer can be used to measure other characteristics of water, but for this research cruise, we are measuring chlorophyll.  As you know, chlorophyll is an indicator of how much phytoplankton is in the water.  Phytoplankton makes up the base of the marine food web and it is an important indicator of the health of the surrounding ecosystem.

At the same time that our cruise is collecting this information, satellites are also examining these components of water quality.  The measurements taken by the scientific party can be compared to the measurements being taken by the satellite.  By making this comparison, the scientists can check their work.  They can also calibrate the satellite, constantly improving the data they receive.

Combined with all the other research I’ve written about in previous blogs, the scientists can make a comprehensive picture of the ecosystem with the flurometer.  They can ask: Is the water quality improving?  Degrading?  Are the organisms that live in this area thriving?  Suffering?

Nelson records data from the CTD
Nelson records data from the CTD.

Collecting data can help us make decisions about how better to protect our environment.  For example, this particular scientific party, led by Nelson Melo, was able to inform the government of Florida to allow more freshwater to flow into Florida Bay.  Nelson and his team observed extremely high salinity in Florida Bay, and they used the data they collected to inform policy makers.

Personal Log

Today is my last full day on the Walton Smith.  The week went by so fast!  I had an amazing time and I want to say thank you to the crew and scientific party on board.  They welcomed me and taught me so much in such a short time!

Thank you also to everyone who read my blog.  I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse of science in action!

Answers to Poll Questions:

1)      In order to apply to the Teacher at Sea program, you must be currently employed, full-time, and employed in the same or similar capacity next year as

a. a K-12 teacher or administrator

b. a community college, college, or university teacher

c. a museum or aquarium educator

d. an adult education teacher

2)      The R/V Walton Smith holds 10,000 gallons of fuel.  By the way, the ship also holds 3,000 gallons of water (although the ship desalinates an additional 20-40 gallons of water an hour).

Caitlin Fine: Introduction, July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Fine
Onboard University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith
August 2 – 6, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida
Date: July 26, 2011

Personal Log

Hola! My name is Caitlin Fine and I teach science at Escuela Key (Francis Scott Key School), a dual-language immersion elementary school in Arlington, VA. I am a Virginia native and my heart is constantly torn between the lively activities of the Washington, D.C. area and the peaceful beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. I left Virginia for college and graduate school, but returned 4 years ago to begin my teaching career for Arlington County Public Schools.

Caitlin Fine
On top of Aspen Mountain during a recent trip to Colorado

Although I majored in Political Science and Spanish Literature and I have graduate degrees in Spanish Literature and Multicultural Education, I have always been interested in science. During college, I worked on an organic farm in Andalucia, Spain that practiced permaculture (this is a way of using the land that is sustainable so that the soil does not use-up all of its nutrients). I also traveled around the Southern Cone of South America (Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil) studying the geology of the region. As you can see, I have some experience with farming and the mountains. But I have never really spent an extended time at sea — I have never slept on a boat or studied the marine ecosystems up close and personal over a period of time. I hope that I am not seasick!

My interest in science mixed with my love of cooking has created a current obsession — the health of our national and global food and water supplies. Did you know that every time we take medicine or use pesticides on our plants, a small amount of it enters the water supply and some of it ends up in the rivers and oceans nearby where fish and water plants are trying to live?

The science program at Key is a bit different from traditional elementary schools in that there are three science teachers who teach all 630 students. For the past two years, I have taught the Kindergarteners, the 2nd graders and half of the 5th graders. Key kids are amazing scientists — they are full of questions about how the world works and they are not afraid to get busy trying to figure things out on their own through hands-on inquiry and cooperative learning. I cannot wait to return to Key with new knowledge of oceanography, ocean-related careers and ways to monitor the health of the ocean to share with my students and colleagues!

I am so excited to be a Teacher at Sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s 2011 Field Season! Teacher at Sea is a program that provides allows Kindergarten through college-level teachers to live and work alongside scientists on research and survey ships. The goal of the program is to help teachers understand our ocean planet, environmental literacy, and maritime work so that they can return to the classroom and share information with their students about what it is like to be a real scientist who studies the ocean.

I will be on a 5-day cruise on the R/V Walton Smith in south Florida.

R/V Walton Smith
This is the R/V Walton Smith

From what I understand, we will be taking measurements across the south Florida coastal marine ecosystem (the southwest Florida shelf, Biscayne and Florida Bays, and the Florida Keys reef tract). The program is important because the research has helped scientists keep an eye on the sensitive marine habitats, especially when the ecosystem has had to deal with extreme events, such as hurricanes, harmful algal blooms or potential oil spill contaminants. We will test the circulation, salinity, water quality and biology of the ecosystem.

Drainage Basin
The currents might move some of the Mississippi River water toward south Florida

During this cruise, I have been told that we might be able to measure Mississippi River water because it might enter our survey track.

Scientists are also going to be trying out new optical measurement tools! It sounds as though I will have a lot to report back to you about!

Please leave me a comment or any questions you have about the cruise.

Please take a moment to take my poll:

Becky Moylan: Preliminary Results, July 13, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Becky Moylan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
July 1 — 14, 2011


Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 13, 2011

Ship Data

Latitude 1940.29N
Longitude 15602.84W
Speed 5 knots
Course 228.2
Wind Speed 9.5 knots
Wind Dir. 180.30
Surf. Water Temp. 25.5C
Surf. Water Sal. 34.85
Air Temperature 24.8 C
Relative Humidity 76.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1013.73 mb
Water Depth 791.50 Meters

Science and Technology Log

Results of Research

Myctophid fish and non-Myctophid fish, Crustaceans, and gelatinous (jelly-like) zooplankton
Crustaceans
Chief Scientist guiding the CTD into the ocean
Chief Scientist guiding the CTD into the ocean

Beginning on July 1st, the NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment project (IEA) in the Kona region has performed scientific Oceanography operations at eight stations.  These stations form two transects (areas) with one being offshore and one being close to shore. As of July 5th, there have been 9 CTD (temperature, depth and salinity) readings, 7 mid-water trawls (fish catches), over 15 acoustics (sound waves) recordings, and 30 hours of marine mammal (dolphins and whales) observations.

The University of Hawaii Ocean Sea Glider has been recording its data also.The acoustics data matches the trawl data to tell us there was more mass (fish) in the close to shore area than the offshore area. And more mass in the northern area than the south. This is evidence that the acoustics system is accurate because what it showed on the computer matched what was actually caught in the net. The fish were separated by hand into categories: Myctophid fish and non-Myctophid fish, Crustaceans, and gelatinous (jelly-like) zooplankton.

Variety of Non-Myctophid Fish caught in the trawl
Variety of Non-Myctophid Fish caught in the trawl

The CTD data also shows that there are changes as you go north and closer to shore. One of the CTD water sample tests being done tells us the amount of phytoplankton (plant) in different areas. Phytoplankton creates energy by making chlorophyll and this chlorophyll is the base of the food chain. It is measured by looking at its fluorescence level. Myctophids eat phytoplankton, therefore, counting the amount of myctophids helps create a picture of how the ecosystem is working.

The data showed us more Chlorophyll levels in the closer to shore northern areas . Phytoplankton creates energy using photosynthesis (Photo = light, synthesis  = put together) and is the base of the food chain. Chlorophyll-a is an important pigment in photosynthesis and is common to all phytoplankton. If we can measure the amount of chlorophyll-a in the water we can understand how much phytoplankton is there. We measure chlorophyll-a by using fluorescence, which sends out light of one “color” to phytoplankton, which then send back light of a different color to our fluorometer (sensor used to measure fluorescence). Myctophids eat zooplankton, which in turn eat phytoplankton. Therefore, counting the amount of myctophids helps create a picture of how the ecosystem is working.   The data showed us more chlorophyll-a levels in the closer to shore northern areas.

Bringing in the catch

The Sea Glider SG513 has transmitted data for 27 dives so far, and will continue to take samples until October when it will be picked up and returned to UH.

Overall the mammal observations spotted 3 Striped dolphins, 1 Bottlenose dolphin, and 3 Pigmy killer whales.  Two biopsy “skin” samples were collected from the Bottlenose dolphins. A main part of their research, however, is done with photos. They have so far collected over 900 pictures.

Looking at all the results so far, we see that there is an area close to shore in the northern region of Kona that has a higher concentration of marine life.  The question now is why?

We are now heading south to evaluate another region so that we can get a picture of the whole Eastern coastline.

Personal Log

In the driver's seat
In the driver's seat
Krill
Krill

And on deck the next morning we found all kinds of krill, a type of crustacean. Krill are an important part of the food chain that feed directly on phytoplankton. Larger marine animals feed on krill including whales. It was a fun process finding new types of fish and trying to identify them.Last night I found a beautiful orange and white trumpet fish. We also saw many transparent (see-through) fish with some having bright silver and gold sections. There were transparent crabs, all sizes of squid, and small clear eels. One fish I saw looked like it had a zipper along the bottom of it, so I called it a “zipperfish”. A live Pigmy shark was in the net, so they put it in a bucket of water for everyone to see. These types don’t ever get very big, less than a foot long.

I have really enjoyed living on this ship, and it will be sad to leave. Everyone treated me like I was part of the group. I have learned so much about NOAA and the ecosystem of the Kona coastline which will make my lessons more interesting this year. Maybe the students won’t be bored!

Sunrise over Kona Region

Sunrise
Sunrise

Kimberly Lewis, July 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2010

Ecosystem Conservation and some of the people who monitor it

Me holding a skate.
Me holding a skate.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1130 (11:30 AM)
Position: Latitude = 28.57.59 N;
Longitude = 94.49.73 W
Present Weather: Clear
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 14.97 knots
Wave Height: 4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.1 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 31.4 C; Wet bulb = 27.0 C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.77 mb

Science and Technology Log

“IT’S ALL CONNECTED.” Everything in an ecosystem is connected to everything else. This is a guiding principle of studying and managing ecosystems. This past spring in one of my online communities we were discussing whole ecosystem monitoring for conservation rather than the traditional ‘save one species at a time”.

I’m seeing it now in the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, the ocean environment is connected to human activities – the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill makes that abundantly clear. But there are also countless natural connections, and much less obvious human impacts, that must be understood and assessed if the Gulf ecosystem is to be protected. Commercial fish and shrimp stocks can only be sustained through a careful understanding of the human impact and natural connections in the Gulf.

That’s why we identify and count every organism we bring up in a trawl. Sometimes we get 50 or more different species in one catch, and we don’t just count the commercially important ones like red snapper and shrimp. We count the catfish, eel, sea stars, sea squirts and even jellyfish we haul in. Why? Because even though these organisms might seem “unimportant” to us, they might be important to the red snapper and shrimp. They also might be important to the organisms the red snapper and shrimp depend on. And even if they’re not directly important, studying them might tell us important things about the health of the Gulf.

Brittany
Brittany on the deck

Bruce and I are learning a lot about this from the incredibly knowledgeable marine biologists in the science party. Brittany Palm is a Research Fishery Biologist from NOAA’s Southeast Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) in Pascagoula, MS, and leader of the day watch on this leg of the Oregon II’s Summer Groundfish Survey. Brittany is working on her M.S. on a fish called croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, studying its stomach contents to better understand its position in the food web. Croaker is not an economically important species, but it lives in the same shallow sea floor habitat as shrimp so shrimpers end up hauling in a huge amount of croaker as bycatch. So, when the shrimping industry declined in 2003-2004, the croaker population exploded. Since croaker are closely associated with shrimp habitat and the shrimp fishery, we might gain important insights by studying croaker population and understanding what they eat, and what eats them.

Alonzo
Alonzo helping to dissect a fish

Alonzo Hamilton is another NOAA Fishery Biologist from the SEFSC. Alonzo explained that there’s a lot to be learned by looking at the whole ecosystem, not just the 23 commercial species that are managed in the Gulf. For example, many of the crabs we commonly catch in our trawls are in the genus Portunas, known as “swimming crabs.”

Portunas spinicarpus
Portunas spinicarpus

Portunas species normally live on the sea floor, but when severe hypoxia sets in, Portunas crabs can be found at the surface, trying to escape the more severe oxygen depletion that typically takes place at the bottom of the water column.

Sean
Sean on the deck
Geoff on the deck
Geoff on the deck

Sean Lucey and Geoff Schook are Research Fishery Biologists from NOAA’s Northeast Fishery Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. They are working on the Oregon II right now to support the SEFSC because of huge manpower effort demanded by the oil spill. The NEFSC has been conducting their groundfish survey annually since 1963, making it the longest-running study of its kind. Originally the survey only looked at groundfish population, but as our understanding of ecosystem dynamics increased over time, more and more factors were analyzed. Now NEFSC looks at sex, age, stomach contents and many other species besides groundfish to obtain a more complete picture of the food web and the abiotic factors that affect groundfish. NEFSC even measures primary production in the marine ecosystem as one tool to estimate the potential biomass of groundfish and other species at higher trophic levels.

Fisheries biologist Andre DeBose
Andre DeBose is a NOAA Fishery Biologist from the SEFSC and the Field Party Chief for the Summer Groundfish Survey. In addition to leading the science team on the Oregon II, Andre is conducting research on Rough Scad, Trachurus lathami, an important food species for red snapper and important bait fish for red snapper fisherman. By gaining a better understanding of the relationship between Red Snapper and its prey we can better understand, and better manage, the ecosystem as a whole.

There’s a lot of information to be learned beyond just counting fish. By taking a wide look at the marine environment we can better understand how the whole ecosystem functions. This enables us not only to be more informed in setting sustainable catch levels, but also enables us to identify and respond to things that contribute to hypoxia and other problems that degrade habitat and reduce populations. It’s all connected.

Personal Log

Everyone in the scientific party has been working very hard to gather data. A 12 hour shift can be long at times, and other times fly by. Today Andre told us we will start cleaning up Thursday morning. It doesn’t seem possible that my 17 days with the Oregon II will soon be over. Part of me is excited to get back home to see my family and sleep in a bed that isn’t affected by the Gulf waves. The other part of me is sad due to the fact I will not longer be working with some remarkable people and worked with ongoing scientific research. It is very hard work, but very exciting to see what goes on at sea. I am sure I will call on some of them in the future for collaboration.

Chef Walter made some great meals over the past few days. Crab cakes, roasted buffalo, chicken curry, and quail, not to mention those great breakfasts. Based on my first two days of sea not able to keep anything down and not wanting to eat, I thought for sure I would go back to Ohio 15 pounds lighter. But the sea sickness wore off and I am enjoying food and adjusting to boat life.

Justin Czarka, August 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 15, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

This picture shows what happens to an 8 fluid ounce Styrofoam cup after experience water pressure at 1000 meters down. The colorful cup was sent down attached to the CTD
This picture shows what happens to an 8 fluid ounce Styrofoam cup after experience water pressure at 1000 meters down. The colorful cup was sent down attached to the CTD

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 20:33 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: patchy mist
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: north-northwest 15-20 knots (kt), gust to 25 kt
Visibility: unrestricted to 1-3 nautical miles in mist
Waves: northwest 6-9 feet
Air Temperature: 18°C high, 12°C low
Water Temperature: 17.5°C

Science and Technology Log 

Today we made it out to 200 miles off the Oregon Coast; the farthest out we will go. The depth of the ocean is 2867 meters (9,406 feet).  It is pretty interesting to imagine that we are on the summit of a nearly 10,000-foot mountain right now!  Last night the CTD was deployed 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).  Even at this depth, the pressure is immense (see photo, page one). When taking the CTD down to this depth, certain sensors are removed from the rosette (the white frame to which the CTD instruments are attached) to prevent them from being damaged.

Justin Czarka taking observational notes while aboard the McArthur II.  These notes preserve the knowledge gained from the NOAA officers and crew, as well as the researchers
Justin Czarka taking observational notes while aboard the McArthur II. These notes preserve the knowledge gained from the NOAA officers and crew, as well as the researchers

The crew aboard the McArthur II is such an informative group. Many possess a strong insight into NOAA’s research mission.  Today I spoke with Kevin Lackey, Deck Utility man.  He spoke to me about the cruises he has been on with NOAA, particularly about the effects of bioaccumulation that have been studied.  Bioaccumulation is when an organism intakes a substance, oftentimes from a food source, that deposits in the organism at increasing levels over time.  While sometimes an intentional response from an organism, with regards to toxins, this bioaccumulation can lead to detrimental effects.  For example, an organism (animal or plant) A on the food web experiences bioaccumulation of a toxin over time.  Imagine organism B targeting organism A as a food source. Organism B will accumulate concentrated levels of the toxin. Then, when organism B becomes a food source for organism C, the effects of the toxins are further magnified.  This has serious effects on the ocean ecosystem, and consequently on the human population, who rely on the ocean as a food source.

While aboard the McArthur II, Morgaine McKibben, a graduate student at Oregon State University (OSU), shared with me her research into harmful algal blooms (HABs), which potentially lead to bioaccumulation.  Certain algae (small plants) accumulate toxins that can be harmful, especially during a “bloom.” She is collecting water samples from the CTD, as well as deploying a HAB net, which skims the ocean surface while the ship is moving to collect algae samples.  She is utilizing the data in order to create a model to solve the problem of what underlying conditions cause the algae blooms to become toxic, since they are not always as such.

Personal Log 

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the flying bridge off the coast of Heceta Head, Oregon (N 43°59, W 124°35) a half hour later than two nights ago!
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the flying bridge off the coast of Heceta Head, Oregon (N 43°59, W 124°35) a half hour later than two nights ago!

The weather has cleared up allowing grand ocean vistas—a 360° panorama of various blues depending on depth, nutrients, clouds overhead, and so forth.  At first glance, it just looks blue.  But as you gaze out, you see variance. A little green here, some whitecaps over there. As the ship moves on, the colors change. Wildlife appears, whether it is a flock of birds, kelp floating by, or an escort of pacific white-sided dolphins. I wondered if the ocean would become monotonous over the course of the eleven days at sea.  Yet the opposite has happened. I have become more fascinated with this blue water.

It was interesting today to notice how we went back in time.  Two nights ago the sun had set at 20:03 (8:03 p.m.)  But because we went so far out to sea, last night the sunset had changed to 20:33 (8:33 p.m.).  While this happens on land as well, it never occurred to me in such striking details until out to see.

Animals Seen from the Flying Bridge (highest deck on the ship) 

  • Rhinoceros Auklet – closely related to puffins
  • Whale (breaching)
  • Common Murres
  • Western Gull
  • Hybrid Gull – We are at a location off the coast of Oregon where different species interbreed
  • Leech’s Storm Petrel – Mike Force, the cruise’s bird and marine mammal observer, found the bird aboard the ship by in an overflow tank.  It will be rereleased.

Did You Know? 

NOAA has a web page with information especially for students?

Justin Czarka, August 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 2033 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: patchy mist
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: Northwest 10-15 knots (kt)
Visibility: unrestricted, reduced to 1-3 nautical miles (nm) in mist
Waves: northwest 3-6 feet
Air Temperature: 17.50°C
Water Temperature: 17.63°C

Science and Technology Log 

Today I rotated to a new job assignment. I have been working with the CTD water samples, storing nutrient samples, and preparing chlorophyll samples.  Now I work with Jay Peterson, researcher from Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon, deploying, retrieving, and preparing live samples from the vertical net and bongo net on a cable.

The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.
The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.

The nets collect all types of plankton, both plants and animals.  As with all the sample collections occurring aboard the McArthur II, communication is the backbone of the operations, or “ops.” For the vertical net and bongo net, two people manually place the nets over the ship’s starboard side, while a winch operator deploys and retrieves the nets from the ocean, and the bridge navigates the ship. For vertical nets, the goal is to take the net to 100 meters (m) depth and then hauled up vertically. The purpose is to catch organisms from the entire water column up to the surface.  It is the same depth for the bongo net, but the goal is to have the cable at a 45° angle with the ship moving at a steady 2 knots (kt). Both nets have flowmeters to determine the volume of water that goes through the net. Once back on the deck, the nets are rinsed from the top to the bottom so that everything in the net can be analyzed. The samples are placed in jars or buckets to observe under microscope.  We find euphausiids (krill), copepods, Tomopteris, Chaetognatha (arrow worms), fish larvae, Phronima, and even bird feathers!  You have to check out these animals online, as they all have fascinating features. More importantly, while small in size, they are an essential part of the food web. Without them, many species would struggle to find food.

Personal Log 

Today we a day of plenty in terms of sighting marine mammals and other species as well!  The day started out near shore at Newport, Oregon and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  The McArthur II travels roughly in a zigzag approach near shore to off shore and back for this mission.  Getting ready for the day watch, I saw some whales off the port (left side facing forward on a ship). That was just the beginning. As we headed due west on the Newport transect line (44 39.1′ N latitude) we spotted brownish and reddish jelly fish, albatross following along the starboard side during bongo tows, sea lions skirting by the stern, and a shark fiddling with driftwood presumably looking for small fish that were utilizing the log as a habitat. Later in the day, we navigated near breaching humpback whales on the starboard side. Towards evening, a group of 5-6 pacific white-sided dolphins followed along for 10 minutes or so.

A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean.  Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.
A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean. Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.

Being out here witnessing the wildlife in their environment is fascinating.  You start to internalize the ocean planet as more than a vast emptiness.  There exists a tremendous amount of species diversity living above and below the surface. Yet sadly, since few of us spend regular time away from our land habitats, we tend to neglect the essential nature of the ocean.  The ocean truly sustains us, whether providing the majority of our freshwater (through evaporation and, consequently, rain), supporting our nutritional diets, and driving the weather we experience daily.  Teacher at Sea really reinforces this revelation since I get to spend an extended amount of time away from my terrestrial existence learning to appreciate the ocean’s influence on our lives.  May we gain enough understanding to ensure the sustainability of the ocean ecosystem.

Animals Seen 

Humpback whales
Shark
Jellyfish
Doliolid
Albatross
Albacore tuna
Sea lion
Pacific white-sided dolphin

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10-12 nautical mile
Wind direction: 3.7 o
Wind speed:  8.5 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 18.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.2 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

There was a spectacular sunrise this morning and then, during our next-to-last station Steve pointed out a sun dog in the sky above us. We’ve got one more station left to do – in Cape Cod Bay and then we’ll sail through the Cape Cod Canal and back to port at Woods Hole, about a day and a half early.  We will have completed 138 stations in total.  It will all turn into a set of numbers put out on the Web, at some point, and, when I see them, I’ll now know what went into producing them.

Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.
Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The photo contest entries are up.  The “kids” watch came up with several entries and some of them are pretty cute.  I especially like the one of me, with a shrimp on my shoulder, on the cover of Time magazine, labeled “Teacher of the Year” and the caption “Teacher discovers the oceans are teeming with life.”  I still think we’ve got a good shot at winning. Voting opens at 1100 and closes at 1600.  The suspense is killing me!  It’s been a wonderful trip and there’s a lot about this life that I’ll miss including the constant and ever-changing beauty of the sea; the clean, fresh air; the spectacular sunrises; the 3 meals a day cooked for me; but, most of all, the camaraderie with an interesting and fun-loving group of people.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

All the photos are up and the competition is over with.  It’s great what the other group has come up with.  There’s a picture of Tamara and Karen peaking over the bongo nets, Don getting eaten up by the grab and Jerry “pickled” inside of a sample jar.  So far, we have no idea who’s going to win. I love our picture of Tony as a fairy.  As soon as you know Tony, though, that makes the picture all the more entertaining.

We’re almost off the boat.  I’m going to miss the crew terribly, especially Tony, Mike, Steve, Tim, Lino and Orlando.  Okay, I admit it…I’ll miss every single person A LOT!  =) I’ll miss talking with Kurt (XO/CO) and the rest of the officers, Tracy and Alicea.  It’s terrible that I miss these people already…especially because I haven’t left yet.

As soon as we get into port, many of the crew will head off to their homes.  It’s difficult on them because they are away from land for such a long period of time.  Respect is definitely deserved for these men and women who dedicate such a large part of their lives to helping forward knowledge of the oceans and its inhabitants.  I promised Orlando a picture of the Ling Cod I caught (my first fish ever) the week before I came out.  Although there is quite a bit of distance between all of us, I’ll give it my all to keep in touch with everyone when I get home.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: o
Wind speed:  20-25 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3’
Swell wave height: 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 14 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.2 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

The rain has stopped but it’s a very foggy day here in the Gulf of Maine – not unusual for this area, according to the officers.  I visited the bridge early this morning before dawn and Acting XO Jason Appler mentioned the “cabin fever” that can result from sailing through fog for days on end. We were hoping to see the beautiful coast of Maine but we may pass without ever catching a glimpse if this fog keeps up.

On the second station of our watch, in addition to the bongos, we used another plankton net which extends from a rectangular frame.  It’s called a neuston net and it’s towed right at the surface, partly in and partly out of the water.  The object of this tow is to catch lobster larvae which, according to Jerry, are often found clinging to seaweed drifting at the surface. We’re doing this sampling for a student who is considering studying the distribution of lobster larvae for a thesis.

Jerry reminded me of two terms I learned at some point in the past but had forgotten.  Meroplankton  are animals that are residents of the plankton for only part of their lives, e.g., larvae of fish, crustaceans, and other animals.  Holoplankton is made up of jellyfish, copepods, chaetognaths, ctenophores, salps, larvaceans, and other animals that spend their entire lives in the plankton.

Jerry has a copy of the book The Open Sea by Sir Alister Hardy, a classic work of biological oceanography.  As only one example of his many marine expeditions, Hardy served as Chief Zoologist on the R.R.S. Discovery when it voyaged to Antarctica in the 1920’s. The first half of the book is devoted to plankton and the second half to fish and fisheries. Both parts contain a number of his beautiful watercolors of the animals discussed, painted from freshly caught specimens and all the more remarkable for the fact that they were done on a rocking ship!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The seas got pretty bouncy this evening. I had been feeling pretty cocky about my “sea legs” but was getting a little uneasy. However, I did cope without any problems.  I don’t really understand seasickness and I get the feeling no one else does either.  I wonder how often and for how long one has to be at sea before their sea legs become permanent.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

It’s like riding a bucking bronco out here on the ocean.  Walking, by itself, is forcing me to improve my coordination.  I love it. I’m only worried about how I’ll be on land…last time I was swaying back and forth for a few hours. I think Karen got quite a kick out of that.

We’re still taking pictures for the contest.  It’s difficult being creative, especially because we’re limited on what we have for resources.  We’ve got one picture that I hope turns out well. One of Tracy’s good friends sent her the picture of the Brady Bunch.  I’ve been trying to work the picture so that our shift’s faces are in place of the original cast.  The only one that truly looks in place is Wes, he actually looks natural!  We’re having such a great time!

We all climbed into our survival suits again and took pictures on the stairs.  Believe me when I say that sitting on the stairs in those “Gumby” suits, is a very difficult task.  Wes was holding all of us up. Tracy had a hold of the side and I was propped up in between them.  Alicea was very ready to jump forward in case we were to all start the journey downstairs a bit too quickly. I’m still having an amazing time.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: 116 o
Wind speed: 15 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 13.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.6 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science and Technology Log 

This is the first rainy day we’ve had.  It’s pretty chilly as well and not all that pleasant working on deck so we were delighted when the “kids” watch came on (our watch is known as the “geezer” watch) and got us out of doing an EPA station.  I can’t imagine doing this in January. It’s a great day to stay indoors which is what I’ve been doing as much as possible – working on lesson plans and the Power Point on this trip, and reading.  I did help Jerry do a collection for a WHOI scientist who is looking at the bacterium that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.  That involved filtering 2 L of seawater through progressively smaller filters and then washing the filtrate off the finest filter into a bottle of medium in which the bacterium, Pseudo-nitzchia, will grow.

I had some nice conversations with crewmembers today.  Chief Boatswain Tony Vieira came from Portugal with his family at the age of 17.  After working construction for a few years, he began commercial fishing with his brother and fished for 18 years.  Ten years ago he was happy to give up that difficult and dangerous profession to work for NOAA. Although he plans to retire before long, Tony says he won’t want to stay away from the ocean for long and will probably look for opportunities to fill in on ships now and then.

We pulled up a heteropod with the bongos (not exactly in them) yesterday or the day before. It’s a gastropod that’s modified for a planktonic existence. Unfortunately, it was somewhat mangled so we didn’t get a complete picture of what one looks like.  It would be wonderful to see some of these animals in their natural element.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

“Alexa, call the bridge.” I froze for a second as if I had just been called to the principal’s office. Going to a phone, ENS Chris Skapin told me he had a project for me and I was to carry a very large box to the bridge. As Wes and I scrambled to find a very large box, we speculated the many different activities I was about to be a part of.  As soon as I walked in, the men talked in unusually quiet whispers.  After several minutes, I figured out why.  Acting XO Jason Appler had made quick friends with a small bird fluttering around the bridge. A sigh of relief came from me as we hunted down the small creature.  After attempting to feed and give water to the small bird, he was let free.  Unfortunately, as Mike Conway pointed out, few birds that are not adapted to sea-life can survive so far out to sea.

I finally got up to the bridge.  Kurt showed me how everything works, radar and all the other navigation programs.  All the crew told me that if I want to see some sort of marine life, to go up to the bridge when XO Jason Appler is there.  About ten minutes after I was up on the bridge with Skapin and Appler, we saw a humpback whale come completely out of the water. There was a huge pod swimming about 100 m away.

Jerry added another station to break up our steam time; we had had one six-hour steam which we were all looking forward to. It seems like we might be getting in earlier than I expected, maybe now I’ll have extra time to hang out with Tracy and Alicea before we all have to leave. I can’t believe my three weeks are almost over!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I don’t think I’ve spent so many days without a to-do list in years.  I can see some of the appeal of the mariner’s life.  Things are a bit simpler out here.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 36 o
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1025.6 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we launched a drifter buoy that will transmit its position to a satellite so our students can monitor it via a website. Tamara Browning, the other teacher on board, wrote her school’s name on it and I wrote Garrison Forest School and drew a paw print for the GFS Grizzlies. The buoy consists of a small flotation device – about a foot in diameter or a little larger – which contains the electronics and is tethered to a part that looks like a wind sock but will be underwater where it will catch water currents as opposed to wind. Jerry picked a launching spot in the channel where the Labrador Current enters the Gulf of Maine. He says it may stay in the Gulf of Maine and circle around or it may exit with the outgoing current.  It is designed to last for over 400 days. It will fun to have my students follow it and plot its course on a map.

JE Orlando Thompson gave us a tour of the engine room this morning.  He took us into the air-conditioned booth which overlooks the room and contains the control panels.  Orlando explained that the center part of the console controls the main engines (there are 2), the left portion controls the power supply for the ship, and the right side is for the trawl engine which is used when trawling or dredging.  He said that the fuel for each day is first purified to remove sediments and then put into the day tank.  The emergency generator, which is located behind the bridge, has its own fuel tank.  The ship runs on diesel fuel. Down on the floor of the engine room, he showed us the transmission and the shaft that runs aft to the propeller.  The ship moves forward when the blades of the propeller are adjusted to the right pitch. To stop the forward motion during sampling, the pitch is changed. Orlando, who was originally from Panama, learned his craft in the Navy where he served on aircraft carriers that he says make the ALBATROSS IV look like a toy.

Personal Log – Karen Myers 

We finally saw whales today! Well, maybe not whole whales but we did see spouts, flukes, and tails. Ensign Chris Daniels identified them as Right Whales by their divided, v-shaped spouts.  One reason that whalers called this species “Right” whales is that they are slow and sluggish and so were easier to catch up with and kill

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tracy, Alicea and I all sleep through breakfast and lunch so we meet in the galley for cereal and toast around 12:00. Unfortunately, we missed the whales that showed up around 10 a.m. Apparently there were several pods swimming around the boat, one off the port side, one off the starboard side and one off the portside of the fantail.  I’m still trying to understand the different terminology.  Don Cobb stated that there were probably close to 40 whales total in the three different pods.

Karla is definitely a trooper. For her sampling, she has to be working for sixteen hours straight, however, there have been days when she’s been awake for over 24.  It’s great to be in a group of close girls.  Tracy and Alicea are very welcoming, friendly and personable. In such confined spaces, that’s a blessing to find two women who are so agreeable.  There’s no pettiness, nor competition.

Life at sea is simpler than on land, I think, though you have to be able to find ways to keep yourself occupied and still find times to simply sit back and enjoy the frontier around you. I’ll spend time writing to home and my friends, talking to the various crew members, scientists and officers, reading, journaling my opinions and interpretations, and relaxing on the hurricane deck looking out to the sea.  It’s very calm and laid back here.  I think I like it here…

We’re having a cook-out tonight!  Well, actually, it’s a pseudo-cookout because we left the propane tank at port. It’s basically an onboard barbeque which everyone gets together for (assuming that we’re not on station at the time).  Tracy says, “Nothing beats eating dinner right on the ocean as the sun starts going beneath the clouds.”  Following, Alicea said, “We takes a beating, but we keeps on eating.”

Ten minutes before we arrive at each station, the bridge sends an announcement over the intercom.  Depending on the officer manning the bridge, a variety of calls can be decreed onboard. Ensign Chris Daniels (now nicknamed the Nascar driver), however, gave all the calls in one, “10 minutes to station, 10 minutes to CTD, 10 minutes to bongos, 10 minutes to bottom grab, 10 minutes to the longest station of the cruise.”  Unbeknownst to the shift at the time, it was indeed the longest station and took over two hours on station due to problems with the CTD and bottom grab.  As Alicea put it, “We should kindly ask the bridge to keep their comments to themselves [so they stop jinxing us]!”

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: 3 o
Wind speed: 16 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2 ’
Swell wave height: 2 1/2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1024 mb
Cloud cover: 1/8

Science and Technology Log 

Today we sampled at the deepest station of the trip – 350 m. We had to do what they call a “double dipper” because the bongos are never lowered any deeper than 200 m since pretty much any organisms of interest to Fisheries are with 200 m of the surface.  But the CTD is still lowered all the way to within 5-10 m of the bottom in order to get a complete hydrographic profile.

Karla Heidelberg is engaged in real cutting edge research in microbial genetics.  Now at the University of Southern California, she has worked with the J. Craig Venter Institute which is in the midst of an ambitious program to provide a genomic survey of microbial life in the world’s oceans.  This survey is producing the largest gene catalogue ever assembled and will provide scientists worldwide with an opportunity to better understand how ecosystems function and to discover new genes of ecological importance.  The survey is based on collections made during a circumnavigation of the globe by the sailing yacht Sorcerer II between September 2003, and January 2006.  But this expedition didn’t allow for sampling of the same areas over time.  So, with the help of an NSF grant and NOAA ship time, Karla is sampling and resampling areas in the Gulf of Maine.  When she takes samples, she pumps 200-400 L of water on board and filters it through a series of filters, first to eliminate the zooplankton and phytoplankton, and then to separate the various components of the microbial community.  The filters are frozen while on board ship and then, back in the lab, they’re subjected to an enzyme treatment to remove everything but the DNA. The DNA is then nebulized to break it into small fragments and the fragments are cloned.  The fragments are reassembled and sequenced.  As poorly understood as the ocean in general is, the microbial life of the ocean is a true frontier!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I love sitting out on one of the decks gazing at the sea.  Of course, I’m always hoping to see a whale or a Giant Ocean Sunfish but even though I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at spotting anything, I find it very calming to watch the ocean.  I’m amazed when I look at it that there are painters who are skillful enough to recreate the complex patterns on a canvas.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Well our shift worked extremely hard today, hard enough that we all fell asleep within 10 minutes of a post-shift movie.  We got hit with station after station during our 12 hour period. It’s fascinating, though, to be looking at the organisms that come up in the grab or bongo nets. I’m not very familiar with the different scientific classifications of animals, but I certainly have an appreciation for what the ocean holds.  As Karla said, we’re seeing what 1% of the Earth has ever seen before.  We’re truly in undiscovered territory.

Like the rainforest, there are many species that have yet to be discovered.  At ISEF, my father and I went to an IMAX theatre to watch Deep Blue Sea in 3D.  The VPR (Video Plankton Recorder) showed images just like what we saw on the big screen. I live on the coast, yet I had no idea what was in the ocean.  In fact, people come from all over to whale watch in Gold Beach.  Yet I have never seen a whale, nor have I seen a dolphin.

I go home in six days and head back to school in eight.  I’m getting pretty fond of being out here now, and the idea of sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks isn’t as appealing. I do miss discussions with my teachers (i.e. Ms. Anthony (Calculus); Coach Swift (American Gov’t); Mr. Lee (Honors English II)) though.  Anyway, we’re coming on shift now. So I’d best be off to work.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 90o
Wind speed:  12-13 kts
Sea wave height 2’
Swell wave height 3-4’
Seawater temperature 20.4C
Sea Level Pressure: 1018 mb
Cloud cover: 4/8

Science and Technology Log 

We’re finally on the famous George’s Bank. It’s been a busy day – we had 7 stations on our watch, including 2 EPA stations.  It’s a lovely day, a little chilly, with a brisk wind.

I asked Jerry earlier in the cruise why George’s Bank has historically been such a productive area for fisheries. He explained that, first of all, it’s shallow so fish can spawn there and sunlight can penetrate the water column, providing energy for phytoplankton.  Steve said he’s seen a picture from the 1900’s of guys playing baseball on the shoals in the middle of the Bank.  Secondly, there’s a gyre-like water movement, probably resulting from the Labrador Current meeting the Gulf Stream, so it’s rich in nutrients and the fish that hatch there tend to be kept there by the current.  I’ve also heard about the “Hague Line” that was established by the International Court in the Hague to divide George’s Bank between Canada and the U.S.  Steve talked about how fisherman fish right along it. It’s great to get the perspectives of someone like Jerry whose views are those of a scientist well versed in fish and fisheries and Steve who has a wealth of knowledge from fishing this area.

I had a nice visit on the bridge this morning with Acting CO Kurt Zegowitz and Ensign Chad Meckley. Chad told me that the ALBATROSS IV doesn’t have a rudder – it’s steered by something called a Kort Nozzle which is essentially a large metal open-ended cylinder around the propeller.  When it is turned, it directs the outwash which makes the ship turn. Jerry suggested that it may be better for fishing boats because the nets sometimes get caught on a rudder.  However, this ship is not as maneuverable as it would be with a rudder.

I also got some more information on life in the NOAA Corps.  It seems like a pretty attractive job for a young person. Kurt spent his first sea duty in Hawaii and had a wonderful experience. Chad is thinking about what kind of billet he hopes to be assigned to for his shore duty, which will come after the ALBATROSS IV is decommissioned.  Kurt showed me a list of NOAA Corps billets – both at sea and on land and a list of the individuals in the Corps and where they are currently stationed.  I was pleased to see how many women are in the Corps.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey

I’ve become good friends with my new watch-mates; we have a lot of fun together.  From after-shift meetings at 3 a.m. to ‘Cake Breaks,’ Alicea, Wes, Tracy and I have really come together as a team.  I’ve never been too fond of group projects, most of the time because it leads to one person doing all of the work.  However, our shift has selected specific job roles that we trade off to ease the constant work load and maximize efficiency.

I’ve been talking to a wide variety of people through email, from my science teacher to friends from ISEF to family abroad.  I’m hoping to have a new puppy waiting at home when I get there. We used to have a Keeshond (Dutch Barge dog) named Dutch.  I’m hoping for a Tervuren or Husky, but it’s ultimately up to my parents because he/she will stay with them when I head over to school.  I encourage anyone I know who has a dog to watch the Dog Whisperer w/ Cesar Milan (Animal planet).

I’ve only been up since 11 a.m. (we go to bed after 3 a.m.) so not much has occurred today. Both shifts will be getting hit with stations rapidly today.  We might have close to 8 stations in just a single shift.  Still no whale sightings, but we’re not giving up hope. Last night, a sea of fish rode next to us on the boat. These fish (juveniles about 8 inches long), would jump about 3 feet out and across the water.  It was pretty neat. I’m going to get lunch and start piling on my gear.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I can’t believe how comfortable I feel aboard ship now.  At first I was at loose ends about how to fill the free time, especially since it comes in chunks of unpredictable length.  But now, between writing logs, writing emails, working on the photo contest, making up a Power Point on my experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, talking to people on board, and trying to spend some time on the bridge or the hurricane deck watching for whales, the day just zips by.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Wind direction 270 o
Wind speed: 5.5 kts
Sea wave height 1-2’
Swell wave height 2’
Seawater temperature 19 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.4 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve done 4 stations on our watch and that’s it for today because we’re heading back into port to exchange personnel. We expect to dock around 4 p.m. and then leave Wednesday morning around 11.

I went up to the bridge to get weather data today and came away again with a wealth of information from Captain Steve Wagner.  He explained the difference between sea waves and swell waves.  Swell waves are generated by distant weather systems and tend to have longer wavelengths. Sea waves are created by local winds – they’re more like chop.  There can be swells coming from different directions and this is the source, he said, of the belief among surfers that every third wave is a bigger wave.  If there are swells approaching a beach from two different directions, sometimes they’ll come together in constructive interference, resulting in a wave that’s larger than either and other times they’ll cancel each other out in destructive interference.  It may be every third wave that they come together or it may be every fifth wave or whatever.  They estimate the heights of the waves and the swells visually.  Seawater temperature is measured by a hull sensor.  Cloud cover is also measured visually by dividing the sky into 8th’s and estimating how many 8th’s are made up of clouds.  Visibility is measured visually as well but confirmed, if possible, by radar or land sightings. For instance, right now Martha’s Vineyard is visible and they know the distance to the island so that can help them come up with a visibility number. If they’re out at sea and there’s nothing to use as a marker and the horizon appears crisp, they post a 10-mile visibility.  They send all their weather data to the National Weather Service every 3 hours.  They have a book–the same one with the Beaufort Scale ratings–that has pictures of cloud formations, each with a number and letter to identify it so they can use that for their reports.

He also explained that when they’re estimating visibility, they have to take into account “height of eye” which is how far above the water they are when they’re looking out.  For Steve Wagner on this ship, it’s about 26 feet because the bridge is about 20 feet above the water and Steve himself is 6 feet tall.  That affects the visibility distance and there’s a formula they can use which takes the square root of height of eye and multiplies by 1.17 to correct the visibility figure.

We also discussed the fact that US offshore charts use fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) while the charts of harbors, which have shallower water and so require greater resolution, use feet. Canadian charts use meters.  So a mariner has to be aware of what measurement the chart he’s looking at uses. He said the Spanish have their own fathom which is less than 6 feet.

I find it fascinating that there’s such a combination of information from high-tech sources like GPS and low-tech sources like the human eye used in piloting, navigation, and weather prediction.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I got very said news via email yesterday.  A woman who worked in the business office at my school and was an experienced horsewoman was killed in a riding accident.  The service was today. I’ll look for a sympathy card and send it to her family while we’re in port.

Alexa, Tamara, and I are going on a shopping trip to Falmouth.  I have a list of things to buy including a deck chair, if I can find one. No one here seems to object to the concept of deck chairs but there are only 3 on the whole ship and they’re in much demand.  If I can find a cheap, lightweight one in Falmouth, I’ll buy it and then just donate it to the ship when I leave, along with the book Cod by Mark Kurlansky which I finished and passed on to Jerry Prezioso and my cache of granola bars if there are any left (which there almost certainly will be).

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a beautiful day – clear and a bit blustery and the water is a beautiful deep blue.  We’re off the coast of Long Island, heading back towards Woods Hole where we’re expected to arrive about 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, spend the night there and exchange some personnel, and leave the next day to head north.  It’s been a very quiet watch – we had two stations in rapid succession starting about 2:30 a.m. and then had a long steam – for about 7 hours and then one more station.  So there’s been lots of free time to fill with reading, working on crossword and Sudoku puzzles, checking email, sunning on the bow, using the exercise equipment, etc.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 18, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I visited the bridge this morning and plan to go back again for another visit because there’s so much to learn there. There’s an amazing amount of equipment up there and Captain Steve Wagner made an attempt to explain some of it to me.  There are two radar units of different frequencies. The higher frequency unit is a 3 cm unit (I assume 3 cm is the wavelength) and has greater resolution so it can be used when entering harbors, for instance.  The other is a 10 cm unit that can cover a larger area.  They have to have two of every instrument in case one malfunctions.  They have the same program – NobelTec – as Jerry uses. It shows the charts for all the areas we are cruising through.  On the chart, our course is plotted and every station is marked with a square that becomes a star when you click on it. The ship appears as a little green, boat-shaped figure that the program calls the SS Minnow (after the boat in Gilligan’s Island).  The program can tell you the distance to the next station and the ETA (estimated time of arrival) as well as the time to reach the station.  You can zoom in or out and scroll around. It shows depths in fathoms.  The program works with a GPS unit to monitor position.  On another monitor, they get online weather information.  The site on the screen had a graphic which shows the area we’re heading into marked all over with the little icons used in weather maps to show wind speed and direction. It was easy to see the low-pressure system which I’d heard was weakening off the coast of South Carolina.  They also get weather data through a little machine called a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), similar to a FAX, that prints out a continuous strip of paper about 4 inches wide and gives weather data for various segments of the coast, e.g., Fenwick Island to Cape Hatteras or Cape Hatteras to Murrells Inlet. The information comes from stations at several points along the coast.  The machine checks the accuracy as it prints out and gives an error rate at the top right.  If it’s too high, it stops and starts over. I can sympathize with Captain Wagner when he talks about how difficult it is to keep up with the new technology.  I feel the same way as a teacher. The big difference is that he has lives in his hands.  At the same time, he adds that the technology available makes his job much easier.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Dolphins…enough said. The most amazing thing is seeing a massive pod of dolphins riding the wake less than 25 feet directly below you.  Tamara, Karen, Barbara, Jerry and I all clambered around the bow of the deck desperately snapping photos and avoiding wet paint as we safely peered over the edge. ENS Chris Daniels spied several areas with dolphins and flying fish and quickly pointed every spot out as he tried many different ways to get our attention.

We did another EPA station, which we do every five stations.  A great many of the crew joined us after our shift to play a game of ‘Set’; there were about 8 people pulling, pushing, and looking either dazed or confused at the visual card game.  I’ve been learning a lot about life on the East Coast and oceanography from Carly Blair, URI graduate student, while she sunbathed outside on the Hurricane deck.  Many activities occur out on the Hurricane deck like exercising on several of the available machines, sunbathing, whale watching, etc. It’s good to know that we still have our fun after working shift.

The two people who I admire extremely at this point are Don Cobb and Jon Hare, both East Coast natives. They are so knowledgeable on every subject that arises and work probably more than 18 hours a day.  Don came out to teach Barbara and me the procedures for each test and he spent an extra shift answering all questions and supervising our actions. Jerry taught me most of the computer and paperwork, and I was pretty confused for a while. Later that night, I sat in with Jon as he ran everything.  Every step of the way, he’d pause and explain how the system works and how to operate it. It’s something I appreciate beyond words.

I can’t believe how many great people are concentrated into such a small area.  I just don’t want to head home soon.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I agree with Alexa – the dolphins were inspiring!  It’s amazing that they can swim faster than the ship – twice as fast, according to Jon.  I feel like I’m getting to know the people on the ship better and they’re an entertaining bunch.  They work so hard – Tim Monaghan just told us that someone figured out that a mariner works 7 years longer in a lifetime than an onshore worker because they work round the clock 7 days a week.  It makes my life seem awfully easy by comparison!

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 17, 2006

Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.
Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

0200–I made it up for our watch and helped Alexa with the first plankton tow.  She’s already like a pro.  They call the sampling device “bongos,” I guess because it consists of two big stainless steel open-ended shallow cylinders which look somewhat like bongo drums to which are attached the two long, conical plankton nets. The mesh openings are 335 μm. They’re towed for about 5 minutes.  This time they also did two baby bongos which are for a University of Connecticut researcher who wants to look at the genetics of plankton on either side of the edge of the continental shelf. Jerry tells me this apparatus is considered to be superior to the old plankton nets which were towed from a bridle because it was thought the bridle scared away some plankton that were mobile enough to avoid it.  Now the bridle is between the two nets which act to balance one another out and give a two-for-one sample.  They use one for zooplankton and one for fish larvae.  The samples are sent to Poland where they’re sorted and it takes almost a year to get the data back.  The bongos are attached to a big boom which is operated from the winch booth which sits above the aft deck.  They’re lowered over the port side and the ship is maneuvered so the wind is coming toward the port side so that the ship doesn’t get blown over the nets.  Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps with the sampling, points out that in rough weather, that also means that the seas are coming over the port side as you’re working.  He says they’ve been out when the seas are breaking over the bow and over the entire superstructure onto the aft deck!

Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso explained the sampling track to me.  They have the entire sampling area from the North almost up to the Bay of Fundy south to Hatter divided into what they call “strata” which are areas of continuous depth readings.  Each one is numbered and for each sampling trip (4, sometimes 5, per year), the computer randomly generates several stations within that stratum. From what he says, there has been a lot of discussion of the best way to sample to get a complete and accurate picture.  The original program was called MarMap which was started in the 70’s.  It used a grid pattern and sampled at the same stations every time.  The criticism of that was that some areas never got sampled so significant information could have been missed.

We’ve had an extremely busy shift.  We’re in an area off of Delaware Bay where “gliders” have been deployed. They are instruments that look like torpedoes and are programmed to work autonomously, moving back and forth across this area at varying depths and sending out data on salinity. John Hare is using that data to decide where we’ll do stations that will help to delimit the line between shelf water and slope water.  So we’ve done a number of stations in rapid succession.

We’ve also been testing a VPR, Video Plankton Recorder, which uses a camera and rotating strobe light to take pictures of plankton. The VPR takes as many as 20 pictures per second. A computer program then selects the images that can be identified.  The VPR would be used to supplement the bongos.  It reveals the depth at which the particular organisms occur which can’t be determined from the bongo samples.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I’m relieved that my seasickness has passed.  I’m still finding that life at sea is somewhat of a challenge for me.  But I do like sleeping on a rocking ship.  I’m surprised by how much I miss my family – it’s different only being in touch by email and not being able to hear their voices.  I’m enjoying getting to know the various people on the ship – everyone is so kind and they all have such interesting backgrounds.  It’s such a different life that people live at sea! I’m impressed by the dedication of the scientists – they are serious about getting every station right, in spite of having done the procedure over and over again for years. Not only the scientists, but also Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps us get the equipment over the side and back in again, is meticulous about never missing a step.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tamara, Karen and I interviewed Ensign Chad Meckley about his career path in NOAA corps. After coming out of the Merchant Marine Academy and completing BOTC training (a two-year course packed into four months), Meckley has begun working on the ALBATROSS IV to complete his sea-experience requirement . He describes his BOTC training as similar to drinking through a fire hose.

Karen and I are so lucky to come aboard to such a great crew.  I finally know everyone’s names and I believe most know mine.  Originally, I was quite scared of what this experience might be like because I know very little about the macro/micro organisms which we are observing. Secondly, I’ve never been to the East Coast before nor flown on a plane by myself for close to 10 hours. I miss my family quite a lot; I’d never really been this far away nor for such a long period of time.  Being completely out of contact for a week or more is quite difficult, but I know I’ll see them soon.  Fortunately, I’ve been adopted by a whole new family aboard ship just like at ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) last May.

The crew and scientists aboard are amazing!  There’s so much to learn, not just from the scientists, but the officers and crew.  These men and women have hands-on experience with a huge variety of subjects. I’m getting to learn from top field-experts in ways textbooks cannot convey.  Additionally, I’m improving my understanding of science, technology, engineering, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Everything is going smoothly with the weather, especially because it’s hurricane season.  There are beautiful sunsets and sunrises.  It’s just a great overall experience, something that no one should pass up. I get back on the 2nd of September, drive another 6 hours home, and then have one day off before school but, it’s all worth it.  I’ve been requested to interview as many of the officers, crew and scientists as possible in the allotted time.  During the work shift, I found I can handle several of the procedures alone, though I’m constantly afraid of making a mistake.  So far, I’ve heard I’m the youngest to ever sail aboard so I’m attempting to learn quickly and earn my keep.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

13:47 — I’ve lost the past day to seasickness. All the other visitors/females on board have also been sick except for Alexa who is amazing.  We are on the midnight to noon shift with Jerry. I missed the whole shift but Alexa worked the whole shift.  Barbara and Carly are barely functioning. Tamara and I are still hurting.  Everyone is very kind and encouraging. Think I’ll head back to bed for now.

 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We’re still at the dock in Woods Hole.  NOAA inspectors delayed the ALBATROSS IV’s departure for a day. We’re due to leave at 2 p.m. today.  Weather is overcast and windy.

The science crew consists of Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist, who is from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service; Jon Hare, also of NMFS; Don Cobb of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Barbara Sherman, who is a secretary at EPA in Narragansett and is out for a week as a volunteer; Carly Blair, a graduate student from URI; Alexa Carey, a student from Gold Beach, OR; Tamara Brown, a middle school teacher from Teaneck, NJ; and me.  I’ve met most but not all of the ship’s crew.  There are three NOAA Corps officers: Ensign Chad Meckley, Ensign Chris Daniels and Ensign Chris Skapin. We learned that the NOAA Corps is the seventh branch of the uniformed services, responsible for operating NOAA’s ships and planes.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail
Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail

The plan is to cruise south, perhaps as far as Cape Hatteras.  NMFS will be doing plankton tows and testing a video camera for surveying plankton.  EPA is taking water samples to test for a variety of nutrients and sediment samples to test for heavy metals and benthic organisms.  We’ll come back to WH on 8/23 to exchange personnel and then head north up to the Gulf of Maine and possibly as far as the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia, Canada.

Tamil Maldonado, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic/FOCI Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 26, 2005

Science and Technology Log

We are underway in the Gulf of Alaska, Southeast of Sitkinak Island.  This is our last day of doing FOCI survey. We used the Bongo Tow and CTD throughout day.

At 5:00 p.m. we were done with survey and transiting to Dutch Harbor, AK

At night I interviewed Chief Scientist, Janet Duffy-Anderson, one more time.  We talked about how to know fish ages and how fast they are growing.  It is because of their rings— the number of rings a larvae has will give the days they are alive.  Also, you can know their age by how far apart those rings are, which gives you the information of how fast they are growing.

Furthermore we talked about atmospheric changes and how this is affecting the ecosystem.  The target of FOCI is to get biological as well as physical data on the changes in the ocean and how those changes interact with the biota.  They wanted to do this research in Alaska because you can see changes more rapidly at the poles of the planet. We have seen phenomena like El Nino, La Nina and others increasing in frequency and duration. The rate between phenomena is increasing—they are happening  more frequently for the last decade.

I will be able to get fisheries raw data in time series done by FOCI and will continue doing some research back home in this area.

At night we did an acoustic hydrographic survey, and by changing depth target we got different data, all related. Changing the depth target changes how deep the beams go through the water and come back.  We worked with Hips & Sips Computer Software.  This program also corrects in real time the error estimates for each contributing sensor.  These entries are necessary for the computation of the Total Propagated Error.  The Vessel Configuration File (VCF) contains information about the different sensors installed on the survey vessel and their relationship to each other.  The information in the file is applied to logged, converted data files, and when the final sounding positions are calculated, the data is merged.  The entries in the VCF are time tagged and multiple time tags can be defined for each sensor.  This allows the user to update sensor information during the course of a survey.  This may occur if a piece of equipment has been moved.

In order to define the new fields in the VCF it is essential to understand standard deviation. The standard deviation is a statistic that explains how tightly various examples are clustered around the mean in a set of data.  When the data is tightly bunched together the bell-shaped curve is steep and the standard deviation is small.  When the data is spread apart, the bell curve is relatively flat indicating a larger standard deviation.

The vessel information will be displayed in the Vessel Editor.  The sensor positions are represented by colored dots. The VCF can be updated if a sensor changes position, and a unique time stamp ensures that the correct offsets are applied to data recorded at a certain time.  Each time the sensor information is changed, the drop down list above the 3-D vessel model will be updated to include the new time stamps.  The data grid below the 3D vessel contains all the offset information for the vessel.

Tomorrow… we will talk about the stability of the ship, and how its is done (so we do not sink!).

Thomas Nassif, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Thomas Nassif
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 15 – 24, 2005

Mission: Invasive Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Southeast U.S.
Date: July 19, 2005

“A fiery ball of radiant yellow…penetrated the hues of deep blue and wispy whites.”
“A fiery ball of radiant yellow…penetrated the hues of deep blue and wispy whites.”

Weather Data

Latitude: 33°38’N
Longitude: 76°55’W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 240°
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2′
Swell wave height: 2-3′
Sea water temperature: 28.9°C
Sea level pressure: 1018 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science & Technology Log  

Today was by far the most beautiful sunrise we’ve had since our departure from land last week. A fiery ball of radiant yellow captured the sky, as its luminous rays penetrated the hues of deep blue and wispy whites in the surrounding sky. This morning the divers visited Kinny 1 and 2 (also known as K1 and K2). But this was no ordinary dive… K2 happened to be the most challenging and strenuous dive yet. The ocean currents were moving faster than we expected. The ship pulled up-current from the dive site (marked by an orange buoy), to put the divers in position. All they would have to do is jump off the ship and drift down-current to find the buoy. But when the divers jumped off the ship they were swept away by the strong ocean currents well past the buoy. The NF4 picked up the divers, who had to take off all 200lbs of their SCUBA gear, and wait to be taken to the correct diving site. The divers eventually finished their mission at K2, but were very exhausted when they returned to the NANCY FOSTER.

Thomas Nassif aboard the NF4 dive boat. The NANCY FOSTER is pictured in the background.
Thomas Nassif aboard the NF4 dive boat. The NANCY FOSTER is pictured in the background.

Today I finally got my chance to step off the NANCY FOSTER for the afternoon. I boarded the NF4 (diver recovery boat) and we steamed off into the open sea. Soon thereafter we watched from a distance, as the divers leap off the NANCY FOSTER. Our job was to keep an eye on the divers to ensure their safety during the 130-foot descent to the ocean floor. The NF4, along with the NANCY FOSTER and RHIB, all bear the “divers flag” when we deploy SCUBA divers into the ocean. This red flag with a diagonal white stripe warns other ships in the immediate area that there are divers in the water.

I also went snorkeling in the ocean to watch the SCUBA divers decompress underwater. After the divers finished their dive to the ocean floor, they stopped at 20 feet from the ocean surface to breath pure oxygen from a long tube supplied from the surface by the RHIB (the air we breathe everyday is only 21% oxygen). If the divers chose instead to shoot straight up to the ocean surface, they risk getting the “bends,” a painful experience that occurs when nitrogen bubbles form in the blood.

The divers safely returned to the ship with 6 lionfish in their nets – the aquarium aboard the NANCY FOSTER now has a total of 25 live lionfish! The scientists plan to transport them to a more permanent home at the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory when we arrive at port next week. To simulate the natural conditions of the ocean, scientists will place the lionfish in a “flow through aquarium” that transports ocean water through a pipe into and out of the aquarium. By having several aquaria full of lionfish in the lab, scientists hope to learn more about their diet and how often they reproduce.

Question of the day

Do lionfish reproduce in the same way as fish? How often do they reproduce?

Yes – Lionfish reproduce like most fish, through External Fertilization. Eggs are released from the female into the water and then fertilized by sperm from a male fish. The thing that makes lionfish so different from most fish is this: Female lionfish release a floating mass of eggs that stick together (most fish release eggs that disperse and spread out from each other in the water). Scientists think that lionfish are more successful at reproducing because the floating masses of eggs are more likely to be fertilized. We do not know how often lionfish reproduce – this is one of the biggest questions scientists want to find out! The reproductive periods of fish overall can be very different. Some species of fish, like Salmon, reproduce only once in their entire lifetime. Tropical organisms like the Parrotfish, on the other hand, reproduce every day! It will be very helpful for us to know how often female lionfish reproduce so that we may better understand their impact on the local ecosystem.