Beverly Owens: Science on Board NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow, June 18, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beverly Owens
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 24, 2013

Mission:  Deep-Sea Corals and Benthic Habitat: Ground-Truthing and Exploration in Deepwater Canyons off the Northeastern Coast of the U.S.
Geographical Area: Western North Atlantic
Date: June 18, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 13.50 oC (56.3 oF)
Wind Speed: 20.05 knots (23.07mph)

Science and Technology Log

Teacher at Sea Beverly Owens, and Dewey the Dragon at the Helm

Teacher at Sea Beverly Owens, and Dewey the Dragon at the Helm

On a research vessel such as NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, does the ship support the science? Or are the ship’s activities separate from those of the Science Crew?  I didn’t realize how much the Ship’s Crew and the Science Crew worked hand-in-hand until I toured the Bridge.

First off, the ship is what’s known as an FSV. What does FSV stand for? FSV stands for Fisheries Survey Vessel. The primary responsibility of the Henry B. Bigelow is to study and monitor the marine fisheries stocks throughout New England (the Northeastern section of the United States). There are many scientific instruments aboard the Henry B. Bigelow that allow crew members and visiting science teams to do this and other work.

The ship has multiple labs that can be used for many purposes. The acoustics lab has many computers and can be used for modeling data collected from multibeam sonar equipment.  The chemistry lab is equipped with plentiful workspace, an eyewash, emergency shower, and fume hood. Our TowCam operations are being run from the dry lab. This space has nine computers displaying multiple data sets. We have occupied the counter space with an additional eight personal laptops; all used for different purposes such as examining TowCam images or inputting habitat data. The wet lab is where the collection sorting, and filtering take place. It is used during fisheries expeditions to process and examine groundfish.  During our research expedition, the wet lab is used mostly for staging TowCam operations. We also process sediment and water samples that were collected from the seafloor.  Sediment is collected using a vacuum-like apparatus called a slurp pump; water is collected in a Niskin bottle.  The sediment is sieved and any animals are saved for later examination.  Water samples are also filtered there, to remove particulate matter that will be used to determine the amount of food in the water column.

Walking around the ship, I noticed a psychrometer set, which is used to monitor relative humidity, or moisture content in the air. There is also a fluorometer, which measures light emitted from chlorophyll in photosynthetic organisms like algae or phytoplankton. The CTD system measures physical properties of the ocean water including conductivity/salinity, temperature, and depth. Additionally, the ship has a thermosalinograph (therm = heat, salin = salt, graph = write). Saltwater is taken into the ship and directed toward this instrument, which records the sea surface salinity and sea surface temperature.

The crew of the Henry B. Bigelow not only supports the research efforts of the science team but is also actively involved in conducting scientific research. Their instrumentation, knowledge, and team work enable them to protect and monitor the western North Atlantic waters and its living marine resources.

 Personal Log

Dragon on the Bridge

Dewey the Dragon is plotting the course.

Dewey the Dragon, all the way from Crest Middle School, enjoyed getting a tour of the Bridge. Dewey the Dragon learned how to steer the ship, read charts, and monitor activity using devices such as the alidade. Thanks to Ensigns Katie Doster and Aras Zygas for showing us around.

Did You Know?

Teacher at Sea, Beverly Owens, using the Alidade on the FSV Henry B. Bigelow

Teacher at Sea, Beverly Owens, using the Alidade on the FSV Henry B. Bigelow

The alidade is a device that allows people on the ship to sight far away objects, such as land. The person on the ship spots three separate points on land uses these sighting to determine the location of the ship. Alidades can also be used as a tool when making and verifying maritime charts.

Mary Patterson, July 2, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Patterson
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: July 2, 2009

When the American flag is flown on a U.S. ship it is called an “Ensign.”

When the American flag is flown on a U.S. ship it is called an “Ensign.”

Science and Technology Log 

The life of a mariner can be summed up in two words: adventurer and problem-solver. For a hydrographer, the commute to work can be filled with more danger than driving down a busy interstate highway. Perils such as whales, rocks and other boat traffic can be ultimately more dangerous than avoiding road construction debris. However, for an adventurer, it is a chance to see the world and interact with nature. These scientists go out everyday in order to make our waterways safer. They go out seven days a week, often for three weeks at a time, rain or shine. They have to know about the interactions of weather and the ocean, how to fix computer and technological equipment, survival skills, basic first aid and radio communication. They live in small, shared spaces and function as a team.

NOAA Ship Rainier’s call numbers

NOAA Ship Rainier’s call numbers

Many of the mariners I’ve met aboard the Rainier, can’t see themselves at any other kind of job! The stories they tell about how they came to be on board the Rainier suggest their adventuresome spirit. These are people used to doing things, being active and committed to making a difference in the world. For example, a seaman by the name of Hauerland is working on completing a documentary he created on the plight of homeless American Vets. Another seaman studies Japanese in order to be able to communicate with international seaman. It has indeed been a privilege to be allowed a glimpse of their world and to work beside them these last three weeks.

As we pull into port at Seward, the adventure continues for some. On their free time, some are going sky-diving, some plan 12 mile hikes to a glacier and some join in a race up and down Mt. Marathon in Seward. Living life to the fullest is what it’s all about.

Teacher at Sea Mary Patterson

Teacher at Sea Mary Patterson

Personal Log 

From the first day that I received word that I was accepted as a 2009 Teacher at Sea, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with real scientists in the field so I could share my experiences with my students. Then reality hit and I wondered if I would be seasick, if I would be able to understand what the scientists were doing, if I would find my way around the ship ok and if I would always be cold. Well, I never got sick, (thanks to the patch) the scientists explained everything they did…sometimes two or three times until I got it.  I found my way around the ship easily, and wearing layers and my giant orange float coat kept me toasty.

Never would I have imagined how quickly you could become attached and made to feel like part of a team. From the CO (Commanding Officer) who would sit and play guitar hero with the crew, to the NOAA Corp officers who answered millions of nautical questions, to the engineers who patiently explained how they kept our ship running, to the stewards who cooked favorites that kept you from being homesick, to the deckhands who made sure my short little legs got me across the great expanse of water when I leaped into the launch boats, and then taught me to drive a boat and even made me the best hot chocolate ever, and to the scientists who had to explain every step of what they were doing and then gave me chances to help (despite the fact that I could seriously mess up their data with just one mistake)… to them I say a heartfelt thank you for an opportunity of a lifetime. The only thing better than working on the Rainier is being a Teacher at Sea on the Rainier and having the chance to share this experience with my students, colleagues and friends back home.

Thought of the Day 

Science doesn’t just exist between four walls in laboratory. All scientists don’t wear white lab coats and have black-framed glasses. Science is an ever-changing, dynamic way to interpret our world. Science is EXCITING!

A final sunset through my porthole

A final sunset through my porthole