Susan Just, June 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 144 ◦
Wind speed: 2.5
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 28.0
Sea level pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 3/8 Altostratus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had stormy weather around us during the night.  This caused the moon, if any, and the stars to be obscured and increased the intensity of darkness both above and below the surface. This may have been a factor which contributed to the amazing catch we made shortly after sunrise.

When the net was pulled in, it was obvious that it was very full.  As it was lifted out of the water, it became clear that it contained many small fish, mostly Croker, approximately 4-5 inches in length. The unloaded catch was too much to be held in the fish box on deck.  When they came along the conveyor belt, there were no snapper to be seen and very few shrimp.  It appeared as if we had captured an entire school of fish.  The final catch weight was 985 Kilos. Out of this, there were approximately four gallons of shrimp, all varieties included.

Interview

Alonzo Hamilton:  Watch Leader for the Midnight to Noon scientific watch on the OREGON II summer fisheries survey of the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the title of your position?
Research Fishery Biologist

Were you a good student in school?
Average

In what school year did you make up your mind to become serious?
Community College

Did you go to College?
Yes.

What kind?
Two years at Community College then a BS in Biology at Jackson State University, Jackson Mississippi

Do you have any scientific degrees?
Masters Degree in Marine Environmental Science

Why do you enjoy about this work?
I like everything about it. I like the freedom of being out in the field and then I like the finished product that comes from what we do, in terms of data analysis.

What percentage of your work year is spent at sea?
125 days per year

When you are ashore, what kind of work do you do?
I’m analyzing data, editing data and being the Safety Officer at the laboratory. It’s a desk job

Is your family comfortable with this lifestyle?
They’re more comfortable with it than I thought they would be. Do they like when I’m away, no. But they also don’t like the disruption that I cause when I’m at home. So it’s a trade-off. I think they’ve adjusted to the lifestyle itself. They know that when I’m home I’m there and they know that when I’m away, I’m at work and they accept that.

If you could be anything you want, what would you be?
A fishery biologist.

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in this career path?
Do it because you enjoy it. Don’t do it for any other reason. Regardless of what you are doing, do it because you enjoy it.

Personal Log 

Today I worked at the beginning of the line instead of the end.  All this time I have been primarily looking for shrimp and the select species which, on this cruise, is mainly red snapper. However, when I dug into the sample rather than the full catch, I had a great time.  There were lots of terrific looking crabs that I’ve never seen.  There were some interesting fish. I was surprised that I am actually able to decipher the differences between the species.

Question of the Day 

Why are the conductivity, temperature and depth measurements important?

Answer: These pieces of data are used to compute salinity.

Susan Just, June 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 25, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 205 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1015.0
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

At this point in the survey, the stations are not far apart but they are up, down, in and out.   We are actually steaming back to one of the day stations in order to do the same area as a night station.  All of this activity is taking place in the general vicinity of Corpus Christi.  This area receives a great deal of fishing pressure year around, both commercially and recreationally.

Our last night catch pulled in a beautiful collection of shrimp.  The total for the catch was about 25 Kilos and we ended up with more than 18 Kilos of shrimp.  When you account for the trash that was included, that left a very small volume of fish other than the shrimp.  When the net came up and spilled out into the baskets it was a lovely golden color.

Question of the Day 

What do the letters CTD stand for?

Answer: Conductivity, temperature and depth.

Susan Just, June 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 153 ◦
Wind speed: 09
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2
Seawater temperature: 27.6
Sea level pressure: 1014.8
Cloud cover: 4/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This morning when we came on watch we were informed of a new procedure.  We will now be keeping one specimen or each type caught along with one species of skate. These will be placed together in a plastic bag and returned to the lab for further study. There is a relationship study being conducted between the species.

A Hemingway fish was waiting for us this morning too.  It is red all over and has big poofy cheeks. It is interesting to look at and this one was about thirteen (13) inches long.  The catches today were much smaller than the previous night.  By morning we were not catching many shrimp at all.

Personal Log 

I had a much better time today.  It was possible to get all the work done without rushing and we were also able to keep the baskets and the lab relatively clean. When the mud gets thick, the place takes on a bad smell that becomes oppressive.  It is important to maintain a constant vigilance on the fish odor to keep the bacterial buildup under control.

Question of the Day 

During what part of any twenty-four hour period can you expect to catch the most shrimp?

Answer: The dark time.  The shrimp hide in the mud during the day and come out to feed in the dark when the predators are not able to see them as easily.

Susan Just, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 23, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 300 ◦
Wind speed: 11
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.3
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This was a day when we were never able to catch up with the fish.  There were constantly fish on the deck waiting to be sorted. The trawls were frequent and close together.  Throughout the night and into the morning, the catch was mostly shrimp.  We had a wide assortment of shrimp.  All the commercial varieties—brown, white and pink—were well represented, as well as the several types of non-desirable species.

Personal Log 

Today was the day I “hit the wall.” I worked myself as hard as I could throughout the shift.  The only time that I relaxed at all was when I was watching the dolphin that had followed the net and that was attracting the attention of Brittany.  Otherwise, I was working as fast as my brain and body would allow.

Question of the Day 

What kind of shrimp do they use to make “popcorn shrimp?”

Answer: Trachypeneus similes! I know that’s a “trachy” question. Trachypeneus shrimp are not considered “commercially viable” at this time. Previously, brown shrimp were not considered to be marketable. As the demand for a product increases, so does its marketability.

Susan Just, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 21, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 105 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.7
Sea level pressure: 1012.8
Cloud cover: 2/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Things started out fairly normal this morning.  There were fish waiting on the deck when our watch began. We then steamed to a new location. This station went as planned. On the next station the trawl went out and things were going well. We were processing fish when we smelled something strange. We concluded that there was something burning and we went out onto the deck.

Yes, something was burning. It was a clutch. This was an engine part, not an actual fire. There was no need for a fire alarm to sound. The problem was recognized. Although we are now short one Power Transfer Output (this is what takes engine power and uses it for winches and other power tools) we can continue our mission.

Personal Log 

The engine problem was really no big deal. It was much like burning up a clutch in a car. The smell is pretty awful and there is a little smoke but no fire. The smoke comes from the rubbing together of the surfaces under pressure. It was great to see the various ship’s personnel work together so smoothly and quickly to discover and correct any problems.

After going off watch and showering, I made a mistake. I did not remember that we have weekly drills. So, there I was, fresh out of the shower standing in the middle of the room when the alarm sounded and my roommate came running in to gather survival gear and personal flotation devices. I jumped into the nearest clothing, my pajamas, and joined in the drills.

Question of the Day 

As part of the Commerce Department, what is the goal of NOAA science research?

Answer: To collect information which can be used to answer the scientific and policy questions which impact our shared environment.

Susan Just, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 20, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 023 ◦
Wind speed: 11.6
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1012.5
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Most of this watch will be spent steaming to the first southern station. Our ETA (estimated time of arrival) is 8:00 am.  We are planning to do a full station meaning CTD, Neuston, and a Trawl. It is midnight now and I am hoping to get an interview with our Chief Scientist prior to beginning the station.

The first Bongo is scheduled for noon. Dan Carlson, a graduate student at Florida State University, is aboard researching his master’s thesis. He is utilizing the water samples from the Bongo to learn more about the development and origination of red tides which bloom in the Gulf of Mexico.

I have just been put “in charge” of the Neuston for this station. That means I am responsible for seeing that the net is dragged for ten minutes, that the organisms which are gathered are washed down into the cod end and that the sample is then gathered are delivered to the plankton transfer table.

Personal Log 

The Chief Scientist has been actively engaged with data collection and correction activities. I understand that a server has failed and that all time/date information must be hand entered into all data sheets. This is time consuming but very necessary for the sake of accuracy.

Question of the Day 

What is red tide?

Answer: It is an organism, named Karenia Brevis, which produces a neurotoxin which, in turn, is toxic to virtually all sea life.

Susan Just, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 356◦
Wind speed: 11.1
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height:1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.7
Cloud cover: 5/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This watch began, again, with fish waiting on the deck. We processed that catch just as we had all the others. While we were processing, another catch of fish were being collected. A CTD was also performed. When the fish catch has been processed, it is necessary to return the processed organisms to the sea. There is a shoot in the wetlab designed for this purpose. The shoot has not been working properly so far on this cruise. During our watch it backed up completely. Water was rising up through the drain in the floor. Clearing the blockage took several hours.

The catch was sitting on the deck and we had no reason to believe that we would get the shoot clear any time soon. The Watch Leader elected to process the catch “dry” so we separated and identified the species without the benefit of water to clean the organisms. Following this catch, the shoot was cleared and the lab was cleaned. We are now making our way south to assess the Texas Gulf Coast shrimp prior to the beginning of their season..

Personal Log 

What a mess! Each organism had to be dipped into water just so that we could be sure it was identified properly. We found hundreds of little shrimp that are not even harvested for food purposes.

Question of the Day 

Where do the shrimp live?  Answer: In the mud on the bottom of the sea.