Denise Harrington, Getting Ready for an Adventure, April 23, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Denise Harrington
(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 04, 2016 – May 17, 2016

Greetings from Garibaldi, Oregon. My name is Denise Harrington and I teach Second Grade at South Prairie Elementary School in Tillamook, Oregon, along the north Oregon coast. There are 300 amazing second and third graders at our school who can prove to you that no matter how young you are, you can be a great scientist.  Last year they were caught on camera by Oregon Field Guide studying the diversity of life present in our ocean.

 

I applied to become a NOAA Teacher at Sea because I wanted to work with scientists in the field. I seem to learn best by doing.  In 2014, I joined the crew of NOAA ship Rainier, mapping the ocean floor near Kodiak Island, Alaska.  I learned how vast, connected, and undiscovered our oceans are. Students watched in disbelief after we discovered a sea floor canyon.  I learned about the technology and skills used to map the ocean floor. I learned how NOAA helps us stay safe by making accurate nautical charts.  It was, for our students and myself, a life changing experience.

As an avid sea kayaker, I was able to share my deeper understanding of the ocean with fellow paddlers. Photo courtesy of Bill Vonnegut

Now, I am fortunate enough to participate in another NOAA survey. On this survey aboard NOAA ship Pisces, scientists will be collecting data about how many fish inhabit the area along banks and ledges of the Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA believes in the value of sharing what they do with the public, and students in particular. The crew of Pisces even let fifth grader students from Southaven, Mississippi name the ship after they won a writing contest. Maybe you can name the next NOAA ship!

On May 3, 2016, Ship Pisces will begin Leg 3 of their survey of reef fish. I have so many questions.  I asked Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher why the many survey partners chose snapper and grouper to survey. He replied “Snapper and grouper are some of the most important commercial fisheries here in the Gulf of Mexico. There are 14 species of snapper in the Gulf of Mexico that are good to eat. Of those the most commercially important is the red snapper. It is also currently over-fished.”   When I hear “over-fished” I wonder if our second graders will have many or any red snapper to eat when they they grow up. Yikes!

Another important commercial catch is grouper.  My brother, Greg, who fishes along the Kenai River in Alaska understands why grouper is a focus of the survey. “It’s tasty,” he says. I can’t believe he finds grouper tastier than salmon.  NOAA is making sure that we know what fish we have and make sure we save some for later, so that everyone can decide which fish is the tastiest when they grow up.

I have so many questions keeping me up at night as I prepare for my adventure. What do I need to know about fish to do my job on the ship?  Will I see evidence of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, the Deepwater Horizon spill? How crowded will we all be aboard Ship Pisces? If I dissect fish, will it be gross? Will it stink?  Will I get sea sick? With my head spinning with questions, I know I am learning. Yet there is nothing more I can do now to prepare myself for all that I will learn, except to be early to the airport in Portland, Oregon, and to the ship in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on May 3rd.

I will get home in time to watch my daughter, Elizabeth, graduate from high school.  Ever since I returned from the NOAA cruise in Alaska, she has been studying marine biology and even competed in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

liz with a crab

 

During research in the Gulf of Mexico with the crew of Ship Pisces, I will learn about the many living things in the Gulf of Mexico and about the technology they use to protect and manage commercial fisheries.  Soon, you will be able to watch me collect data about our ocean critters. Hope for fair winds and following seas as I join the crew on Ship Pisces, “working to protect, restore, and manage the use of our living ocean resources.”

Chris Imhof, November 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 12, 2009

Science Log

After playing tourist in Jacksonville for a day I jumped at the chance to fly to Gulf Port Mississippi and join the Crew, Marine Mammal Scientists, and a fellow Teacher at Sea on the 3-day shakedown maiden voyage of the NOAA ship Pisces into the Gulf of Mexico up the Florida Strait back to Jacksonville. When I arrived Wednesday, most of the crew were gone enjoying the holiday before we would ship out. I stowed my gear in my stateroom and began to explore the ship. Fortunately, I ran into Christopher Flint, a Port Engineer who oversees the design, construction and refit of much of the NOAA fleet. Mr. Flint took me through the galley, weather deck, bridge, flying deck the winch and engine room, fish labs and even the ships’ sanitation area called the “Domestic Equipment Room” on a whirlwind tour that pretty much did me in for the night.

The Pisces is the 3rd of 4 new Fisheries Survey ships built for the NOAA Fleet – It is a beautiful state-of-the-art ship 208 feet long and 49.2 feet wide or breadth – it can travel a steady 14 knots. Each of the class of NOAA ships is built for different scientific purposes but all the ships of the fleet carry out a mission “to protect, restore and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem management.”

When I woke early this morning, the crew were moving about in a well-practiced sequence of procedures to get the Pisces underway. I met more members of the crew on my aimless search through up/down ladders to the Main Deck where I knew contained the galley and thus coffee. The fact many of the crew have come on this maiden cruise from other NOAA ships and work efficiently and seamless was amazing.

The Pisces can carry a crew of 6 commissioned NOAA officers, 4 engineers, 11 crew and 15 scientists. Of the crew I talk to, many have spent over 10 to 20 years with NOAA and have served on many ships; many have fondness for a certain ship or area, all carry a sense of pride for what they contribute to the overall mission. Although I have spent little more than a day on the ship, the more I watch and talk to people aboard the Pisces – the crew, the officers, and the scientists- everyone knows that they need to depend, respect and trust each other to do a good job.

Making my way to smell of breakfast and coffee in the galley I finally meet Jeanine Foucault, another Teacher at Sea. Jeannine was accepted to the Teacher at Sea Program a few years ago – after she and her Seventh-grade students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven Mississippi were selected to name the newest NOAA ship the Pisces. Over the past couple of years Jeanine and her students have seen the keel laying ceremony and the launch of the Pisces. Her team of students are now juniors in different high schools, but still follow the progress of the Pisces – one student even attended the commissioning ceremony a week ago. Many cruises and types of work are offered to Teachers at Sea – from working in the Bering Sea to Hawaii or the Caribbean – Jeanine is just as excited as I am to be here and share this experience with her students – out of all the different adventures she could of have gone on – she has waited a long time to be just on the Pisces!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 12, 2008

Science Log

Here is a sample of what has come up in the nets overnight.

Sea stars and baby invertebrates

Sea stars and baby invertebrates

Here are several different types of sea-stars. I am always amazed by the wide variety of these creatures that exist in the ocean.

a brachiopod

a brachiopod

This little fellow might not look like much, but it has an interesting history. This creature is called a brachiopod. It belongs to one of the oldest family of creatures on earth. There have been brachiopods in the sea for at least 550 million years. That is long before there were even plants on land, let alone animals and dinosaurs. It is a simple shelled animal that has a single stalk that helps is stay attached to the rocks around it. Click here to learn more about this amazing creature.

a brachiopod

a sea cucumber

Here is a sea cucumber. They live at the bottom of the sea and can be found all over the world. They are used to make medicine in some countries in Asia.

Sargassum up close

Sargassum up close

Remember that large raft of sargassum weed we saw yesterday? Some came up in the nets today. Here is what it looks like close up. She the little pockets that hold air? They help the sargassum stay afloat.

This is a sea spider.

This is a sea spider.

And of course, there is always garbage. We keep getting bits and pieces each time the nets come up. Here is a sampling. We found one entire Butterfinger candy bar with the chocolate still inside (no, we did not eat it), as well as some rope. How do you think it got here?

Let take a closer look at a sensor called a CTD. That stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. Remember the drifter buoy that we released a few days ago? It measures temperature on the top of the water and it can drift all over the ocean taking readings. A CTD takes its measurements as it descends through the water column and can go all the way to the bottom.

Trash pulled up with the rest of it

Trash pulled up with the rest of it

Have you ever seen barnicles move? They do. We found these huge barnicles in our net and we put them in water to encourage them to come out. Check out this video!

A lot of people have asked me about sea-sickness. Sea Sickness happens when your brain and body, which are constantly working to keep you balanced, get confused by the rocking of the ship. It is a terrible feeling, and I’m glad I have not been sea-sick at all on this trip. Some people do better than others on boats. I do not tend to get sea-sick unless the waves are very high, and I am used to the rocking of the ship now. The other night I was working on deck and I caught sight of the moon moving quickly across the sky. I wondered why it was moving so fast until I realized it was my ship that was moving in the sea and me with it. The moon only seemed to move. I guess that means I’m used to the rocking back and forth and hardly notice it now.

——————–

More marine debris

More marine debris

MLL, SPL and MCL, Snuggy and Zee are having a great time and none of us are sea-sick. I put more information about it in the upper part of the blog entry. Thanks for writing.

SQ, CS, KM and VM: It is nice fall weather. Not too hot, not too cold. I love it. I have not felt uncomfortable even when I am working out on the wet deck of the ship.

GG: It is not hard to sleep at all most nights. There was only one night where the waves were high and I bounced around too much to sleep well. The rest of the nights were fine. The ship rocks me to bed at night. I do miss WOS. See you soon.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 8, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2009

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 8, 2008

Science Log

Today we started working. My shift is 12 midnight to 12 noon, so I slept for a few hours in the afternoon and then worked overnight and into the morning. It is hard to get used to staying up all night. It feels a little like I took an unexpected trip to Europe. Our first haul took the longest to sort out because many of us were learning how things were supposed to work, but after a full day, it started to feel routine. Here is a sampling of some of the amazing creatures that came up in our nets:

Big fish!

It’s a shark!

This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!

This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!

This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.

This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.

Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.

Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.

This is a skate.

This is a skate.

These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.

These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.

This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!

This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!

The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I'm smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!

The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I’m smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!

And finally, we saw whales!

~~~

NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey

NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey

On a personal note, this is a very comfortable ship. Zee and Snuggy will continue to show us around each day. Several of us watched the presidential debate on live satellite TV in the lounge tonight. Here are Snuggy and Zee having a quick meal.

Cottage Lane students, we are traveling about 8 knots per hour right now. Can you calculate how for we can travel in a day? Remember, the ship works all day and all night. How far can it go at that speed? Post your answers on the blog, then watch the video. Would you like to do this kind of work? Let me know.

I have enjoyed reading your comments very much. We are going to have a little delay in my responding to comments today as I get used to working the midnight shift. You are all correct when you say that the Bigelow has a LOT more technology than the Eagle. Consider this: I went on deck at about 4 in the morning to do some work and found that I could not see the stars because the electric lights on the ship were so bright! I guess we have to have a GPS when you reach that point! Celestial navigation just will not work on a ship with lights so bright!

Mascots in the galley

Mascots in the galley

A lot of you were focusing on what sailors then and now need to survive: Food and water, for example. Did you know old sailing ships had to bring their entire supply of fresh water with them in barrels. Today, our ship can take the salt out of seawater to make it safe to drink. Technology has changed the way we live on ships!

To my fellow TAS from the Delaware: Thanks for writing. We are doing bottom trawls and are looking to survey the entire benthic community here. Thanks for the sea-sickness tips. I may need all the help I can get if the weather decides to change.

Lynn: thanks for reading the blog. Zee is fine, and so far so am I. With luck, the weather will hold! If not, Zee may do better than I do. We could see Cape Cod earlier today. Beautiful!

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!).