Denise Harrington: Tenacity – May 7, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Denise Harrington
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces (In Port)
May 04, 2016 – May 17, 2016

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey

Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tenacity helps NOAA manage our seafood supply.

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Tenacity, otherwise known as perseverance or stamina, is a required skill at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces, we are all anxious to head out to collect data about the type and abundance of reef fish along the continental shelf and shelf edge of the Gulf of Mexico.  However, things don’t always go as planned. Much like the animals we study, scientists must rapidly adapt to their changing circumstances. Instead of waiting for a problem to be solved, fisheries biologists of all ages and experience work in the lab, using the newest, most sophisticated technology in the world to meet our demand for seafood.

As I ate dinner tonight in the mess (the area where the crew eats), I stared at the Pisces’ motto on the tablecloth, “patience and tenacity.”

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The Pisces is a “quiet” ship; it uses generators to supply power to an electric motor that turns the ship’s propeller. The ship’s motor (or a mysteriously related part) is not working properly, and without a motor, we will not sail. This change of plans provides other opportunities for me, and you, to learn about many fascinating projects developing in the lab. Sound science begins right here at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center Laboratory in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

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Kevin Rademacher, a fishery biologist in the Reef Fish Unit, meets me at the lab where he works when he isn’t at sea. As he introduces me to other biologists working in the protected species, plankton, and long line units, I begin to appreciate the great biodiversity of species in the Gulf of Mexico. I get a glimpse of the methods biologists use to conduct research in the field, and in the lab.

While it looks like a regular old office building on the outside, the center of the building is filled with labs where fish are taken to be discovered.  Mark Grace, a fisheries biologist in the lab, made one such discovery of a rare species of pocket shark on a survey in the gulf. The only other specimen of a pocket shark was found coast of Peru in 1979. Mark’s discovery raises more questions in my mind than answers.

When I met Mark, he explained that capability of technology to gather data has outpaced our ability to process it. “Twenty years ago, we used a pencil and a clipboard. Think about the 1980s when they started computerizing data points compared to the present time… maybe in the future when scientists look back on the use of computers in science, it will be considered to be as important as Galileo looking at the stars” he said. It’s important because as Mark also explains,  “This correspondence is a good example.  We can send text, website links, images, etc…and now its a matter of digital records that will carry in to the future.”

How do fishery biologists find fish?

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Charlie McVea, a retired NOAA marine biologist, and his trusty assistant Scout, pictured above, learned they may need more sophisticated equipment to locate fish.

Earth has one big connected ocean that covers the many features beneath it. Looking below the surface to the ocean floor, we find a fascinating combination of continental shelves, canyons, reefs, and even tiny bumps that make unique homes for all of the living creatures that live there.  Brandi Noble, one of 30-40 fishery biologists in the lab, uses very complicated sonar (sound) equipment to find “fish hot spots,” the kinds of places fish like to go for food, shelter and safety from predators. Fisheries sonar sends pulses of sound, or pings, into the water.  Fishery biologists are looking for a varied echo sound that indicates they’ve found rocky bottoms, ledges, and reefs that snapper and grouper inhabit.

The sonar can also survey fish in a non-invasive way. Most fish have a swim bladder, or a gas filled chamber, which reflects sonar’s sound waves.  A bigger fish will create a returning echo of greater strength. This way, fisheries biologists can identify and count fish without hurting them.

sonar fish

The circular image shows a three-dimensional map NOAA scientists created from the sonar data they collected about the seafloor and a school of fish.

Ship Pisces uses a scientific methods to survey, determining relative abundance and types of fish in each area. They establish blocks of habitat along the continental shelf to survey and then randomly sample sites that they will survey with video cameras, CTD (measures temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen in the water), and fishing. Back in the lab, they spend hours, weeks, and years, analyzing the data they collect at sea. During the 2012 SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey, the most common reef fish caught were 179 red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), 22 vermillion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens), and 10 red porgy (Pagrus pagrus).  Comparing the 2012 data with survey results from 2016 and other years will help policy makers develop fishing regulations to protect the stock of these and other tasty fish.

How do fishery biologists manage all the information they collect during a survey?

Scientists migrate between offices and labs, supporting each other as they identify fish and marine mammals from previous research expeditions.

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Kevin Rademacher, at work in the lab.

Our mission, the SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey has been broken into four parts or legs.  The goal is to survey some of the most popular commercially harvested fish in the Gulf of Mexico.  Kevin Rademacher is the Field Party Chief for Leg 1 and Leg 3 of the survey.

Last week, he showed me collections of frozen fish, beetle infested fish, and fish on video. At one point the telephone rang, it was Andrew Paul Felts, another biologist down the hall. “Is it staying in one spot?” Kevin asks. “I bet it’s Chromis. They hang over a spot all the time.”

We head a couple doors down and enter a dark room.  Behind the blue glow of the screen sits Paul, working in the dark, like the deep water inhabitants of the video he watches. Paul observes the physical characteristics of a fish: size, shape, fins, color.  He also watches its behavior. Does it swim in a school or alone?  Does it stay in one spot or move around a lot?  He looks at its habitat, such as a rocky or sandy bottom, and its range, or place on the map.

As you watch the video below, observe how each fish looks, its habitat, and its behavior.

To learn about fisheries, biologists use the same strategies students at South Prairie Elementary use.   Paul is using his “eagle eyes,” or practiced skills of observation, as he identifies and counts fish on the screen.   All the scientists read, re-read and then “read the book a third time” like a “trying lion” to make sense out of their observations.  Finally, Paul calls Kevin, the “wise owl,” to make sure he isn’t making a mistake when he identifies a questionable fish. paul screen

Using Latin terminology such as “Chromis” or “Homo” allows scientists to use the same names for organisms. This makes it easier for scientists worldwide, who speak different languages, to communicate clearly with each other as they classify the living things they study.

I appreciate how each member of the NOAA staff, on land and at sea, look at each situation as a springboard to more challenging inquiry.  They share with each other and with us what they have learned about the diversity of life in the ocean, and how humans are linked to the ocean.  With the knowledge we gain from their hard work and tenacity, we can make better choices to protect our food supply and support the diversity of life on Earth.

 

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Spined Pygmy Shark Jaw (Squaliolus laticaudus)

Personal Log

Crew members tell me that every day at sea is a Monday.  In port, they are able to spend time with family and their communities.  I have been able to learn a bit about Pascagoula, kayak with locals, and see many new birds like the least tern, swallow tailed kite, eastern bluebird and clapper rail.  Can you guess what I ate for dinner last night?P1050747

 

 

 

 

Becky Moylan: Careers on the Ship, July 11, 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 11, 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
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike

Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike

Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA): Mike Seki

Duty: I oversee all operations at the Pacific Islands Science Center. That includes all operation: four research divisions, administration and information technology, science operations. Under science operations the Science Center has about 30 small boats (12 to 30 feet) and the Oscar Elton Sette ship (224 feet) to support the mission…

What do you like about the job?  It allows me to see how it all comes together; all facets of the science and how we accomplish our mission.

Experience/ Education: I have BS in biology and have worked with NOAA for 31 years. While working, I went back to school to get my masters and PHD.  In today’s world, to be credible, you really need to have an education. Most of our research scientists have a PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Trying to do what we can with limited resources. We have to prioritize and that involves making tough decisions.

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Duty: I have responsibility for the whole ship; safety, operations, moral, everything.

What do you like about the job?  I like it best when everyone works together and all the pieces fall into place. We get a chance to see things most people don’t. It‘s a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Experience/ Education: I obtained a BS in geosystems in environmental management, worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm, and have forked for NOAA for 12 years.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

There are things you don’t have any control over.

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Duty: Second in command after Commanding Officer. I do the administrative work for the ship.

What do you like about the job? I like the NOAA mission, and the job pays well.

Experience/ Education: I am a licensed Captain. I am from Alaska and used to be a commercial long line fisherman in Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast catching shrimp, halibut, and salmon. Then I worked with charter fishing boats.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

The administrative duties.

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

Duty: Medical officer- Emergency medical care on the ship.

I actually work for the United States Public Health Service.

What do you like about the job?  Meeting new people

Experience/ Education: Eight years of schooling in Chicago, IL. I use to work for the Bureau of Prisons in Honolulu.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The ship is kind of like a “mini-jail”. We are out to sea for long periods and you can’t go anywhere. The confinement can be hard.

What is the most common reason for seeing the doctor at sea?  Sea sickness and headaches.

 

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT  Colin Little, NOAA

Duty: A liaison between scientists and command officer (CO)

What do you like about the job? I was trained as a scientist, so I like to use that background to better understand where the scientists are coming from and what they want to do, then use the information to relay it to the Captain (CO).

Experience/ Education: I have a BA in biology and a Masters in evolutionary biology.  I have worked my way up to this position by doing various jobs. I work onshore and on the ship at sea. We get transferred every few years, so I will be going to Oregon next.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?Being away from home.

Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA

Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA

Scientists:

Chief Scientist: Evan

Chief Scientist: Evan

Chief Scientist: Evan Howell

Duty: Directs the operations of the scientists, coordinates activities working with the OPS to make sure the bridge understands what the scientists are trying to accomplish, and writes report on progress.

What do you like about the job?  Although it is tough while we’re going through the process of gathering data, to me it is very satisfying in the end to have something that people can use to further studies of the ecosystem.

Experience /Education:  I have a PHD; however, I didn’t have it when I began the job with NOAA. What’s important for this position is to be able to organize all the different studies, communicate with the scientists and know when to push or back off. You need to be able to see the “big picture” of the project and keep it going forward.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? It is kind of like a juggling act keeping everything going smoothly. There are so many activities happening at the same time, it is sometimes very challenging.

 

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Duty: Research projects dealing with oceanography. (For example; protected species, turtles and larval transports). On this cruise, I am helping lead the midwater trawling operations.

What do you like about the job?  The variety. You don’t get bored with one thing. I tend to get bored working on just one thing at a time.

Experience/ Education:  I got my masters in biological oceanography, went to work at NOAA, and then went back to school for my PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part your job?  Short deadlines and not enough time.

PhD Students

PHD Students: Both up nights supervising the trawls, organizing, recording data, and writing reports.

Johanna: She is working on her PHD through UH in oceanography. Johanna has been working closely with Donald researching larval transport.

John: He is also working on his PHD in preparative biology through the Museum of Natural History in New York. His specialty is studying mictophids.

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

 

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

Duty: My primary duty is to serve as the PIFSC Vessel Coordinator, and to oversee the science portion of the NOAA Marine Natural Monuments Program. My group also handles permits, and makes sure our internal programs are properly in compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act- 1969. On the ship I am working acoustics.

What do you like about the job?  Overseeing a great team of people that help PIFSC scientists go out into the field to conduct important research.

Experience/Education:  I got my BS degree, became a survey technician, and then went back to school for my masters in environmental management.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Coordinating with people outside of our structure can be challenging. We work with the US Fish and Wildlife, the State of Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, the Marianas, and other sections of NOAA.

Stewards

Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

Stewards

Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

What do you like about the job?

Chief Steward: Clementine: My passion is cooking. So I enjoy my job. I can put any kind of food I want out here. The sky’s the limit!

2nd Cook: Jay: I love being on the ocean and living in Hawaii. And I enjoy working with Clementine who is a native of Samoa. She teaches me about Polynesian and Asian cuisine.

Experience/Education:

Clementine:  I used to run my own business in America Samoa. It was a catering business called Mai Sei Aute which means “my hibiscus flower” in Samoan. I catered to a private school named Pacific Horizon, with 130 students and did all the work myself; cooking, delivering, and cleaning. The way I got this job is a long story.  I started out on the ship called Ka’imimoana. My husband heard one of the cooks left, so I flew over to Hawaii and was working two weeks later. Then I moved over to the OES seven years later.

Jay: I’m from Rhode Island and graduated from Johnson and Wales University where I earned a BS in culinary arts.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Long hours! We work 12-14 hours a day while at sea with no days off.  If we are at sea 30 days, we work 30 days. Another thing is you don’t always have your own room. Sometimes you share with another person.

Deck and Engineering Departments

Harry

Harry

Chief Engineer: Harry

Duty: I am responsible for the engineering department on board the ship. That includes the engine room, hydraulic, electric, all the equipment, and the propulsion plant that keeps the ship underway.

What do you like about the job?

It is a “hands on” type of job, and I enjoy repairing equipment.

Experience/ Education:

I spent 22 years in the Navy and obtained my Chief Engineer License through the Coast Guard.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Finding good qualified people is difficult. You can delegate the work, but not the responsibility. So if the employee I hire doesn’t do the job, I am responsible for getting it done.

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Skilled Fisherman: Bruce

Skilled Fisherman: Bruce

Lead Fisherman: Doug

Lead Fisherman: Doug

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Duty: Supervise the deck department

What do you like about the job? When everything runs smoothly

Education/Experience: I’ve worked for NOAA 24 years. Before that I was a commercial fisherman on an AKU Sampan.

Explain the hardest part of your job:  Rough seas make the work more difficult and dangerous.

What do you like about the job?

Bruce: Everything! I like working with the machines, the science, helping the environment, and the people. I like NOAA’s mission. And my boss; he’s the best boss I ever had. He has patience with us.

Ray: I love everything about my job. I like the fact that I am at sea and learn things every day and meet new people all the time. The science part of it opens up a whole new world to me. It is something that I wish everyone could experience.

Phil: I agree with NOAA’s mission of ocean management and conservation. This ship, in particular, is a nice place to work because of the people.

 Mills: Fishing

Fisherman: Ray

Fisherman: Ray

General Vessel Assistant: Phil

General Vessel Assistant: Phil

Experience/ Education:

Bruce: I have worked for NOAA for 10 years. Before that, I was a long line fisherman; mostly AHI. I also worked construction with heavy equipment.

Ray: I was in the Navy when I was young. Then I attended Prince George Community College in Maryland and Rets Electronic School in New Jersey. I had my own electronics business.  NOAA sends us to different places for training; for example Mitags (Maritime Institute of technology and graduate studies).

James

James

Skilled Fisherman: Mills

Skilled Fisherman: Mills

Phil: I have worked real estate appraisal for 20 plus years.  I used to have my own real estate appraisal business in Honolulu, worked for a bank doing appraisals, and also for the city and state. Right before this job, I worked on an import ship. Then I was trained by NOAA at the Hawaii Maritime Institute. They trained me on firefighting, lifesaving, and construction of ships, lookouts, and also personal responsibility.

Mills: I went to high school and college in South Carolina to get a degree in marine technology. Then I worked in Alaska for salmon hatcheries. I moved back to South Carolina and worked for the SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources). Five years ago, NOAA called me and asked if I could go to Dutch Harbor in two weeks, and I’ve been with them ever since. I started out working in the hydrographic side of things.

Mills

2nd Engineer Neil

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Bruce: Nothing really. I like my job.

Ray: Dealing with negativity issues and people conflicts.

Phil: I would say it has to be adjusting to the schedules. We don’t have a regular 8 hour on, 8 hour off schedule. It varies.

Mills: The hardest part is being away from the world; people, the social life. But then that is the best part of it also.

Coxswain: small boat operator

Coxswain: small boat operator

Coxswain: small boat operator: Jamie

Duty: I’m in charge of the Boating Safety Program and Instructor of Boating Courses for the scientific staff and I help the Pacific Science Center with research boats. There are 24 small boats.

What do you like about the job?: Being on the water and driving the boats

Experience/ Education: I received a degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Then I began doing field projects and became known to NOAA.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Doing the certificates for boating courses along with paperwork and record keeping is my least favorite part of the job.

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

Duty: I’m in charge of all the electronics, information technology, navigational system, communication system, sensors, and computer network.

What do you like about the job? I enjoy it when I get a chance to help others, like the time I was called ashore to help some people on a small island. I also like that I have a partner to share the job with. We switch every two months (onshore/offshore).  I am glad to be able to travel, the pay is good, and I like accomplishing things that make the ship look good.

Experience/ Education: I did not go to college, and barely finished high school. Then I joined the Air Force.  There is only one tech person, and that is me.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Climbing the mast where the antennas are and writing weekly reports are things I could glad give to someone else.

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos

Research Oceanographer: Reka Domokos

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos

Duty: Works as an active acoustician for NOAA at the Pacific Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.

What do you like about the job?

I like that in my job there is always something new, so I am always learning.  I like to look at the big picture to see how the different components of an ecosystem fit together and influence each other.  I like formulating hypotheses, and then test them to see if they hold.  I am also detail oriented so I enjoy writing computer scripts for my data analyses.  In addition, I like contributing to the “collective knowledge” by writing articles that summarized and describe my research and results.

Experience /Education:

I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography. I attended Berkley for a BS in zoology, then UH Manoa for a masters in zoology and a masters in physical oceanography.  I also earned my Ph.D. at UH Manoa where I taught graduate courses in Zoology and Oceanography before working with NOAA.  I believe that sometimes more experience can be substituted for education when applying for a job.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Sitting in an office everyday can sometimes be hard, but spending a month, or sometimes more, a year at sea and going to conferences help to break the monotony.  I also have to take care of administrative duties as part of my job which is necessary but not enjoyable for me.


Aimee

Aimee

Aimee: This is a special case. Aimee was a previous Hollings Scholar who now works at the University of Michigan and is on the ship working co-op with NOAA in the acoustics department. She lives in Michigan and got her degree in Marine Science Biology, but would like to stay in Hawaii. Before boarding the ship she was researching wind farms and fish. She collects data so that they can see if the underwater wind turbines will affect the fish .

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Duty: Responsible for data collection from shipboard oceanographic sensors; CTD deployment and retrieval, water filtering for chlorophyll-a samples

What do you like about the job? I like the simple life on the ship. There are no roads with traffic and you don’t have to carry around your wallet or keys.

Experience/Education: I have my bachelor’s degree, and plan on going back to school this fall. I have worked for NOAA for two and a half years.

 

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Observation-So far we have taken over 2700 photos and several tissue samples for researching dolphins and whales.

Allan: What do you like about the job?  I like being on the water and getting paid for it at the same time.

Allan and Jessica

Allan and Jessica

Experience/ Education: I earned my engineering degree, but didn’t use it.  I began volunteering for whale watching and doing volunteer work for the University of Hawaii coral reef research. I have lived in Hawaii for 14 years, but recently started spending half of my year in Montana, so that I can experience the four seasons.                                                                                                     

Dolphin

Dolphin

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The toughest thing is not finding any dolphin or whale species. It makes a long day. If the water is rough, it is harder to see them. The best condition to spot them in is when it is smooth and calm.

Jessica: What do you like about the job?  I love small boats, being on the water, and finding less frequently seen species.

Experience/ Education: I attended Hawaii Pacific University and have a master’s in marine science. Right now I’m working a one year position for NOAA called the NIMB Fellowship.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  The same thing Allan said, coming home without seeing anything is disappointing.

Students:

 Laura

Laura

Laura: She is attending Stanford University as a senior, majoring in Earth Systems with an emphasis on Oceanography. It includes a wide range of classes, and she has had very interesting traveling experiences while learning. Right now on the OES, she is doing an internship working with the CTD process. This is a paid job with NOAA. Laura’s past experiences include sailing around Cape Cod, a trip to Australia for a Study Abroad Program, and a five-week trip to the Line Islands South of Hawaii. Her plan is to go to school a fifth year to earn a master’s degree while also working in the field.

Nikki

Nikki

Nikki: After this cruise, Nikki will have 82 days at sea under her belt. She started going out during high school in New Jersey. Her charter school had a vessel. Right now she is in the Hollings Scholar Program through NOAA. She applied and received a two year scholarship for her junior and senior year of college. She is attending the University of Miami. And when she finishes that, she has a conditional acceptance to attend RASMAS (University of Miami Science Grad School) where she wants to get her masters in Aquaculture.

Jonathan

Jonathan

Jonathan: Miami is Jonathan’s home and he is also in the Hollings Scholar Program. He is a senior majoring in Marine Science Chemistry. He would like to attend grad school, but needs to make up his mind what area to study because it becomes very specialized. His two choices are ocean acidification or biofuels. After the cruise he will be going to Washington DC to present what he has learned.

Meagan

Meagan

Meagan: She lives in Honolulu and attends University of Hawaii.  In December she will obtain her degree in Marine Biology. She has been employed with NOAA since Nov. 2010 working at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center with data collected around the N.Pacific Transition Zone. On this cruise she is helping with the acoustics.  Meagan also works at the Waikiki Aquarium educating others about marine life. She hopes to continue with NOAA and educating the public about conserving and protecting the ocean.

 

UH Marine Research Technician: Jennie Mowatt—

-Preparation and deployment of the Ocean Glider SG513