Elise Olivieri, May 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.33 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1022 mb
Humidity: 96%

Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.
Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had some extremely large tows of sand dollars. Thirty-two baskets filled to the brim with sand dollars in one particular tow. It’s hard work when you have to sift through hundreds of thousands of sand dollars looking for little Cancer Crabs. Too bad they were not real dollars. Today I got the opportunity to sit with my Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl. Although he is very busy he sits and talks with Lollie Garay and me daily about how we will implement all the information we are gathering into the classroom.  Today was different; I got a chance to ask Vic about his demanding daily tasks, and his career. Vic is a Fishery Biologist.  He has been working for NOAA’s NEFSC (Northeast Fisheries Science Center) for 17 years. His main job is to standardize the shellfish surveys and maintain the gear.  When he is not working on equipment like the dredge for example, he is performing a quality check on all the data that is collected.

In 2007, the NOAA Ship Albatross IV was retired, which was the vessel the sea scallop survey was always conducted on. This vessel had the old dredge which is similar to the new dredge. The new dredge has some modifications such as rollers on the goose neck to prevent digging into soft substrate. Another addition to the new dredge is the twine top which allows fish to escape easier that the old dredge. The equipment was very hard to come by for the old dredge, so this made repairs exceptionally difficult. With the new dredge there are some very fresh and innovative ideas.  Vic plans to introduce a Habitat Camera which can take many overlaid digital pictures of scallops which will have a continuous stream of real-time data.

There are many advantages to this new method.  The most important being the habitat camera would mean far less tows which is less intrusive and damaging to the habitat.  With this habitat camera it would be possible to see an absolute abundance of sea scallops due to the fact you would be able to see approximately 90% of the sea floor, and have digital images on file as well.  You would have to dredge much less to see three times more.  This new technology is very promising and some steps will be given a test run on Leg 3 of the sea scallop survey a few months from now.  I can’t wait to read all about how this new technology will improve the quality of sea scallop surveys.

Personal Log 

Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.
Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.

When you think about 2 weeks you do not think of it as being an extremely long amount of time. Well, when you’re on a ship for 2 weeks it can feel like a lot longer.  I must say I miss my husband Alex very much.  Regardless, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with scientists like Vic Nordahl and Kevin McIntosh.

During the summer I participate in a two year fellowship with Columbia University called The Summer Research Program for Science Teachers.  This is a great program where NYC science teachers are working with state-of-the-art technology along side research scientists.  We participate in and bring back to our classrooms the newest information on some groundbreaking research going on at the moment.  This program has endless advantages. The networks created are for a lifetime, and teachers in the program get the chance to collaborate ideas and share lessons and tips with each other. There are speakers, seminars, and fieldtrips that inspire science teachers to go the extra mile to interest students in research science.  Jay Dubner and Sam Silverstein run this incredible summer research program and I can’t wait to tell them all about the research I am taking part in and how the program inspired me to become a Teacher at Sea.  During the summer 2009 I will continue working with Dr. Robert Newton at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory studying and sampling water at Piermont Marsh.