Carol Glor: Back from the Beyond, July 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third Leg)

Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 12, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind 12 knots, 005*, Seas 1-3 foot swells, Visibility – unlimited!!

Science and Technology Log:

Maritime meets Science

NOAA has a unique relationship with the shipping industry. Ships are traditionally built with specific uses in mind. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and was completed in 2006 as a state-of-the-art research vessel. Marine architects and engineers designed mechanical and electronic  systems to launch scallop dredges, the HabCam, and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) scanner. The ship can accommodate 9 crew members and 12 science staff members. The University leases the vessel to the NOAA scientific crew for specific missions or surveys. Each year NOAA sets up research surveys to collect data concerning many aspects of the fishing industry along with studies centered around conservation. The sea scallop survey is one such research project which has been a yearly event since 1977. It began as a bottom trawling event taking place for several legs (mission time periods) between May and July.

Sea scallops are a bivalve subgroup of mollusks. They take years to mature to a size that is sought after by fishermen. As with any species, overfishing is a major concern. Ideally, a species’ survival is dependent upon a consistent population. The Northeast Fisheries Association determines the scope and location of “open” fishing areas for all species of fish and shellfish. NOAA is called upon to collect data concerning the abundance or lack of scallops in a traditionally rich fishing locale or in a closed area. During our leg of the survey, we collected data using the HabCam as well as towing a scallop dredge. A map of the fishing locations is analyzed to determine the dredge or HabCam areas that are to be investigated.

Each dredge “catch” contained a variety of marine species with the inclusion or exclusion of scallops. At one event, we hauled in 16 baskets of baby scallops. These were an encouraging sign that the scallop population is prolific. At other times, no scallops were present but there was a bumper crop of sand dollars. This was because the area that they were collected is considered an “open” scallop fishing area. The range in size of the scallops that were brought in varied between 55 and 155 mm?

Fourspot Flounder
Fourspot Flounder
Carol on Sharp
Carol prepares to sort the dredge.
Silver and Red Hake
Silver and Red Hake
wet lab
Data collection inside the wet lab of the Sharp.

 

Personal Log:

Yesterday we completed our dredging events. A glorious sunset was the backdrop for this momentous occasion. Too bad there were no scallops in the dredge. We did, however collect many scallops of different sizes throughout our watch. The fog that was present for most of our dredging days finally burned off to reveal calm seas and a blue sky. The watch team that I was a member of worked like a well-oiled machine. Each member had a specific task to complete to carefully collect scientific data from each dredge event. Science is messy work and handling different species is not for sissies.

shucking scallops
The research team and crew members gather to shuck scallops.
sunset
Another spectacular sunset aboard the RV Sharp.

 

I look forward to returning home to be with my family and friends. The life of a sailor/scientist was an incredible experience and I am excited to share all that I have learned with my students at West Genesee.  Many thanks go out to the Captain and crew of the R/V Sharp and the NOAA science staff for making my journey unforgettable.

Final dredge
The final dredge for the third leg of the scallop survey 2014.

The following quote sums up my experience as part of the Teacher at Sea program.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

Crystal Davis, Female, Male? How do you tell? July 2, 2014

Common Octopus
This Common Octopus was found in a 7-Up can.

NOAA Teacher at Sea The fish board that measures the length of marine organisms

Crystal Davis

Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II

June 23-July 7, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Wednesday July 2, 2014

Weather: Clear and sunny with isolated showers and thunderstorms

Winds:   5-10 knots

Waves:   2-3 feet

Science and Technology Log:

Shortly after boarding the Oregon II, the science crew had orientation with the Operations Officer LTJG Thomas reviewing  basic procedures for emergencies on board. But what stuck out for me the most, was when Operations Officer LTJG Thomas said we were on a S.A.D. boat. It turns out that S.A.D. means no sex, alcohol or drugs are allowed on the Oregon II. This ensures that the boat is safe and reduces the number of accidents on board. This is the opposite of SAD and makes me feel much safer on board. But luckily for KISS fans, rock and roll is still allowed and is on consistently. Sometimes there’s so much rocking and rolling that I fall on the floor, but that’s happening less frequently as I’ve found my sea legs.

In the Groundfish Survey, after the organisms are separated by species, they are sexed. Overall, this gives the scientists an idea of what future generations will look like. Although all the organisms vary in the way you differentiate their gender, the following are some of the most common organisms found in the groundfish survey.

Sexing Shrimp

Brown Shrimp Female (top) Male (bottom)
Paneaus Aztecas Shrimp Female (top) Male (bottom)

As shown in the pictures on the left, male shrimp have a set of claspers (they look like an extra set of legs) called the petasma that is the equivalent of a penis. Females do not have a petasma.

In young (juvenile) shrimp, it can be difficult to identify the males from females as the petasma is very small and not easily visible. At this age they can easily be confused for females. When this is suspected, they are input into the computer as unknown so as not to generate inaccurate data.

Sexing Crabs

When you pick up a crab you have to be very careful to stay away their claws (cheliped). I have found that they like to grab onto you as soon as you pick them up. My roommate had a large blue crab grab her finger that would not let go and she still has bruises from it.

Shame Faced Crab
Shame Faced Crab

Mature female crabs are called a “Sook” and have a dome or bell shaped abdomen.  This is shown in the top row and looks like the U.S. Capitol Building.

Male crabs are called a “Jimmy” and have a T-shaped abdomen that looks like the shape of the Washington Monument.

To mate, the male crab will carry the female until her shell softens and she is able to mate. During mating, the female stores the males sperm to fertilize her eggs later. Once her shell hardens, the male releases her and she will fertilize her eggs later.

Female Lesser Blue Crab with eggs
Female Lesser Blue Crab with eggs

After fertilization, the eggs are stored outside the female’s abdominal area and look like a sponge. They’re very squishy when you touch them. Although this shows orange eggs, they can also be a gray or black color. I have been told that the darker the egg color, the closer to hatching the offspring are. I am not sure that this is scientifically valid and am still trying to verify this.

 

 

 

Sexing Flatfish

Photos courtesy of Robin Gropp
Photos courtesy of Robin Gropp

Flatfish include fish such as flounder, halibut and turbot. These fish begin their life swimming vertically in the water. However, as they get older they sink to the bottom and their eyes move to one side of their body. They then spend the rest of their life on the bottom of the ocean floor. Luckily their top half matches the ocean floor and they are easily camouflaged from predators. The bottom half of the flounder on the ocean floor is clear or white.

The easiest way to sex a flatfish is to hold them up to a bright light. When doing this you will see that the female has a long curved gonad while the male does not.

A Confused Flounder
A Confused Flounder (right) Normal Flounder (bottom left)

This Flounder is very confused. He should be a clear or light white on the bottom but as you can see his bottom half matches his top half. This could be due to a mutation but no one on the boat is exactly sure why he looks this way. This is one of the most interesting things I have seen so far. In fact, no one on the boat had seen this before.

 

 

 

 

Sea Jellies

Sea Jellies
Sea Jellies

Sea Jellies differ from most of the other marine organisms discussed so far. Sea jellies reproduce both sexually and asexually depending on what stage of life they are in. In an early stage of life sea jellies are called a polyp and they attach to a rock. The polyps reproduce asexually by cloning themselves and breaking off (budding). Imagine 300 people that came from you and look exactly like you. It’s actually pretty creepy.  But back to the sea jellies. Eventually the sea jelly will develop into an adult (medusa) that reproduces sexually with sperm and egg.

 

Personal Log:

I have a three day backpacking trip to Mt. Silliman scheduled almost immediately after my NOAA trip is over. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t worry, but after spending two weeks not hiking or training, I’m a little concerned. Luckily there are weights and a rowing and elliptical machine on board, so I have been able to do a bit of training. Being on a ship that’s moving has made working out even more intense. I have to stabilize every time the boat moves, so I don’t fall over. But even if I did, or have, how could I complain with this view.

Boat Personnel of the Day

Holland waiting for a trawl to come in
Holland on the stern

Holland McCandless-Lamier

Holland is my roommate on the Oregon II and is a member of the scientific party. She was contracted by Riverside in response to the Deep Water Horizon (BP) blowout in 2010. She attended the University of Mississippi and majored in marine biology. During college, Holland had an internship in Florida where she led students (from 4th grade to college) in marine science activities. This included snorkeling, visiting coral reefs and other hands on activities.

After college, Holland met an individual from the NOAA Corps at a job fair. They put her in touch with NOAA FIsheries MSLabs Groundfish Unit, where she began volunteering as a participant on surveys. This hands on experience led to her current job. Holland currently spends most of her time in the NOAA South East Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) Pascagoula lab where she works with plankton. Her current project is updating decapod (crustacean) taxonomy.

Did You Know?

A female sunfish can lay 300 million eggs each year. Each egg is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

Kaitlin Baird: Let the Fishing Begin! September 8, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaitlin Baird
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 4 – 20, 2012

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey with NOAA’s North East Fisheries  Science Center
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean steaming to south New Jersey coast
Date: September 8th
.

Location Data:
Latitude: 38° 44.58’   N
Longitude: 73 ° 39.30’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 23.2°C (approx. 74°F)
Wind Speed: 5.05 kts
Wind Direction: from N
Surface Water Temperature: 25.29 °C (approx. 78°F)
Weather conditions: Sunny and fair

Science and Technology Log
Other than testing out the FSCS today and learning the ropes, I also learned about another type of tow we are doing on this cruise. When looking at fish stock assessment it is also important to look at the base of the food chain, you guessed it, plankton. Today we were specifically targeting zooplankton, microscopic animal drifters in the ocean that are an important food source for many of the fish and other invertebrates that we are surveying.

When I saw the nets go in, they looked a bit different than those on the R/V HSBC Atlantic Explorer, and I learned a new term, BONGO net. This is the tandem net which we are using  to tow for zooplankton at set locations while we are en route. Unlike the trawl net we tow these on the side of the ship verses the back so there is no interference by the wake made by the ship as it moves through the water. If you imagine a giant windsock with a plastic catchment at the end, this is what these nets look like. The pressure of the water moving through the net forces anything heavy to the “cod end” of the net and sieves the water out of the mesh that makes up the net.

The depth of the net tow is dependent upon bottom depth and protocol at each site, but they normally try to tow pretty close to the bottom (=/- 10 m). A separate, Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) recorder is also deployed with the nets to understand more about the ocean chemistry at set locations.  There is such a variability when towing for plankton (as it can be quite patchy) that having the two nets gives you more opportunity to capture the diversity of life that is out there. The nets are also two different mesh sizes so that they can catch zooplankton in different size classes.

Bongo Nets
Bongo Nets being deployed to 60 feet
Personal Log
It was great to get fishing today off of the coast of Maryland. We were all ready to sort anything that came down the conveyer belt. The species get sorted and then brought to the FSCS stations. Here they are measured along with anything else that needs to be done to them. I helped to get otoliths prepared and input data on gut contents, condition and sex.
Kaitlin in the wetlab with left eye and right eye flounder
Kaitlin in the wetlab with left eye and right eye flounder
One of the things I noticed were a lot of flounders, both left eye and right eye. That’s right folks, flounder usually start with one eye on each side of their heads and then eventually (species dependent) it migrates as they mature so that they sit on the bottom with both eyes on top of their heads. Depending on which way they migrate they are designated as “left eye” or “right eye” as you can see in the photos below. Did you know? These eyes can move independently of each other, pretty cool stuff!
Right Eye Flounder (Top) Left Eye Flounder (bottom)
Right Eye Flounder (Top) Witch Flounder
Left Eye Flounder (bottom) Four spot Flounder
Stay tuned for more critters! Here is just a shortlist of some that we saw today!

Rosette Skate
Little Skate
Tilefish
Goosefish
Chain dogfish
Fawn cusk-eel
Gulf stream flounder
Four spot flounder
Silver hake
Armored sea robin
LOTS of Squid

Bye for now!

Marsha Skoczek: There’s No Place Like Home, July 17, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marsha Skoczek
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 6-19, 2012

Mission: Marine Protected Areas Survey
Geographic area of cruise:  Subtropical North Atlantic, off the east coast of Florida.
Date:  July 17, 2012

Location:
Latitude:  30.4587N
Longitude:  80.1243W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature:  26.8C (80.24 F)
Wind Speed:  10.8 knots (12.43 mph)
Wind Direction:  From the SE
Relative Humidity: 79 %
Barometric Pressure:  1017
Surface Water Temperature:  28.9C (84 F)

Science and Technology Log

South Atlantic MPAs

During the thirteen days we have been out to sea doing research, we have sent the ROV down both inside and outside of five different MPAs  from Florida to North Carolina and back again.  This allows the scientists to compare fish populations and densities both inside and outside of the MPAs.  Since we left Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, we have been averaging a distance from shore of between 50 and 70 nautical miles.  It will be fourteen days until we see land once again.  From this distance, the ocean seems to stretch on forever.  Gazing at the beautiful blue water, it is easy to forget an entire other world lies beneath us.  Not all of the ocean floor is flat, there is a small percentage that does have some elevation and structure.  The type of structures on the ocean floor determine what types of species will live there.

For this mission, we have mainly been studying areas within the mesophotic zone of the ocean ranging from 40 to 150 meters (130 – 500 feet) below the surface.  Temperatures here range from 12 – 23 degrees Celsius (50-70 F). Very little sunlight reaches the mesophotic zone, but zooxanthallae are still able to photosynthesize at this depth.  Corals and sponges will also filter feed using the abundant particulate organic matter drifting in the water column they will filter out and eat the plankton.

Tomtates hide in crevices.

The multibeam images help the scientists determine where to launch the ROV.  Areas with a change in elevation tend to indicate that there are rock structures below the surface.  It is around these rocks that the majority of fish prefer to live, so these are often the areas at which the scientists chose to collect data.

The ridges we have seen range in height from 1 meter to 5 meters.  The fish really like areas in the rock that have cracks, crevices and overhangs for them to hide.  Many times as the ROV approached the fish, they would scurry into a nearby hiding place.  I can’t help but imagine that the ROV with its bright lights and unnatural features must seem like an alien spacecraft to these fish that have never had contact with humans before.  But ROVs aren’t the only thing that these fish need to hide from.  I noticed that the larger fish that are toward the top of the food chain were not as skittish as the smaller reef fish.  Sometimes amberjacks and scamp would even follow the ROV as if curious about we were doing.  And lionfish never budged as the ROV passed unless it happened to be sitting in the ROV’s path.

Lobster hiding in rock. Notice how his coloring resembles the reef behind him.
Eel hiding under sponge
Scorpionfish against Diodogorgia

The fish are not the only living things that like these rocky habitats.  Usually when there are rocky surfaces, we find sponges, corals, hydroids and algae growing on top.  These creatures not only give the reef its beautiful appearance, but they also help to provide habitat as well.

Notice how the flounder blends in with the sand?
Sand tilefish make their burrows in the rubble under the sand.
Spider crabs on sandy bottom

Species that live in the sandy bottom habitat have their own set of adaptations. Animals such as the flounder and sea cucumbers have skin colorations that match the speckled appearance of the sand itself.  Sand tilefish carve out burrows from the rubble beneath the sand.  The spider crabs have a carapace that mimics the texture of the rocks it lives near.  The stingrays, with their low profile, sit on the sandy bottom and use their mouth to scour the sand in search of crabs and clams to eat.

Lophelia at artificial reef
Anemone at artificial reef
artificial reef

Artificial habitats are also full of life.  At the shipwreck we visited, not only did we see fish living here, we also saw anemone, tube worms, Venus flytrap anemone, hermit crabs, eels, Lophelia coral to name a few.  Other man-made habitats can help rebuild coral reefs.  John Reed has placed reef balls on the Occulina Reef in an effort to rebuild the original reef damaged by bottom trawling. These reef balls provide a structure for the corals to anchor themselves to and give the fish places to hide. Even oil platforms can be considered as an artificial reef structure giving a wide variety of species a sturdy structure to call home.

 

Personal Log

The Science Party

While aboard the Pisces I have learned to identify well over 100 different species of fish and invertebrates.   Andy and Stacey quiz me as we are watching the live footage, and I think I finally can tell the difference between a reef butterfly and a bank butterfly.  John frequently hands me a text book and challenges me to look up the species we see on the ROV live feed.  I am extremely appreciative of everyone being so helpful and sharing their knowledge with me.  Each of the scientists have taken the time to answer all of the question that I have.  The crew of the Pisces has also been wonderful to work with.  Everyone has done their best to make me feel at home. This has been such an amazing experience, I am excited to bring it all back to the classroom this fall!  I will never forget my time on the Pisces.

Ocean Careers Interview

In this section, I will be interviewing scientists and crew members to give my students ideas for careers they may find interesting and might want to pursue someday.  Today I interviewed John Reed and Stephanie Farrington.

John Reed

Mr. Reed, What is your job title?  I am the Research Professor in the Robertson Coral Reef and Research Program at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Why did you decide to become a marine biologist?  I always knew that I wanted a career where I could do my work outside.  My biggest influence came when I was around 13 – 14 years old, I remember watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” every Sunday night with my family and thinking that’s what I want to do!

What type of responsibilities do you have with this job?  Currently I am studying deep coral reefs as part of the Robertson Coral Reef and Research Program and several NOAA grants. My focus is primarily off the Florida coast and up through the Carolinas.  My objective is to protect and conserve deep sea coral ecosystems.  Around Florida alone, our group has discovered over 400 individual deep coral mounds some over 300 ft tall.  We have calculated that the area of these deep water reefs may exceed that of all the shallow water reefs in the United States combined.  These reefs habitats are incredibly diverse with hundreds of different species of bivalves, crustaceans and fish just to name a few.  Deep water hard corals grow very slowly, only about half an inch per year, core sampling has dated deep coral mounds at over 1,000,000 years old.  It is vital that we protect these deep reefs from destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling or energy projects.

I also manage the archives for the biomedical marine division at Harbor Branch where we have over 35,000 deep and shallow marine specimens from around the world.  Each specimen has video footage of it in its natural habitat (in situ from the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible), still photos, museum samples as well as several smaller samples for our biomedical research.  We have discovered novel compounds from some of these marine organisms which may be future cures for cancer or other diseases.  Currently our chemists and biologists are working on the chemical compounds that we discovered in a deep water sponge that grows off Florida.  In the lab it is potent against pancreatic cancer which is a very deadly disease.

What type of education did you need to get this job?  I earned my Bachelors Degree in chemistry and biology from University of Miami and my Masters Degree in marine ecology from Florida Atlantic University.  My Masters Thesis was on The Animal-Sediment Relationship s of Shallow Water Lagoons and took me four years to study and wrote.  While working on my thesis, the Smithsonian had a branch at HBOI, so I would ask the scientists there for help in identifying the animals in my study.  Working with these scientists helped me make the connections that eventually get my job with HBOI.

What types of experiences have you had with this job?  I have been fortunate enough to travel the world visiting over 60 countries and collecting thousands of marine samples for biomedical research at HBOI.  I have been able to dive in the Johns0n-Sea-Link submersible to depths of 3000 ft and scuba dive to 300 ft.  My research on the deep water Oculina coral reefs off the east coast of Florida allowed me to use our submersibles as well as lock-out diving to study the growth rate and fauna associated with these deep water coral.  It is very humbling that my research on these reefs helped to establish the Oculina Marine Protected Area which was the first marine protected area in the world to protect deep sea corals, and more recently the 24,000 sq. mile deep sea coral habitat area of particular concern off the southeastern U.S.

What advice do you have for students wanting a career in marine biology?  Even if people tell you there are no jobs in marine biology, find a way to do it!  Follow what you are passionate about.  Get experiences as an undergrad, do internships, build your resume.  Make the effort!  Do things that are going to set you above everyone else.

When looking at graduate school, compare the course offerings of several universities.  Research the Principal Investigators (PIs) at those same schools and make contact with them.  Get a position as a Teaching Assistant or Lab Aide to build on your resume.  All of these things will help you to get the job you want once you graduate.

 

Stephanie Farrington

Ms. Farrington, What is your job title?  I am a biological scientist for John Reed at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

What type of responsibilities do you have with this job?  I accompany John on his research expeditions and help collect data.  When we return to HBOI, I analyze the data and program everything into GIS maps to give us a visual layout of the different habitats we saw and the species that live there.

What type of education did you need to get this job?  I earned my Bachelors Degree in biology and marine science from the University of Tampa.  My Masters Degree is in marine biology from the NOVA Southeastern University Oceanographic Center.  My thesis was on the Biogeography of the Straights of Florida which gave me a solid background in the marine invertebrates of our region.  This is one of the reasons John hired me to work with him.

What types of experiences have you had with this job?  I have been fortunate to travel in our Johnson-Sea-Link submersible six times, twice sitting up front in the bubble, one dive went down to 1700 feet below the surface.  I have also been on 8 research cruises since I started at HBOI two years ago.  I also had the opportunity to sail on the Okeanos Explorer for three weeks.

What advice do you have for students wanting a career in marine biology?  Marine biology is about collecting and analyzing data and doing research and there is so much cooler stuff in the ocean than just dolphins!

Anne Artz: July 27, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 27, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location:  40 08.301N; 72 07.278 W
Direction:  1140
Wind:  NW @ 10
Conditions:  Breezy, choppy water but warm and sunny, very few clouds

Science and Technology Log

We had an interesting night last night – quite a show from the lightning all around us.  We had to stop working on deck due to lightning concerns and the water was definitely choppy.  Shortly after midnight we resumed our survey dredging

A little history and information about the ocean quahog is in order, since we’ve been spending most of our time the last few days collecting, counting, weighing, and measuring them (along with a few other things we dredge up – more about those later).

The ocean quahog, or Artica islandica, is a marine bivalve member of the phylum Mollusca.  It is native to the North Atlantic (where we are right now) and is commercially harvested as a food source.  The ocean quahog lives in deeper water than the more common clam (the ones you can dig up along the beach) and are collected in much the same way as we are doing on the Delaware II, by dredging the bottom, rinsing off the mud, and throwing away all the other things brought up.

We bring up any where from one to three baskets of ocean quahogs with each dredge.

One of the unique characteristics of the ocean quahog is its longevity.  They are known to live over 100 years.  They are extremely slow-growing and as adults, may take years to add any measurable length to their shells.  Both water temperature and population density appear to play a role in their growth.  From previous NOAA studies, some of the fastest growing populations occur at the Georges Bank region off the coast of Massachusetts.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses the data collected from this survey to advise policy makers on the best way to protect and ensure the survival of the ocean quahog populations.

So what do we know so far about the ocean quahog’s populations?  Besides the fact that they grow slowly, we know they are suspension feeders of phytoplankton and they themselves are food for a variety of other invertebrates including crab, sea stars, urchins, and some fish such as cod.  The dredging process damages some ocean quahogs making them susceptible to other predators such as sculpin, skates, and flounder.  Every three years the populations in the Northern Atlantic are surveyed and past results indicate the populations are stable despite the dredging methods of collection.  The ocean quahog is not considered endangered at this time and is not considered overfished.

Personal Log

The lightning storm was beautiful to watch – the only  thing missing was the thunder!  Our ship never stops so the engines run continuously, making hearing anything on deck almost impossible.  We’ve brought up some incredibly interesting animals – some I’ve never seen or heard of.  For example, we’ve brought up numerous “sea mouse” samples.

Sea Mouse
A sea mouse, or Aprodita aculeata (member of phylum Annelida)

They are actually carnivorous worms who live on the ocean floor and are covered with long hair-like threads, or setae.  The ones we’ve brought up are 4-6 inches long. Creepy!

We are currently at survey site 229 which for you students translates to trial number 229.  No more complaining to me about having to repeat your experiment 25 times!

Jason Moeller: June 25-27, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 25-27, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 55.58 N
Longitude: -159.16 W
Wind: 14.11
Surface Water Temperature: 7.2 degrees C
Air Temperature: 9.0 degrees C
Relative Humidity: 90%
Depth: 85.61

Personal Log
Anyone who has seen the show Deadliest Catchknows how dangerous crab fishing can be. Fishing for pollock, however, also has its dangers. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way. One of our deck hands caught his hand between a cable and the roller used to pull up the trawl net and hurt himself badly.

Cable
The cable and the roller.

Fortunately, the injuries are not life threatening and he will be fine. The injuries did require a hospital visit, and so we stopped at Sand Point to treat him.

Town
This is the town of Sand Point.
airstrip
Clouds hang over the hills at Sand Point. The airstrip is in the left edge of the photo.

We stayed at Sand Point for nearly 48 hours. What did we do? We fished, of course! We used long lines and hooks, and had a great time!

lines
Bill and Alex cast fishing lines in the harbor. We tied the lines off on the boat and hauled them up from time to time to check the bait.
Alex
Alex with a flounder that he caught! He also caught several cod and a 32-lb Pacific halibut!
cod
Cod and the flounder in a bucket!
Tammy
As with every fishing trip, we also managed to catch things that we didn't mean too! Tammy (the other NOAA Teacher at Sea) especially liked the kelp!
urchin
A few visitors always hitched a ride on the kelp we caught. Here is a tiny sea urchin.
crab
This crab was another hitchhiker on the kelp.
starfish
We were bottom fishing for Halibut, and a starfish, the largest one I've ever seen, went after the bait!

A one-day fishing license in Alaska costs $20.00. We had internet, so five of us went online and bought the fishing passes. Was it worth it?

Halibut
You bet it was! This is the 25-lb halibut I caught! It was AWESOME!!!

We filleted it and had the cooks make it for dinner. With the halibut, we also cut out the fleshy “cheeks” and ate them as sushi right on the spot! It doesn’t get any fresher (or tastier!) than that!

Science and Technology Log
Today we will look at the acoustic system of the Oscar Dyson! Acoustics is the science that studies how waves (including vibrations & sound waves) move through solids, liquids, and gases. The Oscar Dyson uses its acoustic system to find the pollock that we process.

The process begins when a piece of equipment called a transducer converts an electrical pulse into a sound wave. The transducers are located on the underside of the ship (in the water). The sound travels away from the vessel at roughly 1500 feet per minute, and continues to do so until the sound wave hits another object such as a bubble, plankton, a fish, or the bottom. When the sound wave hits an object, it reflects the sound wave, sending the sound wave back to the Oscar Dyson as an echo. Equipment onboard listens to the echo.

The computers look at two critical pieces of information from the returning sound wave. First, it measures the time that it took the echo to travel back to the ship. This piece of information gives the scientists onboard the distance the sound wave traveled. Remember that sound travels at roughly 1500 feet per minute. If the sound came back in one minute, then the object that the sound wave hit is 750 feet away (the sound traveled 750 feet to the object, hit the object, and then traveled 750 feet back to the boat).

The second critical piece of information is the intensity of the echo. The intensity of the echo tells the scientists how small or how large an object is, and this gives us an idea of what the sound wave hit. Tiny echos near the surface are almost certainly plankton, but larger objects in the midwater might be a school of fish.

good fishing
An image of the computer screen that shows a great number of fish. This was taken underneath the boat as we were line fishing in Sand Point.
poor fishing
The same spot as above, but with practically no fish.
fishing
An image of the screen during a trawl. You can actually see the net--it is the two brown lines that are running from left to right towards the top of the screen.

One of the things that surprised me the most was that fish and bubbles often look similar enough under water that it can fool the acoustics team into thinking that the bubbles are actually fish. This is because many species of fish have gas pockets inside of them, and so the readout looks very similar. The gas pockets are technically called “swim bladders” and they are used to help the fish control buoyancy in the water.

swimbladder
Swim bladder of a fish.

Species Seen
Northern Fulmar
Gulls
Cod
Pacific Halibut
Flounder
Sea Urchin
Crab
Kelp

Reader Question(s) of the Day
Today’s questions come from Kevin Hils, the Director of Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Chehaw, Georgia!

Q. Where does the ship name come from?
A. Oscar Dyson was an Alaska fisheries industry leader from Kodiak, Alaska. He is best known for pioneering research and development of Alaska’s groundfish, shrimp, and crab industry. Dyson was a founding partner of All Alaskan Seafoods, which was the first company actually controlled by the fishermen who owned the vessel. He also served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management council for nine years. He is in the United Fishermen of Alaska’s hall of fame for his work. The ship was christened by his wife, Mrs. Peggy Dyson-Malson, and launched on October 17, 2003.

Dyson
Oscar Dyson
launch
The launching of the Oscar Dyson

Q. How do you see this helping you teach at Knoxville Zoo, not an aquarium?
A. This will be a long answer. This experience will improve environmental education at the zoo in a variety of different ways.

First, this will better allow me to teach the Oceanography portion of my homeschool class that comes to the zoo every Tuesday. For example, I am in the process of creating a hands on fishing trip that will teach students about the research I have done aboard the Oscar Dyson and why that research is important. Homeschool students will not just benefit from this experience in Oceanography, but also in physics (when we look at sound and sonar) and other subjects as well from the technical aspects that I have learned during the course of the trip.

Scouts are another group that will greatly benefit from this experience as well. The Girl Scout council wishes to see a greater emphasis in the future on having the girls do science and getting real world experiences. While the girls are still going to desire the animal knowledge that the zoo can bring, they will also expect to do the science as well as learn about it. My experience aboard the Dyson will allow me to create workshops that can mimic a real world animal research experience, as I can now explain and show how research is done in the field.

The same can be said of the boy scouts.

In addition, one of the most common badges that is taught to boy scout groups that come in is the fish and wildlife merit badge. In the past, the badge has primarily focused on the wildlife aspect of this topic. However, I now have the knowledge to write and teach a fisheries portion for that merit badge, as opposed to quickly covering it and moving on. This will enrich future scouts who visit the zoo for this program.

A major focus for all scouts is the concept of Leave No Trace, where scouts are supposed to leave an area the way they found it. The fisheries research being done aboard the Dyson is focused toward that same goal in the ocean, where we are attempting to keep the pollock population as we found it, creating a sustainable fishery. The goal aboard the Dyson is similar to the goal in scouting. We need to be sustainable, we need to be environmentally friendly, and we need to leave no trace behind.

School children on field trips will greatly benefit, especially students in the adaptations section. There are some bizarre adaptations that I never knew about! For example, sleeper sharks slow, deliberate movement coupled with their fin and body shape basically make them the stealth fighter of the fish world. They can catch fish twice as fast as they are! Lumpsuckers are neat critters too! This knowledge will enhance their experience at the zoo during field trip programs.

Finally, I can pass the knowledge from this experience on to my coworkers. This will not only better the experience of my students, but it will also improve the outreach programs, the bedtime programs, the camps, and other programming done at the zoo.

Q. Are you old enough to be on a ship? You look like you’re 13???!!!!
A. SHHHHHHH!!!! You weren’t supposed to tell them my real age! They think I’m 24!

Jason Moeller: June 14-16, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 14-16, 2011

Personal Log

Welcome back, explorers!

June 14

I think I posted my last log too soon, because as soon as I hit the send button interesting things began to happen. First, I was called up to see some Mountain Goats feeding in the wild! I was able to take a picture of them as well! (Well, kind of…)

goats
The mountain goats were so far away I had to use binoculars just to spot them. If you can spot the two tiny white dots to the right of the snow, that is them! There is also one that is on the left hand side in the middle of the photograph. You will have to take my word for it.

While this was going on, the professional members of the science team were still calibrating the sonar that we are going to use to catch the fish! I have explained the process in the captions of the following photographs.

sonar balls
Calibrating starts with these little balls. The one used to calibrate our sonar was made of Tungsten (like the black ball at the top)
Pole
The ball was suspended underneath the water on three poles, placed in a triangular shape, around the ship. This is a photo of one of the poles.
Screen.
Once the ball was placed underneath the boat, the scientist swept sound waves off of the ball and used the above screen to see where the sound waves were striking the ball and reflecting. This allowed them to adjust the sound waves to hit the ball (or out in the ocean, the fish) exactly where they wanted it. This optimizes the amount of sound coming back to the boat and paints a better picture of what is under the water.

The process took several hours, but once we finished, we headed back out to sea to start the two-day journey towards our first fishing spot!

June 15-16

The most common sight off of the boat for the past two days has been this one.

Water
Water, water, everywhere

We are currently in Unimak Pass, which will lead us to the Bering Sea! Unimak Pass is the fastest sea route from the United States into Asia, and as a result is a common merchant route between Seattle and Japan. It is also the best way to avoid rough seas and bad weather when travelling between the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, as it receives some cover from the landmass.

The Bering Sea likely needs no introduction, as it is arguably the best crab fishing waters on the planet and is well-known from the television show The Deadliest Catch. Aside from crab, the Bering Sea is teeming with life such as pollock, flounder, salmon, and halibut. As a result of this diverse and tasty biomass, the Bering Sea is an incredibly important area to the world’s fisheries.

Steaming towards our destination has kept us away from any land, but there are still things to do and to see! We did a second dry cast of the net, but this time two different pieces of equipment were tested.

The net
The first piece of equipment was a special net for taking samples. The net has three sections, called codends, which can be opened and closed individually. You can see two of the codends in this photo. On top of the green net, you should see black netting that is lined with white rope. These are the codends.
net 2
This is a better view of the codends. The codends are opened and closed using a series of six bars. When the first bar is dropped, the first codend is able to take in fish. When the second bar is dropped, the codend is unable to take in fish. The bar system has not worked incredibly well, and there is talk of removing one of the codends to make the net easier to use.
camera
The second piece of equipment was this camera, which was attached to the net. It allowed us to see what was coming in the net. Even though this was a dry run and we were not catching anything, I still saw a few Pollock in the camera!

Even though this was a test run and we did not catch any fish, the birds saw the net moving and came to investigate. The remaining photographs for the personal log are of the several species of birds that flew by the boat.

Bird 1
A Northern Fulmar flies alongside the Oscar Dyson
Bird 2
An albatross (by the thin wire just below the spot the water meets the horizon) flies away from the Oscar Dyson
Bird 3
Fulmar's and Gulls wheel about the Oscar Dyson, looking for fish.

Science and Technology Log

This section of the blog will be written after we start fishing for Pollock in the next day or so!

New Species

Mountain Goats

Northern Fulmar

Albatross

Gulls

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

First, I owe a belated shout out to Dr. John, Knoxville Zoo’s IT technician. He lent me the computer that I am currently using to post these logs, and I forgot to mention him in the last post. Thanks Dr. John!

The two questions of the day also come from Kaci, a future Teacher at Sea with NOAA.

1. What is it like sleeping on the boat?

A. Honestly, I am being jostled around quite a bit. Part of this is due to the way the beds are set up. The beds go from port to starboard (or right to left for the landlubbers out there) instead of fore to aft (front to back). This means that when the boat rolls, my feet will often be higher than my head, which causes all of blood to rush to my head. I still haven’t gotten used to the feeling yet.

Part of the jostling, though, is my fault. I had heard that most individuals took the bottom bunks given the option, and since I was one of the first individuals on board, I decided to be polite and give my roommate, who outranked me by some 10-15 years at sea, the bottom bunk. It turns out that the reason people pick the bottom bunk is that the top bunk moves around more since it is higher off the floor. I’ve heard stories about people being thrown from the top bunk in heavy seas as well.

The most comfortable place to sleep has turned out to be the beanbag chair in the common room. It is considered rude to go into your room if your shift ends early, as your roommate may still be sleeping. My shift ended two hours early the other night, so I sat down on the beanbag chair to catch some zs. The ship’s rocking was greatly reduced by the bean bag chair, and I slept very well for the next couple of hours.

2. Is it stressful so far?

A. The only stressful part of the trip so far has been the seasickness, which I have not yet been able to shake. The rest of it has been a lot of fun!

Anne Byford: June 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location: off the coast of New England
June 11, 2010

Weather Data at 1:30pm EDT: Clear and sunny, 14.5˚C
Location at 1:30pm EDT: Lat: 4123.78 NLong: 6656.64 W
Water Depth: 68.2 m

8th Day at Sea

What kinds of things are you going to catch?Part 2 – non-fish along with a few new fishes

There are many more species in the areas than I have listed here; these are simply the ones that I found most interesting. There are several different types of bivalves, sea weeds, etc. Material about the species on this page came from several sources, including the Bigelow and Schroeder’s book referenced in the previous posting. Also, Kenneth Gosner’s A Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore published by Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston, Ma, 1978. I also used Norman Mein-Koth’s Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York in 1990.

Sea Stars (aka starfish) – Every third dredge, the contents of the dredge are sampled and the sea stars are separated by species and counted. Most sea stars can regenerate a lost arm, but a few can regenerate an entire organism from the lost arm as well. All sea stars are predators; many species do eat scallops.

Hippasteria phygiana
Hippasteria phygiana

Hippasteria phygiana – a cushion star with a much wider central disk and shorter arms than the other types of sea stars.

Northern Sea Star
Northern Sea Star

Northern Sea Star (Asterias vulgaris) – is one of the more common sea stars found. It can have a radius of up to 20 cm.

Blood Star
Blood Star

Blood Star (Henricia sanguinolenta) – is a thin armed sea star that ranges in color from bright red to orange. This particular blood star shows some aberant regeneration occurring on one arm.

Leptasterias tenera
Leptasterias tenera

Leptasterias tenera – smaller sea stars than the others. They are usually whitish-tan. Some have purple centers and arm bands.

Sclerasteras tanneri
Sclerasteras tanneri

Sclerasteras tanneri – are spinier than the other sea stars seen. They are bright red with thin arms.

Spiny Sun star
Spiny Sun star

Spiny Sun star (Crossaster papposus) – is the only sea star that I’ve seen here with more than 5 arms. It has concentric rings of color radiating from the central disk of the sea star.

Green Sea Urchin
Green Sea Urchin

Green Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) – can grow up to 8.3 cm wide and 3.8 cm high. The shell (test) is usually a greenish color and the spines are all approximately the same length.

Sand Dollar
Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar (Echinarachnius parma) – the common sand dollar. This species does not have openings in the test like the Keyhole type that is commonly found off the coast of the Carolina’s, but does have the flower-like markings on the dorsal side. A great many of these (hundreds of thousands) are found in the dredge on some tows.

Hermit Crabs
Hermit Crabs

Hermit Crabs (various species) – move from shell to shell as they grow.

Northern Lobster
Northern Lobster

Northern Lobster (Homarus americanus) – can grow up to 90 cm in length. Lobsters are scavengers and can be cannibalistic. Claws and tail are highly prized for meat.

Winter flounder
Winter flounder

Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) – are darker than the other flounder. Like summer flounder, they can change color to match the underlying ocean floor. Winter flounder can live up to 15 years. They can reach a maximum size of 64 cm and 3.6 kg, with the average being 31-38 cm and 0.7-0.9 kg. Winter flounder eat mostly small invertebrates, like polychaetes and shrimp and some small fishes. They are preyed upon by cod, skates, goosefish, and spiny dogfish.Winter flounder are the thickest of the flatfish, but are considered over-exploited.

Haddock
Haddock

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) – a silvery fish that is dark grey on the dorsal side with a dark patch behind the gills. The largest recorded haddock was 111.8 cm long and 16.8 kg. The average haddock is 35-58 cm long and 0.5-2 kg. Small haddock eat crustaceans, polychaetes, and small fish, while larger haddock eat more echinoderms, but will eat most anything. Predators include spiny dogfish, skates, cod, other haddock, hakes, goosefish, and seals. Haddock aquaculture was begun in 1995. The biomass of haddock was considered below maintenance levels in the late 1990s.

Fawn Cusk-eel
Fawn Cusk-eel

Fawn Cusk-eel (Lepophidium profundorum) – are greenish with light green or tan spots down the sides and, unlike true eels, have pectoral fins. They average about 26 cm in length. They eat sea mice, shrimp, and echinoderms. Larger fawn cusk-eels eat flatfish as well. They are eaten by skates, spiny dogfish, hakes, flounders, and sea ravens.

Winter Skate
Winter Skate

 

 

Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata) – large, heart-shaped skate. Like the barndoor skate, winter skates can be quite large, up to 150 cm long. They eat bivalves, shrimp, crabs, echinoderms, and many types of fishes. They are eaten by sharks, other skates, and grey seals. They are considered to be commercially important.

Personal Log

I have to admit, when I first went up to the bridge of the ship, with its wrap-around windows, the first words that came to mind were the lines from Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (which I may have not remembered entirely correctly)

Water, water everywhere
And not a drop to drink
Water, water everywhere
And all the boards did shrink

At the time that I was there, no land and no other ships were within sight; there was nothing but water and wavelets as far as I could see.We’ve see several ships on the horizon, and two container ships close enough to get a good look at. One of those passed quite close as we had a dredge down.

Anne Byford, June 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location:  off the coast of New England
June 15, 2010

Aboard: R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Weather Data at 1:30pm

EDT: Clear and sunny, 14.5˚C

Location at 1:30pm

EDT: Lat: 41 23.78 N

Long: 66 56.64 W

Water Depth: 68.2 m

8th Day at Sea

What kinds of things are you going to catch? Part 2 – non-fish along with a few new fishes

 There are many more species in the areas than I have listed here; these are simply the ones that I found most interesting. There are several different types of bivalves, sea weeds, etc. Material about the species on this page came from several sources, including the Bigelow and Schroeder’s book referenced in the previous posting. Also, Kenneth Gosner’s A Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore published by Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston, Ma, 1978. I also used Norman Mein-Koth’s Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York in 1990.

Sea Stars (aka starfish) – Every third dredge, the contents of the dredge are sampled and the sea stars are separated by species and counted. Most sea stars can regenerate a lost arm, but a few can regenerate an entire organism from the lost arm as well. All sea stars are predators; many species do eat scallops.

Hippasteria phygiana – a cushion star with a much wider central disk and shorter arms than the other types of sea stars.

H. phygiana dorsal

Northern Sea Star (Asterias vulgaris) – is one of the more common sea stars found. It can have a radius of up to 20 cm.

Northern Sea star dorsal

Blood Star (Henricia sanguinolenta) – is a thin armed sea star that ranges in color from bright red to orange. This particular blood star shows some aberant regeneration occurring on one arm.

Blood Star

Leptasterias tenera – smaller sea stars than the others. They are usually whitish-tan. Some have purple centers and arm bands.

L. tenera

Sclerasteras tanneri – are spinier than the other sea stars seen. They are bright red with thin arms.

S. tanneri

Spiny Sun star (Crossaster papposus) – is the only sea star that I’ve seen here with more than 5 arms. It has concentric rings of color radiating from the central disk of the sea star.

Sun Star

Green Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) – can grow up to 8.3 cm wide and 3.8 cm high. The shell (test) is usually a greenish color and the spines are all approximately the same length.

Green Sea Urchin

Sand Dollar (Echinarachnius parma) – the common sand dollar. This species does not have openings in the test like the Keyhole type that is commonly found off the coast of the Carolina’s, but does have the flower-like markings on the dorsal side. A great many of these (hundreds of thousands) are found in the dredge on some tows.

Sand Dollar

Hermit Crabs (various species) – move from shell to shell as they grow.

Hermit Crabs

Northern Lobster (Homarus americanus) – can grow up to 90 cm in length. Lobsters are scavengers and can be cannibalistic. Claws and tail are highly prized for meat.

Lobster with eggs

Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) – are darker than the other flounder. Like summer flounder, they can change color to match the underlying ocean floor. Winter flounder can live up to 15 years. They can reach a maximum size of 64 cm and 3.6 kg, with the average being 31-38 cm and 0.7-0.9 kg. Winter flounder eat mostly small invertebrates, like polychaetes and shrimp and some small fishes. They are preyed upon by cod, skates, goosefish, and spiny dogfish. Winter flounder are the thickest of the flatfish, but are considered over-exploited.

Winter Flounder Dorsal

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) – a silvery fish that is dark grey on the dorsal side with a dark patch behind the gills. The largest recorded haddock was 111.8 cm long and 16.8 kg. The average haddock is 35-58 cm long and 0.5-2 kg. Small haddock eat crustaceans, polychaetes, and small fish, while larger haddock eat more echinoderms, but will eat most anything. Predators include spiny dogfish, skates, cod, other haddock, hakes, goosefish, and seals. Haddock aquaculture was begun in 1995. The biomass of haddock was considered below maintenance levels in the late 1990s.

Haddock Large

Fawn Cusk-eel (Lepophidium profundorum) – are greenish with light green or tan spots down the sides and, unlike true eels, have pectoral fins. They average about 26 cm in length. They eat sea mice, shrimp, and echinoderms. Larger fawn cusk-eels eat flatfish as well. They are eaten by skates, spiny dogfish, hakes, flounders, and sea ravens.

Fawn Cusk eel dorsal

Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata) – large, heart-shaped skate. Like the barndoor skate, winter skates can be quite large, up to 150 cm long. They eat bivalves, shrimp, crabs, echinoderms, and many types of fishes. They are eaten by sharks, other skates, and grey seals. They are considered to be commercially important.

Winter Skate Female Dorsal

Personal Log

I have to admit, when I first went up to the bridge of the ship, with its wrap-around windows, the first words that came to mind were the lines from Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (which I may have not remembered entirely correctly)

Water, water everywhere

And not a drop to drink
Water, water everywhere
And all the boards did shrink

At the time that I was there, no land and no other ships were within sight; there was nothing but water and wavelets as far as I could see. We’ve see several ships on the horizon, and two container ships close enough to get a good look at. One of those passed quite close as we had a dredge down.

Anne Byford: June 13 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location:  off the coast of New England
June 13, 2010

Aboard: R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Weather Data at 1:30pm EDT: Pouring, 13.7˚C
Location at 1:30pm EDT: Lat: 4043.37 N Long: 6753.12 WWater Depth: 69.6 m

6th Day at Sea

What kinds of things are you going to catch?What lives with the scallops? These questions were also quite common before I boarded the Hugh R. Sharp. I’d like to introduce you to some of the species that are included in the dredge with the scallops (or sometimes, instead of the scallops). All of these are termed “bycatch” and are counted and/or measured and then thrown back.As before, pictures of most of the species will be added when I am back on land. In this log, I will talk about the fishes that are often in the dredge. Most of this information came from Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, edited by Collette and Klein-MacPhee, 3rd Edition (2002).

Flounder – Flounder are a flat fish with both eyes on the same side of the fish when they are adult. As young, they eyes are on both sides, as in most fish, but as they mature, one eye migrates to the opposite side and the fish lays flat. In general, they are a mottled brown to blend in with the ocean bottom.

Flounder
Flounder

Fourspot Flounder (Paralichthys oblongus) – have four distinct spots on the dorsal side: 2 near the tail and 2 in the middle, above and below the lateral line. They eat cephalopods (squid and octopus), crustaceans, and other fish. Predators include spiny dogfish, goosefish (see below), silver hake (see below), and other flounder.

Fourspot Flounder
Fourspot Flounder

Windowpane Flounder (Scopthalmus aquosus) – more round than other flounder. They can reach a maximum size of 51cm and weigh more than 1 kg, but average between 25-30 cm in length. They eat decapods (shrimp) and other fishes. Predators include sharks, skates (see below), cod, and dogfish. Windowpane flounder are not considered commercially important, but have been used as an indicator species in Long Island Sound.

Fourspot Flounder
Windowpane Flounder

Summer Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) – have highly variable color patterns that they can actually alter for camouflage. They don’t replicate the ocean floor underneath, but change their patterning to blend in with the substrate. Males can reach 61cm and 2.6 kg while females can reach 94 cm and 13.4 kg. They average 40-56 cm and 1-2.3 kg with females generally being larger and heavier for their age than males. Summer flounder eat other fishes (including other flounder), cephalopods, and crustaceans. Predators include sharks, skates, cod, goosefish, silver hake, etc. Commercially, summer flounder are one of the most important flat fish in the north Atlantic. Commercial aquaculture of summer flounder began in 1996.

Summer Flounder
Summer Flounder

Yellowtail Flounder (Limanda ferruginea) – more evenly pigmented than other flounders and have yellow streaks on the ventral edges near the tail. Males reach an average size of 40 cm and females reach 46 cm. They eat cnidarians, crabs, bivalve mollusks, echinoderms, and other flounder. Their predators include spiny dogfish, skates, goosefish, hakes, halibut, and four spot flounder. Yellowtail founder are one of the most commercially import flat fish in the area. By the late 1990s, they were considered to be fully exploited and rebuilding local stocks.

Yellowtail Flounder
Goosefish or Monk Fish

Goosefish or Monk fish (Lophius americanus) – is a type of angler fish. Angler fish use a lure to attract prey fish nearer the mouth of the predator. Goosefish have a mouth that is enormous for the size of the fish and which opens upward. The teeth are plentiful and all point back into the mouth so that in trying to escape, the prey simply impales itself more tightly onto the teeth. It also has spines on the dorsal side of the head. There are confirmed incidences of goosefish eating diving birds, but stories of them eating geese are probably apocryphal. Goosefish can reach 120 cm in length and 27 kg in weight. They eat bony fishes, cephalopods, elasmobranchs, and occasionally birds. Not much eats goosefish, though smaller ones are eaten by larger goosefish, sharks, and swordfish. . There is a commercial market for monkfish, Julia Childs is often credited with making it popular with a recipe she did on one of her shows.

Red Hake (Urophycis chuss) – are silvery fish with a reddish tint on the head, very similar to the picture below. They can grow to 50 cm and 2 kg with the females being generally larger than the males. They eat decapods, polychaetes (sea mice), crustaceans, and other fishes. Their predators include dogfish, cod, goosefish, and silver hake. Commercially, they are used in animal feed and larger ones are used for human consumption. They are considered underexploited.

Red Hake
Silver Hake

Silver Hake (Merluccius blinearis) – are silvery fish that are generally a darker grey than the red hake. They can be larger than the red hake, up to 76 cm and 2.3 kg. They eat other silver hake, crustaceans, and other fishes. Many other fishes as well as harbor porpoises consider the silver hake to be prey. Commercially, they are used as fresh fish, canned pet food, fertilizer, and fish meal. They are unsuited to freezing. Silver hake are considered fully exploited.

Listtle Skate
Listtle Skate

Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea) – are trapezoidal, purplish brown and spotted on the dorsal side. They also have thorns present on the dorsal side. Little skate females release a single, fertilized egg in a distinctively shaped egg case. They reach a maximum length of 54 cm and eat fish and invertebrates, including gastropods, bivalve mollusks, crabs, etc. They are eaten by sharks, other skates, goosefish, and seals. Commercially, little skates are used to bait lobster traps.

Barndoor Skate
Barndoor Skate

Barndoor Skate (Dipturus laevis) – are one of the largest skates in the area. They can reach 180 cm and over 10 kg. They eat invertebrates and fishes, including gastropods, crabs, lobsters, and polychaetes. They do not have many predators, though they are probably eaten by sharks.

Ocean Pout
Ocean Pout

Ocean Pout (Zoarces americanus) – look much like an eel with fins just behind the head. They are a yellow-green/brown with patterning on the dorsal side. They can grow to 118 cm long and more than 6 kg in weight, though the average is 40-71 cm and 0.45-1.8 kg. They eat shelled mollusks, echinoderms, and some fishes. Predators of the pout include dogfish, skates, cod, hakes, and sea ravens. Commercially, the pout was heavily marketed during World War 2. This ended when there was an outbreak of a parasitic infection in the pout resulting in an embargo on human consumption of the pout. By the late 1990s, the population was considered to be overexploited and to have low biomass.

Longhorn Sculpin
Longhorn Sculpin

Longhorn Sculpin (Myoxocephalus octodecemspinosus) – are greenish brown with distinct markings. They almost look armored. Large fins extend from just behind the head. Their maximum size is 45 cm but the average size is 25-35 cm. Longhorn sculpin eat shrimp, crabs, worms, mussels, mollusks, squid, fishes, etc. They are eaten by cod, spiny dogfish, skates, sea ravens, goosefish, and other sculpin. There is not currently any commercial importance.

Personal Log

Again, we were sorting and counting in the rain today. There was less wind with this storm than the last, for which I am grateful. I have also finally learned some of the tricks to shucking scallops more efficiently. Since my raingear is cuffed at both the sleeves and the pants, I have to remember to empty the water out of the cuffs before going back inside to take the gear off. During the shift, gear is left with the pants down around the boots so it is easy to get in and out of for each tow, up to 12 or more times per shift. The science crew works noon to midnight or midnight to noon while the ship’s crew works from six to six. Because of the different schedules, traditional foods for particular meals don’t happen. I am on the noon to midnight shift (day watch) and so start the day by eating lunch. Our lunch is ship’s dinner (steaks last night) and our dinner is leftovers from the kitchen, which are quite good. There are always several types of salads and one or, sometimes, two choices for a main course. Additionally, there is the candy drawer and the ice cream freezer! No one will starve out here.

Anne Byford: June 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Byford
Aboard: R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Mission: Sea Scallop Surveys
Location: Off the Coast of New England
Date: June 11, 2010

Weather Data at 1:35pm EDT:
Clear, 14.4˚C
Location at 1:35pm EDT: Lat: 40 30.07 N Long: 69 08.66 W
Water Depth: 77.5 m

4th Day at Sea

Why Count Sea Scallops?

That had to be the most common question I got asked before coming on this trip. Much of the information below is from the NOAA FishWatch website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_sea_scallop.htm).

Economically, sea scallops are an important species; in 2008 the scallop harvest was about 53.5 million pounds and was worth about $370 million. The population is not currently considered to be overfished and has been above minimum sustainable levels since 2001. Formal management began in 1982 with the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan. The management plan includes limiting new permits, restrictions on gear and on the number of crew on a boat. Since about 2000, the biomass of scallops has been increasing. Biomass is estimated by using the weight of scallops per tow on cruises like this one. Combinations of biomass estimates and estimates of the commercial catch are used to update and adjust the management plan.

Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are filter feeders. They can live up to 20 years and begin reproducing at about 2 years, with maximum fertility reached at 4 years. A single female scallop can produce up to 270 million eggs in her life. This high reproductive capacity has helped the scallop population recover relatively quickly. Gender can be determined by the color of the gonad; females are orange while the male gonad is white. Adult scallops average between 6 and 7 inches from hinge to tip (called height) but can be as big as 9 inches. Age can be estimated by counting the rings on the shell. Scallops can “swim” by opening and closing the two shells. This is a useful adaptation for escaping from predators, including flounder, cod, lobsters, crabs, and sea stars. Scallops are harvested for the adductor muscle (the one that opens and closes the shell). There is no commercial aquaculture of scallops in the US as of August 2009.

Personal Log

A storm moved through beginning on Wed. evening (day 2) and stayed with us most of Thursday. By the end of shift on Wednesday, we were working on deck in full foul weather gear and life jackets. Thursday we had an 8 hour steam between dredge sites and by the end of shift on Thursday, the seas had begun to smooth out. Friday was quite nice, weather-wise.

I am learning to shuck scallops, though I am about half the speed of many on the boat. I am also learning to tell the various types of flounder and other fish apart as well. It’s not always obvious which type of flounder or hake is which.

New Species

Goose fish (aka monk fish), several more varieties of flounder, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eel pout, some very large skates, 3 types of sea stars and 1 type of brittle star.

Kathryn Lanouette, August 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathryn Lanouette
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 21-August 7, 2009 

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: August 1, 2009

This sonar-generated image shows walleye pollock close to the sea floor. The red line at the bottom of the image is the sea floor. The blue specks at the top of the image are jellyfish floating close to the water’s surface.
This sonar-generated image shows walleye pollock close to the sea floor. The red line at the bottom of the image is the sea floor. The blue specks at the top of the image are jellyfish floating close to the water’s surface.

Weather Data from the Ship’s Bridge 
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Wind direction: variable
Wind speed:  less than 5 knots, light
Sea wave height: 0 feet
Air temperature: 7.9˚C
Seawater temperature: 8.6˚C
Sea level pressure: 30.1 inches Hg
Cloud cover: 7/8, stratus

Science and Technology Log 

In addition to the Aleutian wing trawl (which I explained in Day 5 NOAA ship log) and Methot (which I explained in Day 8 NOAA ship log), scientists also use a net called an 83-112 for bottom trawls. The 83-112 net is strong enough to drag along the sea floor, enabling it to catch a lot of the animals that live in, on, or near the sea floor. This afternoon, we conducted the first bottom trawl of our cruise. Bottom trawls are usually conducted in two situations: if the walleye pollock are too close to the sea floor to use an Aleutian wing trawl or if the scientists want to sample a small amount of fish (because the 83-112’s net opening is smaller than the Aleutian wing trawl’s net). From the looks of the sonar-generated images, it appeared that most of the walleye pollock were swimming very close to the bottom so the scientists decided it would be best to use the 83-112 net.

Here I am holding one of the skates that was caught in the bottom trawl
Here I am holding one of the skates that was caught in the bottom trawl

Once the fish were spotted, we changed our course to get ready to trawl. Usually the trawl is made into the wind for stability and net control. Once the ship reached trawling speed, the lead fisherman was given the “OK” to shoot the doors. Slowly, the net was lowered to 186 meters below the surface, the sea depth where we happened to be. The water temperature down there was about 1˚C (compared to 7˚C on the sea’s surface).  I had heard from a previous Teacher At Sea that bottom trawls brought up a wide variety of animal species (compared to the relatively homogenous catches in mid-water trawls). And sure enough, when the net was brought up, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

All told, we sorted through over 7,000 animals, a total of 36 different species represented in the total catch. It took 4 of us over 4 hours to sort, measure, and weigh all these animals. There were over 350 walleye pollock in this catch as well as skates, octopi, crabs, snails, arrowtooth flounder, sea anemones, star fish, and dozens of other animals. Some of them were even walking themselves down the table.

During this catch, I also learned how to take the ear bones, or otoliths, out of a walleye pollock. Why ear bones you might ask? Using the ear bones from a walleye pollock, scientists are able to determine the exact age of the fish. Misha Stepanenko, one of the two Russian scientists on board the Oscar Dyson, showed me how to cut partially through the fish’s skull and take out two large ear bones. Once they were taken out, I put them in a solution to preserve them. Back in NOAA’s Seattle lab, the ear bones are stained, enabling scientists to count the different layers in each ear bone. For every year that the fish lives, a new layer of bone grows, similar to how trees add a layer for each year that they live. By learning the exact age of a fish, scientists are able to track age groups (called “cohorts”), allowing more precise modeling of the walleye pollock population life cycle.

A diagram of an otolith, or ear bone, of a fish.  You can see that it’s a lot like looking at tree rings!
A diagram of an otolith, or ear bone, of a fish. You can see that it’s a lot like looking at tree rings!

Personal Log 

So far this trip, we have sailed within 15 miles of Cape Navarin (Russia) on at least two different occasions but fog and clouds prevented any glimpse of land both times. It was a frustrating feeling knowing that land was so close, yet impossible to see. After 12 days of looking at nothing but water and sky, seeing land would have been a welcome treat.

Despite not seeing land, I still felt like I was in Russia just from listening to different fishing vessels communicate with one another. On our first night in Russian waters, we sailed through a heavy fog, with 7 or 8 different boats fishing nearby. I was impressed with how Ensign Faith Opatrny, the Officer on Deck at the time, communicated with various vessels, using collision regulations (“the rules of the road”) to navigate safely. On a culinary note, I got my first chance to eat some of a catch. After most trawls, we discard remaining inedible specimens overboard. After our bottom trawl however, one of the scientists filleted some of the cod. The next day, the stewards cooked it up for lunch. It tasted great and it felt good to be eating some of the fish that we sampled.

A graph showing the adult walleye pollock biomass estimates from 1965 to 2008.
A graph showing the adult walleye pollock biomass estimates from 1965 to 2008.

As the cruise starts to wind down, I also want to express my gratitude to all the NOAA scientists and Oscar Dyson crew. Everyone in the science group took time to explain their research, teach me scientific techniques, and answer my many questions. On numerous occasions, the deck crew explained the mechanics of fishing nets as well as the fishing process. The engineering crew gave me a tour of the engine rooms, describing how four diesel engines power the entire boat. The survey techs explained how different equipment is operated as well as the information it relays back to the scientists. The NOAA Corps officers showed me how to read weather maps, take coordinates, and explained ship navigation. The ship’s stewards described the art and science behind feeding 33 people at sea. And the USFWS bird observers patiently showed me how to identify numerous bird species. From each of them, I learned a tremendous amount about fisheries science, fishing, boats, sailing, birding, and life in the Bering Sea. Thank you!

Answer to July 28 (Tuesday) Log: How has the walleye pollock biomass changed over time? 
In the past few years, the walleye pollock biomass has decreased (according to the acoustic-trawl survey, the survey that I joined.) It should be noted that there is a second complementary walleye pollock survey, the eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey. This survey studies walleye pollock living close to the sea floor. As walleye pollock age, they tend to live closer to the sea floor, thus the bottom trawl survey sometimes shows different biomass trends than the acoustic-trawl survey. Both surveys are used together to manage the walleye pollock stock.

An up-close look at one of the squid’s tentacles
An up-close look at one of the squid’s tentacles

Animals Seen 
Auklet, Arrowtooth flounder, Basket star, Bering skate, Cod, Hermit crab, Fin whale, Fur seal, Octopus, Sculpin, Sea mouse, Sea slug, Shortfin eelpout, Snow crab, Squid, and Tanner crab.

New Vocabulary: Bottom trawl – fishing conducted on and near the bottom of the sea floor. Catch – fish brought up in a net. Shoot the doors – a fishing expression that means to lower the 2 metal panels that hold open the fishing nets in the water. Stewards – the name for cooks on a ship. Table – nickname for the conveyor belt where the fish are sorted for sampling. Vessels – another word for ships. 

Duane Sanders, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 6.8 KTS, Direction 65.7 degrees
Barometer: 018 millibars
Air temperature: 11.33 0C
Seas: 2-3 ft.

Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.
Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

We had to change out the dredge during my last watch.  Actually, I watched while the crew did the dangerous work. We have been working in an area with a rocky bottom and the rocks caused substantial damage to the netting in the dredge. Fortunately, we are carrying four dredges plus spare netting. The crew put a new dredge into operation right away so that we didn’t lose too much time.  Geoff, our watch chief, directed the installation of the new mesh into the first dredge.

The scallop dredges we use are eight feet wide. Commercial dredges are sixteen feet wide. The basic design is the same for each.  The mouth of the dredge is a welded steel rectangular frame, with the height about one foot.  The bottom of this rectangle is a heavy steel bar, called the cutting bar. This breaks loose organisms from the bottom.  A steel plate, called the pressure plate, is welded at an angle across the top of the rectangle.  This plate creates a downward swirl of water that directs the organisms into the mouth of the netting. The bag attached to the dredge is made of a net of steel rings. A mesh liner is mounted inside the bag for scientific use. This helps to trap other organisms that make up bottom-dwelling communities.  This gives scientists a more complete picture for the survey.  Commercial dredges do not use a liner and the rings of the bag are larger.  This allows smaller size scallops and other organisms to pass through the bag and remain to help sustain a healthy scallop population.

The business end of a scallop dredge
The business end of a scallop dredge

We have been ‘shadowed’ by another ship, the Kathy Marie for part of the time we have been working.  She is carrying a device known as the “HabCam”, short for Habitat Camera.  This is an underwater camera system that is towed just over the bottom. It makes a photographic record of still images of the bottom taken at a rate of three per second. The HabCam accumulates data at about three terabytes per day. The Kathy Marie runs over the same area dredged by the Sharp after we move on to the next station. Images from these runs provide scientists with an index of dredge efficiency at capturing the bottom dwellers.  Once enough image data has been collected to make useful correlations to dredge data, it might be possible to reduce the number of physical dredge samples taken and use the HabCam to record the community ‘in situ’, that is, in position without disturbance.

Personal Log 

I said in an earlier log entry that fish are not my favorite type of organism.  Because of this bias, I had been avoiding helping with the fish sorting and identification.  After thinking about this for a bit, I decided that I needed to embrace my bias against fish and try to learn something as well as help my colleagues.  Besides, how could I face my students without at least making an effort?  So, I am trying to learn how to identify these critters.  So far, I am pretty good with goosefish, red hake, longhorn sculpin and some of the flounder species.

I wonder how long it will take me to adjust to walking on dry land after being at sea for eleven days. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.  I have been trying to read some before going to sleep, but I find that I can do a few pages at best.  Hard work, sea air and the rocking motion of our ship make powerful sleep inducers.

Elise Olivieri, May 17, 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 17, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 13.61 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1012 mb
Humidity: 97 %

Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.
Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.

Science and Technology Log 

So Far the sea scallop survey has collected 76,170 sea scallops which can also be expressed as 9,251 kilograms.  This is a tremendous amount of scallops and the survey is not even a third of the way complete.  At stations where crabs and starfish were sampled we have collected 8,678 cancer crabs and 279,768 starfish (Asterias) so far. Without a reliable database like FSCS it would be impossible to keep up with such a large amount of information.

Today I got a chance to talk with Shad Mahlum.  He is a seagoing technician for NOAA and was born and raised in Montana. He has experience working with freshwater surveys.  In the past years he has studied how beaver dams influence native and non-native species of freshwater fish.  Shad also spent some time looking at various cattle grazing strategies and how they affect food chains. Shad loves working on the open ocean and the physical process of sea scallop surveys.  Shad hopes to work with freshwater and saltwater projects in the future.

Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.
Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.

As I was gazing out into the deep blue sea a very large animal caught my eye.  I was so excited to see another Finback Whale.  They are the second largest animal on earth after the Blue Whale.  They are known to grow to more than 85 feet. Finbacks are indifferent to boats. They neither approach them nor avoid them.  Finback Whales dive to depths of at least 755 feet. They can grow anywhere from 30-80 tons. Finbacks eat Krill, fish and squid and their population numbers are approximately 100,000 or more.  The only threats Finbacks have are polluted waters.  It is incredible to see such a large animal breaching out of the water.  I will never forget it.

Animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth Squid, Eelgrass Slug, Razor Clam, Lobsters, Green Sea Urchin, Macoma clam, Sea Stars (Asterias), Horseshoe Crab, Fourbeard Rockling, Palmate Sponge, Hermit Crab, Black Clam, Golden Star, Tunicate, Winter Flounder, Surf Clam, Yellowtail Flounder, and Sea Mouse. 

Susie Hill, July 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 30, 2007

Mesh netting in the dredge
Mesh netting in the dredge

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 17.5° C
Sea Temperature: 18.6° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1014.8 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.62 knots
Water Depth: 65.3 meters
Conductivity: 43.45 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I can’t believe it’s already been a week already since we left from Woods Hole, MA. I’m still getting a hang of the time schedule, but it’s working out okay. The weather has been beautiful. The staff is great—I’ve learned so much from them. The food is delicious, too! Today’s focus will be on the dredge. This is a metal frame with a metal ringed and meshed net that we use to dredge or scoop the sea bottom in hopes of finding our prize catch, sea scallops. The bag is about 8 feet wide with 2” rings and mesh netting. The mesh netting, called a liner, is in the dredge to ensure catching of the smaller scallops as well as the other species that coexist with the scallops. The dredge is lifted, put into the water, and dragged using a motorized gantry with a block and tackle system. The dredge is towed for 15 minutes at each station. The depths for this trip have been ranging from 29 meters to 112 meters. Sea Scallop dredge surveys have been conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Services since 1975.

The dredge is prepared for deployment.
The dredge is prepared for deployment.

 

Susie Hill, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 28, 2007

Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.
Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.4° C
Sea Temperature: 19° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1013.6 millibars
Wind Speed: 10.78 knots
Water Depth: 62.4 meters
Conductivity: 44.76 mmhos
Salinity: 32.58 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I am completely exhausted! We had about 12-14 stations almost back to back last night. Down on your knees picking through the sort to find scallops and fish to back bending of lifting up full baskets and cleaning the deck, I’m tired. It was loads of fun, though. We went from collections of sand dollars to big scallops, quahogs (clams), flounders, big sea stars, and sticky, slimy skates.  When the scallops, flounders and skates come in, we weigh them on a scale and then measure their length and count them using the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). It’s pretty cool how it works. You lay the species on the electronic board, and it gets measured by us using a magnetic stick to mark it. Once marked, the measurement goes right into the computer as well as counts it. One station, we counted 788 scallops! That is a lot, but they say there’s more where that came from!

Susie Hill, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21° C
Set Temperature: 22° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.76 knots
Water Depth: 67.0 meters
Conductivity: 45.75 mmhos
Salinity: 32.13 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

The weather has been very nice, sunny, and calm. Conditions were so clear last night that we could see fireworks far off into the distance. I’m getting into the routine of all of the stations- sorting for fish and scallops, weighing, measuring the length (or in scallop terms, shell height), counting starfish, and cleaning off the deck.

Today’s focus is on the CTD meter that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. This is the instrument that they use to determine the conditions of the water. It is lowered down to about 5-10 meters from the ocean floor about twice in a shift (12 hours). Some other results they also receive are pressure and salinity levels. These measurements are collected at the surface as well as at the bottom. Once they receive all of the data, it is loaded into a computer and turned into a very colorful graph.  Scallops like to live in water temperatures of < 20° C and in water depths of up to 200 meters south of Cape Cod (Dvora Hart, WHOI, 2002).

The CTD
The CTD

Susie Hill, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 26, 2007

Sunfish (Mola mola)
Sunfish (Mola mola)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.6° C
Sea Temperature: 22.6 ° C
Relative Humidity: 97%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.36 knots
Water Depth: 57.2 m
Conductivity: 46.15 mmhos
Salinity: 31.56 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

From noon to midnight, we go from being hot under the shining sun searching for the treasure of scallops in the collected pile to sitting under the beautiful moonlight shining across the vast ocean waiting for the next tow. It’s wonderful no matter how you look at science!

Today, I got to start up the starfish study. We are counting starfish from the sort to figure out the abundance and distribution of the Asterias sp. and Astropecten sp. in the researched area. Depending on the location of the station will determine how many of sea stars you have. The first station, we had loads of starfish! The starfish are randomly collected off of the remaining pile after everyone has been through it for their studies. Out of 4.5 liters (about 5 large handfuls), I counted 340 Astropecten sp. I can’t imagine how many there really were! With the passing of the stations from each night, the majority species of the pile has shifted from starfish to sand dollars. I’m glad I don’t have to count those because there’s so many of them. Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family with the sea stars. I always thought that they were white like you buy them in the beach souvenir shops, but they’re a dark purple color when they’re alive. Pretty cool! I’ve got lots of samples to bring home!

With being in the middle of the ocean, you also get to see the big marine life! It was kind of gross, but amazing at the same time! We thought it was a dead whale, but it ended up being a basking shark that has been dead for maybe a week. You could see the decaying skin, bloated belly, and the now showing gill rakers (the cartilaginous structures that filter food and sediment out of the gills when the shark eats). We also saw a sunfish (Mola mola)! We show a mini-movie of one of them as you’re going up the moving escalator at Nauticus, but it is so awesome seeing it in real life! It looks like a whale that’s been flattened. So cool! 

Susie Hill, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.8 ° C
Sea Temperature: 21.8 ° C
Relative Humidity: 93%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.4 millibars
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Water Depth: 58 meters
Conductivity: 44.91 mmhos
Salinity: 31 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

It’s the morning after my first shift, and surprisingly, I still have energy! It was so much fun! It took us about 8 hours to get to our first tow station, and then we went right to work. At each tow station, the dredge is emptied out onto the deck for us to sort. In addition to the standard sampling to assess the stock, scientists request certain species samples for additional research before each cruise. The samples that are being pulled this trip are scallops, skates, hake fish, starfish (some of us call them sea stars), and monkfish (or goosefish). So, we pull these out of the catch and the rest is thrown back out to sea. It’s a race from there to get all of the research done before the next tow. The scientists everywhere (including me!) are weighing , dissecting, and recording the data into the FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). It’s awesome!

One of my stations was to help take the data on the sea scallops. We measured the gonad, meat, and viscera (pretty much everything else in the shell) weights of 5 randomly chosen sea scallops to determine the sex and shell height/meat weight relationships. The shells will be measured back at Woods Hole to determine the age. Do you know how scientists determine the age of a scallop? They count the rings on the outer shell just like you would to determine the age of a tree. We also collected these samples to help with a study being done by Scientist Stacey Etheridge and Melissa Ellwanger from FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to determine PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels. They are also testing for Alexandrium sp., a dinoflagellate phytoplankton, in the water sample that can also cause PSP in humans.

It is pretty cool that the scientists let us help out at the different stations so we could get a hand in everything that is going on. When I came on, I thought that we were only going to be doing one study- studying just scallops. It turns out that we get to experience so much more!

Susie Hill, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 19.4° C
Sea Temperature: 20.9 ° C
Relative Humidity: 83%
Barometric Pressure: 1019.4 millibars
Windspeed: 19.32 knots
Water Depth: 48.5 meters
Conductivity: 045.16 mmhos
Salinity: 33 ppt

Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)
Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus)

Science and Technology Log 

My NOAA Teacher at Sea Journey begins! We set sail this morning at 9:00 a.m. on the NOAA ALBATROSS IV Ship out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts to assess the scallop populations between Long Island, New York and Georges Bank of the Altantic Ocean. The areas being studied are chosen by the stratified random sampling method that is based on depth and bottom composition. Some other stations are specially selected by the scientists for further studying.  Among the sea, calico, or Icelandic species of scallops, we’ll also be pulling up species of fish and crab that will be studied by other scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, pronounced as Hooey around here). Stacey Rowe is our Chief Scientist for this trip.

We started off our day with the fire drill where we find our assigned stations and wait for directions by the Ship’s Captain. My station was the wet science lab near the stern (or back) of the ship with the other scientists. Next was the abandon ship drill where we grabbed our “gumby” survival suit and life jacket, and went to our next station which was Life Raft #5. The gumby suit was cool! Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy following orders to get in station. Then, we did a “test tow” of the dredge to see if it worked. The dredge is the metal net that the ship uses to scoop up the animals from the sea bottom for sampling. Last, we caught species of flounder (left eye and windowpane), cancer crabs, and sea robins. The area that we dredged is not popular with scallops, so we didn’t pull any up. Our job as volunteers was to sort and weigh the collected species.  I am working the noon-midnight shift, so I’ll be getting ready now to take my place in prepping for our wonderful catch! Wish me luck!

Cool Fact for the Day 

The Virginia fossil is the scallop, Chesapecten jeffersoni.

David Riddle, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 15, 2006

Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!
Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!

Science and Technology Log

We’re in an area now with an abundance of scallops, and most of them are large. When the catch is emptied from the net onto the deck, it takes 6 to 8 people working steadily, on hands and knees, to separate the scallops from the rest of the catch.  We’ve gotten up to 16 bushels so far in one 15 minute tow, using an 8 foot dredge. If the next station is nearby, we just have time to get the measurements completed and clean up before it’s time to start again.  But it’s not always that busy.  If the next station is several miles away, we get time to sit for a few minutes and relax.

During one of my relaxing moments, I photographed some of the fish that were caught along with scallops and starfish and everything else.  We catch small skates, which are shaped like stingrays, with a broad, diamond-shaped body and an elongated narrow tail.  We also catch goosefish, sometimes called angler fish, with mouths agape, showing rows of needle-like teeth. We catch flounder too.  All of these are bottom-dwellers, probably too slow to swim away from the net, or else when they feel the net coming they just hunker down in their standard defensive posture, which unfortunately is no help when the thing that’s coming after you weighs nearly a ton and is being dragged at between 3 and 4 knots.

Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.
Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.

As we have moved farther south today, I’ve begun noticing scallops with different patterns on their shells. Some look like sunbursts; some are striped.  I’ve collected a few to take home.  I want to get some photos of live scallops also. When they open their shells you can see the row of eyes along the margin of the gills.  Scallops can swim, which is unusual for a bivalve. The powerful muscle (the part we eat) which holds the shells together, opens and closes the shell in rapid succession. This draws water in between the shells and forces it out the back near the hinge in little concentrated jets. Scallops swim by jet propulsion!  Prior to sailing, we saw a brief film clip showing a group of scallops swimming, in a jerky, erratic motion.

Sightings: An osprey landed on the mast about 11:00am.  The fishermen say we’re about 20 miles offshore, so I imagine he/she is pretty tired.  Maybe it will hang around for a while. Later…It’s 9:00 pm now and the osprey is still perched on the mast.  I expect it will still be here in the morning.  Another small songbird showed up later in the afternoon. I didn’t see it, so I don’t know the species.  The fishermen offered it some fresh water, but it didn’t drink.  They say it probably won’t survive this far out, if it won’t drink. Even so, some birds seem quite at home this far out.

Personal Log 

Midnight notes: We did 18 stations in 12 hours; several were back to back.  Do you think I’m ready for a shower and bed?  Does a scallop live in the ocean?