At present, there are 31 people onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, and each plays a vital role in making sure that everything runs as it should. One person whose job touches each and every one of us is Judy Capper, the Chief Steward. One might think that being onboard a ship for three weeks would mean limited food choices, or lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but so far every meal onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson has been abundant and delicious. From shrimp kabobs to stuffed pork loin to homemade soups to delicious baked goods, Judy keeps everyone onboard fed and happy.
I got a chance to talk to Judy about her job and her journey to becoming a NOAA Chief Steward. Judy’s first career was in the corporate world (including Hewlitt-Packard) but being the oldest of 5 siblings, she has been cooking since the age of 12. An interest in cooking led her to study culinary arts at UCLA and other locations. She then took seamanship training at Orange Coast College. At the time, she owned a sailboat, and enjoyed cooking and entertaining on the boat. The captain loved her cooking and asked if she would be interested in cooking on some sailboat charters. That led to working on yachts and supply ships, and lucky for us, in 2015, Judy was hired by NOAA. Judy loves her job as a NOAA Steward. She says it is never boring and allows her to be creative. Her advice for anyone interested in following in her footsteps is to eat in good restaurants so that you develop your taste buds, get good training, and watch cooking shows.
Science and Technology Log
Last night we used a different kind of net, known as a Methot net, in order to collect macroscopic zooplankton. Named after its designer, Richard D. Methot, it is a single net with a large square opening or mouth attached to a rigid steel frame. The net is deployed from the stern and towed behind the vessel.
The Methot uses fine mesh (e.g. 2×3 mm) but has openings that are slightly larger. This design allows the net to be towed at high speeds. A flowmeter suspended in the mouth of the Methot net measures the flow of water moving through the net. Scientists use the flowmeter data to calculate the volume of water sampled.
Watching the crew preparing to launch the Methot net was a lesson in teamwork. Everyone knew their job, and they reviewed what each would do when. They even discussed what hand signals they would use (“If I make this movement, that means XYZ”).
The Methot net did catch a lot more krill than I had seen before, as well as many jellyfish.
Fun Jellyfish Facts:
invertebrates, and have no brain, heart, eyes, or bones. Instead they have a bag-like body that feels
like slippery jello and tentacles covered with small, stinging cells. They sting and paralyze their prey before
eating it. A jellyfish sting can be
painful, but it is not usually harmful for humans. However, some people may be allergic to the
venom, and will have a reaction.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012
Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 23, 2012
Plankton Net Operation
Learning how to work with the plankton net was so interesting. It required careful, meticulous, and orderly work. Emily Norton, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Biological Oceanography, is conducting daytime and nighttime tows targeting plankton. She’s particularly interested in collecting and studying copepods, a type of small crustacean which comprise ~80-90% of the plankton. Plankton is a name for a variety of plants and animals that live in the water column and are found throughout the world’s oceans. Plankton are important because they are an integral part of the food chain, and they can help scientists better understand currents and transport in the oceans. Helping with the plankton tow is Megan Duncan, oceanography participant, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii. Together we deployed the net starting around 11:00 p.m. Due to migration patterns known as diel vertical migration, plankton can be collected more easily at night.
The net consists of a 1 meter metal ring with a fine mesh (200 um) net attached to collect the plankton.
At the end of the long, conical net is a collection filter tube or “codend.” This is the final collection point for all of the specimens funneled into the mouth of the net.
The flowmeter is then connected across the diameter of the metal ring, which measures the amount of water flowing past it.
With a crane operator’s help the net is lowered into the sea with 230 feet wire out which calculates to approximately 200 feet deep. This is called an “oblique tow” method.
The net remains in the water for 30 minutes.
Once brought to the surface, the net is rinsed with sea water multiple times to ensure all of the plankton are completely flushed down into the cod end.
The next step is filtering the plankton-rich seawater through a very fine sieve.
The plankton are either observed under a microscope or immediately preserved using an ethanol solution, 95% ethanol 5% water.
Labels are then placed inside the jar written in pencil on waterproof paper, and outside the jar using indelible marker.
The plankton will be processed at a later date in the lab for quantitative analysis.
In the lab, scientists study the plankton further, making observations and studying the DNA, Deoxyribonucleic Acid using PCR, Polymerase Chain Reaction, and sequencing. Similarities and differences (i.e. mutations) in the DNA sequences are used by scientists to determine how closely related populations of copepods are. This helps scientists infer how currents affect connectivity in the ocean.
Baby giant squid
juvenile fish, various species
Q:What fish have you had the most interest in and why?
A: The most common fish caught in the net is the lanternfish or myctohid. They represent nearly 85% of the ocean’s biomass. One interesting feature is their photophores which produce light that emit from their bodies.
This tray of myctophids or lantern fish make up nearly 85% of the ocean’s biomass. They were the most common fish in our night Cobb Trawl nets.
Q: Have you gone scuba diving?
A: No, I didn’t do any S.C.U.B.A. (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving on this trip. There are NOAA ships that focus on research that require diving as their method of collecting data. We visited the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai that researches the coral reef biome in the American Samoa waters.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Richard Chewning Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson June 4 – 24, 2010
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor) Date: June 17, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: north of Dutch Harbor Time: 0830 Latitude: N 54 58.080 Longitude: W 165 58.080 Cloud Cover: cloudy with fog Wind: 20 knots from SW Temperature: 6.9 C Barometric Pressure: 1007.9 mbar
Science and Technology Log
In addition to the Tucker trawl, fish biologists onboard the Dyson also utilize the Methot trawl to catch zooplankton in their study of pollock. The Methot is a single net with a large square mouth (the opening of the net) that is deployed from the stern and towed behind the Dyson. The Methot uses fine mesh with openings slightly larger than the Tucker trawl. This larger mesh size allows the net to be towed at higher speeds. A torpedo looking instrument called a flowmeter is suspended in the mouth of net to measure the flow of water moving through the net. The flowmeter allows the researchers to calculate how much zooplankton is found in a certain volume of water. With its larger mouth and faster speed through the water, the Methot is able to catch the larger zooplankton such as euphausiids the Tucker trawl might miss. Pollock seem to love euphausiids as I have seen firsthand stomachs of pollock caught during Aleutian wing trawls that have had stomachs stuffed with euphausiids.
After the Methot is return onboard, the sample is rinsed and poured through a strainer to separate the zooplankton from smaller algae and phytoplankton. After being weighed, a small subsample is removed and preserved for later identification. The number of euphausiids in a second subsample is counted to calculate the total number in the catch. Several individual euphausiids are also frozen so they can later be analyzed for age and development by examining their eye stalks. In addition to catching the small zooplankton pollock eat, the Methot will also catch some of the largest zooplankton in the ocean: jellyfish. Almost all the Dyson’s trawls have yielded large number of Chrysaora melanaster jellyfish. After being removed from the sample, these jellyfish are also weighed and measured. These jellyfish produce only a mild sting but can be quite frustrating to process in large numbers.
The Dyson has also been routinely deploying a piece of equipment known as a CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth recorder). This instrument package allows scientists to measure temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, light intensity and conductivity. By measuring conductivity (the amount of electricity carried by seawater), salinity can also be calculated, and from temperature and salinity, density can be calculated. The CTD is deployed once every night before dawn and during selected locations during the day. The CTD is attached to a metal frame called a carousel along with other pieces of scientific equipment. Niskin bottles can be attached to the carousel allowing the recovery of water samples from different depths. The Niskin bottle is a vertical plastic tube that is initially deployed with both ends open allowing seawater to flow through. Once the CTD is lowered to the desired depth, the bottle is ‘fired’. Firing signals the bottle to close the openings, sealing the water sample inside. This water can be brought to the surface and filtered to measure the amount of chlorophyll it contains. By better understanding how the properties of seawater such as temperature and chlorophyll concentration relate to the various biological organisms that form the foundation of the Bering Sea ecosystem, researchers can better understand pollock distribution and abundance.
After getting to know the crew over the last week and a half, I have noticed most have a passion for the great outdoors and enjoy a wide range of physical activities such as hiking and skiing when not at sea. Most enjoy hunting and fishing and several enjoy competitive events such as running and cycling. You would think staying active while sharing a platform only 208.6 feet long and 49.2 feet wide with up to 40 people might seem like a daunting task, but this is surprisingly not the case. I have noticed most of crew members from the CO (the commanding officer) to the guest scientists have dedicated time in their schedule to keeping physically fit.
The deck crew has an upper hand in this endeavor as their work often involves moving heavy lines, chains, and gear. Their labor is aided however by powerful hydraulic winches that can lift even the heaviest objects with ease. The Dyson’s acting XO (executive officer) Lieutenant Sarah Duncan was also willing to suit up in her foul weather gear and life vest to give the deck crew an extra set of hands with two late night pollock trawls. Besides the physical workout of retrieving the gear, she told me that working down on deck gives her better appreciation for how the deck crew is affected by the ship’s movements and weather conditions when deploying and retrieving gear. This is very valuable information for Sarah for when she is high in the bridge working hard to direct the ship’s movement so the deck crew can work efficiently and safely in different weather conditions and sea states.
Maintaining one’s physically fitness benefits every member of the crew regardless of station as rough seas can wear the body down physically and mentally in a very short period of time. The rowing machine seems to be the first choice among the crew although the stationary bike and elliptical machine are also popular. The treadmill is the most challenging workout as you are constantly being thrown off balance. I can’t help but wonder what prisoners chained to the oars of wooden ships of old would think knowing that mariners today use large mechanical engines to power the ship and use stationary rowing machines for exercise!
Did you know? The word ‘plankton’ and ‘planet’ come from the same root word? Both names come from the Greek word planktos that means ‘wander’. Plankton is any plant or animal not strong enough to swim against water currents. Examples include diatoms, dinoflagellates, copepods, and euphausiids. Planets were named because they were observed by early astronomers to drift or wander among the stars. Stars appear to maintain the same spatial relationships with each other as they rotate across the sky because they are located so far away. Although they are actually moving, their position in relation to each other appears to be unchanging. This is the reason why the same constellations (pattern of stars in the sky) have been identified throughout human history. Planets on the other hand move through the star field as they are very close in comparison and are orbiting the sun. Thus planets appear to wander among the stars just like plankton drift among the currents of the ocean.