Callie Harris: Jellyfish Landslide, August 15, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Callie Harris

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 13 – 26, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: 8/15/19

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 57° 16.15 N
Longitude: 152 ° 30.38 W
Wind Speed: 6.53 knots
Wind Direction: 182°
Air Temperature: 17.1°C
Sea Temperature: 15°C
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mbar


Science and Technology Log

Now that we have been out to sea for 3 days, I can better describe what my 12 hour ‘work shift’ is like. We average about three stations (i.e. research locations) per shift. Each ‘station’ site is predetermined along a set transect.

transect map of stations
Transect Map of all of our tentative stations to survey (red dots). Image credit: Matt Wilson

Before we can put any scientific equipment in the water, we have to get the all clear that there are no marine mammals sighted within 100 yards of the boat. I was thrilled yesterday and today that we had to temporarily halt our survey because of Humpback Whales and Harbor Porpoises in the area. I rushed from the scientific deck up to the bridge to get a better look. Today, we saw a total of 6 Humpback Whales, one of which was a newborn calf. Chief Electronics Technician Rodney Terry explained to me that you can identify the calf because the mother often times pushes the calf up to help it breach the surface to breathe. We observed one tall and one short breathe ‘spout’ almost simultaneously from the mother and calf respectively.

humpback whale spout
Humpback Whale breath spout off of bow.

Once we arrive at each station, we must put on all of our safety equipment before venturing out on the deck. We are required to wear steel-toed boots, a life preserver, and hardhat at all times. On scientific vessels, one must constantly be aware that there is machinery (A frames, booms, winches, etc.) moving above you overhead to help raise and lower the equipment in the water. We survey each station using bongo nets, a midwater trawl, and sometimes a CTD device. In future posts, I will go more into detailed description of what bongo nets and a CTD device entail. This post I want to focus on my favorite survey method: the midwater trawl, aka the ‘jellyfish landslide.’

A midwater trawl (aka a pelagic trawl) is a type of net fishing at a depth that is higher in the water column than the bottom of the ocean. We are using a type of midwater trawl known as a Stauffer trawl which has a cone shaped net that is spread by trawl doors.

trawl net
Trawl net aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

One of the survey’s goals over the next two weeks is to assess the number of age-0 Walleye Pollock (aka Alaskan Pollock.) These juvenile fish hatched in April/May of this year. As NOAA Scientist Dr. Lauren Rogers, my fellow shift mate, explains, this population of fish species tends to naturally ebb and flow over the years. Fisheries management groups like NOAA study each ‘year class’ of the species (i.e. how many fish are hatched each year).

Typically, pollock year classes stay consistent for four to five years at a time. However, every so often management notes an ‘explosion year’ with a really large year class. 2012 was one of these such years. Hence in 2013, scientists noted an abundance of age-1 pollock in comparison to previous years. Based on the data collected so far this season (2019), scientists are hypothesizing that 2018 was also one of these ‘explosive’ years based on the number of age-1 pollock we are observing in our trawl net samples. It is extremely important scientists monitor these ebbs and flows in the population closely to help set commercial limits. Just because there is a rapid increase in the population size one year doesn’t mean commercial quotas should automatically increase since the population tends to level itself back out the next year.

If you have ever gone fishing before, you probably quickly realized just because you want to catch a certain species doesn’t mean you are going to get it. That is why I have nicknamed our midwater trawl samples, “The jellyfish landslide.” After the trawl net is brought back onto the deck, the catch is dumped into a large metal bin that empties onto a processing table. I learned the hard way on our late night trawl that you must raise the bin door slowly or else you will have a slimy gooey landslide of jellies that overflows all over everywhere. At least we all got a good laugh at 11:15 at night (3:15AM Florida time).

Jellyfish Landslide
Jellyfish landslide! (I’m desperately trying to stop them from falling over the edge.) Photo credit: Lauren Rogers.
jellyfish landslide thumbs up
Jellyfish landslide, managed. Photo credit: Lauren Rogers

Once on the processing table, we sort each species (fish, jelly, invertebrate, etc.) into separate bins to be counted and weighed. Each fish specimen’s fork length is also measured on the Ichthystick.

Measuring fork length
Measuring fork length of pollock.

We then label, bag, and freeze some of the fish specimens to bring back for further study by NOAA scientists in the future. There is a very short time window that scientists have the ability to survey species in this area due to weather, so each sample collected is imperative.

Callie and salmon
Our first salmon catch in the trawl. Photo credit: Lauren Rogers.


Personal Log

This experience is nothing short of amazing. Upon arriving in Kodiak on Sunday, I got to spend the next two days on land with my fellow NOAA scientists setting up the boat and getting to know these inspiring humans. Everyone on the boat, scientists and the Oscar Dyson crew, are assigned a 12 hour shift. Therefore, you may not ever see half of your other ship mates unless it is at the changing of a shift or a safety drill. I did thoroughly enjoy the abandon ship safety drill yesterday where we had to put on our survival (nicknamed the orange Gumby) suits as quickly as possible.

Survival Suit Practice.
Survival Suit Practice. Photo credit: Lauren Rogers

Everyone has been commenting that I brought Key West here to Alaska. The last three days at sea have been absolutely beautiful — sunny, warm, and calm seas. I am sure I am going to regret saying that out loud, haha. At the end of my work shift, I am beat so I am beyond thrilled to curl up in my bunk for some much needed rest. Yes, it does finally get dark here around 10:30PM. I was told we might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights toward the final days of our survey. I am also getting very spoiled by having three delicious homemade meals (and dessert J) cooked a day by Chief Steward Judy. That is all for now, we have another trawl net full of fun that is about to be pulled back onto the deck.


Did You Know?

NOAA CORPS Officer LT Laura Dwyer informed me of the ‘marine mammal’ protocol aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. Scientists must temporary halt research collection if any marine mammal (i.e. a Humpback Whale, porpoise, orca, seal, etc.) is within 100 yards or less of the vessel; if a North Pacific Right Whale is within 500 yards; or if a polar bear (yes you read that correctly) is within half a mile on land or ice.


Challenge Yourself

Do you know how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit? You take the temperature in Celsius and multiply it by 1.8, then add 32 degrees. So today’s air temperature was 17°C and the sea temperature 15°C. Therefore, what were today’s temperatures in Fahrenheit? Answers will be posted in my next blog.

Callie Harris: Key West to Kodiak, August 10, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Callie Harris

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 13 – 26, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: 8/10/19

Introduction

Hi everyone! I am currently on flight number two of four over the next two days to get me all the way from Key West, Florida to Kodiak, Alaska! Sure beats the 5,516 mile drive it would take me by car! My new home for the next two plus weeks will be aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. It is an ultra-quiet fisheries survey vessel built to collect data on fish populations, conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys, and study marine ecosystems. The ship operates primarily in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. Photo credit: NOAA.

So what exactly will I be doing these next few weeks at sea? I will be working side by side with world-renowned NOAA scientists during twelve hour shifts (noon to midnight). Our research will focus on collecting data on the Walleye Pollock (also known as Alaskan Pollock) population and other forage fishes in the western Gulf of Alaska. Most of our samples will be collected by midwater trawling (or net fishing). I will be spending many hours in the onboard fish lab working hands-on with scientists to help sort, weigh, measure, sex, and dissect these samples. We will also collect zooplankton and measure environmental variables that potentially affect the ecology of these fishes. We will conduct CTD casts (an instrument used to measure the conductivity, temperature, and pressure of seawater) and take water samples along transects to examine the physical, chemical, and biological oceanography associated with cross-shelf flow.


A Little About Me

How did a little girl who grew up playing in the Georgia woods wind up being a marine science teacher in Key West and now on a plane to Kodiak, Alaska to work as a scientist at sea? I applied for every internship, program, and job I ever dreamed of often times with little to no experience or chance of getting it. I was a wildlife/zoology major at the University of Georgia. However during high school, my parents bought a second home in Key West where I would live during my summers off. I applied and got a job on a snorkel boat at 18 with zero boating experience. After college, I once again applied for a job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission that I was not qualified for in the least. I did not get the job, but at least I went for it regardless of the outcome. So I continued to do odds and ends (often non-paying) internships at MOTE, the Turtle Hospital, and Reef Relief while working to get my 100 ton captain’s license at age 21.

Callie at turtle hospital
Callie interning at the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key

About 6 months after the first FWC interview, the local FWC director called me one day out of the blue and said I now have a job that you are qualified for.

Over the next year at the FWC as a marine biologist, I found that my favorite part of my week was the student outreach program at local schools. I came across a job vacancy for a local elementary science position and thought why not. I had zero teaching experience, a love for science, and the mindset that I can learn to teach as I teach them learn. Eleven years later, I am very proud to be the head of our marine science program at Sugarloaf School. I get the pleasure of teaching my two passions: science and the ocean. I hope to instill a sense of wonder, discovery, and adventure to all my students from kindergarten all the way up through eighth grade.

Last December, I felt the same sense of adventure well up inside of me when I came across the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. I’m a teacher, a mother of young twins, a part time server, a wife of a firefighter with crazy work hours, and someone who enjoys the comfort of their own bed. All rational thoughts lead to the assumption that this program was out of my league, but it didn’t nor will it ever stop me from continuing to dare, dream and discover. I hope my trip will inspire my students to do the same- to never stop exploring, learning, or continuing to grow in life.

Did You Know?

Walleye pollock is one of the type five fish species consumed in the United States. If you have ever eaten frozen fish sticks or had a fish sandwich at fast food restaurant then you have probably eaten pollock.

Amanda Dice: Fish Sticks with a Side of Science, August 29, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Amanda Dice

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 21 – September 2, 2017

 

IMG_1553

We have made it to the most northern point on the survey.

Mission: Juvenile Pollock Fishery Survey

Geographic area of cruise:
Western Gulf of Alaska

Date: August 29, 2017

Weather Data: 10.2 C, rainy/stormy

Latitude: 59 20.0 N, Longitude: 152 02.5 W

 

 

Science and Technology Log

The main focus of this survey is to gather information about juvenile walleye pollock, Gadus chalcogrammus. Juvenile pollock less than 1 year of age are called young-of-the-year, or age-0 juveniles. Age-0 walleye pollock are ecologically important. Many species of birds, mammals and other fish rely on them as a food source. Adult pollock have a high economic value. Pollock is commercially fished and commonly used in fish sticks and fish and chips. This study is interested in learning more about the size of current juvenile pollock populations, where they occur, and how healthy they are.

IMG_1132

An age 0 juvenile pollock is shown below an adult pollock.

In order to collect a sample, a trawl net is lowered into the water off of the back of the ship. The deck crew and bridge crew work together to release the right amount of wire and to drive the ship at the right speed in order to lower the net to the desired depth. The net is shaped like a sock, with the opening facing into the water current. In order to keep the mouth of the net from closing as it is pulled through the water, each side is connected to a large metal panel called a “door”. As the doors move through the water, they pull on the sides of the trawl net, keeping it open. When the doors are ready to be put in the water, the fishing officer will instruct the winch operator to “shoot the doors”!

IMG_1272

The deck crew bring the trawl net back on deck. One of the metal “doors” can be seen hanging off of the back of the ship.

Sensors help monitor the depth of the upper and lower sides of the net and relay a signal to computers on the bridge, where the data can be monitored.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.44.24 PM

Sensors on the trawl net relay data to computers on the bridge which show the position of the net in the water.

Once the net is reeled in with a large winch, the catch is placed on a sorting table, in a room just off of the back deck called the fish lab. Here, the science team works to sort the different species of fish, jellyfish, and other kinds of marine animals that were caught.

IMG_1217

Crew members stand below a winch and empty the catch from the trawl net into a large bin.

IMG_1576

The catch is then sorted on the sorting table in the fish lab.

Juvenile pollock are sorted into their own bin. If it is a small catch, we weigh, count, and measure the length of each one. However, if it is a large catch, we take a smaller sample, called a subsample, from the whole catch. We use the weight, lengths, and count of animals in the subsample to provide an estimate count and average size of the rest of the fish caught at that station, which are only weighed. This information is compiled on a computer system right in the fish lab.

IMG_1097

Here I am measuring some fish.

 

IMG_1117

Data from the catch is collected on computers in the fish lab.

 

The focus of this study is juvenile pollock, but we do catch several other species in the trawl net. The presence of other species can provide information about the habitats where juvenile pollock live. Therefore, data from all species collected are also recorded.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 8.36.24 PM

Here are some other interesting species we caught: 1. jellyfish (with a partially digested pollock inside it!) 2. lumpsucker 3. herring 4. spider crab

A small sample of juvenile pollock are frozen and saved for further study, once back on land. These fish will be analyzed to determine their lipid, or fat, content and calorie content. This data reveals information about how healthy these fish are and if they are getting enough food to survive through the cold Alaskan winters.

Other agencies within NOAA also conduct scientific surveys in this area. These studies might focus on different species or abiotic (non-living) properties of the Gulf of Alaska marine ecosystem. The data collected by each agency is shared across the larger NOAA organization to help scientists get a comprehensive look at how healthy marine ecosystems are in this area.

 

Personal Log

As we move from one station to the next, I have been spending time up on the bridge. This gives me a chance to scan the water for sea birds and marine mammals, or to just take in the scenery. Other members of the crew also like to come up to do this same thing. I have really enjoyed having this time every day to share in this activity (one of my favorite past-times) with other people and to learn from them how to identify different species.

IMG_1192

Here I am outside of the bridge, posing with some glaciers!

 

Did You Know?

You can find the exact age of many fish species by looking at a bone in their ears! Fish have a special ear bone, called an otolith. Every year, a new layer will grow around the outside of this bone. As the fish ages, the otolith gets larger and larger. Scientists can find the exact age of the fish by cutting a cross section of this bone and counting the rings made from new layers being added each year.

IMG_1099

A small otolith of an age 0 juvenile pollock

IMG_1168

Larger otoliths from an adult pollock

Frank Hubacz: The Final Leg, May 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Frank Hubacz
Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson
April 29 – May 11, 2013

 

Mission: Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Mooring Deployment and Recovery

Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea

Date: May 10, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge (0200):

W wind 10 kt. Chance of light snow.

Air Temperature 2.6C

Relative Humidity 82%

Barometer 1025.5 mb

Surface Water Temperature 4.30 C

Surface Water Salinity 32.91 PSU

Seas up to 3 ft

Science and Technology Log

As we continue to complete CTD sampling on our last full day at sea, the major change from previous days is that the depth of the Bering Sea has increased dramatically. For the past couple of days we have been riding along the 70 m depth line.  We are now casting down to 1,500 m with the ocean bottom currently at 2,298 m.

My previous blogs have focused on the instrumentation and sampling methods used on the cruise.  I would now like to introduce you to the members of the science team on board the Oscar Dyson for this cruise.

William (Bill) Floering, Chief Scientist

William (Bill) Floering, Chief Scientist, NOAA-PMEL

William (Bill) Floering, Chief Scientist, NOAA-PMEL

Education:  BS Biology, University of Washington; BS Wildlife Biology, Oregon State University.

Position/Affiliation: Chief Scientist on Cruise, Field Operations Specialist/ NOAA/PMEL/OERD (30+yrs)

Duties on cruise: Oversee the entire cruise operations, objectives, staffing, and mooring deployment.  He is constantly “on duty” and serves as liaison between ship personnel and the science team.

Data:  Data collected will be used to better understand the physical and biological properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.  PMEL makes this data readily accessible to scientist of many disciplines to use.

Alphabetically Listed

Carol DeWitt

Carol DeWitt, PMEL
Carol DeWitt, NOAA/PMEL/FOCI

Education:  BS Biological Oceanography, Florida Institute of Technology

Position/Affiliation: Field Operations Specialist/PMEL/FOCI (25+yrs)

Duties on cruise: Ensures that all of  FOCI’s instruments are prepped, shipped to the Oscar Dyson prior to departure, and in working order once the cruise begins.  Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Data collected will be used to better understand the physical and biological properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.  PMEL makes this data readily accessible to scientist of many disciplines to use.

Scott McKeever

Scott McKeever, NOAA-PMEL

Scott McKeever, NOAA-PMEL

Education:  BS Atmospheric Science, University of Washington

Position/Affiliation: Research Scientist, Physical Oceanography Technician (2+ yrs)/ NOAA/PMEL/OERD

Duties on cruise: Mooring deployment and recovery along with CTD water sampling.  Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Data collected will be used to better understand and monitor the physical properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

Kathy Mier

Kathy Mier, NOAA-AFSC

Kathy Mier, NOAA-AFSC

Education:  MS Statistics, University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Position/Affiliation: Statistician (19+ yrs)/ NOAA/Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC)

Duties on cruise: Complete CTD water sampling as well as oversee Bongo tows and preservation of tow samples.  Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Some of the data collected by her group will be analyzed by scientist in Poland.  Kathy offers her statistical expertise to researchers reviewing collected data. Once data is analyzed it will be used to better understand and monitor the physical properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

Dan Naber

Dan Naber

Dan Naber

Education:  BS Geology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Position/Affiliation: Research, Mooring Technician (5+ yrs)/ UAF Institute of Marine Science

Duties on cruise:  Prepare various monitoring instruments for deployment on moorings.  Water sampling for nutrients, dissolved inorganic carbon, and dissolved oxygen.  Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Data collected will be used to better understand and monitor the physical properties, including monitoring ocean acidification, of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. 

Peter Proctor  

Peter Proctor, Ph.D., University of Washington

Peter Proctor, Ph.D., University of Washington

Education:  Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University

Position/Affiliation: Research Scientist/ Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO), University of Washington (11+ yrs)

Duties on cruise: Oversee the operation and data collection of CTD casts.  Additionally, collect nutrient, salinity, DO samples from CTD drops. Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Data collected will be used to better understand and monitor the physical properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.  Data will also be used collaboratively in fisheries assessment within this geographical region.

Matthew Wilson

Matthew Wilson, NOAA-AFSC

Matthew Wilson, NOAA-AFSC

Education:  MS Fisheries, Oregon State University

Position/Affiliation: Fisheries Research Biologist (25+ yrs)/ NOAA/Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC)

Duties on cruise:  Oversee Bongo tows and preservation of tow samples as well as ensure proper collection of chlorophyll samples.  Join in with all other team members in helping to complete onboard operations.

Data:  Chlorophyll samples will be used to standardize instrumentation used on board. Once data is analyzed it will be used to better understand and monitor the physical properties of the ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Matt’s research in helping to better understand Pollock fisheries will soon be published in the Journal of Marine Science.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in “marine science”, broadly defined, the collective advice from the science team is as follows: let your passion for studying the Ocean be your drive; experience this field firsthand through internships and volunteer opportunities aboard cruises; diversify your studies so that you have a broad background in several disciplines; through all of these experiences make certain that you truly do have a desire to pursue this field of science.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Proctor for his time, expertise, and willingness to share his knowledge of the ocean with me.  I also appreciated his patience in teaching me the techniques of CTD nutrient sampling, my “job” on the cruise. His humor and wit helped to make the downtime on our cruise enjoyable and always a learning experience.

Finally, I continue to be impressed with the leadership that Bill exhibits on board ship. His efforts ensured that valid “science” research was conducted during the cruise.  The data collected, once analyzed, will add to our knowledge base of the ocean waters of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.  I would like to personally thank Bill for allowing me to have the opportunity to actively work alongside the science research team on this cruise.

Personal Log

In my “science and technology” log above I introduced you to the science crew.  In this section, I would like to introduce you to someone who works very hard to keep “everybody happy” on board ship.  Frank Ford is Chief Steward aboard the Oscar Dyson for this cruise. 

Frank Ford, Chief Steward

Frank Ford, Chief Steward

Frank is an experienced chef providing us with nutritional, well balanced, food 24 hours per day.  On a ship, meals are served at specific times but everyone works different shifts and therefore is not always able to be at a serving.  Therefore, Frank needs to ensure that all of our dietary needs are met regardless of our personal work schedule. As I have indicated in previous blogs, I never went hungry. There is always a wide range of fruit, yogurt, snacks, leftovers, etc. available.  Frank also closely monitors the temperament of the crew as we eat our meals in the galley, via his open kitchen, and is always there to chat with us.  Thanks Frank for your multiple and varied menu offerings! I know that my students would be very pleased to have Frank Ford as our head chef on campus.

Prepping the Prime Rib!

Prepping the Prime Rib!

Seasoning with a "special blend"

Seasoning with a “special blend”.  Notice the open kitchen!

My favorite meal aboard ship

My favorite meal aboard ship!

On this cruise I have had the opportunity to not only work with the science team but to also meet and work with members of the NOAA Officers Corp as well as the NOAA deck crew.  I have discovered that they come from a variety of backgrounds as well as from all over the United States. However, they all have in common a love for being on the open sea.  I am impressed with their candor, openness, and their professionalism.  I have made many new friends! Thank you for the opportunity to sail on your ship!

Since leaving Seward, Alaska on April 29th, we have steamed over 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 miles) and traversed from the Gulf of Alaska (North Pacific) into the Bering Sea.   This journey has truly been a rewarding and phenomenal educational opportunity for me.  I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea “student” and truly hope that other teachers, from across the United States, will continue to have this opportunity.  Recognizing and understanding the role that the “Ocean” plays in the overall health of our Planet is critical.  It is imperative that we provide our students with a robust education along with an understanding and appreciation for the discipline of Ocean science research. 

Did You Know?

Seniors, not to worry , I will be back on campus to attend your graduation!

Bill cleaning recovered mooring instruments

Bill still working!

Farewell Alaska!

Farewell Alaska!

 

Kathleen Harrison: CTD, XBT, Drop, July 18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011


Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 18, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  19.35 knots, True Wind Direction:  231.44°
Sea Temperature:  10.5° C, Air Temperature:  10.11° C
Air Pressure:  1010.53 mb
Latitude:  57.54° N, Longitude:  154.37° W
Ship speed:  12.4 knots, Ship heading:  134.5°
Fog on the horizon, overcast

Science and Technology Log

One thing that I have learned on this trip (don’t worry, I have learned more than one thing) is that the government, and scientists, like to use abbreviations for equipment, procedures, and groups of people.  For example,  did you know that MACE stands for Midwater Assessment Conservation Engineering?   Well, now you do. The NOAA scientists that are aboard the Oscar Dyson work for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, which is part of MACE.  Three of the abbreviations that I have become familiar with are:  CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth), XBT (expendable bathythermograph), and Drop (Drop camera).  These are devices or procedures that the NOAA scientists use on board the Oscar Dyson to gather information that will help in determining the biomass of Pollock.

Conductivity, Temperature and depth device

The CTD measures conductivity, temperature and depth of sea water.

When I say “the CTD”, I am referring to a device, but the letters actually come from the procedures that the device performs.  It is lowered into the water on a cable, and its instruments measure the conductivity (how much electricity will pass through – an indirect way of measuring salinity) and  temperature of the sea water, and depth.  Niskin bottles may be attached to the CTD frame to collect sea water at selected depths.  This information gives scientists knowledge about sea water properties, and over time, will indicate changes in the environment.

Watch this video to see the data as it is being collected.

launching the XBT

A hard hat and flotation device are required on the weather deck (any deck open to the weather), even to launch the XBT.

Launching the XBT has been one of my jobs on the Oscar Dyson, at least during my shift.  This device measures temperature and depth of sea water.  It is basically thrown overboard out of a handheld launcher, which looks like a giant pistol thing, and remains attached to a very thin wire.  Data is sent through this thin wire until it reaches the ocean floor, then the wire is broken.  The device is not retrieved – hence the name – expendable.

thermocline

The data is graphed, and a beautiful thermocline is produced.  An XBT is launched 3 – 4 times a day, in different locations.

camera and light attached to frame

The Drop Camera is attached to a frame to protect it. The light is at the bottom of the frame.

The Drop Camera is an underwater camera that is lowered to the ocean floor.  The camera is pressure activated, so it starts recording at a certain depth.  It has a bright light that comes on when the camera is operating.  Extra line is fed out, because the ship is still moving, and the scientists do not want the camera to drag across the bottom.  It records for a few minutes, then it is hauled back to the boat, the memory card is retrieved, and the video is examined.  This information about the ocean floor is valuable to commercial fishermen, and future scientific missions.

sea stars and flat fish

The ocean floor close to Alaska's coast is home to a variety of sea stars, including brittle stars, as well as flat fish such as sole, flounder, and halibut. (NOAA Ocean Explorer)

New Species Seen  

Minke whale

Great Northern Diver (Loon)

Harbor Seal

Fin Whale

Humpback whale

4:30 am, Shelikof Strait

I was blessed to see this full moon about 4:30 am, with Mt. Douglas (elev. 7000 ft) in the background, in the Shelikof Strait.

Personal Log

Today was a fantastic day for wildlife and scenery viewing, as the sun was shining, the winds were calm, and it stays light until midnight here in the Shelikof Strait, west of Kodiak Island.  I started the day by going to the bridge around 4:30 am, and was delighted to see a bright full moon, and volcanoes of the Alaskan Peninsula.  The day only got better, as the sun rose around 5:30 am.

fin whale blow and dorsal fin

I have new respect for whale photographers, they are very hard to capture in a photo, here is my amateur attempt.

I spent a lot of time on the flying bridge, looking for whales, and finally took a photo of a spout and fin.  I was so excited!  You have to be looking at the right spot, at the right time.  Our transects take us close to Kodiak Island and its rocky cliffs, as well as the Alaskan Peninsula with its impressive glacier covered volcanoes.

bold and steep cliffs of Kodiak

The cliffs of Kodiak rise straight up out of the sea, bold and stunning.

We had a successful trawl today, and I spent several hours in the fish lab.  My head was kept warm by this pink knit hat that my sister made for me.  Thanks, Jan!

the fish lab is cold, need a hat

Thanks, Jan, for making this hat for me, I was nice and warm while processing fish today!

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004

Day 1: Saturday, April 10, 2004
Foci Cruise, Leaving Kodiak Alaska on 4/08 and arriving in Dutch Harbor on 4/22

Latitude: 58.41.1690N
Longitude: 148 50.929’W
Cloud cover: partially sunny

Science and Technology log

This morning we are off the coast of the Kenai Peninsula near Seward Alaska. We retrieved and deployed a buoy at approximately 8 AM and will retrieve the next buoy in approximately 3 hours from that time. I interviewed my bunk mate Jennifer Key who is here conducting research on global circulation patterns. Her primary interest is the distribution of the dust from the Gobi desert and its effects on marine organisms. This is especially interesting to me because it is well known that dust from the Gobi Desert also provides significant levels of nutrients to the forests of Hawai’i.

Sunset at Kenai

Sunset at Kenai

Personal Log

Last night I learned how to not fall out of my bunk in 30 foot seas. Lets just say that it’s not very restful. This morning I learned what the crew does, they wedge a survival suit under the outside edge of the mattress. The waves have come down quite a bit making it a lot easier to get around. Question of the day: What air currents distribute dust from the Gobi Desert around the world and where is that dust likely to end up? Until tomorrow… Laura

Picture of the crew retrieving a mooring buoy

Picture of the crew retrieving a mooring buoy