Janet Nelson: Sand Dollars and Sea Stars! June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area: North Atlantic
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 41.03.21 North
Longitude: 071 32.79 West
Air temp: 21 C
Wind Speed: 15.6 kt
Depth: 135.2 feet

Science and Technology Log:

I came on shift yesterday at noon with three back to back dredge tows (we have done 30 dredges thus far on Leg II). We are off the coast of Long Island. Most of the dredges around here have been filled with sand dollars and sea stars. In total, we have processed and counted on this leg of the survey 5, 366 scallops, 453 skates, and 58 Goosefish, a very interesting fish that  buries itself in the sand and uses a filamentous lure to attract prey and engulf them. In addition, we have counted 132, 056 sea stars (wow!) and 590 crabs. The HabCam had some glitches yesterday but we began running the vehicle on our shift at approximately 1245 hrs. It made a run for approximately three hours and 57 minutes, with approximately 22.387 nautical miles of pictures before we dredged again.

While looking at the images of the HabCam, it astounds me at seeing prior dredge track marks from commercial scallopers and clamers. By looking at the side scan sonar, some of the dredges are very deep and very invasive. It reminds me of strip mining and clear cutting in terrestrial ecosystems. It is also evident, by observing the images, that little is left in those areas but shell hash. With that said, there are still some interesting species that get photographed, such as jelly fish and sea stars in patterns you would think they orchestrated.

We are working our way toward Georges Bank and will be there, from what I’m told, sometime late this afternoon or evening. All equipment is running well and what time we lost with the late departure has mostly been made up. It’s amazing what technology can do!

Personal Log:

As of yesterday, I have been away from home with little to no contact for six days, so when I was told yesterday morning prior to coming on shift that we had cell phone signal, I immediately went up on deck and called my husband! Although I only got an answering machine, it was good, and familiar, to hear his voice.

We then had a fire drill at noon and after that, set to work. It was nice to be outside working for the next 4 hours. I think I finally have my sea legs. However, the seas have also been cooperating with only 1-3 foot swells, at best. When they are higher, I sometimes feel like the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”. It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself when I look completely ridiculous while tripping through a door or, with no warning whatsoever, bump into a wall!  From what I understand, this ship has a flatter bottom than most so every wave and swell catches it and tosses it in whatever direction that wave is going, despite having just gone in the opposite direction! I am hoping the sea remains calm when we get to Georges Bank.

I am learning a great deal about the critters that live in the ocean around here. It is so strange to have at times hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars being pulled up in the dredge at one location and then to have mostly sea stars pulled up at another location. My favorite, however, are the hermit crabs! They are so cool! They will begin to crawl out of their shells, see you coming to pick them up and immediately crawl way back inside and stare at you. I actually think I saw one blink at me. Not really, but my imagination does run away at times.

Those are also the times someone, usually me or the watch chief (chief scientist is guilty of this too!), bursts into song or starts quoting a movie line, and then half the crew is joining in. I have gotten more proficient at using the technology equipment on board that does the recording of the measurements of the specimens, and also at cutting/shucking the scallops. Never thought I would know how to do that! I have a feeling there are a few things I never thought I would do before this cruise is over. I have five more days at sea. Anything is possible!

Side note: Today is beautiful for being at sea! Clear sky, moderate winds, and sea legs that are working!!

Cheers!

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Anne Artz: July 26, 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 26, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location: 40 32.672 N070 43.585 W
Temperature: 18.5 C
Winds:  Easterly at 3-4 knt
Conditions:  Sunny today, some clouds, ocean calm

Science and Technology Log

Our first full day at sea (and at work)!  We left the dock at Woods Hole, MA yesterday at 2 pm and headed out past Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  While steaming towards our sampling site, we practiced two very important safety drills — a fire drill and the abandon ship drill.  The abandon ship drill was unique in that we had to don our survival suits (supposedly in a minute but I think I took longer than that) that protect us in the water from hypothermia and also help keep us afloat.

Survival Suit

Anne Artz in her survival suit

Around 6 pm we reached our first sample location and the “day team” (that’s me and some fellow volunteers) started our work.  The testing protocol is fairly simple: sample sites have been predetermined by computer.  Survey sites are selected based on depth and location (latitude and longitude).  When we reach those locations, a large sled-like cage called a dredge is lowered into the water and dragged along the ocean floor for a prescribed amount of time (generally 5 minutes).

Sampling dredge on the Delaware II

This cage goes on the ocean floor scooping up samples for our analysis.

The dredge is then brought up and the contents emptied onto the deck.  Our work then takes 10-15 minutes to sort through what is brought up, keeping those items we are surveying or counting, and throwing the rest back into the water.  We attempt to identify organisms we bring up and we count all live bivalves, any gastropods, hermit crabs, starfish and all fish.  Species we identify and measure are the surfclam, the ocean quahog, the southern quahog, and sea scallops.  Once we’ve separated out what we need, we weigh the catch then measure the size of each item collected.  We throw everything back into the water and clean up the deck while heading to our next location.  The procedure is repeated about twice each hour.  For our work on the deck we wear protective clothing, hard hats, and of course, a life vest.

Personal Log

There are seven volunteers aboard this trip, including myself.  They are a varied group from all over but are all very interested in ocean science.  Some of them are college graduates, some are still in college and we are all first-timers on this type of research vessel.  We were assigned a 12-hour shift, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon.  I feel fortunate to be on the noon-midnight shift as that means I don’t have to alter my sleeping pattern much.  It’s tiring work but the good part is there are breaks between each haul so most of us have our books with us on the deck (so handy to have a Kindle!).  The crew here is as varied as the volunteers, from all over the country and they are all very good at what they do.  I initially thought having 4 girls sleeping in a room the size of a walk-in closet would be difficult but it’s not.  At any given time two of us are on deck, on duty, so the room is available for sleeping, changing, showering, etc.  We all respect quiet below deck because at any given time, someone is always trying to sleep!

Interesting Things Seen Yesterday

A shark with a rather large fin above the water was following us from a distance for a while — maybe curiosity?  We brought up several skates (they look like rays) the largest being about 12 inches long.  They are incredibly beautiful up close, looking almost angelic.  It seems a shame they have such a bad reputation!

Kathleen Brown: Last Days at Sea, June 16-17, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Brown
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 7 – 18, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 16-17, 2011

June 17, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 9:27 AM
Winds 7.2 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.89 degrees C
Latitude 41 47.28 N
Longitude 069 49.13 W

Personal Log

We are headed back into Woods Hole sometime tomorrow.

In one of my conversations with Captain Jimmy, he told me that he likes scientists to “enter the ship as customers and leave as family.” Without a doubt, I feel like the whole R/V Hugh R. Sharp team has made that happen. From the excellent meals cooked three times daily, to the willingness of the crew to answer any of my questions, I have felt included and welcome.

Sunset from the deck

Sunset from the deck

My fellow scientists have made travel on this journey fun and worthwhile. I can’t count the number of times someone yelled over to me, “Hey Kathleen, get a picture of this. Your students will love it!” It has been a pleasure to be around others who are curious and passionate about the sea.

In my classroom, I try to convey to my students that science is about collaboration. I will have many real life examples to share with them when I return.

My thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, my colleagues and students at Freeport Middle School, and my family, for supporting me on this adventure of a lifetime!

June 16, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1:28 PM
Winds 9.3 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.67 degrees C
Latitude 41 08.86 N
Longitude 069 20.97 W

Science and Technology Log

It has been amazing to me to see the variations in the catches from the many tows. When the tension on the wire used to haul the net is high, it might be because we have a huge haul of sea scallops. Sometimes the table will be filled with so many sand dollars it is difficult to see anything else. We had a number of tows that contained large amounts of brittle stars. The arms of the brittle stars move like little worms. (It is eerie to see thousands of them wiggling.) The last tow, in the open area, had only forty-six scallops. The pile was filled with quahogs, urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and rocks. Sometimes the animals we collect are covered in mud and sometimes the sediment is very sandy. We are now traveling in the shipping channel and the sea floor is rocky. Before we began to tow in this area, the scientists put the rock chains on the dredge. There is also a metal chute attached to the table so that the larger rocks can more easily be rolled back into the ocean.

Brittle Stars

Brittle Stars

We have now completed the inventories in the closed areas of Georges Bank. I learn that large areas in the Gulf of Maine had originally been closed as a measure to restore groundfish stocks. What scientists discovered is that, over time, the sea scallops flourished in the closed areas. It was an unintended result of the fisheries management policies.

There is always something interesting to learn about the species that we collect. Sea scallops have the ability to move through the water column by clapping their shells together. Sometimes, moving up five or six inches can mean escape from a predator like a starfish. (Of note, during this study we also count and measure empty sea scallop shells, provided that they are still hinged together. These empty shells are called clappers.) Speaking of starfish, on this trip we have seen five species of starfish, in colors ranging from purple to yellow to orange. The common name for my favorite starfish is sunburst, an animal that looks just like it sounds. Monkfish, sometimes referred to as goosefish, are called an angler fish. There is a modified spine at the top of its mouth that appears as though the fish is dangling bait. With this structure, the monkfish can lure a prey near its enormous mouth (and sharp teeth) and capture it. The longhorn sculpin feel like they hiss or grunt when they are picked up. I have learned that it is likely the sound is the vibration of a muscle in their chest.

Scientist of the day watch

Scientist of the day watch

The technology used to support the science on this survey is remarkable. In the dry lab, there are fifteen computer screens being used to track all of the data collected. These are in addition to the many that are being used to manage the ship. Everything is computerized: the CTD collection, the route mapping, and the information about the species we are catching. After each tow, the Chief Scientist or Crew Chief can immediately plot the data from the catch. Several screens show images from the cameras that are placed at various locations on board the deck. From the dry lab, the scientists can watch the dredge go in and out and view the tension on each cable. When the technology fails, as it did for four hours one day this week, it is up to the crew and scientists to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.

When the ship is off shore for hundreds of miles, the skills and talents of each individual on board must be accessed for anything that happens out of the ordinary. The Captain is the chief medical officer. The crew acts as firefighters. The scientists and crew work together on mechanical issues – like yesterday when the hydraulics on the CTD stopped working. Working aboard a scientific research vessel is perfect for those who are flexible and innovative.

Personal Log

It is difficult to explain how beautiful the scene from the back deck of the ship looks. All I can see to the horizon lines is dark blue water. Flocks of seagulls follow the ship to scavenge the buckets of fish we throw overboard. Last evening the full moon was bright and round. When I breathe in the salt air, I think about how grateful I am that I am here.

Question of the Day
Why are the rubber rain pants worn by marine workers called “oilers”?

Sue Zupko: 7 Along the Bottom

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Sue Zupko
NOAA Ship: Pisces
Mission: Study deep water coral, Lophelia Pertusa, in the Gulf Stream
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE United States near Gulf Stream from off Mayport, FL to Key Biscayne, FL
Date: June 3, 2011
Time: 16:33 EDT

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Speed: 2.4 knots
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Surface Water Temperature: 28.6°C
Air Temperature:29.6°C
Relative Humidity: 60%
Barometric Pressure:1017.80mb
Water Depth: 251.75 m
Salinity: 36.35 PSU

If this is your first visit to my Teacher at Sea blog, you might want to scroll down to the bottom to follow the story of the voyage of the Pisces.

We’re here.  At 245 meters, we have 100% sediment on the bottom.   We have seen a lot of Cancer Crabs, eels, Spider Crabs, and Hermit Crabs.  When we first reached our survey site, we found a soft bottom which looks like the surface of the moon with small craters.  There wasn’t a lot of visible life, either.  After we flew a bit further the ground cover changed to coral rubble (old, dead broken coral).  There were more fish and worms visible. Finally, success!  We found a mound of  live Lophelia pertusa. Mounds are formed by Lophelia rubble covered with some sediment, then more Lophelia rubble.  Live Lophelia then grow all over the mound.  The mound we found had Lophelia of all sizes covering it.  What a find!  According to John Reed, one of our coral experts, the mound we observed is the shallowest Lophelia mound that has been recorded in this part of the Atlantic.

It took over three hours to reach our dive site once the ROV was launched.  Again, patience is a virtue.

Kevin, the Captain, and Andy surround computer screens and discuss the mission.

Kevin Stierhoff, Captain Jeremy Adams, and Chief Scientist Andy David discuss the mission.

A red fish called Big Eye sitting on the bottom.

Big Eye

You might want to check out the web site, Extreme Corals 2011.

There is more information about our mission and we are posting pictures there.  Enjoy!

Golden crab walking along the ocean floor

Golden Crab

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.