Trevor Hance: Permission to Come Aboard? May 28, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Soon to be Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: May 28, 2015

Personal Log: Permission to Come Aboard?

Greetings from Austin, Texas.  In less than two weeks, my grand summer adventure begins.  I will be flying out of Austin, and heading to Boston where Peter Pan will magically transport me down the Woods (Rabbit?) Hole and out to sea aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, where I will support scientists conducting a Sea Scallop Survey.

sharp_deck_copy
Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website that I’ve been using to determine how to dress!

My Real Job

I teach at a fantastic public school in Austin that incorporates student interest surveys in lesson design and enrichment opportunities across subjects.  Although we are within the city of Austin, our campus backs up to a wildlife preserve (30,000 acres, total) that was set aside as land use patterns changed, and threatened habitat and ecosystems of 2 endangered birds, 8 invertebrates and 27 other species deemed “at risk.”  We have about 5 “wildspace” acres on our actual campus property that is unfenced to the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  We use that space as our own laboratory, and over the last decade, fifth grade students at our school have designed, constructed and continue to support the ecosystem through ponds supported by rainwater collection (yes, they are quite full at the moment!), a butterfly habitat, water-harvesting shelter/outdoor classroom, grassland/wildflower prairie and a series of trails.  In the spring, I post job descriptions for projects that need work in our Preserve and students formally apply for a job (i.e. – resume/cover letter).  They spend the balance of the spring working outdoors, conducting research relating to their job, and doing their part to develop a culture and heritage of sustainability on our campus that transcends time as students move beyond our campus during their educational journey.  My path through the curriculum is rooted in constructivist learning theory (project-based, place-based and service learning) and students are always outdoors.  Parents, of course, always get a huge “thank you” at the end of the year from me for not complaining that I’ve ruined too many pairs of shoes.

Below are a few pictures from our game cameras and shots I’ve taken of my classes in action this spring.

Capture2
Texas bluebonnets are beautiful, and even more spectacular when you get close and see “the neighborhood.”
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Rain or shine
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Early morning observation in the Preserve
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Gambusia — my favorite!
DSCN8341
Western ribbon snake snacking at the tadpole buffet.
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One of our frog surveys in action
IMG_0092
So, did anyone figure out what does the fox say?
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Wild pigs rooting
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Bandits abound when the sun goes down.

 

2015 05 13 GCW top of observation area
The endangered golden cheeked warbler, taken by me early May

As I write, there are about 5 days left of this school year, which means that most of our big projects are complete and the rain has paused, so we’re spending a few days having a big “mechanical energy ball” competition (aka – “kickball”), and I get the distinct feeling that the students are quite prepared for their summer break!

My Background

I was an “oilfield kid” and grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, the heart of Cajun Country, and about an hour’s drive to the Gulf of Mexico.  In college, I worked in the oilfield a bit, and after finishing law school, I was a maritime attorney, so I was able to spend some time aboard vessels for various purposes.  My time aboard the Hugh R. Sharp will be my longest stint aboard a vessel, and I’m quite excited for the work!

My Mission

R/V Hugh R. Sharp (btw students, it is a vessel or ship, not a “boat”) is a 146-foot general purpose research vessel owned by the University of Delaware (go Fighting Blue Hens!).  Each summer I get a travel coffee mug from the college where I attend a professional development course, and I’m hopeful I can find one with a picture of YoUDee on it this year!

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Photo from the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health

 

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Photo from the University of Delaware bookstore website of the mug I might pick up while traveling this summer

 

rvSharp-AcousticTrials
R/V Hugh R. Sharp

 

While aboard the vessel, we will be conducting surveys to determine the distribution and abundance of scallops.  My cruise is the third (and northernmost) leg of the surveys, and we’ll spend our time dredge surveying, doing an image based survey using a tethered tow-behind observation vehicle, and some deeper water imaging of lobster habitat.  Those of you who know me, know that I am genuinely and completely excited and grateful for the opportunity to “nerd out” on this once-in-a-lifetime get-away-from-it-all adventure!  Check back over the summer and see what I’ve been up to!

Trevor Headshot
That’s me!

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

Virginia Warren: Adios, Ciao, Shalom, Arrivederci, Adieu, Auf Weidersehen, in other words Goodbye for Now, July 17, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9th – 17th, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Sailing Back to Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Date: July 17th, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: Mostly sunny with occasional fog and 1 to 2 foot seas (The weather was perfect for the last two days of the trip!)

Personal Log: 

I’ve had the most wonderful time on this trip and made some really great new friends! I enjoyed it so much that I almost hated to see it come to an end! I worked with an awesome group of people on my watch who were always full of information! Erin has a marine biology degree, as well as a technology graduate degree. She was great to talk to, learn from, and she always helped me make the right decisions. Adam was our watch chief on the day watch crew, which means that he was responsible for collecting data and directing the rest of the science crew as we sorted the contents of the dredge. He was always very helpful and knowledgeable about the different types of species that came up with the dredge. Jon was the chief scientist for the leg 3 sea scallop survey. Jon had a very busy job because he was in charge of both science crews, communicating with the home lab, collaborating with the ship crew, deciding on dredge spots and HabCam routes, and for showing me the ropes. I really do appreciate all the time he took out of his busy days to help me and teach me! Jared was the HabCam specialist on board for this leg of the sea scallop survey. He has an ocean engineering degree and works for WHOI, which is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Jared helped design and test the HabCam vehicle so that it would protect the camera and other equipment while underwater. He also kept our crew entertained with ‘tunes’ and laughs. This group of people was great to work with and I would do it again with them in a heartbeat. I really hope that I will get another opportunity to do something like this again in the future!

Virginia's Day Watch Crew
The day watch science crew taking the last dredge picture of the Leg 3 Sea Scallop Survey.
Pictured left to right: Erin, Virginia, Adam, Jon, and Jared

I also really enjoyed the crew of the Hugh R. Sharp. They were always welcoming and forthcoming with answers to questions about the ship. They also keep their ship clean and comfortable. My favorite place on the ship was the bridge, which is where they steer the ship. The bridge is the best place to watch for whales and sharks. It has panoramic glass all the way around it, plus you can walk right outside the bridge and feel the breeze in your face, or have some very interesting conversations with the ship’s crew.

R/V Hugh R. Sharp in Woods Hole, MA
R/V Hugh R. Sharp in Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log:

As my trip came near to an end, I started wondering what were some of the differences between the research dredge we were using and the dredge a commercial scallop fisherman would use. Our research dredge was an 8 foot New Bedford style dredge, as opposed to the commercial ships who use two 15 foot dredges on either side of the ship. Scallop dredges are made up of connecting rings that keep the scallops in the dredge. The research dredge we used was made up of 2 inch rings. Commercial dredges are required to have a minimum of 4 inch rings. NOAA uses the smaller rings on their research dredges to be able to get an accurate population count of all the sizes of scallops in a given area. The commercial scallop fishermen are required to use the larger rings to allow smaller scallops to escape. The research dredge we used was equiped with a 1.5 inch streched mesh liner to keep other species, like fish, in the dredge because NOAA likes to measure and count them as well. Commercial scallop fishermen keep their dredges in for hours at a time.  NOAA only keeps their research dredge in the water for 15 minutes at a time. There are several other dredge regulations that commercial fisherman have to follow. Click here if you would like to read more about the regulations.

I also learned a lot about the anatomy of a sea scallop.

The anatomy of a sea scallop. Thanks to http://www.seattlefishnm.com/ for the anatomy  of a sea scallop chart.
The anatomy of a sea scallop. Thanks to http://www.seattlefishnm.com/ for the anatomy of a sea scallop chart.

Sea scallops are either male or female depending on the color of their reproductive gland, called the gonad. If a scallop has a red gonad, then that means it is a female scallop. If the gonad is a cream/yellow color, then that means the scallop is a male.

Inside View of a Male Scallop
Inside View of a Male Scallop
Inside View of a Female Scallop
Inside View of a Female Scallop

The scallop is connected to both sides of its shell with the large white part called the adductor muscle. This is the part that gets eaten. The adductor muscle is also the part that allows the scallop to clasp its shell shut. Scallops are also able to swim by sucking water into its shell and then quickly clasping the shell shut, which makes the scallop ‘swim’.

Sea Scallop's Adductor Muscle
The white chunk of meat is called the adductor muscle, which is the part of the scallop that most people eat.

Scallops have eyes that line the edges of both top and bottom shells. See if you can spot eyes on the scallops below.

Most of the scallops that we pulled up were only measured for individual length and cumulative weight, however some of the scallops were chosen to have their gonad and adductor muscle weighed, as well as their shells analyzed for age.

Virginia Measuring the Scallop's Meat Weight
Virginia Measuring the Scallop’s Meat Weight

Scallops are aged in a way similar to aging a tree. After the first two years of a scallop’s life, they are believed to grow a shell ring every year. In the picture below you can see how the shells age through the years.

Aged Scallops
Aged Scallops
Photo courtesy of Dvora Hart from the NMFS Sea Scallop Survey Powerpoint

Animals and Sights Seen:

 Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful Sunset Near Nantucket
Beautiful Sunset Near Nantucket

Moonlight on the Water

Tons of Hermit Crabs:

Starfish:

Octopus:

Octopus
We put it in water to keep it alive while we finished sorting the table.

Barndoor Skate:

Dolphins:

Dolphin
This dolphin swam right up beside the ship.

Humpback Whales: The last night of the cruise we got to see the most amazing whale show. The pictures aren’t that great because they were a good ways away from the ship and it was right around sunset. I ended up putting the camera down so that I could just enjoy the show.

Extra Pictures:

Virginia Warren: The Beginning of Life at Sea, July 11, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Great South Channel, near Nantucket
Date: July 11, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: SW winds 10 to 20 knots, seas 3 to 6 feet, widespread rain and scattered thunderstorms

Science and Technology Log:

The first part of the mission has been to tow the HabCam down the Great South Channel, around Nantucket, and then up part of Georges Bank. If you remember from my previous post, the HabCam stands for Habitat Camera Mapping System, which allows scientists to study the animals’ natural habitat. There are only two HabCams that have been built; the V2 which is an early prototype, and the V4 which is what we are using for this survey. This piece of equipment cost over 1.5 million dollars to design, develop, and build. One of the people on our science crew is the engineer that helped to design the frame built around the equipment to keep it safe. The HabCam has four strobe lights that enable the two cameras to be able to take 6 images per second. Not only does the HabCam have the capability of taking quality underwater images, but it also has sonar and several other data collectors that are capable of testing the water’s salinity, conductivity, pH, and more.

HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp
HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp

The scientists call the HabCam a vehicle. While the HabCam is deployed in the water, there are two people from the science crew that are always ‘flying’ the HabCam. They are called the pilot and co-pilot. The vehicle is tethered to the ship with a thick, fiber optic cable that also sends data information to the ship’s lab. The pilot uses a joy stick to fly the vehicle. Flying the HabCam vehicle can be a very tricky job because to fly it, the pilot walks a very fine line between having the vehicle close enough to the bottom of the ocean to get clear images and keeping the vehicle from crashing into huge boulders and underwater sand dunes. Pushing the joystick up allows the winch to let more cable out, which sends the vehicle closer to the bottom of the ocean. Pulling the joystick down, shortens the cable and brings the vehicle closer to the ship.

HabCam and Sonar View
The HabCam screen is on the bottom. The screen on top that looks like a desert is the sonar.

My job for the first half of the trip has been to take turns with the other day shift science crew members piloting and co-piloting the HabCam vehicle. The pilot keeps the vehicle at the correct depth, usually around 1.8 to 2.5 meters from the bottom of the ocean. The co-pilot annotates the images as they come from the HabCam. Annotating HabCam images entails quickly identifying objects in the image, such as a fish, crab, or scallop. This sounds easy enough, except that new images are flashing on the screen every second. Eventually the images will be color corrected on shore and annotated in greater detail.

Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.
Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.

The HabCam vehicle is also equipped with side scan sonar. In the pictures below (the ones that look like a picture of the desert) you can see the sand waves on the ocean floor and previous dredging marks.

Dredge Marks on Left Screen
Dredge Marks on Left Screen
Dredge Marks on Right Screen
Dredge Marks on Right Screen

Personal Log:

I began my journey by flying from Pensacola, Florida at 6 a.m. Sunday morning into Atlanta, Georgia’s airport. From Georgia I flew into Boston, Massachusetts and landed by about 12:30p.m. (That is 11:30 in Mobile time because Boston is an hour ahead of Mobile.) I was very excited to fly into Boston because as all of my students should know, Boston is a very important city for the American Revolutionary War as it is where the war started. I was able to tour the Old State House, which is where the Boston Massacre occurred, as well as explore the beautiful architecture that Boston has to offer! On my return trip home, I hope to be able to learn more about the history behind the city of Boston!

I stayed Sunday night in a hotel so that I would be able to catch a bus from Boston to Woods Hole bright and early Monday morning. Woods Hole is where I would meet up with the R/V Hugh R. Sharp. Woods Hole is an amazing little research community that is part of Cape Cod and has only one main street with a charming high bridge for the sail boats to enter or exit Eel Pond. I spent most of the day walking around and taking in the beautiful scenery of Wood’s Hole. That afternoon I was able to meet up with some the scientists that participate or have participated in scallop surveys. I slept on the ship that night and was able to get to know the ship’s crew and explore the ship.

My first day at sea was really nice. The ship crew made several comments about the water “looking like glass” because it was so calm. The Hugh R. Sharp has a really awesome ship crew. They were very welcoming and were open to any questions that I asked. As we left woods hole, the ship crew went over the safety procedures to follow should an emergency happen while we are at sea. My students should be happy to know that we even participated in a fire drill. I haven’t had any seasickness to speak of so far, knock on wood. The rocking of the ship actually made for some very sound sleeping!

The science crew shifts are broken into 12 hours. The night shift works from 12 midnight till 12 noon. The day shift works the opposite, 12 noon till 12 midnight. I am on the day shift working with the chief scientist.

Question of the Day:

Virginia Warren: Introduction, June 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Personal Log:

Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello, my name is Virginia Warren and I live in Theodore, Alabama. I teach 5th grade science and social studies at Breitling Elementary School in Grand Bay. I am really excited to have been chosen by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to be a part of their Teacher at Sea program! I believe that one of my biggest responsibilities as a teacher is to educate my students about the importance of protecting and conserving the earth and its seas so that they will continue to thrive for many generations to come. Both Theodore and Grand Bay are only minutes from the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast has abundance of what I think are the prettiest, sugar-white-sand beaches the world has to offer. Growing up on the Gulf Coast has created a love and passion in my heart for the sea and all the wonder creatures that live in it! I’m so thankful to NOAA for giving me the opportunity to be a real scientist and to learn more about the scientific research behind protecting the seas that I love so much.

Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama!  Courtesy of https://i1.wp.com/dibeachhouses.com/resources/beach_front_condo_rental_on_dauphin_island.JPG
Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama! 

Science and Technology Log:

I will be sailing from Woods Hole, Massachusetts aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp to participate in an Atlantic sea scallop survey. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp was built in 2006, is 146 feet long, and is the newest vessel in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment fleet. You can take a virtual tour of the ship by clicking here. If you would like to follow the ship while I am at sea you can track the ship here (Google Earth is required).

R/V Hugh R. Sharp Courtesy of http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2013/navy-researchers-reservists-evaluate-novel-passive-sonar-surveillance-methods
R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Courtesy of http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2013/navy-researchers-reservists-evaluate-novel-passive-sonar-surveillance-methods

The purpose of a sea scallop survey is to protect this important fishery from being over-harvested. Traditionally scientists will dredge the bottom of the ocean with a scallop dredge to collect samples. NOAA uses the information collected from the surveys to make decisions about which areas are okay to harvest scallops.

Atlantic Sea Scallop Courtesy of http://www.vims.edu/features/research/scallop_management.php
Atlantic Sea Scallop
Courtesy of http://www.vims.edu/features/research/scallop_management.php

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is equipped with a relatively new piece of equipment called the HabCam, short for Habitat Camera Mapping System. The HabCam is a less invasive way to survey populations and allows scientists to see what is on the ocean floor. This is an alternative method of surveying, compared to dredging. I look forward to learning how both methods of surveying work.

What I Hope to Learn:

I am so excited to be able to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a real scientist and to be able to participate in a genuine research experience. I hope to learn more about the scientific process and pass the knowledge I learn on to my students. I am also excited to learn about the different types of sea life found in the North West Atlantic Ocean and compare that with what I know of sea life from home on the Gulf of Mexico.

Please follow me on this adventure as I post my experiences on this blog. Let me know what you think by leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of every blog entry.

Alicia Gillean: Visiting the Bridge and Dredging Overload, July 5, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 – July 7, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Thursday, July 5, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge*
*This data is for July 6, 2012. I was so busy dredging on the 5th that I forgot to record the weather data*

Latitude: 41 49.09 N
Longitude: 69 52.77 W
Relative Wind Speed: 11 Knots
Air Temperature: 21 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 82%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 20 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Wednesday, July 4: Visiting the Bridge and Flying HabCam

Wednesday was a lazy day on the ship. To make up some lost time and to hit as many dredge and HabCam stations as possible, there were a few long “steams” during my shift today. The ship can’t go full speed when pulling the dredge or the HabCam, so in order to go full speed, the ship “steams” with no scientific tools in the water until it reaches its next destination. We had about five hours of “steam” time today and the rest of the day was spent with HabCam, so I didn’t smell like sea scallops at the end of my shift, but I still prefer the more active days.

Bridge
Some of the ship’s controls on the Bridge

I used some of my spare time to go visit the Bridge. Remember, this is where the Captain, engineer, and mates keep the ship moving on the right course and keep everything operating smoothly. Since it was rainy outside, the big windows in the Bridge were a nice substitute to the deck where I usually like to spend my free time. Mary, one of the mates, was on duty. She has been working on boats for more than 20 years and has been on the Hugh R. Sharp for four years. She was kind enough to give me an overview of the function of each of the seemingly limitless computers and buttons that she and the engineer use to do their jobs. I was surprised by how computerized everything is, from steering, to navigation, to monitoring the water and fuel of the ship. There are duplicates of many of the computer systems, in case something doesn’t work and non-technical ways to navigate the ship too, like paper copies of nautical charts.

Alicia fly HabCam
Alicia flying the HabCam

While flying the HabCam Wednesday, I was struck by the amazing camouflage of some of the creatures that live on the ocean floor, like monkfish, flounder, and skates. If you don’t know what you are looking for or if you blink at the wrong moment, they are very easy to miss. It’s neat to see these adaptations in action! I’m glad that I got to experience this science tool in its early stages and appreciate the relationships that the HabCam allows you to see between different animals and how the animals live on the ocean floor that you can’t tell from a dredge haul.

Thursday, July 5: Dredging Overload and the Scoop on Scallops

Since Wednesday was lazy, Thursday was insanely busy! We made it through nine dredge stations during the day shift and one haul was so large that we had almost 6,000 scallops (not to mention all the rocks, fish, sea stars, crabs, etc.). Everyone worked together to get this giant haul sorted and processed. Mary even came down from the Bridge to help! When a haul is this large, we don’t measure and weigh every scallop. Instead, we count the total number of baskets (about the size of a laundry basket) of sea scallops and randomly select two baskets to measure and weigh. The number and average length of the overall scallop haul is calculated based on this subsample. There’s lots of math involved in this process!

Alicia measure scallop
Alicia measuring scallops

We dredged in an area with lots of big rocks and boulders today, so the crew added rock chains to the dredge to help keep the giant boulders out of the dredge. It doesn’t come close to keeping out all the rocks, though! They also added what looks like a metal slide that goes from the side of the sorting table to the edge of the deck to help get the giant rocks off of the table and back into the ocean. I’m constantly amazed at how the scientists and crew seem to anticipate and have a plan for every possible obstacle we might run up against. I expect that is the result of lots of years of experience and very careful planning.

Scallop Gonad
The scallop with pink is female. The other is male.

I mentioned in a previous post that we weigh about 5 scallops from each tow individually and also weigh the meat and the gonad (reproductive organ) of these five scallops individually. As soon as you cut a scallop open, you can tell if it is a male or female by the color of the gonad. Males are white and females are red or pink, as you can see in this picture. Another interesting tidbit about sea scallops is that they have lots of simple eyes that allow them to see shadows and light. You can see a fascinating close-up of sea scallop eyes by clicking here and can learn more about the anatomy of a sea scallop by clicking here.

Since this is a sea scallop survey, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with sea scallops, but I’m still not very skilled at cutting sea scallops to remove the meat quickly. One of the ladies on my watch can shuck about twenty for every one I shuck! She’s offered me lots of pointers, but I’m not going to win a scallop cutting contest any time soon. When we finish sorting and processing each haul, we usually remove the meat from the scallops, wash it, bag it, and put it in a freezer. It can seem like the work is never done when there’s a big haul!

Personal Log

The 4th of July at sea was business as usual; no firework or backyard cookouts for me this year. However, we did make a cake and sing happy birthday for the youngest member of the science group’s 20th birthday.

Since we didn’t do any dredging or anything active on Wednesday, I felt like I needed to run laps around the ship after my shift ended. I settled on trying the stationary bike instead. Riding a stationary bike on a ship that is rocking and swaying means that the bike isn’t really all that stationary! I think I got a nice abdominal workout from trying to keep myself balanced. It felt good to move, though.

Fire Drill
Engineer during fire drill at sea

On Thursday, we had a fire drill. The Captain was nice enough to schedule it at 12:15 pm, just as one shift was ending and one was beginning, so that people would not be in bed or in the shower when the drill began. During the fire drill, an alarm sounded and the Captain came on the intercom to tell us that it was a fire drill and that all scientists should muster (gather) in their designated spot. All of the scientists met in the dry lab with a life jacket where the chief scientist counted us and reported back to the Captain that we were all accounted for. We waited while the crew finished its part of the drill, then went back to work (or bed, for the night shift). I felt kind of like a student in a fire drill at school!

As I look around the ship, I find it interesting how things are designed for life at sea, like the hooks at the top of every door. If you want a door to stay open, you need to hook it, otherwise the rocking of the door will slam it closed. The table in the galley has about a half inch lip around the edge of it and the drawers of the pantry need to be opened in a special way, because they don’t just slide open. Thanks to these details, you don’t really hear things sliding and crashing around like you might imagine you would when the ship is rocking.

I’m grateful that I have been able to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program as a part of the science crew. I have worked hard, learned a ton, and can’t wait to share my learning and experiences with my students! However, I miss my family, so I’m glad that we’re headed back toward land soon!

Sunset
Sunset at sea

Alicia Gillean: Strange Ocean Critters and Science at Sea, July 3, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 – July 7, 2012

 

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 13.20 N
Longitude: 066 35.21 W
Relative Wind Speed: 2.3 Knots
Air Temperature: 18.72 degrees C
Humidity: 78%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 15 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

The HabCam-ing and dredging continue here in the North Atlantic in calm seas and clear skies!

Alicia Star Oddi
Alicia installing sensor on dredge

I learned a new part of the data collection process with the dredge.  Each time the dredge goes out, a sensor that tracks the pitch and roll (side to side and up and down movement) of the dredge on the ocean floor needs to be installed on the dredge.  When the trawl is complete, the sensor is removed and the data is uploaded to the computer.  It is automatically plotted on a line graph that visually tells the story of the dredge’s movement on the ocean floor.  This data is eventually combined with all the other data gathered at each dredge station.  Installing and removing the sensor has been my job for the last couple of shifts.  To do this, I have to climb up on the sorting table when the dredge is first brought to the surface, remove a metal pin and plastic holder that keeps the sensor in place, remove the old sensor and add a new sensor, then reinstall the holder and pin.  This all happens before they dump the dredge. On a funny note, on my way to the sorting table to add the sensor to the dredge earlier today, I managed to trip on a hose that was on deck and turn it on, watering myself and the lab technician that was on the deck with me and entertaining everyone else watching, I’m sure!  Luckily, we were all wearing our foul weather gear, so no one was soaked!!

It’s interesting to experience all the different pieces that make a successful dredge tow.  Before coming to sea, I guess I just assumed that you lowered a big net to the ocean floor and hoped to catch something.  I had no concept of how methodical and detailed each deployment of the dredge really is, from the locations, to the timing, to the number of people involved, to the detailed data collection.  The process is still being refined, even on this third leg of the sea scallop survey.  One of the scientists on my watch is an engineer who helped design and build the latest version of HabCam.  When a part that holds the sensor in the dredge was not working correctly, he was asked to use his engineering skills to create a better way to hold the sensor, so he made the needed modifications right on the ship.

Sorting
Day shift starting to sort a dredge haul

While sorting the haul from dredging stations, I sometimes run across ocean critters that I’ve never seen before.  I usually set these to the side to snap a picture after we finish sorting and to ask a scientist, usually Karen or Sean, to identify it for me.  It turns out that the strange hairy, oval-shaped creature I keep running across is a type of worm called a sea mouse. In my pictures it looks like a grassy ball of mud, but it’s much more interesting in person, I promise!  I consulted a field guide in the dry lab to learn a little more about it.  Its scientific name is Aphrodita hastate and it is usually about 6 inches by 3 inches and can be green, gold, or brown.  There are 15 gills hidden under the bristly fur.  They like muddy areas and often live in the very deep parts of the ocean, so they are only seen when brought up with a dredge or after being tossed ashore in a storm.  I haven’t seen any of them in the HabCam images, so I’m wondering if they tend to burrow in the mud, if their camouflage skills are really impressive, or if we just haven’t flown over any. The HabCam moves so quickly (remember, it takes 6 pictures per second) that it’s impossible to see everything in enough time to figure out what it is.

 

Sea mouse
Belly of a sea mouse

Another item that keeps coming up in the dredge looks like a clump of pasta shells and cheese and it crumbles easily.  My initial guess was that it is some type of sponge, but I was wrong. It turns out these are moon snail egg cases. Once I’m back ashore, I think I’ll have to find out more about these.

moon snail eggs
Moon snail eggs

We’ve seen lots of sea stars, scallops, sand dollars, crabs, clams, hermit crabs, flounder, several species of fish called hake, and skates (relative of the stingray) in the dredge hauls.  We’ve also seen most of these on the ocean floor with the HabCam.  One of the scientists found a whale vertebrae (part of the backbone) while sorting. It’s at least a foot and a half wide and 8 inches high! Can you imagine the size of the whale when it was alive?  Each haul usually has a monkfish or two in it.  I’ve heard that these fish are pretty tasty, but they sure look mean!  I was warned early on to keep my hands away from their mouths unless I want to get bitten!

 

Alicia with monkfish
Alicia with monkfish

Today is supposed to be a day of mainly flying the HabCam, so I’m hoping to be able to interview a few people on the ship about their jobs for use back at school when I’m not flying the HabCam or co-piloting.

Sea stars
Pretty sea stars that came up in the dredge

Personal Log

I ate my first real meal in the galley tonight and it was pretty tasty!  The steward, Paul, has worked on this ship for eight years and seems to have cooking a sea down to a science.  He has to work and sleep some unusual hours to keep everyone aboard well-fed, but he does it with a smile on his face.  Between the meals, snacks, and limited space to exercise, I imagine that keeping fit while at sea for long periods of time can be a challenge. There is a stationary bike next to the washer and dryer, but other than that you have to be creative with getting your exercise.  I saw one crew member on the deck this morning with a yoga mat doing crunches and using a storage container to do tricep dips.  He said that it’s a challenge, but that you can find ways to keep in shape at sea if it’s a priority for you.

I actually slept better the first few days at sea when I was seasick than I do now that I’m feeling better, thanks to the anti-nausea medication, I expect.  I’ve found that earplugs are essential for catching sleep aboard the ship when I’m not medicated!  There is one washer and dryer aboard the ship and I’ve had a bit of trouble finding a time when it’s not in use, so I decided to do my laundry at 5 am a day or so ago when I was having trouble sleeping. I figured I may as well use insomnia to my advantage and it was so nice to use a towel that is finally completely dry for the first time in a week!

There are 22 people aboard this ship; 12 scientists and 10 crew members.   Four of the scientists and two of the crew are women.  Because of watch schedules, most of the time I see only two other women while I’m awake.  All that to say, the ship is a pretty male-dominated arena, with lots of ESPN, toilet seats left up, and guy humor.  I feel very welcome aboard the ship, but I find that I spend most of my down time doing my own thing, like working on this blog or just enjoying the view, since I’m not much of a movie or sports watcher.  With fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful weather, this doesn’t bother me a bit!  In fact, I find that I see the most animals swimming in the ocean during these down times.  Today it was a huge group of jellyfish swimming next to the ship!

I’m still enjoying my time at sea and am looking forward to learning even more in my last few days.

View from science lab
View from the science lab at night

Alicia Gillean: Adventures in Dredging; July 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 – July 7, 2012

 

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 40 48.43 N
Longitude: 068 04.06W
Relative Wind Speed: 8.9 Knots
Air Temperature: 17.61 degrees C
Humidity: 92%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 16 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Dump dredge
Dumping dredge onto sorting table

My last shifts have been a mix of HabCam work and dredging. Remember, dredging is when we drag a heavy-duty net along the ocean floor for fifteen minutes, then bring it up and record what ocean critters we catch.  Dredging involves a lot more physical work and is much dirtier than flying the HabCam, so time goes much faster when we are dredging and it’s exciting to see what we will catch.  However, it is also kind of sad to see all the animals we bring up in the dredge, because most of them are dead or will soon be dead.  You can watch a video about sea scallop dredging here and here.

There are three two-week legs to this sea scallop survey.  I am on the last leg.  Before the first leg began, a computer program, with the assistance of a few people, decided which spots in the sea scallop habitat we should dredge and fly the HabCam.  These points were all plotted on a computerized map and the chief scientist connects the dots and decides the best route for the ship to take to make it to all the designated stations in the available time.

Here’s how our typical dredging process works:

About 10 minutes before we reach a dredge station, the Captain radios the lab from the Bridge (fancy name for the place at the top of the ship where the Captain and his crew work their magic) to let us know we are approaching our station.  At this point, I get on a computer in the dry lab to start a program that keeps track of our dredge position, length of tow, etc.  I enter data about the weather and check the depth of our dredge station.  When the engineer and Captain are ready, they radio the lab and ask for our depth and how much wire they need to send out to lower the dredge to the ocean floor.  I get the wire length from a chart hanging in the dry lab that is based on the depth of the ocean at the dredge site and use the radio to tell the engineer, who lets out that amount of wire until the dredge is on the ocean floor.  When the dredge hits the ocean floor, I use the computer program to start timing for 15 minutes and notify them when it is time to bring the dredge back up.

Alicia sorting fish
Alicia sorting the haul

The lab technicians and engineer raise and dump the dredge on a giant metal table, then secure it for the scientists to come in and begin sorting the haul.  Meanwhile, the scientists get dressed in foul weather gear to prepare for the messy job ahead.  That means I’m wearing yellow rubber overalls, black steel-toed rubber boots, blue rubber gloves, and a lovely orange lifejacket for each dredge.  Sometimes I add a yellow rubber jacket to the mix, too.  Science is not a beauty contest and I’m grateful for the protection!  Each scientist grabs two orange baskets, one large white bucket, and one small white bucket and heads to the table. The lab technicians shovel the catch toward each scientist as we sort.  Scallops go in one orange basket, fish go in the white bucket, crabs go in the small white bucket (sometimes), and everything else goes into the other orange basket.  This is considered “trash” and is thrown back overboard, but the watch chief keeps track of how many baskets of “trash” are thrown overboard during each haul and enters it into a computer database along with other data. After sorting the haul, much of the data collection takes place in lab called a “van”.

Research Van
Research “van” where we gather data from haul

The fish are sorted by species, counted, weighed, sometimes measured, and entered into a special computer system that tracks data from the hauls.  Sometimes we also collect and count crabs and sea stars.  The baskets of sea scallops are counted and weighed, and then individual scallops are measured on a special magnetic measuring board.  You lay the scallop on the measuring board, touch the magnet to the board at the end of the scallop, and the length is automatically entered into the database.    Some hauls have lots of sea scallops and some don’t have very many.  We had a couple hauls that were almost completely sand dollars and one that was almost completely sea stars.  I learned that sea stars can be quite slimy when they are stressed. I had no idea!

Sand dollar dresge
Dredge haul with LOTS of sand dollars

Sometimes my watch chief, Sean, will select a subsample of five sea scallops for us to scrub clean with a wire brush.

Alicia scrub scallops
Alicia scrubbing scallops at about 11pm

Next, we weigh and measure all five sea scallops before cutting them open to determine the gender.  We remove the gonad (the reproductive organ) and weigh it, then do the same with the “meat” (the muscle that allows the scallop to open and close its shell and the part people like to eat).  All of this information is recorded and each scallop is given a number.  We write the number on each shell half and bag and tag the shells.  The shells and data will be given to a scientist on shore that has requested them for additional research.  The scallop shells can be aged by counting the rings, just like counting the rings on a tree.

Alicia scrub scallops 2
Scrubbing scallops is dirty work!

Meanwhile, other people are hosing off the deck, table, buckets, and baskets used.  The dredge ends by shucking the scallops and saving the meat for meals later.  A successful dredge requires cooperation and communication between scientists, lab technicians, the Captain, and the crew. It requires careful attention to detail to make sure the data collected is accurate. It also requires strategic planning before the voyage even begins.  It’s an exciting process to be a part of and it is interesting to think about the different types of information that can be collected about the ocean from the HabCam versus the dredge.

Personal Log

Hallway to shower
Hallway to the shower and bathroom

Living on a ship is kind of like living in a college dorm again: shared room with bunkbeds, communal shower and bathroom down the hall, and meals prepared for you.  I can’t speak to the food prepared by the steward (cook) Paul, as I haven’t been able to eat much of it yet (I’m finally starting to get a handle on the seasickness, but I’m not ready for tuna steaks and lima beans just yet), but I do appreciate that the galley (mess hall) is open all the time for people to rummage through the cabinets for crackers, cereal, and other snacks. There’s even an entire freezer full of ice cream sandwiches, bars, etc.  If my husband had known about the ice cream, he probably would have packed himself in my duffel bag for this adventure at sea!

Taking a shower at sea is really not much different than taking a shower at the gym or in a college dorm… in the middle of a small earthquake. Actually, it’s really not too bad once you get used to the rock  of the ship.  On the floor where the scientists’ berths (rooms) are, there are also two heads (bathrooms) and two showers.  The ship converts ocean water into water that we can use on the ship for showering, washing hands, etc.  through a process called reverse osmosis.  Sea water is forced through a series of filters so small that not even the salt in the water can fit through.  I was afraid that I might be taking cold showers, but there is a water heater on board, too!   We are supposed to take “Navy showers”, which means you get wet, press a button on the shower head to stop the water while you scrub, then press the button to turn the water back on to rinse.  I’ll admit that I find myself forgetting about this sometimes, but I’m getting much better!

Shower
Shower on Hugh R Sharp

Today there was about an hour and a half of “steam” time while we headed to our next dredge location and had nothing official to do.  Some of the people on my watch watched a movie in the galley, but I decided to head to one of the upper decks and enjoy the gorgeous views of ocean in every direction.  I was awarded by a pod of about 15 common dolphins jumping out of the water next to the ship!

I’m starting to get a feel for the process of science at sea and am looking forward to the new adventures that tomorrow might bring!

Question of the Day

Which way do you think is the best way to learn about the sea scallop population and ocean life in general: dredging or HabCam?  Why do you think so?

 You can share your thoughts, questions, and comments in the comments section below.

Alicia Gillean: Setting Sail and Seeing the Ocean Floor; June 30, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27-July 7, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic; Georges Bank
Date: Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 40 55.30 N
Longitude: 068 47.49 W
Relative Wind Speed: 15.6 Knots
Air Temperature: 17.44 degrees C
Humidity: 80%
Surface Seawater Temperature: 14 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Hugh R Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp in Port

Well, it took a car, two airplanes, an airport shuttle, a bus, and a short walk, but I made it to the ship in Woods Hole, MA at about 8pm on June 26, 2012! I met a few of the ship’s crew who were kind enough to show me to my room and I slept on the ship while it was in port. You can see a rather long, but informative video tour of the Hugh R. Sharp on this website and you can track the ship’s progress here.

Everyone reported to the ship at 8am on June 27, but we didn’t end up leaving port until about 2pm because of last-minute adjustments to equipment, among other reasons, so the first day was pretty much the hurry up and wait game. While waiting to leave port, we did a safety drill and heard a presentation from a NOAA employee named Deborah about the basics of sea scallops. I was intrigued by all the data that she mentioned in her presentation and talked to her about it afterwards. She is a mathematician with a passion for biology who found a way to merge the two into a career. A big part of her job is to make sense of the data collected on the scallop survey and to present it in a way that can make sense to people. She uses lots of graphs and charts to help the data tell its story. She said that estimation, graphing, and numerous math skills play a huge role in her work. She was kind enough to give me her business card so that we can chat more after I return from sea, as she isn’t sailing on this leg of the survey.

Survival Suit
Me in my survival suit during safety drill

HabCam

Once aboard the Hugh R. Sharp, I learned that this survey will actually be two surveys in one: about half of our time will be spent dredging, sorting, measuring, and weighing scallops. The other half of the time will be spent gathering data with a newly developed underwater camera system called HabCam. The HabCam is about a half-million dollar, 3,000-pound piece of scientific equipment that is controlled by a winch, operated inside the Dry Lab (kind of like a computer lab) of the ship by a joystick and a computer program that shows the depth of the HabCam and its height off the ocean floor. The pilot of the HabCam “flies” it approximately 2 meters above the ocean floor and the copilot keeps an eye on the images coming back from the HabCam. It takes 6 images per second, so there are LOTS of pictures to look at and the clarity is amazing.

HabCam
HabCam being lowered into the water
Alicia Zip Tie
My first job on the ship

The HabCam is a pretty fascinating piece of equipment that has been under development for several years and is a cooperative effort between the sea scallop industry, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), and others. Some of the people that developed the HabCam are on the ship with me and I have had the opportunity to talk to them about its development and uses. Each conversation always seems to have a common theme: the HabCam is a work in progress. We are using version 4 of the HabCam on this scallop survey. As they test the HabCam, they notice issues and make modifications accordingly. It is interesting to see the scientific process in action. Before we left port, they were attempting to correct an issue with pressure and vibration on the winch cable that controls the HabCam while it flies through the water. They thought that covering the portion of the cable directly above the HabCam with zip ties might help break up some of the water pressure and solve the problem. So, my first job as a scientist aboard the Hugh R Sharp involved installing lots and lots of zip ties! I had to laugh when they realized a slight glitch in the plan and had to remove many of the zip ties later. Science is a process!

There are 6 people on my watch and we started with the HabCam. I had the opportunity to pilot and copilot several times. It is fascinating to see images of the seafloor that no one else had ever seen and a bit daunting to be trusted with flying such an expensive piece of equipment through the ocean! We saw skates (like a stingray), sand dollars, sea biscuits, fish, sea stars, and more.

HabCam image
One of the images from the HabCam

You can learn more about the HabCam by visiting this website.

Personal Log

Life at sea is more relaxed than I expected. For some reason, I expected there to be lots of strict rules and procedures, but so far that has not been the case. This has been a welcome surprise for me, especially since despite my extensive anti-nausea arsenal, I am experiencing a rather nasty bout of seasickness. Everyone aboard has been very sympathetic and shared their personal stories of dealing with seasickness as well as remedies for seasickness that work for them (ginger ale, standing outside, etc.). I’m hoping that spending time outside today while we dredge instead of inside flying the HabCam will help. Enough about that!

Bed on Hugh R Sharp
My bed on the Sharp

I share my berth (room) with four other ladies. There are two bunk beds with curtains around each bed to allow for a little privacy and to help darken the room if needed. The berths are in the “belly” of the ship with no windows, so room darkening really isn’t much of an issue! I do think the curtains are sort of ingenious and wish I had them back when I was living in the dorms in college. I am glad that I packed light, since there really isn’t much of a place to store things in the berth. I’m using every inch of available space and wishing that things (like my towel) would actually dry down here, but not much luck with that so far. I managed to be the first person to get drenched on the ship on the day we left and it took three days for my clothes to dry! It’s all part of the adventure, right?

Two of the people I share a room with are on the day shift (noon to midnight) and the other two are on the night shift (midnight to noon), so there really isn’t a time when all four of us are in the room at the same time. When you leave for your watch (shift), you take everything with you that you might need, so you don’t go back to the room while other people are trying to sleep.

There is a constant sucking noise that sounds a bit like wind that I always hear while in my room. I initially thought it was just the sound of the ship going over the water, but now I’m wondering if it might be some type of pump. I checked with my chief scientist Geoff Shook and he told me that the sound is actually the ship’s stabilizer fins. There are 4 fins (2 on each side) that move back and forth to dampen the vessel’s roll and provide a more comfortable, stable ride.

Question of the Day

What do you think the name “HabCam” means?

You can share your thoughts, questions, and comments in the comments section below.

Anne Byford, June 11, 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 1:35pm
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.

scallop dorsal and ventral

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 founder 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.

Alicia Gillean: Introduction, April 29, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alicia Gillean
Soon to be aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 27 — July 8, 2012

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012

Personal Log

Alicia Gillean
Alicia Gillean, 2012 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello from Oklahoma!  My name is Alicia Gillean and I am ecstatic that I was selected as a 2012 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Teacher at Sea!  I am passionate about adventure, lifelong learning, and the ocean.  I can’t wait to merge these three passions together for twelve days at sea this summer and to share my learning with all of my students and coworkers back in Oklahoma. I will be blogging about my adventure and learning while aboard the ship and you are invited to follow my journey and get involved by asking questions and posting comments. I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself, then I’ll fill you in on the details of my Teacher at Sea adventure.

A Bit About Me

When I’m not pursuing adventure on the high seas, I am the school librarian (also known as a library media specialist) at Jenks West Intermediate School, a school of about 600 5th and 6th graders in the Jenks Public Schools District, near Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I might be a bit biased, but I believe that I have the best job in the school and that I work with some of the finest teachers and students in the world.

You are probably wondering, “How did a librarian from Oklahoma become part of an ocean research cruise?”  I’m glad you asked.  It just so happens that this blog entry answers that very question.

I’ll admit it; I was born and raised a landlubber. There just aren’t many opportunities to visit the ocean when you grow up in the Midwest.  Rumor has it that I touched the ocean once when I was about 3, but I didn’t touch it again until I was 21. More on that later.

My passion for the ocean began in high school when I took a Marine Biology class where my mind was blown by the diversity and beauty of life in the sea and the complex network of factors that impact the health of an ocean environment.  I took Marine Biology 2 and 3 the following years where I set up and maintained aquariums in elementary schools and taught ocean-related lessons for elementary students.

Aquarium newspaper photo
Alicia showing a shark jaw to a three year old at the Oklahoma Aquarium

I started to become a little obsessed with marine life, went to college to become a teacher, and did a happy dance when I learned that an aquarium was going to open in Jenks, Oklahoma.  I landed a job as a summer intern in the education department of the Oklahoma Aquarium and was overjoyed to be a part of the team that opened it in 2003.  When I graduated from college, the aquarium hired me as an education specialist, where I worked with learners of all ages to promote our mission of “conservation through education” through classes, camps, fishing clinics, sleepovers, animal interactions, crafts… the list goes on and on. 

In 2006, I became a 6th grade teacher in Jenks Public Schools, then I earned my Masters degree and became the school librarian in 2010.  I love to work with all the kiddos in my school as they learn to develop as thinkers, scientists, and citizens who have the power to impact the world.  They are just the kind of advocates that the environment needs and I want to help prepare them for this important role any way possible.  My experiences as a Teacher at Sea will certainly help!

Let’s go back to my actual experiences with the ocean for a moment.  After graduating from college and marrying my high school sweetheart David, I hightailed it to an ocean as fast as possible.  We honeymooned in Hawaii where we snorkeled, explored tidepools, went on a whale watch, and temporarily filled the ocean-shaped void in my heart.

Alicia in ocean
Alicia on a Maui Beach

I’ve been back to the ocean several times and each time I am reminded of the delicate balance that must be maintained for the fascinating world under the waves to survive and thrive.  It is critical we protect the oceans and that people realize that their actions impact the oceans.  Even in the landlocked state of Oklahoma, our actions matter.

So, that’s why a school librarian from Oklahoma will spend the summer of 2012 on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, counting sea scallops.  I can hardly wait for the adventure to begin!  Enough about me, let’s talk about the research cruise now.

Science and Technology Log

I’ll be participating in a sea scallop survey in the Atlantic Ocean, along the northeast coast of the United States, from Delaware to Massachusetts.  My adventure at sea will begin June 27, 2012 and end July 8, 2012.

What is a sea scallop?

A sea scallop is an animal that is in the same category as clams, oysters, and mussels. One way that sea scallops are different from other animals with two shells (bivalves) is that a sea scallop can move itself through the water by opening and closing its shells quickly.  How do you think this adaptation might help the sea scallop?  Watch these videos to see a sea scallop in action:

 

Importance of  Sea Scallops/Sea Scallop Survey

People like to eat scallops, so fishermen drag heavy-duty nets along the ocean floor (called dredging) to collect and sell them.  Most of them are harvested in the Atlantic Ocean along the northeastern coast of the United States. The United States sea scallop fishery is very important for the economy.

Sea Scallop Habitats
Map of sea scallop habitats from NOAA’s fishwatch.gov

The problem is that sometimes people can harvest too many scallops and the sea scallops can’t reproduce quickly enough before they are harvested again.  Eventually, this could lead to the depletion of the sea scallop population, which would be bad news for the ocean and for people.

This is where the NOAA Sea Scallop Survey comes in.  Every year, NOAA sends scientists out in a ship to count the number of Atlantic sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) in various parts of their habitat.  The sea scallops live in groups called beds on the ocean floor 100-300 feet deep, so scientists can’t just peer into the ocean and count them.  Instead, they have to dredge, just like the fisherman, to collect samples of scallops in numerous places.  The scientists record data about the number, size, and weight of sea scallops and other animals. Based on the data collected, decisions are made about what areas are okay for people to harvest scallops in and what areas need a break from harvesting for a while.  I’m considered a scientist on this cruise, so I’ll get to participate in this for 12 hours a day.  I hear it is messy, smelly, tiring, and fascinating.  Sounds like my type of adventure!  I think most good science is messy, don’t you?

The Ship

I’ll be sailing on the research vessel Hugh R Sharp. You can take a virtual tour of the ship here.  It was built in 2006, is 146 feet long (a little bit shorter than the width of a football field), and is used for lots of different scientific research expeditions. When I’m out at sea, you can see where I am on the journey and track the ship here.

RV Hugh R. Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp; photo from NOAA Eastern Surveys Branch

What I hope to Learn

I’m very interested to experience what daily life is like on an ocean research vessel, how scientists use inquiry, data-collection, math, and other skills that we teach our students in a real-world setting.  Of course, I’m also hoping to see some fascinating ocean critters and get my hands dirty doing the work of a real scientist.

I’d love for you to join me on this adventure by following this blog and leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of each blog entry.  Let’s make this a learning experience that we will all remember!

Channa Comer: The Voyage Begins, May 13, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Channa Comer

On Board Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 — 22, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Leg 1
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: Friday, May 13, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 13.7C, Partly Cloudy
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Water Temperature 13.1C
Swell Height: 0.1 meters

Newspaper clipping
A newspaper clipping about how important food on working ships is, especially ice cream

Science and Technology Log
Day 1 – Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The coastal Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp set sail at around 2PM on Wednesday, May 11th from Lewes, DE. There are 13 members on the science team, six who are volunteers (including myself), and nine crew members. On the first day, we met for introductions, a briefing on the schedule of the day and safety instructions.

The Hugh R. Sharp is 146 ft research vessel, weighs approximately 490 tons and has a cruising speed of about 10 knots. The vessel is diesel-electric with all the comforts of home (satellite television, heat, hot water, laundry facilities), and can be at sea for a maximum of 30 days. The vessel is configured with a pilothouse (at the top) and three decks. The “below decks” which is the bottom-most deck has the bulk of the ship’s machinery and crew cabins. The main deck is where most of the action happens. It houses the portable lab van where each catch is processed, a dry lab which houses the computers used for the survey, a wet lab, dredging equipment and the all important galley and mess area. There is also a small conference room where members of the crew can be intermittently found working, reading, listening to music, or eating ice cream.

Once we were out to sea, the team got to work preparing for a test tow of the scallop dredge. The dredge is 8ft wide and is made of a metal frame from which netting and a bag constructed of rings is attached aftward. It is lowered with a winch off the stern of the vessel and descends to depths that range from 30 meters to 150 meters. As the ship moves at a speed of 3.8 nautical miles per hour for 15 minutes, the dredge scrapes the sea floor. A test tow is conducted near the shore to make sure this important equipment is working properly.

The focus of this NOAA Fisheries cruise is to survey the population of Placopecten magellanicus, the deep-sea scallop that is commercially fished and sold to the public. Chief scientist Victor Nordahl (NOAA-Fisheries) is the head of the team of researchers and coordinates all aspects of the survey. The NOAA Fisheries Service monitors the populations of sea scallops in the federal waters on the Eastern continental shelf of the U.S. In 2007, scallops represented the most valuable commercial fishery, along with lobsters. It is critical to monitor their populations to avoid over-fishing of these waters. Fishing areas are either open or closed, meaning that fishing is either allowed or not. Closed areas allow time for repopulation of the area of the commercial species.

Temperature and depth are important for scallops. The species we are studying are found in waters cooler than 20C (68F) along the North Atlantic continental shelf area between Newfoundland and North Carolina. In the 12-day time period of this survey, we will conduct approximately 15 sampling stations per day, working 24hrs a day with two crews working in 12 hour shifts. I’ve been assigned to a six person day crew with Jakub Kircun serving as watch chief.

New Term/Phrase/Word
Head = bathroom
Stateroom = bedroom
Fathom = 6 feet

Personal Log
Day 1 – Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Being on board a vessel for the first time is like being in a foreign country with a new language and new customs to learn. Everyone on board has been very helpful and generous in sharing their knowledge, advice and experience. The crew, NOAA staff and other volunteers are an eclectic bunch from all over (Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Germany, Honduras, and France). Vic, chief scientist for the cruise, has been especially kind, taking the time to answer my many questions and make sure that I’m comfortable with all the new information and procedures. Sara, my bunkmate is a pleasure and we’ve gotten along great so far. After the first day, we only see each other in passing at meals since we’re on opposite shifts. I’m looking forward to a great adventure!

Day2 – Thursday, May 12, 2011
Today is day two and my first full 12-hour shift (from 12 noon until midnight).The first day was rough since we spent most of the day getting ready to leave and then heading out to the site where we would bring up our first catch. I was a little sick the entire day, eating lots of crackers and ginger. I’m sleeping in a small cabin with a desk and two bunkbeds — with NO LADDER. My bunkmate Sara, is a graduate student from Germany and since she got to the boat first, she got to choose the bunk. Guess which one she chose?! After a few bruises on my shins, I’ve pretty much figured out the best way to get in and out of my bunk without getting hurt. Today I learned how to identify a few different species of fish and how to shuck scallops, which is my least favorite activity so far since they’re still alive and sometimes fight back while you’re shucking them (Ugh!).

Did You Know?
A nautical mile is a measure of distance used at sea is derived by dividing the circumference of the earth by 360, then by 60 and actually represents minutes of latitude covered over the earth. One nautical mile is equivalent to approximately 1.2 statutory miles.

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 8, 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 8, 2010

Weather Data at 6pm EDT: Calm, Clear, 23˚C
Location at 6pm EDT:
Lat: 39 42.68 N
Long: 73 24.98 W
Water Depth: 86.4m

First day at sea

The first day was mostly spent steaming to the first dredge site, about 14 hours away from Lewes, Delaware. In the morning, all of the safety information was covered and those of us who had not tried an exposure suit before put one on. After the ship reached the ocean, we did a test dredge to ensure that all of the equipment was working and that we all knew what to expect.

The process is basically the same for all dredges on the Sea Scallop survey. Each tow is at a specific, pre-selected random site, using the same type of dredge, at the same angle to the bottom for the same amount of time and at the same speed as all other tows. This ensures that the data gathered is comparable from tow to tow and particularly from year to year. Once the dredge is pulled back up, it is dumped onto a sorting table on the rear deck of the ship. Everything is sorted into 4 categories: scallops, fish and squid, sea habitat (which is anything that is not scallops or finfish), human trash. Once the initial sorting is done, the sea habitat is counted by the bucket-load and dumped back into the ocean; the fish are sorted by species and weighed and counted. Some species (skates, flounder/flukes, and goosefish, also called monkfish) are also measured for length. Scallops are weighed, counted and measured. Some specific samples may be kept for researchers on shore and the rest is thrown back. Human trash is kept aboard for proper disposal later. After all of the sorting and measuring is finished, the buckets are rinsed and stacked for the next dredge, which isn’t usually that long in coming.

Sorting

Fortunately, we are not measuring things with a tape measure or having to manually input lengths into the computer. The ship has 3 “fish boards” that are electronic magnetic measuring devices that automatically send the data to the shipboard computers. Operators choose the species of fish being measured and then each fish is put on the board and a magnetic wand is used to mark the end of the tail of the fish. Each length is sent to the computer and stored. Historically, the data was collected on paper and the lists sent to a prison to be hand entered into a database. The database then had to be proofread and corrected if necessary. While the data still must be audited, it is much faster and easier, and less prone to error, to take the hand written stage of data collection out of the process.

Fish Board

Species Seen:

At the dock in Lewes: Osprey pair and at least one chick in the nest, Sea gulls

At sea: Pod of dolphins playing in the ship’s wake, jellyfish, pelicans

In the dredge: Squid, gulfstream flounder, windowpane flounder, summer flounder, spotted hake, sea robins, small skates, clearnose skates, several kinds of crabs (spider and rock), moon snails, sea stars, sand dollars, whelks, sea urchins, scallops, sea mice (polycheate worms)

Personal log:

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, clear and calm. After the safety meeting and test dredge, there was a great deal of down time until we reached the first site at about 10pm. I am on the day watch from noon to midnight and so got to sort the first real dredge. We did find scallops, ranging from about 1 inch across to about 5 inches across, but we found more sand dollars. After spending countless hours walking beaches to find even a few sand dollars, it was amazing to see hundreds or thousands on the sorting table to be tossed back as sea trash. I also discovered that you can easily loose track of time simply sitting in the sun on the deck watching the world go by.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott 
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Date: May 11, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Overcast, rainy, in the 50s

Science and Technology Log – Data Collection/Sampling Methodology
For NOAA’s scallop survey, it is divided into three different legs or cruises, each sampling a different area along the east coast.  This cruise that I am on is the first in the series.  During this time, since we will be working around the clock, we will probably do somewhere between 150-200 dredges and the NOAA team will sample about 500 total for the season. But how do scientists determine where to dredge?  How can they be sure that the sites that are sampled will give them an accurate representation of the number of scallops on the sea floor?  To determine where to sample, scientists use the Stratified Random Sampling Design.  This is the method for determining the average number of an animal in a given area. This sampling technique is based on the fact that the scallop population density depends on the ocean depth.  Scallops like to hang out in 50-100 m of water.  Scientists break up the coastline that their studying into different “strata” or quadrants. And then instead of a totally random sample in a given area, the stratified random sampling design uses a computer to select more collection sites in the depths where you would be likely to find the most scallops, since that is what scientists are interested in.

Scallop Fisheries

The US scallop fishery is an economically important fishery, maybe second only to the lobster industry in the Atlantic. One question that one of my students asked was, “Is the scallop population growing or is it in danger?” I asked our chief scientist that question this afternoon.  His response was very promising, that the scallops are doing very well.  Part of the reason for their success is due to the regulations that are set in place, the same regulations that are based on the data collected by this trip.  One type of regulation that has been helpful is the temporary closure of certain areas.  These closures give scallops in a particular area a chance to grow.  So if during a scallop survey cruise, scientists notice a lot of young scallops in a given area, that data will get reported an maybe lead to the temporary closure, meaning that you can’t fish for scallops there for a couple of seasons.  Then after some time for the animals to grow, the area will be reopened.  By rotating these closed areas, it allows the time necessary for population growth.  Astrid B. asked the following question, “Does the dredge hurt the ocean bottom?” Our dredge is fairly small, about eight feet across.  But a commercial fishing boat has two dredges that are about 15 feet wide that go down at the same time.  And at a given time, there might be as many as 500 boats out fishing for scallops.  Before and after photographs have shown that the dredges do impact the bottom.  It works to flatten everything in its path, including living organisms.  It also affects an important habitat.  Fish species like cod like to hang out around the nooks and crannies that are created by benthic creatures, but without that important living structure, the cod population doesn’t have the habitat it prefers (which may be an explanation for why that population has been slow to recover).  While more research needs to be done to find out how long it takes for the substrate to recover and return to its pre-dredge state, dredging does have some pretty clear impacts on the sea floor habitat.

Brandon O had a fun question, “What is the funniest thing that got brought up by the dredge?” The chief scientist said that once they brought up pieces of an airplane in a dredge.  I asked if it hurt the dredge and it didn’t because the plane was made of light aluminum.  And then he said that they have also found mammoth teeth. That is very cool!  A long time ago this whole area was not covered by water, but instead it was land for wooly mammoths to walk over. I think this is especially neat after just seeing lots of skeletons of mammoths at the Natural History Museum during our trip to New York City over vacation. I can’t wait to find out what will be the most interesting thing we’ll find during this trip!

Personal Log
We just officially set out to sea! It was a long day waiting for all the preparations to be finalized and for the water to be high enough so we could leave port.  It is a chilly day, with the wind blowing on the ocean and a little drizzle coming down—but so exciting to be moving and heading out!  Lots of students had many questions for me about food, especially considering my mantra, “Fish are friends, not food.” So far so good, lots of chicken, pasta and the most unbelievable snack cabinet—featuring all sorts of goodies that we never keep at home (Oreos, cheese-its, candy bars, soda).   And then today, I saw for the first time–the ice cream freezer.  And entire freezer, dedicated to the storage of frozen treats—what a beautiful concept! As it turns out, there used to be a treadmill on the boat, but they had to move it off to make room for the ice cream.  I like where their priorities are and it is clear that I won’t be going hungry!

Lollie Garay, May 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 19, 2009

Day Shift Crew (left-ft): Larry Brady, Shayla Williams, Vic Nordahl, Gary Pearson, Shad Mahlum, Lollie Garay
Day Shift Crew (left-ft): Larry Brady, Shayla Williams, Vic Nordahl, Gary Pearson, Shad Mahlum, Lollie Garay

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 12.72˚C
True wind: 1.7 KT
Seas: 2-3 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Our day began on Station 170 with calm seas, clear skies and warm sunshine. We completed the last sampling tow late in the afternoon and began the final clean-up. All the equipment and gear was washed down and packed. We are now headed back to Lewes, Delaware where our voyage began.

Mary Moore waits on the dredge to come in.
Mary Moore waits on the dredge to come in.

It’s hard to believe 12 days have gone by already. It has been amazing journey and I have learned so much. The men and women whose work takes them to the seas are to be commended. It is hard work with long hours in all kinds of weather. But in all of science team and crew I sense the pride and the commitment each has for their work. I am going home with stories and images to share with my classroom, friends and family with a first-hand perspective. And I leave my crew with profound gratitude for all they have taught me.

Personal Log 

I spent some time last night talking with the youngest member of the ship’s crew, Mary Moore. Mary comes from four generations of commercial fishermen. She admitted that she decided early on she did not want to follow her parents’ footsteps .But after looking at other career choices she came full circle and does indeed work at sea. Mary earned a Hundred Ton License which allows her to drive vessels up to 100 tons. She went to school in Florida for Seaman Training where she learned Basic fire-fighting, First Aid/CPR, Survival at Sea, and Personal Responsibility. When I asked her what she liked most about her job or the sea she said, “Just being out at sea–it feels like home.” Watching the last rays of sunlight dancing on the smooth, rolling sea, I can understand what she means. In twelve days I found a personal sense of accomplishment and a love of the sea as well.

Lollie
Lollie

Lollie Garay, May 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

The camera is attached to the dredge
The camera is attached to the dredge

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Scattered showers, thunderstorms
Temp: 9.28˚ C
True wind: 13.4 KT

Science and Technology Log 

Today a video camera was attached to the dredge.  Using the camera they are able to see when the dredge is actually on the ground to determine the amount of bottom contact.  It is important to verify sensors like these anytime you work in science. The inclinometer records angle changes that we can interpret into a time on bottom which can be used to calculate a tow distance or bottom contact. This is compared to the tow distance calculated from the GPS recorded by FSCS.   Unfortunately, the inclinometer angle change is not abrupt enough to determine the start time, so the camera is used to determine the amount of time before we start recording tow distance with FSCS.

Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!
Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!

We have two days of sampling left and then we begin to clean and pack. The first dredge today brought up so many sand dollars that they had to shovel some away before they could even secure the dredge! By late afternoon we were back into starfish; in all the dredges the scallop count was comparatively small.

Personal Log 

Around 4PM the skies cleared and we had sunshine again! It was a welcome sight after days of fog, cloud cover, and cold. That, along with calmer seas, made for a great day. Sitting on deck in the warmth of the Sun watching the wave action, I reflect all the different moods of the sea I have seen. I also think about all the wondrous animals I have seen; and wonder about how much more life there is that we didn’t see.

Lollie and a heap of Sand dollars!
Lollie and a heap of sand dollars!

Lollie Garay, May 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 17, 2009

It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!
It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!

Weather Date from the Bridge 
Showers/scattered thunderstorms
Temp: 12.2˚C
Winds: 11.1KT
Seas: 5-8 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We have completed 138 stations and are halfway through today’s shift. Our transit today will take us to the closest we’ve been to the coast. Having said that, we are still about 40 miles offshore. The weather today has been better than we expected. Seas are still choppy, and the air is very cool.

Captain Jimmy Warrington
Captain Jimmy Warrington

Working out on deck requires us to bundle up. The fog has lifted after cutting visibility down to 100 ft yesterday! The captain said that he had three different computers going at the same time to insure safe navigation. This led to a conversation about how technology has changed on ships. Captain Warrington said in the old days all they used were 2 radars, a stopwatch, and “dead reckoning” where they lay out a line of travel (their course) on paper. As you can see from my past conversations about the science night crewmembers, people come from all walks of life to work in NOAA’s Fisheries Service. I have not written about the science day crew because the other Teacher At Sea, Elise Olivieri is working with them. Check out her logs to see what’s happening on her shift! And what about the ship’s crew?

First Mate Chris Bogan
First Mate Chris Bogan

We have Vessel Master James Warrington (the Captain). He has been with the University of Delaware for 25 years, and a Captain for 18 years. He started out as an engineer and decided he would like it better on the bridge! He has to go through re-certification periodically to maintain his license. I asked him what his most interesting assignment of all time was and he said it was working at the Bermuda Biological Station. Chris Bogan has been a Vessel Master since 1983 and is the First Mate on this cruise. He told me that 90% of his family had been sea captains, on both sides of his family!

Cook Paul Gomez
Cook Paul Gomez

One of the most important crewmembers on board is Paul Gomez, the cook! Paul is originally from Ecuador. His family lives in New York, but Paul, his wife and children live in Delaware. Paul has worked with the University of Delaware for 5 years and stays out at sea most of the year. He has been out at sea for 165 days already this year. Paul says he really enjoys his work because of all the people he meets.  You can ask anyone on this cruise and they will tell you that he is a fabulous chef! And he is always smiling.

Personal Log 

Lollie in Foul Weather Gear
Lollie in Foul Weather Gear

We had a lot of smiles this evening. We are within satellite range that has brought our cell phones back to life, at least for awhile. We are just off the coast of Manhattan, so everyone got busy with a call home. We also got a glimpse of city lights off in the distance. As I was getting into my foul weather gear again tonight, I started thinking about how many times this has happened this week. We have averaged 9 stations per day on our shift and have been working for 9 days so far, which means that I have put on this gear 81 times. This may sound trivial to you, but it’s one of those little details that help you laugh as you near the end of another long 12 hour shift!

New animals Seen Today 

An interesting little crab (Parchment worm Polyonyx) that makes its home in Parchment Worm tubes.

Lollie Garay, May 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!
Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 14.11 C
True wind: 11KT
Seas: 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Our day begins with calmer seas and some sunshine, the fog lingers, draped softly over the sea. We are making good progress in the number of stations sampled. However, there is word that a storm may be approaching on Sunday. We expect to be closer to the coastline by then, so perhaps we won’t feel the full brunt of the weather system. Wave action will determine if the dredge is deployed or not.

Looking through a Windowpane fish!
Looking through a Windowpane fish!

By late afternoon through tonight the winds have picked up again. Waves are pounding the ship as we move between stations. We’ve had some interesting catches today, mostly sand dollars with few scallops. But this evening we pulled up a large boulder! Then we had a catch with no scallops at all. Another dredge brought up a Windowpane flounder also known as daylight. If you hold it up to the light, you can see right through it! Another interesting specimen is the black rectangular egg sac of a Skate. You can see the embryo of the fish inside when you hold it up to the light as well. You just never know what‘s going to come up in the net. Yesterday I was talking about the green slimy secretion from sand dollars. Today Shad was telling me about Horseshoe Crabs. Turns out they have blue blood, the result of using copper to oxidize their blood instead of oxygen like we do!

Personal Log 

Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?
Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?

In the few minutes that we have between stations, it‘s not unusual to hear the crew talking about their families and loved ones. Anecdotes shared accentuate the human factor in this service. Especially late in the shift, it’s fun to exchange stories about home. I’m back in my cabin ready to call it a night. As I lay in my bunk I feel the ship fighting against the waves. A funny thought occurred to me: the cabins are below the water! We’ve been sleeping “in the sea”!

New animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth fish Liparid (sea snail)

A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.
A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.

Lollie Garay, May 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚C
True wind: 4.1 KT
Seas: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?
See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?

We’ve been at sea for seven days now and the daily sampling continues. Winds are not as strong as yesterday and we’re all glad. Skies are overcast and a thick fog surrounds us. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred today. By the time our shift ended we had completed 9 sampling stations. The majority of the dredges brought up were full of sand dollars. Lots of sand dollars mean slimy green secretions all over everything! Live sand dollars have a felt-like coating of fine spines. They shuffle through loose sand and feed on diatoms and microorganisms. Flounders and other bottom fishes feed on them. Their color is highly soluble and stains.

Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.
Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.

I’ll continue my conversations about my day shift crew. Larry Brady is a Biological Science Technician with the NOAA Fisheries Service. A former business manager with McGraw-Hill, he began volunteering with the Northeast Region Fisheries Services Sandy Hooks Lab in New Jersey. He found he really enjoyed what he did. One thing led to another and he has now been with the NOAA fisheries for 9 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the FSCS hardware and auditing data.

Dr. Shayla D. Williams is a research chemist at the Howard Marine Science Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She is researching fatty acid chemical tracers in two Northeast fisheries key resource species: Summer Flounders and Black Sea Bass. Fatty acids are a reflection of one’s diet.  As Dr. Williams says, “You are what you eat.” Gary Pearson is on his first survey cruise. Formerly with the Massachusetts Military Reservation, 102nd Fighter Wing division, he has been with the NOAA Fisheries Service maintenance department for three years. Gary works with just about every physical aspect of this survey, except for data entry. 

Personal Log 

Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.
Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.

As the night shift came on duty tonight, “Doc” A.J. told me that he had sandwiched his head between pillows to keep from rolling around and slept just fine through the tempestuous day. So, once I finally got to my bunk I thought about what he said. I only had one pillow, but I did have my life jacket. So, I tucked myself between the life jacket and the wall. He was right! I didn’t roll either and slept all through the night!

New Animals Seen Today 

Spiny Dogfish (2) Pipe fish

Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
A Pipe Fish
A Pipe Fish

Lollie Garay, May 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 14.89C
True Wind: 18KTs
Seas: 4-6ft

Science and Technology Log 

Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab
Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab

We are at station 90 as I write, or try to write.  A front has moved in and brought wind and wave action that has us rolling. As I sit in the wet lab, the wind data on the computer jumps from 20-24 KTs. I had to write this journal entry by hand first because it was too difficult to work on the computer! However work proceeds, we just need to secure anything that can fall or roll. So how do we get on “station”? Stations are a pre-determined number of sampling stratums identified by beginning and ending Latitudes and Longitudes. Stratum is defined by depth intervals. Sampling is done in the same stratums every year, but the actual stations may not be the same.

Last night I was out on deck and saw lights dancing in the middle of the darkness. I was told they were the lights from other vessels. I asked why there were fishermen here if this was a closed area. Turns out that some commercial fishermen have special access permits that allow them to fish in pass-by zones. They can only use these permits a certain number of times for a certain number of years. I also learned that they are monitored by a satellite system that can see who is there.

A front brings fog and high seas, again!
A front brings fog and high seas, again!

I have mentioned some members of my shift crew in my logs. I would like to talk a little more about who they are, what they do and why they are here, in my remaining logs. Chief Scientist Kevin has been with the Fisheries Service since 2002. He is responsible for the overall operations on the science side. He oversees the Watch Chiefs; is responsible for data auditing and cruise track planning; and maintains communication with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute about the progress of the survey.

Vic Nordahl is a Fishery Biologist at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole and is part of the senior staff of the group. He mentors and supervises the fisheries survey team and is out at sea two times a year with the scallop survey. He also does a triennial Surf Clam and Quahog survey. He is currently working on calibrating a time series between the NOAA Ship Albatross and the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp. The Albatross has been retired after 36 years of service. Shad Mahlum, our Watch Chief, is a Sea Tech with NOAA Fisheries Service. Before joining NOAA a year ago, he served 7 years in the Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard, Shad attended school in Bozeman Montana where he studied Zoology and Fresh Water fisheries.

Personal Log 

This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.
This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.

Before I had even opened my eyes, I felt the ship rolling. Winds from a front that moved in are churning up the seas which make simple things like showering a real challenge. I know that while we are towing the dredge the ship moves slower so I waited in bed until I felt us slow down. Then I jumped up and raced into the shower hoping I could make it through getting dressed before we picked up speed. I almost made it! During one of our last stations a HUGE wave crashed all the way across the stern. I was in the wet lab processing scallops when I heard and saw the action. Wish I had had my camera ready! I think we work harder during these wave events because it’s just so hard to do anything without straining those sea legs and arms to maintain your balance! Hope we have a calmer day tomorrow.

New Animals Seen Today 

Chain Dogfish 

Lollie Garay, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚ C
Wind: E-SE 8.9 KT
Seas: 3-5 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

“Monkey Dung”
“Monkey Dung”

The seas have been favorable to us again and we begin work under sunshine skies. We are still sampling in the Elephant Trunk area.  At this writing we are approaching station #75. We have had a variety of different catches today; in fact most dredges are different. One might be full of starfish, another full of sand or mud and crabs, and others full of scallops – every one of them is different. The biggest dredge of the day brought up about 4000 scallops!

Starfish and crab are also sorted and counted at every third station. There are primarily 3 different types of starfish in this area. Researchers do a representative sampling to estimate what types are out here. So far the biggest starfish I have seen had arms about 24 cm long (Asterias vulgaris); the smallest about .5cm. (Asterias forbesi). Starfish are natural predators to scallops. I have noticed that when the catch has lots of starfish, the numbers of scallops goes down. I asked Vic Nordahl about this and he said that it may be possible that the number of starfish suggests the results of predation, or it could simply be that this area is not good for scallops. Crabs are counted to determine numbers and distribution. The majority of crabs in this area are from the Genus Cancer: Rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) and Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis).

A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!
A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!

Sulphur sponges, or Monkey Dung, also come up in the dredges. It‘s a yellow thick sponge with pores so small that there don’t appear to be any. It smells like sulphur and looks like monkey dung! Are sponges plant or animal?  There is still some question about whether a sponge is an individual or a colony of sponges. Sponges are the most primitive of multi-cellular animals, and lack organs or systems. What we see in the dredges is only a very small sampling of the variety and numbers of species that call the sea “home”. And every organism that comes up in the dredges validates the reason for conducting fishery surveys.

Personal Log 

The 12 hours of work we put in each day goes by fairly quickly. My shift crew members lighten up the long day with their sense of humors and laughter.  But make no mistake, they take their work very seriously. I am always asking questions (as usual) and they always respond patiently. I really feel like a contributing member of this team now, not just a visitor. The night was cold on deck, so I head to my cabin with a cup of hot tea at the end of my shift. Tomorrow is a new day!

Answer to the question: What’s the difference between a Deep Sea scallop and a Bay scallop? 

Unusual eggs—what kind are they?
Unusual eggs—what kind are they?

A deep sea scallop is orange or cream colored, is a larger scallop and has a larger meat (adductor muscle).  The shell is not as concave and lacks the ridges of the bay scallop shell. They are distributed in depths from 20 meters to 150 meters.  A Bay scallop is smaller in size and has a smaller meat in proportion to the shell size. The shell is ridged and usually mottled colored in shades of red, white, brown and tan.  They tend to be distributed in depths from right at shore to 20 meters.  They occupy different habitats.

New Question of the Day 
What is the connection between false Quahogs and the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts?

Animals Seen Today 
Razor clams, Ocean Quahogs, False Quahog, Pod of Dolphins (racing around the ship again!), Cragmon shrimp, Red spiked Sea Urchin, Storm Petrels, Sheer water gulls, and Common gulls.

Lollie Garay, May 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
High pressure ridge building late today until wed
Temperature: 12.22˚ C
True winds: 5KTS Seas: 2-4 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Wynne readies the CTD.
Wynne readies the CTD.

As soon as our shift began today, the dredge was already on deck so we went straight to work. After several stations I noticed that the scallop and crab count was lower than yesterday. We are working in an area called Elephant Trunk. It is named this because the bathymetry of the sea floor makes it look like one. We have many stations in this Closed area, so we may see an increase in scallop numbers as the shift progresses.

Today I learned about “clappers”. Clappers are scallop shells that have no meat in them. They are sorted out from the rest and counted. I asked Vic Nordahl why they were important and he said that clappers give us an estimation of natural mortality or predation, so they need to keep count of how many are found.

Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?
Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?

Between dredges today, I spoke with Wynne Tucker. Wynne is an oceanographic tech from the University of Delaware and is in her third season on this research vessel. Wynne does a CTD cast every third station. A CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. She takes samples in the water column at depths of 50-70M. Sensors on the CTD send information to a computer where the data is recorded. The CTD also records information about fluorescence, presence of particulates, and oxygen. The data gives us a visual of the water column which is then sent to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for analysis. When Wynne is not doing CTD casts, she is working at many different jobs Larry Brady and I processed some special samples this evening. We usually measure 5 scallops. Two of the samples had a larval or young Red Hake inside. It lives inside the scallop shell for protection from predators and is tucked on one side of it. This is not a symbiotic relationship, rather more commensalism. I continue to be amazed about the life systems in these waters!

Personal Log 

Elise Olivieri (the teacher from New York) and I have made plans to photograph each other as we work. We work different 12 hour shifts so we do not see each other except during the shift change. And as we have both learned, there is not time for picture taking once the work begins! Unfortunately, our pictures will not be included in our journals at this time, but will be added upon our return!

Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!
Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!

My day ended with two incredible sights. First, as I carried the special samples up to the storage cage, I looked out from the portside at a totally dark scene. You could not make out sky or sea- it all blended into …black! I have never seen anything quite like that before. The second occurred on the starboard side just as I was ending my shift.  Glen Rountree (NOAA Fisheries Service volunteer) told me he had seen a strange red light in the sky and after looking through his binoculars realized it was the Moon. Elise and I grabbed our cameras and went out on deck. It was beautiful! One solitary red light in the middle of black! It was a good way to end the day.

Question of the Day 
What is the difference between symbiosis and commensalism?

Animals Seen Today 
Spider Crab, Sea Squirts, Gulf Stream Flounders, and Bobtail Squid. 

Lollie Garay, May 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 11, 2009

Look at the scallops!
Look at the scallops!

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Stationary front persists
Temperature: 53˚F
Winds 10-20 KT
Seas 4-6 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

The new day brings overcast skies and a very aggressive science agenda. When I walked out on deck at the beginning of my shift I noticed everyone was bundled up, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. I also noticed many baskets of scallops-everywhere! Yesterday we were working in an Open area where commercial fishing is allowed, and the number of scallops we brought up in the dredge was very small. We even had one catch with no scallops! Why is this?

Is it overfishing, predation, larval transport lack of success, or just not a good area for scallops?

Gear is always ready to "jump into"!
Gear is always ready to “jump into”!

Today we were working in a Closed area and the number of scallops I saw was amazing. As the day progressed we continued to get large numbers in the catch and a variety of sizes. This area is very productive, the result of being allowed time to reproduce and grow.  As we move northward now, I was told that the number of scallops will grow even more. As promised, the work today was intense. We moved quickly between stations which meant that we had to process the catch and cleanup before the other station. (Sampling is done at pre-determined sites called stations.) The science team has a limited number of days for this survey, so the pace will most likely stay the same. We are at station 55/560 this evening!

Personal Log 

I think I have settled into the routine of doing a scallop survey. The timing between dredges varies, but I can anticipate when I have to put on my gear and be ready to go. The gear I speak of includes rubber coveralls, life jacket, rubber boots and gloves. They are always “at the ready” next to the lab door, along with cameras! After my first station at the sorting table I fully understood why we have to wear these cumbersome outfits. When we are finished sorting we have sand, mud, and stuff all over us! When the work for each station is complete, we hose off everything including ourselves! The evenings get really cool out here, so I have a light jacket to wear under my gear. This morning when I retrieved it from the lab I couldn’t decide whether to wash it or burn it!

What is this unusual fish? A smiling Skate
What is this unusual fish? A smiling Skate

Sometimes when the stations are very close to each other I stay in my gear and sit on deck to work on my journals or, just sit. Gazing out to the sea, I can understand the sense of responsibility these researchers have for insuring the sustainability of the seas. The ability to hold some of these marine specimens right out of the ocean brings meaning to this work.

Animals Seen Today 

Horseshoe Crabs, Sand dollars, Sand cucumbers, Sea Mouse, and Sea Urchin.

Question of the Day 

What color are Sand Dollars when they are alive?

Lollie Garay, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table
The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Stationary front persists
West winds 10-20KT Seas 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We began our shift today sampling in an area called Del Marva Closed Area, which is an area currently closed to scallop fishing. We conducted 8 dredge hauls last night in spite of the turbulent weather that pursued us. But today, we had calmer seas and beautiful blue skies.

The serious work of sorting and measuring the catch begins right after the dredge is brought up and secured. As it is coming up, someone on either side of the dredge uses a rake to shake the net which allows the catch to fall out. After the net is secured, readings are taken using from a sensor mounted to the dredge. The sensor is called an inclinometer; it measures the dredge angle during the 15minute tow.  This allows the scientists to calculate the amount of time the dredge is on the bottom. Then I hop on the table to hold a whiteboard with the pertinent station information written on it next to the catch which is photographed for documentation. Then the frenzy begins! I leave and someone else gets on the sorting table to rake the catch towards waiting sorters who have several buckets and baskets ready.

The sorting begins!
The sorting begins!

The catch is a mixture of scallops, crabs, fish, lots of starfish, assorted other specimens and sometimes sand. We are primarily sorting out sea scallops and fish, but have had some stations that require us to sort out crabs as well. We work quickly to separate the catch which is then taken into the wet lab for measurement. I have been working with Larry Brady from NOAA Fisheries, learning how to measure scallops using the FSCS system. The FSCS is the Fisheries Scientific Computer System which is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data. FSCS uses touchscreen monitors, motion compensation scales and electronic measuring boards. I feed Larry the scallops one after the other as he measures them using a magnetic wand. This information is automatically recorded into the data base. Last night we had a large number of scallops to process. However, today we have seen less and less; in fact we had one catch with none! The fish are not as plentiful either although we have seen various different specimens.

Starfish are plentiful on this catch!
Starfish are plentiful on this catch!

There are also special scallop samples that need to be processed. First, the scallops are cleaned with wire brushes. Then they are weighed in their shells. After this is recorded, they are opened to remove the meat and gonads, which are weighed separately. This information provides us with the gender of the scallop and can approximate their age. I dry the shells and number them. Then I put them into a cloth sack, tag them with identifying information and put them into the deep freeze.

The fish are also weighed and their species is recorded. Sometimes specimens need to be counted (I counted small crabs today).  Once all the measurements are taken, everything is washed down! That includes the deck, the sorting table all the catch buckets, the FSCS measuring boards and the lab floors. We are then ready for the next dredge haul which follows approximately 20-30 minutes later. This pace continues throughout the shift, barring any mechanical or weather issues.

Personal Log 

Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.
Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.

I am very impressed by the precision of the work that the science team does. As I waited for the dredge to unload a catch this evening I reflected on how everyone does their job quickly and efficiently. It’s something I never fully appreciated – that there are people out on the seas doing this very thing all the time! Already in one full day, they have taught me so much about how the fisheries system works, and they have expanded my knowledge of different marine organisms. Even as we sort quickly through the catch, they are always identifying specimens to me and answering my questions.

Loligo Squid
Loligo Squid

One of the most amazing sights for me has been the incredible number of starfish that each catch brings up! I have never seen so many, and I am learning about the different types. I am also learning how to shuck scallops for the galley for dinner. So far this has not been strength of mine, but I am determined to master this skill! By the way, our lunch today was scallop soup! The beautiful sunset today gave way to the almost-full moon shining on the seas. My shift is over for tonight, I’d best get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Dolphins—made a quick but too brief appearance alongside the ship today. I caught a glimpse as they raced by. Polka dot Kuskeel; Baby Goosefish; Loligo Squid (pronounced Lollie go!) Snake Eel; and Clear Nose Skate.

Lollie Garay, May 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW winds 10-15KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving of land

Science and Technology Log 

Research Vessel Hugh R.Sharp just before we set sail
Research Vessel Hugh R.Sharp just before we set sail

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp set sail this morning around 8AM from Lewes, DE.  There are 13 members of a science team including two teachers: Elise Olivieri and myself. There are 9 crew members as well, for a total of 22 people onboard. We met this morning for introductions and a briefing on the schedule of the day. Captain Jimmy Warrington gave safety instructions and a muster drill was held on the stern of the ship. With logistics covered, the team got to work preparing for a test tow of the scallop dredge. The dredge is 8ft wide and is made of a metal frame from which netting and a bag constructed of rings is attached aftward. It is lowered with a winch off the stern of the vessel and descends to depths that range from 10 meters to 150 meters. As the ship moves at a speed of 3.8 nautical miles per hour for 15 minutes, organism is being scraped off the seafloor. A test tow is conducted near the shore to make sure this important equipment is working properly. In the event that something needs work, we are close enough to go back for repairs

Lollie in her survival suit during the muster drill
Lollie in her survival suit during the muster drill

The focus of this NOAA Fisheries cruise is to survey the population of Placopecten magellanicus, the deep-sea scallop.  Chief scientist Kevin McIntosh (NOAA-Fisheries) leads the team of researchers for Leg 1 of this survey which will do representative sampling.  Victor Nordahl (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for organizing the sampling survey. The NOAA Fisheries Service monitors the populations of sea scallops in the federal waters on the Eastern continental shelf of the U.S.  In 2007, scallops represented the most valuable commercial fishery, along with lobsters. It is critical to monitor their populations to avoid over-fishing of these waters. Fishing areas are either open or closed, meaning that fishing is either allowed or not. Closed areas allow time for repopulation of the area of the commercial species. Temperature and depth are important for scallops. The species we are studying are found in waters cooler than 20C (68F) along the North Atlantic continental shelf area between Newfoundland and North Carolina. In the 12day time period of Leg 1 of this survey, we will conduct about 15 sampling stations per day, working 24hrs a day. I am working the noon-midnight shift. Today being the first day, my team will work from 4pm-midnight.On Sunday we begin the 12 hr. shifts. Each crew has a Watch Chief responsible for making sure everything runs well with the survey on his watch. Our Watch Chief is Shad Mahlum (NOAA Fisheries).

Personal Log 

Rough seas sure made it hard to get those sea legs going!
Rough seas sure made it hard to get those sea legs going!

My bunk mate for this cruise is Elise Olivieri, a TAS from New York. We share a small room with bunks and on the first night we realized that without a ladder to use, she definitely had to take the top! (Elise has more height to her than I!) We experienced some rough seas this first day due to storms that were circling around. When night fell, we could see lightning in the distance. We were tossed around quite a bit during the late hours of our shift, bumping into walls, equipment and each other! Waves pounded over onto the deck where we worked and sprayed chilly waters over everything it could reach. Sure made it hard to get those sea legs going.

By the end of my shift I felt that I had a good understanding of my role on the survey team. I am working with a great group people who have been most patient with all my questions. They are teaching me a lot about scallops, marine life and the importance of their jobs. This is going to be a great experience!

Question of the Day 

What’s the difference between an East Coast Deep Sea Scallop and an East Coast Bay Scallop?