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 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


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 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 (

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

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.


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.