Erica Marlaine: The Dreaded Melanasty and the Volunteer Biologists, July 12, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019


Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 12, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 57º 09.61 N
Longitude: 152º 20.99W
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: 210 º
Air Temperature:  12º Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1013 mb
Depth of water column 84m
Surface Sea Temperature: 12º Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson with me are two volunteer biologists: Evan Reeve and Nathan Battey.  Evan is on the opposite shift, so we often pass each other, but on occasion, we have been in the fish or chem lab at the same time.

Volunteer biologist Evan Reeve
Volunteer biologist Evan Reeve

I arrived here knowing very little about fish (other than how to care for a beta fish and how to cook salmon and trout).  Evan, on the other hand, is a recent graduate of the University of Washington (or as he likes to say, “U-DUB”) with a degree in Biology (and an emphasis in fish biology).  When I say recent, I mean recent. Evan graduated five days before we boarded the ship.

Evan has a remarkable “ready for anything” attitude whether it is the start of his 12-hour shift, or the end. His background may be one reason why. Originally from San Diego, he spent his freshman year at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. A planned-year studying abroad at the Universidad Veritas in San Jose, Costa Rica got cut short after one semester due to an illness that forced him to return to San Diego.  There, Evan made the decision to serve our country and joined the Navy. For a few years, he served as a Navy corpsman stationed with Marine infantry units until he was injured during training. That’s when Ready-for-Anything Evan resumed his studies, eventually arriving at his beloved “U-DUB”. 

Evan currently lives in Washington, where he volunteers with the NOAA Hatchery Reform Program in Port Orchard, Washington, tracking hatchery released juvenile salmon in Puget Sound using both acoustics and traditional fishing techniques.  When a biology professor mentioned the opportunity to spend time on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in the Gulf of Alaska, Evan of course volunteered, eager to participate in a larger scale study involving different fish species.  In Puget Sound, the haul is often 10 salmon.  In contrast, the haul being studied onboard the Oscar Dyson is often 1000 pounds of Walleye pollock several times a day (along with prowfish, Pacific herring, rockfish, and a lot of jellyfish). Speaking of prowfish, herring, rockfish, and jellyfish…

FUN FISH FACTS AND PHOTOS:

PROWFISH: In my earlier blog, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, I wrote about the lumpsucker being the cutest fish I had ever seen.  A close runner up is the baby prowfish. 

juvenile prowfish
juvenile prowfish

Every time we get a prowfish in a catch, everyone wants to look at it! We usually get juvenile prowfish which are about the length of my finger. (Adults can get up to 3 feet long.) The juveniles are very soft and smooth looking, and their lower jaw juts out slightly, making them look like they are pouting.  Unlike adults prowfish, who spend most of their time near the bottom of the sea floor, juvenile prowfish spend their time in the middle levels of the water column, which is the area we are trawling on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  I was surprised to learn that juvenile prowfish will try to avoid predators by hiding within the bells of large jellyfish.

PACIFIC HERRING, OR AS I LIKE TO CALL THEM, THE RAINBOW FISH:

Pacific herring
Pacific herring

As a special education preschool teacher, I often read and discuss The Rainbow Fish (by Marcus Pfister) with my students.

cover of The Rainbow Fish
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

It is a popular children’s book about a little fish with very sparkly scales who learns to share. Rainbow Fish was considered the most beautiful fish in the ocean because of his many sparkly scales.  When a plain, little fish asks for one of the sparkly scales, Rainbow Fish refuses to share. This makes all the other fish mad, and they no longer want to play with the Rainbow Fish. In the end, Rainbow Fish decides to share his sparkly scales with all the other fish, keeping only one for himself.  He is less beautiful than he was before, but he has new friends and is now the happiest fish in the sea.

The Pacific herring is similarly covered in sparkly scales, but boy, is he a super sharer (as we say in preschool)!  Since herring are a small fish, they compensate for their size by forming schools (or groups of fish that swim together). Swimming in schools protects them as it reduces the likelihood that any one of them will be eaten by a predator. Sometimes we get only one herring with our huge haul of pollock.  They are somewhat similar in shape and color.  Evan (the volunteer biologist) has a theory: that it’s a herring who got separated from his school and sought protection by joining and blending in with a school of pollock. As a preschool teacher, I love the idea that a group of pollock would allow or even invite a lost little herring to “play” with them.

Other times, we get a lot of herring, and as I mentioned they love to share their sparkly scales.  Everything (and everyone) ends up sparkly: the pollock, the fish belt, the measuring boards, the tables, and ME!  You can always tell when there is herring in a catch by the sparkly fish scales in my hair.

ROCKFISH: Occasionally a few rockfish are in the trawl net.  Rockfish have large eyes, and are not particularly sparkly or cute, but they are delicious! I even learned to fillet them!

Erica fillets a rockfish
My first time filleting a fish
Erica fillets a rockfish
It’s easier than I thought it would be!

It was exciting to later see the rockfish cooked and served for dinner.

prepared rockfish
The rockfish deliciously prepared by the Chief Steward, Judy Capper

AND FINALLY THE JELLYFISH: Not yet… keep reading…

FIRST, Nathan Battey: Nathan, the other volunteer biologist onboard, is on my shift, and works in the fish lab with me 12 hours a day processing the fish hauls. He is my “go-to fisheries biologist” whenever I need help identifying a fish or jellyfish.”

Nathan and lumpsucker
Volunteer biologist Nathan Battey with a lumpsucker

Since he is originally from Goffstown, New Hampshire, it should not come as a surprise that Nathan ended up on a ship since Goffstown is home to the famous Giant Pumpkin Regatta! Every October, Goffstown residents transform enormous pumpkins into boats. They scoop out the sometimes 1000-pound pumpkins, climb in, and race them down the Piscatoquag River. 

Nathan studied biology and earth science at the University of New Hampshire and took a lot of oceanography courses along the way.  Since graduating in 2015, he has done a myriad of fascinating things.  He quantified nitrogen cycling in the wetlands of coastal New England, worked in a microbiology lab, counted larval fish under a microscope, regulated the upstream passage of salmon on the Seattle fish ladder, worked as a scallop fisheries observer, was a State Park Ranger on the eastern shore of Virginia, and worked with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (alongside NOAA scientists, tribal scientists, fish and wildlife scientists, and National Park scientists) on the recolonization of the Elwha River for salmon and other fish after the dams there were removed.  (The tribe had successfully sued the U.S. for the removal of the dams based upon their right to fish there.)

The last two positions were through AmeriCorps, which he highly recommends! AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs.  It is sometimes thought of as the domestic Peace Corps since members serve on projects within the United States. According to their website: “AmeriCorps is your moment to take the path less traveled, to break the status quo, to stop talking about the problem and be the solution.” Whatever your passion, it is likely there is an AmeriCorps opportunity perfect for you. There are projects in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection. If you are interested in learning more about AmeriCorps, visit https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps

Nathan is also a talented artist and drew detailed sketches of both marine and bird species which amazed everyone and now hang on the walls of the chem lab. 

Nathan's sketch
Nathan’s sketch of the albatross that would visit the ship during fishing times.

He will also be remembered for the nickname he gave to the Chrysaora melanaster jellyfish: Chrysaora melanasty.

Nathan's jellyfish
Nathan’s sketch of the beautiful but dreaded melanasty

AT LAST, THE JELLYFISH:

Chrysaora melanaster are magnificent creatures. The photo below, captured one night using the drop camera, shows how elegantly they glide through the water with their ribbon-like tentacles flowing gracefully behind them.

Chrysaora melanaster swimming
Chrysaora melanaster captured on drop camera

It is often my job to grab the jellyfish as they come down the belt, separating them from the pollock.  I have held some that are an inch wide, and some that are almost 3 feet wide (and quite heavy). Jellyfish are measured by their bell diameter, or how wide the top part is (not the tentacles).

Erica with large jelly
Here I am with a large Chrysaora melanaster. Before my time on the Oscar Dyson, if I saw a jellyfish in the ocean, I swam away as quickly as I could. Now I probably touch 100 jellyfish per day, albeit with gloves on. Also, look at the sparkly scales in my hair. It must have been a herring day!
Evan and jellies
Volunteer biologist Evan Reeve and a tangled mess of Chrysaora melanster

The photo above might give you an idea of how the nickname “melanasty” came to be.  In the net, all the glorious, long, sticky, ribbon-like tentacles of the Chrysaora melanaster get tangled and attached to all the glorious, long, sticky, ribbon-like tentacles of the other Chrysaora melanaster.  As you try to pull one jellyfish off the belt, several more are attached in a slimy mess, and you often get splashed in the face, mouth, or eyes with jellyfish “goo.”  One day, dealing with the tangle, Nathan dubbed them “melanasty” and the nickname stuck. 

Thomas Savage: Meet the Crew, August 14, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.8
Dry bulb   8.8 C
Wet bulb  7 C
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles   (10.5 miles)
Wind speed: 23 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 999 millibars
Cloud Height: 10K feet
Waves: 2 foot

Meet the Crew

It takes a lot of personnel to ensure a successful mission. There are over forty personnel onboard this ship. During the past week, I have had opportunities to get to know them.

 


LT Stephen Moulton at the helm
LT Stephen Moulton at the helm

Stephen Moulton Operations Officer (in training) LT – NOAA

How did you first get involved in NOAA?

I was in the Coast Guard Reserves for eight years with some active time and trying to go back for active duty.

While working in Silver Spring, MD working as an industrial hygienist for an engineering company, I walked by NOAA Administration and inquired about jobs, applied for NOAA Corps and was accepted into training at the Coast Guard academy in 2012.  Processed out of Coast Guard into NOAA Corps as an Officer in Training.

What is your job on board the Fairweather?

Operations Officer (in training). My job is to setup ships daily plan. This includes making sure we have the equipment, personnel and a good idea as to what the weather conditions will be for successful operation. Once we collect the data at sea, my job is to ensure the data is processed and meets NOAA’s standards and that it gets compiled into the correct format for distribution to our NOAA Pacific Hydrographic Branch. This data primarily gets converted into nautical charts which is used by mariners such as cargo ships, the US Coast Guard and recreational cruise passenger ships

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I love being on the water and love driving the ship, making a 200-ton vessel do what you want by using the wind and seas, and navigating around other ships.

Where do you spend most of your time?

Most time is now spent in operations, training for what the ship needs to being doing with its time and funding, keeping us on the ship’s mission, which is surveying.

How long have you been on board?

3 months

When you were in high school did you have any vision of working at sea? 

No,  I attended Assumption College and graduated with degree in global and environmental studies.   It was tough finding a job with that degree, the only types of jobs with that degree is being a foreign officer .

What do you enjoy most abut living on board?

It makes a lot things convenient, commute to work is a walk upstairs, gym is down the stairs and meals are cooked and you have no dishes to clean. Everything you need is on board. Being able to explore the mountains and wild life in Juneau while the ship was under repair is another bonus.

What is the most challenging?

Being far from my family who are in Rhode Island with two adopted kids.

Which other NOAA ships have your served?

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, an east coast hydrographic survey from 2013 -2015 as an ensign. Spent 3 years on land as a CO-OPS handled tide gauge stations and operated small boats and traveled 4 weeks at a time for tide gauge maintenance along east coast team. Locations included Great Lakes and Puerto Rico.

Where do you see yourself in NOAA in the future?

Finishing up land assignment in Silver Spring Maryland and going out as an XO on a fisheries vessel in the Northeast such as NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.

 


 Simon Swart
Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Simon Swart in the plot room

Simon Swart – Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician

Where did you attend college and what was your degree in?  

Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. BA in Environmental Science.  Originally from the Cayman Islands and lived in San Francisco for ten years.

How did you get involved with NOAA?  

Found out through scientific papers and knew I wanted to work with maps and applied science.  I have been working aboard the Fairweather for five months.

Where is home?  

San Francisco where my dad resides.

Describe your job?

It changes a lot depending on what is currently occurring.  Six hour shifts on six hours off it simply depends on what is occurring in a day. While the boat launches are collecting data you are reviewing information and then process the data when it returns.

What do you enjoy most about being at sea?

Everything, love being on the water, that has a lot to do with growing up near the ocean. Every time I step outside on deck, it never ceases to amaze me with the beauty.

What are some challenges with ship life? 

Living in close proximity with forty people living in close quarters.

What is your favorite place you have visited while working for NOAA?

Traveling through the Aleutian Islands.  I still felt we were out far in the ocean with these beautiful islands.

Do you want to stay in the Alaskan region?

Yes, I have been wanting to traveling around Alaska since I was in high school.  When I originally applied for NOAA, it did not specify Alaska.

What do you enjoy doing while you are off the ship, off duty? 

It depends where the ship is located, hiking and fishing is what I enjoy most. Enjoy meeting and getting to know the local people at different ports.  When returning to these ports, it is nice to get together with them and go hiking.


Sam Candio
Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician Sam Candio

Sam Candio- Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician

What is your primary role?

Oversight of all the data, including the quality control and training new personnel.

Where are from?

New Jersey and attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington. And majored in BS Marine Biology.  Cape Fear Community College associates degree  Marine technology. This program is very good and this program has 95% job placement success. Got a job almost immediately after graduation

How did you get involved with NOAA

I saw a job online and applied for it, always wanted to work for NOAA.

How many ships have you worked?

Have worked on board the Fairweather for three years.

What is your favorite place you have visited while on board?

Yakutat, near Juneau. There is an incredible glacier there, one of the only advancing glaciers in south east Alaska. There are eighteen thousand foot mountains in this region. It is also home to the northern most surf shop. You enjoy surfing in Alaska.

What do you enjoy the most about living on a ship?

I enjoy visiting all these remote places that few people get to see. For instance seeing the sun never setting and going to remote islands to set up remote GPS base stations.

What is your advice for anyone interested in cartography or marine biology

Attend Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, North Carolina. As mentioned earlier, they have a great employment success rate of 95%. Start interning / volunteering as soon as you can. The community college also has a good research vessel with lots of hands on training. I traveled on two cruises, one to Baltimore and one to Bahamas.  Each cruise has a different focus such as fish identification, mapping, bottom profiling and navigation.


Oiler Kyle in the Engine Room
Oiler Kyle Mosier in the Engine Room

Kyle Mosier – Oiler

Where are you from?

Grew up in Federal Way, Washington and moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, after high school to attend college.

What is your degree in?  

AA degree from Pierce College, Lakewood, Washington. Then attended Seattle Maritime Academy with a focus of Engineering.

What is your primary role on the ship? 

Maintain and repair equipment on engines and clean air filters for ships air supply and staterooms, and oil changes on our generators. Also, work on a lot of special projects on board with the engineering team.

How did you you get involved with NOAA?

I heard about it during maritime school and my Port Captain had worked for NOAA and heard good things about it and then applied. They called me back for an interview over the phone and then sent me to Newport Oregon for a pre-employment physical. Then traveled to Norfolk Virginia for orientation.

What do you do while you are off duty?

I love to write and passionate about stories and writing books. First I start by brainstorming ideas from the places I have gone to and the experiences I have and the people I meet. It helps for plot and settings. This job helps me with that as we travel all over the northwest region. In one of my books I used my experience seeing glaciers and used that as an awesome setting. The types of books I write are science fiction, mystery and adventure. I have over twenty books that have been published and a series of books entitled Katrina the Angel.  My newest one, Natalie and the Search for Atlantis, is a Science Fiction which is the ninth one in the “Katrina the Angel” series. It is my most proud book that I have written and the longest. Writing makes me happy and hope one day to make it a career.

What do you enjoy the most about being at sea?  

What I like most is the places we have gone to such as traveling around Alaska with a great crew. Juneau, Alaska, is my favorite. It has great people and everything is within walking distance. There are many places to go hiking and places that have Karaoke.

If someone wants to go out and buy one of your novels where can they purchase one?

Kindle device or Amazon.

What do you find most challenging about being on board the ship? 

Unable to go home often

Do you have any plans as to working on another NOAA ship

No, I enjoy it on the Fairweather


JO Cabot Zucker
JO Cabot Zucker pilots a launch vessel

Cabot Zucker – Junior Officer

Where are you from?

Coastal town called Jupiter, Florida

Where did you attend College?

Went to the University of Florida and studied Wildlife Ecology and Sustainable Development

How did you first get involved in the NOAA Corps? 

I was on vacation in North Carolina and saw a job posting regarding the NOAA Corps.

What are the requirements for getting accepted into the NOAA Corps? 

You need a four year degree and they like to see experience in marine science or physical science preferably and being well rounded. There is a physical and medical screening pretty much the same as the military.

What are your responsibilities? 

My main responsibility is to drive and safely navigate the ship and support its mission.  Other collateral duties include, damage control, small boat officer assist with ship fleet inspection and inventory management on the ship.  Included with this is other administrative paper work and tasks.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

I really like how dynamic, challenging and a lot of responsibility. and I love the challenging work environment and how I continually learn new skills. I have been on this ship for two months.

During these two months, what is the most amazing view you have seen?  

The transition through the Aleutian Islands, the scenery there includes snow covered volcanoes, intense scenery of jagged cliffs. Saw lots of whales, puffins and other sea birds.

What is some of the challenges with working on a ship?

There is constant distractions and its such a dynamic environment.  Plans are constantly changing and you have to adapt and get the work done. Being away from my wife has been challenging and I will see her in December for three weeks.

What place have you visited while serving the ship that you enjoyed the most? 

I enjoyed Juneau, hiking the mountain and snow fields. Visited the Mendenhall Glacier and enjoyed fishing. We caught Pinks and Chum which are both types of Salmon.

 

Personal Log

I have now been at sea for over one week. The weather for the most part has been remarkable, sunshine.   Last night we sailed into a sheltered area south of Point Hope, Kotzebue Sound, as the remnants of a tropical storm spun by. The wind gusts were recorded at 30 knots and the seas peaked around 8 feet.  The Fairweather handled the rough seas well and rocked me to sleep. We are sailing back to the Point Hope area to conduct more surveying during this remainder of this week.  At Point Hope, the sun rises at 6:20 am and sets at 12:04 am. As each day passes, the daylight is getting shorter by 10 minutes as we head into fall.   On December 21st,  the sun will be directly overhead at 21 degrees south Latitude and marks is the winter solstice. Using the image below, notice that the sun is shining a 90 degree angle directly above the Earth at 21 degrees south latitude. Locate the Arctic Circle and imagine the globe spinning, what do you see or not see at the Arctic Circle during the Winter Solstice?

Diagram of Earth at Winter Solstice
Diagram of Earth at Winter Solstice. Image from thenorthwestforager.com.

Question of the Day How much sunlight will Point Hope receive December 21st during the Winter Solstice?

 

Answer from yesterday  Answer is 74% relative humidity.

Relative humidity measures how much water vapor the atmosphere can hold at a specific temperature.  Relative humidity is really a measurement of comfort and that is why meteorologist use this especially during the summer months.  At warmer temperatures, the atmosphere can hold large amounts of water vapor.  In the south, we always relate high humidity with hot temperatures. As the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, water will cling to the nearest object, you; thus it becomes uncomfortable.  However, at cooler temperatures, the atmosphere cannot hold that much water vapor, so the atmosphere can reach 100%, but it is comfortable as there simply is not a lot of water in the atmosphere.

Until next time, happy sailing!

Tom

 

 

 

 

Taylor Planz: What’s It Like to Be a…, July 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Taylor Planz

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 9 – 20, 2018

 Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, Alaska and vicinity
Date: July 19, 2018 at 10:53am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 65° 15.541′ N
Longitude: 168° 50.424′ W
Wind:  10 knots NW, gusts up to 20 knots
Barometer:  765.06 mmHg
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Temperature: 7.4° C
Sea Surface 7.2° C
Weather: Overcast, light drizzle

Interview Issue!

NOAA hires employees with many different career specialties. So many in fact that I cannot cover them all in one blog post. In an effort to give you a glimpse into some of the day to day happenings of the ship, I chose three different people with widely varying careers to interview today. The first is Oiler Kyle Mosier, who works in the engineering department. Next is Erin Billings, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service visiting NOAA for this leg of the mission. Finally, ENS Jeffrey Calderon who works for the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps as the Medical Person In Charge.

Oiler Kyle Mosier

Oiler Kyle Mosier
Oiler Kyle Mosier


What is your job on NOAA Ship Fairweather?
“I am an oiler in the engineering department, and my job is to do maintenance work and watches when we are underway. During my work day, I complete a list of maintenance items called a SAMMS list. On a given day, I might clean strainers, air supply, or air filters. We have 5 fan rooms; fan rooms 1 and 3 go to our staterooms, so I make sure those are always clean.”

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
“An adjustable wrench. We use wrenches just about every day, so if I only had one wrench (and one tool) it would be the one that can adjust to many sizes.”

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working on a NOAA ship?
“My dream job is to be a successful writer. I got started in high school just writing for fun, and I got better as I went through college. I also took an art class in college, and the teacher let me work on my own project ideas. I made my first book cover in that class, for a book called “Natalie and the Gift of Life”. I brought back my original character Natalie years later because I loved that first book so much, and I’m a much better writer now versus back then. My most recent book is “Natalie and the Search for Atlantis”.”

What advice would you give to students who may be interested in a job like yours?
“Some people only get certified to be an Oiler, but I went to the Maritime Academy and got my QMED certification (Qualified Member of the Engine Department). I recommend this pathway because it qualifies you to be an electrician, oiler, junior unlicensed engineer, and work in refrigeration. You’re not stuck with one job; instead, you have many different choices for what kind of job you do.”

Erin Billings

Meteorologist Erin Billings
Meteorologist Erin Billings

Tell me about what you do for a living.
“I am general forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks, Alaska. I produce forecasts for northern Alaska and the adjacent waters. As an organization, we forecast for approximately 350,000 square miles of land area.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?
“It’s like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together. Forecasting is a lot about pattern recognition. People also rely a lot on forecasts, so I feel like my job is important for people as they plan their day, their weekend, and even their vacations.”

What parts of your job can be challenging?
“When you have a lot going on and the weather is frequently changing, it can be hard to choose what area gets looked at first as well as managing the time it takes to do that. I work rotating shifts as well, so my work hours are always changing and sometimes I work 7 days in a week. I love what I do though, so there’s a trade off.”

What advice would you give to students who may be interested in a job like yours?
“In order to get in to a meteorological position, you should find a way to set yourself apart from other people. Get a good foundation of science and math, but focus on something else you can bring to the table. Examples could be learning a foreign language, learning computer programming, or completing an internship or relevant volunteer position. Setting yourself apart will make you more competitive than everyone else who is applying for the same job and has the same degree as you.”

Ensign Jeffrey Calderon

Ensign Jeffrey Calderon
Ensign Jeffrey Calderon

What is your job on NOAA Ship Fairweather?
“I am a Junior Officer with the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. My job is administration of the ship, which is broken down into collateral duties. Each duty needs to be completed to keep the ship operating smoothly. I am the Medical Person in Charge, so I keep track of all the medicines, make sure they haven’t expired, order medical supplies, and inspect medical equipment. I can also perform CPR and first aid. I can follow a doctor’s order to administer medication, including IVs. I am also in charge of all of the keys on the ship; there are about 300. I have to get them back from people when they leave and make copies when needed. I am the auxiliary data manager on the ship. I collect weather data, inspect the sensors (anemometer, barometer, etc), and upload the data to an online system. I also drive and navigate the ship and the small launch boat.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?
“I like being on a ship because I get to travel and see things that I will remember all my life. On the Fairweather, I get to see the aurora borealis, mountains, fjords, whales… things that not everyone gets to see. It also forces me to face new challenges; there’s always something I have to master and learn. I may have to fight a fire on the ship or go out on a launch and rescue somebody on the water.”

What do you miss the most when you are at sea?
“I miss having a real bed. I miss the privacy too. My stateroom is a 2-person stateroom.”

What advice would you give to students who may be interested in a job like yours?
“Pick a science-related path. It will be challenging, but it will be worth it in the long run. Science degrees will better prepare you for challenging careers, and it will prove to future employers that you can persevere through challenges. NOAA is also looking for people with good moral character, so stay out of trouble.”

Question of the Day
What are the eligibility requirements to be in the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps?

Answer to Last Question of the Day
As mentioned above, northern Alaska reaches temperatures colder than most people can even imagine! Nome’s record low temperature occurred on January 27, 1989. Without using the internet, how cold do you think Nome got on that day?

The coldest temperature on record in Nome, Alaska is -54° Fahrenheit! Brrrr!

Kimberly Godfrey: Creature Feature, June 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

 

Mission: Rockfish recruitment and assessment survey

Geographic Range: California Coast

Date: June 8, 2018

 

Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 36° 43.508′ N

Longitude: 121° 52.950′ W

Wind: 30.87 knots from the SE

Air Temperature: 12.7°

Waves: 2-3 feet with 6-8 foot swells

 

Science and Technology Log

We moved up north to continue with our trawls. The first night we trawled just north of Monterey Bay. It was a good thing we did because outside the bay, the wind and swells are rough. We saw lots of jellyfish and lots of krill in our catches. However, I would like to talk a little about a very specific group of fish, rockfish. If you read the mission above, you will recall that rockfish are the primary focus of this survey. Therefore, I think they need a moment in the spotlight to themselves.

While this number may vary, NOAA has over 60 species of rockfish listed on the West Coast. They are an intriguing group of fish for many reasons. First, it is important to note that they are extremely significant to their food web because they are a prey species, but they are also important as a food and income source for humans. Species like the bocaccio rockfish and the yelloweye rockfish are species of concern due to over fishing, and populations are slow to recover. That is enough reason to learn as much possible about these fish.

Yelloweye Rockfish
Yelloweye Rockfish

Bocaccio
Bocaccio

What we know about rockfish species is they can live for a long time. Many can live over 50 years, some can even live over 100 years of age!  Their growth rate is relatively slow, and very few make it to adulthood because they are prey for other fish. During the first year (sometimes more depending on the species), they spend much of their time in the pelagic realm (open water). If they live long enough, they can grow to a size that allows them to settle in the benthic zone (ocean floor). For many species, 60 mm is a large enough size to settle. This is what the term “recruitment” refers to. Once rockfish settle out of the pelagic zone, they have a higher chance of reaching reproductive maturity.

YOY Rockfish
Various species of YOY (Young Of the Year) rockfish caught in one of our trawls. Photo Credit Keith Sakuma

NOAA Fisheries has been surveying the West Coast for rockfish since 1983. They first started in a smaller region from Monterey Bay to Point Reyes, CA. The survey area expanded in 2004 and by 2013 it covered the entire coast of California. The success of the local ecosystem and the commercial fisheries depend on healthy fish populations. The survey tries to collect at least 100 specimens per species of rockfish and take them back to the lab (on land).  Back at the lab the species identifications are determined as many rockfish are difficult to identify to species at this life history stage without using a microscope.  In addition, their size is recorded and tissue samples taken for genetic studies. Then, on select species, otoliths are removed to age the specimens. The otolith is an ear bone. In fish, the ear bone deposits layers of bone in rings. It happens daily and these daily rings can be counted using a microscope to learn how old the fish is. These ages are used by scientists not only to learned how old the fish are, but they can compare this information to the size data collected and estimate the expected size of a fish at any given age.

I had a chance to talk to everyone from the night shift science team about what they do and how they came to work for NOAA:

Keith Sakuma has been working with the survey since 1989. He is the chief scientist and team leader of the night crew. He works hard to make sure we are all focused and efficient because it is a fast-paced work environment. In between hauls, he enjoys the company of his team and a few Dragon Ball episodes. He was born and raised in Hawaii, and went to University of Hawaii for his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology.  In his younger years, Keith worked for the Division of Aquatic Resources, where he spent his days walking up and down the beach to count fisherman and interview them about their catches for the day. He also did snorkel surveys doing fish counts in fisheries management areas.  In addition, he worked on a team that implemented fish aggregating devices, buoys that attract fish for the local fisherman.

While at the University of Hawaii, he was part of the Marine Option program where they teach you various marine skills and connect you with marine research activities. Through this program he completed his scientific diving training, and then participated in two diving surveys. Both surveys documented the impacts of tourism on the reef systems on the island of Lanai Island and Molokini, which is a tiny islet off Maui. On Molokini, tourist traveling to the islet by boat, dropping anchor in the reef, caused a significant amount of damage to the reef. Mitigation included the addition of moorings so boats could tie up and not have to drop anchor, destroying more of the reef.

For his Master’s, he attended San Francisco State University.  His major advisor just returned from a 2-year sabbatical, working with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) [also known as NOAA Fisheries] on the mid water trawl survey, and suggested that Keith do his Master’s Thesis on the data he collected on the survey. While finishing his Master’s degree, he was offered a full-time position working with NMFS, and has been here ever since. That means he has 29 years put into this work.

Growing up in Hawaii near the ocean definitely influenced his decision to pursue Marine Science. He used to say to others how much he loved the ocean and that the ocean loved him back. He couldn’t wait to spend time at the beach in the water. And while today this remains true, he has mentioned that that cold waters of Pacific Coast are not as affectionate as the warm waters of Hawaii.  The water around the islands is so clear, allowing one to see at a distance the beauty that lies beneath. Here, you must pick the right day at the right time to find tolerable temperatures and some visibility. The murkiness makes it hard to see anything, but that murkiness is what contributes to the productivity of the region.

Even after 29 years, Keith still very much enjoys being at sea. He doesn’t get sea sick, so he can spend time working in the field with real specimens and real-time data rather than just analyzing data collected by other people. He enjoys seeing new people come on and get excited about the work. For anyone interested in pursuing Marine Biology and any research science, it is important to have a strong background in math and statistics, especially in today’s world. He also mentioned how important it is to have computer skills and programming skills. The software used to process and analyze data requires one to read and write programming language. Having these skills make one a stronger candidate when applying for research positions. It also gives one more validity when having to speak about and defend the analysis of the research.

That’s Keith, the Chief Scientist, in a nutshell. I also got to learn more about the rest of the team. Thomas Adams has been working with this survey for 5 years now. He started as a volunteer with NMFS, analyzing marine chlorophyll samples. He always had an interest in Marine Biology, and already had a connection to someone working in a NOAA lab. He was invited to work on the rockfish survey because he was known for being a knowledgeable and efficient worker. He too is very enthusiastic and really enjoys being at sea with Keith and the rest of the team. He is the main provider of Dragon Ball, and the Simpsons, which the team enjoys in between trawls. He recently completed his Bachelor’s degree and plans to go for his Master’s in Marine Biology in the near future.

Melissa Monk is a Research Mathematical Statistician, and is responsible for fisheries stock assessments for West Coast near shore ground fish. She also participates in research related to improving fisheries. Her schedule is on a bi-annual cycle. One year is devoted to stock assessment, and the next year is devoted to research.  During stock assessment years, there is a mad dash that happens around September to learn anything and everything about your assigned species. At the end of the assessment season, there is a week-long panel review of all the data gathered during the assessment. Once the assessment is approved, the information is used for species management and harvest regulations. She received her undergrad in Wildlife Sciences with a minor in Statistics. Her Master’s was in fisheries. She spent half her year monitoring the sea turtle populations in North Carolina, and the other half of the year in classes. She did a lot of quantitative work, research, and recruitment training for her Master’s. She also had a connection to NOAA because her PhD advisor at LSU used to work for NOAA. She learned that NOAA trained people to become stock assessors, and pursued fisheries as a career. Her favorite part about working for NOAA is that her work directly impacts fisheries success.

Rebecca Miller is a GIS Specialist, works on a variety of projects at the Santa Cruz NOAA lab. One project is the spatial mapping of rockfish and other marine species. She maps California fisheries catches in both time and space, and is able to analyze this data as far back as the 1930’s. Her Master’s degree is from Oregon State University in Fisheries Sciences with a minor in Geography. She knew since 6th grade that she wanted to be a Fisheries Biologist. She participated in internships and part-time summer jobs in freshwater salmon fisheries, marine intertidal work, and geodatabase management. She loves the people she works with, and the fact the work is so diverse. There is a lot of field work, lots of data analyses, and different projects to work on. She too enjoys knowing that her work helps to sustain fisheries to be both utilized and conserved.

Stephanie Oakes is from NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology (OST). She got her Ph D. in Marine Sciences, and worked on Antarctic krill in an ecosystem context.  The rockfish survey is similar in the sense the it also surveys species in an ecosystem context.  Being able to participate in surveys like this is important to her because she gets to experience first had what happens during the surveys and how the team operates.  Her personal gratification is that she gets her hands in the catch, in the field like she did for her Ph.D.  NOAA Fisheries OST is there to advocate and ensure sound scientific basis for NOAA Fisheries science programs and resource conservation and management decisions.

Did you know…

Here are some of the species we found during our trawls:

  • Adult and young of year (YOY) anchovy
  • Adult and YOY sardine
  • Jack Mackerel
  • Northern Lamp fish
  • Mexican lamp fish
  • California Lamp fish
  • Blue lantern fish
  • Northern smoothtongue
  • Black smelt
  • Pacific Hake
  • Pacific Sanddab
  • Speckled Sanddab
  • CO Turbot
  • Black-bellied dragon fish
  • High fin dragon fish
  • Barracuddina
  • King-of-the-salmon
  • Market squid
  • Gonatus squid
  • Boreal squid
  • Octopus
  • Electric Ray
  • Wolf Eel
  • Pacific Sea Nettle
  • Purple striped jelly
  • Moon Jelly
  • Krill
  • Pelagic Red Crabs

Pacific Sanddab
Young of Year (YOY) Pacific Sanddab

King of the salmon
King-of-the-Salmon

Krill
Krill. There is mostly one species of krill here, but we’ve seen multiple species in our catches.

Barracudina
Barracudina

Adult Anchovy
Adult Anchovy

Myctophids
Blue lantern fish

Pelagic Red Crab
Pelagic Red Crab

Chryasora colorata
Purple Striped Jelly

Boreal Squid
Boreal squid

Octopus
Octopus

Wolf eel
Juvenile wolf eel Photo Credit Wyatt Sebourn

Cindy Byers: Working at Sea, May 9, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cindy Byers
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 29 – May 13

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 9, 2018

Weather from the Bridge

Latitude: 57° 43.2 N
Longitude:133° 35.6
Sea Wave Height: 0
Wind Speed: 3 knots
Wind Direction: Variable
Visibility:10 Nautical miles
Air Temperature: 15° C
Sky: 90% cloud cover

Me on boat in Endicott Fjord, Dawes Glacier
Dawes Glacier In Endicott Fjord

Science and Technology Log

When I reflect on the personalities of the people living and working on NOAA Ship Fairweather, two words come to mind: challenge and adventure.  They are also people that are self-confident, friendly, they see great purpose, and take great pride in their work.  Life is not always easy on board a ship. People are often very far from family and away from many of the comforts of home.  But for this group, it seems that they are willing to give up those hardships for being at sea. Below are some interviews I did with personnel on the ship.

Terry – Deck Crew

Terry is part of what is called the deck crew.  He reported to me that his duties include standing bridge watch, which means looking out from the bridge to warn the bridge crew of any obstacles or dangers ahead of them. On this trip those hazards have been fishing vessels, and gear, and whales.  He also will be at the helm, which means steering the ship as directed by a bridge officer. Other bridge duties include monitoring the radio and radar when the ship is anchored. He said that like everyone on the bridge, he needs to be aware of where the ship is at all times. He is part of the Deck Department so he does maintenance such as keeping things greased, painted and clean.  The deck department also keeps the ships interior clean, except for the galley and the mess

IMG_9071 Terry
Terry at the Helm

What got you interested in the sea?
When I was eight, I moved from Michigan to Florida and I fell in love with the sea.  I used to run up and down the beach.

I liked Jimmy Buffett, “A Pirate Turns Forty,” and I liked reading adventure books by Jack London.  When I was 13, I also read Moby Dick and The Odyssey.  I read The Odyssey every year, I love that book.  I really like the lore of the sea and the freedom of being at sea. I like the idea of going to exotic places.

When were you first in a boat in the ocean?
When I was 10 years old I went on a day cruise from Tampa, Florida. It was a dive boat that was used to take tourists out. I loved it, if I could get on a boat, I would go. I tried to build a skiff, but it took on water.

When did you first work on the ocean?
I went to sea when I was 24 years old.  In my first job I worked bringing supplies to oil rigs. I found an ad for the job and they said no experience was needed. I wanted to be a captain, I wanted to travel and see the world.  I watched a lot of Indiana Jones. I wanted to be an adventurer. When oil prices went down I was out of a job, but in 2000 I worked for another oil company.

What other jobs have you had?
After 9/11, I joined the Military Sealift Command, which is a civilian part of the Navy. They bring food, fuel, and supplies to Navy ships [he was in the Mediterranean Sea.] Military ships do not fuel in ports where they could get attacked.

In 2013 I had a wife and two kids and so I did different jobs, not at sea.

When did you first start to work for NOAA?  
In 2016 I was hired by NOAA on NOAA Ship Fairweather. This boat and NOAA Ship Rainier are where people start.  I started as an Ordinary Seaman. Now I am Able Seaman.  To move up I needed to take a course in survival training and fire training. I did this in Louisiana at a community college, it took two weeks.  I also needed six months of experience on a NOAA vessel.

IMG_9073
Terry at the helm

What is your favorite part of the job?
I like being at the helm and steering the ship. I like going to different places and seeing different things. I like that the ship has extra functions to keep up moral up. I even did a comedy show twice. It is like your own community. It is great being part of a team and accomplishing a goal.

What is the hardest part of the job?
The hardest thing is being away from home.  For every 9 months away, I am home for a few months, that is spread out over a year.  The season is 7-8 months.

What do you think it takes to be on a ship away from your family?
Everyone has to be a team player.  You need to really get along with others.  People need to be confident and you need to show respect to each other.  You live in very tight quarters. Nobody has a job that is small, everybody’s job needs to be done.

 

Jeff – NOAA Corps Junior Officer

 

I grew up in Juno, Alaska and went to college there.  I got a Bachelor’s degree in math, I never thought I would be interested in math.  I started out with an art major then went to geology, then biology, then math. I liked that I learned a new set of rules during the day and then got to apply them to problems that I could solve.  It took me six years to get my degree. I paid for it myself by working and I was living in a sailboat in the harbor.

Jeff
Jeff in the launch during bottom sampling

What brought you to a career in NOAA?
Previously I was a Sergeant in the Army for five years.  I was searching for tide information for a fishing trip and was on a NOAA website,  There I saw a recruiting video and decided to do that. It took a couple years to get into the NOAA Corps. I was first hired on a NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as a General Vessel Assistant in the deck department. Then I found out I was accepted into the NOAA Corps.  After my Officer Training in New London, Connecticut I was assigned to NOAA Ship Fairweather.

What is your role on the ship?
I am a Junior Officer.  I am here to learn how to drive ships and learn the science of hydrography.  I am learning how to become a professional mariner.

What are the best parts of your job?
Ever since the Army I enjoyed being part of a team. On the ship there is a lot of social interaction.  It is a tight community of people that live and work together. We have all types of personalities.

I really like going out on a launch (the small boats used for surveying) and collecting data. We are in beautiful places and we get to eat our picnic lunches and listen to music and work together to figure out how to drive our lines and to collect the data we need.

I also like processing and organizing the data we get.  Our project areas are divided up into acquisition areas and I work as a Sheet Manager for an area. So, I am responsible for taking the data that is cleaned up from the night processors (who clean up the data when it first comes in) and getting a map ready for the launches with areas that need more data collection and safety hazards marked. I keep track of what needs to be done and report those needs to my superiors.

What do you like to do on the ship when you aren’t working?
I like the VersaClimber.  (This is in the gym. There is a ship contest going on to see who can climb highest!)  I used to do some fishing. I also spend time communicating with my family.

What do you miss when you are at sea?
Mostly I miss my family.  I also miss doing things like going for a walk to get coffee.  Since the field season is all summer, I really miss going camping with my family.

What will you be doing for your next assignment with NOAA?
Assignments are two years on a ship and three years on land.  Next, NOAA is sending me to graduate school for three years. So I will be working on a  Master’s Degree in Ocean Engineering with an emphasis in Ocean Mapping.

 

Niko – Chief Engineer

I had a conversation with Niko one day because I was really interested in how the water on the ship was acquired and disposed of.  I learned that and a little more!

I asked Niko what got him interested in being at sea.  He told me that this family had a cabin on an island in the state of Washington. He loved driving the families small boat whenever he could.  He would take it out for 8 hours a day. In Middle School and High School he did small engine repair. He took a lot of shop classes and was in a program called “First Robotics.” He thought he wanted to be a welder. His mom worked for the  BP oil company and through that he learned about maritime school. He went to school at Cal Maritime, (The California State University Maritime Academy.)  There he studied Marine Engineering Technology. He said it was hard.  Of the 75 students that started in his class, only 14 graduated on time.

IMG_8723
Niko in his office

He told me that NOAA Ship Fairweather has engines from 1968, and they are due for a rebuild,  They have 20,000 hours since the last rebuild in 2004, that is like running them 3 straight years..  

Niko is the Chief Engineer.  He has a department of nine engineers.

I asked him about the freshwater on the ship. He said the ship uses 600 gallons a day without the laundry and 2000 gallons a day if the laundry is in use.  It takes 17,000 gallons of water to go for 10 days. The ship has freshwater tanks that are filled when they are in port, but the ship can produce freshwater from salt water.  To do this the ship must be moving. It uses a method which evaporates the salt water so the freshwater is left behind. This costs one gallon of diesel to produce 9.7 gallons of freshwater.  This costs is $0.30 a gallon for water. The sinks, showers, dishwasher and laundry all use freshwater. The toilets use saltwater.

Personal Log

I have learned an amazing amount about ocean mapping from my time on NOAA Ship Fairweather.  I have also learned a lot about different NOAA careers and life on a ship. But like any good experience, it is always the people that make things great!

I have really enjoyed getting to meet all of the people of the ship.  They have been so kind to take me in and show me their jobs and let me try out new things, like driving a ship and a launch!

We have also had fun kayaking, watching wildlife, and taking a walk on shore.

eagle on ice
Eagle on Ice

IMG_8668
Life Jackets and Float Coats

IMG_8767
Kayaks on board

Bear
Here is a Brown Bear that was along the shoreline today

IMG_9047
Launches leaving for a day of surveying

Launch
A Launch

Lisa Battig: The Interview Issue, September 8, 2017

NOAA TAS Lisa Battig

Aboard Fairweather Alaskan Hydrographic Survey Ship

September 8, 2017

Location: Coast Guard Base, Kodiak Alaska

Weather from the bridge: 48o F, 1-2 knot wind from, Completely overcast,


XO Gonsalves
Executive Officer Michael Gonsalves in his overwhelming (because of all the things he does) office.

An Interview with XO (Executive Officer) Michael Gonsalves

How long have you been with NOAA?

I’ve been here for 13 years…I’ve been on the ship for about 6 months.

What brought you into NOAA?

Certainly I’ve always had an interest in the ocean and in the environment. One of my undergraduate degrees was in oceanography. So I think that’s what steered me towards NOAA. My other undergraduate degree was in math, so I liked the idea of being able to apply math in an environmental setting.

As a side note, XO Gonsalves also has a MS in Applied Math and a PhD in Marine Science

What is it that you do – what is the job of an executive officer?

The Executive Officer position is second in command. So if anything should happen to the CO (commanding officer) I would assume command. Though that is a contingency; that is not my actual job… All administrative work goes through me. For example, the budget, payroll, travel, performance, disciplinary actions, scheduling, arranging all port logistics, …getting augmenters to come out to the ship to fill in… I do everything to allow everyone else to do their job. My job is not the mission. My job is keeping the ship safe and logistically ready to execute the mission.

This is typically a step on the path to becoming a CO, is that correct?

Typically, that’s right. Usually the average NOAA Corps officer will have four sea assignments. Basically every five years, give or take, they will be going back to sea. The first will be as a junior officer, an Ensign. The second is as an Operations Officer who will be coordinating the mission [of that ship]. On the hydro ships that means coordinating the hydrographic science. The third sea tour will be as an Executive Officer and the fourth, around year 15, will be as a Commanding Officer.

I know that NOAA Corp officers spend roughly two years at sea and then three at a land billet. So what has your path been thus far?

I lingered in nearly all of my assignments by a little bit. My first assignment was here, on Fairweather, just after she was reactivated. It was a very skeletal crew. I had opportunities to be trained quickly. We only had two launches at the time. There were so few boats, there were so few people trained in doing things, it was in the crew’s best interest to qualify me because very few people were qualified to do anything.

My first land assignment was at the University of Southern Mississippi. It was a double billet. Number one, it was full-time university training. There was also working with an inter-agency group, The Naval Oceanographic Office and the Army Corps of Engineers, both also conduct survey operations. It’s a nice inter-agency group with similar issues and problems and we can share best practices and things like that. Their particular niche is airborne laser bathymetry, so they are working from an airplane.

Back to University of Southern Mississippi, what was the degree you were pursuing?

Initially it was a master’s degree as a one year program. As it happened, there was a project that I could work on of suitable interest to the joint LIDAR center. We all agreed that I could continue to work on it. The university felt that it was dissertation worthy. So I received my Ph.D.

What was your second tour at sea?

My second tour was as an Operations Officer on Fairweather’s sister ship, Ranier. All three of my assignments thus far have been on hydro ships. There is something to be said for that. It’s a little bit tricky to bring someone in from the outside. It’s a steep learning curve.

My second land assignment was working for the NOAA Operations Branch in Washington D.C. This is a part of the Hydrographic Surveys Division. They govern the field units on the large scale. So I was making the big decisions for what the hydro ships would be responsible for during that particular season. We determined what type of coverage would be needed in each area. That is then the information that the Operations Officer on the ship is working from.

What made NOAA so attractive to you?

Giving service to the US government was a big part. I happily pay my taxes. I appreciate having a police force and knowing that my meat is safe. So that was definitely a big part of it. But NOAA also has a unique mission that I found attractive. And the variety is important to me – just knowing that every couple of years the assignment will change.

And what is it that keeps you going while you’re out here at sea? Is there anything you miss or are looking forward to when this sea tour is complete?

People are tricky and a lot of my job involves personnel. The whole job keeps me going, really. I do miss Washington, D.C. – the public transport, the museums and the shows. There are so many things to do and see. There are a lot of jobs in D.C. and I am making clear that is a desire for the next land billet.


ENS Calderon

ENS Carroll
Junior officers, ENS Calderon and ENS Carroll on the bridge working on the computer navigation system. Both also are intimately involved with the surveying program.

A quick one question survey for the junior officers on the ship… Why did you choose a hydrographic survey ship? A collection of the answers I received are below:

  • To have the opportunity to be much more deeply involved with the science
  • My background is math or math/mapping
  • To be in Alaska
  • This is a route to pursue flying with NOAA Corps
  • Didn’t want the technical skills developed in prior work to go to waste
  • Had already worked on fisheries ships with Department of Fish and Wildlife

As with all officers in our uniformed services; NOAA Corps officers have had degrees conferred prior to service. Most of the degrees are math and science. The hydrographic survey ships tend to attract the math, physics, and geological science degrees for obvious reasons. Many then go on to pursue advanced degrees as did LCDR Gonsalves, the focus of my interview.


 

An interview with Kathy Brandts and Tyrone Baker; Ships Stewards

How long have you been cooking for NOAA Ships and what were you doing prior?

Chief cook Tyrone in the kitchen
Chief Cook Tyrone Baker, master of the grill

T: I cooked for the Navy for 20 years out of school. When I finished, I went to work for a casino for a while – still cooking. Then NOAA called me up (he had put in an application a while before and forgotten about it) and here I am! That was back in 2005.

K: I started out in the Coast Guard…I wanted to be a bosun [boatswain] mate, which is what everyone wants to do. But it was going to take a long time to make grade, and hardly anyone wants to be a cook because it’s a lot of work. I decided to go through their school, which was two months. That was when it started, in ’94. My first ship assignment was the Polar Star, which was an ice breaker.

Chief steward Kathy B and me
Kathy Brandts, Queen of the kitchen – also known as the Chief Steward. This is the day she let me cook a bit with her.

Kathy, why did you get out of the Coast Guard and what finally got you to NOAA?

K:  All of the land assignments were being contracted out to [private companies]. So I was never going to get a chance to cook on land. So I decided that wasn’t for me. I got out after my four and a half years. I landed in Seattle, and that’s where NOAA was based. I had heard about them when I was in the Coast Guard. I knew they were hiring, talked with somebody, and essentially got hired on the spot. And I was in Alaska! I started out in the augmentation pool, I worked on Discovery and then on Ranier. Then a permanent position came up and I jumped at it. I didn’t really get along with the Chief Steward, though – so I left NOAA and worked for Keystone Ski Resorts in Colorado at their stables. [She spent several years on land at that point.]

The Chief Steward on Ranier tracked me down [in Colorado] and asked me to come back. There was talk of Fairweather coming back online and I wanted the Chief Steward job. I didn’t have the experience at that point, so I took a year off and went to Culinary School. I applied for the Chief Steward job on Fairweather and got it. I was on Fairweather from 2004-2013. [She is now the Chief Steward on Ruben Lasker, another NOAA ship, but is helping out on this leg]

Why be a ship cook?

T: I’ve been so many places and seen so many things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. I’ve really been all around the world. I’ve been in almost every port of the world. How many people can say that? I wouldn’t trade it.

K: I was a restaurant cook for a while. I hated it. You’re either going 9 million miles an hour or there’s nothing. There’s a lot of alcoholism and drug use in that industry and they live a different life. The service industry… (laughs). And people are either sailors or they’re not. I think, much to my chagrin, I found it out after I quit the Coast Guard.

T: Yes, I agree. I’m a sailor. It was why I joined the Navy.

What are the best and most rewarding things about what you do?

T: I just really like it. I enjoy the cooking. I enjoy the work.

K: I like good food and I like when people are appreciative of what I do. And we’re all stuck out here together, why not make it the best that it can be. Meal time is what you look forward to when you’re on a ship.

David GVA and me
GVA Dave – he just joined Fairweather and was actually helping out the stewards on this leg, but now he’s where he’s supposed to be in the deck department.


Crew member of the Day: Electronic Technician (ET) Charlie Goertzen 

Charlie and me
Charlie Goertzen, tech guy extraordinaire!

So today as we pulled into Kodiak, the news came in that the long awaited new televisions were here. Immediately, Charlie was notified. And he will work hours to make sure that each crew member has a working television in their room.

He is the guy that keeps the connectivity going in pretty difficult conditions. He has to spend a lot of time keeping various computer components talking to each other. He has to content with all of the complaints about lack of bandwidth, slowness of applications, slowness of wireless – and he does his best to keep things optimized and clean and efficient all the time. Two of the things he loves the most are the ocean and working with electronic components. He gets both of them all the time!

Kip Chambers: Parting Shots II of II… August 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

 

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey   

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: August 7, 2017

 

 

L to R Austin Phill Nina Kip
Left to Right: Austin, Phill, Nina, Kip

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:  (Pratt, Kansas)

Date: 08/07/2017                                    Wind Speed: E at 9 mph

Time: 19:25                                               Latitude: 37.7o N

Temperature: 22o C                                  Longitude: 98.75o W  

 

Science and Technology Log:

A week has passed since I left the Reuben Lasker, but I have continued to monitor the haul reports from the ship.  The last haul report indicates that haul #79 of the West Coast Pelagics Survey was conducted off of the coast of California just south of San Francisco Bay.  The survey is fast approaching the concluding date of August 11th when the Reuben Lasker is scheduled to be in port in San Diego.  Based on their current location, there are probably only a couple of days/nights of sampling left for the survey before the ship has to steam for its home port of San Diego.

As I looked through the spreadsheet with the summary of the data that is being collected for the survey, I can’t help but be impressed by the volume of data and the efficiency in which it is being recorded.  Although I was only on the ship for a short period of time, I know how much work is involved in preparing for the evening trawls and how much time it takes to process the catch and record the data.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talented, dedicated, hard-working science team members aboard the Reuben Lasker.  Below is a series of interviews with many of the science team members that I had the pleasure to work with while I was on the ship.

 Each team member was asked the following 3 questions:

Q1:  Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?

Q2:  What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?

Q3:  What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?

Science Team Member: Phill Dionne

 

 

Q1:  Phill’s post-secondary academic career started at Stoney Brook College in New York where as an undergraduate he studied Geology.  Phill’s undergraduate program also included time in Hawaii where he took several courses towards his minor in Marine Science. After his bachelor’s degree, Phill spent a year in the Florida Keys, initially as an intern, then as a marine science instructor at a science camp.  As Phill continued to pursue his educational goals he began to focus on marine science as a career pathway.  Ultimately, Phill completed a graduate degree program at the University of Maine where he studied the migrations and abundance of ESA listed sturgeon and earned masters degrees in marine biology and marine policy.

Phill moved to the state of Washington in 2011 where he currently works for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Phill’s current positon as Senior Research Scientist includes overseeing programs centered on habitat and stock assessments for forage fish including surf smelt, sand lance and Pacific herring.

Q2:  When asked what he had learned during his time on the Reuben Lasker, Phill pointed to gaining a better understanding of the techniques and challenges associated with managing coastal fisheries, and how they differ from nearshore survey techniques.

Q3:  Phill’s advice to first year college students considering a career in science is to get experience in data management and to get involved in internships early in your academic career.  Phill also emphasized that it is important to understand that a career in marine science is more than just a job, it is a “lifestyle” that requires commitment and hard work.

Science Team Member: Andrew Thompson

Q1:  Although originally from California, Andrew earned his graduate degree from the University of Georgia where his studies focused on stream ecology.  Eventually Andrew would earn his PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara.  As part of his work for his PhD, Andrew studied a unique mutualistic symbiotic relationship between a species of shrimp and shrimp gobies (fish) on tropical reefs near Tahiti.  In this unusual relationship there is a system of communication between the fish and shrimp in which the fish acts as a type of watchdog for the shrimp communicating the level of danger in the environment to the shrimp based on the number of tail flips.  After a stint with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in California, Andrew began working for NOAA in 2007 where he specializes in identification of larval fish.

Q2:  Having experienced multiple assignments on NOAA research vessels, Andrew’s response to what he had learned while on this cruise related to his enjoyment in watching the younger volunteers see and experience new things.  He voiced an optimism in the younger generation expressing how many “good, talented kids are coming through programs today.”  One of the observations that Andrew pointed out about this survey was the number of pyrosomes that are being found which is uncommon for this geographical area.  In a bit of an unusual find, a juvenile medusa fish within a pyrosome also sparked Andrew’s interest (see photo above).

Q3:  With regards to advice for prospective students, Andrew pointed out that a career path in science is often non-linear.  Like many of the science team members that I interviewed, he talked about how important it is to persevere and push through the difficult times as you pursue your goals.

Science Team Member: Nina Rosen

 

 

Q1:  Nina Rosen grew up in California where her connection and love of the ocean developed at an early age.  Nina completed her undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University in northern California.  Her graduate degree is a masters degree in advanced studies (MAS) from SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography.  Nina’s work while at SCRIPPS was focused on understanding interactions between communities and ocean resources with a particular interest in small scale fisheries.  Nina’s background includes a diverse work history that includes working as a naturalist at field stations in Alaska, and working with the Department of California Fish and Wildlife to gather information from anglers that is used to help manage the California’s recreational fisheries.

Note: A special thank you to Nina.  Many of the outstanding photos included on my blogs throughout the survey were taken by her (see images above).

Q2:  When asked about what she had learned while on the survey, Nina stressed how important it was for a variety of people with different specialties to come together and communicate effectively to make the project successful.  I think her comment “all of the parts need to come together to understand the fishery” reflects her holistic approach to trying to understand our oceans and how people interact with this precious resource.

Q3:  Nina’s response when asked what advice she would give to 1st year college students interested in a career in science was simple and to the point. She said “go for it” reflecting her enthusiasm for marine science and research.  She went on to point out how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself because “you never know what may come out of the experience.”

Science Team Member:  Austin Grodt

 

Q1:    Austin is from Orange, California, he will be entering his 4th year of studies at the University of California in San Diego majoring in environmental chemistry.  In addition to going to school, Austin works as a California state lifeguard.  Like many of the people I met while on the ship Austin’s connection to our oceans is central to his core values.  When I first met Austin he described himself saying “I am a stereotypical California guy, I am all about the water.”

Q2:  With regards to what he has learned while on the survey, Austin expressed that he had developed a greater understanding of the state of California fisheries and how they operate.  Austin also spent a lot of time interacting with the members of NOAA Corps learning about how the ship functions and large vessel navigation.

Q3:  When asked what advice he would give 1st year college students Austin said “when it gets hard don’t be discouraged, keep pushing. It is totally worth it.”  Austin also pointed out that the opportunities and number of fields available for STEM graduates are diverse and “in higher quantity than you can imagine.”

Science Team Member: Lanora

Q1:  Lanora’s first experiences with the ocean were in the Gulf of Mexico during family vacations. She went on to earn a BS degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.  After graduating, she spent time working for NOAA on research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.  Lanora would eventually return to school and complete a masters program in marine science at the University of South Alabama.  In 2016 she would once again go to work as a NOAA scientist where she is currently working on research vessels stationed out of California.

Q2:  When asked what she had learned during the survey Lanora said “all of the pieces have to come together in order for the big picture to work.”  She went on to explain that several groups of people with a common task have to work together in order for the overall goals of the survey to be accomplished.

Q3:  Lanora’s advice to college students interested in marine science is to seek out opportunities to volunteer and participate in internships.  She indicated it was important to explore different areas to find out what you are truly interested in.  Like many of the science team members she went on to say that if you are passionate about science “go for it, don’t quit, and persevere.”

Personal Log:  Final Thoughts…

 

The most important, lasting impression that I will take away from this experience is the quality and commitment of the people that I have met along the way.  Although I will remember all of the people that I have worked with, the individuals on the science team have each given me something special.  I will remember and learn from: Dave, his calm demeanor, focus and attention to detail; Sue, her easy smile, and determination; Lanora, her relentless work ethic, and ability to manage multiple layers of responsibility; Andrew, his sense of optimism and genuine happiness; Phill, his relaxed sense of self awareness and wisdom beyond his years; Nina, her contagious laugh and commitment to, and love of our oceans; Austin, his boundless energy and curiosity about everything… thank you.

I also learned that the ocean has a heartbeat. If you’re quiet you can hear it in the rhythm of the waves.  The ocean has a soul; you can feel it in your feet if you wiggle you toes in the sand.  The ocean has an immensity and strength beyond imagination.  At first glance it seems as if the ocean has a beauty, diversity and abundance that is boundless, but of course it is not.

Due to our relentless pursuit of resources, and the pollution generated by that pursuit, our oceans are hurting.  We have to do better.  In many ways we live in troubling times, but as I learned from Andrew, it is not too late to be optimistic.  We can live a more peaceful, balanced existence with the planet’s resources and the other organisms that call the earth home.  It is my sincere desire that through hard work, education and the commitment of people from all generations we can come together to make our oceans and the planet a more harmonious home for all species…Thank you to everyone who has made this journey such a rewarding experience.

Learn more about education and career opportunities in marine science at the web site below.

NOAA Fisheries: Southwest Fisheries Science Center

https://swfsc.noaa.gov/swfsc.aspx?id=7532&ParentMenuId=33

 

 

Sian Proctor: A Fast Farewell!, July 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard Oscar Dyson

7/2/2017-7/22/2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 22, 2017

Me Back in Kodiak
Me Back in Kodiak, Alaska

Life at sea can often be unpredictable. When I started my 4am shift I learned that we were having issues with the main engine on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and had to return to Kodiak. This cut my adventure at sea down to just two weeks instead of three. An unexpected bonus from returning to Kodiak was getting to visit the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center.

Science and Technology Log: Kodiak Fisheries Research Center

The Kodiak Fisheries Research Center was built in 1998 using funds from the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill (1989). The purpose of the center is to provide educational information about the wildlife, marine life, commercial fishing resources and fisheries research programs on the island. Click this link for more information: KFRC

Interview with Kresimir Williams

Fisheries Biologist

Kresimir in the Acoustics Lab
Kresimir in the Acoustics Lab Image from TAS Mary Murrian

  • Official Title
    • Fisheries Biologist
  • Normal Job Duties
    • On this cruise, I am responsible for collecting physical measurements of fish caught in our science trawls, as well as providing support for various acoustic and camera instruments we’re putting in the water.
  •  How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • Since it’s first science cruise in 2005, but only for a few weeks each year.
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I got hooked on sea exploration at an early age spending summers on the Croatian coast, snorkeling, fishing, and riding boats. The ocean represents an exploration opportunity that is more “accessible” to us, unlike the deep jungles or space. The edge of our knowledge is never very far in the marine environment. The more time I spend in ocean research, there always seem to many more questions than answers.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • I enjoy the scientific challenges and the things that are new each cruise, whether it is some unique types of fish we encounter, or new ways of exploring the sea, such as new instrumentation. There always seem to be new things to see, even after being on these cruises for 15 years. And there are also new people on board that are interesting to meet, people with new perspectives and ideas.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • There is a basic component to the work of essentially performing a marine “census” that is the backbone of resource management for the important fisheries that take place here. We have to have good information on the state of the fish populations in order to properly manage sustainable fish harvests. But the results of our surveys also provide essential data for many studies of the ocean, such as climate related fish distributions, questions of fish biology, and marine ecosystem functioning – critical research efforts that are carried on by academic and government researchers. On top of all that, we also do a lot of research into our survey methods, to develop new ways of collecting data and to determine the precision and accuracy of the tools we use. This latter part is more interesting to me.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • I was interested in all things oceanic from an early age. I always wanted to work specifically with fish. My toddler doodles were of fish. I’ve followed this path throughout my education and job history, and have no regrets.
  • What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
    • On the job I somewhat unexpectedly learned how to write computer programs, and to develop and design camera systems. But this is also a very rewarding activity for me.
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • As we incorporate more and more advanced technology into our work, trying to keep all of the systems operational requires a broad base of knowledge, spanning from computer networks, underwater optics, electronics, and engineering that can be a little beyond my background. So this is a challenge for me to keep myself up to speed on these aspects of the work and keep our instruments and cameras running smoothly. Also, as scientists we are obligated to share our work with others, which means writing papers and making presentations, which can be a challenge.
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • I love discovering new ways of collecting data in the environment, and understanding how fish behavior influences our ability to observe them. Finding answers to research questions relating to these areas is a very rewarding experience for me. There are distinct moments, not very often encountered even in entire careers, when you know that you have found something, possibly something completely new, that produces an excitement that is almost difficult to describe.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • A positive memorable moment would be when we first started operating cameras inside the trawl and were able to distinguish how fish behaved within the trawl for the first time. The first few tows with the new camera equipment were very exciting. A negative memorable moment: We did run out of coffee on a cruise in the Bering sea a few years ago. Bad scene.

Interview with Caroline Wilkinson

NOAA Corps Junior Officer

NOAA Corps Officer Caroline Wilkinson
NOAA Corps Officer Caroline Wilkinson

  • Official Title
    • Junior Officer
  • Normal Job Duties
    • Standing bridge watch 8 hours a day, often with a Officer of the Deck in training. As Environmental compliance officer- ensuring the ship meets all required environmental standards for garbage disposal, discharge, etc. As medical officer- ensuring all personnel are physically and mentally fit for sea duty, keeping the hospital clean, tidy, and stocked, responding to medical emergencies at sea. As Imprest officer- maintaining our cash fund and reimbursing crew for missed meals. As Navigation officer- planning our route and ensuring the charts and electronic navigation reflects our intended tracklines.
  •  How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • Since December 2015
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I grew up spending summers on Long Island Sound and fell in love with the beach and the smell of the ocean.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • The amazing animals, land masses, and weather phenomenon that we get to experience.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • The work I do facilitates the scientists ability to collect the necessary data to ensure the pollock population remains sustainable.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • As a child, I spent a lot of time out doors looking for bugs and critters; a career in science seemed like a natural next step.
  • What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
    • I didn’t expect there to be so much paperwork involved with driving the ship!
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • The long stints away from friends, family, and civilization.
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • Meeting a variety of incredibly smart and talented people and exploring parts of Alaska most people don’t get to experience.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • Being in the northern Gulf of Alaska at night and spending hours watching the northern lights dance across the sky.

Personal Log

Here is a quick video tribute to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, the NOAA scientists and Oscar Dyson officers and crew. Thank you!

Education Tidbit: 

I have one more NOAA website to share with you. It is a great resource for students who are doing a paper on a particular fish. I use the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center page and information on pollock as my example.

Did You Know?

That the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program has been around for over 25 years! You can learn more about the program by   clicking this link: NOAA Teacher At Sea

Sian Proctor: It’s Getting Fishy, July 20, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 2 – 22, 2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 20, 2017

 

Me with an adult pollock.
Me with an adult pollock.

Weather Data from the Bridge

  • Latitude:  57° 47.02 N
  • Longitude: 152° 24.56 W
  • Time: 1700
  • Sky: Overcast
  • Visibility:  2 nautical miles
  • Wind Direction: variable
  • Wind Speed:  Knots
  • Sea Wave Height:  0  foot swell
  • Barometric Pressure:  994 millibars
  • Sea Water Temperature:   11.9° C
  • Air Temperature:   12.2° C

Science and Technology Log: It’s Getting Fishy!

Alaska pollock are found in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and are part of the cod family. The dorsal side of the pollock is speckled brown in color with a slight olive green hue and the ventral side is silver. They eat krill, copepods, and small fish – mainly their own offspring. They quickly grow into adults, reaching reproductive age after 3-4 years, and are very fertile, replacing harvested fish in just a few years. Pollock swim in large schools during the day and disperse overnight. They can be found throughout the water column, but young pollock tend to live in the mid-water region while the older fish tend to live near the sea floor.

Alaska_Pollock_-_source_NOAA_fishwatch.govScience-based monitoring and management play a key role in the sustainability of the Alaska pollock fishery. It is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council based on data provided by the NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. The Alaska pollock fishery is the largest, by volume, in the United States and one of the most valuable in the world.  Products made from pollock include fish fillet, roe eggs, and imitation crab. The entire industry is valued at over a billion dollars. It is also considered one of the best-managed fisheries in the world. Scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center conduct acoustic trawl surveys to estimate the abundance of Alaska pollock using acoustics and by catching small samples.

While on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson I had the opportunity to spend time in  the fish lab learning how pollock data are collected.. This video is an example of what I experienced.

The main way commercial pollock is caught in the United States is by net. Scientifically trained observers are sent out on U.S. pollock fishing boats and, similar to the NOAA scientists, they collect sample data from each catch and send it back to NOAA.  They also observe the fishing practices on the boat and  report any regulatory infractions. All the collected data and interactions between the fishing industry and NOAA have been established to make sure the Alaska pollock fishery remains sustainable.

NOAA Opportunities for students: https://www.afsc.noaa.gov/education/students/careers.htm 

Interview with Michael Martin

Fisheries Biologist

  • Official Title
    • Deputy Director
  • Normal Job Duties
    • Leadership and administration of the Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division within Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC)
  • What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
    • Fish lab biologist
  • How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • of and on for ~ 10 years
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I loved exploring sea creatures a the beach as a kid; Jacques Cousteau.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • Getting out of the office; Seeing amazing scientists do their work and getting to participate.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • The information we collect plays a very important role in managing fisheries in Alaska, providing economic and food security for many people. We also do tremendous research that benefits the science community and subsequently people world-wide. We are among the leaders in understanding fish and invertebrate abundance and behavior in the world.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do if I grow up! Probably between 10 and 13 years old I developed an interest in the ocean.
  • What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
    • Dealing with bureaucracy.
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • Leading a group of scientists is, in some ways, like herding a group of very intelligent cats. They are very focused on their research and have very strong opinions about things that they feel could detract their ability to do the best job possible. This can be a challenge for me at times, but is a great problem to have!
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • Being able to facilitate scientists and help them accomplish their goals is very rewarding.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • Rescuing a family in a life raft that had been missing for 3+ days.

P1130809

Interview with Meredith Emery

Fisheries Biologist

  • Official Title
    • Survey Technician
  • Normal Job Duties
    • As Survey Technicians, our primary responsibility is to monitor and maintain fisheries and oceanographic equipment. In addition, we have to run and verify the Scientific Computer System (SCS) is collecting quality data and all the ship’s sensors connected to SCS are working properly. We also are the liaison between scientists and the crew members, and assist the scientists with any part of their research. Survey Technicians have the unique opportunity to participate in all aspects of the fisheries or oceanographic operation start to finish. During the fishing operations: 1. Scientist communicates to the people on the bridge, deck and survey technicians when they are going to fishing. 2. We put the fishing equipment on the net, as the net is casting out. 3. Assist the scientists log net dimension data when the net is in the water. 4. As the net is being recovered, we retrieve all the fishing equipment. 5. We help the deck with emptying the catch on the fish table, when needed. 6. Lastly, which is my favorite part, is when we get to assist the scientists collect biological fish samples in the wet lab. During oceanographic operations we are in charge of deploying and recovering the equipment (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD)). In addition we verify all the sensors on the CTD are presenting quality real time data. From the CTD we can collect water samples that can be used for several studies, like salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, or micro plankton. We are able to see the operations in action, understand the importance of the research through the science perspective and ultimately know the reason the Oscar Dyson is in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.
  • What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
    • I am one of two Survey Technicians on the Oscar Dyson.
  • How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • I have been working on the Oscar Dyson about 10 months.
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • My fascination for the ocean started when I was young playing with the anemones on the rocky intertidal beach. I’ve always enjoyed being at the beach and seeing the organisms there. I became curious of life at sea and really wanted to see the marine wild life in action, especially when the ice first melts and there is a high abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton that attracts marine mammals, birds and fish to migrate there. Being on the Oscar Dyson, I was able to observe the fluctuation between high abundance of phytoplankton, zooplankton or fish, depending on the area and time of year.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • I enjoy seeing the scenery. Like the untouched lands, glaciers, marine wild life; the fishes, mammals or birds. Also I like seeing the endless blue of the ocean, especially calm weather. Really puts the vastness of the ocean in perspective.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • The reason I pursued a career in studying the ocean is because I come to realize that people take the ocean for granted and don’t recognize how much we depend on it. I obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology emphasis marine. One of my favorite college courses was oceanography. It was the first time for me to see the connection between geology, physics, chemistry and biology in one scenario like in the ocean processes. Each component relies on the other. First the geological features of the ocean floor and land masses influences the physics of the current flow, wave motion, and up-welling. Then the ocean movement determines the mixing and distribution of the water chemistry. Finally the biodiversity, location, and populations of marine organisms rely on the water chemistry, like nutrients or dissolved oxygen.

Personal Log

I really enjoyed learning about the variety of sea creatures in the Gulf of Alaska. Here is a video showing a few of the sea creatures I encountered. Totally amazing!

Education Tidbit: FishWatch Website

Another cool resources is the Fishwatch website. Here you can learn more information about sustainable fisheries and the science behind the fish we eat. It is worth checking out!

Did You Know?

Did you know that fresh pollock have a very distinctive smell that isn’t like any other fish? It’s not fishy – more like dirty feet!

Melissa Barker: Navigation and People of the Oregon II, July 2, 2017

P1030109NOAA Teacher at Sea

Melissa Barker

Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II

June 22-July 6

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 2, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28 37.91 N

Longitude: 89 19.41 W

Air temp: 30.5 C

Water temp: 31.7 C

Wind direction: 340 degrees

Wind speed: 4 knots

Wave height: 0 meters

Sky: partly cloudy

 

Science and Technology Log

Point plotted on electronic chart. We are the little green boat icon on the screen.

I spent some time on the bridge with LT Reni Rydlewicz learning about how the ship is navigated. The officers and crew are reliant on technology to navigate the Oregon II from station to station. There are many obstacles here off the coast of Louisiana that must be avoided including rigs, oil field traffic, shipping boats and shrimpers. The radar, electronic charts and weather screen are vital to successfully navigating the Gulf. The first step in navigation is using the electronic chart to plot a line to the station.

 

Radar is critical to navigation in a busy Gulf

 

We keep at least one mile away from any rigs or other obstacles. The officer on duty will check the radar and then visually confirm what they see out on the water. They may also radio any nearby vessels to discuss their routes and make sure we can safely pass.

 

 

 

Melissa at the helm being instructed by LT Rydlewicz

 

 

Next, the officer will turn the helm to the proper heading using degrees, like on a compass.  Zero degrees is due north. Once on the proper heading, we will go to the way point of the set track-line monitoring for obstructions and vessels along the way.

 

 

 

Plotting our location on the chart

 

About every thirty minutes to one hour, the officer will drop a fixed position on the paper chart to track our progress based on our latitude and longitude.

Wind direction indicator

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see us sitting on the south edge of the storm cell on the weather screen

 

 

 

Another vital piece of technology is the WXWorks weather screen that shows weather patterns and lightning strikes.

 

 

 

 

 

Currently, the water is calm and we are cruising to a station near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The image below shows the route we have taken thus far as we zig zag our way from station to station.

You can see our route as of 7/1/17 marked in blue. The Oregon II is the little green boat on the map.

The pitch and RPM’s can be adjusted to change the speed of the ship. The Oregon II has two engines, but we usually operate on one to save wear and tear and to have a backup engine just in case. Our average cruising speed is about 8 knots. With both engines, we can cruise at 10-11 knots.

When conducting a CTD, the officer often uses one of the side stations to control the speed and rudder so they can see what is happening with the CTD instrument. They must keep the ship as still as possible, which can be challenging in some conditions. Before the trawl is lowered into the water, the officers must plot a course making sure they can trawl continuously for about 1.5 miles at 2.5-3 knots within 5 miles radius of the station. The bridge, deck crew and FPC are in radio communication when setting the trawl. At night, the bridge operates with red screens and lights so the officers can keep their night vision. There is also video feed that shows the bow and stern decks and engine room to keep an eye on folks when they are out doing their work.

I can only imagine how overwhelming it must have been for ENS Parrish, when she started on the Oregon II in December, trying to learn how to use all the technology that helps her and the other officers navigate the ship as well as actually learning how the ship moves in the water.

 

Interviews with the People of the Oregon II

I’ve spent some time talking with people who work on the ship from the different departments trying to understand their jobs and their desire to work at sea. I have posted three interviews here and will post more in the next blog.

 

ENS Chelsea Parrish

ENS Chelsea Parrish holding a cobia

Chelsea is a Junior Officer learning to stand her own watch on the bridge. She reported to the Oregon II in December and needs to have at least 120 hours at sea, become proficient navigating the ship and have the Commanding Officer’s blessing to become an Officer Of the Deck. In addition to learning the details of navigation and fishing operations, she also is the Environmental Compliance Officer, completes chart corrections weekly and heads up social media for the ship. You can learn more about the NOAA Corps here.

What did you do before working for NOAA?

I earned my masters in marine science and then applied to the NOAA Corps. The training for NOAA Corps is nineteen weeks, seventeen of which are spent at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT training and taking classes.

ENS Chelsea Parrish in her Service Dress Blues. (photo credit: Chelsea Parrish)

Why did you join the NOAA Corps?

I heard about it in graduate school and it sounded like a great way to serve my country and help scientists do their work. I consider the NOAA Corps a hidden gem because not that many people know about it. We are stewards of our oceans and atmosphere by contributing to oceanographic, hydrographic and fisheries science. I will spend two years at sea and then three years on land and continue that rotation. We even have a song, check it out here.

Tell me about one challenging aspect of your job?

The balance between work and personal life can be a challenge on the ship, but I’m finding a routine and sticking to it.

What do you enjoy most about working on the Oregon II?

I love watching the sun rise and set over the ocean each day and the mystery of what we will find in the ocean each day.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for my students?

Be adaptable and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be afraid to go against the norm and follow your passion.

 

Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols

In Chris’ role as Lead Fisherman, he is second in charge of on the deck crew and leader of the night watch. He operates the cranes and is responsible for fishing operations on the ship. He also stands a look out watch on the bridge. His other responsibilities involve mending fishing nets and handling the sharks (especially during the shark survey). Chris has many certifications that give him additional responsibility such as being a surface rescue swimmer, NOAA working diver and one of the MPIC’s (medical person on duty).

What did you do before working for NOAA?

Lead Fisherman Chris Nelson

I was a charter fishing boat captain, an able body seaman with the Merchant Marines and had a navigation job with the Navy.

Why work for NOAA?

My specialty is big game fish, so I was initially attracted to the NOAA shark surveys. I’ve been at sea since 1986 and am always up for another adventure.

Tell me about one challenging aspect of your job?

I have a lot of additional duties besides being a Lead Fisherman. The upkeep of all of my certifications takes a significant amount of time.

What do you enjoy most about working on the Oregon II?

The camaraderie of the people. We have a great steady group of people and our repeat ports are nice places to visit. I really enjoy working with the scientists and the fish too.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for my students?

Embrace adventure. I was inspired by early on by reading adventure stories like Tom Sawyer. Work has taken me all around the world. And definitely take those math courses, especially algebra and calculus. I use math every day in my work.

 

Chief Steward Valerie McCaskill

For two years Valerie has been the Chief Steward who keeps everyone on the ship well fed. She and her assistant, Arlene, attempt to satisfy 30 different appetites three times per day.

Valerie’s welcoming smile

What did you do before working for NOAA?

I worked oil industry first in food service, but wanted to work for NOAA. I have a small catering business and like to experiment with food.

Why work for NOAA?

I love running a kitchen without the unreliable schedule and endless hours of land based restaurants.

One of the amazing meals from the galley

Tell me about one challenging aspect of your job?

Trying to please everyone is a big task. It can also be challenging to meet people’s dietary restrictions with the limitations of the kitchen.

What do you enjoy most about working on the Oregon II?

I enjoy the people. Even if the boat is rocking and people are tired, I try to being comfort through food.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for my students?

Never let fear of failure stop you.

 

 

 

Personal Log

Chart of the turn I made

A few days ago, we were on weather hold and I went up to the bridge to see what was going on. I was starting to feel a little sick from all the movement. Being in the bridge, where I could see the horizon, helped sooth my stomach and distract me from the motion. We were running “weather patterns”, which means that we are running a course for the best ride possible while waiting for the weather system to pass. Then we can go back to the station we need to sample. Reni let me turn the ship which was a pretty cool experience. She directed me to turn the helm to 40 degrees to the port side, then as we started to turn, she had me easy back to 30, 20, 10 and finally back to zero to complete our 180 degree turn back towards the station.

Yesterday between trawls, David, Sarah and I went up to the forward most part on the bow. We peered over the railing to see four bottlenose dolphins playing on the bow wake. It was incredible to see them so close. As they were swimming at 7-8 knots right alongside the ship, they rotated position allowing each to take a turn coming to the surface for air. It was similar to bikers rotating in a peloton to stay out of the wind. Once I’m back on shore, I’ll post some video, but here is a still shot for you.

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Bottlenose dolphins riding the bow wake

Standing at the forward most part of the bow

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Looking back from the bow to the bridge

View from the flying bridge

 

I’ve been waking up a few hours before my shift starts to work on my blogs and get a little exercise. I never know what the weather is like when I wake up because I sleep on the lower deck. Technically I sleep under water and hear the water slapping the side of the ship as I’m drifting off to sleep. This morning I decided to go to the flying bridge, which is at the top of the ship, to do a little workout. The sea was glass-like and the visibility was over 10 nautical miles. I decided it was the perfect location for some yoga. I enjoyed the extra challenge of holding poses on the moving ship.

 

 

 

Did You Know?

The northern two-thirds of the continental US and part of Canada drains into the Gulf of Mexico. These rivers bring accumulated runoff from cities, suburbs, rural areas, agriculture and industry and have the potential to influence the health of the Gulf.  (source: flowergarden.noaa.gov)

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Rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico (photo credit: http://flowergarden.noaa.gov)

Dawson Sixth Grade Queries

Are you going to see sharks? (Gemma, Sylvia, Mae, Finn)

We have caught two small sharpnose sharks so far on this cruise. The Oregon II does a shark survey in the late summer where they focus on catching sharks.

How long does the whole process of catching fish take? (Sam)

Once we come upon the station, they set the trawl for 30 minutes. Depending on how deep we are sampling, it might take 10-20 minutes to bring the net back in.

What classes or skills would you have to master to become a marine biologist? (Rowan, Ava, Julia) 

I asked this question to a room full of students studying some sort of marine biology or science and here is what they said…

It depends on your area of interest, but reading and writing skills are critical. It would be helpful to take courses in biology, chemistry, comparative physiology and anatomy, biological and ecological systems and applied math like calculus and statistics. In David’s program at University of Miami, he had to choose a concentration like biology, physics, or chemistry with his marine science degree.

 

David Amidon: All Aboard for Science, June 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 12, 2017

 

Science Log: 

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A Chrysaora colorata  jellyfish with an anchovy

As I end my journey on the Reuben Lakser, I wanted to prepare a post about the people on the ship. As in any organization, there are a lot of different people and personalities on board. I interviewed 15 different people and, looking back, I am particularly amazed by how much “Science” drives the ship. The Chief Scientist is involved in most of the decisions regarding course corrections and the logistics. It is really promising as a science teacher — NOAA offers a place for those interested in science to enjoy many different careers.  

The people working on the ship can be grouped into broad categories. I have mentioned the science crew, but there are also fishermen, deck crew, engineers, stewards and, of course, the ship’s officers. If you like to cook, there are positions for you here. Same thing if you want to be an electrician or mechanic. Each of those positions has different responsibilities and qualifications. For example, the engineers need proper licenses to work on specific vessels. All of the positions require ship specific training. For some, working on the ship is almost a second career, having worked in the private sector or the Navy previously. Kim Belveal, the Chief Electrical Technician followed this path as did Engineer Rob Piquion. Working with NOAA provides them with a decent wage and a chance to travel and see new places. For young people looking to work on a ship, these are great jobs to examine that combine different interests together. IMG_1930

All of the officers on the ships are members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. They have ranks, titles and traditions just like the Navy and Coast Guard. Commander (CDR) Kurt Dreflak, the Commanding Officer, or CO and Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Justin Keesee, the Executive Officer, or XO, are in charge of everything that happens on the Reuben downloadLasker. To reach these positions, someone must work hard and be promoted through the NOAA Corps ranks. They make the ultimate decisions in terms of personnel, ordering, navigation, etc. The XO acts as most people think a First Mate would work. What impressed me was how they responded when I asked about why they work for NOAA and to describe their favorite moment at sea.  They both responded the same way: NOAA Corps provides a chance to combine science and service – a “Jacques Cousteau meets the Navy” situation. They also shared a similar thought when I asked them about their favorite moments at sea – they both reflected about reaching the “Aha” moment when training their officers.  This is definitely something I can relate to as a teacher.

Other NOAA Corps officers have different responsibilities, such as the OPS or Operations Officer, and take shifts on the bridge and on the deck, driving the ship, coordinating trawls and keeping the ship running smoothly in general. Most of the NOAA Corps has a background in marine science, having at least a degree in some science or marine discipline. When I asked them why they decided to work for NOAA, the common response was that it allows them to serve their country and contribute to science. Again, this is an awesome thing for a science teacher to hear!

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A Butterfish

To emphasize how important science is to the organization, two NOAA Corps officers, LTJG Cherisa Friedlander and LTJG Ryan Belcher, are members of the science crew during this leg of the Juvenile Rockfish Survey. They worked with us in the Science Lab, and did not have the same responsibilities associated with the ship’s operations.

 

Cherisa provided a lot of background about the NOAA Corp and the Reuben Lasker  in particular. I am including her full interview here:

  • What is your name?
    • Lieutenant Junior Grade Cherisa Friedlander
  • What is your title or position?
    • NOAA Corps Officer/ Operations Officer for the Fisheries Ecology Division in Santa Cruz,CA
  • What is your role on the ship?
    • I used to be the junior officer on board, now I am sailing as a scientist for the lab. It is kind of cool to have sailed on the ship in both roles! They are very different.
  • How long have you been working on the Reuben Lasker?
    • I worked on board from 2013-2014
  • Why did you choose to work on the Lasker?
    • I originally listed the RL as one if the ships I wanted after basic training in 2012 because it was going to be the newest ship in the fleet. It was very exciting to be a part of bringing a new ship online. I got to see it be built from the inside out and helped order and organize all of the original supplies. The first crew of a ship are called the plankowner crew of the ship, and it stems from olden times when shipbuilders would sleep on the same plank on the deck while they were building the ship. It is a big task.

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      Cherisa (far right) when the Reuben Lasker was commissioned From: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/marine-operations/ships/reuben-lasker
  • What is your favorite moment on the ship or at sea?
    • I was the first Junior Officer the ship ever had and got to plan and be on board for the transit through the Panama Canal!
  • Why do you work for NOAA?
    • I love my job! I come from a service family, so I love the service lifestyle the NOAA Corps offers while still incorporating science and service. I like that every few years I get to see a new place and do a new job. Next I head to Antarctica!
  • If a young person was interested in doing your job someday, what advice would you give them?
    • Explore lots of options for careers while you are young. Volunteer, do internships, take courses, and find out what interests you. The more activities you participate in, the more well rounded you are and it allows you to find a job you will love doing. It is also appealing to employers to see someone who has been proactive about learning new ideas and skills.
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work or experiences at sea?
    • Working at sea can certainly be challenging. I can get very seasick sometimes which makes for a very unhappy time at sea. It can also be hard to be away from family and friends for so long, so I make sure to spend quality time with those people when I am on land. 🙂

 

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Wrapping up a trawl – measuring & bagging

The remainder of the science crew is at different points in their careers and have followed different paths to be a part of this cruise. Students motivated in science can take something from these stories, I hope, and someday join a field crew like this.   

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Last Haul- off coast of San Diego  Photo by Keith Sakuma

Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma has been part of the Rockfish Survey since 1989. He started as a student and has worked his way up from there. Various ships have run the survey in the past, but the Reuben Lasker, as the most state-of-the-art ship in the fleet, looks to be its home for the near future.

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An octopus

Thomas Adams is an undergraduate student from Humboldt State University. He has kept his eyes open and taken advantage of opportunities as they come up. He has been part of the survey for a few years already and looks to continue his work through a Master’s degree program.

Maya Drzewicki is an undergrad student from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She was named as a Hollings Scholar -in her words this is: “a 2 year academic scholarship and paid summer internship for college students interested in pursuing oceanic or atmospheric sciences. I am a marine biology major and through this scholarship program I have learned so much about ocean sciences and different careers.”

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Measuring Northern Lampfish

Rachel Zuercher is a PhD student associated with the University of California- Santa Cruz. She joined the survey in part because the group has provided her samples in the past that she has used for her research.

Mike Force is a professional birdwatcher who was able to make a career out of something he loves to do. He has been all over the globe, from Antarctica to the South Pacific helping to identify birds. As a freelance contractor, he goes where he is needed. His favorite time at sea was also a common theme I came across- there is always a chance to see something unique, no matter how long you have been on ship.

 

Ken Baltz is an oceanographer who ran the daytime operations on the ship. He was associated with NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz lab – Groundfish Analysis Team. As advice to young people looking to get in the field, he suggests they make sure that they can handle the life on the ship. This was a common theme many people spoke to – life on a ship is not always great. Seas get rough, tours take time and you are working with the same group of people for a long time. Before making a career of life on a ship, make sure it suits you!

 

Personal Log

Sunday, June 11th

I experienced a truly magical moment on the Flying Bridge this evening as we transited off the coast near Santa Barbara. For a good 20 minutes, we were surrounded by a feeding frenzy of birds, dolphins, sea lions and humpback whales. It was awesome! The video below is just a snippet from the event and it does not do it justice. It was amazing!

 

 

 

Monday, June 12th

Sad to say this is my last night on the ship. We had plans to do complete 4 trawls, but we had a family of dolphins swimming in our wake during the Marine Mammal Watch. We had to cancel that station. After we wrapped up, it was clean up time and we worked through the night. The ship will arrive in San Diego early tomorrow morning.

Thank you NOAA and the crew of the Reuben Lasker for an awesome experience!!!

 

 

 

Sam Northern: From Microscopes to Binoculars—Seeing the Bigger Picture, June 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sam Northern

Aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter

May 28 – June 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean

Date: June 7, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 40°34.8’N

Longitude: -72°57.0’W

Sky: Overcast

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 050°NE

Wind Speed: 13 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 1-4 Feet

Barometric Pressure: 1006.7 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 14.8°C

Air Temperature: 12.8°C

Personal Log

The Eve of Debarkation (Tuesday, June 6)

IMG_6336Today is the eve of my debarkation (exit from NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter). Our estimated time of arrival (ETA) to Pier 2 at the Naval Station Newport is 10 a.m. tomorrow, June 7th. Before I disembark, the sea apparently wants to me remind me of its size and force. Gordon Gunter has been rocked back and forth by the powerful waves that built to around 5 feet overnight. Nonetheless, it is full steam ahead to finish collecting samples from the remaining oceanography stations. All hands on deck, as the saying goes. The navigational team steer the vessel, engineers busy themselves in the engine room, deck hands keep constant watch, scientists plan for the final stations, and the stewards continue to provide the most delicious meals ever. I am determined to not let a bumpy ship ride affect my appetite. It is my last full day aboard Gordon Gunter, and I plan to enjoy every sight, sound, and bite.

Coming into Port (Wednesday, June 7)

IMG_9840.JPGI am concluding my log on board NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, in port. It seems fitting that my blog finish where it took life 10 days ago. When I first set foot on the gangway a week and a half ago, I had no idea of the adventure that lay in front of me. I have had so many new experiences during the Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey—from sailing the Gulf of Maine to collecting plankton samples, along with many special events in between.

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Our entire cruise  [Source — Sailwx.Info]
I have grown accustomed to life on board Gordon Gunter. The constant rattling of the ship and the never-ending blowing of the air-conditioner no longer bother me, they soothe me. It is remarkable what we as humans can do when we just do it. At this time last year I never would have imagined working on a research vessel in the North Atlantic. It is nice proving yourself wrong. There is always a new experience waiting. Why hesitate? The memories I have made from the Teacher at Sea program will be amongst the ones I will cherish for the rest of my life.

IMG_6467.JPGI won’t keep the experience and the memories just for myself either. Back home at Simpson Elementary School, 670 eager 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders are waiting to experience oceanography and life at sea vicariously through their librarian. Through the knowledge I have gained about the EcoMon Survey, my blog, photographs, and videos, I am prepared to steer my students toward an understanding and appreciation of the work that is being done by NOAA. Gordon Gunter steered us in the right direction throughout the entire mission, and I plan to do the same for students in my library media center.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

IMG_8787 - Copy.JPGMany types of zooplankton and phytoplankton are microscopic, unable to be seen by the naked eye. From 300 plus meters out, birds can appear to be specks blowing in the wind. But with a microscope and a pair of binoculars, we can see ocean life much more clearly. The organisms seem to grow in size when viewed through the lenses of these magnification devices. From the smallest fish larvae to the largest Blue Whale, the ocean is home to millions of species. All the data collected during the EcoMon Survey (plankton samples, wildlife observers, ship’s log of weather conditions, and GPS coordinates) creates a bigger picture of the ocean’s ecosystem. None of the data aboard Gordon Gunter is used in isolation. Science is interconnected amongst several variables.

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Common Tern

Take for instance the avian observers’ data which is most useful when analyzed in terms of the current environmental conditions in which each bird or marine animal was seen: sea temperature, wind speed, and water currents. This kind of data in conjunction with the plankton samples will help scientists create predictive models of the marine environment. Our understanding of the hydrographic and planktonic components of the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Ecosystem will help us prepare for a more sustainable future where marine life flourishes.

To explain the purpose behind the the EcoMon Surveys, I would like to share an excerpt written by Chief Scientist, Jerry Prezioso during the 1st Leg of the Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey:

IMG_9548My answer would be that we need to do these ecosystem monitoring surveys because we are on the front lines of observing and documenting first hand what’s going on in our coastal and offshore waters. The science staff, aided by the ship’s command and crew, is working 24 / 7 to document as much as they can about the water conditions, not just on the surface but down to 500 meters, by measuring light, chlorophyll, and oxygen levels as well as nutrients available.  Water column temperatures and salinities are profiled and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) levels are checked as a way of measuring seawater acidity at the surface, mid-water and bottom depths. What planktonic organisms are present?  Plankton tows across the continental shelf down to 200 meters are made to collect them.  What large marine organisms such as whales, turtles and seabirds are present in different areas and at different times of the year, and are they different from one year to the next?  From one decade to the next? Two seabird observers work throughout the daylight hours to document and photograph large marine organisms encountered along our cruise track.  Without this information being gathered on a regular basis and in a consistent manner over a long period of time, we would have no way of knowing if things are changing at all. [Source — Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist]

IMG_8819.JPGJust as the ocean changes, so does the science aboard the ship. So, what’s next for Gordon Gunter? Three days after my debarkation from the vessel, Gunter will be employed on an exploratory survey of Bluefin Tuna. This is quite an iconic survey since scientists could be on the brink of a new discovery. Bluefin Tuna were once thought to only spawn in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. That is until researchers began to find Bluefin Tuna larvae in the deep waters between the Gulf Stream and the northeast United States. Fifty years ago fishermen believed Bluefin Tuna were indeed spawning in this part of the Gulf Stream, but it was never thoroughly researched. The next survey aboard Gordon Gunter (June 10-24) will collect zooplankton samples which scientists predict will contain Bluefin Tuna larvae. The North Gulf Stream is not an area regularly surveyed for Bluefin Tuna. It is quite exciting. The data will tell scientists about the life history and genetics of these high-profile fish. NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter has executed countless science missions, each special in its own right. Yes, it is time for me to say farewell to Gordon Gunter, but another group of researchers won’t be far behind to await their turn to come aboard.

360-degree of the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

A BIG Thank You!

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the NOAA crew for such an amazing voyage I would like to thank the ship’s stewards, Chief Steward, Margaret Coyle and 2nd Cook, Paul Acob. Their hospitality cannot be matched. From day one, they treated me like family. They prepared each meal with care just like my mother and grandmother do. I cannot imagine enjoying another ship’s food like I have that aboard Gordon Gunter. To the stewards, thank you.

I would like to thank the deck team for their continual hard work throughout the cruise. Chief Boatswain, Jerome Taylor is the definition of leadership. I watched on countless occasions his knack for explaining the most difficult of tasks to others. Jerome knows the ship and all her components like the back of his hand. The deck crew left no stone unturned as they carried out their duties. To the deck crew, thank you.

I would like to thank the engineers. Without the engineering team our cruise would not have been possible. The engineers keep the heart of the ship running, the engine. I am astounded by the engineers’ ability to maintain and repair all of Gordon Gunter’s technical equipment: engines, pumps, electrical wiring, communication systems, and refrigeration equipment. To the engineers, thank you.

I would like to thank the wonderful science team, who patiently taught me the ropes and addressed each of my questions. It is because of their knowledge that I was able to share the research being done during our Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. To the science team, thank you.

I would like to thank the NOAA Corps officers who welcomed me and my questions at all times. These technically skilled officers are what make scientific projects like the EcoMon successful. They remained steadfast in the way of any challenge. They ensured the successful completion of our mission. To the NOAA Corps officers, thank you.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps): “Stewards of the Sea”

NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. With 321 officers, the NOAA Corps serves throughout the agency to support nearly all of NOAA’s programs and missions. Corps officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. The combination of commissioned service and scientific expertise makes these officers uniquely capable of leading some of NOAA’s most important initiatives. [Source — NOAA Corps]

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Great Black-backed Gull

All officer candidates must attend an initial 19-week Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). The curriculum is challenging, with on board ship-handling exercises coupled with classroom instruction in leadership, officer bearing, NOAA mission and history, ship handling, basic seamanship, firefighting, navigation, and first aid. BOTC is held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where new NOAA Corps recruits train alongside Coast Guard officer candidates before receiving their first assignment to a NOAA ship for up to 3 years of sea duty. [Source — NOAA Corps] The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is built on honor, respect, and commitment.

Meet Gordon Gunter’s NOAA Corps Officers

Meet Lieutenant Commander, Lindsay Kurelja!

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Lieutenant Commander, Lindsay Kurelja

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterAs Commanding Officer (CO) I am wholly responsible for everything that happens on board. I’m the captain of the boat. I am in charge of all people and actions that happen on board.

Have you had much experience working at sea? I started going to sea when I was 18. That’s 20 years.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? I stay on a four hour watch on the bridge where I am in charge of the navigational chart and maneuvering of the vessel. I also disperse myself amongst managing the four departments on board to concentrate on the engineering and maintenance side of things.

What is your educational background? I graduated from Texas Maritime Academy with a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Marine Transportation which gave me a third mate unlimited license with the U.S. Coast Guard. I then came straight to work for NOAA.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Our navigational equipment. Nothing is more important to a navigational officer than a pair of dividers and a set of triangles.

What is your favorite marine animal? My favorite marine animal are Ctenophoras. Ctenophoras are little jellyfish that are unique in the evolutionary scale because of their abilities despite the lack of brains.

Meet Lieutenant Commander, Chad Meckley!

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Lieutenant Commander, Chad Meckley

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am the Executive Officer (XO) aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. I am second in command after the Commanding Officer.

Have you had much experience working at sea? Yes. This is my third sea assignment. My first sea assignment was for two years on the Albatross IV. I also sailed aboard the McArthur II for a year, I did six months on the Henry Bigelow, and I was certified while sailing on the Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE. I have had quite a bit of sea time so far in my career.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? If I am not on the bridge on watch, you can find me in my office. As XO one of my primary responsibilities is administrative work—from time and attendance to purchasing.

What is your educational background? I earned a bachelor’s degree at Shippensburg State University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. I studied Geography and Environmental Science.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? The biggest tool we have aboard the ship that we use more than anything are the nautical charts. Without our nautical charts, we wouldn’t be going anywhere. We could not get safely from point A to point B and accomplish our mission of science and service aboard these vessels.

What is your favorite marine animal? That’s a tough one because there’s so many cool animals in the sea and on top of the sea. I am really fascinated by Moray eels. The way they move through the water and their freaky, beady eyes make them really neat animals.

Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade, Libby Mackie!

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Lieutenant Junior Grade, Libby Mackie

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am the Operations Officer on board. One step below the Executive Officer. I do the coordination of the scientists.

Have you had much experience working at sea? I had some experience at sea when I was in the NAVY. Even though I never went underway in the NAVY, but I did have a second job on some of the dive boats in Hawaii. After I got out of the NAVY and went to school I got some small boat time there. Other ships I have sailed on with NOAA are the Oscar Dyson, the Reuben Lasker, and the Bell M. Shimada.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the bridge and in the dry lab with the scientists.

What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s of science in Marine Biology and an associate’s degree in Mandarin.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? The coffee machine!

What is your favorite marine animal? Octopus.

Meet Ensign, Alyssa Thompson!

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Ensign, Alyssa Thompson

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am a Junior Officer. I reported here May 20th of last year. I am the Navigation Officer and Safety Officer. I am an ensign, so I do all of the navigational planning. I also drive the ship. 

Have you had much experience working at sea? I have been at sea with the NOAA Corps for over a year now.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the bridge, driving the ship.

What is your educational background? I went to Virginia Tech. I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology/Animal Sciences. I took a lot of Fisheries classes, too. I interned in Florida researching stingrays and general marine biology with the University of Florida.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Probably radar. I could not live without the radar. It shows you all of your contacts, your targets, especially in the fog up here in the Northeast. Radar is a wonderful tool because there are times you can’t see anything. Sometimes we have only a half mile visibility, and so the radar will pick up contacts to help you maneuver best.

What is your favorite marine animal? Dolphins. I love dolphins, always have.

Meet ENS, Lola Ajilore!

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ENS, Lola Ajilore

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter?

I am a NOAA Corps Junior Officer. I joined NOAA in July of 2016. I work with navigation, and I am the secondary Environmental Compliance Officer.

Have you had much experience working at sea? Not yet. I have only been at sea for one month.

What is your educational background? I earned my undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University. I have a master’s in Environmental Science from John Hopkins University.

What is most challenging about your work? It is a challenge learning to drive a ship. It is much different from a car, especially because there are no brakes. I also miss being around my family. You miss out on a lot of special events like birthdays when you work at sea.

What is your favorite marine animal? Dolphins!

Meet Ensign, Mike Fuller!

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Ensign, Mike Fuller

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am an Augmenting Junior Officer on Gordon Gunter for the time being until I head off to my permanent duty station.

Have you had much experience working at sea? Not in this position. I did have some research experience when I was at the University of Miami.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? Most of my work is on the bridge standing watch and operating the actual ship itself—general ship driving and operations.

What is your educational/training background? Those who decide to do the NOAA Corps are required to have a science background. My background is in Marine Science and Biology. I studied a lot of invertebrates in university. After university I went to a 19-week training course where the NOAA Corps trains alongside the Coast Guard learning about different maritime regulations and standard operating procedures.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? From a very broad standpoint the tool we use regularly are our navigational charts. You can’t do anything without those. That’s how we setup the entire cruise. It gives us all the information we need to know for safe sailing.

What is your favorite marine animal? There’s so many, it’s hard to pick. My favorite would have to be a species of crinoid that you find in really old rocks. They are a really cool invertebrate.

Meet Ensign, Mary Claire Youpel!

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Ensign, Mary Claire Youpel

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am the newest Junior Officer aboard the Gordon Gunter. I just reported; this is my first sea assignment.

Have you had much experience working at sea? Limited. I did research at Louisiana State University during grad school. My lab worked on Red Snapper research in the Gulf of Mexico. This is my first time going out to sea with NOAA.

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? I work in the bridge or the pilot house. This is where we drive the ship.

What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s of science from the University of Illinois-Champaign in Environmental Science. I have a master’s of science in Oceanography and Coastal Studies from Louisiana State University. I also have a master’s of Public Administration from Louisiana State University.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Radar, because it helps us navigate safely on our track lines.

What is your favorite marine animal? The Great White Shark.

Animals Seen

 

 

New Terms/Phrases

For my final glossary of new terms and phrases, I would like to share ways to say goodbye. It has been difficult for me to find parting words for all of those I have worked with and got to know the past 10 days. If you cannot think of one way to say goodbye, try 10!

  1. Goodbye.
  2. ‘Bye.
  3. Farewell.
  4. Take care.
  5. See you later.
  6. So long.
  7. Adios.
  8. Ciao.
  9. Au revoir.
  10. Sayonara.

Did You Know?

The NOAA Corps traces its roots to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson. In 1970, NOAA was created to develop a coordinated approach to oceanographic and atmospheric research and subsequent legislation converted the commissioned officer corps to the NOAA Corps. [Source — NOAA Corps] https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/noaa-corps/about

Photoblog

 

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Sam Northern: Catching Plankton and Catching On, June 3, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sam Northern

Aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter

May 28 – June 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean

Date: June 3, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 42°29.9’N

Longitude: -67°44.8’W

Sky: Scattered Clouds

Visibility: 12 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 270°W

Wind Speed: 8 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 Feet

Swell Wave: 1-3 Feet

Barometric Pressure: 1009.5 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 10.2°C

Air Temperature: 11°C

Science and Technology Log

Plankton Samples

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Here I am with a canister of plankton we collected from the bongo nets.

You may have begun to notice that there are several methods of sampling plankton. Each technique is used several times a day at the sampling stations. The baby bongo nets collect the same type plankton as the large bongos. The primary difference is that the samples from the baby bongos are preserved in ethanol, rather than formalin. Chief Scientist, David Richardson explained that ethanol is being used more and more as a preservative because the solution allows scientists to test specimens’ genetics. Studying the genetics of plankton samples gives researchers a greater understanding of the ocean’s biodiversity. Genetics seeks to understand the process of trait inheritance from parents to offspring, including the molecular structure and function of genes, gene behavior in the context of a cell or organism, gene distribution, and variation and change in populations.

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Jars and jars of plankton samples ready to be studied.

The big bongos use formalin to preserve plankton samples. Formalin has been used by scientists for decades, mainly because the preservative makes it easier for labs to study the samples. Today’s scientists continue to use formalin because it lets them compare their most recent sampling data to that from years ago. This presents a clearer picture of how marine environments have or have not changed.

IMG_8861.JPGEvery so often, we use smaller mesh nets for the baby bongos which can catch the smallest of zooplanktons. The specimens from these special bongo nets are sent to CMarZ which stands for Census of Marine Zooplankton. CMarZ are scientists and students interested in zooplankton from around the world who are working toward a taxonomically comprehensive assessment of biodiversity of animal plankton throughout the world ocean. CMarZ samples are also preserved in ethanol. The goal of this organization is to produce a global assessment of marine zooplankton biodiversity, including accurate and complete information on species diversity, biomass, biogeographical distribution, and genetic diversity. [Source — Census of Marine Zooplankton]. Their website is incredible! They have images galleries of living plankton and new species that have been discovered by CMarZ scientists.

Another interesting project that Chief Scientist, David Richardson shared with me is the Census of Marine Life. The Census of Marine Life was a 10-year international effort that assessed the diversity (how many different kinds), distribution (where they live), and abundance (how many) of marine life—a task never before attempted on this scale. During their 10 years of discovery, Census scientists found and formally described more than 1,200 new marine species. [Source —Census of Marine Life] The census has a webpage devoted to resources for educators and the public. Contents include: videos and images galleries, maps and visualizations, a global marine life database, and links to many other resources.

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Plankton samples are preserved in jars with water and formalin.

It is incredibly important that we have institutes like CMarZ, the Census of Marin Life, and the Sea Fisheries Institute in Poland where samples from our EcoMon Survey are sent. Most plankton are so small that you see them best through a microscope. At the lab in Poland, scientists remove the fish and eggs from all samples, as well as select invertebrates. These specimens are sent back to U.S. where the data is entered into models. The information is used to help form fishing regulations. This division of NOAA is called the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat. The organization provide vital services for the nation: productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems—all backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management. [Source —NOAA Fisheries]

Vertical CTD Cast

In addition to collecting plankton samples, we periodically conduct vertical CTD casts. This is a standard oceanographic sampling technique that tells scientists about dissolved inorganic carbon, ocean water nutrients, the levels of chlorophyll, and other biological and chemical parameters.

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The CTD’s Niskin bottles trap water at different depths in the ocean for a wide-range of data.

The instrument is a cluster of sensors which measure conductivity, temperature, and pressure. Depth measurements are derived from measurement of hydrostatic pressure, and salinity is measured from electrical conductivity. Sensors are arranged inside a metal or resin housing, the material used for the housing determining the depth to which the CTD can be lowered. From the information gathered during CTD casts, researchers can investigate how factors of the ocean are related as well as the variation of organisms that live in the ocean.

Here’s how a vertical CTD cast works. First, the scientists select a location of interest (one of the stations for the leg of the survey). The ship travels to that position and stays as close to the same spot as possible depending on the weather as the CTD rosette is lowered through the water, usually to within a few meters of the bottom, then raised back to the ship. By lowering the CTD close to the bottom, then moving the ship while cycling the package up and down only through the bottom few hundred meters, a far greater density of data can be obtained. This technique was dubbed a CTD cast and has proven to be an efficient and effective method for mapping and sampling hydrothermal plumes. [Source —NOAA]

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Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon helps recover the CTD.

During the vertical CTD cast, I am in charge of collecting water samples from specified Niskin bottles on the rosette. The Niskin bottles collected water at different levels: surface water, maximum depth, and the chlorophyll maximum where the greatest amount of plankton are usually found. I take the collected seawater to the lab where a mechanism filters the water, leaving only the remainder plankton. The plankton from the water contains chlorophyll which a lab back on land tests to determine the amount of chlorophyll at different water depths. This gives researchers insight about the marine environment in certain geographic locations at certain times of the year.

Meet the Science Party

Meet Chief Scientist, David Richardson!

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David Richardson planning our cruise with Operations Officer, Libby Mackie.

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am the Chief Scientist for this 10 day cruise.  A large part of the Chief Scientist’s role is to prioritize the research that will happen on a cruise within the designated time period.  Adverse weather, mechanical difficulties, and many other factors can alter the original plans for a cruise requiring that decisions be made about what can be accomplished and what is a lower priority.  One part of doing this effectively is to ensure that there is good communication among the different people working on the ship.

What is your educational/working background? I went to college at Cornell University with a major in Natural Resources.  After that I had a number of different jobs before enrolling in Graduate School at the University of Miami. For my graduate research I focused on the spawning environment of sailfish and marlin in the Straits of Florida.  I then came up to Rhode Island in 2008, and for the last 10 years have been working as a Fisheries Biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service.

What is the general purpose of the EcoMon Survey? The goal of the Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) surveys is to collect oceanographic measurements and information on the distribution and abundance of lower trophic level species including zooplankton.  The collections also include fish eggs and larvae which can be used to evaluate where and when fish are spawning.  Over the years additional measurements and collections have been included on the EcoMon surveys to more fully utilize ship time. Seabirds and Marine Mammals are being identified and counted on our ship transits, phytoplankton is also being imaged during the cruise.  Finally, the EcoMon cruises serve as a means to monitor ocean acidification off the northeast United States.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I really enjoy pursuing scientific studies in which I can integrate field work, lab work and analytical work.  As I have progressed in my career the balance of the work I do has shifted much more towards computer driven analysis and writing.  These days, I really enjoy time spent in the lab or the field.

What is most challenging about your job? I imagine the challenge I face is the similar to what many scientists face.  There are many possible scientific studies we can do in our region that affect the scientific advise used to manage fisheries.  The challenge is prioritizing and making time for those studies that are most important, while deprioritizing some personally interesting work that may be less critical.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science? By the end of high school I was pretty certain that I wanted to pursue a career in science.  Early in college I settled on the idea of pursuing marine science and ecology, but it was not until the end of college that I decided I wanted to focus my work on issues related to fish and fisheries.

What is your favorite marine animal? Sailfish, which I did much of my graduate work on, remains one of my favorite marine animals.  I have worked on them at all life stages from capturing the early life stages smaller than an inch to tagging the adults. They are really fascinating and beautiful animals to see.  However, now that I live in Rhode Island I have little opportunity to work on sailfish which tend to occupy more southern waters. 

In terms of local animals, one of my favorites is sand lance which can be found very near to shore throughout New England.  These small fish are a critical part of the food web, and also have a really unique behavior of burying in the sand when disturbed, or even for extended periods over the course of the year.  In many respects sand lance have received far less scientific attention than they deserve in our region.

Meet CTD Specialist, Tamara Holzwarth-Davis!

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CTD Specialist, Tamara Holzwarth-Davis

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterCTD Specialist which means I install, maintain, and operate the CTD. The CTD is an electronic oceanographic instrument. We have two versions of the CTD on board the ship. We have larger instrument with a lot more sensors on it. It has water bottles called Niskin water samplers, and they collect water samples that we use on the ship to run tests.

How long have you been working at sea? I worked for six months at sea when I was in college for NOAA Fisheries on the Georges Bank. That was 30 years ago.

What is your educational background? I have a Marine Science degree with a concentration in Biology.

What is your favorite part about your work? I definitely love going out to sea and being on the ship with my co-workers. I also get to meet a lot of new people with what I do.

What is most challenging about your work? My instruments are electronic, and we are always near the sea which can cause corrosion and malfunctions. When things go wrong you have to troubleshoot. Sometimes it is an easy fix and sometimes you have to call the Electronic Technician for support.

What is your favorite marine animal? My favorite animal is when we bring up the plankton nets and we catch sea angels or sea butterflies. They are tiny, swimming sea slugs that look gummy and glow fluorescent orange. 

Meet Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Glen Davis!

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Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Glen Davis

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am on the science team. I am an avian and marine mammal observer.

What is your educational/working background? I have a bachelor’s in science. I have spent much of my 20-year career doing field work with birds and marine mammals all around the world.

Do you have much experience working at sea? Yes. I have put in about 8,000 hours at sea. Going out to sea is a real adventure, but you are always on duty or on call. It’s exciting, but at the same time there are responsibilities. Spending time at sea is really special work.

What is most challenging about your work? Keeping your focus at times. You are committing yourself to a lifestyle as an animal observer. You have to provide as much data to the project as you can.

Where do you do most of your work on board NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am going to be up on the bridge level where the crew who pilots the vessel resides or above that which is called the flying bridge. On Gordon Gunter that is 13.7 meters above sea level which is a good vantage point to see birds and marine mammals.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? My binoculars. It is always around my neck. It is an eight power magnification and it helps me identify the birds and sea life that I see from the flying bridge. I also have to record my information in the computer immediately after I see them, so the software knows the exact place and time I saw each animal.

What is your favorite bird? Albatrosses are my favorite birds. The largest albatross is called a Wandering/Snowy Albatross. The Snowy Albatross has the longest wingspan of any bird and its the longest lived bird. This bird mates for life and raises one chick every 3-5 years which they care for much like people care for their own babies.

Meet Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Nicholas Metheny!

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Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Nicholas Metheny

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterPrimary seabird/marine mammal observer.

What is your educational background? I have my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Marine Biology from the University of New England in Maine.

What has been your best working experience? That’s a tough one because I have had so many different experiences where I have learned a lot over the years. I have been doing field work for the past 11 years. Each has taught me something that has led me to the next position. The job I cherish the most is the trip I took down to Antarctica on a research cruise for six weeks. That was an amazing experience and something I would advocate for people to see for themselves.

What do you enjoy most about being a bird/marine mammal observer? The excitement of never knowing what you are going to see next. Things can pop up anywhere. You get to ask the questions of, “how did this animal get here,” “why is this animal here,” and correlate that to different environmental conditions.

What is most challenging about your work? You are looking at birds from a distance and you are not always able to get a positive ID. Sometimes you’re just not seeing enough detail or it disappears out of view from your binoculars as it moves behind a wave or dives down into the water. For marine mammals all you see is the blow and that’s it. So, it is a little frustrating not being able to get an ID on everything, but you do the best you can.

What is your favorite bird? That’s like choosing your favorite child! I have a favorite order of bird. It’s the Procellariiformes which are the tube-nosed birds. This includes albatross, shearwater, storm petrels, and the fulmars.

Meet Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon!

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Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am a student volunteer. I help deploy the equipment and collect the samples.

Do you have much experience working at sea? This is my second 10-day trip. I did the second leg of the EcoMon Survey last year as well.

What is your educational background? I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Maine where I am studying ocean currents and how water moves. I also have my master’s degree in Marine Science, and my undergraduate degree is in Physics.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in science? I have always wanted to study the oceans. I think I was at least in first grade when I was telling people I wanted to be a marine scientist.

What do you enjoy most about your work on board NOAA Ship Gordon GunterMy favorite thing is being at sea, working hard, and enjoying the ocean.

Where will you be doing most of your work? Most of the work is going to be working with the equipment deploying. I will be on the aft end of the ship.

What is your favorite marine animal? Humpback whale, but it is really hard to pick just one.

Meet Survey Tech, Emily Markowitz!

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Survey Tech, Emily Markowitz

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterI am a volunteer. I did my undergraduate and graduate work in Marine Science at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. My graduate work is in Fisheries Research.

Where will you be doing most of your work on the ship? I will be doing the night shift. That is from midnight to noon every day. I will be doing the nutrients test which helps the scientists figure out what is in the water that might attract different creatures.

Do you have much experience working at sea? Yes, actually. When I was 19, I spent two weeks on a similar trip off the coast of Oregon. We were looking for Humboldt Squid. I also worked on the university’s research vessel as a crew member on one of their ocean trawl surveys.

What are your hobbies? I love being outside. I enjoy hiking and being on the water sailing.

What is your favorite marine animal? The Humboldt Squid.

Meet Survey Tech, Maira Gomes!

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Survey Tech, Maira Gomes

What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon GunterMy position on Gordon Gunter is a volunteer. I got this opportunity from Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) where I have recently just graduated in January 2017 with my associates in Liberal Arts. Professor McNamara (Marianne McNamara) one of my professors at SCCC, forwarded me the email that was sent from Harvey Walsh looking for volunteers to work on Gordon Gunter for the Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. They had Leg 1 which was May 16th May -May 26th and Leg 2 May 29th-June 7th. I never had been out to sea! I got super excited and signed up for both legs!

Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the ship I do mostly taking care of the Bongo Nets, CTD, and CTD Rosette. With the Bongo baby and large nets I help the crew to hook them up on a cable to set out to the ocean to retrieve the data from the CTD and all kinds of plankton that get caught in the nets. Once it comes back to the boat we hose the nets down and collect all the plankton and put them in jars filled with chemicals to preserve them so we can send them back to different labs. The Rosette is my favorite! We send out the Rosette with 12 Niskin bottles empty into the water. They come back up filled with water. We use this machine to collect data for nutrients, Chlorophyll, and certain types of Carbon. We run tests in the dry lab and preserve the samples to be shipped out to other labs for more tests.

What is your educational/working background? I just finished my associates in Liberal Arts at SCCC in January. In the Fall 2017 I will be attending University of New Haven as a junior working towards my bachelor degree in their Marine Affairs Program.

Have you had much experience at sea? Nope, zero experience out at sea! Which was one of the reasons why I was kind of nervous after I realized I signed up for both legs of the trip. I am glad I did. I am gaining so much experience on this trip!

What do you enjoy most about your work? It would be the experience I am gaining and the amazing views of the ocean!

What is most challenging about your job? The most challenging part of working on the ship would be the one-hour gap between some of the stations we encounter on our watch. It is not enough time to take a nap but enough time to get some reading in. It can be kind of hard to stay awake.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Tool I could not live without working on the ship would probably be the chart that has all our stations located.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career? Ha! This is a great question! So it all started, as I was a little girl. I always wanted to be a veterinarian and work with animals. Once I was in fifth grade my teacher inspired me to be a teacher like herself, a Special Education teacher. I felt strongly with wanting to pursue a career in that field. It was not until my second year in college when I had to take a Lab course to fulfill my requirements for the lab credits, that I took a Marine Biology Lab. Once I was influenced and aware of this side of the world more in depth, I had a change of heart. Not only that but my professor, Professor Lynch (Pamala Lynch) also influenced me on changing my major to Marine Biology. I knew from the start I always wanted to be involved with animals but never knew exactly how, but once I took her class I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my career. With that being said, my goal is to be able to work with sharks someday and help to protect them and teach everyone the real truth behind their way of life and prove you cannot always believe what you see on TV.

What are your hobbies? I really love to line dance! I line dance about at least three times a week! I absolutely love it! I have made so many friends and learned so many really cool dances! I have been doing it about two years and through the experience of getting out of my shell I gain a whole new family from the country scene back at home! I also, love catching UFC fights on TV with my friends!

What is your favorite marine animal? I have multiple favorite marine animals. My top two picks would be sharks and sea turtles!

Personal Log

The Work Continues (Thursday, June 1)

IMG_9007After lunch the fog began to dissipate, letting in rays of sunshine. I could see the horizon once again! You do not realize the benefits of visibility until it is gone. Yet, even with the ability to see all of my surroundings, my eyes were met with same object in every direction—water! Despite the fact that the ocean consists of wave swells, ripples, and beautiful hues of blue, I longed to see something new. Finally, I spotted something on the horizon. In the distance, I could faintly make out the silhouette of two fishing boats. I was relieved to set eyes on these vessels. It might not seem like anything special to most people but when you are more than 100 miles from land, it is a relief to know that you are not alone.

IMG_9033Work during my shift is a distraction from the isolation I sometimes feel out at sea. When it is time for a bongo or CTD station, my mind becomes preoccupied with the process. My brain blocks all worries during those 30 minutes. Nonetheless, as quickly as a station begins, it ends even faster. Then we are left waiting for the next station which sometimes is only 20 minutes and other times is more than two hours away. The waiting is not so bad. In between stations I am able to speak with crew members and the science team on a variety of issues: research, ship operations, and life back on land. Every person on board Gordon Gunter is an expert at what they do. They take their work very seriously, and do it exceptionally well. Still, we like a good laugh every now and then.

TGIF! (Friday, June 2)

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Members of the Science Party stay busy collecting samples from the bongo nets.

At home, Friday means it is practically the weekend! The weekend is when I get to spend time with family, run errands, go shopping, or just hang around the house. For those who work at sea like NOAA Corps and NOAA scientists, the weekend is just like any other day. The crew works diligently day and night, during holidays, and yes, on the weekends. I can tell from first-hand experience that all personnel on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter are dedicated and high-spirited people. Even when the weather is clear and sunny like it was today, they continue their duties work without wavering. NOAA crew are much like the waves of the sea. The waves in the Northeast Atlantic are relentless. They don’t quit—no matter the conditions. Waves are created by energy passing through water, causing it to move in a circular motion [Source —NOAA]. NOAA crew also have an energy passing through them. Whether it be the science, life at sea, adventure, love for their trade, or obligations back home, personnel aboard Gordon Gunter do not stop.

IMG_8995Today, we left Georges Bank and entered the Gulf of Maine where we will stay for the remainder of the cruise. The seabird and marine mammal observers had a productive day spotting a variety of wildlife. There have been sightings of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, Ocean Sunfish, and Right Whales to name a few. Even though I did not get photographs of all that was seen, I am optimistic about observing new and exciting marine wildlife in the days to come.

Animals Seen

New Terms/Phrases

  • Plankton: the passively floating or weakly swimming usually minute animal and plant life of a body of water
  • Phytoplankton: planktonic plant life
  • Zooplankton: plankton composed of animals
  • Larval Fish: part of the zooplankton that eat smaller plankton. Larval fish are themselves eaten by larger animals
  • Crustacean: any of a large group of mostly water animals (as crabs, lobsters, and shrimps) with a body made of segments, a tough outer shell, two pairs of antennae, and limbs that are jointed
  • Biodiversity: biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals
  • Genetics: the scientific study of how genes control the characteristics of plants and animals

Did You Know?

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Phytoplankton samples from the bongo nets.

Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton use sunlight, nutrients, carbon dioxide, and water to produce oxygen and nutrients for other organisms. With 71% of the Earth covered by the ocean, phytoplankton are responsible for producing up to 50% of the oxygen we breathe. These microscopic organisms also cycle most of the Earth’s carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere. [Source — National Geographic].

Christopher Tait: “Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.” April 8, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: April 8, 2017

Science and Technology Log

“Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

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Sunrise somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

If you think about a famous quote about the ocean, this one might be one of the first you would think of.  It is from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I don’t know the first time I heard that quote, but it gave me a view of the ocean as a foreboding place. People like to use quotes to capture a thought or a feeling or an idea that someone else said near perfect. It is a way of remembering ideas of others and being remembered. It is also a way to communicate a deep truth in a memorable fashion. If said well, the quote rings in someone’s head.

The greatest technology a scientist has is their ability to communicate to the public their science. All the measurements in the world, the most exacting procedures, and the best control of variables die on the hard drive if they are not effectively communicated and shared with others. Said well, it will ring in the head of the recipient.

Scientist Profile:

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle * see footnote

                If you have a career or are retired, you can think back to the path that took you to one of the most important aspect of your life. The people, opportunities, experiences, dreams, or something else that inspired you to take the career you chose. If you are in school, you are being exposed to influential people, ideas, and values that will shape your life. I have to say, the best aspect of this fisheries expedition has been the amazing and inspirational people I have met along the way.  The group of people that were on the Reuben Lasker cover a large span of skill sets that are critical to run a long term research trip.  From the NOAA Corps, to the ship operations, to maintaining the complex systems of the ship, to deploying the scientific equipment from the deck, to the planning, conducting, and evaluating the results of the science, everyone brings to the table their invaluable contributions.  I have not thus far been associated with such an endeavor and I thank everyone for sharing their expertise with me.  I asked the scientists I worked with three simple questions to get an understanding of the events that took them down the path to their career with NOAA.  I’m sure you can relate to these stories and have stories of your own that have brought you to your career.  If you still have many big decisions ahead of you, maybe you can use this as a sign post to reflect upon as you move along your path.  Below is a picture of the scientists I had the privilege to learn from, work with, and share an amazing experience.

 Figure 1:

 

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Scientist (left to right) Dave Griffith, Kevin Stierhoff, Bev, Lenora, Bill Watson, Sue Manion, Chris Tait (Teacher at Sea) & Megan Human

Dave Griffith

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I was working at Hubbs Marine Research as a laboratory manager prior to coming to NOAA.  A group of us had started what turned out to be a long term project combining aquaculture and natural population enhancement known as OREHAP. One of the aspects of the OREHAP project was describing the micro-habitats of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay.  Many days were spent in the field sampling the various habitats of each bay. One of the scientists that would join us on occasion was Sharon Kramer. At the time Sharon was working on her PhD from Scripps and was also an employee of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Sharon alerted me of an opening at the center working for the Coastal Fisheries Resources Division headed up by Rich Charter, one of the best supervisors she had known, and I agree. The rest is history. I’ve now been with NOAA for 27 years; most of them spent at sea and have experienced sights that many people may only read about. No regrets whatsoever.

What do you like best about your career?

This is probably one of the easier questions. What I like and cherish most about my career is the people I have had the privilege to know and work with.  Not only some of the best scientists in the world but just good people. The world of marine science, especially fishery science, is a relatively small community. They become your family. Throw into the mix that I also get to do something that I have wanted to do since high school and I realize that it wasn’t a bad choice.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

In your early academic life, keep an open mind. There are so many aspects to science that you may not realize until you begin your formal education. Take a look at everything. I spent a short time at a city college exploring various avenues before making my commitment to a four year university. If you can, volunteer. It is definitely not time wasted.  For a career in science, earn the highest degree or degrees you possibly can. And lastly, a major component of a career in science is being able to communicate. Learn to write well. I have found that an excellent way to improve your writing is to read. Read everything. Read novels, magazines, journals, newspapers, whatever you can get your hands on and never stop.               

Lanora

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

Growing up, I loved mysteries and figuring out why things worked the way they did. I was also fascinated by the marine environment.  Having learned about NOAA and its missions from relatives, I participated in a co-op program while in college where I worked at a NOAA Fisheries lab.  That work experience helped me realize that this was a field I would like to make a career.

What do you like best about your career?

I would definitely have to say the challenge of the work.  The marine environment is so dynamic and ever changing and evolving.  Working with so many amazing scientists to better understand this environment and the organisms in it is very fulfilling.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

If this is a career path a student is interested in, I recommend looking into volunteer and internship positions.  These experiences help get an understanding of the work in this career and if it’s a right fit for you.  It also helps to build your experience and make contacts in this field.

Sue Manion

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Fisheries Biology. After graduation, I joined Peace Corps and worked for 3 years on the aquaculture program in the Dominican Republic. Upon my return to the states, I applied for and was accepted as a sea-going technician for NOAA at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego.  I have been an employee here since 1989.

What do you like best about your career?

What I like best about my job is the variety of tasks I perform. I was looking for a career where my job was outdoors and physical.  I spend 1/3 of the year working on fisheries research vessels.  I process trawl catches and assist in oceanographic sampling.  In the past, I have been a marine mammal observer on a tuna boat, and have tagged sharks.

The rest of the time I work in an office processing data and prepping gear for our next research survey.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

My advice for someone who would like to follow a similar career path would be to go beyond a BS and get a Master’s.  I recommend taking all the math classes, computer classes and writing classes that are available to supplement whatever field of Science one chooses.

Bill Watson

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

After receiving undergraduate degrees in oceanography and zoology from the University of Washington I went to the University of Hawaii to do a master’s degree working on distributional ecology of fish eggs and larvae. While at UH I visited the larval fish laboratory at the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla, California, to meet the staff and learn what I could to improve my skill in identifying fish eggs and larvae. I subsequently stayed in touch with the SWC larval fish lab while working first at UH, then for North Carolina State University doing biological monitoring studies at a coastal nuclear power plant as well as ecological studies of fish and shrimp larvae in an estuary and adjacent salt marshes, and then in southern California for a consulting company doing a wide variety of mainly coastal biological studies. While at the consulting company I received a call from the supervisor of the SWC larval fish group letting me know that a vacancy was coming up in the group and to keep an eye out for the job announcement if I was interested. When the announcement came out I applied, and got the job. Interestingly, the person I replaced was the person I started my larval fish career with in Hawaii 20 years earlier.

What do you like best about your career?

I like fish larvae, so having the opportunity to go to sea to collect samples, and being able to spend part of my time in the laboratory looking at fish eggs and larvae through a microscope often are as much entertainment as work.  In addition to the routine sample processing that we do in support of biomass estimations for commercially important fishes, we regularly conduct analyses to look at how the California Current ecosystem functions from a fish perspective. We can do this because most fish species in our area have planktonic larval stages, so with one set of samples we can look at fish assemblages ranging from deep-sea meso- and bathypelagic fishes to rocky reef and shorefishes. In recent years we have added genetic tools to improve our taxonomic resolution, and have added squids to our repertoire. Most of the studies done in my lab are group efforts, in many cases in cooperation with universities and other NOAA Fisheries labs.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

I always tell student interns in our lab that if they plan to be scientists, they need to pay attention in English classes. Research isn’t really done until it’s published, and if a manuscript is poorly written the likelihood is that it will be rejected by scientific journals. Writing is actually one of the more important skills to develop for someone interested in a career in science. Beyond paying attention in English classes, a postgraduate degree is almost a requirement these days to have any chance at doing independent research. Getting some real world work experience between undergrad and graduate school can be useful to help in setting a career course that you will be happy with, for example when I graduated from UW I planned to specialize in algology, but during a postgraduate internship working on the effects of tritium exposure on early development of rainbow trout, I discovered that I liked fish better and have been doing that ever since.

Megan Human

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

My career path with NOAA began during my junior year in college. I had been volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium for several years and decided to apply for an internship opportunity that was collaboration between the University of Washington and the NWFSC working with phytoplankton. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work with plankton, but I ended up loving it and was offered a contracting position when my internship was up. In 2014 I ended up moving to San Diego, and thanks to some connections I had from the NWFSC I was referred to a position working with ichthyoplankton (larval stage of fishes).

What do you like best about your career?

I love getting to work with fish and see all the diversity the ocean has to offer. I‘ve also had the opportunity to conduct an egg rearing experiment where I get to raise fish eggs to larvae at sea and in the lab. While it presents many challenges, it is such a great feeling to be able to do hands research in the field. Once you start working on one question, you realize there are so many unknowns out there and it is exciting to get to be a part of a team that is trying to find the answers.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

The best advice I could give to someone who wants to get into a career with marine sciences is to volunteer. There are usually many opportunities associated with local aquariums, NOAA or University vessels, and research laboratories. These are a great way to experience the different avenues of marine science and provide a lot of valuable experiences and connections with individuals in the field. It is also a great way to find what areas you are most passionate about as well as discovering what fields aren’t the best fits.

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Contemplating a successful fishing voyage as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Personal Log

As the boat motors under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the port of San Francisco, I think about how this experience will impact me.  How can I take what I have learned and effectively communicate to my students the importance of researching how our planet functions? How will the planet change in the face of growing stressors from impacts of human population growth?  How can I motivate others around me to be mindful of our impacts and to work towards a more sustainable future?  Well, with any great study, you generally end up with more questions than answers.  I thank my friends from the Reuben Lasker for helping me communicate to others about the ocean, their science careers, and marine sciences in general.

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Arrival to port at the Exploratorium in San Francisco!

For hope and encouragement I turned to my students for quotes of their own.

What quote would you use to describe your perspective on the world as you finish up school?

“For me, this class helped me decide to go into environmental studies. I always cared about the environment, but I realized that the more I know, the more empowered I will be to make a difference.” Abi Brown NFHS ‘17

“I am going into the heath field so it was very interesting knowing about all of the toxins that are having consequences on our health.” Ashley Parkinson NFHS ‘17

“This class really opened my eyes to the environmental issues I wasn’t all that aware of. I knew that climate change was occurring but I didn’t know all the contributing factors in my daily life could build up and add to global warming. Just being aware has made me change my lifestyle drastically.”  Courtney Surovy NFHS ‘17

“Taking this class taught me how large of an impact humans have on the environment. It is hard to believe that just one person can make a change, but the more you know, the more you can take action to save the environment.” Emily Glueck NFHS ‘17

“After taking this class, I found myself constantly going home and sharing with my family what I learned. I wanted them to become as passionate as I became. This class has sparked my interest and motivated me to be more conscious of my actions and look at how all possible results can impact the Earth.”  Maya Scocozza NFHS ‘17

“This class has given me a newfound love for the world that I live in, inspiring me to help improve the quality of the environment for current and future generations by doing even simple things such as recycling.” Olivia Hanisch NFHS ‘17

“As an incoming freshman to UConn’s MEM program, a dual business and engineering major, this class will forever impact my actions in the product design industry. Every step I take in my career will include consideration on how to engineer a product that is both marketable as well as environmentally sustainable.” Hailey Altobelli NFHS ‘17

“Taking AP Environmental Science allowed me to evaluate the destructive choices humans, including myself, make on a daily basis and how it amounts to significant impacts on our global climate and the surrounding ecosystems. Even something as little as leaving your lights on in an empty room or leaving water running while brushing your teeth can cause negative impacts on the environment. When individuals refuse to change their smaller habits on smaller issues, it becomes difficult for widespread change to occur. The class opened my eyes to how little changes make a big impact.”                 Matt Trewartha NFHS ‘17

“I will be pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree via Rensselaer. A successful career to me will be one in which I have assisted in progressing the world environmentally and technologically.”  Matt Sousa NFHS ‘17

“By taking this class, I have realized how much everything impacts the environment. From the cosmetics we use to the food we purchase, we greatly impact the earth’s land and its resources. By working on making sustainable choices, we can make a big impact on the earth.” Hadley Starr NFHS ‘18

“When environmentally friendly energy options become economically beneficial to large corporations and industry, global sustainability will become a tangible goal.”                Kyle Van Vlack NFHS ‘17

“One thing I learned from this class is that little thing you do has an effect. Every bottle you throw out and every shower you take does affects the environment.”                      Leah Anderson NFHS ’17

“As someone who is interested in the field of policy making, this class greatly informed me regarding the hidden dangers in our treatment of the planet. I feel like I am much better educated about the harmful consequences of climate change, pollution, and many other topics.” Matt Rossi NFHS ‘17

“By taking AP Environmental Science, I have become more aware of the destructive effect humanity has on the planet, and thus the necessity of advocating for sustainability. If we wish to preserve the environment, we all must educate ourselves about the severity of climate change and do whatever we can to minimize the negative impact of our lifestyle; even the actions of one person can help make a difference. By becoming catalysts for positive change, we as a society will be one step closer to achieving harmony between humans and the environment.” Nicole Cennamo ‘17

“This class has helped me develop an understanding of the natural world which we live in, and as I move towards studying Biology in college, I believe I have the resources necessary to be successful and have an impact in the world.” Josh Sproule NFHS ‘17

“As a future Political Science major, learning about the massive environmental destruction caused by humans has taught me that fixing the environment should not be politicized, and we should all be committed to doing what is right for the environment.” Mike DaSilva NFHS ‘17

“After this class, I have grown to be able to be more conscientious about my actions and how I affect the world. I care more for the animals and their environment and now have a passion for protecting them as much as I can.” Emily O’Toole NFHS ‘17

“This class has encouraged me to take responsibility in helping to save our planet. I learned that everyday things such as long, hot showers or leaving the lights on actually contribute to the global problems we see today. Taking this class this year has definitely inspired me to take action in helping our planet survive.” – Jackson Lathrop NFHS ’17

“I have gained a lot of knowledge through this class that has helped me to fully understand the impact humans have on the environment, and how to prevent further harm to our world. As I plan to become a business major, this knowledge I now have will impact the choices I will make and influence how I live and go about my daily life, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint.” – Noah Alviti NFHS ’17

*footnote: This quote is actually a misquote of Aristotle.  It was used by Matt Light of the New England Patriots at his retirement speech.  Will Durant deserves the actual quote from his book “Ethics and the Nature of Happiness” where he paraphrased Aristotle’s words from “Nicomachaen Ethics.” 

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 3

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

DECK CREW

Tim Martin, Chief Boatswain, aboard the OREGON II, left his home near the Missouri River in Missouri for a life at sea and has never looked back.  Like many young people from the Central United States, he joined the Navy as a way to travel and see the rest of the world.  He was stationed on Whidbey Island in Washington State and when he left the Navy he became a commercial fisherman working out of Seattle to fish the in Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Tim left the west coast and the world of commercial fishing to join NOAA and worked for several years on ships out of NOAA Woods Hole Station in Massachusetts.   Eventually, through connections he made on the job, he was able to transfer to the Southeastern Fisheries group.  He has worked on several ships, but has been on the OREGON II for 12 years.  Tim likes his job for the variety and activity it provides, as well as opportunities to apply his mind to ways to make things work better or more smoothly.  He attributes much of the good working atmosphere on the ship to the stability of many crew members who have worked together for years.   As a long-time civilian mariner with NOAA he appreciates the importance of believing in what you are doing and being committed to being successful.

But, Tim Martin is not so one dimensional that you can know him as just a mariner.  Talking with him I learned that he is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes in literature.  He devours everything from travel accounts to true adventure, biographies, and historical accounts of exploration and settlement of the world.  He has traveled broadly and uses his reading time to continue to learn about the places he has visited.  He is a licensed diver and enjoys the underwater world as much as sailing on the surface of the sea.   I was fascinated to learn that he has dived to authentic pirate wrecks…quite a change from his underwater beginnings in the dark and brackish Pascagoula River.  Tim is a great example of someone who recognizes that his only limits are the ones he sets for himself.  That is a great legacy to leave for his family.

Chris Nichols, Lead Fisherman, got into marine work for the adventures.  Growing up he read classics like “Captains Courageous” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His years as a Boy Scout helped empower him with a can-do attitude that kept him from quitting when things got difficult.  After a mediocre high school career and his childhood years in West Palm Beach, Florida, hanging around the docks and fishing, his quest for travel and adventure led him first to commercial fishing and then to join the Navy.

After six years in the service, including training in water rescue, Chris left the Navy and started classes for work in the merchant marine industry.  As he worked toward earning his 100 ton master rating he discovered that using math, which had seemed unimportant and boring in high school, was critical for navigation.  Applying the things he was studying to real world problems made learning important.  The life-style structure of his military years helped him move fairly seamlessly into the shift work that became his routine aboard merchant ships.  The travel fed his sense of exploration and adventure.

Now, after 20 years working either on NOAA ships or for companies that contracted with NOAA, Chris still loves his job and his life style.  His experience in the merchant marine gave him the background to understand working on ships from the viewpoint of the wheel house and the deck.  He patiently explained to me that the job titles of people working on the deck crew are just positions for which eligible Able Bodied Seamen were hired.  They are not classification by skill or experience; they are job descriptions.  Each survey watch requires 3 crew members on deck to work equipment and support the scientists in deployment and retrieval of lines. Cooperation and communication are the most critical skills needed by everyone on the ship for success in carrying out their mission.

“NOAA has recently been experiencing a lack of interested, qualified applicants,” Chris told me.  “I think many young people lack the sense of adventure that makes life at sea attractive.”  He certainly demonstrates that desire for adventure: his eyes light up and an infectious grin spreads across his face as he talks about the places he’s been and the places he still wants to go.

The whole deck crew, including Chris Rawley, Mike Conway, Chuck Godwin, and James Rhue, are a lively, hard-working bunch.  They do their jobs, they have some fun doing them sometimes, and they like what they are doing.  Every time I was around them I could hear John Fogarty’s song “Rambunctious Boy” playing in my head and I ended up smiling and humming along!

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The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley

ENGINEERS

Thirty-six years ago Rich Brooks took the advice of his high school math and history teachers and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  The strict structure of the Academy helped him develop his study habits and learn the discipline needed to raise from a low C student a B+ student who took pride in his work.  He graduated with a degree in Marine Engineering, but spent time as a substitute teacher while deciding where he wanted to go with his career.  Currently he holds 3 chief engineer licenses: steam, motor and gasoline and is qualified to operate any watercraft.

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Richard Brooks

Eventually he started working on ships, spending a number of years in the Merchant Marine.   He worked on merchant transport ships contracted to our government to support Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf. For 10 years he worked on independent oil tankers on the West Coast, transporting oil and gasoline to and from various ports. He has been a 1st Engineer for NOAA for 2 years.

Rich enjoys the travel and adventure that are part of his career.  He likes visiting different cities and has been through both the Suez and Panama Canals in his travels.  It has been a long journey around the world from his childhood home in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama where he made his home base for the last 25 years.  He is proud that his work as an engineer has influenced his son to pursue a career in engineering, following his father’s example of hard work and sacrifice as the way to get ahead in life. Rich hopes to see more young people turn to careers in engineering, knowing as he does that the average age of marine engineers in this country is 58 years which means there will be openings for young people as they complete their training.  As for him, when he retires several years in the future he looks forward to moving closer to his father in Florida, going fishing and playing golf.

 

THE PEOPLE I MISSED INTERVIEWING:

My roommate, Chrissy Stepongzi, is a marine biologist and the person of whom I saw the least on this cruise.  She knows her job and was always eager to answer questions.  We just did not see each other often to talk because of being on opposite shifts and sharing the room.  She slept while I worked and visa-versa.  I appreciated her quick smile and well-developed sense of humor and wish we had been able to get better acquainted.

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The Night Crew before a shift change – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni

Fisherman Mike Conway has been working on ships for a long time.  He loves the ocean and loves the travel.  His willingness to make sure I learned and got opportunity to see things was really helpful and made me feel welcome.  Mike was always willing to grab my iPad and take pictures so I could be in them and he was the one that made sure I got to see the sky at night and appreciate the beauty of being on the ocean in one more way.

Fisherman Chris Rawley, quick to grin, but slow to talk, took some effort to get to know.  Chris was a fisherman on our shift and helped with everything from running the crane to pulling lines to wrestling sharks.  He was “born under a wandering star,” and loves to travel.  He’s a gypsy at heart.

James Rhue is another fisherman working on the deck crew.  He too was with the night shift so we didn’t cross paths often.  When we did talk he could always answer my questions and made me feel welcome.

Mike, Chris, and James are pictured in the Deck Crew photo above.

Mary Stratford was filling in on the deck crew this cruise.  She lives in Puerto Rico where she is a ceramic artist, but much of her life has been spent working in jobs that allow her to see the world.  Mary was helpful and friendly and always interesting to talk to.

2nd Engineer Darnell Doe, the quiet, friendly guy I ate breakfast with most mornings.  We shared a little conversation and watch the news over a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee.  I never turned out into a formal interview and didn’t take notes on our casual conversations.

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2nd Engineer Darnell Doe

3rd Engineer Sam Bessey was filling in a temporary vacancy.  He is a recent graduate of an academy in Maine and worked the opposite shift of mine so we had a few chances to talk a little, but not enough to call an interview.  I do know he wants to head for Hawaii and try to find work there after this cruise, but will head home to Maine to see family first.  Good luck in your new career Sam.

Roy Tolliver was our tech person.  I most often saw him walking from place to place on the decks, checking on electronic equipment and trying to troubleshoot computer problems when they arose.  Roy has worked on ships for many years and has been many places around the world.

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Roy Tolliver and Sam Bessey on the flying bridge as we moved into the harbor at Gulfport

O C Hill, Listed on the staff roster as a “wiper” was another one of the people who kept the ship running.  Our interactions were limited to friendly smiles and greetings.  When folks work in the engine room it is hard to find a time to talk with them, especially if shifts don’t match.

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Otha (O.C.) Hill

Valerie McCaskill, our cook and one of the most important people on the ship.  I know she has a daughter she was eager to get home to see.  I know she had very little warning that the previous cook would not be on this voyage so she had to step in in a hurry.  I know that she has a beautiful smile and makes legendary macaroni and cheese!  She kept us very happy!

Chuck Godwin would normally be working on this ship as a skilled fisherman on the deck crew, but he worked in the kitchen with Valerie this trip to fill an important empty spot and keep us all well-fed.  His irrepressible sense of fun and lively conversation kept us all hopping.  His career has spanned time in the Coast Guard as well as years with NOAA.  His is a proud new grandpa.

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Valerie McCaskill and Chuck Godwin in the galley of NOAA Ship OREGON II

That I did not get to know everyone on the ship is my loss.  Everyone that I met was friendly and helpful.  It was a true pleasure to meet and work with these great people.

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 2

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

WHO WORKS ON THE OREGON II?  Part 2: THE SCIENTISTS

Meet Lisa Jones, a career marine scientist who came to her present position as a Research Fisheries Biologist for NOAA from a life of working with animals.  Born in Memphis and raised in the mountains of east Tennessee, she did her undergraduate work at Emory University, and then earned her Master of Science at East Tennessee State.

Lisa has lived and worked in Colorado where she trained horses for a while.  She moved to California and worked for the Department of Fish and Game to earn money for grad school and eventually ended up in at the National Marine Fisheries lab in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  She started there as a student intern and 19 years later is working as a research scientist for NOAA.  Her schedule of being out on the water during the summer and home during the winter months suits her well.

Ten years ago Lisa got interested in doing agility training with a rescue dog she kept, an Australian Shepherd.  Since then she has acquired 3 more Aussies through rescue and adoption (one dog left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.)  Lisa’s interest in dog training and agility trial competition helps her recharge her energy and enthusiasm each winter so she is ready to go back to sea in the spring.  Her big goal is to make it to the national agility dog competition trial with her Aussies.

Lisa’s advice for students interested in a marine science career is to do well in math and science, but do not neglect developing good research and communication skills: reading, writing and speaking.  In a science career you will need to be able to work as a team member, report on your work and develop applications for grant funding.  While you are young, get out and volunteer to get experience.  Take internships, volunteer at an aquarium, a science camp or as a field work helper.  Getting good field work experience is important even if you don’t plan a research career.  It is hard to run support for researchers and set policy for others if you don’t have a fairly deep understanding of their jobs.  “Always ask questions.  Demonstrate your interest.  The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.”

Lisa has been my go-to person for everything I needed to know about living and working on the OREGON II.  From making sure I met everyone, to teaching me to use and care for our equipment, to teaching me to cut mackerel and bait hooks, she has been right there.  The success of this experience for me has been mostly due to having good teachers and being with a group of people willing to share their experience and expertise.

Kevin Rademacher, Fisheries Research Biologist, started out riding dolphins at Marine Life in Gulfport, Mississippi!  He spent several years doing dive shows and working with performing marine mammals before he got into research work.  Kevin was graduated from University of Southern Mississippi with major emphasis in biology and fisheries science and a minor in chemistry.  After graduation he worked restoring antiques with his father while he applied for jobs in the marine science industry.

Kevin started out on NOAA Ship CHAPMAN, a 127’ stern trawler.  In 1988 he spent 240 days at sea as a survey technician while earning certifications with survey equipment, deck equipment, as a diver, an EMT, worked the helm watch and corrected charts.  Then he moved into the lab working with the marine mammal group, ground fish and reef surveys.  He has chosen to continue working on reef fish surveys because it gives him the opportunity to work with cutting edge equipment like underwater cameras as they have evolved from simple video to using sophisticated arrays of four sets of camera groups, each cluster including a stereo black and white set and one color camera to give the fullest possible depth and detail 360⁰ images.  Underwater work is Kevin’s main interest, but there are only so many research biologists so his job assignments have been varied.  It was fortunate for me that he was assigned to work on the long-line survey this trip so I could learn from him.

During my time on the OREGON II Kevin has been a willing source of any information I request about the marine life we are seeing.  He has a copious memory for facts and an encyclopedic knowledge of the appearance, habits, and names of the animals in the ocean.  No matter what we brought up on our hooks, bony fish, sharks, algae, coral or shellfish, he knew them by common and scientific name and provided interesting facts to help me remember them.  Kevin’s passion for his job is obvious in the way he attends to details and shares his knowledge.  His irrepressible sense of humor made the afternoons baiting hooks with smelly fish in the hot sun an adventure instead of a chore.

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The Day Shift Science Crew – Kevin Rademacher, TAS Barney Peterson, Lisa Jones, Mike Cyrana, and Kasea Price

Trey Driggers, Research Fisheries Biologist, first got interested in aquatic animals because of alligators.  Growing up on a lake in Florida he was constantly warned to stay away from the water because there were alligators…the kind of warning guaranteed to intrigue any curious youngster.  About then, the movie “Jaws” was released and the media blitz that accompanied it drew his imagination toward an even scarier predator.  His interest grew and he remembers two books in particular that kept it alive: “The Dictionary of Sharks” and “Shark Attack.”  From that point on his career path seemed to point straight toward marine biology.

Trey put in four years studying a basic liberal arts program at Clemson University.  He remembers a Smithsonian presentation called “Shark in Question,” which had a chapter addressing the question “How can people become shark experts.”  He entered the University of South Carolina and spent 2 years taking nothing but science courses to get enough credits and background knowledge to enter a Master’s program in Marine Science. He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience.   Trey completed his thesis on yellowfin tuna and was ready to move on.  Advisors warned him away from focusing on charismatic marine fauna, but his father had taught him to push back against barriers and pursue his goals.  He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience.  He spent 3 years earning his Ph.D. and worked in a post-doctoral position while looking for a research job.  His previous volunteer work on surveys gathering information on blacknose sharks helped him get a foot in the door to get a contract position at the NOAA Fisheries Research Lab in Pascagoula.  He continues research to add to our understanding of sharks and enjoys his job because he loves the challenge of not knowing all the answers.

Trey’s advice to young people is to get involved in volunteering in a variety of ways so you can discover where your interests lie.  That volunteer experience can demonstrate interest that will set you apart from other applicants when it comes to applying for the limited number of positions that may be available in your chosen field.

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Trey Driggers, head of the Night Shift Science Team, working in the dry lab

VOLUNTEERS

There were six unpaid volunteers aboard the ship this cruise.  They provide important manpower to get the research done while gaining knowledge and experience to transfer to other areas of their lives.  Most often they are students who are gathering data to use for research projects, working toward advanced degrees.  Sometimes there will be a volunteer like me, a very lucky Teacher at Sea who has been chosen by NOAA…….. to participate in the cruise to learn about the work and careers in NOAA to take that knowledge back and share it with our students and the general public.

Mike Cyrana is a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University, working toward his PhD in Marine Biology.  This is the second year he has worked with fisheries crews in the Gulf as he compiles data for his research.  Mike was on my watch so we worked together 12 hours each day and got to swap stories and share information.  He shows a passion for his work that lets you know he has chosen a career he loves.  Mike is to blame for introducing me to chocolate tacos….my newest vice!

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Mike showing off the catch

Lydia Crawford is also a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University.  She is doing research about sharks for her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Lydia was on the midnight to noon shift so our paths crossed very seldom.  She is knowledgeable and willingly shared what she knows to help make our jobs easier.  She also has been out on research cruises as a volunteer before and helped us newbies learn the ropes.

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The Night Shift at work – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni

Kasea Price, working for her MS at University of Southern Mississippi was on day shift with me and helped me wrangle sharks, dissect for otoliths and collect any number of specimens to bring home to my class.  On one of our last days working together she found out that she has been hired to work for one of her professors at school, a job that will make it possible for her to complete her degree without piling up huge loans.  We all celebrated for Kasea.

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Kasea Price showing off a large Red Grouper

Toni Mancinelli is the youngest of the volunteers.  She is an undergraduate, just starting her junior year at The University of Tampa.  She felt very fortunate to be accepted for this cruise and worked hard to learn and contribute while she participated.  Her happy attitude and willingness to help made her a pleasure to know and work with.

 

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 1

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

WHO WORKS ON NOAA SHIP OREGON II? (Part 1)

In the last few days I have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with some of the great people aboard the OREGON II.  The variety of backgrounds and experiences provides richness to the culture we work in.

Firstly, there is our Commanding Officer, David Nelson.  Upon meeting him when I came aboard I felt immediately welcomed by his warm, informal greeting, “Hi Teach.” His drawl gives him away as a life-long southerner.  His friendliness and casual manner in conversation make it easy to see him as just one of the people who work here. BUT, make no mistake: Dave Nelson is a smart, perceptive, capable leader who understands ships and crews from the keel up.

CO Dave Nelson’s route to command has not been the typical college to NOAA Corp Officer track.  He got where he is today by working through the ranks.  After high school graduation he worked on commercial long-line and shrimp boats in the Gulf, gradually moving on to oil field supply boats.  At some point he decided to look into marine work that offered worker benefits and more chance of vertical advancements.  Dave had earned his card as an AB (Able Bodied Seaman) and been captain of fishing boats. He hired on as a Skilled Fisherman at NOAA and began a new phase of his career.  His skills set matched the needs of NOAA well enough that he moved from deck hand to deck boss to 3rd, then 2nd officer and in 1998 he got his First Mate’s papers and became part of the wheel team.

Advancement at that point began to require more formal training and certification.  He had had to invest 700 days at sea with NOAA to get that first license.  The big prize became the Master rank requiring an additional 1000 days at sea and rigorous formal testing.  He headed to Seattle where he enrolled at Crawford Nautical School, lived aboard NOAA Ship RAINIER at Sand Point, and spent seven days a week for 10 weeks immersed in preparing to take tests for the Master rank.  It was a proud day in 2003 when he called his family to report success.

Today, Dave is one of only two people in command of NOAA ships who are not NOAA Corps officers.  He brings to his job a depth of knowledge that positions him well to understand the challenges and rewards at every level on his ship.  He appreciates the continuity possible for him because he is not subject to the mandatory rotation of postings every 2 or 3 years as are members of the Corps.  He has the first-hand experience to know where the rough spots may be and to address those proactively.  I am not saying other ship’s Captains don’t have those same abilities, but CO Nelson has truly earned his position working from the bottom up.

captain-dave-nelson-on-the-bridge
Captain Dave Nelson on the bridge as we came into Gulfport, Mississippi

Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Lecia Salerno, born in Halifax, PA, has loved the ocean for as long as she can remember, back to family vacations at Delaware beaches in her early childhood.  She vividly recalls running joyfully into the water and being lifted high in the air by family members so the waves wouldn’t crash over her head!  Later, a family visit to Sea World may have been the start of her fascination with marine mammals.

In her soft southern accent, no doubt developed during her undergraduate years in college at Myrtle Beach, SC, she tells of graduating with a degree in Marine Biology in 2001.  She returned to Pennsylvania where she spent the summer as a volunteer at Hershey Park before moving on to Gulfport, MS, in 2002.  There she trained sea lions which she remembers as uniquely intelligent and interesting to work with.  Training dolphins: not so fun and that changed her attitude about working with captive animals.   She began to see that type of work as a dead-end so she started looking at other options.  That is when she discovered NOAA Corps.  For her it seemed the perfect mix of military-style structure and science at sea.

Now, several years into her NOAA career, she views her role as being a “science facilitator.”  Her daily work is with management of people and resources.  She is mostly in an office and does not work in the science lab.  Rather, she helps organize the support necessary to make the science at sea possible.

               Lieutenant Reni Rydlewicz worked a lot of jobs in a lot of places before she became a NOAA Corps Officer.  Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she attended the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and graduated with a degree in Ecology Field Biology.  An early goal of hers was a move to Alaska so after graduation she worked as a contracted observer on commercial fishing boats in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.  NOAA Fisheries employs regional contractors all over the country so next she moved to Chincoteague, Virginia, where she also worked as an observer on fishing boats. Then, for a few years, she was back in Wisconsin conducting seasonal work for the state Department of Natural Resources collecting data on recreational catches on Lake Michigan including salmon and steelhead.

Eventually Reni moved to New Jersey to a position as a coordinator for the mid-Atlantic observer program, working hand in hand with the commercial fleets and managing biologists aboard the vessels to gather data for NOAA Fisheries.  After a change in contractors a few years later, she again found herself in Virginia, this time working as a dockside monitor for recreational species.

By this time Reni had spent almost a decade as a contract worker on NOAA jobs.  A retired NOAA Corp Captain in her local American Legion suggested that she apply to NOAA Corps based upon her experience.  With that encouragement she met with a NOAA recruiter on a trip to Washington DC and has now been working on fisheries research ships as a NOAA Corps Officer for over seven years. She is currently the Operations Officer aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.  Reni has considered returning to college to earn an advanced degree, but juggling work and school can sometimes be a difficult process.  She will soon be due to rotate to a land-based assignment for the next three years and is considering positions on the West Coast, continuing her work with NOAA Fisheries.

Reni’s advice to students is to take lots of science and math classes.  Science is a broad subject and can be applied in many different ways to so look around and find what really captures your interest. Finding jobs in science fields can be very competitive so get as much education and experience as you can.  A career in science can be one that you really love, but it likely will not ever make you rich.  How do you decide what to study?  “Well,” she says, “Think of something you want to know more about and then go to work finding answers to your own questions.  Go with you interests!”

Ensign Brian Yannutz is another young person from the central part of the United States who has chosen marine science as a career.   Raised in Colorado, he went to University of Hawaii with assistance from the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program.  He earned his degree and presented his work in Washington DC, then returned to Hawaii where he worked on a temporary job in the NOAA Marine Debris Program.  In 2014 he applied to NOAA Corps and was graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in December 2014.

Brian’s first assignment is the OREGON II where he will be until December of this year.  His land-based assignment will be as an Operations Officer at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California.  His job there will have him working with schedules and boat maintenance.  He will be the officer in charge of deployments on the two research boats stationed there, one a fisheries boat and the other a diving platform.

Outside of his work for NOAA, Brian is an enthusiastic runner.  He ran cross country in school and since then has run marathons and ironman races.  His advice to young people getting ready to find a career is to “follow your dreams and passions.”  His have led him to a career in NOAA where he can travel, learn and grow with his job.

Ensign David Reymore can be described as the “renaissance man.”  He grew up mostly on a small family ranch in Tonopah, NV.  His high school years were spent rodeo riding: team roping, calf roping and saddle bronc riding.  After high school he continued to enjoy rodeo as he worked as a farm mechanic rather than enter the family construction business.  Eventually he enrolled at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and earned a degree in aeronautical science.  While in college he joined Air Force ROTC, but after a visit from a Navy ROTC recruiter, he switched to the Navy and earned a scholarship to Officer Candidate School.   Dave remained in with the Navy, on active duty, and then as a civilian flight test engineer until 2008.

The next step was to enroll in premed training at University of West Virginia, but the demands of supporting his young and growing family made it more important to settle immediately into a job with benefits and advancement opportunities.  For the next several years, after completing training, he worked as an engineer for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, running mainly between Vancouver, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Seattle, WA.

Still eager to learn and grow, NOAA Corps caught his eye and he spent 5 months at the US Coast Guard Academy in officer corps training to become an Ensign in NOAA Corps.  What’s next?   Dave has his heart set on getting back in the air and has been accepted into training to join the NOAA Aviation team.  Maybe he will be flying small planes that do aerial surveys of marine mammals, using helicopters, or even flying with the Hurricane Hunters.  At this point, the sky is the limit.

 

Alex Miller, The Sea Around Us, The Seafloor Below Us, June 7, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL
Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 27 – June 10, 2015 

Our ship.
Our ship.

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast
Date: Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Weather Data:

  • Air Temperature: 12.4°C
  • Water Temperature: 13.3°C
  • Sky Conditions: Overcast
  • Wind Speed (knots/kts) and Direction: 22 kts, N
  • Latitude and Longitude: 45°59’62”, 124°33’97”

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The only piece of equipment on the Shimada I haven’t told you about is the box corer. Jason Phillips has been using the box corer to collect, well, box cores. Box cores are samples of the bottom of the ocean or sea floor (also, seabed). The box core is lowered to various depths (400 m, 300 m, 200 m, 100 m and 60 m), then survey technicians, Jaclyn Mazzella or Phil White, open the jaws of the machine and scoop up a mouthful of whatever is on the bottom, including benthic (referring to bottom of the ocean) creatures.

Once surfaced, Jason subsamples the sediment, sand, mud, small pieces of rocks and debris, removing just a small part of it and storing it until our return to land. Subsampling allows scientists to measure a manageable amount and then generalize about the larger remainder; while this is limiting because it assumes uniformity throughout the box core, the alternative is looking through each piece of sediment individually, something that is time and cost prohibitive. However, he does invest the time necessary to pick out all the creatures collected by the box corer.

Back at his lab, Jason will analyze the sediment, and then he or a colleague will identify all the tiny, tiny organisms, living things, found in the core.

Below, you can see Jason processing the core. He has washed down the smaller pieces of sediment like clay and sand through the holes in the mesh sieve. The sieve traps the smaller pieces of rock and even smaller animals, allowing him to pick them out and place them into preservative for processing when he returns to shore.

Jason and Amanda pick out benthic organisms from a core sample.
Jason and Amanda pick out benthic organisms from a core sample.

Through the study of box cores, Jason hopes to learn more about the creatures that live on the bottom of the sea. He told me many scientists who are doing box cores are simply collecting the sediment for study, they are not looking to see what organisms live in it, and therefore, there is a lot we don’t know. He says, “I would not be surprised if we found a new species in these cores.”

Take a look at some of the creatures Jason has unearthed on this cruise:

Because he has been collecting this data for two years, there are some patterns emerging about sediment conditions in different areas of the seabed. This information may help inform the placement and construction of a proposed wind farm off the Oregon coast.

For at least one day of our cruise, Jason also put out hooked long-lines to try and catch albacore, a type of tuna. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t biting. While albacore are unique among most tuna in that they prefer cooler water, Jason says the late-spring waters off the Oregon coast are still a little too cold for them and since they can swim up to 100 miles a day, they can easily find some more comfortable temperatures. The albacore that have been caught on previous cruises as part of this ongoing study are being tested for radioisotopes that may have originated from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011.

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And, of course, there’s always fun to be had on the Shimada. Below you can watch a video of Jason unearthing a pupa utility-worm from one of his box cores; scientific name (Travisia pupa), affectionately known as the “stink worm.” Will decides we need a closer, um, look.

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Tyler Jackson, a Master’s student at Oregon State University has been working on fisheries genetics since he was an undergraduate. His interest in marine science began when he was a wee recreational fisherman’s son growing up on the US-Canada border in Port Huron, MI.

In collecting megalopae, a larval form of Dungeness crab, he is trying to determine how closely related the Dungeness crab of areas off the Oregon coast are. He has studied population genetics among adult Dungeness crabs along the West Coast. He hypothesizes that if adult crabs in an area are closely related, larvae settling in the nearshore would be too. However, he tells me that it is not well understood how crab larvae travel throughout the ocean, and then for some to make it back to nearshore and settle to the bottom, maybe near where they came from. Perhaps these extended families get scattered throughout the seas, perhaps not.

Tyler Jackson, Oregon State University
Tyler Jackson, Oregon State University

At the first few stations, the tows were not bringing back enough individuals to give Tyler a large enough sample size to provide a reliable assessment of whether the crabs in that part of the ocean are related or not. Unfortunately, on this cruise Tyler did not get a sample size large enough to use.

In the following video you can see that, after sieving the neuston, Tyler found two Dungeness megalopae (too small of a sample size to test) but quite a lot of red rock crab megalopae. These little creatures are fascinating and pretty adorable.

I also interviewed Tyler about his work and life at sea. You can hear our talk below.

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Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was thinking about the fact that my time on the Shimada is quickly coming to a close. I was trying to find a way to get even more information from the scientists on board to you. Taped interviews seemed like the perfect solution. I began conducting them yesterday and, after finishing three, realized I’d spoken to three of the four other women of the science crew. And so, here we are having a conversation about gender equity in the sciences.

IMG_9163
The ladies of the science crew. From left: Samantha Zeman, Amanda Gladics, Emily Boring, Brittney Honisch, Alexandra Miller

Using data from a longitudinal study done by the National Science Foundation, in 1973, 88% of doctorate holders working at the university level in life sciences (includes marine biology) were male, just 12% were female. Hearteningly, women have become much more well represented in the life sciences; in 2010, these numbers were 58% and 42%, respectively‡. You can see this same kind of near gender balance on board the Shimada: of the twelve (counting me) members of the science crew, five are women. Women are also well-represented in this blog post.

You can see the numbers breakdown for all the science and engineering fields here.

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I interviewed the four other women of the science crew about their research and life on board the ship, as well as being a woman in the field of life science. You can hear those interviews below.

If you would like to find the parts of the conversations about gender equality in marine science, you may use the time stamps below.

Table of Contents:

  • Amanda Gladics, Faculty Research Assistant, OSU Seabird Oceanography Lab (13.55)
  • Samantha Zeman, Graduate Student and Research Assistant, University of Oregon (7.00)
  • Brittney Honisch, Marine Scientist, Hatfield Marine Science Center (8.50)
  • Emily Boring, Sophomore, Yale University (I did not ask Emily as she is still an undergraduate)

‡Compare this to the numbers for the physical sciences, in 1973, 95% of doctorates employed in academia were male, compared to 5% female; in 2010, 79% male to 21% female.

Additional Reading:

“Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” New York Times, 2013

And no less than 4 days later…

“Tim Hunt Resigns After Comments” New York Times, 2015

Twitter Campaign #distractinglysexy

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Question of the Day:

Why are there still so few women in science? What can be done to encourage girls to pursue, and stay, in STEM fields?

Mary Cook, January 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 4, 2005

Location: Latitude 49°28.60’S, Longitude 74°26.42’W
Time: 0835

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 10.34
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.83
Relative Humidity (percent) 74.17
Air Pressure (millibars) 997.56
Wind Direction (degrees) 226.45
Wind Speed (knots) 6.89
Cloud Cover: 8/8 Low Stratus
Precipitation: Steady rain
Sunrise 0559
Sunset 2205

Question of the Day

What does NOAA stand for?

Quote of the Day

“Midwesterners make some of the best sailors.” Tim Wright, Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN.

Science Log

Today I’ve conducted several interviews of the ship’s officers, merchant marines, and Chilean channel pilots. I’d like to thank each person for giving their time and for being enthusiastic and open in sharing about themselves and their work.

Interview: Captain Tim Wright

Captain Wright shares with us that growing up as a boy in land-locked Kirkwood, Missouri he loved to read about the ocean and romanticized about becoming a sea-faring man. He joined the Navy at 18 and served in the Vietnam War. After his time in the service he went to the University of Washington and obtained a degree in Physical Oceanography. Captain Wright achieved this rank in October of 2003 and has been the Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN since February, 2004. Captain Wright says that his most important duties are the safety and security of the crew and ship. His responsibility is a 24 hour a day job for navigation and safe overside operations. Captain Wright shares that his most enjoyable time with NOAA was when he worked three years in Paris for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It was a time when he could have his family living with him. Another very enjoyable time was his stint as the Captain of the KA’IMIMOANA, a NOAA ship stationed in Pearl Harbor. They deployed buoys along the equatorial Pacific. Captain Wright says he loves his work and wouldn’t dream of having any other career. He highly recommends oceanography and the seafaring life for the person who enjoys the outdoors, adventures, and challenges.

Interview: Navigator Jeffery Shoup

Navigator and Bridge Officer Jeffery Shoup grew up with two older sisters in Oak Park, Illinois. He obtained a Chemistry/Chemistry and Physics Education degree from “Miami of Ohio” in Oxford, Ohio. He considers his responsibilities to be standing watch, driving the ship and laying out the trackline for the scientists. After the scientists turn in a statement telling him where they want to go to do their projects, Mr. Shoup maps out a safe and efficient course for the ship. He has been with NOAA for three years and considers this cruise to be the highlight. Since he left Charleston, he has traveled through the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan will be great place to get off the ship. He has also been to the Canary Islands and Iceland. Mr. Shoup says that persons who aspire to the seafaring lifestyle should be independent, self sufficient and able to get along well with others. He says the only negative thing about going to sea is that the family relationships suffer because of your absence for long periods of time. This is Jeffery Shoup’s last cruise. He’s taking a new position in Maryland to work for Search and Rescue Satellite (SarSat). This is where they receive messages from beacons on ships and aircraft in distress. The SarSat beacons use GPS to locate the needy vessel and then personnel proceed with the rescue.

Interview: Ensign Silas Ayers

Junior Officer Silas Ayers grew up in Pennsylvania as one of five children. He has been with NOAA for one year. Before that, he served three years in the Army and attended school for eight years at Westchester University in Pennsylvania where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Earth and Space Education and a Master’s Degree in Physical Science.

Ensign Ayers says that he chose this career and way of life to gain real world experiences to become better equipped for a teaching career. He considers his responsibilities on the ship to be ship safety, damage control, and property accountability. Mr. Ayers says the most fascinating experience for him has been the personalities aboard the ship. “I’m a ‘people’ person not a ‘place’ person.” The human dynamics involved in living aboard a seagoing vessel are fascinating to him.

Interview: Jim Melton

Mr. Jim Melton is a pilot, a lookout and a deckhand. He is a merchant marine and works under the Department of Commerce. Mr. Melton grew up in Florida and has been going out to sea since he was about three years old. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1970. Mr. Melton has a colorful and exciting life of doing all sorts of work such as pipefitting, welding, grooming ski resort slopes, farming, being a real working cowboy, and of course all kinds ship work. He shares that his most fascinating experiences have been at sea. He loves it. But he also shares that it’s not the life for everyone. It’s lonely and hard on relationships. The sad part for a father at sea is not being there to raise your kids. He considers his father to be his inspiration because he was a hard worker, a jack-of-all-trades, and an adventurer.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Luis Holley

Mr. Luis Holley of Reñaca, Chile has been a Patagonian Channels and Magellan Straits pilot for 4.5 years. Before that he was in the Chilean Navy for 33 years and retired at the rank of Captain. Mr. Holley shared with me that before one becomes a pilot he must have certain credentials. These credentials include being an advanced Captain in the Chilean Navy or the Chilean Merchant Navy. He said that they often use the channels for navigation and military exercises. If one has the credentials then that person may apply to the Chilean Coast Guard for the position of pilot. The Coast Guard puts them through a three week course of simulations and real navigation through the passages. There are only 88 channel pilots.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Alex Waghorn

Mr. Alex Waghorn has been a pilot for the Patagonian Channels and the Magellan Straits for three years. He makes 18-20 passes through here per year. Mr. Waghorn shared with me that to become a pilot for these channels you must be ever vigilant, memorize charts and become very familiar with the passageways. He said overconfidence is dangerous and he treats every trip just as if it were his first time.

Personal Log

I awoke at 0530 in eager anticipation of passing through the English Narrows. It is a cold, foggy, rainy morning. I can see my breath. It’s cold enough that even the “die-hards” have to come in to warm up and get a cup of hot chocolate. The English Narrows are narrow. We were so close to the land, I could see the individual leaves of the trees! Just this morning in the span of one hour, I saw more waterfalls cascading down the mountains and plunging into the sea than I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I started to count them, but as the ship rounded every bend, there were more and more of them, so I just gave up on the count and enjoyed the view. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.

There’s something I’ve come realize about the RONALD H. BROWN: this is a boatload full of map-lovers! I’ve never been so surrounded with people, like myself, who love to read maps. They are magnetically attracted to maps. And when they’re reading a map, it’s like they’re being transported to that place and can visualize it as though they are really there.

It’s ironically funny that yesterday, I was on the bridge and I spied a new and different kind of map. So I strolled over to get a closer look. It was a detailed chart of the Patagonian Channels and the Straits of Magellan! I smiled and said, “I want a map like that!” Ensign Ayers said, “You and everyone else on this ship.” I realized I wasn’t the only person who had an interest in that map. I soon discovered that these maps are printed especially for the Chilean pilots who guide ships safely through these passageways. Hopefully, there’s a way to get my hands on a copy.

Now, wouldn’t that be something? ?

This evening as I sit here and ponder all the day’s happenings, I think about the remoteness of this place. How we’re one little ship seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The land and water and sky are beautiful and cold and cloudy and ………….. empty of people. I look at those massive, worn, eroded mountains with snow and blue-hued glaciers and realize that I can’t even fathom the magnitude of the powers that have formed them. It causes me to recognize my place. The reality is I’m weak and small and made of dust. And that I have absolutely no jurisdiction over the driving forces behind the natural cycle of Earth. The Earth is essential for my fleshly existence but I’m not at all essential for Earth’s existence.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Kathy Virdin, July 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 22, 2004

Latitude: 55 degrees 39’N.
Longitude: 157 degrees 54’W.
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 270 degrees W.
Wind speed: 6 kts.
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Sea water temperature: 12.8 C.
Sea level pressure: 1013.0 mb.
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed several crew members, which gave me a much better perspective of the extent of work that is being conducted on the RAINIER. I first spoke with Jeremy Taylor, who is a survey technician whose job is to collect data on the ocean floor depths for the purpose of updating nautical charts. The RAINIER is dedicated to survey work that can enable all maritime vessels to successfully maneuver the ocean waters. As a survey technician, Jeremy is considered a scientist on board since the data he gathers is used by the scientific community. He collects the data from the multi-beam swaths and cleans it by deleting invalid or weak information, then sends it to other branches of NOAA (such as the cartographers) who review it, compare it to current nautical charts and then update those charts based on the new data. What is amazing to me is that the RAINIER does survey work in areas which may not have been surveyed since the 1800’s and have only had a few soundings listed. Their work is vital to commerce, fisheries management and the fishing industry. Jeremy said what he enjoys most about his job is being in Alaska, having the opportunity to go out in launches and receiving good data. He feels his job is extremely important since scientists need this data to find the habitats of various marine species. One example he gave was the fact that they can chart seamounts which are an area that contain a lot of marine life. This gives data that could help scientists discover new habitats for various species. Jeremy recommends a degree in hydrography to best prepare for this work, but also maintains that a degree in any area of science would be good basic preparation and on-the-job training would be supplied.

Next, I interviewed Briana Welton who is a Junior Officer, an Ensign in the Corps. She has a degree in math which has helped her greatly in her work. She is undergoing training to be an Officer of the Deck who will drive the ship. She also participates in the hydrographic surveys. She recommends students applying to the Maritime Marine Academy which is in New York. Briana loves the experience of being a hydrographic pioneer, as they are often charting unmeasured waters. She also loves being at sea and says it’s exciting to drive the ship. There are several divisions of ships that NOAA operates, such as the oceanographic studies, hydrographic and fisheries. The information gained by a hydrographic ship is first and foremost to be used for nautical charts, which are used by all mariners, from small fishing boats to large Navy vessels. The RAINIER also takes bottom samples that they can process in their lab to determine content and physical features of the ocean floor. The CDTs that they lower give temperature, salinity and density information to scientists that enable them to look for variations in the ocean climate that will affect marine habitats. Briana loves working on a ship and being part of a close-knit community.

Personal Log

This morning I thoroughly enjoyed talking with several crew members about their work and getting new information about all the facets of ship life. This afternoon I plan to work on lesson plans and tonight I’ll watch the survey technicians scan and clean up the data that comes in from the two launches that went out today. I also hope for some time to do more research on the complexities of the mission of NOAA and study some nautical charts. It’s amazing to me that I can walk out on deck at 10:30 at night and it will still be light. In Alaska in the summer there are about 19 hours of daylight.

Wow!