Mission: Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS)
Area of Cruise: Pacific
Ocean, Northern and Central California Coast
Date: July 17, 2019
year my summer is coming to an end with a bang!
Tomorrow I will drive over to Sausalito, California to join a team of
scientists on a research cruise as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. Over the course of the next week I will be on
the deck of R/V Fulmar, a NOAA research vessel, off the coast of
California in the Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine
Sanctuaries. From what I have learned so
far, this high nutrient area of the ocean attracts a lot of different forms of
life. Whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and
a wide variety of sea birds all migrate to this region to feed on the many forms
of prey that thrive here.
Scientific data collected on this trip will contribute to the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS), a long-term research project which started back in 2004. This unique project is studying the offshore ecosystem in two National Marine Sanctuaries, Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones. Three times each year scientists systematically collect data, and the resulting dataset shows how the ocean environment is changing over time, and how various populations of organisms are responding. The data also helps scientists understand how to better protect the National Marine Sanctuary ecosystems (learn more at www.accessoceans.org).
Over the course of our 8-day cruise, scientists on the ship will collect data along 11 transects (according to the plans, we will not be collecting data on transects 8-10 on this map). As the ship moves along each transect, various types of data will be recorded, including counts of what can be seen above water (birds, marine mammals, ships, and marine debris like trash, fishing gear, etc…) and what is underneath the surface (plankton, krill, fish, and nutrients). In addition, we will collect data on ocean salinity, temperature, and acidity. I can’t wait to share information about what I see and learn on this adventure.
My interest in joining this research trip is both personal and professional. I grew up with family members that are keen observers of nature. My dad is an avid bird watcher who diligently kept a life list and my mom finds great pleasure in observing and identifying flowers and plants. While I can appreciate these interests, the environment under the ocean waves is what has always captivated my attention. Although I grew up in the desert of Tucson, AZ, I had the opportunity to learn how to SCUBA dive from a high school teacher and I have been hooked on learning about the animals in the ocean ever since. My personal favorites are Giant Manta Rays and Harlequin Shrimp. The opportunity to briefly step into the shoes of a marine scientist is something I am really looking forward to.
I work at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland, CA, a public school that serves a uniquely diverse population (in any given year we have more than 20 different home languages spoken by our students and their families). As an educator in this amazing place I aim to support our students in growing their personal skills so that they can become the creative leaders our community will need in the future. While the marine sanctuaries I will be visiting on this trip are practically in our backyard, they can also seem a world away from daily life in Oakland. Yet, our daily lives have a huge impact on the ocean environment. By participating as a NOAA Teacher at Sea on the ACCESS cruise, I am excited to gain first-hand research experience in my “backyard” and be inspired with new ways to help make this information come to life in our classrooms.
the next week I will happily share what we are up to on the boat. I would also love to bring questions to the
research team, so please send any you have my way!
Did You Know?
Balloons are the most common type of trash spotted from the research boat! Helium-filled balloons easily wriggle out of the hands or knots meant to hold them down and float high into the sky. I’ve watched many a balloon do just that and wondered, what happens to those balloons once they are out of sight? Convection currents in the air eventually deposit those same balloons into the ocean, where they become dangerous hazards. Marine animals can eat the balloons by mistake and die. Hopefully we’ll see way more whales than balloons on this trip!?! Stay tuned…
Mission: Leg III of SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 2, 2019
“There are many good
fishermen and some great ones. But there is only one you.”
–Ernest Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea)
As I sit at my home computer, my mind is racing with thoughts of what I need to do before leaving for Mississippi. My family doesn’t quite know what I am doing aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II, not that I am sure either! They vacillate between images of cramped, hot quarters portrayed in old World War II movies like Das Boot (1981), which is about a German submarine crew. In contrast to the sailors traversing icy, choppy waters as in the reality TV show Deadliest Catch, which is about King Crab fishermen in Alaska’s Bering Sea. I am not sure my time aboard Oregon II will be either, but perhaps they will think me braver if I leave that picture in their minds ahead of my trip [wink, wink].
However, before I talk about my trip, I should take a step back and talk about where I came. I am from Oklahoma, one of the most landlocked areas of North America. I grew up in Oklahoma (both Tulsa and Oklahoma City), but have had many other experiences since then. I have been teaching at the collegiate level for 15 years. I mostly instruct high school students taking concurrent enrollment classes and community college students working on undergraduate general education requirements. I teach regional geography, folklife and traditional culture, and introduction to the humanities at Oklahoma State University—Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) and Oklahoma City Community College. I am lead faculty in geography at OSU-OKC.
I earned my BA
from Sarah Lawrence College in New York (1994). I studied visual arts,
primarily painting and filmmaking, and cultural studies. I earned my MA in Folk
Studies from Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green (1998), and I earned my
PhD in Geography from the University of Oklahoma, Norman (2015). Through my
education and early adult life, I lived coast to coast in seven different
states. This education prepared me to work in the field of public history,
historic interpretation, community development, and arts administration in
addition to teaching at the collegiate level. Before teaching, I worked in
Washington, DC for Ralph Nader (yes, the clean water, clean air, clean
everything guy…oh, and he ran for president). I worked for several historic sites
and cultural agencies, including Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky Museum,
Historic Carnton, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. I have also worked in
education administration. I served as the director the Oklahoma Center for Arts
Education for the University of Central Oklahoma, as executive director of the
Oklahoma Folklife Council for the Oklahoma Historical Society, and recently, as
Director of Community Resources for Western Heights Public Schools. At Western
Heights, I have been fortunate to work close to a younger group of students. I
have been a part of the expanding arts and science curriculum at the high
school. The school district is in the process of renovating the high school
science wing and building a new arts and science high school building for an
emerging STEAM program. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering,
arts, and math instruction. Working with community partners, I am also involved
in promoting college and career readiness at the secondary level.
interests include the cultural geography of Oklahoma, family stories and
cultural expressions, and community building. However, through
my research in folk studies (similar to anthropology) and cultural geography, I
have studied human interconnectivity associated with occupations, which is what
initially drew my interest to the NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) program. In the
past, I have studied occupations associated with rural culture and how
environment and increased urbanization have effected work settings and their
relationship to identity. My research
interest aside, I am excited to learn more about the science of fishery surveys.
I think learning about the maritime career opportunities associated with NOAA
programs will be important to convey to the students I teach. Especially
because so many of my students come from economically challenged, urban
settings, and the thought of pursuing a career based on scientific research is
foreign. As a geographer, I am also excited to share with students ways they
can connect to geography as an influence on their career plans.
will be part of the third leg of the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment
Program (SEAMAP) sailing out of the NOAA Pascagoula, MS facility. SEAMAP is a
State/Federal/university program for collecting, managing, and disseminating
fishery-independent data in the southeastern US. The Gulf of Mexico survey work
began in 1981. I have read blogs and videos from NOAA TAS alum that have been
part of the similar research cruises, and I have reviewed the NOAA website
under the SEAMAP pages and NOAA Oregon II
pages. TAS alumni Angela Hung from the 2018 SEAMAP survey crew posted a great
blog on roughly what Oregon II crew
will be doing while I am sailing (see https://noaateacheratsea.blog/2018/07/03/angela-hung-dont-give-it-a-knife-june-30-2018/). However, I am still
working to understand exactly what I will be doing. Coastal culture and
scientific research of this nature is new to me. The closest experience I have
goes back to my childhood when in the 1980s my mom built a catfish hatchery and
commercial pond operation on 10 acres of farmland in southeastern Oklahoma. The
“catfish farm” as we called was only in our family for a few years. The next
closest experience I have to coastal fisheries is chartering boats for near
shore and deep sea fishing adventures on vacation. Clearly, I am in for a
lesson on the broader science of understanding and maintaining the ecology of
our domestic waterways in the US. This will be an interesting trip, for sure!
Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea, Alaska Date: June 25, 2019
I am so excited about my upcoming experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I will be on the NOAA Ship Fairweather from July 8 to 19 and will be participating on a hydrographic research cruise, one that is mapping the sea-floor in detail; more about that soon. We will embark from and return to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is part of the Aleutian Islands. If you are my current or former student, or you are a friend or colleague of mine, or you are an admirer of the Teacher at Sea program, I hope you will follow along on this ocean adventure as I post about my experiences while at sea.
A little about me
I am originally from California. I went to the beach often to body surf and splash around, maybe sunbathe (I don’t do THAT anymore). It was in California where I got interested in geology. I was pretty young when I experienced the 1971 San Fernando 6.5M earthquake and after that, earthquakes were a regular occurrence for me. When I moved to Hayward, California, in early 1989 to complete my bachelor’s degree in geology at California State University East Bay, I was living off-campus and had the “pleasure” of rocking and rolling through one of the longest earthquakes I every felt when the 6.9M Loma Prieta earthquake hit. I moved on from there to the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, to earn my Master’s in Structural Geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I didn’t feel any earthquakes in Nevada, but I did do my research on an active fault in southwestern Utah. I like to think of myself as a “boots-on-the-ground” kind of scientist-educator.
My work and life experiences are such that for five years after grad school, I was a staff geologist at a large environmental consulting company. I loved that job and it took me all around the U.S. One of the assignments I had was to manage a mapping project involving data from New York and New Jersey harbor area. From that experience I became interested in digital mapping (known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS) and switched careers. I went to work at a small liberal arts college as the GIS support person within the instructional technology group. In addition to helping teach professors and college students how to work with the GIS software, I helped teach about use of social media in teaching, use a mobile devices for data collection, integrating alternative assessments like using of audio and video, and I maintained two computer labs. While I was involved in those two different careers, I gained some adjunct teaching experiences at several different colleges and grad schools, teaching geology, environmental science and GIS.
Another professional experience that I’ve had that I am most proud of is I was a Fulbright Scholar in 2009-2010 to Barbados. My family and I lived in Barbados for a year while I was worked with the University of the West Indies, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) I taught GIS to graduate students, I worked with some of the students on research projects, I traveled to Belize as a field assistant on a field studies trip with faculty members and CERMES students, and I had the privilege of working on a marine-based, community-driven mapping research project with a then PhD student (who has since earned her degree). My part of the project was to take the spatial data, organize it and create a user-friendly Google Earth KML file. She and I got to travel around St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, teaching community members about the work, the available data, and how to access the Google Earth project file.
In 2015, I re-tooled yet again and was accepted into a challenging yet rewarding education program at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In 15 months, I learned how to teach with artifacts, took graduate courses in all manner or earth and space subjects, of course, had classes in pedagogical approaches, had two in-residence teaching experiences at area schools, all the while in the amazing AMNH, home of Night at the Museum.
Now as a public high school educator, teaching Earth Science to 9-12 graders in the Bronx, I have a strong foundation in the solid earth topics like plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, and geologic time. But Regents Earth Science class in New York also involves oceanography, meteorology, climate science and astronomy.
What compelled me to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is what motivates me throughout my other life decisions: I wanted to push against my boundaries and my limitations. I have always had a healthy respect for the sea, which was mixed in with a little fear. I saw the movie Jaws when I was young and impressionable, so I never really wanted to venture too far into the water beyond the waves. I didn’t even want to swim in lakes for fear of what might be traversing through the murky unknown. As I’ve aged, I’ve certainly grown less fearful of the water. I’ve traveled on sailboats and catamarans, I’ve snorkeled in the Caribbean, I’ve jumped into waters with nurse sharks and stingrays! But as a teacher who feels like she’s missing some key knowledge of her curriculum – oceanography – I want to challenge myself to learn-while-doing as I have the privilege of being selected to be a Teacher at Sea. I cannot wait!
I’m actually afraid of the sea. The unspeakable power, the dark depths, the mysterious uncharted territory – the sea has always held curious minds captive. I want to be someone who faces the things that scare me. And for 19 days, on a relatively tiny ship, I will be doing just that.
NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker is “one of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world” according to the Office of Marine & Aviation Operations. In addition to studying fish and marine life populations, it is also equipped for acoustic data sampling and the gathering of oceanographic data. It can stay out to sea for up to 40 days at a time without needing to return for food or fuel replenishment.
And yet, as I’m writing this, I can’t help but think about SS Edmund Fitzgerald and RMS Titanic. They were the most advanced ships of their time too. Of course, I’m just letting my imagination get carried away. People fear the things they don’t understand. And I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can on this cruise in order to understand not just how this incredible vessel operates, but also how the ocean and atmosphere impact my life on a daily basis.
I was lucky last year to stumble across a professional development opportunity funded through the American Meteorological Society. I took two graduate level courses since then – DataStreme Atmosphere and DataStreme Ocean. Upon finishing this program I’ll earn a graduate certificate from the California University of Pennsylvania and be able to apply my new understanding of earth science directly to my classroom instruction. Already I’ve been able to incorporate fascinating information about coral reefs, the Bermuda Triangle, map reading, and weather into lessons and activities this year.
Why does a Reading Specialist need all this professional development, you might ask? In science of all things? Because nobody reads about things they’re not interested in (unless they have to). Students need to have something to connect with, to care about, in order to learn. When was the last time I, as an adult, read something I didn’t care about? Probably years.
Humans are curious by nature, and by incorporating new topics into our reading lessons over the past year, I’ve noticed that students really like learning about earth science. It’s like the mother who hides cauliflower in the lasagna – students are more motivated to read when they’re reading about something exciting and directly relevant to their lives. Thankfully, the more they read, the better they get at comprehending the nuances of the text. And then the less they need me.
One of the most valuable aspects of this trip for me is that I’ll return with a new appreciation for earth science, current events as they relate to our food supply and environment, and marine life. I can use this experience to build exciting lessons for high school students who may use their connection to these lessons as a lifeline. The last ditch effort to find something exciting to learn before graduating with a lackluster memory of the doldrums of the high school classroom.
Teenagers are tough eggs to crack! But I like them. And I’m very grateful to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program for giving me, and other teachers, opportunities like this to show our students that there are literally thousands of directions to take after high school in regard to career and quality of life. And that high school is one of the few places where they can build the foundational knowledge necessary to get them there – for free. I want my students to pursue their passions. To get excited about learning! And the first step to doing that successfully is to expose them to as many post-secondary options and lessons about their world as we can in the short time that we spend with them. Thanks NOAA! I’m excited to start my journey.
Mission: Northern Gulf of Alaska Long-Term Ecological Research (NGA-LTER)
Area of Cruise: Northern Gulf of Alaska
Date: 18 June
Speed and Direction: NE 15 G 23
Swell Height and Direction: NE 3-5 ft
Swell Height and Direction: SSW 2-4 ft
Pressure: 1016.1 mb
Index: 93 F (34 C)
clear and sunny
Speed and Direction: S 9
Height: 2 ft
Pressure: 1016.0 mb
Index: 56 F (13 C)
Aloha kākou! Greetings everyone! In about a week, I will be exchanging currently very warm and sunny Honolulu for the vastly different climate and ecological zone in Seward and the Northern Gulf of Alaska. I will be embarking on R/V Sikuliaq there to participate in one part of a long-term study of the variability and resiliency of species in the area, but I will get to that in a bit.
In August, I will begin my seventeenth year as a sixth grade social studies teacher at ‘Iolani School, an independent K-12 school that is academically competitive at a national level. In sixth grade social studies, our students focus on the development of the modern world from ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. I enjoy challenging my students to broaden their worldviews, especially about the impacts ancient civilizations have had on today’s world. We cover those for three quarters, and in the fourth quarter we examine the choices these civilizations have made and whether or not they contribute to a sustainable society. I want my students to understand that sustainability is more than just picking up trash and conserving water, but it is also about choices in government, society, culture, behavior and environment. The content of our fourth quarter is predicated on the reality that we live in Hawai’i, an island group that is roughly 2000 miles from any other major point of land.
Living in Hawai’i can be just as idyllic as advertisements make it seem, with daily rainbows, colorful sunsets and blue ocean waves. However, it also comes with challenges that we all have to face. Our cost of living is among the highest in the nation, and we face constant struggles between maintaining culture and environment in a place with limited room for population growth. We have a high homeless population, yet many of us joke that the (construction) crane is our state bird. We are also braced to be at the forefront of climate change. With a rise in sea level of 3 feet, most of Waikiki and much of downtown Honolulu is at risk of inundation. In addition, changes in sea surface temperature affect our coral reefs and fish populations as well as minimizing or eliminating our trade winds through changes in weather patterns. For these reasons, I hope to plant the awareness in my students that their generation is poised to make some major decisions about the state of the world.
My passion for sustainability and ocean health stems from the amount of time I spend in and on the water. I have been a competitive outrigger canoe paddler for the last 30 or so years, and in the summers, I paddle five to six days a week. I go to six-man team practices as well as taking my one-man canoe out with friends. I also have coached high school paddling at ‘Iolani School for the last sixteen years. Being on the ocean so much makes me much more aware of the wildlife our waters shelter: monk seals, dolphins, sea turtles and humpback whales. It also makes me aware of the trash, especially plastics that are more and more present in the ocean. I’ve picked up slippers, coolers, bottles, bags and even pieces of cargo net out of the water on various excursions. Being on the water so often also fuels my interest in meteorology; you need to know what weather and ocean conditions to expect when you go to sea. One major impact that being on the water has is that it allows you to see your island from offshore and realize that it is an ISLAND, and not a very big one at that!
Some of the biggest lessons about the ocean that I’ve learned have come from my experiences with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a non-profit organization founded in 1973 to recreate the original settlement of Hawai’i by ocean voyaging canoes, as well as revive the ancient art of non-instrument navigation. PVS is most well known for the voyaging canoe Hõkūlea, which sailed to Tahiti (and back again) in 1976 to prove the validity of these cultural arts. I began working with the organization in 1994, helping to build a second voyaging canoe, Hawai’iloa, and have been there ever since. As a part of this organization, I have sailed throughout the Pacific, to locations such as Tahiti, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Mangareva, and the Marquesas. With Te Mana O Te Moana, another voyaging canoe initiative, I sailed to the Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. I’ve seen many faces of the Pacific Ocean on my travels and I look forward to seeing another.
Between 2012 and 2017, PVS sent Hõkūle’a on a journey around the world. The name of the voyage was Mālama Honua (To Protect the Earth) and the goal was to visit with indigenous communities to learn what challenges they face and how they work to preserve their lands and cultures. One of the founding principles for this voyage is a Hawaiian saying, “he wa’a he moku, he moku he wa’a”, which means “the canoe is an island and the island is a canoe”. The saying refers to the idea that the choices we make about positive behavior, bringing what we need as opposed to what we want, and what we do with our resources and trash while living in the limited space of a voyaging canoe are a reflection of the choices we need to make living on the islands of Hawai’i as well as living on island Earth. I strive every day to make my students aware of the consequences of their choices.
Science and Technology Log
I’m pretty excited to go to Alaska, first of all, because I’ve never been there! Secondly, we have species in Hawai’i (birds and whales) that migrate between our shores and Alaska on an annual basis. Although the two locations are distant from each other, there are connections to be made, as Hawai’i and Alaska share the same ocean.
The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). R/V Sikuliaq is an NSF ship working with the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. LTER encompasses 28 sites nationwide, of which the Northern Gulf of Alaska (NGA) is one. In this area, three surveys a year are made to monitor the dynamics of the ecosystem and measure its resilience to environmental factors such as variability in light, temperature, freshwater, wind and nutrients. The origins of the NGA portion of this project have been in place since 1970 and have grown to include the Seward Line system (s series of points running southeast from Seward).
On our trip, we will be looking at microzooplankton and mesozooplankton as well as phytoplankton, the size and concentration of particles in the water, and the availability of nutrients, among other things. Information gathered from our study will be added to cumulative data sets that paint a picture of the variability and resiliency of the marine ecosystem. I will be a part of the Particle Flux team for this expedition. I have a general idea of what that entails and the kind of data we’ll be gathering, but I certainly need to learn more! If you’re curious, more detailed information about ongoing research can be found at https://nga.lternet.edu/about-us/.
I always ask my students, after they complete preliminary research on any project, what they want to learn. I want to know more about particle flux (as previously mentioned). I would like to learn more about seasonal weather patterns and how they influence the NGA ecosystem. I would like to find out if/how this ecosystem connects to the Hawaiian ecosystem, and I REALLY want to see the kinds of life that inhabit the northern ocean! For my own personal information, I am really curious to see how stars move at 60 degrees north and whether or not they can still be used for navigation.
I’m spending my last week sorting through my collection of fleece and sailing gear to prepare for three weeks of distinctly cooler temperatures. I’m going to be doing a lot of layering for sure! My two cats, Fiona and Pippin are beginning to suspect something, but for now are content to sniff through the growing pile on the couch. While packing, I’m keeping in mind that this is just another type of voyage and to pack only what I need, including chocolate. As departure gets closer, I’d like to thank Russ Hopcroft, Seth Danielson, and Steffi O’Daly for their information and help in getting to and from Seward. I’m looking forward to meeting you all soon and learning a lot from each of you! Thanks also to Lisa Seff for her on board life hacks and detailed information…much appreciated!
Geographic Area of Cruise: South Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 14, 2019
Hello! My name is Erica Marlaine, and in one week I will be flying to Alaska for the first time ever to spend three weeks aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I am a Special Education Preschool Teacher at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in West Hills, California.
My students are 3-5 year olds who have a variety of special needs, such as autism, Down syndrome, and speech delays. They are fascinated by science experiments and nature, love to explore their surroundings with binoculars and magnifying glasses, and often notice the details in life that the rest of us walk right by.
Like most 3-5 years olds, they are obsessed with whales, octopi, and of course, sharks. (If you don’t yet know the baby shark song, ask any preschooler you know to teach it to you.)
When I tell people (with much excitement) that I have been selected to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea, they ask “who will you be teaching?” thinking that there will be students onboard the ship. I explain that in many ways, I will actually be both a Student at Sea and a Teacher at Sea. I will be learning from the scientists onboard the ship how to use acoustics as well as more traditional, hands-on methods to count Alaskan pollock in the Bering Sea, and exploring the issues oceanographers are most concerned or excited about. Then, through blogging while onboard, and upon my return to the classroom, I will use this first-hand knowledge to create STEM projects involving oceanography that will help students see their connection to the ocean world, and instill in them a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the world around them. I am hopeful that these experiences will inspire more students at my school to choose a career in science, perhaps even with NOAA.
When I am not teaching, or taking classes for my administrative credential through the University of Southern California, or being involved with education policy through a fellowship with Teach Plus, I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, and apparently EATING Alaskan pollock. It turns out that the imitation crabmeat in the California rolls and crab salad that I eat quite often is actually Alaskan pollock. We will see if catching them, looking them in the eye, and studying them, will make me more or less interested in eating them.
Mission: Microbial Stowaways: Exploring Shipwreck Microbiomes in the deep Gulf of Mexico
Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 13, 2019
In just two weeks I will be shipping out of Gulfport, Mississippi on the University of Southern Mississippi Research Vessel Point Sur. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I will actually be a student again, learning all I can about ocean archaeology and deep-sea microbial biomes. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to learn what it is like to live and work at sea! In particular, I am looking forward to seeing how archaeologists work at sea. My undergraduate degree was in archaeology and I worked in the desert of New Mexico and southern Colorado where we mapped with pencil and paper, and took samples with a shovel. Ocean archaeology will require more sophisticated technology and a different approach!
Let me give you a little background about myself. My husband and I live in a tiny town called Husum on the White Salmon River in Washington State. My family enjoys outdoor activities including rafting and kayaking. This year my daughter is working as a raft guide on the White Salmon. I know when the commercial raft trips are passing by because I can hear the tourists scream as their boats go over Husum Falls! My son is studying Engineering in college and is spending this summer in Spain learning Spanish and surfing. Unfortunately for my husband, summer is the busy time for construction. As a general contractor, he will be working hard.
During the regular school year, I teach fourth grade math and science at the local intermediate school. One of our biggest science units each year is to raise salmon in the classroom and learn about the salmon life cycle, adaptations and the importance of protecting salmon habitat. In addition, this year we tackled a big project around plastic pollution in the oceans and how we can make a difference in our own community through education and action. My students are rightfully indignant about the condition of our oceans, and I have also become an ocean advocate since initiating this project.
Scientists on the Point Sur have several goals. First of all, they will map two shipwrecks that have never been explored. Both are wooden-hulled historic shipwrecks that were identified during geophysical surveys related to oil and gas exploration. Archaeologists hope to determine how old the ships are, what their purpose was, and their nationality, to determine if they are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). A third shipwreck we will visit is a steel-hulled, former luxury steam yacht that sank in 1944. It was previously mapped and some experiments were left there in 2014 which we will recover.
In addition to mapping, we will take samples of the sediments around the ships to see how shipwrecks shape the microbial environment. The Gulf of Mexico is a perfect place for this work because it is rich in shipwrecks. Shipwrecks create unique reef habitats that are attractive to organisms both large and small. I wonder what kinds of sea life we will discover living around the shipwrecks we visit?
The first question my students asked me was if I was going to scuba dive. While that would be exciting, it’s not allowed for Teachers at Sea! To gather information about the shipwrecks, we will deploy a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called Odysseus (Pelagic Research Services, Inc.) . Odysseus will have a camera, a manipulator arm to gather samples, a tray to carry all the sampling gear and SONAR and lights. I think I will be content to watch its progress on the ship’s video screens.
School is almost out, and my fourth graders are chomping at the bit to get out if the classroom and begin their own summer adventures, but I hope they will follow my blog and keep me company while I am on board ship! Am I feeling a little intimidated? Absolutely! But also very excited to have the opportunity to participate in what is sure to be a great adventure.