Karen Grady: Planning, Packing and Anticipation….the Countdown has Begun! March 29, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – 20, 2017

Mission:  Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date:  March 29, 2017

Weather Data

I live in Arkansas and the weather is probably changing as I am typing this!  It is Spring so that means our weather is unpredictable.  Today we woke up to red creepy skies and predictions of severe thunderstorms.  As I am writing this it is 75 and we are still waiting to see if any storms pop up. I am fine with storms, just keep the tornadoes away!


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Checking out the local wildlife in one of my favorite places… Daytona Beach


Hi all!   My Name is Karen and I am the K-12 Gifted and Talented teacher for the Lavaca School District in Lavaca, Arkansas. I have the best job because I am on the move all day working with students from all grade levels.  I have an BSA in Animal Science, Master’s degrees in Teaching and Gifted, Talented and Creativity.  I am able to utilize my degrees and my personal background to create activities for my students that keep them moving and their brains working.  I feel that my participation in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is setting an important example for my students about stepping out of one’s comfort zone to chase a dream.

Science and Technology Log

In just a few days I will join the crew of the Oregon II  for the start of their second research trip of 2017.  You’ll notice that this trip is referred to as an “experimental” longline survey.  This is because our trip is happening earlier in the year than the normal longline surveys. The scientists will be experimenting with some different methods and its earlier in the year so everyone will be anxious and excited to see what types of sharks and fish are brought on board over the two weeks at sea…

Personal Log

I have only been a teacher for 5 years.  I spent several years as a Water Quality Technician working with farmers and poultry growers to manage the nutrient content in their soil and protect water sources.  I then was blessed with some great adventures working for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors Program in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  I also spent many years as a poultry farmer.  I went back to school in 2011 and began teaching in 2012 while finishing my Masters of Art in Teaching. I taught seventh and eighth grade science for three years and then was chosen to fill an opening for Gifted and Talented teacher in the district.  I completed my Master’s in Gifted and Talented and Creativity this past December.

My past job experiences have provided me many great ideas that I use in my classroom. I also believe in the power of networking and I use my network of contacts to gather information, activities or speakers for my classes.   I have always been interested in biology and had a love of animals.  As a teacher I continue to lean towards professional development that focuses on science and then I add other components to make some very creative lessons for my students.

It was during a professional development session 4 years ago that I first learned about the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.  I looked at the application process and considered applying, but my oldest son was in high school sports, my youngest wasn’t quite old enough for me to want to be gone that long, I just got married….there was always an excuse. Each year I looked and considered and I waited.  This past November I talked to my family and if filled out the application.  I remember sitting and deciding whether to hit submit when it was all done.  I took a deep breath and submitted!  Then I tried not to think about it.

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Spending time exploring helped take my mind off the wait!


Fast forward to February 1 of this year… I walk into my classroom and turn on my computer and there is an email from NOAA. I was afraid to open it. When I saw the message that I had been selected I think I sat with my mouth hanging open. I kept reading it thinking surely the wording was going to change and they were going to let me down easy.  I remember texting my husband and telling him I had been chosen and asking him what I was going to do and his response was “ You’re going to go, of course!” It really did take a week for it to sink in that I was going to be a part of the class of 2017.

I completed all of the requirements as quickly as possible because I couldn’t wait to see which research trip I would be matched with.  Within just a few weeks I was matched with a research cruise heading into the Gulf of Mexico  and we would be doing studies with sharks. I realized I had just under 4 weeks to get everything in order and report to the ship.  Of course I had to make it more complicated by having a huge networking event at school with 38 speakers and a SKYPE with NOAA Teacher at Sea Program to pull off, a 7 day cruise for spring break that we had already had on the calendar, a couple Quiz Bowl tournaments with my students plus squaring away things at home. Did I mention our mare is due to foal any day and that one of the dogs is diabetic and has to have insulin twice a day? Let’s just say the weeks have flown by.  Thank goodness my husband and kids are awesome and my friends rock because it will all be lined out before I leave next week.

I cannot even find words to express my appreciation to NOAA for offering me as an educator this opportunity.  I am excited that I will get to share my time with the scientists and the things I learn with not only my students but with many schools in my area.  One more week and I will be setting foot on the Oregon II and praying for calm seas!

Did You Know?

Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans. This makes the health of our ocean vitally important even if you do not live near the ocean.

Denise Harrington: Joining the Longline Crew, September 17, 2016


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Denise Harrington

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 16-30, 2016

Mission: Longline Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Saturday, September 17, 2016

Location: 29 2.113’ N  93o 24.5’ W

Weather from the Bridge: 28.9C (dry bulb), Wind 6 knots @ 250o, overcast, 2-3′ SE swell.

Science Log

The muggy afternoon air did not dampen my excitement as we left Galveston, Texas, aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship Oregon II.  I am a NOAA Teacher at Sea, participating in a  longline survey in the Gulf of Mexico, surveying sharks and bony fish.


Fellow volunteers Leah Rucker and Evan Pettis and I bid farewell to Galveston. Evidence of human influence, such as development, oil rigs, barges, and ships, is not hard to spot. Photo: Matt Ellis, NOAA

When I tell people about the Teacher at Sea program, they assume I teach high school or college, not second grade in rural Tillamook, Oregon.  Yet spend a few moments with any seven or eight year old and you will find they demonstrate significant potential as scientists through their questions, observations, and predictions. Listen to them in action, documented by Oregon Public Broadcasting, at their annual Day at the Bay field trip.

Just as with language acquisition, exposing the young mind to the process of scientific inquiry ensures we will have a greater pool of scientists to manage our natural resources as we age.  By inviting elementary teachers to participate in the Teacher at Sea program, NOAA makes it clear that the earlier we get kids out in the field, the better.


Each year, my students develop a science or engineering project based upon their interests.  Here, South Prairie Elementary students survey invertebrates along a line transect as part of a watershed program with partners at Sam Case Elementary School in Newport, Oregon.

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program will connect my students with scientists Dr. Trey Driggers, Paul Felts, Dr. Eric Hoffmayer, Adam Pollock, Kevin Rademacher, and Chrissy Stepongzi, as they catch sharks, snapper, and other fish that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. The data they collect is part of the Red Snapper/Shark Bottom Longline Survey that began in 1995. The survey, broken into four legs or parts each year, provides life cycle and population information about many marine species over a greater geographic distance and longer period of time than any other study of its kind.

Leg IV is the last leg of the survey.  After a long season of data collection, scientists, sailors, and fishermen will be able to return to their families.

My twelve hour shift begins tomorrow, September 17, at noon, and will continue each day from noon until midnight until the most eastern station near Panama City, Florida, is surveyed.  Imagine working 12 hour shifts, daily, for two weeks straight!  The crew is working through the day and night, sleeping when they can, so shutting the heavy metal doors gently and refraining from talking in the passageways is essential.  I got lucky on the day shift:  my hours are closer to those of a teacher and the transition back to the classroom will be smoother than if I were on the night shift.

Approximately 200 stations, or geographic points, are surveyed in four legs. Assume we divide the stations equally among the legs, and the first three legs met their goal. Leg IV is twelve days in duration. How many stations do we need to survey each day (on average) to complete the data collection process?  This math problem might be a bit challenging for my second graders, but it is on my mind.


Mulling over the enormity of our task, Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin and I discuss which 49 year old fisherman will end up with more wrinkles at the end of the survey. Currently, I am in the lead, but I bet he’s hiding some behind those shades. Photo: Mike Conway

I wonder what kind of sharks we will catch.  Looking back at the results of the 2015 cruise report, I learned that there was one big winner.  More than half of the sharks caught were Atlantic sharpnose (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) sharks. Other significant populations of sharks were the blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus) shark, the sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus) shark, and the blacknose (Carcharhinus acronotus) shark.

My fellow Teacher at Sea, Barney Peterson, participated in Leg II of the 2016 survey, and by reading her blog I learned that the shark they caught the most was the sandbar shark.


In this sample data sheet from the end of Leg III, all but one of the sharks caught were the blacknose sharks.  Notice the condition of two of the fish caught: “heads only.”  Imagine what happened to them!



Personal Log

My first memory of a shark was when my brother, an avid lifetime fisherman, took several buses across the San Francisco Bay area to go fishing.  That afternoon, he came home on the bus with a huge shark he’d caught.  I was mesmerized. We were poor at the time and food was hard to come by, but mom or dad insisted sharks were not edible, and Greg was told to bury the shark in the yard.  Our dog, Pumpkin, would not comply, and dug that shark up for days after, the overpowering smell reminding us of our poor choice. I don’t have many regrets, but looking back on that day, I wish we had done something differently with the shark.

Since then, I’ve learned that shark is a popular source of protein in the diets of people around the world, and is growing in popularity in the United States.  In our survey area, Fisheries Biologist Eric Hoffmayer tells me that blacktip and sandbar sharks are the two most commercially important species. Our survey is a multispecies survey, with benefits beyond these two species and far beyond our imagination. As demand increases, so too does the need for careful management to keep fisheries sustainable. I am honored to be part of a crew working to ensure that we understand, value, and respect our one world ocean and the animals that inhabit it.

Rebecca Loy, Hello from land! August 12, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Loy
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 8 – 24 , 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of Research: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Date: August 12, 2015


Personal Log:  Hello to everyone from Cicero, New York. Cicero is just outside of Syracuse in the middle of New York State surrounded by some very beautiful areas. My name is Becky Loy and I have been teaching special education for 24 years.

You might wonder, why is a special education teacher going to sea…? Well, I sort of joke that I am a special education teacher by day, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) enthusiast by night.

Caught by surprise having a laugh with some volunteers with our high powered rockets.

Caught by surprise having a laugh with some volunteers with our high powered rockets.

I love my job teaching at Minoa Elementary in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District. My district is extremely supportive of me, and I look for any way to incorporate STEAM activities into my day, but it is usually after school. From space education, launching large five foot high powered rockets, Lego robotics, NASA moon rocks, writing NASA curriculum to taking large groups to Washington, D.C. or Space Camp, Canada, I try to inspire students many ways! I am very excited about going to sea in Alaska on NOAA Ship Rainier!  This will give me many more experiences to bring back to my school and community. My dream is for kids to be inspired by me to follow their own STEAM paths and careers.

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Some of my best adventures have been around water.  To begin, I grew up on the large St. Lawrence River in northern New York State and could practically swim before I walked.  A true passion of mine for over 10 years is sailing on the Maine-based, National Heritage schooner Isaac H. Evans.  While sailing, the wind takes you where it pleases and the chef cooks on a wood stove in a wooden galley.  This is where I learned that you sleep in a “berth”, go the to the bathroom in a “head” and you wash your hands in a “basin” (Think about it – you don’t want to use the word “sink” on a boat!).   Another water-based, but thrilling experience is when I went cage diving with Great White sharks off the coast of Africa!  Little did I know that the shark was going to grab the chum right in front of me – yikes!!

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Being on water is natural for me and I love it! Having the experience of being on a hydrographic research vessel is very unique. Hydrographic research is the study of our coastal waters – updating charts, maybe checking tides or the bottom of a bay/strait or going on smaller boats to look closer at the shoreline. I look forward to learning all I can about it!

This is all very exciting for me, but I must admit I am a bit nervous. Who would think that someone who swam with sharks would be more nervous about this, but I am. Since my dream is to inspire more children and adults, I want to do a great job!

Blue Flight Suit fun with fellow Honeywell teachers Jacqui and Maria and astronaut Clay Anderson

Blue Flight Suit fun with fellow Honeywell teachers Jacqui and Maria and astronaut Clay Anderson

Some of my adventures that are not based on water are attending Honeywell’s Space and Advanced Space Academies for educators, getting VIP tours of various NASA facilities, sleeping in a car to see Space Shuttle Atlantis lift off (oooohh my back and neck hurt after that experience!), star gazing in Death Valley, CA, paragliding off a mountain in Africa and traveling in Europe.  Another passion (and something I get the strangest looks for) is showing off my Space Academy Blue Flight Suit at any appropriate occasion with other space enthusiasts!  We are like our own little family.


My son and I with Mythbuster Adam Savage! STEAM Awesomeness!

My son and I with Mythbuster Adam Savage! STEAM Awesomeness!

In my free time, I enjoy special time with my loving family. I have an incredibly supportive husband, an 18 year old son and 2 pugs! I enjoy reading, painting, gardening and a variety of

At the TACNY Outstanding Teacher awards with my husband and son, 2013

At the TACNY Outstanding Teacher awards with my husband and son, 2013

do-it-yourself projects. I take a great deal of pride in seeking new adventures to inspire both adults and children!

Thank you for following me on this latest adventure!

Jeanne Muzi: Ready to become a Teacher (and Learner) At Sea! July 25, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 13, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: July 25, 2015


Hello everyone! Greetings from New Jersey!

My name is Jeanne Muzi. I am an elementary teacher, Gifted & Talented/Enrichment Specialist at Lawrence Township Public Schools in Lawrenceville, NJ.

I am very excited and truly honored to be a part of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program and look forward to working hard and learning a lot! I will be boarding NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in early August! I can’t wait!

The Thomas Jefferson

The Thomas Jefferson

If you would like to find out more about the Thomas Jefferson, check out this website: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/tj/index.html

I will be writing this blog for the next few weeks to share stories about all the different people I meet, the things I see and what I am doing. This blog will be written especially for my students, so if you are a kindergarten through third grade learner you might want to check back to see different questions I post or interesting observations I may share.

Quick! Where is your favorite place? Where do you go to think, dream, wonder, play, relax and have fun? For me there is only one place—The beach!

Stormy Day at the Jersey Shore

Stormy Day at the Jersey Shore

Growing up on Long Island, NY, we were surrounded by water, so heading to the beach was easy. I attended summer camp on the east end of the island and loved to swim, canoe, sail and collect shells. This picture was taken when I was eight years old. My family was visiting the South Street Seaport in New York City and I was fascinated with the Lightship Ambrose. Its job was to keep other ships out of danger. I always wondered what it would be like to sail on her…

South Street Seaport, NYC

South Street Seaport, NYC


The Lightship Ambrose at the South Street Seaport, NYC today.

The Lightship Ambrose at the South Street Seaport, NYC today.

Years later the Lightship Ambrose is still at the Seaport…And I am getting a chance to sail on a much larger ship!

As a member of the Teacher at Sea program, I figured I should find out some information about NOAA. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA is an Operating Unit of the United States Department of Commerce. The National Weather Service is a component of NOAA and there are many areas that NOAA scientists are involved in including coastal restoration, fisheries management, satellite systems, climate studies and research into biodiversity. You can find out more at http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program, celebrating its 25th year, provides an opportunity for teachers from kindergarten through 12 grade and college, to participate with scientists working on oceanographic research projects aboard a NOAA vessel. There are three categories of missions: fishery surveys, hydrographic work or physical oceanography studies. Teachers at Sea use their hands-on, real-world learning opportunities to develop classroom-learning experiences for their students. They also share their new knowledge and skills with other teachers, schools and communities. The mission of the Teacher at Sea Program is “Science, Service and Stewardship.”

NOAA's Mission

NOAA’s Mission

Find out more at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/home/

My mission aboard the Thomas Jefferson is a Hydrographic Survey. When I received my assignment, the first question that came to mind was: What is hydrography?

According to NOAA: “Hydrography is the science that measures and describes the physical features of bodies of water and the land areas near those bodies of water. NOAA conducts hydrographic surveys to measure the depth and bottom configuration of water bodies. The data is used to update nautical charts and develop hydrographic models. During a hydrographic survey, NOAA scientists use sonar to develop charts, locate underwater hazards to navigation, search for and map objects on the sea floor such as shipwrecks, and map the sea floor itself.”

That sounds really amazing! Now I have lots of questions about sonar, mapping and why this work is so important! As I learn new things about hydrography, I will post the information. I know that the more questions I ask, the more I will learn! I also keep thinking about the connections I can make with what I am already doing with my students…

As someone who teaches younger students, I strive to help them strengthen their problem-solving skills and develop a strong sense of wonder and curiosity. Each year I develop a range of cross-curricular projects that build creativity and critical thinking. This past school year, we designed and built effective water filters, created solar ovens, mapped waterways and designed board games. We worked on engineering tasks like marble roller coasters, egg protectors and balancing puzzles.

Designing an effective water filter

Designing an effective water filter


Mapping Waterways



One of my students’ favorite lessons each year is called “Think like a Scientist” and we try to figure out all the things scientists need to do in order to discover new things. I am looking forward to adding lots of new ideas to what it means to “Think Like Scientist” while aboard the Thomas Jefferson.


Streamkeepers reporting

Streamkeepers sharing data Photo credit: Alan Chausse

A highlight for me every year as a teacher is my involvement in an environmental education program called Streamkeepers, which focuses on monitoring and observing the ecosystem of a local waterway. The Streamkeepers work as citizen scientists and it is always incredible to see young students understand how the streams, rivers and oceans of our world connect us. Learning about hydrographic surveying aboard the Thomas Jefferson will provide me with another way to teach about water and our oceans.

Student Citizen Scientists participate in the Streamkeeper Project

Student Citizen Scientists participate in the Streamkeeper Project

Streamkeepers at work

Streamkeepers at work

Here I am presenting about the Streamkeeper Project during a visit to our sister school in Taiwan.

Here I am presenting about the Streamkeeper Project during a visit to our sister school in Taiwan. Photo credit: Jennifer Dowd

As I get ready to head out on my Teacher at Sea adventure, I keep thinking about three important things I stress as I teach:

  1. Do not be afraid to take risks.
  2. It is very important to step out of your comfort zone.
  3. There is great value in looking at things through other people’s eyes.

As a Teacher at Sea, I will be able to put these ideas into action!

Ready to learn aboard the Thomas Jefferson!

Ready to learn aboard the Thomas Jefferson!


Each blog entry I post will have a Question of the Day and a Picture of the Day! Here are the first ones:

Question: Think about what you know about President Thomas Jefferson…What does he have to do with the Atlantic Ocean?

Picture: What is this?

Question of the Day: What is this?

Question of the Day: What is this?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing much more from the Thomas Jefferson!

Cristina Veresan, Teacher (soon to be) at Sea, July 7, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cristina Veresan
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

Date Range at Sea: July 28 — August 16, 2015

Mission: Walleye Pollock Acoustic-Trawl survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 7, 2015


Aloha from Hawai'i!

Aloha from Hawai’i!

Here in Hawai’i, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on the world’s most remote island chain, I am very aware we live on an ocean planet. In fact, I have always been drawn to the sea, whether tide-pooling as a child, learning to SCUBA dive as a high school student, or spending a semester at sea aboard a sailing ship as a college student. In my role as a science educator I have always tried to inspire students to investigate local marine ecosystems and understand the ocean’s importance to our Earth. Thus, it is a tremendous professional honor to have been selected as a 2015 Teacher at Sea by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program, now in its 25th year, provides K-12 or college educators the chance to contribute to current oceanographic research aboard a NOAA vessel. Missions usually fall into three main categories: fishery surveys, hydrographic work, or physical oceanography studies. Participating teachers use this hands-on, real-world learning opportunity not only to develop classroom lessons but also to share the experience in their classrooms, schools, and communities. I am thrilled to report that I have been assigned to a fisheries cruise, a pollock survey aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. The port of call is Kodiak, Alaska, and I am especially excited about the location because it will be the 50th state I have ever visited! I have always been fascinated by the science, economics, and history of fisheries. The pollock fishery is one of the world’s largest, and these fish are also vital to the Bering Sea ecosystem. I cannot wait to learn more about pollock ecology and see how scientists assess the size and health of pollock populations and, therefore, the sustainability of the fishery.

Walleye Pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus).  photo courtesy of NOAA

Walleye Pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus). Photo courtesy of NOAA

This blog will record my time at sea aboard the Oscar Dyson, but my intent with this first entry is to introduce myself and share a little about my background in teaching. My nearly ten-year career in education has included teaching secondary science in St. Lucie County, Florida, as well as coordinating that school district’s science curriculum, instruction, and assessment as the K-12 Science Curriculum Supervisor. Since moving to Hawai’i, I have taught middle school science (grades 6-8) at Star of the Sea School and served as the school’s Assistant Principal. Working with middle school students is my passion, for I love their energy and curiosity!

Cristina Veresan loves working with middle school students

I love working with middle school students! Photo by E. Johnson

I have always valued experiential learning, whether in the lab or in the field. Here on O’ahu, I enrich my curricula with the unique natural and cultural resources our island provides. One of the projects I am most proud of was a collaboration with the Hawai’i Nature Center; together, we facilitated a yearlong STEM program investigating the effects of climate change on Hawaii’s ecosystems called From Mauka to Makai: Understanding Climate Change in the Ahupua’a. This program included a mountain (mauka) stream study, a coastal (makai) study, and a final conservation project. This place-based program encouraged environmental stewardship. To read more about my teaching, please visit my website.

Conducting a coastal study with students in Hawai'i Kai

Conducting a coastal study with students. Photo by Raphael Ritson-Williams

The ability to transition between the roles of student and teacher, often and with great enthusiasm, has facilitated my success as an educator. I consistently seek out opportunities for professional growth in order to best serve my students. My Teacher at Sea voyage will no doubt be one of those powerful learning opportunities. Doing science at sea is a unique challenge, and I am eager to join the ship’s community and contribute to our shared mission. Indeed, my next blog entry will be from aboard the Oscar Dyson, when I am immersed in the current methods and technologies of fisheries science. For now, I will concentrate on researching previous NOAA pollock surveys, packing plenty of layers to keep me warm, and preparing for this adventure.

Mahalo for reading!

The Pacific Ocean as seen from Malaekahana Beach. I will have a different view soon!

The Pacific Ocean as seen from Malaekahana Beach. I will have a different view soon!

Nikki Durkan: Introductions! June 4, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nikki Durkan
Boarding NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson next week!
Date Range at Sea: June 11 – 30, 2015

Mission: Acoustic-trawl Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Thursday, June 4 2015


Hello from Steamboat Springs, Colorado!  This is my 7th year living in this spectacular Rocky Mountain town at 6,900 feet/2103 meters.  I currently teach biology, geography, AP environmental science, and global politics at an independent high school called the Steamboat Mountain School.  I love this little, adventurous school and feel fortunate to call our campus in the woods my home.  As I finish up my teaching responsibilities at the end of the year and say goodbye to my talented, fun-loving, and hilarious students (a good sense of humor is requisite for teaching high schoolers), I always take time to reflect on how I can improve my craft as an instructor for next year.  What better way to sharpen my inquiry skills than to live at sea with scientists for 20 days?  I applied to the Teacher at Sea program looking for a top notch research experience to enrich my curriculum and obviously for the adventure this program affords me!

I believe I first became enamoured with marine science as a young girl while exploring the beaches surrounding Buzzards Bay – it was here that I discovered the fascinating lives of horseshoe crabs!  Did you know their baby blue blood contains a chemical superpower used to verify bacterial contamination in every FDA approved drug?

In college at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I earned my degrees in biology and secondary science education.  And before moving to Steamboat Springs, I lived in Maui, Hawaii with my family where I worked for the Pacific Whale Foundation as a naturalist.  My time out on the ocean gave me an even deeper appreciation for the wonders of our water world.  Every single day on the ocean is different from the next, full of surprises and new discoveries to be made.  I am thankful and proud to become a member of the Teacher at Sea Program!

One of my passions: nordic skiing!

One of my passions: Nordic skiing!

Currently, my courses conduct biodiversity plot studies, forest transects, monitor water and soil quality, record secondary succession in a fire mitigation area, and now have created a functioning aquaponics system with tilapia!  

Zip-grow tower from Brightagrotech in our greenhouse!

Zip-grow tower from Brightagrotech in our greenhouse!

Our tilapia live in an in-ground tank from which we pump water into a network of irrigation tubes (attached to a repurposed bed frame) that then waters eight Zip-grow towers.  The fish excrement provides much needed nutrients for the plants and the fish are happy because their water is returned after being filtered through the plant root system.  Farmed fish is beginning to play a significant role in our food supply. This brings me to a recent article in Outside magazine that I found quite interesting (thanks for sharing, David!).  I look forward to learning more about how the health of the fisheries in Alaska are measured and what role the scientists on board believe farmed fish should or will play in our diet for the future.  NOAA also has a great resource to help make decisions on our seafood choices.


Please checkout the ship’s website for an overview of our mission.

My home for the next month.

My home for the next month. Photo credit: NOAA ship tracker

I head to Kodiak, Alaska on Monday, June 8th to meet the ship crew and scientists before we embark on our trip.  Please send me comments, questions, and suggestions for my blog, I greatly appreciate your feedback.   Time to start packing!

Gregory Cook, Introduction, July 22, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Gregory Cook

(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 26 – August 13, 2014

Mission: Annual Walleye Pollock Survey

Geographical Area: Bering Sea

Date: July 23, 2014

Welcome to the Seablog! This is where I’ll be posting about my adventures aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, as we study the fisheries off the coast of Alaska.

First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gregory Cook, and I am, as far as I can tell, in the running for Luckiest Guy on the Planet! I teach middle school science and math at the East Somerville Community School to some of the coolest kids I know, and work with some of the best teachers in the country. Go Phoenix!

Me and my buzzing buddy

Me and a Humming Bird in Costa Rica

On top of that, I received acceptance this year with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Teacher at Sea program! NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce, and does research on everything from fish and whale populations to climate change to mapping the ocean floor and coastline!

In their Teacher at Sea program, I get to work with world class scientists, be a part of real-world research, learn about amazing careers, and share that knowledge with my students. In a small way, I get to share with you the exploration and study of this great planet. What else do you want out of life? A pony? I think not, good sir!


oscar dyson

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson  (Photo from http://www.moc.noaa.gov/od/)


The Oscar Dyson is a ship built by the U.S. Government (Your tax dollars doing great work!) to study the Earth’s oceans. It’s over two-thirds of a football field long and almost fifty feet wide. It can deploy (or send out) over five kilometers (more than three miles!) of cable, It has two massive winches for launching scientific study packages. It can use something akin to Doppler Radar to tell you about what’s in the water beneath us and what the sea floor beneath THAT looks like.

Wanna see how they built it? Of course you do!

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The first thing you need to know about Alaska is its name. It comes from the Aleutian word Alakshak, which means Great Lands or Peninsula… the entire state, in the end, seems to be named after the great Alaskan Peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean.


Alaska gets its name from the Alaskan Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific and then trails off and becomes the Aleutian Islands. (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/coastal/s_alaska.html)

If you’re one of my students, you’re probably asking “How…?”

Well, The Alaskan Peninsula forms in a Subduction Zone. That means that the Pacific Plate is diving underneath the North American Plate. This creates some beautiful upthrusts that you and I know as mountains… or, in the case of the Aleutians,… Islands! Geologists think The Aleutians are about 37 Million Years Old, formed by volcanic activity.

As a matter of fact, the Island I’ll be sailing from, Unalaska, was created this very way. You might remember (from 6th grade if you’re a Somerville kid!) Oceanic crustal plates are more dense than crustal plates, so they dive under them, pushing the mountains and islands up.

When I first heard I was sailing out of Unalaska, I wondered what was so “Unalaska” about it… like… were they Yankees fans or something?

It turns out that in the Aleutian language (the language of the Aleuts… the native people of the area) placing “Un-” in front of a word means “near.” So Unalaska means “Near the Peninsula.” You could say that I live “Undunkindonuts.” (Though, yeah, I’m a Starbucks guy).

OK, back to Geology…

So it turns out that a great deal of the Bering Sea is over the continental shelf of North America. What that means is that the sea is more shallow than the Pacific.

Much of the Eastern Bering Sea is shallow. This helps create a thriving ecosystem!


What THAT means is that all the good nutrients that run off of the land… from the rains and rivers… can support a huge amount of sea life. The Bering sea is one of the most productive fisheries in the world… It is teeming with life!

Which brings us to this guy…


Walleye Pollock… Fishy-fishy!!!


If you’ve ever had Fish Sticks or McDonald’s Fillet o’ Fish, you’ve probably had some form of Pollock. They grow quickly, they die young, and have a lot of offspring. They also represent almost 2/3 of all the groundfish (fish that live near the bottom of the sea) caught in Alaska 2012.

So to say Pollock are important is kind of like saying bread is important… They have a huge impact on our lives here in the United States. So it’s important we look in on them every now and then, and make sure they’re doing ok… So we can eat them. 😀

That’s what I’ll be doing up there in Alaska. Exploring the Bering Sea, and looking in on our good friend, Mr. Pollock. I hope you can come along for the ride. 😀