Suzanne Acord: Teamwork Is a Must While at Sea, March 25, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 25, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 7 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Depth in fathoms: 577
Depth in feet: 3,462
Temperature: 27.0˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Teamwork

Kona cruise map

2014 Kona IEA Cruise Map. Locate H1 and H2 to determine where our HARPs are retrieved and deployed.

Throughout the past week, it has become obvious that all operations aboard the Sette require team work. Scientific projects and deployments require the assistance of the Bridge, engineers, and heavy equipment operators. This was clear during our recent deployment of our HARP or High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package (see my earlier posts to learn why we use the HARP). Marine Mammal Operations lead, Ali Bayless, leads our morning HARP retrieval and deployment operations. We first prepare to retrieve a HARP that has completed its duty on the floor of the ocean. At least a dozen scientists and crew members attempt to locate it using binoculars. It is spotted soon after it is triggered by our team. Crew members head to the port side of the ship once the HARP at station H2 surfaces. H2 is very close to the Kona Coast. A fresh HARP is deployed from the stern of the ship later in the morning. Both the retrieval and deployment of the HARPs take immaculate positioning skills at the Bridge. Hence, the Bridge and the HARP crew communicate non-stop through radios. The coordinates of the drop are recorded so the new HARP can be retrieved in a year.

A Conversation with Commanding Officer (CO) Koes

A selfie with CO Koes

A selfie with CO Koes

Morale is high and teamwork is strong aboard the Sette. These characteristics are often attributed to excellent leadership. CO Koes’ presence is positive and supportive. CO Koes has served with NOAA for the past thirteen years. She came aboard the Sette January 4, 2013. She is now back in her home state of Hawaii after serving with NOAA in California and Oregon. She is a graduate of Kalani High School in Hawaii and earned a BA in chemical engineering at Arizona State University.

As CO of the Sette, Koes believes it is important to create trust amongst crew members and to delegate rather than to dictate. She provides support and guidance to her crew twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. She is the CO of all ship operations such as navigation, science operations, deck activities, trawling, and engineering. She is highly visible on board and is genuinely interested in the well-being of her crew and ship. She does not hesitate to start a conversation or pep talk in the mess or on the deck. When asked what she enjoys most about her job, she states that she “likes to see the lights go on in the eyes of junior officers when they learn something new.” Koes goes on to state that her goal as CO is to have fun and make a difference in the lives of her officers and crew.

Personal Log

Ship Life

Bunkmate and scientist, Beth Lumsden, and I during an abandon ship drill on the Texas deck.

Bunkmate and scientist, Beth Lumsden, and I during an abandon ship drill on the Texas deck.

I have found that one can acclimate to life aboard a ship quite quickly if willing to laugh at oneself. The first couple of days on board the Sette were fun, but shaky. We had some rough weather on our way to the Kona Coast from Oahu. I truly felt like I was being rocked to sleep at night. Showering, walking, and standing during the rocking were a challenge and surely gave me stronger legs. Regardless of the weather, we must be sure to completely close all doors. We even lock the bathroom stall doors from the outside so they don’t fly open. The conditions quickly improved once we hit the Kona Coast, but conditions change frequently depending on our location. When up in the flying bridge for Marine Mammal Observation, we can easily observe the change in the wave and wind patterns. It is difficult to spot our dolphins and whales once the water is choppy. It is these changes in the weather and the sea that help me understand the complexity of our oceans.

Meal time on board is tasty and social. Everyone knows when lunchtime is approaching and you are sure to see smiles in the mess. All meals are served buffet style so we are able to choose exactly what we want to eat. We can go back to the buffet line numerous times, but most folks pile their plates pretty high during their first trip through the line. After our meals, we empty our scraps into the slop bucket and then rinse our dishes off in the sink. This gives us the chance to compliment our stewards on the great food. If we would like, we can eat our meals in the TV room, which is next door to the mess. It has a TV, couches, a few computers, a soda machine, and a freezer filled with ice-cream.

Chain of command is important when performing our science operations, when net fishing, when in the engineering room, and even when entering the Bridge. Essentially, if someone tells me to put on a hard hat, I do it with no questions asked. Everyone on board must wear closed toed shoes unless they are in their living quarters. Ear plugs are required on the engineering floor. Safety is key on the decks, in our rooms, in the halls, and especially during operations. I have never felt so safe and well fed!

Dr. Tran is always smiling.

Dr. Tran is always smiling.

“Doc” Tran

Did you know that we have a doctor on board who is on call 24/7? The Sette is fortunate to have “Doc” Tran on board. He is a commander with the United States Public Health Service. Doc Tran has served on the Sette for four years. He is our doctor, our cheerleader, our store manager, and our coach! When not on duty, he can be seen riding an exercise bike on the deck or making healthy smoothies for anyone willing to partake. He also operates the ship store, which sells shirts, treats, hats, and toiletries at very reasonable prices. He truly enjoys his service on the Sette. He loves to travel, enjoys working with diverse groups of people, and appreciates our oceans. He is a perfect match for the Sette and is well respected by the crew.

 

 

Suzanne Acord: Learning the Ropes off the Kona Coast, March 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 24, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 7 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Temperature: 24.3˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Trawl Operations on the Sette

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Trawling allows scientists to collect marine life at prescribed depths. Our highly anticipated first trawl begins at 21:06 on March 23rd. Hard hats, safety vests, and extremely concerned crew members flock to the stern to prepare and deploy the trawl net. Melanie is our fearless trawl lead. Once we bring in our catch, she will coordinate the following tasks: Place our catch in a bucket; strain the catch; weigh the total catch; separate the catch into five groups (deep water fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, gelatinous life, and miscellaneous small life); count the items in each group; weigh each group; measure the volume of each group; take photos of our catch; send the entire catch to the freezer.

Our trawling depth for this evening is 600 meters. This is unusually deep for one of our trawls and may very well be a hallmark of our cruise. We are able to deploy the net with ease over our target location, which is located within the layers of micronekton discussed in an earlier blog. The depth of the net is recorded in the eLab every 15 minutes during the descent and ascent. Once the trawl is brought back up to the stern, we essentially have a sea life sorting party in the wet lab that ends around 05:00. Our specimens will be examined more thoroughly once we are back in Honolulu at the NOAA labs. Throughout this cruise, it is becoming clearer every day that a better understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants can allow us to improve ocean management and protection. Our oceans impact our food sources, economies, health, weather, and ultimately human survival.

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Science Party Interview with Gadea Perez-Andujar

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

The University of Hawaii and NOAA are lucky to have Gadea, a native of Spain, on board the Sette during the 2014 IEA cruise. She initially came to Hawaii to complete a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with Hawaii Pacific University. While a HPU student, she studied abroad in Australia where she received hands-on experience in her field. Coursework in Australia included fish ecology and evolution and coral reef ecology, among other high interest courses. Between her BA and MA, Gadea returned to Spain to work on her family’s goat farm. She couldn’t resist the urge to return to Hawaii, so she left her native land yet again to continue her studies in Hawaii. Gadea is now earning her master’s degree in marine biology with the University of Hawaii. In addition to her rigorous course schedule, she is carrying out a teaching assistantship. To top off her spring schedule, she volunteered to assist with Marine Mammal Operations (MMO) for the 2014 IEA cruise. She assists Ali Bayless, our MMO lead, during small boat deployments, HARP operations, and flying bridge operations.

Gadea’s master’s studies have increased her interest in deep water sharks. More specifically, Gadea is exploring sharks with six gills that migrate vertically to oxygen minimum zones, or OMZs. This rare act is what interests Gadea. During our IEA cruise, she is expanding her knowledge of the crocodile shark, which has been known to migrate down to 600-700 meters.

Once her studies are complete in 2015, Gadea yearns to educate teachers on the importance of our oceans. She envisions the creation of hands-on activities that will provide teachers with skills and knowledge they can utilize in their classrooms. She believes teacher and student outreach is key. When asked what she appreciates most about her field of study, Gadea states that she enjoys the moment when people “realize what they’re studying can make the world a better place.”

Personal Log

Morale in the Mess 

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can't wait to try this tonight at dinner.

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can’t wait to try this tonight at dinner. We will also be eating Vietnamese soup, salad, and macaroni and cheese with scallops.

The mess brings all hands together three times a day and is without a doubt a morale booster. Hungry crew members can be found nibbling in the mess 24/7 thanks to the tasty treats provided by Jay and Miss Parker. Jay and Miss Parker never hesitate to ensure we are fed, happy, and humored. It is impossible to leave the galley without a warm feeling. A few of my favorite meal items include steak, twice baked potatoes, a daily fresh salad bar, red velvet cookies, and Eggs Benedict. Fresh coffee, juice, and tea can be found 24/7 along with snacks and leftovers. At the moment, my shift spans from 15:00 to 00:00, which is my dream shift. If we need to miss a meal, Jay ensures that a plate is set aside for us or we can set aside a plate for ourselves ahead of time.

Did you know?

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Did you know that NOAA engineers are able to create potable water using sea water? The temperature of the water influences the amount of potable water that we create. If the sea water temperature does not agree with our water filtration system, the laundry room is sometimes closed. This has happened only once for a very short period of time on our cruise. NOAA engineers maintain a variety of ship operations. Their efforts allow us to drink water, shower, do laundry, enjoy air conditioning, and use the restroom on board–all with ease.

Suzanne Acord: Preparing to Embark! March 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
(Almost) On board NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 12, 2014

Personal Log

Aloha, from Honolulu, Hawaii! My name is Suzanne Acord. I teach high school social studies with Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii. More specifically, I teach Asian Studies, World History, and IB History. I also teach one Pacific Island History course with Chaminade University. In addition to teaching, I advise our Model United Nations delegation and coordinate our school’s History Day efforts.

Prior to teaching in Hawaii, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yap, Micronesia. Two years of living a subsistence lifestyle in Yap helped me to understand our intimate and reciprocal relationship with our earth. Yap State Legislator, Henry Falan, sums up this relationship by stating, “In Micronesia, land is life.” Both man-made and naturally occurring disasters can be felt throughout the Pacific. World War II, El Nino, tsunamis, and nuclear testing are just a few world events that have left their mark on the Pacific Ocean. Their impacts on the reefs, the fish supplies, and the water quality are apparent daily.

Peace Corps hut

My first hut in Yap, Micronesia. I lived here while serving in the Peace Corps.

I applied for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program to gain a better understanding of the human relationship with our oceans. My history students frequently determine how our relationship with the ocean changes as a result of environmental change, political change, economic change, and cultural change. My experiences during this cruise will allow my educational community to consider real world solutions for the environmental challenges we face and will face in the future.

I couldn’t be happier to set sail on NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette on March 17, 2014. We will travel from Ford Island (a WWII place of interest) to the Big Island of Hawaii, which is also known as Hawaii Island. The Big Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is the home of Volcanoes National Park. Most of our time will be spent on the Kona coast of the island.  One of the many goals of the Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project is to gain “a complete understanding of the Kona ecosystem, from the land to the ocean…to provide scientific advice used in making informed decisions in the Kona area.”

Suzanne at desk

Anticipating the adventure in my classroom.
Photo credit: Scot Allen

The thorough NOAA Teacher at Sea training has given me peace of mind. I feel much better prepared for the TAS journey now that I have read the official requirements and the tips from past Teachers at Sea. The videos helped me to visualize the experience. Don Kobayashi, our Chief Scientist, has kept all members of the scientific expedition in the loop throughout the planning process. I was excited to see my name listed on the “science party” document and amused when I learned that my daily shift would span from 3 am to noon daily. I will surely experience amazing sunrises over the Pacific. This will definitely be an intellectually stimulating adventure!

My next blog will be written aboard the Sette. Aloha for now.

Adam Renick, Getting Ready to Sail, June 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adam Renick
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12th – June 26th, 2013 

Mission: Kona Integrated Ecosystems Assessment http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/kona_iea/
Geographical area of cruise: The West Coast of the Island of Hawaii
Date: June 6, 2013

Personal Log

TASPhotoAdamRenick

Me in San Diego

Hello from San Diego, California! My name is Adam Renick and I am an Earth and Planetary Sciences teacher at Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Health Sciences High is the best school in the universe and specializes, as its name implies, in preparing students for careers in the health sciences field. Students at our school begin weekly internships at local hospitals and college-level health classes during their freshman year of study so that they are equipped with four years of specialized training and career pathway experience by the time they graduate. The staff and students at our school are truly special and it is an honor to represent them during this Teacher At Sea experience.

Blog1

Violet and I in Niagara Falls, NY

Here is a picture of my incredible wife Violet and I at Niagara Falls. We both love the outdoors and have nature-related careers. She is a marine ecologist and someday maybe we will get to go on a research cruise together. Until then, she will be back in San Diego studying the effects of environmental pollutants on fish in San Diego.  She will also be playing extensively with our canine best friend, Higgs. With the addition of Higgs to our family I have fallen into third place in our house in the categories of intelligence, cuteness and talent. Higgs and I are currently tied in the messiness category and ability to say “Sorry!”

Blog2

Higgs playing ball and warming hearts.

I applied for the NOAA Teacher At Sea program for a variety of reasons. As a teacher of the marine environment I know that this experience will allow me to deepen my knowledge of the content I teach about and to understand the scientific processes that contributes to our knowledge of the oceans.  The ocean plays an integral part of my life. I can smell the salty mist of the Pacific from my house and I am playing at the beach or riding the waves almost every single day (unless I am in the mountains). The first international adventure I ever went on was to explore the reefs off the coast of Belize. I am not sure what mysteries await me in my time at sea but I know I can rely on mother nature to reveal some of her knowledge to me over the next three weeks. It is my goal to share the discoveries of my journey with you.

Blog4

Map of the cruise region.

My journey begins in Honolulu, Hawaii where I will be boarding the vessel Oscar Elton Sette with a team of scientists to embark on a 15-day assessment of the marine ecosystem of the west coast of the Big Island near Kona. The primary scientific goal of our trip will be to collect data to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of the oceanography and associated cetacean activity off the leeward coast of Hawaii. Cetaceans are a classification of marine mammals such as dolphin and whales. I will be providing details on how this is done in upcoming posts and am very excited to learn more about the behaviors of such incredible creatures.

You can learn more about our Ship and the Mission here to learn more about where I’ll be! I am very excited to be part of this experience as it will contribute to my understanding of the world and myself. As I gear up and head to the airport next Monday I will be thinking of my family, whom I thank for giving me the world and of my many students who allow me to share my world with them. See you in Hawaii!

Best,

Adam Renick

NOAA Teacher at Sea