Angela Hung: Flexibility, June 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Angela Hung

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 22-July 5, 2018

June 19-July 5, 2018

June 23-July 5, 2018

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

(Actually from weather.gov, the program in the bridge is off)

Conditions at 1454

Latitude: 30.46° N

Longitude: 88.53° W

Temperature: 34° C

Wind Speed: SW 12 mph

Science and Technology Log

Taniya Wallace-Chief Scientist, Fisheries Biologist

If you enjoy a good seafood steam pot or boil—overflowing with shrimp, crabs, clams and corn and potatoes mixed in, rounded out with fish filets blackened/broiled/fried to your preference—then you have to thank hardworking scientists like Taniya Wallace. Taniya is a fisheries biologist and is the Chief Scientist aboard Oregon II for this leg of the 2018 SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey. On top of assessing the health of the Gulf fisheries that feeds Americans across the country, she is busy coordinating the group of scientists that form the research party on the boat. The specifics of the research will follow in upcoming posts, but today, I’d like you to meet a scientist.

Taniya Wallace

Taniya entering data into the computer.

Taniya was certain of becoming a nurse. Her high school offered vocational coursework in nursing to give students an early start into college degree programs. She was on track, until it came to clinicals. Nursing clinicals are the part of the program where students begin their training in real work settings to apply what is learned in the classroom. More importantly, clinicals introduces students to the realities of the job.

Nurses are among the ranks of hard working, underappreciated sectors of the health field because much of what they do goes unseen. For many in pre-nursing and nursing programs, clinicals ensures that students are experiencing what they are signing up for. For Taniya Wallace, her experience during this class compelled her to make the difficult decision to pursue a different program of study.

Taniya was accepted in Mississippi Valley State University, a historically black university, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. She began a position as a laboratory scientist until the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig that caused 11 deaths and the largest oil spill in history. Four million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico over three months before the underwater well was finally capped.

Taniya has always loved the water, and had previously shadowed her cousin who is also a marine scientist. Her aunt builds boats for Austal Shipyard in Alabama and her father works at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS, the very company that built Oregon II. With an urgent need to study the critical impacts of crude petroleum oil on the Gulf ecosystems, an opportunity on Oregon II was a natural fit. Taniya signed a three month contract–she’s been here ever since.

Plaque aboard Oregon II

Plaque aboard Oregon II

What has kept her going for eight years? As a scientist on a ship, she sees “something new every day” on the boat and on land when they stop at different ports. With a love of water, working in a lab at sea is a win-win.

Personal Log

The Teacher at Sea Program emphasizes to applicants that “flexibility and the ability to cope with the uncertain is crucial to the character of those who go to sea.” Taniya Wallace demonstrates this quality by shifting to a research program in college, joining NOAA Ship Oregon II, and by working at sea.

It is no exaggeration that flexibility is a requirement for working on a boat. In fact, I was scheduled to participate in the second leg of the SEAMAP summer groundfish survey on June 21, departing from Galveston, TX on the 22nd. Unfortunately, the trawl winch broke during the first leg (the first time ever for Oregon II which has been sailing for 50 years!), cutting their trip short. To try to make up the time, it was decided that the second leg would get an early start from Mississippi as soon as repairs were completed in Pascagoula, MS.

What originally was a week to get packed, find a plant sitter and cuddle with my cats became a last minute scramble to find rain boots and mow the lawn in the middle of a heat wave—I boarded a plane to Gulfport, MS on June 18 instead. (It was explained that this was not the typical direction in scheduling shifts.) I got to meet some of the fantastic crew members of Oregon II, as well as from neighboring Gordon Gunter, who invited me to play corn hole for the first time. This is the game where you are trying to throw bean bags through a hole cut in a plywood board that’s set on an incline.  I spent the night on the boat in port.

 

 

 

The boat bustled the next morning as everyone arrived: crew, scientists and a couple of interns. [Find your internship here! https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/about/internship/  ] At 1400, we were off!

There’s the requisite training and safety information for the ship in general. Taniya took over the interns and me for science brief. I learn that I’m assigned to the day shift which begins at 1200 noon the next day. Night shift starts at 2400 midnight that same day. The operations of the ship are 24 hours. It’s a long wait to get started and I’m looking forward to it.

We spend a night out at sea and I’m up and ready to sort some fish and shrimp. When I get to the galley, I find out that we are in fact, returning to Pascagoula because the trawl winch wasn’t fully repaired.

While issues like this are rare on Oregon II, a vessel that is widely regarded as extremely reliable, the process of science frequently hits stumbling blocks. TV shows like CSI and Bones and movies like Jurassic Park feature futuristic laboratories with state-of-the-art, if wildly impractical, equipment with colorful liquids, holograms, and scientists in lab coats and goggles who complete experiments in mere minutes. In reality, science is a lot messier and SLOWER. While wiling away the time today, I learned about a new hashtag for scientists full of internet examples: #badstockphotosofmyjob.

Real labs tend to have old equipment, space is limited so rooms are often crowded with large machines and many computers, and most liquids are colorless, stored in small, like the size of your pinky, tubes in a refrigerator or freezer. Particularly if you work outside, aka “the field”, and even if you don’t, a lot of equipment might be jerry-rigged from things picked up at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Not to say that science is unreliable or not credible, but that projects are unique and a lot of times, you have to be creative and build what you specifically need. Then modify it until it works.

 

 

 

 

So here we are in a typical day of a scientist. A piece of equipment isn’t working, we’re losing data collection by the minute, but remember, we’re going to be flexible.

Did You Know?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is tasked with promoting job creation and economic growth by providing tools and programs for the scientific collection and analysis of data. NOAA is one of these scientific research agencies employing scientists to study the atmosphere to provide us with weather and climate data, and the oceans, providing information for the operation of fisheries, for example. Good policies are informed by basic research, making the work of these agencies invaluable to the US economy.

Jennifer Fry: March 12, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 12, 2012

Pago Pago Harbor

Personal Log

The governor's house is situated high on a hill, overlooking the pristine waters of Pago Pago Harbor.

The Oscar Elton Sette departs  in the morning.  The ship has been readied with the necessary supplies  for the next two weeks at sea.  The view of Pago Pago harbor from the ship is breathtaking, the  multi-layered  variety of green, lush tropical plants cover the steep hills that envelope the harbor. The sapphire-blue colored  seas are so striking and luckily are very calm. Only  a gentle rolling motion is felt as we  slowly amble to our destination offshore.

Soon the emergency drills begin calling us to “muster” to our emergency stations.  Out on the deck we met at our predetermined emergency station.  There are three very important emergency drills:

Fire /Emergency drill where we all meet on Texas deck after hearing the ship’s bell/general alarm for 10 seconds.

The second drill is a Man Overboard.  That is heard as 3 prolonged blasts of the ship’s general alarm. Each blast is 4-6 seconds in length.

In the event that you see the person who falls overboard, it is extremely important not to take your eyes off the victim.

The steps during a Man Overboard drill consists of:

1. Tell someone nearby to notify the bridge that someone has gone overboard.

2.  Throw something that floats overboard, such as a life ring,  to mark the location.

A cove in Pago Pago.

3. Keep pointing to the person overboard, this will help in the recovery process.

The third drill is the  Abandon Ship Drill.  This consists of 7 short blasts followed by 1 prolonged blast of the general alarm.  During this drill we are instructed to bring our survival suit, life jacket, a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and wear closed-toed shoes to the drill.

After mustering on the Texas Deck,  we don our survival suit, a bright orange suit known as a  “gumby suit”  made of neoprene, which is easily seen during any emergency and acts as a floatation device.

Pictured during abandon ship are Jennifer Fry with crew member James McDade.

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The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette is named for Dr. Oscar Elton Sette. Dr. Sette was a pioneer in the development of fisheries oceanography and according to many fisheries scientists, is the father of modern fisheries oceanography in the U.S. He is recognized both nationally and internationally for many significant contributions to marine fisheries research. Oscar Elton Sette replaces Townsend Cromwell.

Oscar Elton Sette supports the scientific missions of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Science Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The ship normally operates throughout the central and western Pacific, and conducts fisheries assessment surveys, physical and chemical oceanography, marine mammal projects and coral reef research. It collects fish and crustacean specimens using bottom trawls, longlines, and fish traps. Plankton, fish larvae and eggs are also collected with plankton nets and surface and mid-water larval nets.

The ship routinely conducts scuba diving missions for the Honolulu Laboratory. Ample deck space enables Oscar Elton Sette to carry a recompression chamber as an added safety margin for dive-intensive missions in remote regions. The ship is actively involved in NMFS Honolulu Coral Reef Restoration cruises, which concentrate scientific efforts on the removal, classification and density of marine debris and discarded commercial fishing gear from fragile coral reefs.

For more information about NOAA aboard the Oscar Dyson Sette, go to: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/os/index.html

Science and Technology Log:

The ship is very spacious with a lot of  lab space.  They include:

  • Two E-Labs where the acoustics computers and weather computers are housed  Scientists collect and download  data in these spaces during experiments
  • Two wet Labs where fish are collected , analyzed, and processed
  • Hydro Lab where scientists prepare and process chemicals as part of  the C.T.D.  Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth experiments

Birds seen:

Frigate bird: A large tropical bird related to the pelican.  Its wing span exceeds two meters.

A frigate bird was seen from the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette as it left the Pago Pago harbor.