Susan Brown: So You Want To Study Sharks? September 6, 2017

 

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 3 – 15, 2017

 

Mission: Snapper/Longline Shark Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: September 6, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29 51.066 N
Longitude: 088 38.983W
Sea wave height: .3 m
Wind Speed: 11.6
Wind Direction: 5.3 degrees starboard
Visibility: (ask bridge)
Air Temperature: 27.5 degrees Celsius

Barometric Pressure: 1014.88 mb
Sky: cloudy

 

Science and Technology Log

Lisa Jones is a fisheries biologist and the field party chief responsible for planning and logistics, manning the survey and the day to day operations. She is in charge of the science team. The Captain, Captain Dave Nelson, is charge of the ship. These two work together on the Oregon II making decisions on where we go.

Lisa has been doing this for 20 years and has been to locations including the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, California, the western north Atlantic, and Mexico. The research has varied from a focus on shark/snapper like the one we are on to marine mammals, plankton, aeriel surveys, and harbor seals. Here are some of the questions I asked. 

Q: What is the most interesting thing you have brought up from the ocean?

L: As far as sharks are concerned, one year off the Florida panhandle, we caught a sixgill shark so big we couldn’t even tag it.

Q: How big do you estimate the size of that shark?

L: Approximately fifteen feet

Q: What got you interested in sharks?

L: When I was working for the Cal Fish and Game, radio tagging and doing aerial surveys for harbor seals, we would see shark bitten seals as well as sharks during the aerial surveys. One of the coolest things we ever saw off the Channel Islands was a blue whale. 

Q: Those are big, right? How big do you think it was?

L: I don’t know but it looked liked a small building in the water.

Q: What is your training?

L: My undergraduate degree is in geology. I took a lot of oceanography classes during that time. Later, in my 30s, I went back to graduate school for a degree in biology in Tennessee. It’s a long story but I knew I wanted to study sharks. Land locked in Tennessee, I attended a national conference that included many shark specialists. I introduced myself to get connected – basically anyone who would talk to me.

Lisa Jones explains a career in shark research, part 1:

Lisa Jones explains a career in shark research, part 2:

What questions do you have for Lisa? Post them in the comment section. She is happy to answer them!

Personal Log

I am adjusting to life on the ship and the 12-hour shifts. It’s been fun learning all the different jobs we have as we rotate through different stations. I have now baited hooks, recorded data on the computer as we deploy baited hooks and retrieve the longline to record what we catch, a slinger where I get the baited line ready to be attached to the longline, the high flyer pushing the buoy out that marks the start and end of the longline, and even tagged a large sandbar shark.

Check out this video of me slinging the bait:

There have been several questions regarding our route. The survey area has changed due to both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The next post will be all about weather so you can see how this has impacted our trip. I am wondering how much these hurricanes have impacted what and how much we catch.

 

Did You Know?

Salinity and dissolved oxygen in the water impacts what we catch.

 

Question of the day:

What advice did Lisa give for anyone interested in doing the kind of work she does? (hint: watch the video embedded in this post)

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

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the-day-shift-science-crew-kevin-rademacher-teacher-at-sea-barney-peterson-lisa-jones-mike-cyrana-and-kasea-price

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

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

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

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

trey-driggers-head-of-the-night-shift-science-team-working-in-the-dry-lab

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

VOLUNTEERS

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

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

mike-showing-off-the-catch

Mike showing off the catch

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

night-crew-before-shift-change-trey-chrissy-lydia-and-toni

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

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

kasea-price-showing-off-a-large-red-grouper

Kasea Price showing off a large Red Grouper

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

 

Julie Karre: Heading Back to Land… August 5-6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julie Karre
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013  

Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic
Date: Monday August 5 – Tuesday August 6, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
Monday – NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET
DOMINANT PERIOD 6 SECONDS

Tuesday – E WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 3 TO 4 FEET

Science and Technology Log

Meet the Scientists

Meet some of my favorite people in the world. Without these people my experience would have lacked the learning and laughter that made it such a joy.

Kristin Hannan

Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!

Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!

Kristin was the Field Party Chief for the first and second legs of the Longline survey. She was also my watch leader, which meant she was by my side in support every step of the way. And as I progressed as a shark handler, she was there with a high five every time. I hit the jackpot landing on a ship with Kristin. She is now off to visit Harry Potter World (I’m so jealous I can hardly stand it) before rejoining the the survey when it leaves Mayport. This is Kristin’s fifth year doing the Longline Survey. The first time she did it, she was a volunteer just like us. I wish Kristin the best of luck in all she does and hope to call her a friend for years to come.
Amy Schmitt
Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.

Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.

Amy is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. She has been with NOAA for two years, but has been working in research biology for most of her career. She is a native of Colorado and shares my blond hair and fair complexion. We could usually be found together cooling off in the dry lab as often as possible. It was also Amy who coined one of my nicknames on the cruise – Data Girl. According to the science team, the Teachers at Sea make excellent data recorders. I can’t imagine why 🙂
Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.

Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.

Lisa Jones
NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the second leg of Longline Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.

NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of Longline, Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.

Lisa has been doing the Longline survey for 16 years now. She is a wealth of information about sharks, living aboard a ship, and marine life. She is also a passionate dog lover, which many of the volunteers shared with her. Lisa will be taking over the duties of Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of the survey. She will be aboard the Oregon II for all four legs of the survey this year. That’s a lot of boat rocking!
Mike Hendon
NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.

NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.

Mike is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. He’s a seasoned veteran of the Longline survey and was a great mentor for those of us new to the shark-handling community. Mike also has two adorable kids and two cute dogs waiting for him at home. He was part of the science team for the first leg of the survey. He can sometimes be found wearing mismatched socks.
Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.

Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.

Personal Log

My final days are winding down and I am caught (no pun intended) off guard by how much I am going to miss this. There is such a peacefulness that comes from the rocking of a boat, especially if you don’t get seasick. And working alongside people who share a passionate nature – we may not all be passionate about the same things, but we are all passionate – is such a reinvigorating experience. These two weeks gave me an opportunity to talk about my environmental science integration in my classroom with people who care very much about environmental science. It was so inspiring to have them care about what I was doing in my classroom. It gives me another reason to trust the importance of what I’m doing as well as more people I want to make proud.

Fun list time! Things you get used to living on a ship:

  1. Noise. There is so much happening on a ship, from the engine to the cradle pulling up a shark. It’s all loud. But you get used to it.
  2. Sneaking into your stateroom as silently as possible so you don’t wake up your AWESOME roommate Rachel.

    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.

    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.

  3. Waiting. There’s a lot of waiting time on a survey like this. You find ways to make that time meaningful.

    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.

    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.

  4. Rocking. Duh.
  5. Taking high steps through doorways. The doors that separate the interior and exterior of the ship are water tight, so they don’t go all the way to the floor. You can only bash your shins in so many times before it becomes second nature.
  6. Sharks. I said in a previous post that this survey has been eye opening and it’s worth sharing again. I don’t have a marine science background and I had fallen victim to the media portrayals of sharks. I had no idea that there were sharks as small as the Sharpnose that can be handled by such an amateur like myself.

    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.

    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.

  7. Sunsets. Words cannot describe the colors that make their way to you when there’s uninterrupted skyline. Oh I will definitely miss those sunsets.

    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.

    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.

  8. The stars. I live a life of being asleep by 10pm and up at 6 am and often times forget to look up at the stars even on the nights when I might have been able to see them. These two weeks gave me some of the darkest nights I’ve had and some of the best company in the world.
Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline. Photo Credit: Mike Hendon

Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline.
Photo Credit: Mike Hendon

Julie Karre: A Day of No Fishing is Not a Day of Rest, July 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julie Karre
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013 

Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic
Date: July 27

Weather Data from the Bridge
W TO NW WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS
SEAS 1 TO 2 FT.

We departed Pascagoula yesterday with calm winds and steamy temperatures. Our team decided that with storms developing in and around the Gulf, it was best for us to head out to the Atlantic. So we’re all loaded in to hang out for a few days before the fishing begins.

Science and Technology Log

It would be easy to think of these traveling days as days of rest. But they are far from it. The ship’s crew and fishermen are hard at work each day keeping the ship running as it should. One of the tasks the fishing crew is responsible for is dealing with the rust that builds up on the ship. (Ok, seventh and eighth graders – why is rust such a problem for a ship?)

Because of the constant moisture, rust is a persistent problem on the ship, exacerbated by the salt. Whenever docked, the crew works tirelessly to get the ship into prime condition. Any of the deck equipment that can be removed gets taken to a workshop where it is sanded down to raw metal again and then galvanized. This increases the life of the equipment because galvanized steel doesn’t rust. That leaves all the parts that cannot be removed to be touched up piecemeal, as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols said. On a day like today – calm sea, light wind, and no fishing – the guys set to work on designated areas of the ship. Once an area of rust is identified, the rust must be removed. After removing the rust and vacuuming up all the dust and particles, the area gets primer painted twice and then its topcoat. The end result is a nice clean look to the boat.

Opening on the starboard side of the ship getting its rust removal makeover.

Opening on the starboard side of the ship getting its rust removal makeover.

Removing rust from the railing on the starboard side.

Skilled Fisherman Mike Conway removing rust from the railing on the starboard side.

In addition to keeping the ship in tip-top shape, it is essential to make sure all of the equipment used during the survey works appropriately. Around 9:40am, the Oregon II stopped moving and deployed a CTD unit (conductivity, temperature, depth). These cylinder shaped units carry tanks that bring water samples back to the ship from designated depths while the sensors read the water for its temperature, depth, and salinity.

Alongside the crew hard at work, the science team is busy doing work on sharks that came with us from Pascagoula. According to scientist Lisa Jones, some of these sharks are from surveys done to collect sharks following the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf in 2010. Others are sharks that needed further identification and information from surveys like the one I am on. Each shark is weighed and measured, sexed, and then internal organs are removed for further analysis, tissue samples are taken, and the remains of the shark are thrown overboard to reenter the food chain.

Mike recording data as Lead Scientist Kristen Hannan dissects a Gulper Shark from a previous survey.

Scientist Mike Hendon recording data as Lead Scientist Kristin Hannan dissects a Gulper Shark from a previous survey.

During this down time I was treated to a visit to the bridge, where officers steer the ship, among other things. NOAA Corps Officer LTjg Brian Adornato was on duty and offered me a glimpse of the technology that keeps us headed in the right direction. The Oregon II has one propeller controlled by two engines, which are both running while we steam across the Gulf. The boat was on its version of autopilot while I was visiting, which means the navigational heading is programmed and the boat is steered on that heading automatically. Whether steered by hand or computers, the ship is rarely perfectly on its heading. (Come on seventh and eighth graders – what factors are also influencing the ship’s movement?)

All of the navigation equipment driving the Oregon II.

All of the navigation equipment driving the Oregon II.

The wind and water are factors in how close the ship’s course over ground is to its heading. The waves, currents, and wind are all pushing the ship.

Personal Log

While the ship is buzzing with work, there is also lots of time to sit and share stories. I feel very lucky to be aboard the Oregon II at all, but to be aboard with such welcoming and friendly people feels like I hit the jackpot.

I share a room with NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor. She is on duty from 8 am – noon and from 8 pm to midnight. During those hours it is her job to drive the ship. I am on duty from noon to midnight, but during these days prior to fishing, I have a lot of free time. I have been reading, taking pictures, and hanging out with the others. The sleeping on the ship is easy and comfortable. And the food is delicious. Chief Steward Walter Coghlan is an excellent cook.

Some of the things that have caught me off guard should make perfect sense to my lovely seventh and eighth graders, like why I had a blurry camera. (Ok, kiddos – the ship is an air-conditioned vessel kept at cool temperatures to relieve the crew and scientists from the heat of the Gulf. What happens if you keep your camera in your room and bring it out onto the hot deck to take pictures?)

CONDENSATION! The cool glass of the lens becomes immediately foggy with condensation from the high temperatures outside.

It only took me one time of making that mistake and missing some great pictures because of it to learn my lesson. I now keep my camera in a room closer to the outside temperature so it’s always ready to take pictures – like this one of me in my survival suit! I’m also thrilled I didn’t miss the sunset.

The Abandon Ship drill requires everyone on board to get into a survival suit. It's not easy.

The Abandon Ship drill requires everyone on board to get into a survival suit. It’s not easy. – Photo Credit: Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin.

A beautiful sunset on my first night out at sea.

A beautiful sunset on my first night out at sea.

The sunset glistening on the calm water the second night.

The sunset glistening on the calm water the second night.

Did You Know?

Fathoms are a unit of measurement commonly used to measure the depth of a body of water. One fathom is exactly six feet.

Animals Seen

Flying Fish

Pilot Whales