Elizabeth Bullock: Day 5, December 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Bullock
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: December 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 3:15pm
Air Temperature: 23.6 degrees C
Wind Speed: 15.8 knots
Relative Humidity: 56%

Science and Technology Log

Liz takes a water sample

Here I am taking a water sample from the CTD.

Let’s talk about the flurometer!  The flurometer is  a piece of equipment attached to the CTD which is being used on this cruise to measure the amount of chlorophyll (specifically chlorophyll_a) in the water being sampled.  It works by emitting different wavelengths of light into a water sample.  The phytoplankton in the sample absorb some of this light and reemit some of it.  The flurometer measures the fluorescence (or light that is emitted by the phytoplankton) and the computer attached to the CTD records the voltage of the fluorescence.

The flurometer can be used to measure other characteristics of water, but for this research cruise, we are measuring chlorophyll.  As you know, chlorophyll is an indicator of how much phytoplankton is in the water.  Phytoplankton makes up the base of the marine food web and it is an important indicator of the health of the surrounding ecosystem.

At the same time that our cruise is collecting this information, satellites are also examining these components of water quality.  The measurements taken by the scientific party can be compared to the measurements being taken by the satellite.  By making this comparison, the scientists can check their work.  They can also calibrate the satellite, constantly improving the data they receive.

Combined with all the other research I’ve written about in previous blogs, the scientists can make a comprehensive picture of the ecosystem with the flurometer.  They can ask: Is the water quality improving?  Degrading?  Are the organisms that live in this area thriving?  Suffering?

Nelson records data from the CTD

Nelson records data from the CTD.

Collecting data can help us make decisions about how better to protect our environment.  For example, this particular scientific party, led by Nelson Melo, was able to inform the government of Florida to allow more freshwater to flow into Florida Bay.  Nelson and his team observed extremely high salinity in Florida Bay, and they used the data they collected to inform policy makers.

Personal Log

Today is my last full day on the Walton Smith.  The week went by so fast!  I had an amazing time and I want to say thank you to the crew and scientific party on board.  They welcomed me and taught me so much in such a short time!

Thank you also to everyone who read my blog.  I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse of science in action!

Answers to Poll Questions:

1)      In order to apply to the Teacher at Sea program, you must be currently employed, full-time, and employed in the same or similar capacity next year as

a. a K-12 teacher or administrator

b. a community college, college, or university teacher

c. a museum or aquarium educator

d. an adult education teacher

2)      The R/V Walton Smith holds 10,000 gallons of fuel.  By the way, the ship also holds 3,000 gallons of water (although the ship desalinates an additional 20-40 gallons of water an hour).

Elizabeth Bullock: Day 3, December 13, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Bullock
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: December 13, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 4:45pm
Air Temperature: 23.5 degrees C
Wind Speed: 15 kt
Relative Humidity: 68%

Science and Technology Log

Liz deploys a drifter

I'm deploying a drifter!

Last night, we deployed our first drifter.  There will be three deployed over the course of this cruise.  The frame of this drifter is built by the scientists at AOML (Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory).  Afterwards, they attach a satellite transmitter so they can track where the drifter goes.  This helps them measure the surface currents.

What are some other types of research being conducted onboard?  I’m glad you asked!  Two NOAA researchers, Lindsey and Rachel, are studying water chemistry and chlorophyll.  They take samples of surface water from the CTD to study CO2 and the full carbonate profile.  They also use water collected at many different depths to study the chlorophyll content.  Chlorophyll is an indicator of the amount of phytoplankton in the water.

Collecting water from the CTD

Collecting water from the CTD.

Sharein, a PhD student at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, is studying a specific type of plankton called copepods.

The particular copepod that she is studying is food for the larval stages of some commercially important species of fish such as bill fish (which include blue marlin, sail fish, white tuna, and yellowfin tuna) and different species of reef fish.  If a species is commercially important, it means that many people depend on this particular fish for their livelihoods.

Female Copepod

Here is one of the species of copepods that Sharein is studying.

Do you think you would be interested in working at sea?  You would be a good candidate if you:

1)      Like meeting new people and working as part of a team

2)      Are interested in the ocean, weather, and/or atmosphere

3)      Don’t mind getting your feet wet

Personal Log

When we were on our way to the Tortugas, we didn’t have cell service and the TV in the galley had no signal.  It was nice to be disconnected for a while.  Although there are still 29 computers onboard which all have the internet, so we’re hardly off the grid!

It was hard at first to adjust to the night shift, but everyone onboard was really supportive.  Working the night shift means that you work from 7pm to 7am.

Species seen last night in the Neuston net:

Flying fish

Needle fish

Different kinds of sea grasses and sargassum

Moon jellies

Elizabeth Bullock: Introduction, December 8, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Bullock
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011

Introduction

Hello! My name is Elizabeth (Liz) Bullock and I work for the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program (TAS).  Before I worked at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)  I was in graduate school at Clark University in Worcester, MA studying Environmental Science and Policy.  As my final project, I created an environmental curriculum for the Global Youth Leadership Institute (GYLI).  Through this experience, I realized how much I love both science and educating others about the importance of the natural world.

I have been invited to take part in a research cruise on the R/V Walton Smith.  I will be participating in the Bimonthly Regional Survey / South Florida Program Cruise.  The researchers on this survey are  from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanography and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) which is located in Miami, FL.

What will we be studying?  The scientists on this survey are very interested in knowing about the strength and health of the ecosystem.  They can judge how strong it is by looking at various indicators such as water clarity, salinity, and temperature.  They can also record information about the phytoplankton and zooplankton that live in the water.

Question for students: Why do you think it is important to learn about the phytoplankton and zooplankton?  What can they tell us about the ecosystem?  Please leave a reply with your answers below by clicking on “Comments.”

Here is a map of the route the R/V Walton Smith will be taking.

Research Map

The R/V Walton Smith will be leaving Miami, FL and traveling around the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico.

I am so excited and I hope you will follow along with me on this journey of a lifetime!