Nicole Macias, June 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 24, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 25° 04.341’N, 169° 34.084’W
Wind Speed: 19 kts.
Air Temp: 26.1° C

This is the invasive Hypnea algae that we collected in the lobster traps.
This is the invasive Hypnea algae that we collected in the lobster traps.

Science and Technology Log 

We finished collecting data on the lobsters of the North Western Hawaiian Islands. As soon as Bob, the Chief Scientist, is finished inputting his data I will give you a brief over view of the findings. During the entire cruise there was a special white bucket in “the pit” that was specifically for holding all the algae that would come up in the traps. Algae is like seaweed. We have lots of it in Florida, but it seems that the algae we collected on this trip are very different and there is a greater variety. Just as we have invasive species in Florida so does Hawaii. An invasive species is an alien species (transported to a location outside its native range) whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm. When we pull up the lobster pods and take out any organisms we also have a bucket for any algae.

The other day we collected algae called Hypnea musciformis. It is very invasive and was actually introduced to Hawaii from Florida! This algae is a huge threat to Hawaii’s near-shore reefs because it smothers the coral and the surrounding reef reducing diversity in the reef community. There are currently four efforts in Hawaii to manage the invasive algae situation. They have a volunteer-based algae removal effort, a mechanical suction system capable of removing large volumes of algae, research on biological control using native grazers and finally they are researching the feasibility of repopulation of native algal species. It is important for humans to understand their impact on the environment and invasive species is a great example to look at. One human bringing a species somewhere it doesn’t belong can destroy whole ecosystems.

Personal Log 

Tomorrow we are going to Turn Island to pick up a few scientists that need a ride back to Honolulu. If the weather cooperates the scientists will get the opportunity to take the small boats and explore the island. I am excited because there are supposed to be quite a few seals that hang out on the beach. If we get to go on this adventure I will be sure to report back to you ASAP.

Nicole Macias, June 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 20, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 11 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Here is a picture of an otolith that has been extracted from one of the fish we caught.
Here is a picture of an otolith that has been extracted from one of the fish we caught.

Science and Technology Log 

Even though the mission of this cruise is to conduct research on lobsters, we are helping out another scientist with his study on bottom fish. Three of the jobs on the rotation require bottom fishing at night. Every fish that is caught has to be “processed.” When processing a fish you have to indicate the type of species, its fork length, the gender and you have to collect its otoliths. The fork length is the distance from the fish’s upper lip to the end of the center of its tail.

To determine the fish’s gender and collect its otoliths you must dissect the fish. It is very messy business. First the scientist makes an incision from the fish’s anus all the way to the throat. From there you can open up the fish and locate its gonads, sex organs. By looking at the gonads you can determine whether it is a male or female. The female’s gonads are much larger and much more vascular, meaning they have more blood vessels in them. The scientist will then extract the gonads and place them in a jar with formaldehyde so that they can be taken back to the lab and further studied.

These are the females gonads of a fish. It is very important when cutting open the belly that you are very careful because the knife can easily cut into the gonads as it has in this picture. Notice all the blood vessels running through the gonads. This is characteristic of a female.
These are the females gonads of a fish. It is very important when cutting open the belly that you are very careful because the knife can easily cut into the gonads as it has in this picture. Notice all the blood vessels running through the gonads. This is characteristic of a female.

After removing the gonads, it’s time to extract the otoliths. Otoliths are the inner ear bone of a fish and are responsible for hearing and balance. There are two of them—one on each side of the spine at the base of the skull. They are very small, fragile bones so it takes a little finesse in removing them. The reason the otoliths are so important is because they can tell scientists a lot of important information on the life history of the fish. The otoliths have growth rings, kind of like a tree. The growth rings can tell scientists the age of fish as well as any environmental factors it encountered during that time period.

The purpose of the study is to re-estimate the life history for these important commercial fish species. The main species they are lacking data on is the opakapaka, Pristopomoides filamentosus. We have not caught very many of this species, but we have been catching quite a few ehu, Etelis carbunculus. This species is very similar to the red snappers we have in Florida and just the other day I caught a Butaguchi fish, which is related to the Jack family.

Here is a picture of me holding up the Butaguchi I caught. If you look in the background you can see the hydraulic bottom fishing rig that was used to catch the fish.
Here is a picture of me holding up the Butaguchi I caught. If you look in the background you can see the hydraulic bottom fishing rig that was used to catch the fish.

Personal Log 

We are now at our second and last location, Maro Reef. There is no land to be seen for miles. At least at Necker we had something to look at. We are heading in to the last week of the cruise and it is easy to see that 30 days is a long time for some people to be out to see. I am fortunate that I have made some really good friends or else I would be really ready to get home.

I have had the free time to read some really great books and watch some movies I haven’t seen and probably would never have watched if I weren’t out to sea. Anyway, I am looking forward to my last week on the ship and hope to report back many exciting things for you!

Here is a picture of me in the safety boat, about to be lowered down so that we can deliver fresh fish to the near by NOAA vessel.
Here is a picture of me in the safety boat, about to be lowered down so that we can deliver fresh fish to the near by NOAA vessel.

Nicole Macias, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 14, 2009

Here is a close up picture of fertilized lobster eggs. You will notice two black dots in each egg. Those are the lobster's eyes!
Here is a close up of fertilized lobster eggs. You will notice two black dots in each egg. Those are the lobster’s eyes!

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 10 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

So let’s talk about the life cycle of a lobster. In the last log I explained how they reproduce and that the female carries the fertilized eggs on the underside of her tail in the center of her pleopds. The fertilized eggs are a clear spherical shape that have a tint of orange to them. As you can see by the photograph each egg has two black dots, these are the lobsters eyes. After a period of time the fertilized eggs hatch as phyllosome larva. In this stage they look like a very small squished spider. While in this stage they are drifters and travel out to sea in the currents. They hover in the water column and are only able to move vertically on their own, every other movement is up to the ocean. The lobsters stay in the phyllosome larva  stage for several molts. A molt is every time a lobster sheds its exoskeleton and then develops a new one. It is similar to the way a snake sheds its skin or a hermit crab moves into a new shell.

This is a picture of a lobster in the puerulus stage.
This is a picture of a lobster in the puerulus stage.

The next stage is when they transform into a puerulus. A puerulus looks like a lobster except it is very tiny and clear, it does not have any coloration. During this period of the lobster’s life it begins to swim into shallow water and settles at about 20 fathoms (1 fathom is equal to 6 feet.). When it settles it no longer is a drifter and is now considered a bottom dweller. Again after several molts it will begin to develop color. Once it has coloration it will take 1- 2 years to become 1 lb. size. The survival rate is very low for the lobster when it is in the phyllosome and puerulus stage. There is a high chance it will be eaten by a predator. Even when they are full grown they have to be very careful because even then we are one of their predators!

Here is a picture of the "pool" that a few of the other scientists decided to make after a long day of playing in mackerel blood!
Here is a picture of the “pool” that a few of the other scientists decided to make after a long day of playing in mackerel blood!

Personal Log 

The days have been very hot and being surrounded by crystal blue water is very frustrating because we cannot go swimming because of the sharks that have learned to follow our boat for leftovers. A couple of the “men” scientists decided that they couldn’t take it any more, so they filled up one of the giant square bins that usually holds rope, with sea water and went “swimming.” It actually looked very fun and I think I might jump in next time they make a “pool” on deck.

We have reached the half -way point of our trip. Only two more weeks to go and I will be able to walk on land again. I am very excited and hope it goes by quickly. Since we are nearing the end of our stay around Necker Island we did a drive by around the entire island. It is much smaller than I thought and does not look very hospitable. Pele’s brother is said to live on the island. Hawaiian culture believes that Pele is the goddess responsible for the formation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Here is a picture of me as we do a drive by of Necker Island, which is part of the North Western hawaiian Islands Monument.
Here is a picture of me as we do a drive by of Necker Island, which is part of the North Western hawaiian Islands Monument.