Ashley Cosme: Deploying a Longline – September 4, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ashley Cosme

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 31 – September 14, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date:  September 4th, 2018

Longline sites

Primary longline stations are indicated in purple. The red line represents the path the Oregon II.

Weather Data from the Bridge:

  • Latitude: 28 02.2N
  • Longitude: 96 23.8W
  • Wind speed: 13 Knots
  • Wind direction: 080 (from North)
  • Sky cover: Broken
  • Visibility: 10 miles
  • Barometric pressure:  1014.1atm
  • Sea wave height: 2 feet
  • Sea Water Temp: 30.6°C
  • Dry Bulb: 28.1°C
  • Wet Bulb: 25.3°C

 

Science and Technology Log:

After a long two day cruise to the southern tip of Texas, we finally started fishing.  I learned quickly that everyone has a job, and when you are done with your job, you help members of your team complete their tasks.  The coordinates of all of the survey locations are charted using a program called Novel Tec, and once the captain has determined that we have reached our designated location, the fun begins.  To deploy the longline there are many important responsibilities that are delegated by the Chief NOAA Scientist.

Baited hooks

Baited hooks

 

#1- All scientists work together to bait 100 hooks with mackerel (Scomber scombrus).

 

 

 

 

 

High Flyer

High-Flyer deployment

 

 

 

#2- High-Flyer Release – Once the long line has been attached to the high-flyer, it is released from the stern of the boat.  The high-flyer consists of a buoy to keep it above water, and a flashing light, so we know the exact location of the beginning of the longline.

 

 

 

 

 

Attaching a weight

Attaching a weight and TDR

 

#3 Weight Attachment – A NOAA fisherman is responsible for attaching the weight at the appropriate distance, based on the depth of that station to ensure the gear is on the sea floor.  This  also keeps the high-flyer from drifting.  Alongside the weight, a TDR is attached to the line, which records temperature and depth.

 

 

 

numbered hooks

Each baited hook is identified with a number.

 

 

 

#4 Numbering of baited hooks – After the first weight goes out, one by one the gangions are numbered and set over the edge of the ship, but not let go.  A gangion consists of a 12ft line, a baited hook, and hook number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attaching the Hooks

Attaching the Hooks

# 5 Hook Attachment – A NOAA fisherman will receive one gangion at a time, and attach it to the line.  Another weight is attached to the line after 50 hooks have been deployed, and once all 100 hooks are deployed the final weight is attached.  Then the line is cut, and the second high-flyer is attached and set free to mark the end of the survey area.  This process goes fairly quickly, as the longline is continuously being fed into the water.

 

Data Collection

Data Collection

 

#6 Data Collection – Each piece of equipment that enters the water is recorded in a database on the computer.  There should always be 2 high-flyers, 3 weights, and 100 gangions entered into the database.

 

 

 

 

 

Scrubbing buckets

Scrubbing buckets

 

 

 

#7 Bucket Clean-up – The buckets that were holding the baited hooks need to be scrubbed and prepared for when we haul the line back in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once all of the gear is in the water we wait for approximately one hour until we start to haul back each hook one by one.  The anticipation is exciting to see if a shark or other fish has hooked itself.

Longline Fishing infographic

This image illustrates what the longline, including all the gear, would look like once completely placed in the water. (Image courtesy of Stephan Kade, 2018 Teacher at Sea).

 

Personal Log

I would say that my body has fully adjusted to living at sea.  I took off my sea sickness patch and I feel great!  Currently, Tropical Storm Gordon is nearing to hit Mississippi this evening.  We are far enough out of the storm’s path that it will not affect our fishing track.  I am having the time of my life and learning so much about the Oregon II, sharks, and many other organisms that we’ve seen or caught.

Remora

This sharksucker (Echeneis nautratus) was sucking on a blacktip shark that we caught. He instantly attached to my arm to complete his duty as a cleaner fish.

Did you know?:

Engineers.jpg

William Osborn (1st Engineer) and Fred Abaka (3rd Engineer).

NOAA Ship Oregon II creates freshwater via reverse osmosis.  Sea water is pumped in and passed through a high pressure pump at 1,000psi.  The pump contains a membrane (filter), which salt is too big to pass through, so it is disposed overboard.  The clean freshwater is collected and can be used for showering, cooking, and drinking.  In addition to creating freshwater, the engineers are also responsible for the two engines and the generators.

 

 

 

Animals Seen:

Pantropical Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuate)

Blacknose Shark (Carcharhinus acronotus)

Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

Smoothhound Dogfish (Mustelus sinusmexicanus)

Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

Sharksucker (Echeneis nautratus)

Anne Krauss: All at Sea (But Learning Quickly), August 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Conditions at 0030

Latitude: 25° 22.6’ N

Longitude: 84° 03.6’ W

Barometric Pressure: 1017.4 mb

Air Temperature: 28.8° C

Wind Speed: 9.1 knots

 

Science and Technology Log

For the first few days, we steamed, or traveled, to our first station. Each station is a research location where several activities will take place:

  1. Preparing and setting out the longline gear.
  2. Letting the line soak (fish on the bottom) for one hour while other tasks are performed.
  3. Deploying a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Salinity) to collect samples and information about the water.
  4. Hauling back the longline gear.
  5. Recording data from the longline set and haulback.
  6. Collecting measurements and samples from anything caught on the longline.
  7. Depending on what is caught: attaching tags and releasing the animal back into the water (sharks) or collecting requested samples for further study (bony fish).

This is a very simplified summary of the various activities, and I’ll explore some of the steps in further detail in other posts.

During these operations and in between tasks, scientists and crew are very busy. As I watched and participated, the highly organized, well-coordinated flurry of activity on deck was an incredible demonstration of verbs (action words): clean, rinse, prepare, gather, tie, hook, set, haul, calibrate, operate, hoist, deploy, retrieve, cut, measure, weigh, tag, count, record, release, communicate

Last night, I witnessed and participated in my first longline station. I baited 100 hooks with mackerel. I recorded set and haulback data on the computer as the gear was deployed (set) and hauled back in (haulback). I attached 100 numbered tags to the longline gangions (attached to the hooks). I recorded measurements and other data about SHARKS!

We caught, measured, sampled, tagged, and released four sharks last night: a silky, smooth-hound, sandbar, and tiger shark! I’ve never seen any of these species, or types, in person. Seeing the first shark burst onto the deck was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life!

A sandbar shark being measured with a measuring tape in a rope sling.

A sandbar shark being measured on the cradle or sling used for measuring larger, heavier sharks.

Sometimes, we didn’t catch any fish, but we did bring up a small piece of coral, brittle sea stars, and a crinoid. All three are marine animals, so I was excited to see them in person.

In between stations, there was some downtime to prepare for the next one. One of my favorite moments was watching the GoPro camera footage from the CTD. A camera is attached to the device as it sinks down through the depths to the bottom and back up to the surface again. The camera allowed me to visually ‘dive along’ as it collected water samples and data about the water temperature, salinity, pressure, and other information. Even though I watch ocean documentaries frequently and am used to seeing underwater footage on a screen, this was extremely exciting because the intriguing ecosystem on the screen was just below my feet!

Personal Log

Perhaps it is sea lore and superstition, but so far, the journey has been peppered with fortuitous omens. One of my ocean-loving former students and her Disney-bound family just happened to be on my flight to Orlando. Yes, it’s a small world after all. Her work samples were featured in our published case study, reminding me of the importance and impact of ocean literacy education. Very early the next morning, NASA’s promising Parker Solar Probe thunderously left the Sunshine State, hurtling toward the sun. New York’s state motto: Excelsior. Later that morning, a rainbow appeared shortly before the Oregon II left Port Canaveral. Although an old weather proverb states: “rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning,” we’ve had very pleasant weather, and I chose to interpret it as a reassuring sign. Sailing on the Oregon II as a Teacher at Sea is certainly my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

According to seafaring superstition, women on board, whistling, and bananas are supposed to be bad luck on a boat. On the Oregon II, folks do not seem to put much stock into these old beliefs since I’ve encountered all three aboard the ship and still feel very lucky to be here.

A fruit basket and a bunch of bananas

The rest of the fruit seems to think that bananas are bad luck…the crew doesn’t!

In another small-world coincidence, two of the volunteers on the Second Leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey recently graduated from SUNY Potsdam, my undergrad alma mater. What drew us from the North Country of New York to Southern waters? A collective love of sharks.

These small-world coincidences seemed indicate that I was on the right path. Out on the ocean, however, the watery world seems anything but small. The blue vastness and unseen depths fill me with excitement and curiosity, and I cannot wait to learn more. For the next two weeks, the Oregon II will be my floating classroom. Instead of teaching, I am here to learn.

As a fourth generation teacher, education is in my blood. One great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in 1894. My other great-grandmother was also a teacher and a Potsdam alumna (Class of 1892). As we traverse the Atlantic Ocean, I wonder what my academic ancestors would think of their great-granddaughter following in their footsteps…whilst studying sharks and snapper at sea. Salt water equally runs through my veins.

 

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As we steamed, or traveled, to our first station (research location), I wondered about the unfamiliar waters and equipment around me. Before I could indulge my questions about marine life, however, I first needed to focus on the mundane: daily life at sea. In many ways, I was reminded of the first day at a new school. It was junior high all over again, minus the braces and bad bangs. At first, those long-forgotten new school worries resurfaced: What if I get lost? Where is my locker (or, in this case, my stateroom)? What if I forget my schedule? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch? To combat these thoughts, I draw upon a variety of previous travel and life experiences: studying abroad, backpacking, camping, meeting new friends, volunteering, working with a marine science colleague, and sailing on other vessels. Combined, those experiences provided me with the skills to successfully navigate this one.

The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy

The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy

I’ve spent the first few days getting acquainted with the layout, personnel, safety rules, and routines of the Oregon II. My students wondered about some of the same aspects of life at sea.

Where do I sleep on the ship?

The staterooms remind me of a floating college dorm, only much quieter. I’m sharing a small stateroom with Kristin Hannan, a scientist. We are on opposite work shifts, so one of us is sleeping while the other is working. I am assigned to the day shift (noon to midnight) while she is assigned to the night shift (midnight to noon). Inside the stateroom, we have berths (similar to bunk beds), a sink, and large metal storage cabinets that are used like a closet or dresser. Space is limited on the ship, so it must be used efficiently and sometimes creatively.

A view of water, a pier, and a pulley

The view as we leave Port Canaveral.

Do you know anyone else on the ship?

No, but I’m meeting lots of new people. They have been welcoming, offering interesting information and helpful reminders and pointers. Those first-day-of-school jitters are fading quickly. I didn’t get lost, but I got a bit turned around at first, trying to figure out which deck I needed for the galley (like the ship’s cafeteria), where we eat our meals. And I only had to eat lunch by myself once. On the first day at sea, I made a PB & J sandwich. Eating that, I felt like a kid again (only without my lunchbox), but it was nice to be at a point in my life where I’m confident enough to be all by myself and feel a bit out of place. That’s how you learn and grow. Everything is new to me right now, but with time, it’ll start to make sense. Pretty soon, the equipment and unfamiliar routines will start to feel more familiar. Hopefully, the sharks will like me.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is home to approximately 200 orcas (scientific name: Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales).

Recommended Reading 

As an introduction to biographies in grades 4 and up, I recommend Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman. Ruth and her stuffed shark explore a maritime history museum, learning about the important roles women have held at sea. Inspired by female sea captains, explorers, and naturalists, Ruth imagines herself in the photographs and paintings, part of an actual exhibit in the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. For more information about the intrepid women featured in the book, brief biographical information is provided at the end. Ruth would no doubt be impressed with the seafaring women (and men) aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.

A children's book about women at sea

Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman; published by Mystic Seaport (2004)

Susan Brown: And Just Like That, It’s Over, September 19, 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 19, 2017

Latitude: 35.190807
Longitude: -111.65127
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 7 Mph
Wind Direction: W
Humidity: 21%
Air Temperature: 20 degrees C (68 degrees Fahrenheit)
Barometric Pressure: 29.81″ Steady
Sky:  scattered clouds

IMG_6843

panoramic view from the stern heading home

Personal Log

And just like that, it’s over.  I am back in Flagstaff and have finally stopped feeling the boat rocking while on solid ground.  Students have been working on a shark project in my absence and we are finishing it up this week.  My first day back was a day of show and tell. The students were excited and full of questions about my trip. As I presented to my students, I realized how much I learned and how much more I still want to know! Here are some pictures from Monday.

 

 

 

 

As I reflect back on my adventure, I have many thoughts and wonder how the fourth and final leg is going.  I think back to last year when I first learned I was selected to be on this adventure and how impossible it was to imagine that I was actually going to work with sharks.  Then, as the date loomed closer, trying to best prepare for something that was a big unknown to me.  And then I was at the dock looking at the Oregon II tied up for the weekend. I recall when I first reached the dock in the evening looking at the ship and thinking wow, pinch me, this is really happening.  I remember being awed and out of my element those first few days just learning to navigate the ship. And then the first haul in!  Now that was a rush as we pulled in not only small sharpnose sharks but larger sandbar sharks that needed to be cradled.  It was unbelievable watching as the team worked and I was thrust into being a viable team member.  After a week, it was a game I had to see if I could bait the hooks as fast as the veteran scientists. I automatically logged the fin clips and helped enter the data we had collected.  Working on the ship became the new normal — knowing what to to do at each station’s deployment of the line and the haul back.  I was feeling competent in my role. Even pulling in some sharks became routine…routine!  Wow, had I come a long way.  And then, just like that, I was on my last haul back and heading back into port.

 

Here are some of my favorite videos and photos from the adventure.

Below a time lapse of what a haul back at night looks like

 

IMG_6686

Eye See you (Smooth-Hound shark)

 

Measuring a sandshark

 

 

And a video of my favorite shark- the great hammerhead being released out of the cradle.

 

And a baby hammy

 

So here I am, back in Flagstaff, reflecting back on my adventure. Did it really happen?  I have pictures to prove it and stories I am sharing but it does seem like a lifetime ago that I was touching a shark and looking into the doe eyes of a ten foot hammerhead shark.  The more I talk about what I have done, the more I realize how much I learned and how much more I still don’t know.  The two weeks flew by but I am grateful for it. So for those of you out there reading this blog, make time for adventures, get out there and do it, follow your passion and immerse yourself. You might be surprised at what you can do!

 

IMG_6040

Teacher at Sea Susan Brown

 

 

Susan Brown: Adventure Awaits, August 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 2 – 15, 2017

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 24, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

I’m currently at home in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a typical, monsoon season morning coming in at 11.6 degrees C (53 degrees F) at 7:12 am with humidity at 92%. I’m about 1,700 miles away from Pascagoula, Mississippi, where I will be joining the team on our ship, NOAA Ship Oregon II, in just a few days!

NOAA Ship Oregon II Sunset_NOAA Photo

NOAA Ship Oregon II. Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA Ship Oregon II Photo Credit: NOAA

Weather Data from my desk at school:

Latitude: 35.190807
Longitude: -111.65127
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 2 Mph
Wind Direction: NW
Visibility:
Air Temperature: 11. 6 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 29.84” falling Rapdily
Sky:  scattered clouds

 

Science and Technology Log

Once on board, I will be assisting the science crew with the third leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey and will be fishing from Brownsville, TX to Galveston, TX. The mission of this survey is to monitor interannual variability of shark populations of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

longline_sampling_area

Map of the survey area: the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

My understanding is that we will be working a 12-hour shift using longline gear to capture specimens and measure the length, weight and sex of the animal. The longline is baited with Atlantic Mackerel and will sit in the water for one hour. Here is what longline gear looks like:

 

 

longline_gear_illustration

Illustration of longline gear. Credit: NOAA

 

The larger animals will require landing slings! I can’t even imagine. The science crew will also be tagging the animals as well as retaining a few for research. Finclips, like taking a nail clipping, will be gathered for DNA analysis. I am most excited to get up and close with these wonderful creatures tagging them to monitor their movement and health.

 

shark_measure2_small

Measuring a tiger shark. Photo credit: SEFSC

 

shark_measure1

Measuring a shark. Photo Credit: SEFSC

 

As part of the survey we will be gathering CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) data that provides a surface to bottom profile of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity and depth. As a class, we will be learning about these in depth in the classroom when we reach our unit on water quality in relation to our local watershed.

Personal Log

I am getting excited for this adventure and happy to have you along for the journey. I look forward to your questions and can’t wait to learn about these beautiful creatures while working with scientists. Please makes sure to check out the “Question of the Day” and other activities that will be posted on this blog. Your current research on sharks will come in handy while I am out here and will be crucial to learning about ocean food webs and current threats. Remember to check in daily for new posts while you are working on your projects.

 

Did You Know?

That I have never been to the Gulf of Mexico!

 

Question of the day

What species of shark live in the Gulf of Mexico?

Karen Grady: Sometimes You Find A Little Something Extra, April 16, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – April 20, 2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 16, 2017

 Weather Data

Latitude 2848.37 N
Longitude 09247.66 W
76 degrees
Sunny
No precipitation
Winds at 11 KTS
Waves at 2-4 FT

Science and Technology Log

Sometimes when a shark or fish is brought on board it has a “hitchhiker’ attached. We caught a blacknose shark that had a common remora, often referred to as a sucker fish, or shark sucker, attached to it. Scientist Kevin Rademacher placed this sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates) on my arm. I couldn’t really feel it but he was stuck there until I peeled him off. It was like peeling a piece of tape off. You can see from the photo how he is designed to attach to host species. Their head is actually a modified dorsal fin that has an oval shaped sucking disk with slat-like structures that open and close to create suction and take a firm hold against the skin of its host animal such as a shark, turtle, whale, or ray. By sliding backward, the remora can increase its suction, or it can release itself by swimming forward. They can be small like the one attached to my arm or they can grow to over two feet in length. The remora can move around on the host, removing parasites while at the same time gaining protection provided by the host. This relationship is often looked at as one of commensalism where both the host and the remora benefit.

Photos of the remora that was attached to a black-nosed shark.

When one hears that this is an experimental long-line survey of sharks and reef fish, all you think of is catching these creatures and collecting data. However, scientists are collecting data about the environment as well. It is very useful to obtain information about the water where they catch large numbers of a species and areas where they may not catch anything. One way they can do this is by using a Conductivity Temperature Depth Profiler (CTD).

The CTD gives scientists a profile of the water column where we just put out our line. The CTD has sensors that collects information on oxygen levels, temperature, water clarity, chlorophyll concentration, and salinity. The CTD is placed in the water and allowed to sit for three minutes to let the oxygen sensors soak and adjust from being on the deck and lowered into the water. The crew lowers it to a depth that is decided based upon the depth to the ocean floor. They like to take it as close to the bottom as possible in order for the information they gather to be as complete as possible. It is allowed to settle, run its scans and then is brought back up to the surface and the sensors are flushed with fresh water. The data is automatically loaded into the database. This information is collected at each station. It takes a joint effort of the deck, science and bridge crews to place the CTD in the water. Walkie talkies are utilized for communicating between all the crew involved in the operation.

Personal Log

Being at sea with Easter approaching had its moments when I thought of family and friends. We have our Easter traditions and I would be missing them this year. The Easter Bunny (Field Party Chief, Kristin Hannan) decided we needed an early visit this year. I think she was right. The surprise and the treats perked all the science staff up.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 Easter basket

FPC Kristin Hannan asks me often if I have any questions about what they are doing or anything in general. I will be honest… I have gotten so caught up in what we are doing, trying to do my best at whatever job I am working on, and being in awe that I am actually out here that I forget to ask questions about the details. I love the anticipation of what might be on the next hook, I am mesmerized by the sleek lines of the sharks when we have them on board.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 shark liver

Shark liver

When we had one come onboard that was dead due to low oxygen levels in the water where we caught it, we did a dissection on the deck while we waited to put out another line. The animal science nerd in me came to life!   I had no idea the liver was the largest organ inside a shark. Think about it …these creatures have no body fat and they store their energy in the liver. Then we looked at the intestines. There is not a lot of room in there so the shark we looked at the intestines are rolled up like you would roll a piece of paper. This gives them maximum absorption area but takes up a limited space.

 

 

 

One thing I think of as we are catching these species is that very few people stop and think about the actual research scientists do to help understand what is needed to maintain healthy populations. It is necessary to do these surveys, catch the species, tag some, draw blood, take fin clips, keep whole specimens, and dissect some. On our cruise we were lucky enough to ultrasound a few pregnant sharks and see the pups inside.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 shark ultrasound

Baby sharks visible on ultrasound

Now stop and think about all those things I just listed that we do at times. When a hook comes up and there is a fish or shark on it is handed off to one of the science crew.  It is noted in the computer that there was a something caught. The science crew member will take measurements and weight of the fish or shark. If it is a shark, the sex will be noted and some species may be tagged, have a fin clip taken and blood drawn. While all of these activities are taking place, the next hooks keep being brought up. The deck can get pretty crazy if there are several hooks in a row with something on them. The data collector has to keep tag numbers, species, measurements, samples and weights all written in the correct spot while having two or three people calling them out for different fish and or sharks. I had experience working cattle which would mean filling syringes, writing down tag numbers, filling taggers, etc. But this is even crazier than that could get at times. And everything stops if someone calls “hardhats” because that means we have one big enough for the cradle. Working back writing down data or taking measurements you can’t see what is on the next line so you sneak up for a peak when they say it’s a big one then you get out of the way.   One of the best experiences so far was almost getting a big tiger shark in the cradle. I was lucky enough to get a video of her, so stay tuned! Unfortunately, when the big shark brushed against the cradle she snapped the line and was gone with a huge spray of water.

This second leg of the experimental long-line survey is winding down. There have been long days but they are filled with laughter, giggles, anticipation, excitement, teachable moments (I can finally get the circle hooks out by myself…sometimes) , and the dreaded words “snapper.” I mean nothing against the Red Snapper, they are a bright colorful and tasty fish, but when you are hoping for a shark to be on the hook…. let’s just say the sets where we get 12 snapper and two sharks are not our favorites.

Photos: “Shark!” or “Fish on!” means a busy deck.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 hammerhead cradle

Scalloped hammerhead shark

When the guys at the rail grab the hard hats it means it is time for the cradle and we get to see things like this gorgeous scalloped hammerhead. Things move very quickly when one is in the cradle. Safety for those on deck comes first and everyone is focused on getting measurements, fin clip and a tag on the shark and getting it safely back in the water as quickly as possible.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 baby tiger shark

Baby tiger shark

Baby tiger shark in the cradle. They warned me that they were cute and they were so right. Yes, a shark can be “cute” when your referring to baby tiger sharks and baby hammerheads!

Did You Know

Sharks store energy in their liver. It is the largest organ in their body. The heart on the other hand is extremely small in comparison to the size of the shark.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 hammerhead dissection

Dissected scalloped hammerhead with liver visible

Look at the liver of this scalloped hammerhead. It is amazing how big it is in relation to the body of the shark. This is just one way these amazing creatures are designed to be efficient and survive in their underwater world.

Sharks have a nictitating membrane that they can close over their eye for protection. When a shark is brought on deck you can touch near the eye and the membrane will automatically move to close.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 nictitating membrane

Nictitating membrane partially closed on the eye of a scalloped hammerhead

Karen Grady: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish …… Weird Fish, April 10, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – April 20, 2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 10, 2017

Weather Data

Latitude 2827.10
Longitude 09148.6
75 degrees
Sunny
No precipitation
Winds at 10 KTS
Waves at 2-4 FT

Science and Technology Log

We have continued to move between deep stations setting the baited line and hoping to catch deep water fish and sharks. These deep sets require longer soaking time to allow the hooks to reach the bottom.   The downside is that we have been retrieving one set of gear and putting out one set of gear in a 12 hour period of time. Some sets have a few fish and some we get a big goose egg.   There is always anticipation though as the 100 hooks are brought up. Everyone stands in their spots waiting to hear either “fish on,” “shark” or everyone’s favorite, “hard hats!” which means there is a big shark and it’s time for the sling. Below you will see the awesome Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) we caught.

TAS Karen Grady 4-13-17 great hammerhead

Great Hammerhead Shark

The first few days we have been fishing deep in the Mississippi Canyon. The Mississippi Canyon is a geological formation in the Gulf of Mexico. It is located in an area which is part of the territorial waters of the United States. We put out some deep lines with the deepest at 1900 feet. These lines soaked four hours once fully deployed.  They soak longer because they have so far to sink to get to the depth the scientists want to fish at. When we deploy a line the first thing in the water is the High Flyer, which stands like a beacon and bobs in the water marking the start of our fishing line. The next thing over the side of the ship is a weight that helps carry the line to the desired depth. Halfway through, another weight is deployed, and after the 100th hook, the third weight goes in.   The last thing over is another High Flyer to mark the end of the line. If it is dark outside, the High Flyers have lights attached on top that flash so that they can be seen.

TAS Karen Grady launching high flyer

“High Flyers” mark the beginning and the end of the long line set.

At our last deep station we caught a Mexican Grenadier, Coryphaenoides mexicanus. This fish is very unusual in color and appearance. If you feel the scales on the fish you find that they are very unique. Each scale has tiny sharp, thin spinules. As you run your hand over the fish you can feel these scale modifications. The eyes are bulged due to the pressure change of coming up from such deep depths. The scientists determined the sex of the Grenadier and then it was frozen for future study.

TAS Karen Grady 4-13-17 grenadier

Mexican Grenadier

We also caught two Cutthroat Eels, from the family Synaphobranchidae, that were both females. Synaphobranch means unified gill… the two gill slits join together making it look like a cut throat. They are bottom-dwelling fish, found in deep waters. The eels were weighed, measured, and the scientists determined the sex and maturity of each eel. It is important that they make accurate identification of specimens and collect data. The scientists work together using personal knowledge and books when necessary. There are times on deck when the scientists will stop to examine a species and will take multiple pictures of certain identifying parts so that they can look at them closely later.

 

Personal Log

One of the great things during a watch is being able to talk with the scientists. I am an avid listener and observer. This is what they do year in and year out and they love what they do. I am a quiet observer a lot of the time. I listen and then ask questions later. It’s not exactly easy to carry around paper and pencil to take notes. But during the transit portions or soak times I ask more questions and gather information to share in my blog posts or for the lesson plan I will be writing when I get home.

The food has been great here on the ship. Our stewards have fresh salads, and menus that include two main course options, a daily soup, dessert and multiple side choices.   There are snacks available 24/7 so you are never hungry. Because the meals are so great you see most people trying to fit in a workout during the day. I have been introduced to the Jacob’s ladder for workouts. I never liked hills and now I can say I don’t like climbing ladder rungs either. That machine is evil!! However, I will continue to do cardio on it as the food is excellent and keeping food in your stomach helps prevent sea sickness. I will happily eat more than I usually do if it means I don’t get seasick. An example of a typical lunch would be today when we had choices of salad, reuben, tuna melt, french fries, sweet potato fries, cookies and several other sides.

Today started with us catching two Cutthroat Eels and a Mexican Grenadier. You can see from the pictures I have posted that they look very different from most fish that you see. They really are that color. It was a shock after the sleek sharks and the bright orange Red Snapper I had seen on previous sets. I was busy watching the scientists using their books and personal knowledge to identify each species accurately.   After we finished the work up on the fish we caught we headed for the next station. Now we are back to shallower fishing and expect to catch sharks, red snapper, and a variety of other fish.

TAS Karen Grady 4-13-17 grenadier and eels

Two cutthroat eels (top) and Mexican grenadier (bottom)

I can honestly say that the 12 hour shifts start wearing you down, and sleeping is not an issue once you climb under the covers. The waves will wake you up now and then. And some mornings I wake up and can smell them cooking breakfast but sleep overrides the smell of food because I know how long it will be till I get to bed again. Walking out on deck each morning to views like this does lead to a smile on your face, that and the music that is playing loudly on the deck. Yesterday it was Hair Nation…. taking me back to the 80’s.

TAS Karen Grady 4-13-17 blue water

View from the deck of NOAA Ship Oregon II

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is roughly 995 miles along its longer, east-west axis. It has a surface area of about 600,000 square miles.

A wide variety of physical adaptations allow sharks to thrive in the Gulf of Mexico. They have powerful smell receptors. The sensory organs lining their prominent snouts, called ampullae of Lorenzini, can detect movement of potential prey even if the sharks cannot see it. These sensory organs assist in trailing injured marine animals from great distances. They help sharks locate all sort of other things, too– shrimp boats, other sharks, birds, turtles (tiger sharks a big turtle eaters!), even boats that are dumping trash.

The skin on a shark is smooth if you run your hand head to tail and rough like sandpaper if you run your hand from tail to head. At one time, sharks skin was used as a form of sandpaper. The dermal denticles, or skin teeth, can be different from species to species and can sometimes be used as a character to look at when trying to identify one species from another.

Emily Sprowls: Gulpers of the Gulf, March 31, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 31, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

12:00 hours

29°36.7’ N, 87°43.7’ W

Visibility 10 nm,

Wind 6 kts 350°N

Sea wave height 2-3 ft.

Seawater temp 22.9°C

 

Science and Technology Log

GulperEye

Gulper shark from 800 meters under the sea!

On the deep longlines we sampled many gulper sharks (Centrophorus spp.). Gulper sharks have cool anatomical adaptations, including their huge reflective eyes, buccal folds for gulping their food, and the ability to excrete huge amounts of slime from their skin. Gulpers also have very large eggs, which is of particular interest to my crewmate Lydia Crawford, a scientist from Tulane University that is studying shark reproduction and evolution.

LydiaDissects

Lydia dissects a shark specimen to study its eggs.

Lydia is collecting eggs from as many different kinds of sharks as she can in order to understand more about how sharks evolved a variety of reproductive strategies. Oviparous sharks and skates lay egg cases, also knows as “mermaids purses.” Oviviparous sharks let their eggs hatch internally and the babies are born swimming. Some embryos eat other eggs or even their siblings as they develop in their mother! Placental viviparous sharks are also born alive, but the embryos are fed via umbilical cords, similar to us humans.

Lydia will examine the microscopic structures of the shark ovaries she collected when she gets back to her lab. She hypothesizes that certain features of the ovaries have allowed sharks to evolve the ability to give birth to large babies, ready to act like the apex predators they are!

 

Personal Log

Last night we caught a blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) that my data sheet says measured 1.4 meters, but my memory says it was MUCH BIGGER because he lunged and snapped at us! Most of the sharks we have collected have been rather stunned by their brief trip out of the ocean onto the deck, but this guy acted like a shark still in the water! He and his biting jaws were clear reminders of what incredible predators sharks are. He put a healthy dose of fear back in me, along with a lot of respect for the science team who managed to measure him despite his aggressive activity!

 

Kids’ Questions

  • Why don’t sharks have swim bladders?

Sharks maintain neutral buoyancy by having very large, oily livers. We confirmed this by throwing the dissected lobes of the liver overboard and they floated!

  • Is there a shark that glows in the dark?

The eyes of some of the deep sea sharks that what we caught appear to be glowing because they are so big and have very reflective layers (called tapeta lucida) that shines back the boat lights. However some sharks, including the lantern shark, have special organs called photophores that glow!

Lydia Tilefish

Marine biologist Lydia with tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps)

  • How would you recommend reversing the sense of fear people associate with sharks?

Lydia’s response:

As a scientist, you shouldn’t try to reverse people’s fears because you can’t rationalize away a feeling. Also, we should have a respectful fear of sharks. They are amazing predators! Instead we should convince people why sharks are important in the ocean ecosystem as keystone species.