Phil Moorhouse: Look What the Net Dragged In! September 12, 2019

Pavlof Volcano

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Phil Moorhouse

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 27 – September 15, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations.

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak – Aleutian Islands)

Date: September 12, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 57 35.35 N
Longitude: 153 57.71 W
Sea wave height: 1 ft
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Wind Direction: 208 degrees
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 15.4 C
Barometric Pressure: 1002.58 mBar
Sky:  Overcast


Science and Technology Log

Well, we only have a few days left on this trip and it looks like mother nature is going to force us to head for Dutch Harbor a little early.  I thought this might be a good time to spend some time sharing some information on some of the species we have been pulling out of the ocean.  This is far from a complete list, but just the ones that made “the cut”.

At the top of the list has to be the Pollock.  After all, this is the primary objective of this study.  On the left is an adult three-year-old pollock and on the right is an age-0 pollock.  The sampling of age-0 pollocks is a good indicator of the abundance of the future population.

There were several species of salmon caught on our trawls.  On the left is a Coho Salmon and on the right is a Pink Salmon.  These fish are very similar, but are classified as separately Coho Salmon are larger and have larger scales.  Coho also has a richer, fuller flavor with darker red meat while the Pink Salmon has a milder flavor and a softer texture.

zooplankton
Another important part of this survey is the collection and measurement of zooplankton as this is a primary food source and the amount and health of the zooplankton will have a lasting impact on the ecology of the fish population in the area.
capelin
Capelin is another common fish caught in our trawls. This fish eats krill and other crustaceans and in turn is preyed upon by whales, seals, cod, squid, and seabirds.
Pacific Saury
The Pacific Saury was a fish that wasn’t expected to be found in our trawls. Also called the knifefish, this species always seemed to be found in substantial quantities when they were collected – as if the trawl net came across a school of them. They are found in the top one meter of the water column.
Prowfish
The Prowfish was another interesting find. This fish is very malleable and slimy. Adults tend to stay close to the ocean floor while young prowfish can be found higher up in the water column where they feed on jellyfish. As with the saury, the prowfish was not kept for future study. It was weighed, recorded, and returned to the water.

Jellyfish were abundant on our hauls.  Here are the five most common species that we found. 

bubble jellyfish
The Bubble Jellyfish, Aequorea sp., is clear with a rim around it. This jellyfish is fragile and most of them are broken into pieces by the time we get them from the trawl net and onto the sorting table.
moon jellyfish
The Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia labiata, is translucent and when the sun or moon shines on them, they look like the moon all lit up.
white cross jellyfish
The White Cross Jellyfish, Staurophora mertensi, was another mostly clear jelly that was very fragile. Very few made it to the sorting table in one piece. You have to look close it is so clear, but they can be identified by their clear bell with a distinctive X across the top of the bell.
Lion's mane jellyfish
The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, are the largest known species of jellyfish. These guys can become giants. They are typically a crimson red but could appear faded to a light brown.
sunrise jellyfish
The Sunrise Jellyfish, Chrysaora melanaster, was the most common jelly that we found. It is also arguably the least fragile. Almost all made it to the sorting table intact where they were counted, weighed, recorded, and returned to the water. It lives at depths of up to 100 meters, where it feeds on copepods, larvaceans, small fish, zooplankton, and other jellyfish.
arrowtooth flounder
Arrowtooth flounder are a relatively large, brownish colored flatfish with a large mouth. Just one look at its mouth and you can tell how it got its name. Their eyes migrate so that they are both on the right side and lie on the ocean floor on their left side.
Eulachon
Eulachons, sometimes called candlefish, were another common find on the sorting table. Throughout recent history, eulachons have been harvested for their rich oil. Their name, candlefish, was derived from it being so fat during spawning that if caught, dried, and strung on a wick, it can be burned as a candle. They are also an important food source for many ocean and shore predators.
vermilion rockfish
The Vermilion Rockfish – This guy was the only non-larval rockfish that we caught. Most can be found between the Bering Sea and Washington State.

While the Smooth Lumpsucker is significantly larger than the Spiny Lumpsucker, both have unique faces.  The Smooth Lumpsucker is also found in deeper water than the smaller Spiny Lumpsucker.

Most of the squid caught and recorded were larval.  Here are a couple of the larger ones caught in a trawl.

There were a variety of seabirds following us around looking for an easy meal.  The Black-footed Albatross on the right was one of several that joined the group one day.

Pavlof Volcano
And of course, I couldn’t leave out the great view we got of Pavlof Volcano! Standing snow capped above the clouds at 8,251 feet above sea level, it is flanked on the right by Pavlof’s Sister. Pavlof last erupted in March of 2016 and remains with a threat of future eruptions considered high. Pavlof’s Sister last erupted in 1786. This picture was taken from 50 miles away.


Personal Log

In keeping with the admiration I have for the scientists and crew I am working with, I will continue here with my interview with Rob Suryan. 

Robert Suryan is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Scientist. He is currently a Research Ecologist and Auke Bay Laboratories, Science Coordinator, working on the Gulf Watch Alaska Long-term Ecosystem Monitoring Program.

How long have you been working with NOAA?  What did you do before joining NOAA?

One and a half years.  Prior to that, I was a professor at Oregon State University

Where do you do most of your work?

In the Gulf of Alaska

What do you enjoy about your work?

I really enjoy giving presentations to the general public, where we have to describe why we are conducting studies and results to an audience with a non-science background. It teaches you a lot about messaging! I also like working with writers, reporters, and journalists in conducting press releases for our scientific publications. I also use Twitter for science communication.

Why is your work important?

Having detailed knowledge about our surroundings, especially the natural environment and the ocean. Finding patterns in what sometimes seems like chaos in natural systems. Being able to provide answers to questions about the marine environment.

How do you help wider audiences understand and appreciate NOAA science?

I provide information and expertise to make well informed resource management decisions, I inform the general public about how our changing climate if affecting marine life, and I train (and hopefully inspire) future generations of marine scientists

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science an ocean career?

During middle school

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

Computer! So much of our instrumentation and sampling equipment are controlled by software interfaces. Also, much of my research involves data assimilation, analysis, creating graphs, and writing scientific papers. Although, at the very beginning of my career, most of our data collection was hand written, as were our scientific papers before typing the final version with a typewriter. So glad those days are gone!

If you could invent one tool to make your work easier, what would it be?

For in the office: a computer program that would scan all of my emails, extract the important info that I need to know and respond to, and populate my calendar with meetings/events. For the field: a nano-power source that provided unlimited continuous power for instruments AND global cell phone or wireless connectivity.

What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

I joined NOAA later in my career and had collaborated with NOAA scientists for many years, so everything was what I expected for the most part.

What classes would you recommend for a student interested in a career in Marine Science?

Biology, math, chemistry, and physics are good foundation courses. If you have an opportunity to take a class in marine biology at your school or during a summer program, that would be ideal. But keep in mind that almost any field of study can be involved in marine science; including engineering, economics, computer science, business, geology, microbiology, genetics, literature, etc.

What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for a student exploring ocean or science as a career option?

I originally studied wildlife biology before marine science and one of my favorite books initially was A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. For marine biology, I would recommend The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

I would probably work at a university again – I was a professor at Oregon State University before working for NOAA.

Do you have any outside hobbies?

Pretty much any type of outdoor adventure, most frequently kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and beachcombing with my family and our dogs.

Callie Harris: More than Meets the Eye, August 18, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Callie Harris

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 13 – 26, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: 8/18/19

Weather Data from the Bridge:

 Latitude: 57° 01.32 N
Longitude: 155 ° 01.21 W
Wind Speed: 14.56 knots
Wind Direction: 334°
Air Temperature: 15.5°C
Sea Temperature: 15°C
Barometric Pressure: 1017 mbar


Science and Technology Log

Today marks our sixth day at sea. We are headed north into the Shelikof Strait between the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island. We are continuing along our survey stations with bongo nets and midwater trawls. A bongo net consists of two plankton nets mounted next to each other. These plankton nets are ring nets with a small mesh width and a long funnel shape. Both nets are enclosed by a cod-end that is used for collecting plankton. The bongo net is pulled horizontally through the water column by a research vessel. 

bongo net diagram
Bongo Net Diagram. Image credit: Flanders Marine Institute
Bongo nets on deck
Bongo nets on deck

We are using a combination of four total bongo nets simultaneously to sample plankton. Two of our nets are 60 cm in diameter and the other two are 20 cm in diameter respectively. Depending on the depth at each station, the nets are lowered until they reach a depth of ten meters above the sea floor. Scientists and NOAA crew on the scientific deck must constantly communicate with the bridge via radio during this survey to maintain consistent wire angles. Ideally, the goal is to maintain the winch wire angle at 45° so that the water flow into the nets is parallel to the ocean floor.

Callie measuring bongo angle
Me measuring the bongo net wire angle. Photo by Matt Wilson.

Plankton are plants and animals that float along in the oceans’ tides and currents. Their name comes from the Greek meaning “drifter” or “wanderer.” There are two types of plankton: tiny plants called phytoplankton, and weak-swimming animals called zooplankton. Oceanic plankton constitute the largest reservoir of biomass in the world’s oceans. They play a significant role in the transfer of energy within the oceanic ecosystems. Ongoing plankton monitoring data is essential for evaluating ecosystem health and for detecting changes in these ecosystems.

Plankton ID
One of the plankton ID cards we use when identifying samples under the microscope

Once the nets are brought back onto the deck, we immediately rinse the nets so that all of the plankton collects in the cod-end (the plastic tube attachment at the bottom). We carefully remove the cod-end tubes and bring them into the wet lab for processing. Using sieve pans, we filter the cod-end sample (plankton) into glass jars. We add formaldehyde and sodium borate to each jar to preserve the plankton for future analysis and study. NOAA Chief Scientist Matt Wilson informed me that all of the sample jars we collect on this expedition will actually be sent to the Plankton Sorting and Identification Center in Szczecin, Poland. Check out their website for more info: https://mir.gdynia.pl/o-instytucie/zaklad-sortowania-i-oznaczania-planktonu/?lang=en .

At even numbered stations, NOAA scientists on board will conduct a RZA (rapid zooplankton assessment) of samples collected using a microscope. This rapid assessment of plankton yields current data that allows scientists to quickly evaluate present-day ecosystem health and changes while they await more in-depth sample results and analysis from Poland.


Personal Log

Everything is still going great on day six at sea. Seas are remaining relatively calm, which I am very thankful for. I am actually sleeping more than I do at home. I am averaging about nine to ten hours sleep at night which is amazing! Most mornings, I get up and head down to the gym to run on the treadmill for some much needed exercise. As I said in my second blog, our meals have been delicious. Chief Steward Judy leaves us out some late night treats to help us get through our long shifts. I thoroughly enjoyed some late night ice cream to help me power through the last trawl of the night. I really like lunch and dinner time on the ship because it brings everyone together for a few minutes to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Most of the scientists and NOAA crew and officers have traveled all over the world on scientific vessels. It is fascinating to hear about all of their stories and adventures. I have already decided to add the ‘PolarTREC’ (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in Antarctica and/or the Artic) Program to my bucket list for a few years down the road. My most favorite organism that we have caught in the trawl so far was this Smooth Lumpsucker. 

Smooth lumpsucker
Smooth lumpsucker

Me and my buddy Mister Lumpsucker – Photos by Lauren Rogers


Did You Know?

The answers to day three blog’s temperature readings were 62.6°F for air temperature and 59°F for sea temperature.

All jellyfish are such weak swimmers that they too are considered plankton. There is also some scientific debate as to whether or not the Ocean Sun Fish (aka Mola mola) is considered a type of plankton. The sun fish is a passive planktonic creature which can only move vertically in the water column since it lacks a back fin. They have a long dorsal and anal fin that help them maneuver clumsily up and down in the water column.

Erica Marlaine: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! July 6, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019


Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 6, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 55º 4.07N
Longitude: 156º 42 W
Wind Speed: 3.2knots
Wind Direction: 96º
Air Temperature:  10.3º Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1025.7. mb
Surface Water temperature: 11.05º Celsius
Depth of water column: 1,057.6 meters


If you love science and exploring, consider a career in the NOAA Corps!

NOAA Corps

The NOAA Corps is one of our nation’s seven uniformed services (along with the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Public Health Service Commissioned Officer Corps). NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA and the NOAA Corps can trace their lineage to 1807 when President Thomas Jefferson signed a bill for the “Survey of the Coast.” The survey work was done by Army and Naval officers along with civilian men and women. The Coast Survey was actually the first federal agency to hire female professionals! Their duties included charting our nation’s waterways and creating topographic maps of our shorelines, which made our marine highways among the best charted in the world.

Today, the NOAA Corps is an elite group of men and women trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, and fisheries science. NOAA is comprised of the National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA Research), National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, National Ocean Service, and the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. NOAA Corps officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA.

NOAA Officer Spotlight

ENS Lexee Andonian
ENS Lexee Andonian

I had the opportunity to speak with Ensign (ENS) Lexee Andonian (although by the time this is published Ms. Andonian will have been selected for LTJG (Lieutenant junior grade)! ENS Andonian has been a member of NOAA Corps for almost 2 years, and loves her job, but it was not something she originally considered as a career (or even knew about). She first learned about NOAA while working at a rock climbing gym. A patron mentioned it to her, and offered to show her around a NOAA ship. She went home and googled NOAA. With her interest piqued, she decided to accept the patron’s offer, and went to Newport, Oregon to tour the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada (which is actually the sister ship of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. A sister ship means they were based off the same blueprint and can serve similar projects.)

ENS Andonian applied for the NOAA Corps, but was waitlisted. NOAA is highly selective and accepts a very limited number of applicants (approximately 15-25 twice a year.) Undeterred, she applied for the next NOAA class, and was once again waitlisted, but this time she was accepted off the waitlist. After 5 months of training at the Coast Guard Academy, she was ready to begin her assignment onboard a NOAA ship, where additional hands-on training occurs non-stop. Each NOAA Corps member wears a multitude of “hats” while onboard. ENS Andonian is currently the Acting Operations Officer, the Navigation Officer, the Environmental Compliance Officer, and the Dive Officer. ENS Andonian loves that her job allows her to see unique places that many people never get to explore since they are not accessible by plane or car. Asked what she misses the most from home, she said, “Bettee Anne” (her dog).


Science and Technology Log

Today I was introduced to a few new species in the fish lab. Until now, most of the jellyfish have been Chrysaora melanasta, which are beautiful and can be quite large, but today I saw 2 egg yolk jellyfish, aptly named as they look like egg yolks.

Egg yolk jellyfish
Egg yolk jellyfish

I also saw a lumpsucker, which is the cutest fish I have ever seen. Lumpsuckers look like little balls of grey goo. He (or she) seemed to look right at me and kept opening and closing its mouth as if trying to say something. Lumpsuckers have a suction cup on their bottom which allows then to adhere to rocks or other surfaces.

Lumpsucker
Lumpsucker


Personal Log

As a teacher, I create experiences for my students that will take them out of their comfort zone so that they can realize just how much they are truly capable of. On the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, it is my turn to step outside my own comfort zone. If you would have told me a few months ago that I would feel comfortable being elbow-deep in live fish and jellyfish, or dissecting fish to see whether they are male or female, or slicing into a fish’s head to collect otoliths (ear bones), I would not have believed you, but that is how I spend every day onboard the Oscar Dyson, and after 2 weeks, it feels like something I have done all my life.  It is an experience I highly recommend to everyone!

Jenny Smallwood: WWE at Sea, September 5, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Smallwood
Aboard Oscar Dyson
September 2 – 17, 2017

Mission: Juvenile Pollock Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: September 5, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 56 38.8 N
Longitude: 155 34.8
Clear skies
Wind speed 10 mph NNE
Air temp 11.5 degrees Celsius (52.7 degrees Fahrenheit)

Science and Technology Log
Today I got smacked in the face by a jellyfish. It practically flew into my mouth. Don’t worry I’m perfectly fine. I’ll admit to a lot of silent shrieking when it happened. Perhaps even some gagging….How did this happen you might be asking yourself? Read on my friend, read on..

After a couple of days at the dock in Kodiak, Alaska, we are finally underway!  My first shift was spent hanging out and watching the scenery as we cruised to the first station.

Fluke
Here’s one of the whales we saw while cruising to our first station site. Photo courtesy of Jim McKinney

 We went through the aptly named Whale Passage where we saw orcas, whales, sea otters, and puffins!  It was also the first time we’d seen the sun in two days.  To be honest, that was more exciting than seeing whales.

It took about twelve hours for us to reach the first station site. The established routine is bongo net and Stauffer trawl, cruise to next site, bongo net and Stauffer trawl, cruise to next site, bongo net and…well you get the point.

When the Stauffer trawl net is hauled in, the science team and survey tech sort through everything in the net. Juvenile pollock (less than a year old) go into one bin, capelin into another bin, so on and so forth.

Stauffer Trawl Sorting
The science team and survey tech sort a pile of jellies and fish. *Caution! Watch out for flying jellyfish!*

Now what makes this really interesting is that we’re basically digging these fish out of one massive, gelatinous pile of jellyfish goop. Once all the fish are sorted, the jellies get sorted too, which is where the jellyfish face smack comes in. Picture a smallish conveyor belt with 5 people standing around throwing fish, squid, isopods, and jellyfish into appropriate bins. It turns out that when you throw jellyfish into a bin, it sometimes explodes on impact causing jellyfish goop to go flying, and sometimes it flies onto my face. *smh*

lumpsucker
We caught a cool looking smooth lumpsucker fish.

 

GOPR0491 - Edited.jpg
Here I am holding the smooth lumpsucker.

When the crew and science team aren’t working jellyfish laden Stauffer trawls, they’re busy with the bongo nets. These are my favorite because they pull up lots of plankton.

GOPR0498.JPG
The deck crew and survey tech bring in the bongo nets.

Most people would totally freak out if they knew how much stuff was swimming around in the water with them, including pteropods, which look a bit like slugs with wings. Pteropods are a type of zooplankton also know as sea butterflies for the small “wings” attached to their bodies. The ones we got today were big enough to be slugs. My goal over the next couple of weeks is to get a decent video of them swimming.

Personal Log
Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Even though I’ve never gotten seasick, I succumbed to peer pressure and took some meclizine before leaving the dock. I really didn’t want my memories of the Oscar Dyson to include yakking over the side of the ship. In this case, positive peer pressure was a good thing. I’ve been feeling just fine even when confined in small, fishy smelling rooms. Eau de poisson anybody?

The biggest adjustment has been the time change and 12 hour work shift from noon to midnight. I like to describe myself as the oldest, young person alive. We’re talking early bird specials, going to bed early, and waking up at the crack of dawn. So while the day shift I’m on is clearly a perk, it’s still taken me a few days to get used to it, especially since it’s 4 pm to 4 am east coast time. Judging by the 9.5 hours of sleep I got last night, it’ll be smooth sailing from here.

I can also report that the food on board is delicious. Ava and Adam crank out tasty options at every meal, and somehow meet the needs of about 35 people some of whom are vegetarian, vegan, low acid, etc. Since Kodiak was a washout, I tagged along on the shopping trip prior to our departure. Five shopping carts later we were ready to eat our way across the Gulf of Alaska!

Did You Know?
NOAA scientists on board the ship rotate through different at sea research cruises throughout the year. They even participate on cruises that have nothing to do with their actual research. It’s like a big group effort to get the data NOAA needs for its various research projects.

 

 

Amie Ell: Fireworks, Fish, and Flukes, July 6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
June 30 – July 21, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 6th, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 55.29.300 N
Longitude: 156.25.200 W
Ship speed:   10.7 kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 8.6 degrees Centigrade
Surface water temperature: 8.6 degrees Centigrade
Wind speed:  14 kn
Wind direction: 210 degrees
Barometric pressure: 1008.5 mb

Science and Technology Log:

The Oscar Dyson is equipped with several labs to accommodate the researchers on board.  In this blog post I will describe to you what is happening in the wet/fish lab.  This is where I have experienced quite a bit of hands-on data collection.

Pollock being separated on the conveyor belt.
Pollock being separated on the conveyor belt.

Basket full of pollock.
Basket full of pollock.

After a trawl, the crew dumps the load of  fish into a bin.  Inside the lab we can raise or lower this bin to control the amount of fish coming onto a conveyor belt.  Once the fish are on the belt the scientists decide how they will be separated.   We separate the pollock according to age into baskets.  They are categorized by size; under 20 cm (age 1), under 30 cm (age 2), and any larger than 30 cm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A lumpsucker

A basket full of small squid
A basket full of small squid

At this time we also pull out any other sea creatures that are not pollock.  So far we have pulled up quite a few jelly fish, la lumpsucker, shrimp, squid, eulachon, and capelin.  These are also weighed, measured, and in some cases frozen per request of scientists not currently on board.

Larger squid.
Larger squid.

After organizing the pollock into appropriate age groups, we then measure and record their weight in bulk.  Scientists are using a scale attached to a touch screen computer with a program called CLAMS to record this information.  The pollock are then dumped into a stainless steel bin where their sex will be determined.  In order to do this the fish must be cut open to look for “boy parts, or girl parts”.   After the pollock are separated into female and male bins we begin to measure their length.

This is the tool used for measuring length of the fish.
This is the tool used for measuring length of the fish.

The tool used to measure length is called the Ichthystick.  This tool is connected to the CLAMS computer system.  The fish is placed on the Ichthystick and a pointer with a magnet in it is placed at the tail end of the fish.  There are three different types of length measurement that can be done: fork length, standard length, and total length.  When the magnetic pointer touches the Ichthystick it senses that length and sends the information to the CLAMS computer system.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Northern shrimp

One of these bins of fish is placed aside for individual weighing, length measurements, and removal of otoliths.  You may recall that I mentioned otoliths in the last blog post.  These ear bones are sent to a lab and analyzed to determine the age of each of these individually measured fish.  The Alaska Fisheries Science Center has created a demonstration program where you can try to determine the age of different types of fish by looking at their otoliths. Click here to try it yourself! (I will add hyperlink to: http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/refm/age/interactive.htm)

Personal Log:

Ben and Brian in fire gear  with flares.
Ben and Brian in fire gear with flares.

One afternoon while waiting for the fishermen to bring up the trawl net, I watched a group of porpoises swimming behind the ship.  Another day I was able to see whales from up on the bridge.  These were pretty far out and required binoculars to see any detail.  I observed many spouts, saw one breach, and some flukes as well.

There is quite a bit of downtime for me on the ship while I am waiting in between trawls.  I get to read a lot and watch movies in my free time.  I have had the opportunity to talk with different members of the crew and learn about their roles a bit.  The chief engineer gave me a tour of the engine rooms (more about this with pictures in a future post.)

The 4th of July fireworks show on the Oscar Dyson was like no others I have ever experienced.  Two of our crew, Ben & Brian, dressed in official fire gear shot expired flares off the ship into the sea.  America themed music was played over the PA system.  I have attached a video of our fireworks display.  Happy Independence Day everyone!

Amanda Peretich: More Trawling Treasures, July 11, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
Date:
July 11, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 173ºW
Ship speed: 11.7 knots (13.5 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 7.9ºC (46.2ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7.3ºC (45.1ºF)
Wind speed: 10.7 knots (12.3 mph)
Wind direction: 323ºT
Barometric pressure: 1007 millibar (0.99 atm, 755 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
In a recent post, I talked about how one of the things we are doing on board the Oscar Dyson is trawling for fish. The video from that post showed what happens in the fish lab during a midwater trawl. Remember that there are two nets we have been using for a midwater trawl: first, the normal Aleutian Wing Trawl, or AWT, which catches plenty of pollock, but also the 83-112 to which adjustments are being made to use this bottom trawl net for midwater fishing. But what about using the 83-112 for its original purpose: bottom (or benthic) trawling?

Bottom Trawl

83-112 Bottom Trawl Net
The 83-112 net used for bottom trawls (and comparison midwater trawls on this ship).

I’ve been lucky enough to see two bottom trawls on this cruise, although neither of them were actually during my shift. My wonderful roommate Carwyn, one of the other scientists on board, came to tell me about the bottom trawls so I could see all the neat creatures from below! A bottom trawl is used when the pollock are swimming much lower in the water column for one reason or another, but in trying to catch them, there are always many more “trawling treasures” that find their way onto the fish table. The process is basically the same as a midwater trawl, except the 83-112 net is lower down in the water towards the bottom of the sea floor (hence the term bottom trawl). The net is also much shorter in length than the AWT using in midwater trawling.

DYK?: How do the scientists know exactly how far down the net is in the water column? One of the sensors attached to the net is called the SBE (Seabird) 39. This will measure the depth and temperature during the trawl and determine the average head rope depth (which is the top of the net) and average temperature during the trawl between EQ (equilibrium – start of the trawl) and HB (haul back – end of the trawl). The sensor is then uploaded on the computer and the data is used by the scientific party.

Headrope Haul 76
This plot is used to determine the average head rope depth and temperature during the trawl (between EQ and HB). Depth is measured in meters and temperature in degrees Celsius on the y-axis versus time on the x-axis.

Field Guides
Field guides to classify various species found in the Pacific Ocean.

I attempted to classify all of these great bottom trawl treasures, and discovered that this was way easier said than done. There are some books in the fish lab with photos and descriptions just of the species that may be found around the Alaskan waters, and it was incredibly difficult to nail down a specific species for most of the finds!

In the bottom trawl, we found things such as the Oregon hairy triton, an unidentified pretty purple star fish, pink shrimp, basket stars, sheriff’s star, halibut, crabs, pacific cod, sculpin, Pribilof snail, sea anemone, scallop, sponge, sea pens, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, chiton, and seaweed.

Enjoy the slideshow below with photos of the bottom trawl treasures (and an interesting fact or two about some of them) or click on the link to open it in a new window!

Bering Sea Bottom Trawl Treasures

Methot Trawl

Methot Net
Methot trawl net.

The other trawl we’ve done outside of the normal AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl) midwater and 83-112 midwater comparison trawl is something called a methot trawl. This uses a completely different net because the others have mesh that is much too large to catch something so small. The methot net has very fine mesh and a hard square opening with a fixed height. The cod end (very end of the net) is actually a small white container because the organisms collected are so small. A methot trawl is done to collect euphausiids, otherwise known as krill. Sometimes other microscopic (small) organisms are collected as well, including jellies, salps, and amphipods, which must then be carefully sorted out.

DYK?: Krill are part of the phylum Arthropoda, which includes species with an exoskeleton and jointed legs such as spiders, crabs, insects, and lobsters. They are an important part of the ecosystem because these small, reddish-orange animals are a source of food for many larger animals.

Steps to process a methot trawl in the fish lab:
1. Dump contents of the hard cod end container into a large gray bin.
2. Remove any large jellyfish (and weigh those separately).
3. Rinse contents from the gray bin into the sieve to remove any water.
4. Using tweezers, sort through the small microscopic organisms on the sieve and remove anything that isn’t krill.
5. Weigh krill sample.
6. Collect a random subsample in a scoop and weigh it.
7. Count all of the krill in the subsample (yes, this is as tedious as it sounds!).

Processing a Methot
Processing a methot trawl: removing water with the sieve, sorting through all of the krill and pull out any amphipods, salps, or jellies with tweezers (to weigh separately).

Personal Log

Bowthruster
Heading down to check out the bowthruster on the Oscar Dyson!

It continues to be a little slow on the trawling during my shift, but that’s okay, because I was lucky enough yesterday to get a tour of some of the lower bridge levels from the 1st Assistant Engineer, Tony.

DYK?: There are 8 levels on the Oscar Dyson. They are numbered, starting from the topmost deck, as follows:
O4 – flying bridge
O3 – bridge
O2 – staterooms (CO, XO, chief scientist)
O1 – staterooms (scientists), CTD winch, FRB (fast rescue boat), Peggy D (boat), liferafts
1 – galley, labs (acoustics, chem, dry, fish)
2 – engineering (machinery, centerboard, oceanic winch, trawl winch, and more), staterooms (deck crew and then some)
3 – engineering (machinery, bilge/ballast, workshop, and more)
4 – bowthruster, transducer, fuel oil tanks, ballasting tanks

I plan to share some of the facts I learned related to chemistry and biology from this tour (and other things on board) in one of my next blogs, so be sure to look for all of the info on the generators, sea water purification, MSD, cathodic protection system, and more.

We did have two trawls yesterday (July 10) – the first was an AWT midwater trawl that had caught so many fish it was actually a “splitter”! In a splitter, there’s an extra step between hauling in the net and getting it to the table in the fish lab. The cod end of the AWT net is opened over a separate splitting crate, where there is another net underneath that will only take about half of the fish to release on the table. The rest are then returned to the water.

Splitting
Splitting an AWT midwater trawl that collected too many pollock.

We also had drills yesterday (these are required once a week) and after gaining permission from the bridge, I checked in to my muster station (which is in the conference room for the science party, away from all of the action) and then went and watched what everyone else on board does. When we have fire drills in school, the alarm sounds, we walk outside, and wait for the “all clear” before heading back in. When they have fire drills on the Oscar Dyson, they use a smoke machine to produce smoke, there is an on-scene crew (first responders), there may or may not be a “victim” involved, the hose team actually dresses out (with the help of another person on the alpha or bravo firefighting teams), and the fire hoses are actually used. It may seem like old hat to everyone else on board, but I found it incredibly interesting to watch!

Fire Drill
Fire drill (smoke in the oceanic winch room) on board the Oscar Dyson.

Following the fire drill, there was an abandon ship drill, where everyone on board grabs their survival suit, PFD, and heads to one of three life rafts (there are actually 6 on the ship). The CO had me stay up in the TV lounge so that my life raft (#5) wouldn’t have a “full muster” until they sent out a search party to find me. Just as there are two people on hose team in both alpha and bravo for the fire drill, people must go in pairs for the search party, so Patrick and Rick came and found me. I think some people thought I’d actually not heard the alarm (I was wearing headphones), but I was instructed to be up there! We will have one more day of drills before we get back to Dutch Harbor, so maybe I’ll actually don my bright orange survival suit, which other Teachers at Sea in the past have affectionately called the “gumby suit” (even though Gumby was green).

Animal Love
In yesterday’s AWT midwater trawl, we had a new visitor in the fish lab. Introducing the lumpsucker!

Lumpsucker
Me (left) and ENS Libby (right) showing some love for a lumpsucker (middle).

The lumpsucker is in the family Cyclopteridae, which is derived from Greek words that mean circle and fin in reference to their round-shaped pectoral fins. There is a sucker on the bottom of them, so when we put this little sucker in some sea water while we were processing the fish, he stuck himself to the bottom of the container! Lumpsuckers are poor swimmers, so they are mostly benthic, meaning they stay at the bottom of the sea floor. However, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of swimming (especially since this one was caught during a midwater trawl). We took some photos and tossed this little guy back to sea, so hopefully he makes it!

Cathrine Fox: Issue Sixteen: Lumpsucker (there is no more perfect title)

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
CATHRINE PRENOT FOX
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011


Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: October 25, 2011

Personal Log:

"It's not a party without a lumpsucker?"
“It’s not a party without a lumpsucker?”

What is the best birthday party you ever had? Let me set the stage for you to picture mine. It was a theme celebration: the guests came as a superhero or supermodel. Everyone was in costume. Balloons covered the floor. People brought so many flowers that I started putting them in washed out mayonnaise and pickle jars. The cake was homemade: I can’t now remember if it was chocolate oblivion or an upside-down fruit. I just remember that it was made from scratch. There were prizes for the best costumes. People danced for hours. I didn’t think that it could have ever gotten better. Until recently. Recently, I discovered lumpsuckers. For all of these years, I had no idea that my 29th could have gotten any better. Until now. Now I know that It’s not a party without a lumpsucker (Cartoon citations 1, 2 and 3).

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 16
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 16


Smooth and spiny lumpsuckers.
Smooth and spiny lumpsuckers.

I should explain why I chose a squishy dumpling with fins for the final cartoon of Adventures in a Blue World. It isn’t because my 29th birthday balloons should have been adorned by adorable fish (although admittedly they would have been grand). It is because, once again, I have found yet another inhabitant of our planet that I was ignorant of. As a biology teacher, I like to think that I have a fairly good handle on life, especially of our Animalia Kingdom. Who could have guessed, in their wildest dreams, that there were creatures like the lumpsucker that inhabit our oceans–our planet? With only 3% of the oceans explored, I can’t even fathom what else is out there. If we don’t explore, catalog and protect our oceans, we may never know.

I want to thank the Teacher at Sea Program of NOAA for an excellent and amazing adventure. In particular, the crew of the Oscar Dyson, the scientists of MACE, my fellow Teacher at Sea (rockstar) Staci DeSchryver and Elizabeth McMahon deserve special recognition. Thank you all so much.

Until our next adventure!
I wish you fair winds and following seas, a sailor’s farewell…

Cathrine Prenot Fox

Last evening: green flash watch.
Last evening: green flash watch.

Leaving Kodiak, AK.
Leaving Kodiak, AK.

Before I left I may have tagged some of the hard hats with cartoons...
Before I left I may have tagged some of the hard hats with cartoons…

Jason Moeller: June 21-22, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 21-22, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 55.03N
Longitude: -163.08W
Wind: 17.81 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 6.7 degrees celsius
Air Temperature: 10.10 degrees celsius
Humidity: 85%
Depth: 82.03 meters

Personal Log
Welcome back, explorers!

June 21
Today has been the calmest evening since I boarded the Oscar Dyson. The night shift did not fish at all, which meant that I basically had an evening off! Even the evenings we have fished have been relatively calm. It takes us about an hour to an hour and a half to process a haul of fish, and up to this point we average about one haul per night. That gives me quite a bit of down time! When I am on shift, that down time is usually spent in one of two places.

computer lab
The first spot is the computer lab in the acoustics room. This is the room where we wait for the haul to be brought in. I write the logs, lesson plan, check emails, and surf the web during quiet times.

lounge
This is the lounge. The cabinet under the TV has over 500 movies, and a movie is usually playing when I walk in. Behind the couch is a large bookshelf with several hundred books, so I have done a fair amount of pleasure reading as well.

When I am not sitting in one of these two places, I am usually running around the ship with my camera taking nature photos. Below are the best nature photos of the past three days.

Volcano
One of the coolest things about the Aleutian islands has to be the number of volcanoes that can be seen. This is the one on Unimak Island.

volcano2
A second picture of the same volcano.

coast
This is just a cool rock formation off of the coast. The Oscar Dyson has been hugging the coast the entire trip, which has been great for scenery.

gull
A gull skims the water by the Oscar Dyson.

gull2
A gull wings toward the Oscar Dyson

June 22
We resumed fishing today! These trawls brought in quite a few species that I had not seen before, along with the ever plentiful pollock.

Net
The net, filled with fish!

Jason by belt
Jason waits for the net to load the fish onto the conveyor belt.

Jason with flounder
Here, I am separating the arrowtooth flounder from the pollock.

skate
We managed to catch a skate in the net! Skates are very close relatives to sharks. We quickly measured it and then released it into the ocean.

skate 2
A second photograph of the skate.

lumpsucker
Do you remember the little lumpsucker from a few posts back? This is what an adult looks like!

lumpsucker2
The lumpsucker was slimy! I tried to pick it up with my bare hands, and the slime gummed up my hands so that I couldn't pick it up! Even with gloves designed for gripping fish I had trouble holding on.

lumpsucker3
A closeup of the lumpsucker

sculpin
This fish is called a sculpin.

crab
I finally saw a crab! None of us know what was attached to it, but the scientists believe that it was an anemone.

starfish
This is a starfish the net pulled up.

Science and Technology Log
There is no Science and Technology Log with this post.

Species Seen
Humpback Whales
Northern Fulmar
Gulls
Rockfish
Walleye Pollock
Lumpsucker
Arrowtooth Flounder
Atka Makerel
Salmon
Sculpin
Copepods
Isopods
Skate
Crab!!!

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

Today’s question comes from James and David Segrest, who are two of my homeschool students!

Q. What do you eat while you are on your adventures? Do you get to catch and eat fish?

The food is great! Our chef has a degree in culinary arts, and has made some amazing meals!

I wake up at 2:30 pm for my 4 pm to 4 am night shift, and usually start my day with a small bowl of oatmeal and a toasted bagel. At 5 pm, about two hours after breakfast, dinner is served, and I will eat a huge meal then too. Every meal has two main courses, a vegetable, a bread, and dessert. We have had a wide variety of main courses which have included bratwurst, steak, gumbo with king crab, fish, chicken parmesan, spaghetti with meatballs, and others!

We will often eat some of the fish we catch, usually salmon and rockfish since those provide the  best eating. The salmon disappears to the kitchen so quickly that I have not actually been able to get a photo of one! We have not caught a halibut in the trawl net yet, otherwise we would likely have eaten that as well. Yum! We have not yet eaten pollock, as it is viewed as being a much lower quality fish compared with the rockfish and salmon.

I’m out of questions, so please email me at jmoeller@knoxville-zoo.org with those questions please!

Jason Moeller: June 19-20, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 19-20, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 54.29 N
Longitude: -165.13 W
Wind: 12.31 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 5.5 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 6.1 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 97%
Depth: 140.99 meters

Personal Log

Welcome aboard, explorers!

To be honest, there is not a great deal to write about for the personal log. My daily schedule has settled in quite nicely! I get off work at 4 in the morning, shower, sleep until 2:30 in the afternoon, and then head down to the acoustics room where we track the fish. When we are processing a catch (see the science and technology section of this blog), I am in the fish lab wearing bright orange waterproof clothes that make me resemble a traffic cone.

fishing gear
Jason in fishing gear.

The rest of the time is down time, which is spent reading, working on the blog, learning about the ship, and dreaming up lesson plans that I can use to torment my students. I hope they are interested in a summer fishing trip, as that is the one I am currently planning.

Most of the blog work involves running around and taking photographs. My wife’s camera was soaked beyond repair during the prank that was pulled (see the previous post) as Sarah was holding the camera when the wave came over the railing. Fortunately, there was another camera on board.

Our survey is keeping us very close to the coast and islands of Alaska. As a result, I’ve gotten some gorgeous photos. This place is just beautiful.

An island shrouded by clouds.
An island shrouded by clouds.

waterfall
A waterfall falls off into the ocean.

Wind
Jason in front of an island. It was a bit windy, but at least it was sunny!

view
Mountaintops visible just above the island coast. Jake took this photo while I was in the fish lab.

sunset
Sunset over Alaskan waters.

Science and Technology Log

Pollock
Walleye Pollock waiting to be processed

We finally started fishing! As I mentioned in my very first blog, the Oscar Dyson is surveying walleye pollock, which is an important fish species here in Alaska. Walleye pollock make up 56.3% of the groundfish catch in Alaska, and is eaten in fast food restaurants around the world such as Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Burger King. It is also used to make imitation crabmeat.

Our first catch had a little over 300 walleye pollock, and we processed all of them. Three hundred is an ideal sample size for this species. If, for example, we had caught 2,000 pollock, we would only have processed 300 of the fish, and we would have released the rest of them back into the ocean.

The photo captions below will provide a tour of the fish lab as well as introduce blog readers to the data we wish to collect and how scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson collect it.

Conveyer belt
This is the conveyor belt. After the catch is pulled on board, it is loaded onto this conveyor belt and moved down the belt and into the lab. At this point, the scientists separate the pollock from the rest of the sea life that was accidentally in the net. Today, the majority of the "extra" sea life were brittle stars, sponges, and a few squid.

Gender Box
Once the pollock and other sea life are separated, they are moved to this box to be sexed. In order to do this, we would have to cut the fish open and look at the internal organs of the fish. Once this was done, females would go over the yellow sign on the right and into the box that was hidden behind it. The males went into the box on the left.

Length Station
Once we had determined the pollock's gender, we moved to the measuring station, which was on the other side of the last station. We laid each individual fish on the table on top of the ruler, and then measured the fish from the head to the fork of its tail. We recorded the length by tapping the table at the fork of the fish's tail with a sensor that we carried in our hand. A sensor in the table recorded the data and sent it to the computer monitor seen above the table.

measuring pollock
Jason measures a pollock on the board!

From this catch (we will do this for any following catch as well) we also took and preserved twenty stomachs from random fish. This was done in order to later analyze what the pollock had eaten before they died. We also took forty otoliths from random pollock as well. An otolith is the ear bone of the pollock, and it is incredibly important to researchers as they will tell the pollock’s age in a similar manner to the way a tree’s rings will.

This is a pollock otolith!
This is a pollock otolith!

Stored Otoliths
After removing the otolith from the fish, they were put into these vials. Each pair of otoliths received their own vial.

While looking at pollock is the main focus of the survey, we did run into some other neat critters in this haul as well!

Atka Makerel
This is an Atka Mackerel. We also caught a salmon, but I didn't get a good look at it. Our kitchen grabbed it!

Basket Star
This is a basket starfish. We were trawling close to the bottom and pulled it up in the nets.

Lumpsucker
This is a lumpsucker! They spend their lives on the bottom where they eat slow-moving animals such as worms and mollusks.

Arrowtooth Flounder
This is an arrowtooth flounder. These are not very good eating fish, and are not the flounder found in the supermarket. Check out the nasty teeth in the photo below this one!

Flounder teeth
I wouldn't want to be bitten by this fish!

Rockfish
Finally, this is a rockfish! The red snapper that we see in the marketplace is often this fish instead.

Species Seen

Albatross
Northern Fulmar
Gulls
Rockfish
Walleye Pollock
Lumpsucker
Arrowtooth Flounder
Atka Mackerel
Salmon
Pacific Grenadier
Squid
Shrimp
Basket Starfish

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

Today’s question is actually a request. It comes from Tish Neilson, one of our homeschool parents.

Hey Jason –
I had a super favor to ask of you. There is a little girl from Jackson’s school that is a 5th grader and she was recently diagnosed with leukemia. There have been some bracelets created for her that say “Going Bananas for Anna” to show support and several moms and I have gotten together and are putting together a scrapbook for her and trying to get as many people as possible wearing her bracelets in really cool places. Then we are having them take pictures to send to us to put in her scrapbook so she can she how far her bracelets have traveled and how many people are pulling for her. If it’s possible to do so and you would be willing to do it I would LOVE to try and get you a bracelet to take some pictures and send to me from Alaska. Her nickname is Anna Banana and she is always asking for pictures and such so that is why we came up with this idea.
Tish Neilson

Unfortunately, I had left for Alaska before I received the email, and as a result I do not have a bracelet. Hopefully, a sign will work just as well.

For Anna
Hi Anna! This is Unimak Island! It is one of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska! Hang in there, we are rooting for you!

Jason Moeller: June 17-18, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 17-18, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 52.34 N
Longitude: -167.51 W
Wind Speed: 7.25 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 6.6 Degrees C
Air Temperature: 7.1 Degrees C
Relative Humidity: 101%
Depth:  63.53 meters

All of the above information was found on http://shiptracker.noaa.gov. Readers can use this site to track exactly where I am at all times!

Personal Log

Welcome back, explorers!

It has been a very eventful 24 hours! We have started fishing, but have done so little that I will wait to talk about that in the next log. Tammy, the other Teacher at Sea, has not begun fishing yet, and as we will be writing the science and technology log together, I will save the fishing stories until she has had a chance to fish.

After turning in last night’s log, we managed to spot eight or nine humpback whales on our starboard side that appeared to be feeding at the surface. They were too far away to get any decent photos, but it was a lot of fun to watch the spouts from their blowholes tower up into the air.

Whale Spouts
Ten whale spouts rise in the distance.

This afternoon started off by dropping an expendable bathythermograph (from here on out this will be referred to as an XBT). The XBT measures the temperature and depth of the water column where it is dropped (there will be more on this in the Science and Technology section). I was told that I would be dropping the XBT this time, and was led off by Sarah and Abby (two of the scientists on board) to get ready.

Ready to launch!
The first thing I had to do was to get dressed. I was told the XBT would feel and sound like firing a shotgun, so I had to put on eye, ear and head protection. I was also put in a fireman suit to protect my body from the kickback, since I am so small. The XBT launcher is the tube in my hands.

Pranked!
This is me launching the XBT. Why no smoke? All we actually needed to do was drop the device over the side. The whole shotgun experience was a prank pulled off by the scientists on all of the new guys. Their acting was great! When I turned towards Sarah at one point with the launcher, she ducked out of the way as if afraid I would accidentally fire it. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

However, the prank backfired somewhat. As the scientists were all laughing, a huge wave came up over the side of the ship and drenched us. I got nailed, but since I was in all of the gear, I stayed dry with the hem of my jeans being the only casualty. Sarah didn’t get so lucky. Fun times!

Sarah
Sarah looking a bit wet.

Science and Technology Log
Today, we will be looking at the XBT (the expendable bathythermograph). Bathy refers to the depth, and thermo refers to the temperature. This probe measures the depth and temperature of the water column when it is dropped over the starboard side of the ship.
“Dropping” isn’t exactly the right phrase to use. We use a launcher that resembles a gun. See the photo below to get an idea of what the launcher looks like.

XBT Launcher
This is the XBT Launcher.

Pin
The silver loop is the pin for the launcher. To launch the probe, we pulled the pin and flung out our arm. The momentum pushed the probe out of the tube and into the water below.

The probe
The probe.

The probe is connected to a length of copper wire, which runs continuously as the probe sinks through the water column. It is important to launch the probe as far away from the ship as possible, as the copper wire should never touch the ship. If the wire were to touch the ship, the data feed back to the ship would be disrupted and we would have to launch another probe, which is a waste of money and equipment. The survey technician decides to cut the wire when he/she has determined that sufficient data has been acquired. This normally occurs when the probe hits the ocean floor.

This is a quick and convenient way to collect data on the depth and temperature of the water column. While the ship has other methods of collecting this data (such as a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) probe), the XBT is a simpler system that does not need to be recovered (as opposed to the CTD).

CTD
A CTD

Data collected from the most recent XBT.
Latitude: 53.20 degrees N
Longitude: 167.46 degrees W
Temperature at surface: 6.7 degrees C
Temperature at bottom: 5.1 degrees C
Thermocline: 0 meters to 25 meters.
The thermocline is the area where the most rapid temperature change occurs. Beneath the thermocline, the temperature remains relatively constant.

Thermocline
This is a graph showing a thermocline in a body of water. Source: http://www.windows2universe.org

Species Seen

Humpback Whales

Northern Fulmar

Albatross

Northern Smoothtongue

Walleye Pollock

Mackerel

Lumpsucker

Squid

Pacific Sleeper Shark

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

Today’s reader questions come from James and David Segrest, who are two of my students in Knoxville Zoo’s homeschool Tuesday classes!

1. Did pirates ever travel the path you are on now? Are there any out there now?

A. As far as I know, there are no pirates currently operating in Alaska, and according to the scientists, there were not any on the specific route that we are now traveling. However, Alaska does have a history of piracy! In 1910, a man named James Robert Heckem invented a floating fish trap that was designed to catch salmon. The trap was able to divert migrating salmon away from their normal route and into a funnel, which dumped the fish off into a circular wire net. There, the fish would swim around until they were taken from the trap.

Salmon and trap
Workers remove salmon from a fish trap in 1938. Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife - Fisheries Collection - Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS.

For people who liked eating fish, this was a great thing! The salmon could be caught quickly with less work, and it was fresh, as the salmon would still be alive when taken from the trap. For the traditional fisherman, however, this was terrible news. The fishermen could not compete with the traps and found that they could not make a living. The result was that the fishermen began raiding the floating traps, using any means possible.

Salmon barge
A barge of salmon going to a cannery. Fishermen could not compete with traps that could catch more fish. Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife - Fisheries Collection -Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS

The most common method used was bribery. The canneries that operated the traps would hire individuals to watch the traps. Fishermen would bribe the watchers, steal the fish, and then leave the area. The practice became so common that the canneries began to hire people to watch the trap-watchers.

2. Have you seen any sharks? Are there any sharks that roam the waters where you are traveling?

shark
Hi James and David! Here is your shark! It's a Pacific Sleeper Shark.

shark in net
The shark in the net

Shark
Another image of the shark on the conveyor belt.

This is a Pacific Sleeper Shark. It is called a sleeper shark as it does not appear to move a great deal, choosing instead to glide with very little movement of its fins. As a result, it does not make any noise underwater, making it the owl of the shark world. It hunts much faster fish (pollock, flounders, rockfish) by being stealthy. They are also known to eat crabs, octopus, and even snails! It is one of two animals known to eat giant squid, with the other one being sperm whales, although it is believed that these sharks probably scavenge the bodies of the much larger squid.

The other shark commonly seen is the salmon shark. Hopefully, we will catch one of these and I will have photos later in the trip.

Story Miller, July 29, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 29, 2010
 
Time: 1922 ADT
Latitude: 59°47N
Longitude:178°14W
Wind: 5 knots (approx. 5.8 mph or 9.3 km/h)
Direction: 9.8° (N)
Sea Temperature: 10.1°C (approx. 50.2°F)
Air Temperature: 8.7°C (approx. 47.7°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1015
Wave Height: 0 – 1 feet
Swell Height: 1 – 2 feet
Scientific Log:
I decided that it would be beneficial to provide some information regarding some of the animals I have seen over the past week.
Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)
Yesterday morning during breakfast, one of the NOAA Corps Ensigns came down to tell me that there was a Short-tailed Albatross off the port side (left side) of the boat. This was a very special event, especially if you are an avid birder because currently there are about 2000-2500 in the world. The short-tailed albatross is one of three species of albatross living in the North Pacific Ocean and is the largest of all seabirds in this location. This bird has a wingspan of approximately two meters. One could conclude that the bird I saw was younger because young short-tailed albatross have “chocolate brown” feathers when young and as they grow larger they turn white. This bird likes to eat squid, small fishes like pollock, and zooplankton. The albatross population dwindled because the birds were very easy to access due to them only nesting on a couple islands in Japan and they were not afraid of humans. As a result they were really easy to kill and because there was a high market value for their feathers, hunters pursued them to near extinction. In fact it is said that in 1953 there were only about 10 pairs left in the world.
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

This species of bird has been consistently following our ship since we left Dutch Harbor. They are primarily a pelagic bird which means that unless they are breeding, they are living out at sea throughout the year. The Northern Fulmar can be found in a range of different colors depending on where they were born. Generally, the darker birds are found in the southern parts of Alaska and the white are found farther north. However, if you are on the Atlantic side of the US the pattern is just the opposite with the darker birds originating in the high Arctic and the light are found farther south! These birds typically feed on squid and small fish.  One fact that I find fascinating about the Northern Fulmars is that they have the ability to launch their puke up to 6 feet as a defense mechanism! I shall now remember it as the projectile vomiting bird!
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-legged Kittiwake

One interesting fact about this bird is that it has only three functional toes, hence the tri prefix in its scientific name. These birds are white and their wings are gray. Because I grew up in the desert, my untrained eye mistakenly identified them as a seagull but thanks to USFWS scientists Marty Reedy and Liz Labunski, I am now informed of the differences! This bird is also pelagic and their breeding season is during this time. These birds feed on small fish and they are found around the coasts of Alaska, the Bering Sea, and in the northern Canadian Atlantic Coast. When the black-legged Kittiwake feeds, it usually catches its prey on the surface of the ocean but it has been known to plunge underwater. Typically they feed on zoopankton.
Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris)
As stated in its name this bird has bright coral red legs and is typically shorter than the Black-legged Kittiwake. These birds are most commonly found mostly in the Pribilof Islands and there are only about five or six places in the world where they breed, all of which are in the Bering Sea.
Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris)
These birds are known to breed off Australia. In the summer they migrate to Alaska, a trip of about 9000, and have been known to take as little as six weeks! In Australia they are important in the Aboriginal culture in Tasmania and are commercially harvested for food, feathers, and oil. These birds usually eat crustaceans but are also known to eat fish and squid. To catch their prey, they will plunge or dive into the water. One interesting adaptation is that they are able to convert their food to oil and the benefit is that oil does not have as much weight as an ingested animal which allows the birds to travel long distances.
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma furcata)
When I first saw these birds I thought a bat was flying over the water due to a slightly more erratic flight pattern than the smooth flights of the other birds I have observed. These birds typically feed at the surface of the water. Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels are also pelagic, living approximately 8 months at sea and when they do return to their breeding grounds in late-spring, they will dig burrows in the soil or find ideal nest locations in rock crevices. The baby chicks are thought to have a unique adaptation for survival. Sometimes the parents leave the baby alone for many days to look for food. During this time the baby’s body head drops into a state of torpor until the parents return and raises its body temperature.
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
These birds are capable of backward somersaults in the air and take part in acts of piracy as they have been known to harass other birds until the lesser bird gives up its food. The Pomarin Jaegers primarily feed on lemmings and even have a reproductive period that is dependent on the brown lemming! According to the USFWS they are “the only avian predator that digs for lemmings.”
Smooth Lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)

Smooth Lumpsucker

Lumpsuckers live in cold waters in the Northern Hemisphere. They have a disk underneath their body that allows them to cling to rocks. “All but a few lumpsuckers have spiny tubercles on the head and body” (2002).  There are 27 species of lumpsuckers and 10 are confirmed to occur in Alaska with 3 more species are known to be near Alaska. These fish can be found on the bottom of the sea, usually on the continental shelf.
Personal Log:

The suction disk of the Smooth Lumpsucker

After my shift ended yesterday, I hung out on the bridge and looked at seabirds and tried to find evidence of land (Russia) since we are so close. The day was clear and sure enough, right after supper, Russia was spotted! While I have not been out to sea that long, the idea of land coming into view was an exciting feeling. Perhaps the feeling was because the land belonged to Russia and I had never been there before or that the sighting of land broke up the monotony of the never-ending stretch of moving water. I feel that the feeling was derived from a little bit of both. While I was searching for Russia, I had the opportunity to observe a Fin Whale about one mile (~1.5km) ahead of the boat. A few times, it came out of the water enough so that you could see its total back and dorsal fin! For me, Fin Whales have been the most commonly spotted.
This morning, after repeatedly launching the experimental Cam-Trawl with no results, we finally snagged a picture of a fish early this morning! The picture was very dark and the fish, mostly a blur but it was obvious that the image was a fish! This is yet another example of how a scientist must be patient as it is common in real-life experiments, as opposed to structured labs in the classroom, to have tests fail multiple times before useful results occur!

The first fish photographed by the Cam-Trawl!

In the evening, I decided to spend time on the bridge again and watch for whales. I was in luck yet again as I was able to see two Humpback whales! They were swimming very close to the ship, but not close enough for the zoom on my camera! I was able to watch them for a good twenty minutes before they “fluked” (showed their tail) and dove deep underwater!
Overall it was a very interesting couple of days!
Citations:
Denlinger, L.M. 2006. Alaska Seabird Information Series. Unpubl. Rept., U.S. Fish and  Wildl. Serv., Migr. Bird Manage., Nongame Program, Anchorage, AK
Mecklenburg, C.W., Mecklenburg, T.A., & Thorsteinson, L.K. (2002). Fishes of alaska. Bethesda, MD: American Fisheries Society.
USFWS scientists Liz Labunski and Marty Reedy
Animals Viewed:
Walleye Pollock
Pacific Herring
Smooth Lumpsucker
Shrimp (unidentified) but they looked like what I have for dinner!
Jellyfish
Fin Whale
Humpback Whale
Short-tailed Albatross
Northern Fulmar
Something to Consider:
Many people, including myself, enjoy watching animals but never learn what their common names are! We take for granted the wonders of Mother Nature that we see everyday and sometimes disregard them as being “normal.” However, what you see may not be normal for other people, such as seeing high populations of bald eagles in Dutch Harbor and Unalaska! It is never too late to learn and if, for example, you move to a different location with different flora and fauna, you can share with your new friends the environment from which you came! I find when traveling to other countries or other locations in the “Lower 48” that they assume Alaska is always cold, snowy, and that penguins live there (which they don’t)! When I take my pictures with me, it is exciting to see other people’s reactions and the conversations afterward are always engaging!
Now would be a great time to photograph the animals and plants you see inhabiting the land surrounding your home. You never know when you may bump into an avid “birder” or other animal specialist that could tell you their names. Or, if you are feeling particularly enthusiastic on a foul weather day, there are many identification books available in your local library.

Michele Brustolon, July 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 4, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 57.59N
Longitude: 171.10W
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: 11 knots
Air Temperature: 7.20 C/ 44.960 F
Water Temperature: 5.50 C/ 41.90 F
Barometric Pressure: 1010 mb

Science and Technology Log

Now that I have provided you with information about the importance of pollock and how the Oscar Dyson works to survey the stock in the Eastern Bering Sea, I wanted to answer a few related questions.

What about other species?

In the Bering Sea, pollock are so abundant that our mid-water trawls capture mostly pollock. However, there are a lot of other species in the Bering Sea that scientists are interested in. In addition to the Oscar Dyson, NOAA charters fishing boats (such as the Alaska Knight and the Aldebaron) to trawl on the ocean floor. This allows scientists to see more species in the Bering Sea. These ships trawl all day; sometimes up to 6 trawls a day. The GF boats cover the eastern Bering Sea shelf, extending up to the region around St. Lawrence Island (a wider area than the Oscar Dyson will cover). While the Oscar Dyson focuses on euphausiids and pollock, the ground fishing boats examine everything else found on the bottom.

Euphausiids from Methot trawl

Katie proudly holding a pollock from our first Aleutian wing Trawl

Who owns the water?
International laws provide countries with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within 200 miles of their shoreline. The area we are studying in the Bering Sea can be fished solely by fishing boats operated in the United States. On the other side of the Sea, Russians fish in their own 200-mile zone. However, in the middle there is a “donut hole” which is considered “international waters”. This Donut Hole supported a large pollock fishery in the late 1980’s.

Transects for Leg II on Oscar Dyson

The “Donut Hole” or “Bubleek” in Russian, is shown here in the shaded circular area between U.S. and Russia.

How do American scientists collaborate with scientists from other countries?
The United States works with other Pacific countries to conduct research on the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. For example, the Oscar Dyson, in addition to hosting two Teachers at Sea, is hosting two Russian scientists from the Pacific Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (TINRO) in Vladivostok, Russia – Mikhail Stepanenko and Elena Gritsay.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mikhail the other night and asked him about his experience and how he ended up on the Oscar Dyson. Born and raised in Primorye, Mikhail spent a great deal of time at the Ussuri River. He studied biology at The Far East State University in Vladivostok and began researching at sea soon after his graduation in 1968. After the first USA-USSR agreement regarding marine research, Mikhail visited the United States and worked out of La Jolla, CA starting in 1969. He has spent about 5-6 months at sea per year for the last 40 years, including the last 18 summers on the NOAA summer pollock survey (specifically on the Oscar Dyson and its sister ship the Miller Freeman)

This wealth of experience has made Mikhail an expert and he is a well-respected member of the Pacific marine science community. Throughout the years, there have been numerous conferences between stakeholder countries, and Mikhail has played an active role in recommending action for working together to maintain the populations of pollock and other fish. Mikhail has served on the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee – a six-nation committee that meets biannually to discuss fishing polices in the “donut hole.” In addition, Mikhail worked as a Russian delegate during meetings which led to the creation of PICES (North Pacific Marine Science Organization), an “intergovernmental scientific organization, was established in 1992 to promote and coordinate marine research in the northern North Pacific and adjacent seas.” (Visit their website for more information). Mikhail was elected Chairman of the Fisheries Science Committee (FIS), a branch of PICES, in 2008 and is currently preparing for their next meeting in October.

Each organization is trying to find the best policies to help understand the organisms through reproduction, population dynamics, stock assessments and fishery management. Mikhail’s wealth of knowledge, collaborative scientific research and commitment to the sustainable fishing benefits all members of the international community and we are lucky to have such a science superstar in our midst.

Catch of jellyfish and pollock coming in (Abby: left; Kathy: right)

This is a lumpsucker. Isn’t it cute?

PICES website: http://www.pices.int

Personal Log

The Fourth of July ending up being a packed day! First thing I was able to help with the CTD (remember from previous journals- conductivity, temperature, depth). You definitely wake up standing on the Hero Deck at 0400! My day of adventure continued when we got to fish after lunch. Why was this such a big deal? We hadn’t fished since June 30! We saw 100s of pounds of Chrysaora melanaster (jellies) that were so large we had to struggle to move them. We focused more on the pollock that were 1-3 years old this trawl, but the COOLEST animal by far was the lumpsucker! I was able to help sort the pollcok, sex them, and take the otoliths out for research. After we cleaned up the wet lab, we had a great ending to our day…

We had a cookout on the Boat Deck. Ray, the Chief Steward, with the help of Floyd Pounds, 2nd Cook, made everything you could possible imagine: a variety of kabobs, cheese burgers, salmon, different salads, cake, fruit, and the list goes on. To top the evening off (remember, it’s still light out!), Ensign (ENS) Amber Payne gathered and shot off expired flares for our “light show.” I enjoyed having the time to hang out with some people that I never see now that we are all working our shifts. It is a Fourth of July that I will remember always!

Fourth of July cookout on the Boat Deck

Animals Seen
brown jellies or northern sea nettle- Chrysaora melanaster
pollock- many 1-3 years
smooth lumpsucker
rock sole
fulmars

Word of the Day
Propiate: appease
New Vocabulary
GF boats: ground fishing boats
“Donut hole”: the area between Russia and the U.S. that was considered International waters” so it did not belong to a certain country