NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker
July 17 – 30, 2017
Mission: West Coast Pelagics Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast
Date: August 7, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge: (Pratt, Kansas)
Date: 08/07/2017 Wind Speed: E at 9 mph
Time: 19:25 Latitude: 37.7o N
Temperature: 22o C Longitude: 98.75o W
Science and Technology Log:
A week has passed since I left the Reuben Lasker, but I have continued to monitor the haul reports from the ship. The last haul report indicates that haul #79 of the West Coast Pelagics Survey was conducted off of the coast of California just south of San Francisco Bay. The survey is fast approaching the concluding date of August 11th when the Reuben Lasker is scheduled to be in port in San Diego. Based on their current location, there are probably only a couple of days/nights of sampling left for the survey before the ship has to steam for its home port of San Diego.
As I looked through the spreadsheet with the summary of the data that is being collected for the survey, I can’t help but be impressed by the volume of data and the efficiency in which it is being recorded. Although I was only on the ship for a short period of time, I know how much work is involved in preparing for the evening trawls and how much time it takes to process the catch and record the data. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talented, dedicated, hard-working science team members aboard the Reuben Lasker. Below is a series of interviews with many of the science team members that I had the pleasure to work with while I was on the ship.
Each team member was asked the following 3 questions:
Q1: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?
Q2: What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?
Q3: What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?
Science Team Member: Phill Dionne
Q1: Phill’s post-secondary academic career started at Stoney Brook College in New York where as an undergraduate he studied Geology. Phill’s undergraduate program also included time in Hawaii where he took several courses towards his minor in Marine Science. After his bachelor’s degree, Phill spent a year in the Florida Keys, initially as an intern, then as a marine science instructor at a science camp. As Phill continued to pursue his educational goals he began to focus on marine science as a career pathway. Ultimately, Phill completed a graduate degree program at the University of Maine where he studied the migrations and abundance of ESA listed sturgeon and earned masters degrees in marine biology and marine policy.
Phill moved to the state of Washington in 2011 where he currently works for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Phill’s current positon as Senior Research Scientist includes overseeing programs centered on habitat and stock assessments for forage fish including surf smelt, sand lance and Pacific herring.
Q2: When asked what he had learned during his time on the Reuben Lasker, Phill pointed to gaining a better understanding of the techniques and challenges associated with managing coastal fisheries, and how they differ from nearshore survey techniques.
Q3: Phill’s advice to first year college students considering a career in science is to get experience in data management and to get involved in internships early in your academic career. Phill also emphasized that it is important to understand that a career in marine science is more than just a job, it is a “lifestyle” that requires commitment and hard work.
Science Team Member: Andrew Thompson
Q1: Although originally from California, Andrew earned his graduate degree from the University of Georgia where his studies focused on stream ecology. Eventually Andrew would earn his PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara. As part of his work for his PhD, Andrew studied a unique mutualistic symbiotic relationship between a species of shrimp and shrimp gobies (fish) on tropical reefs near Tahiti. In this unusual relationship there is a system of communication between the fish and shrimp in which the fish acts as a type of watchdog for the shrimp communicating the level of danger in the environment to the shrimp based on the number of tail flips. After a stint with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in California, Andrew began working for NOAA in 2007 where he specializes in identification of larval fish.
Q2: Having experienced multiple assignments on NOAA research vessels, Andrew’s response to what he had learned while on this cruise related to his enjoyment in watching the younger volunteers see and experience new things. He voiced an optimism in the younger generation expressing how many “good, talented kids are coming through programs today.” One of the observations that Andrew pointed out about this survey was the number of pyrosomes that are being found which is uncommon for this geographical area. In a bit of an unusual find, a juvenile medusa fish within a pyrosome also sparked Andrew’s interest (see photo above).
Q3: With regards to advice for prospective students, Andrew pointed out that a career path in science is often non-linear. Like many of the science team members that I interviewed, he talked about how important it is to persevere and push through the difficult times as you pursue your goals.
Science Team Member: Nina Rosen
Q1: Nina Rosen grew up in California where her connection and love of the ocean developed at an early age. Nina completed her undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University in northern California. Her graduate degree is a masters degree in advanced studies (MAS) from SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography. Nina’s work while at SCRIPPS was focused on understanding interactions between communities and ocean resources with a particular interest in small scale fisheries. Nina’s background includes a diverse work history that includes working as a naturalist at field stations in Alaska, and working with the Department of California Fish and Wildlife to gather information from anglers that is used to help manage the California’s recreational fisheries.
Note: A special thank you to Nina. Many of the outstanding photos included on my blogs throughout the survey were taken by her (see images above).
Q2: When asked about what she had learned while on the survey, Nina stressed how important it was for a variety of people with different specialties to come together and communicate effectively to make the project successful. I think her comment “all of the parts need to come together to understand the fishery” reflects her holistic approach to trying to understand our oceans and how people interact with this precious resource.
Q3: Nina’s response when asked what advice she would give to 1st year college students interested in a career in science was simple and to the point. She said “go for it” reflecting her enthusiasm for marine science and research. She went on to point out how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself because “you never know what may come out of the experience.”
Science Team Member: Austin Grodt
Q1: Austin is from Orange, California, he will be entering his 4th year of studies at the University of California in San Diego majoring in environmental chemistry. In addition to going to school, Austin works as a California state lifeguard. Like many of the people I met while on the ship Austin’s connection to our oceans is central to his core values. When I first met Austin he described himself saying “I am a stereotypical California guy, I am all about the water.”
Q2: With regards to what he has learned while on the survey, Austin expressed that he had developed a greater understanding of the state of California fisheries and how they operate. Austin also spent a lot of time interacting with the members of NOAA Corps learning about how the ship functions and large vessel navigation.
Q3: When asked what advice he would give 1st year college students Austin said “when it gets hard don’t be discouraged, keep pushing. It is totally worth it.” Austin also pointed out that the opportunities and number of fields available for STEM graduates are diverse and “in higher quantity than you can imagine.”
Science Team Member: Lanora
Q1: Lanora’s first experiences with the ocean were in the Gulf of Mexico during family vacations. She went on to earn a BS degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. After graduating, she spent time working for NOAA on research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico. Lanora would eventually return to school and complete a masters program in marine science at the University of South Alabama. In 2016 she would once again go to work as a NOAA scientist where she is currently working on research vessels stationed out of California.
Q2: When asked what she had learned during the survey Lanora said “all of the pieces have to come together in order for the big picture to work.” She went on to explain that several groups of people with a common task have to work together in order for the overall goals of the survey to be accomplished.
Q3: Lanora’s advice to college students interested in marine science is to seek out opportunities to volunteer and participate in internships. She indicated it was important to explore different areas to find out what you are truly interested in. Like many of the science team members she went on to say that if you are passionate about science “go for it, don’t quit, and persevere.”
Personal Log: Final Thoughts…
The most important, lasting impression that I will take away from this experience is the quality and commitment of the people that I have met along the way. Although I will remember all of the people that I have worked with, the individuals on the science team have each given me something special. I will remember and learn from: Dave, his calm demeanor, focus and attention to detail; Sue, her easy smile, and determination; Lanora, her relentless work ethic, and ability to manage multiple layers of responsibility; Andrew, his sense of optimism and genuine happiness; Phill, his relaxed sense of self awareness and wisdom beyond his years; Nina, her contagious laugh and commitment to, and love of our oceans; Austin, his boundless energy and curiosity about everything… thank you.
I also learned that the ocean has a heartbeat. If you’re quiet you can hear it in the rhythm of the waves. The ocean has a soul; you can feel it in your feet if you wiggle you toes in the sand. The ocean has an immensity and strength beyond imagination. At first glance it seems as if the ocean has a beauty, diversity and abundance that is boundless, but of course it is not.
Due to our relentless pursuit of resources, and the pollution generated by that pursuit, our oceans are hurting. We have to do better. In many ways we live in troubling times, but as I learned from Andrew, it is not too late to be optimistic. We can live a more peaceful, balanced existence with the planet’s resources and the other organisms that call the earth home. It is my sincere desire that through hard work, education and the commitment of people from all generations we can come together to make our oceans and the planet a more harmonious home for all species…Thank you to everyone who has made this journey such a rewarding experience.
Learn more about education and career opportunities in marine science at the web site below.
NOAA Fisheries: Southwest Fisheries Science Center