Jeannine Foucault, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

Survival suit for safety

Survival suit for safety

Science Log

Today we were ported in Jacksonville, FL. It was load up and set up day for the additional scientists and the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).

The ROV is similar to a traveling robot that will be lowered down onto the ocean floor and will be remotely operated from the ship while recording ocean life at each MPA (Marine Protected Area) that we visit. Since PISCES is a brand new ship she wasn’t equipped for all the hardware and software needed for the ROV; therefore, all the engineers, deckhands, scientists, and crew were involved in a speedy setup. The scientists also loaded a fish trap just in case we need extra data in addition to the ROV.

We set off to our first MPA in North Florida to do our first ROV trial testing in the morning to get some live data. I am so anxious to see how the ROV works and what sort of data we will receive. I know I will sleep well tonight because I was working right along side everyone. Remember all those measurements I have you take and then convert them from English to metric units? That’s what I had to do today. We had to measure how far the equipment was in respect to the size of the ship, etc. You want to know how you will use what you learn in ‘real life’? Well, here it is!

I did see a dolphin today, but too quick for a pic! SRRY 🙂

Also, I was able to watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Chris Imhof, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

NOAA Ship Pisces in port

NOAA Ship Pisces in port

Science Log

We arrived late last night back in Jacksonville, Florida docking at the Atlantic Marine Docks – taking on 8 scientists who will leading the ROV operations – over the next few days. The next morning was a flurry of activity as the science crew began to unload their equipment and the crew of the Pisces operated the cranes and prepared the the sides of the ship and the winches for deployment of the ROV.

While Jeannine stayed aboard to help running cables and rigging the GPS equipment needed for pinpointing the position of the ROV relative to the ship – I chose to join the scouting party inland; myself, Lieutenant Dunsford, Engineer Tony Assouad and Lead Scientist Andy David made contact with local at the village of “Walmart” and acquired much needed supplies.

AtlantisGear was stowed and the equipment set up, the science party met for their safety briefing, followed by a larger conversation of what we will be accomplishing over the next couple of days. We plan to take the “Deep Ocean ROV” to at 3 sites – testing in and outside the MPA or “Marine Protected Area” about sites a day. We will be running mostly day time operations and transitioning to next station at night as well as doing some multibeam mapping – using the same type of technology I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. When the Pisces arrives in an area it will begin to “mow the lawn” – doing transects back and forth to create a map of the ocean floor below so the scientists can better choose targets or areas to avoid during the daytime ROV operation. For the most part we are assisting the scientists with the launching and retrieval of the ROV as well as monitoring what the ROV sees from a TV in the Dry Lab on the Pisces.

ROV equipment

ROV equipment

Like a lot of science the ROV will be recording a ton of data which will be more carefully evaluated over the next few months after the voyage. Many of the places we document in and out of the MPA will be explored again to see changes – so in a way this study sets a baseline for future missions. I am excited to see how they launch the ROV, which will give me some ideas for when my Innovation Technology Seminar launches their little rovers in a few weeks. The operator/pilot of the rover will be inside the dry lab talking through a headset to another rover scientist outside monitoring the 900 feet of cable – talking to a deck crew member operating a winch. We are hoping not only for calm waters on the surface for deployment-but quiet currents below so ROV has the opportunity to explore, rather than ride the current.

A few porpoises rolled along side the ship enough to enjoy, but too quick to get a good picture. Only the gray pelicans on the dock would stand still to pose. Before we pulled out of Jacksonville we climbed to the top of the Flying Deck to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in the distance. Even though we didn’t do much today it was still a pretty great day. 🙂

Jeannine Foucault, November 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 14, 2009

Science Log

Of the many things I have learned so far there are three things that are standing out in my mind right now that I can share…..1) there is so much ionization in the ocean (salinity) that if it’s not neutralized it can cause many rusting/electrical problems on the ship 2) water on the ship is purified by passing through a UV light before it is sent for drinking and using on the ship 3) plank owners are called the very first crew members on a new ship!

When I went on the tour of the engine room or should I say rooms. The engineer pointed to a sign that read “cathode”. Well, I know my physical science students remember that a cathode is an electrode where an electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Anyway, the ship has all this salt water flowing in (lots of NACL) that has an electric charge so it has to be neutralized using the cathode so the water doesn’t cause any high electrical charges that can be dangerous with so much high voltage already running on the ship. Cool, huh?

Then the engineer explained the process of making water. The ship goes through about 1800 gallons of water per day. Through the process of purifying the water at the final stage is a tiny box with a long rectangular tin attached to a long thick wire. Above this box water flows through another tube flowing across the rectangular box. It reads ‘CAUTION: UV radition light’. As the water flows across the UV light it is emitting short wavelengths of ionizing radiation to rid of any living microorganisms in the water making it suitable to drink.

Finally, another crew member discussed the aspect of the ‘plank owners’. This is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. So since PISCES was commission on November 6, 2009 and the entire crew that is with me now on the ship was a member of the crew then they are all the plank owners of PISCES and I am the office plank owner Teacher at Sea!

Lynette Swiger, July 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lynette Swiger
Onboard NASA Ship Liberty Star
July 16 – August 23, 2008

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida
Date: July 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temperature: 84 degrees
Water temperature: 80 degrees
Barometer: 29.95
Wind: SW at 6.5 knots
Waves: South at 3 feet
Visibility: 3 miles

A small boat on the LIBERTY STAR had to be deployed to untwist the ROV cord from the ship's propeller.

A small boat on the LIBERTY STAR had to be deployed to untwist the ROV cord from the ship’s propeller.

Science and Technology Log 

Unless something unexpected happens, this will be my last journal entry. Our last day of operations is tomorrow morning, we have only one camera trap drop, and we will be doing basically the same activities that I’ve covered in previous journals. I will finish this science and technology section of my log with some general ideas and items that I’ve found of interest and that may not be known widely known. So here goes…..

The ROV is on the mending list, but isn’t yet fully recovered. It is able to dive and use the underwater video camera but the digital still camera is not responding to commands. However, it makes us all a little happier to see the little guy up and running. *Post journal entry: The ROV’s cable again became caught on the ship’s propeller. The cable was hopelessly twisted and had to be manually removed from the prop. The ROV is finished for this cruise and we are doing only video camera array recordings. 

  • Scientific projects almost always encounter glitches, but part of the process is learning to work around the glitch or to have a backup plan in place.
  • A project is not a failure simply because its results don’t support hypotheses. In fact, most statistical tests are designed to reject the hypothesis.
  • Replication of data over time is essential to authenticity of results.
  • We have observed no tilefish on any days of diving, although their habitat is muddy bottoms and we have focused on reef areas which grouper prefer.
  • Fish are not necessarily found everywhere in the ocean. Instead, life seems to teem around outcroppings, ledges, and drop-offs that can provide hiding places. These appear haphazardly and we must search with the ROV for these places in order to find a congregation of fish.
  • We have not seen a shark or octopus on this cruise though both inhabit these waters. We saw one or two piles of shells that could signal an octopus in the area because an octopus will eat shellfish and drop the shells in a pile near its hiding place.
  • Some species, such as grouper, shy away from the camera and scuttle to their hideyholes while others, such as the short bigeye seem to pose for the camera. They are reminiscent of people in that way.
  • The ROV is a technological wonder. It can travel faster, farther, and deeper than a diver and does not need to decompress. Though expensive, loss of an ROV is much better than loss of human life.
  • Good food in abundant amounts goes a long way toward keeping people happy.
Lynn (right) poses with some fellow crewmembers

Lynn (right) poses with some fellow crewmembers

Animals Seen 
In two dives covered this morning we saw about thirty lionfish. As I mentioned in previous journaling, lionfish are now a concern in the Atlantic Ocean. In the grouper/snapper complex, with which the lionfish competes, we saw porgy, soapfish, hogfish, white grunt, triggerfish, rock hind, graysby, and scamp. Outside the economically important fish groups we saw five types of angelfish, three types of butterflyfish, cubbyu, sunshine fish, pearly razorfish, and short and regular big-eye. Two interesting finds were a chain moray eel and several sea stars. That’s not the full extent of the list, but it’s a good beginning!  

Vocabulary 
Octopus, octopi, inhabit, replicate, and authenticity.

Career Connection 
For anyone interested in a career aboard a ship, I would like to introduce Dave. He is a staff person on this particular cruise because he is filling in for someone who is absent.  He has actually served as captain of this ship in the past and now has an office job on land where one of his tasks is trying to envision new programs for the future.

Dave knew that he wanted to work aboard a ship so he attended a maritime college in Massachusetts and received a Bachelor of Science degree in marine transportation. He also sat for and passed an examination for a U.S. Coast Guard license, and he received a naval reserve commission as an officer. People with these licenses can work on all types and sizes of ships from tugboats to cargo vessels to large cruise ships. They also have the wonderful opportunity to travel around the world as part of their job. Dave has worked in the oil fields on offshore supply boats. He’s worked in the Gulf of Mexico, off the New England coast and off Canada and California. In order to maintain his sailing skills and earn extra money, he currently works on a casino ship that sails out of Port Canaveral.

There is one federal maritime college at King’s Point in New York. There are also five state maritime colleges in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and California. Degrees other than maritime transportation at maritime colleges include marine engineering, environmental protection, and oceanography. A person graduating from a maritime college doesn’t have to work on a ship. There are many options besides the water with maritime law being one possibility.

Question of the Day 
The areas we are monitoring are scheduled to become MPAs in 2008. However, we will also collect data from outside the scheduled MPAs.

  • What can we learn by comparing the two types of areas?
  • Why would scientists study an MPA before and after closing?

Educational Link 
In talking with Andy I have learned that scientists don’t necessarily accept the results of one project but wait to see if those results will be replicated over time. This is possibly something that I need to carry into the classroom – assign the same project to several groups and then allow students to compare and contrast the results to come up with a final theory.

A picture of the LIBERTY STAR with the space shuttle rocket boosters on her starboard side

A picture of the LIBERTY STAR with the space shuttle rocket boosters on her starboard side

Personal Log 

I am sailing aboard the Liberty Star and I would like to spend some time today telling about her job. The Liberty Star has a twin sister named the Freedom Star. They dock at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, belong to NASA, and actually tow the solid rocket boosters that detach from the space shuttle after blast-off. Each solid rocket booster can be used ten times, so it saves money to rescue and reuse them rather than let them sink into the ocean. Each time there is a scheduled blast-off, the Liberty Star and her crew leave 24 hours ahead of time and wait in the Atlantic Ocean three or four miles away from the scheduled drop zone. Two minutes after blast-off the shuttle drops the two solid rocket boosters. Each booster’s descent is slowed by three main parachutes. Each one is over 150 feet in diameter, and they are released when the nose cone pops open. After the rocket boosters enter the ocean, the Liberty Star goes into action.

When it hits the water at sixty miles per hour, the rocket booster begins to fill with water. It bobs upright in the ocean with only 20 ft of its top protruding above the water and 100 ft descending below. Divers from the ship go into the ocean, seal the bottom of the booster and begin to fill it with air. As the air goes in, the water comes out and the booster slowly begins to rise from the water until it is standing far above the waves. Eventually its size causes the booster to gently topple onto its side and float in the ocean. The parachutes are reeled in on special reels, and the booster begins its journey home by being towed behind the ship. The nose cone is secured on a special platform on the deck of the ship. As the Liberty Star nears land, the booster is secured alongside the right side of the ship and brought to the dock. The Freedom Star always carried her booster on the left side of the ship, and the Liberty Star carries hers on the right.

Before blast-off, the rocket boosters are packed with solid rocket fuel in Utah, shipped to Florida in pieces, and assembled at Cape Canaveral.  The huge external fuel tank is made in Shreveport, Louisiana. To transport it to Cape Canaveral the Liberty Star again saves the day. The external fuel tank is placed on a long cart and wheeled into an equally long covered barge. It is the ocean and space equivalent of a covered wagon, and it is the Liberty Star’s job to tow this mammoth barge to Cape Canaveral. The size difference between the Liberty Star and the barge is similar to the difference between a matchbox car and the real thing, but the Liberty and her crew are up to the task. After blast-off most of the external fuel burns up on its re-entry above the Indian Ocean and does not have to be recovered. I am so excited and honored to have been chosen as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, and having the opportunity to work on this special ship with her great crew has been my extra good fortune.

Lynn

Lynette Swiger, July 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lynette Swiger
Onboard NASA Ship Liberty Star
July 16 – August 23, 2008

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida
Date: July 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds: SW at 12 knots
Sea: SW at 2-4 ft.
Barometer: 29.90
Air Temperature: 80 degrees
Cloud Cover: 90%

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

Science and Technology Log 

It is now 8:30 am. We sailed to the targeted North Carolina sites overnight and got everything set up for the day. The ROV was launched and our day began. The water was clear and we saw several great sites, but there was a strong underwater current. About ten minutes into the dive, the monitoring screens went haywire, beepers went off, and Lance knew something had occurred underwater that injured the ROV. After raising the ROV we found that a cable had been completely severed after somehow becoming entangled with the props. The troubleshooting skills that Lance told me were essential for an ROV operator are now being put to good use as he splices the cable so that we can hopefully continue ROV dives tomorrow at the South Carolina sites. With this in mind, I will journal about our fishing day yesterday as I didn’t have space to include it in my journal last night.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. We had great ROV dives and the weather was wonderful. The temperature inside the ship is kept rather cool, so I often wear my fleece pullover. I don’t understand much about engines and other mechanical items, but I do know that without sufficient air conditioning, temperatures can quickly climb to over 100 degrees. So I have learned to appreciate the a/c. We work in the semi-darkness in order to better see the video screens, so it’s always a pleasant surprise to open the hatch, feel the caress of warm air, smell the salt breezes, and see brilliant sunshine.

We spent “in between” time yesterday fishing while the camera trap did its documentation work underwater. This fishing is actually important because Michelle and Stacey evaluate fish samples to gain valuable knowledge. Stacey measures the length and weight of each fish and analyzes the otoliths to gain knowledge about age at maturity, growth rate, etc. Otoliths are the ear bones of fish, and they are bony structures found just on top of the brain cavity. The otoliths have growth rings similar to trees and can be used to age fish in much the same way that a forester ages trees.

Michelle needs a core tissue sample of every fish to support a different research project. Based on a stable isotope analysis, scientists can identify where in the world a fish has been. This is because each area is unique and leaves its “signature” in the tissues of a fish. It is important to know where a fish has been in order to identify source populations, or places where they breed. This allows scientists to identify areas that need to be protected.

Animals Seen 

We hear conversations about sponges that are found in the ocean, but do you know whether they are plants or animals? How they eat? A sponge is an invertebrate. This means that it is an animal without a backbone. It attaches itself to rocks and other stationary objects, so it doesn’t move from place to place. Sponges come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are supported by little spiracles made of calcium carbonate that hold them up. They feed by soaking up particles and nutrients from the surrounding water – thus the name sponge! Some sponges are now used in medical research for anti-cancer drugs. They have few predators, so they are free to “soak up” the underwater ocean beauty without much fear of joining a predator for lunch.

I was interested to learn that animals compose most of the sea life we have been viewing. Michelle explained that sunshine cannot reach our diving depths, so plants can’t receive sun energy for growth. Therefore, even though they may look like plants, the sea fans, the coral, the sea pens that look like pipe cleaners sticking up from the bottom, the sponges, etc. are all animals.

Weighing and measuring

Weighing and measuring

Vocabulary 

Sponge, predator, spiracle, calcium carbonate, particles, nutrients, breed, stable isotope analysis, supply and demand.

Career Connection 

Steve is our Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist. He is retired from the Navy, worked for awhile for Florida State University, and now works for NOAA. His job entails supporting the scientists with boat maintenance, diving, and shop work. That one sentence may not sound like much, but without his mechanical skills, the diving would be very difficult to maintain. He tinkered with engines and mechanics as he was growing up, and when he joined the Navy he became an engine room hand, an engine room supervisor, and began Navy diving. He admits that Lloyd Bridges in Seahunt provided his inspiration for learning to dive, but his Navy experiences provided him with many of the skills he uses today. For instance, he built the camera trap that NOAA uses for stationary videos. I asked if he has plans or blueprints for his projects, and he replied that he usually does not. Scientists give him the impetus of an idea and a vague description of what they need and he builds what he thinks will work. Sometimes his creations need revision or refinement, but that’s what keeps the job interesting.

Question of the Day 

Coral is alive. It is composed of numerous polyps that secrete a substance that creates a hard shell surrounding the organisms. Coral slowly builds on itself until a large reef is finally formed. Reef fish, grouper, and snapper are fish that live in and around coral reefs because they prefer a structural habitat with holes and crannies where they can hide. Since these are fish that taste great, people frequently “invite” them to dinner!

  • How would damage to a coral reef system affect the supply of these fish?
  • If fish supply declines, what will happen to the price of the fish at the grocery store?
  • How are the MPAs that protect coral reefs important to people?

Educational Link 

Teaching kids to work compatibly in a group is essential to success in the workplace. I see this with the science team as well as the crew members on the ship. Everyone has a job to do and every job, no matter how small, is important. Everyone understands his/her role whether it is directing, supporting, assisting, etc. One person must be a leader who directs, takes responsibility, includes everyone, and understands the entire scope of the project. Each person in a group should have a particular strength or ability that contributes to group success. Everyone is important but everyone must learn to listen to the leader when it is their turn to support, and to lead with wisdom when they are in charge.

Personal Log 

I have become used to the motion of the ship and actually find it very soothing while sleeping. It’s a sort of rocking motion similar to what a cradle probably feels like. Unless we run into stormy weather, it appears that all of those motion sickness remedies that I brought can be taken home unopened. What a relief! The ship is fascinating and is actually a self-contained hotel. Of course there’s the galley, but this ship also boasts a nice lounge with a large screen television and a varied selection of DVDs and a relaxed eating area that also has a nice flat-screen television and satellite reception. There is a laundry room, engine room, work room, and of course the bridge. This ship is actually a NASA ship which is off duty just now and thus able to take on other contracted jobs such as the one we are currently doing with NOAA. The job of the Liberty Star and her crew is a wonderful story that I hope to cover tomorrow in my science log because it deals directly with the shuttle program. I hope to report tomorrow that our little ROV’s injuries have healed and it is cleared to return to work!

Lynn

Lynette Swiger, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lynette Swiger
Onboard NASA Ship Liberty Star
July 16 – August 23, 2008

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida
Date: July 20, 2008

Crewmembers on the LIBTERY STAR ready the camera cage for a deep sea drop.

Crewmembers on the LIBTERY STAR ready the camera cage for a deep sea drop.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: SW 10 knots
Seas: 1-3 feet
Temperature: 86 F
Barometer: 29.94
Cloud Cover: 10%
Visibility: 8 miles

Science and Technology Log 
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) plans to establish eight Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) between North Carolina and the Florida Keys in late 2008. The goal of establishing these MPAs is to prevent over fishing of grouper and tilefish in these areas as well as to protect other fish and invertebrate species and the coral reef ecosystems. NOAA has been documenting these areas yearly since 2004 in order to identify populations and assess habitat both before and after closure to fishing. This long range project will improve understanding of the impact of fishing activities and compare coral reef and habitat in these areas. Our cruise is continuing this documentation, and the information collected will be compared to previous years’ data.

Knowing the plan, it is interesting to have the opportunity to assist with this cruise. This is our second day of diving, and we have so far completed a total of 8 dives, 4 camera drops, and 1 fish trap drop. We are especially looking for grouper and tilefish, but have so far seen no tilefish. This is not uncommon for tilefish as they are found further offshore in a deeper, muddy environment. Grouper, however, prefer a reef habitat such as the ones we have been exploring. Reefs provide nooks, crannies, and crevices for hiding as well as bait fish for grouper prey. It will be interesting so see if grouper populations increase after closure of the MPAs.

The presence of lionfish is another fact that’s interesting and provides some concern. We have seen numerous lionfish in both days of diving. Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean – not the Atlantic – and have no natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean. They may have been introduced to the Atlantic Ocean by people whose aquariums could no longer contain the eighteen inch long fish. Some may also have been introduced from destruction of commercial aquariums during Hurricane Andrew. However they were introduced, they live in the same habitat as grouper and eat the same prey. It is feared that they will affect grouper populations at a time when attempts are being made to protect the grouper.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lynn Swiger, takes the controls of the ROV aboard the LIBERTY STAR

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lynn Swiger, takes the controls of the ROV aboard the LIBERTY STAR

Animals Seen Today 

We saw an abundance of fish species today, but I would like to take the time to talk about two in particular. The short big-eye is a cute little fish that stations itself near individual hidey-holes. When a predator, or ROV, approaches, the big-eye quickly scampers into its hole. It’s sort of like the ocean version of prairie dogs!

Polychaete worms were another animal that I found particularly interesting. To me, these resemble coral, but Stacey and Michelle explained that they are worms which secrete a substance that surrounds them and creates a personal burrow. They build and colonize together and form clump-like structures. To feed, they extend their tentacles outside the burrow and collect ocean particles.

Vocabulary 
Lionfish, Indo-Pacific, species, population, tilefish, grouper, offshore, ecosystem, restricted.

Career Connection 
Andy, Stacey, and Michelle are what we would call marine scientists. They all have a four year college and graduate degrees. Stacey and Michelle began their careers at NOAA doing summer internships. An internship means you work for someone for little or no money, but are rewarded with a great experience and new knowledge that can later help you find a job. It’s difficult to precisely define the job of a marine scientist, but one aspect involves designing and implementing projects that involve research in the ocean with follow-up laboratory analysis of the collected data.

Marine scientists find careers with the federal government (such as NOAA), state governments, colleges and universities, and private companies. Marine scientists need to be proficient in math, science, and writing, Biology and chemistry classes provide a good science foundation, while calculus and statistics are important math skills. Marine scientists routinely write grant proposals, so a good writing ability with an emphasis on correct spelling and grammar is crucial. In addition to academic qualifications, employers want to hire marine scientists who exhibit a good work ethic, are self-motivated, show intellectual curiosity, and get along well with others. Could this be you?

Question of the Day 
MPA means “marine protected area”. This is an area where fishing is restricted in order to protect and preserve fish and their habitat. Why is it important to have protected areas? What could happen if there were no MPAs?

Educational Link 
Educators are often frustrated with the many requirements on our teaching day – the need to use more technology in the classroom being one of those requirements. However, the use of technology on this cruise is of critical importance, and has allowed me to see the increasingly vital part it will play in education, careers, and everyday life. As educators, we need to incorporate more technology into the classroom experience. This means not specific pieces of technology in isolation, but technology that is incorporated into a project and becomes an integral part of completing that project.

Personal Log 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lynn Swiger, takes the controls of the ROV aboard the LIBERTY STAR.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lynn Swiger, takes the controls of the ROV aboard the LIBERTY STAR.

The weather has been beautiful, the crew is so helpful, friendly, and interested in my part on this cruise as a teacher, and we’ve “dived” into some beautiful places in the Atlantic Ocean. I had my first experience at deep-sea fishing and found that it’s difficult to reel those fish up to the ship! I also had the opportunity to drive the ROV. It was quite an experience that required me to think in two or three directions at one time and actually reminded me of a sort of video game. I’ve learned about otiliths (which I will talk about tomorrow) and pestered Stacey and Michelle with an overabundance of questions which they very graciously answer. I have learned so much already. Of course, one person that keeps everyone energized and able to work is the Dragon, the cook. I must say that the food onboard ship is wonderful. I must constantly remind myself that I have a wedding to attend three weeks after I arrive home, and I’ve already purchased the “skinny” dress. So I need carefully monitor my intake. Dragon seems to potter carelessly about the galley, but come mealtime there’s a fabulous menu and I want to try it all! There are six kinds of fresh fruit each morning and fresh salads for every lunch and dinner. Omelets, eggs to order, sausage and bacon, beef stroganoff, creamed salmon, schnitzel and lasagna, desserts….the list goes on and so does my appetite.

Happy Sailing! Lynn 

Lynette Swiger, July 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lynette Swiger
Onboard NASA Ship Liberty Star
July 16 – August 23, 2008

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida
Date: July 18, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind SW at 9 knots
Seas SW at 2-3 feet
Air Temperature 83 F
Barometer 29.98
Cloud Cover 60%

Helping to load equipment

Helping to load equipment

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our first day of operations. We had planned to sail to the northernmost point of our cruise yesterday and then work our way south. However, due to a tropical depression occurring off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, we turned around and stayed near Jacksonville for our first day of operations and will then move to our most northern point to work backwards. After experiencing choppy seas of 7-8 feet during the late afternoon and evening yesterday, I heartily agree with the decision. I have learned that there is quite a difference between three foot waves and seven foot waves.

Today I will talk about the equipment that we will be using to conduct our survey. This is fascinating stuff and helps me to better understand the enormous impact that technology has on our lives now as well as the increasing impact that it will have in the future. One of the most important pieces of equipment that we are using is the Remote Operated Vehicle, or ROV. This is an unmanned vehicle that is tethered to the ship and remotely controlled to perform various tasks. On this cruise, the ROV takes video and still pictures of deep coral reefs and fish found in the Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Florida. The video and pictures are seen in bright color on a large screen television as well as two different monitors in the operations room. The ROV is operated through the use of two joysticks. One commands the ROV to move forward and back or right and left. The other joystick commands it to move up and down or crab to the right or left. Other switches will change cameras, pan and tilt, adjust light intensity, or change thruster speed. The operator is using all of the this apparatus at one time while watching two computer areas – one tracking our movement through GPS and compass, and one showing real-time and camera shots. The scientists are using the videos taken through the ROV to find fish and other underwater creatures in the area of our cruise, and the still pictures it takes are used to assess habitat.

Another important piece of equipment that we will use is the camera cage. It is a round cage with openings to insert four waterproof video cameras that are spaced 90 degrees apart. This means that when the cage is lowered into the water, the cameras, working together, will take pictures in a complete circle around one area for twenty minutes. This is different from the ROV because these cameras are stationary. The cage is not commercially available, but was made by Steve, the Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist, from simple drawings and descriptions that the scientists gave him. The cage securely holds and protects the cameras while they are underwater and is quite an impressive piece of equipment. One other piece of equipment slated for use on our cruise is the fish cage. This will be used to trap fish in particular areas. The fish will be analyzed for type, size, age, etc. All of this equipment combined will help the NOAA scientists understand the fish life and habitat that are in this area of the Atlantic Ocean. My next log will talk about the purpose and importance of this cruise.

Journal writing on deck

Journal writing on deck

Some Animals Seen Today from ROV 
Vermillion Snapper, Tom Tate Fish, Spot Fin Hogfish, Tattler Fish, Hermit Crab, Pencil Urchin, and Arrow Crab.  We also saw several lionfish. This fish is not native to the Atlantic Ocean and is becoming an overpopulated problem.

Coral, Etc. Seen Today from ROV 
Sea Whips, Gorgonian Soft Coral, Bushy Black Coral, Sponge, Sea Fan, and Sea Anemone. We also saw Oculina Coral which is coral found only in very deep areas of the ocean.

New Vocabulary  
Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV),  Marine Water (not referring to a member of the armed services), Freshwater (hint – the opposite of marine), and Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Crew/Career Interview 
I would like to take a few minutes in each log to talk about some of the different careers that combine to make a success of a cruise such as this. Since I am in a part of the world that is completely different from West Virginia, I thought that a discussion of ocean-related careers might be of special interest to those students interested in the ocean and its surroundings. I spoke earlier about the ROV and how we are using it to successfully complete our mission, so today I will talk about Lance and his career as an ROV operator.

An ROV is an unmanned vehicle that is tethered to the ship by an umbilical, and remotely controlled to perform various tasks. ROVs are used in many ways, both in freshwater and marine environments. ROVs are used for video documentation; for fisheries studies; by geologists to investigate underwater ridges, canyons, and pits; and by oil companies to maintain rigs, install equipment, and clean structures. Lance attended the Florida Institute of Technology for two years and specialized in underwater technology. ROV operators are in high demand and must have a good technical aptitude, possess the ability to troubleshoot, have some electronic skills, and be good at visual spacialization. Video games can provide good practice for some areas of this career. This career provides the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world, learn about a variety of subjects, be near the water, and meet and work with different people.

Question of the Day 
How can pollution in the Tygart River in Marion County, West Virginia affect fish habitat and populations in the Atlantic Ocean?

Personal Log 

I am learning to maneuver on a moving ship, and it’s quite an interesting process. I have learned that I should move slowly rather than quickly and purposefully as I am used to doing. I have also learned to know where hand rails are located and to use them often. When we went to bed on Thursday evening, the ship was still docked but was scheduled to leave at midnight. This means that I awoke on Friday morning to a gently rocking ship and I could not move in the same manner as when I went to bed the night before. I learned this quickly when I hopped out of bed and subsequently staggered across my stateroom. Before I could regain my balance, the ship changed motion and I staggered backward to my original starting point. As I reached the bathroom, hoping to remain quiet for the person sleeping in the adjoining stateroom, I let go of my hold on the door and reached for the bathroom handrail. The door slammed open and before I could grab for it, it changed direction and slammed closed. So much for being quiet! My wet soap bar shot off of the soap dish and across the room three times before I learned to nestle it in a paper towel, and all of my toiletries fell over in the cabinet before I learned to lay them on their sides.

Friday evening was interesting because we were sailing into a tropical depression, and the waves rose to seven feet. This was not pleasant and the 24-hour meclazine tablet I had taken at 9:00 am felt like its effectiveness had expired. I subsequently took another one at 5:00 pm and fell into a deep trancelike state from which I couldn’t awaken until 10:00 pm. I later found that most people on the ship also spent their time lying prone on their bunk beds as this was the safest place to be at that time, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty.

It is now 6:00 pm on Saturday. I have not taken motion sickness meds for more than 24 hours, and it seems that the crew’s prediction that my body would acclimate itself to the motion has come true. I hope this is true and that the six different motion sickness remedies I brought can be taken home and put on my medicine shelf.

Happy Sailing! Lynn