Dawn White: Onward to Vancouver! June 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

 Dawn White

Aboard NOAA Ship the Reuben Lasker

June 19 – July 1, 2017


Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: June 23, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: June 15, 2017                                                         Wind Speed: 24 kts

Time: 12:00 noon                                                             Latitude: 4332.4806N

Temperature: 15oC                                                          Longitude: 12446.5864W


Science and Technology Log

One of the lessons I want to take back to my students is not only a better understanding of some incredible career opportunities out there that they probably are not aware of, but also how some simple, almost by chance factors can influence our career choices.  For example, in speaking with PJ Klavon one of the ship’s Officers on Duty (OOD), I asked how he came about becoming a NOAA officer.  He said he was at a job fair and a NOAA staff member asked him if he would like to fish and captain a ship.  He answered “Yes” and here he is, having been part of the NOAA program the past 7 years.  I also met Sarah Donohoe, the ship’s navigator.  She commented that while in middle school she happened to read the hardcover book about being a Teacher at Sea that NOAA produced a few years ago.  It intrigued her then and now here she is, working her way up the chain of command having first earned a degree in Biology.

We headed out of the San Diego port on Monday, June 19 with the objective of traveling straight to Vancouver where we are to begin our main transects, collecting samples of fish throughout the night along a very specific path.  The transect lines have been used for several years so that the data will show how species and population sizes change over time.

Transect Lines are paths along which one counts and records occurrences of the species of study (e.g. sardines). It requires an observer to move along a fixed path, to count occurrences along the path and, at the same time (in some procedures), obtain the distance of the object from the path.  There will be more on this to follow when we get to actively fishing in a couple of days.

Consider the path on the diagram below (image from http://www.fao.org).

Samplings are taken at regular intervals.  The pathways are marked by longitude and latitude so they can be repeated as needed.

Since we are mostly just cruising to our starting point, there has not been much research going on.  The main activity has been to collect eggs from the water directly below the boat.  This water is channeled through a tube containing a mesh filter capable of capturing organisms and eggs that are 5 microns in diameter or larger.  There are two main egg types that the researchers are looking for – the eggs from anchovies and sardines.  They are monitoring how many they find in the samples being collected every 30 minutes.  This information can be compared to the water temperature, location of the vessel, and the size of schools of these organisms as observed via sonography.

CUFES  (Continuous underway fish egg sampler)  Approx. 640 L/min of water flows through the apparatus illustrated below.  The water flows through a tube that has the 5 micron mesh filter inside which collects the eggs, etc. found in that water sample. The sample is then rinsed into a petri dish, where the number of eggs of each species is identified and recorded.  The sample is then placed in a 5% formalin/salt water solution for preservation and later study.

CUFES (Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler)

The image below represents the eggs and multiple species of zooplankton that can be captured during one CUFES sample period.  The anchovy eggs are a very distinct oval shape.  See if you can find them in the sample below!

CUFES sample with anchovy eggs


CUFES sample with circular fish eggs

Personal Log

I arrived in San Diego last Sunday afternoon.  With the ship in port for the weekend, there were few staff on board so I had a quiet start to my trip. PJ Klavon, the Officer on Duty (OOD) did a fabulous job of keeping me company and patiently answered my questions about the ship, our itinerary, what a “typical day” looks like, and the various roles of the ship’s personnel.  As the evening progressed, I had a chance to meet a few other members of the crew.   It was great to have some time to take it all in, move into my stateroom, and even enjoy an off-ship dinner in town.  I watched the sunset in the harbor from the same deck level my room is located on.

Here’s me squinting into the morning sun for a selfie the morning of our launch.  My room is on the 0-1 level with a small window looking out the starboard side of the boat.

TAS Dawn White and NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

I haven’t written much these first few days for two reasons: 1) there hasn’t been much activity to report on and 2) I have struggled to get my “sea legs” beneath me.  The weather north of us has not been cooperating very well and the wind/waves have been rather severe at times.  Yesterday winds blew constantly at about 30 knots with periods of time blowing 40-45 knots.  The waves were incredible.  Quite an experience attempting stairs in such conditions, or trying to fill your plate during lunchtime!  The ocean is much less angry today so I feel like I can look at a computer screen for any period of time.

I am staying up later this evening to begin the transition to our nighttime fishing schedule.  We will be trawling and working on evaluating our catch from about 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. starting Sunday night.  I am really looking forward to seeing what we catch!

Did You Know?

There are opportunities beyond the Teacher at Sea program for those of you interested in seeing what life upon a research vessel is like.  Students with a degree in the sciences and an interest in marine biology can volunteer to assist on a NOAA research trip much like the one I am on right now.  In fact, one of the members of the science team on this trip is a new graduate who is interested in getting involved in the NOAA program.  You can read more about NOAA and its opportunities by checking out the information available on their home page at NOAA Home.





Yaara Crane: Maritime Careers, July 3, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Yaara Crane
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
June 22 – July 3, 2013

Along with us in port, was the Gordon Gunter.

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Mid-Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Latitude: 36.85°N
Longitude: 76.30°W 

Weather Data from Bridge:
Wind Speed:  4.80knots
Surface Water Temperature: 25.35°C
Air Temperature:  26.60°C
Relative Humidity: 81.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1023.19mb

Norfolk is a major naval base. We passed by this aircraft carrier with a plane sitting on its deck.
Norfolk is a major naval base. We passed by this aircraft carrier with a plane sitting on its deck.

Science and Technology Log

When I began interviewing some of the individuals on board, I knew that I could not talk to all of the 30+ people on board. Here is a snapshot of some of the non-scientific personnel on board, and the important work that they do each day.

Chef Dave
Chief Steward Dave is in his chef whites in the galley.

David Fare has been working for NOAA for eight years, and you definitely want to stay on his good side. As Chief Steward, Dave is in charge of the most important aspect of life aboard a ship – food! Dave has spent the majority of his life at sea; he worked for the Navy for over 30 years before retiring, and then joined NOAA to get back to sea. As Chief Steward, his major duties include buying food, keeping track of the ship’s food stores, and maintaining a nutritionally balanced menu. The menu he creates is compiled from various recipes, cookbooks, and training he has attended over the years. There are quite a few regulations that he must follow to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have a healthy meal, but he must also go above and beyond to work within the bounds of any dietary restrictions. Dave’s meals must accommodate vegetarians, noted allergies, and low sodium for people with high blood pressure. His major advice for anyone seeking a position in the culinary field is to get experience, and attend a culinary school.

Anthony (Tony) Teele has also been working for NOAA for 8 years, the past five of which have been on the Thomas Jefferson. Tony is both the Medical Person in Charge (MPIC) and a Seaman Surveyor. As the MPIC, Tony has a medical background, specifically in clinical psychology and youth counseling. When I was feeling seasick, Tony was the guy checking my blood pressure and making sure that I kept hydrated. He was required to take a course to make sure he was prepared for general medical needs like basic first aid, CPR, and simple sutures. Tony hopes to use his medical skills in his future career endeavors.

As a Seaman Surveyor, Tony has many other duties. First off he explained how deckhands are ranked from entry level to the top: General Vessel Assistant, Ordinary Seaman, Able-bodied Seaman, Seaman Surveyor, Boatswain Group Leader, and Chief Boatswain. The Chief Boatswain on the TJ is the longest serving member of NOAA on the ship and an expert in his field. Tony’s duties include being Coxswain (abbreviated “Coxn”) on survey launches, being a helmsman on the bridge, operating various heavy machinery on board, and keeping the decks in top shape. He loves that NOAA gives him the opportunity to travel, learn, and provide stepping stones for his future.

My final interview was with GVA James Johnson (JJ). I found out early on that JJ attended Mount Vernon High School, just down the road from where I teach. After earning his GED and serving for 10 years in the Navy as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician, JJ made the switch to NOAA. He loves the idea that he is working for something bigger than himself and not stuck at a 9-5 job. Every day is an adventure as he learns his way around his duties. JJ is currently doing a lot of learning while he works. I have observed him spending hours on the bridge learning how to be a helmsman. Tony and the Officers help to keep a close eye on JJ while he is at the helm learning his new skills. His advice to people who want to be a GVA is to be proactive and seek out training. JJ appreciated the freedom that NOAA employees have to augment on different ships, and loves the excitement each new day brings.

Tony and James
Tony (left) and James (right) are on the bridge during their watch.

I spent at least half an hour speaking with each person, and the pride they all have in their jobs was something they all conveyed. Working on a ship is more than a job; it is a lifestyle that they have chosen. These men and women spend months of their lives away from their families each year, working to support NOAA’s mission. Kudos to you all, and thanks for making time to talk to a Teacher at Sea.

Norfolk radar
Norfolk is the third largest port in the country. The radar helps to navigate through this busy waterway.

Personal Log

We have made it back to Norfolk, and everyone is quickly taking the opportunity to celebrate the 4th on their own terms. This is a rare opportunity to be home for the Fourth of July holiday, and we have people going to areas like the Carolinas, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Cancun. Safe travels to everyone! The TJ will be in port for maintenance until mid-August before returning to the waters of the Delaware Bay. Their work for this summer is nowhere close to done, and I wish them all smooth sailing. For my future, I hope to be able to take a group of students on a field trip to Norfolk so that they can see first-hand where I lived for two weeks. I have also extended an invitation to members of the TJ that want to share their experiences with any of my classes. This was an exciting adventure, and I hope it is just the beginning of my interactions with NOAA. Blogging has been a new experience for me, so thank you to everyone who has been following my adventures.

Did You Know?

NOAA Corps Officers have no fewer than eight different uniforms that they must maintain throughout their career. The ship can also be dressed out for the holidays, and the TJ will be flying its flags in honor of the 4th of July.

TJ ship colors
The ship colors have been hoisted up the mast. They identify the ship by spelling the letters Whiskey Tango Echo Alpha