Kimberly Gogan: Science Spot Light: Marine Bird Observer, April 27, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Gogan
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
 April 7 – May 1, 2014

MissionAMAPPS & Turtle Abundance SurveyEcosystem Monitoring
Geographical area of cruise:  North Atlantic Ocean
Date: April 27, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temp: 10.5 Degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 15 -20 Knots
Water Temp: 8.8 Degrees Celsius
ater Depth: 10  Meters

Science and Technology Log

One of the other groups of scientist that have not received as much attention so far are our Birders. We have two Sea Bird Observers on this trip; Michael Force and Nick Metheny . The work of the birders supports the AMAPPS project by giving addition information about the health of the ecosystem the Marine Mammals live in. Many people don’t realize that out on the open ocean Sea Birds are the top predators.  They are a good indicator as to the health of the ecosystem because they are closely linked with the sea holding most of the bird’s vital food source. If there is a change in the birds food sources the birds are likely to be affected. Birds are easy to see and can be used as a quick and easy indicator without having to get into the ocean. What they mainly do during the day is rotate watching for birds between the two birders every 2 hours. Once they are up on the Flying Bridge with the Marine Mammal Observers, they will choose one side of the ship and watch for birds in quadrant or  arch that stretches from the bow of the ship to the beam which is 90 degree to the side out 300 meter, they call this a strip transect. They will use this know area to calculate populations of birds in entire area.  The birders are not using the “big eyes” like the Marine Mammal Observers; they spot bird with the naked eye.  The birding team really needs to be able to identify every bird they see, they need to be expert birders. The data they collect will go the scientist at the NEFSC and be linked to the physical oceanography to better understand the birds use of the ocean and quantify their habitat.  In different places in the ocean the birders will find very different species of birds depending on what is underneath. On this trip The Sea Birds Observers had a very exciting bird watching day because they spotted a rare Bermuda Petrel.   This bird was thought to be extinct for over 300 years but because of intensive conservation efforts the Bermuda Petrel is making a comeback.  The sighting was the first for Canada, as we were in Canadian waters and it was the most northerly sighting. The birder team was very, very excited.

This is Michael Force.  Mike is a Contract Sea Bird Observer.

This is Michael Force. Mike is a Contract Sea Bird Observer.

Science Spot Light

Science Spot Light: Meet Michael Force. Michael is a Canadian native. Mike refers to himself as Contract Sea Bird Observers for NOAA, which means he doesn’t work out of a specific office; he is just hired by contract for the duration of the cruise. He has been contracting with NOAA as a Sea Bird Observer on ships for 26 years. He has been one 26 different ships all over the world in places like Antarctica, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and of course the Atlantic. During this trip Michael exceeded 3700 days at sea!!! His hobby is also birding, which means that Michael works his hobbies into his career. He never thought he would be able watch birds and get paid for it!

Personal Log

On this trip we had some pretty rough weather. There were several days were we just had to hunker down and ride it out, or make a run from a storm and secure the boat in a protected place like Cape Cod Bay. This gave the scientist and sometimes the crew extra time on their hands to hang out and make friends, do computer work,  watch movies, or participate in the ships cribbage tournament.  I didn’t make it very far as I have not played seriously in several years, but it was fun to see the tournament continue for the entire trip.  Our resident birder mentioned earlier,  Michael Force, was the one who organized the entire tournament and was the one who really kept the momentum going. Mike was nice enough to play me in a few practice rounds where he taught me a good moto “pegging wins games!”  Mike and his fellow birder Nick were in the top three spots, along with one of the mammal observers and professional photographer Todd Pusser.  It was a very entertaining way to pass the time in bad weather or off duty before bed.