Suzanne Acord: Learning the Ropes off the Kona Coast, March 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 24, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 7 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Temperature: 24.3˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Trawl Operations on the Sette

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Trawling allows scientists to collect marine life at prescribed depths. Our highly anticipated first trawl begins at 21:06 on March 23rd. Hard hats, safety vests, and extremely concerned crew members flock to the stern to prepare and deploy the trawl net. Melanie is our fearless trawl lead. Once we bring in our catch, she will coordinate the following tasks: Place our catch in a bucket; strain the catch; weigh the total catch; separate the catch into five groups (deep water fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, gelatinous life, and miscellaneous small life); count the items in each group; weigh each group; measure the volume of each group; take photos of our catch; send the entire catch to the freezer.

Our trawling depth for this evening is 600 meters. This is unusually deep for one of our trawls and may very well be a hallmark of our cruise. We are able to deploy the net with ease over our target location, which is located within the layers of micronekton discussed in an earlier blog. The depth of the net is recorded in the eLab every 15 minutes during the descent and ascent. Once the trawl is brought back up to the stern, we essentially have a sea life sorting party in the wet lab that ends around 05:00. Our specimens will be examined more thoroughly once we are back in Honolulu at the NOAA labs. Throughout this cruise, it is becoming clearer every day that a better understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants can allow us to improve ocean management and protection. Our oceans impact our food sources, economies, health, weather, and ultimately human survival.

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Science Party Interview with Gadea Perez-Andujar

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

The University of Hawaii and NOAA are lucky to have Gadea, a native of Spain, on board the Sette during the 2014 IEA cruise. She initially came to Hawaii to complete a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with Hawaii Pacific University. While a HPU student, she studied abroad in Australia where she received hands-on experience in her field. Coursework in Australia included fish ecology and evolution and coral reef ecology, among other high interest courses. Between her BA and MA, Gadea returned to Spain to work on her family’s goat farm. She couldn’t resist the urge to return to Hawaii, so she left her native land yet again to continue her studies in Hawaii. Gadea is now earning her master’s degree in marine biology with the University of Hawaii. In addition to her rigorous course schedule, she is carrying out a teaching assistantship. To top off her spring schedule, she volunteered to assist with Marine Mammal Operations (MMO) for the 2014 IEA cruise. She assists Ali Bayless, our MMO lead, during small boat deployments, HARP operations, and flying bridge operations.

Gadea’s master’s studies have increased her interest in deep water sharks. More specifically, Gadea is exploring sharks with six gills that migrate vertically to oxygen minimum zones, or OMZs. This rare act is what interests Gadea. During our IEA cruise, she is expanding her knowledge of the crocodile shark, which has been known to migrate down to 600-700 meters.

Once her studies are complete in 2015, Gadea yearns to educate teachers on the importance of our oceans. She envisions the creation of hands-on activities that will provide teachers with skills and knowledge they can utilize in their classrooms. She believes teacher and student outreach is key. When asked what she appreciates most about her field of study, Gadea states that she enjoys the moment when people “realize what they’re studying can make the world a better place.”

Personal Log

Morale in the Mess 

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can't wait to try this tonight at dinner.

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can’t wait to try this tonight at dinner. We will also be eating Vietnamese soup, salad, and macaroni and cheese with scallops.

The mess brings all hands together three times a day and is without a doubt a morale booster. Hungry crew members can be found nibbling in the mess 24/7 thanks to the tasty treats provided by Jay and Miss Parker. Jay and Miss Parker never hesitate to ensure we are fed, happy, and humored. It is impossible to leave the galley without a warm feeling. A few of my favorite meal items include steak, twice baked potatoes, a daily fresh salad bar, red velvet cookies, and Eggs Benedict. Fresh coffee, juice, and tea can be found 24/7 along with snacks and leftovers. At the moment, my shift spans from 15:00 to 00:00, which is my dream shift. If we need to miss a meal, Jay ensures that a plate is set aside for us or we can set aside a plate for ourselves ahead of time.

Did you know?

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Did you know that NOAA engineers are able to create potable water using sea water? The temperature of the water influences the amount of potable water that we create. If the sea water temperature does not agree with our water filtration system, the laundry room is sometimes closed. This has happened only once for a very short period of time on our cruise. NOAA engineers maintain a variety of ship operations. Their efforts allow us to drink water, shower, do laundry, enjoy air conditioning, and use the restroom on board–all with ease.

Suzanne Acord: Round the Clock Fun (and Learning) at Sea, March 21, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 21, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 6 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Depth in fathoms: 2,275
Depth in feet: 13,650
Temperature: 25.1˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

The Bridge

Learning how to use the dividers for navigational purposes

Learning how to use the dividers for navigational purposes

The Sette crew frequently encourages me to explore the many operations that take place around the clock on the ship. I continue to meet new people who complete countless tasks that allow the Sette to operate smoothly and safely.

XO Haner explains how the radar functions

XO Haner explains how the radar functions on the bridge

NOAA Corps officers operate the bridge. The bridge is the central command station for the ship. NOAA Corps officers consistently ensure that everyone and everything on board is safe. Officers alternate shifts to monitor all radios and radar twenty-four hours a day.

They use numerous instruments to determine the ship’s location. A magnetic compass, maps, dividers, triangles, radar, a steering wheel, and visual observation are just a few of the resources used to guarantee we are on course. According to the NOAA Corps officers, the traditional magnetic compass continues to serve as one of the most reliable tools for navigation.

Location and weather data are officially recorded in the deck log on an hourly basis. However, officers are keeping an eye on the radar, compasses, and weather conditions every moment of the day. On top of that, they are monitoring nearby marine life, boats, and potential hazards.

Teamwork: NOAA Corps officers on the bridge

Teamwork: NOAA Corps officers on the bridge

Personal Log

Marine Mammal Observation Off the Kona Coast

Ali Bayless, Our Marine Mammal Observation (MMO) Lead, has thus far organized three MMO trips out on one of the small boats. Dropping a small boat from the Sette is a task that involves excellent and efficient communication among at least a dozen crew members. The small boat is carefully dropped into the water. Boat operators and scientists then climb down a ladder in their hard hats and lifejackets to embark on their day trip. Today, I was fortunate to take part in one of these MMO expeditions. Two scientists, two boat operators, and I ventured away from the Sette for three hours in hopes of spotting and hearing marine mammals. Excitingly, we did indeed spot up to one hundred spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins.

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If you look closely at the photos, you can see round spots on the dolphins. Our MMO lead believes these are cookie cutter shark bite marks. This is an indication that cookie cutter sharks live in this vicinity. Two of our scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium are hoping to return to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with live cookie cutter sharks for the aquarium’s educational exhibits. There is a good possibility that we will find these sharks in our trawl lines that will be dropped later this week.

Listening to whales using the hydrophone during small boat operations.

Listening to whales using the hydrophone during small boat operations

Science Party Interview with Jessica Chen

University of Hawaii PhD student, Jessica Chen, is working the night shift in acoustics from 16:00 to 01:00 during this IEA cruise. She displays patience and a high level of knowledge when I stopped by to pester her around 20:00. During our conversation, Jessica stated that she is from Colorado and came to Hawaii for her graduate studies. She will complete her PhD in 2015. She is interested in learning more about marine mammal behavior through acoustic monitoring and analysis.

Jessica points to the line of micronekton during a late night conversation

Jessica points to the line of micronekton during a night shift conversation

This is Jessica’s second IEA cruise. Jessica, Aimee, and Adrienne monitor our acoustic screens 24/7. In the photo above, Jessica points out the slanted line (slanting up) that represents the diel (daily) vertical migration of the micronekton. The micronekton migrate daily from around 400-500 meters up to approximately 100 meters from the surface. Many even migrate all the way to the surface. When the sun goes down, they come up. When the sun comes up, they start their journey back down to their 400-500 meter starting point. Micronekton consist of potentially billions of small organisms including larval fish, crustaceans, and jellyfish. Their behavior is not completely understood at this point, but they may be migrating at these very specific times to avoid predators.

When asked what Jessica’s long term goals are, she shares that she would like to increase personal and public knowledge of the animals in the ocean. This will allow us to better manage the ocean and protect the ocean. It is clear that Jessica truly enjoys her work and studies. She states that she especially appreciates the opportunities to see wildlife such as dolphins and whales.

Did You Know?

Cookie cutter sharks have extremely sharp teeth. Their round bite is quick and leaves a mark that resembles one that could have been made with a cookie cutter. Hence the name, cookie cutter shark.