Thomas Ward, September 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 19, 2010

Coming to a close

My adventure aboard the Miller Freeman is coming to a close and we are heading back to port.  The collecting of samples is over and the journey back to port is underway, about 24 hours.  This opportunity has been a once in a life time experience.  Many people told me that before I left and now I truly understand what they were trying to convey.  To be on one of our government’s research vessels has truly been a privilege and an honor.  To work along scientists who talk, live and breath science has been invigorating

Scientists
Scientists

This experience will leave a life long impression upon me.  The vastness and enormity of the ocean’s life hit home for me.  We did 7-10 minute trawls with a trawl net that had a square opening of 3 meters.  The variety of organisms that we pulled up was huge.  You can see a picture of it in a previous blog and the picture does not do it justice.  When one considers the path we fished compared to the size of the Bering Sea and then the size of other oceans it becomes quite overwhelming.  This does not mean that the human can do whatever it wants to it though because of this vastness.  I believe we are the stewards, protectors of this planet and after this trip even more so.  It is nice to know that we have a government agency (NOAA of course) and groups of scientists that have a sense of stewardship towards the planet and all biotic and abiotic factors here on our blue marble.

Looking through a trawl
Looking through a trawl

Another aspect that made an impression on me is how the members on board had a genuine curiosity of what we were pulling out of the ocean.  It was not unusual to have someone looking over our shoulders to see what we brought up in the trawl.  Questions were often asked, and as stated earlier, happily answered by the scientists.  Everyone seems to have a care for life and the creatures that come from the ocean.

I think I have an understanding of the fondness that someone may have for a ship.  I truly understand why they have names too.  This may sound corny but the ship almost becomes an organic entity.  I do not know if it is because we are land dwelling creatures and the ship gives us a comfort and feeling of security or what.  I know the ship is only a piece of equipment and it is truly the crew who keeps it alive and able to protect the people on board.

Ha, the food.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the food (again).  From the fresh made donuts, to the great selection of meals, I will miss the galley.  There is every opportunity on board the Miller Freeman to eat healthy and well.

Seeing that we are coming to a close I would like to give you my email address because I may not always check the comments on this blog and would like to answer any questions you might have regarding my experience in the Eastern Bering Sea aboard The Miller Freeman.
tward@twcny.rr.com
What an adventure, go NOAA.

Thomas Ward, September 18, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 18, 2010

More Questions, Cool

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

In this blog I will make an attempt to answer more of the questions I have been receiving.

The Ship, The Miller Freeman.  She was commissioned in 1967, is 215 feet long and was built to be a scientific research vessel. http://www.moc.noaa.gov/mf/

Once we catch the fish, which is only done using the beam trawl, the winch pulls them on board.  Because of the size of the net and the limited time that we are pulling it, the catch is not too large.  The catch can then be lifted by hand into the  kiddie pool and sorted.  If the catch happens to be a little heavy, one of the cranes picks it up and dumps it onto the sorting table for all of us to gather around and do our thing.  The juveniles that are of importance to this study are bagged and labeled, then frozen.  They will be studied back at the lab in Seattle, at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, AFSC.

Each of the three methods used have a different purpose and the only method that actually catches fish is the beam trawl.

The different species are sorted, measured and weighed.  The juveniles are kept and the larger ones are weighed, counted, and returned to the sea.  Last night we caught over 100 yellowfin sole in one haul.

The gantry, used to haul the trawl and the sled onto the stern.

The research study that I am part of, the FOCI study, is a very active group.  There is currently a group in the Arctic and another cruise just ended before we started.

There are 24 crew members on board and 10 scientists.

For me the down time has been mainly in front of the computer, doing this blog and other school work.  There is a lounge with a TV. movies and TV series box sets available for people to watch.  The catalog of movies that they have is extensive.  There is also a small exercise room and a small library.  Of course there are computers around the ship which have access to the internet.

We have not found any “new or different kind of species”  There is occasion though when sorting through the beam trawl haul an usual critter gets spotted, the scientist get very excited.  For that matter, everyone else does too. It is similar to saying that laughter is contagious, so is the excitement of finding something that is rare.

Thomas Ward, September 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date:  September 17, 2010

Getting into the Swing of Things

Deploying the grab

A routine has finally set in here for me and the cruise is almost over.  I have never been on a “cruise” before, Carnival, Princess, Disney, nothing like that for me.  Now I can proudly say that I went on a cruise with NOAA.  The day starts out for me with getting out of my bunk around 8am.  That is when breakfast formally ends but the galley always has cereal set out, bread for toast, and almost all the amenities you might find in your own kitchen.  So, if I do not get something from the cooks I throw something together myself.  I then go into an office like room that is called the data plot room.  It has a couple of computers for our use and a ton of equipment.  There are a few monitors that keep track of some of the ships vital statistics that are interesting to look at.  I work on my blog for usually around 3-4 hours here and by that time I am pretty close to my shift which starts at noon.  I eat lunch and go to the science lab to start my shift.  If we are moving to our next sampling station we prepare sample jars and such to get ready.  There is sometimes down time between stations to get other things done.  If I do step out of the lab for something it is kind of cool because I know when to report because you can feel the ship slowing down for the next sampling station.  We then assemble, put on our rain gear, float coats and hard hats and perform the three sampling stations that I mentioned in earlier blogs.  The bridge and the deck crew work together communicating over walkie talkies.  The bridge positions the ship directly over the sampling station and notifies the deck crew.  Then the deck crew deploys the gear while the bridge maintains the correct speed and bearing for the specific type of gear that is being used.  It is truly a coordinated effort between everyone.  Two stations are at the stern of the ship and the other is on the port side.

The benthic sled samples get washed down through a sieve and put into a jar and preserved.  The jars are the size of peanut butter jars and we have approximately  200, we are at station number 53. So that means we have stopped and sampled 53 times thus far.  Remember the sled is designed to capture plankton (he was reported to be stealing the secret formula) which are very small organisms.  The benthic grab collects substrate which is also sieved and one part frozen in gallon freezer bags and the other part in jars with preservative.  The beam trawl is your classic fishing net that gets dragged behind the boat.   This catch is dumped into a small kiddie pool and sorted.  This activity draws other people besides the scientists, everyone pitches in and asks a ton of question which are happily answered.  Remember this is a juvenile flat fish survey so we are mainly interested in fish that 1-3 inches long.

How many different organisms can you spot?

This process goes on and off for the duration of the shift, it is like clockwork.  Everyone on board knows the general mission and each individual has a task to complete that helps meet the mission.  As far as this on looker can tell, the mission is being very successfully accomplished.

Stay tuned, even though it is the weekend, I have been accumulating questions and will answer them soon.

sunset
Sunset

Thomas Ward, September 16, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 16, 2010

Question and Answer for the Teacher at Sea (NOAA)

Let’s jump right in, and not into the Bering Sea, it is too cold.

We have not seen any NOAA buoys, or at least I have not.  NOAA does maintain numerous buoys but our mission aboard the Miller Freeman is strictly biological, juvenile flat fish to be specific.  The types of little fish that we have caught and persevered for further study (remember the freezer) are; Yellowfin Sole, Pacific Halibut, Northern Rock Sole, Flathead Sole, Alaska Plaice, Arrowtooth Flounder, Kamchatka Flounder Greenland Turbot, and larvae of Long Head Dab.  These fish that are being saved are relatively small, about 1-3 inches long, they are juveniles. The scientists are trying to determine the mechanism that controls the development of these juveniles into adults. I was also happy to learn that the scientists that are doing the sampling are also the same scientists that are going to be doing the work back in the lab. The identification of these youngsters seems to be effortless by the group of scientists I am working with, they really know their stuff.  I have not seen too many ships here while we are out to sea.  Last night I did see a light in the distance and assumed it was another ship but did not confirm it with the bridge. We do not fish to catch food for us on board.  In fact there are so many regulations regarding fishing that we just focus on the mission and let the cooks in the galley do what they do, and let me tell you it is good.  We often do get a glimpse of land, the pictures of the volcanoes on previous blogs are taken from our ship.

This video shows me measuring flat fish on the magnetic measuring board that I mentioned in an earlier blog.  After imputing the species and other pertinent data, on a touch screen monitor, the fish is laid on the board and a device is touched to the board where the tail is.  The length of the fish is recorded electronically.  The fish that you see in the video are adults of the juveniles related to this FOCI Research Project and we still gather quantitative data on them.  After we catalog them they are returned to the ocean where they have a very good chance of surviving.  Keep those questions coming.

Sunset
Sunset

Thomas Ward, September 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 15, 2010

At Sea

King Crab

The science is going forward with rigor here on the Miller Freeman.  If you get a chance you should go back to this link http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/default.aspx   so that you can see the area that we have covered. I also made an error in reporting that the seas that made me sick were 9 foot seas when they were actually 12 foot seas.  The forecast calls for flat seas, 2 feet, through Friday. I have received a few questions through the blog and I will try to address them here.

The first one is about the marine mammals  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_mammal that we have encountered while out at sea.  On board with us is a bird observer and his secondary function is to identify and count any marine mammals.  He reported to me the following list; Killer Whale, Humpback Whale, Harbor Porpoise, Dall’s Porpoise, Fin Whale, Minke Whale, Northern Fur Seal and Steller Sea Lion.  I was lucky enough to see the Humpbacks and even saw one breech, jump out of the water and land on its side. An interesting fact about the fur seal is that they will stay at sea for up to 8 months and only come to land to breed.

Another question that I received is regarding a picture that I have posted on my blog.  It was a picture of a volcanic mountain, Mount Shishaldin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shishaldin   A description of this volcano is sufficient in understanding the characteristics of it but its majesty is truly appreciated viewing it in person.

Someone asked if the jellyfish could be petted?  We do handle them with gloves on.  They are not significant in our study at all.  We pull them out of our catch and throw them overboard.  They are relatively difficult to pick up and their tentacles are very stringy.  They are surprisingly heavy and of course jelly like.  While we have gear down and we are moving very slowly, 1-3 knots, at certain locations you can look down and see them swim by, pretty cool. E

We have been blessed here with good weather.  The website for the agency that operated my program can be found by going to this linkhttp://www.noaa.gov/  If you were to look around this site you may notice a function of NOAA is to forecast the weather.  I believe it is one of the most important factors in people’s lives.  When you have a dependable agency predicting weather people can make better plans for what they may want to do.  The site that I personally frequent is with in this link http://radar.weather.gov/ridge/Conus/index_lite.php

To find Central New York’s radar, which shows precipitation, click on the link and mouse over Central New York and click.  The Montague radar should come up.  Montague New York, the town that received 8 feet of snow in one storm a few years ago.  It is no surprise though seeing that it is in the Tug Hill Plateau and orographic lifting http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/cld/dvlp/org.rxml happens to air masses coming off Lake Ontario here.  We call it lake effect snow. When on this site in the upper left corner is a grid with adjacent radars.  Most weather moves across our country with the southwest prevailing winds.  So if you click on the grid to the left, Buffalo radar for example you can see what is coming your way.

Thomas Ward, September 14, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 14, 2010

After the Catch

This segment is devoted to what happens to the organic material we acquire once we get it on board.  The benthic sled has a very fine mesh net, plankton net, attached to it and has a container at the end of it, a cod end.  This is where the epibenthic invertebrates end up.  Once the gear is on board the crew washes down the net with sea water to get any invertebrates to wash down into the cod end.  It took getting used to that the garden hoses around deck have salt water in them.  Growing up all your life using hoses outside with fresh water in them and then being on board here and getting an occasional spray to the face and it is salt water is a reminder of where I am really at.  Any how, the sample in the cod end is put into a jar and preserved in a buffered Formaldehyde solution.

The beam trawl is used to study settlement and nursery areas for age-0 flatfishes.  This is probably what most people would associate with net fishing.  When the haul comes up there is an assortment of organisms in it.  The catch is dumped in to a kiddie pool and we gather around it and start to sort, flopping flat fish and all.
Sorting

These pictures are a good example of what we are doing.  Remember that we are primarily studying juvenile species and what is the primary mechanism in nature that helps these little ones become adults.
The fascinating thing is the differences in the catches per location.  Once the fish that are the focus of this study have been sorted, they are measured, weighted, bagged and frozen.  They are carefully labeled and frozen at a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius in the rough lab.  After 24 hours they can be moved to a “warmer” freezer, -20 degrees Fahrenheit, which is in the slime lab.

Keepers

The catch comes on board at the stern of the ship, which is the open rear of the ship where the majority of the heavy equipment is, like cranes and such.  After the catch is sorted it is brought into the wet lab for measuring, weighing and bagging.  The measuring board that we have in this lab is very cool.  There are touch screen monitors that are set up where the species that we are concerned with is selected.  The correct species is chosen and the fish are individually placed on this electronic board.  The scientist then puts the individual fish nose at one end and takes a hand held device and places it near the tail.  The machine makes a funky sound and the length of the fish is recorded electronically.  Very cool, quick and convenient.  With a good team working this station, a fish can be measured about one every second, pretty efficient.

The benthic grab is specifically used to sample subtidal soft-bottom benthic macroinvertebrates.  This is done to determine what is in the substrate.  This is the layer just below the surface.  This is what the juvenile flat fish feed on.  When determining what causes a population’s numbers to fluctuate it is important to study what it eats

Jellyfish

The jellyfish above are very cool but not of much interest to this study.  The sole above is one of the larger flat fish that we have caught.  We do catalog them but we do not save them for future study.  The interesting thing that I want to point out about the picture of the sole is the location of their eyes.  Both eyes are on the same side of their body.  These fish lay on the bottom and wait for prey to swim by.  It is and was a huge evolutionary advantage for them to have both  eyes on one side of their body.

Yellowfin Sole

Life on board ship is a very different experience.  Yesterday was proof of that for me when the seas turned to 7-9 feet and my body could not handle it.  The crew amazed me because word of my illness spread around and many pepole have been asking me how I have been feeling today.  It is what I would call a concerened, caring, working family.  At first coming aboard, getting around the ship was very confusing.  There are numerous stairways that lead to different decks and there is a very similar look to things on the ship.  I am getting used to it and to stepping through a bulkhead to walk through the ship.  These bulkhead doors are water tight doors that are closed to protect parts of the ship in case of an accident.  The sleeping quarters are sufficent.  I am in a 4 man room with 3 other guys, with a bathroom attached to it.  I have my own personal locker which contains my personal effects and my life jacket and survival suit.  On the door the crew placed a billet which is a document that is specifally designed for the individual.  Among other things it gives my lifeboat station which we would have to muster to if an emergency occurred.  We have practiced this drill and hope that it does not become real any time soon.  I am in a lower bunk.  The noise and the motion of the ship is the hardest thing to get used to.  I occasionally sleep with ear plugs but that does not seem to help much.  A solid, uninterupted 8 hours of sleep will be very much appreciated when I return.  But, as any one that knows me knows that I can definately catch up on sleep by napping, and just about anywhere.

Remember that if you have any questions you can ask through this blog.  I believe you have to sign up for a Google account but it seems to do anything on the web these days you either have to register or sign on in some manner.  Just click the commnets icon towards the bottom of the blog and follow the prompts, it is not too cumbersome.  I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I am almost done describing the science so I hope the questions start rolling in.  Hope for flat seas for me.

Thomas Ward, September 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 13, 2010

The Procedure

The way that we collect data is done by three methods. They are the beam trawl, the benthic sled and the benthic grab. The beam trawl is a metal beam supported by a cable on the ship. Hanging from the beam is a net that when dragged behind the ship opens up. The trawl is pulled behind the ship for a specific amount of time.

The benthic sled is a piece of equipment that looks like it would be right at home on the snowy slopes of Central New York. It is a sled that gets dragged on the bottom and collects plankton (look out Eugene). The net is a finer mesh than the one used on the beam trawl. At the end of the net is a container that collects the plankton, we call it a cod end.  At the opening of the net is a device called the flow meter which looks like a little hand held fan. This performs the function of measuring the amount of water or flow that is going through the net. The meter has a counter on it and needs to be read and reset at each sampling station. This instrument gives the scientists a sense of the volume of water flowing into the net.

Flow Meter
Benthic Sled

The last device we are using is the benthic grab.  This device and the wet bulb on the bridge are instruments closest to my curriculum, Earth Science.  In fact, while on the bridge one officer asked another for the wet bulb temperature, very cool, I almost pulled out my sling psychrometer and compared data.  Any how, the grab is opened up and set and then lowered into the water.  When the grab hits the bottom, the weight and the downward force of the grab forces it shut, and into the bottom, scooping up sediment as it closes.  Of course because of the nature of this scientific expedition we are more concerned with organic matter than sediment.  I will have to say the scientist that I am working with have a natural curiosity toward all of Earth’s wonders.

These devices are deployed one at a time.  After each piece returns to the surface the crew maneuvers the ship so that subsequent samplings are performed at the same area.

I was going to write about life on board but the seas have gotten rougher and I am sea sick.

Thomas Ward, September 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 12, 2010

Getting Started

The cruise and scientific research seems to be finally going forward.  We are currently in the Eastern Bering Sea.  You can find the exact location of the ship by clicking on the following link http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/default.aspx  then going to the drop down menu “Pick a Ship” and clicking on the “Miller Freeman”  That long list that you see are ships in the NOAA Fleet. While looking at the map you will see data about the ship’s location, speed and other interesting things.  One bit of data that is given is the current water depth.  The water depth here is relatively shallow because we are on the continental shelf. Currently, we are in 44 meters of water, about half a football field. If you look at the map and notice just below, or south of the islands that we are near, the blue shading becomes a little darker. This is called shaded relief bethymetry and indicates that the water gets deeper.  This is where the continental slope is.  The cartographer, map designers, could have used isolines to show this change.  Another bit of data at this site is water and air temperature.  I want to remind you that if you come upon a unit of measurement that you do not understand or can not relate to, such as air temperature given in degrees Celsius, you can use Google to convert it.  For example, the current air temperature is 9.15 degrees Celsius.  That is difficult for me to relate to, do I need a hoodie or not, so if you type “convert 9.15 c to f” Google will tell you that it is 48.47 degrees Fahrenheit.  A little chilly but not too bad.  In fact check out how close the air temperature is to the water temperature. Also, putting “define” before a word in Google will define a word that you may not understand. While reading this or looking at any of the other data you can always ask me a question through this blog.

The scientific research is primarily based around conducting an ichthyoplankton (remember Google) and juvenile fish survey in the waters around the Alaskan Peninsula, and the Bering Sea middle shelf.  The locations of the 113 sampling stations are predetermined and the ship’s crew is responsible for getting the scientific crew to these locations.  The sampling stations are found using latitude and longitude.  We are currently at 5510.825N, 16343.513W.  We are at 55 degrees north, 163 degrees west.  The numbers that follow are minutes measured to an accuracy of thousandths.  If you noticed the data on the ship tracker web site is a little different and not as precise as the on board data.  The negative in front of the longitude indicates west.  Degrees and minutes are used and not seconds.

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

This adventure for me has started out pretty rough but now that we are collecting data and doing science it is getting very exciting. The phrase “getting your sea legs” which refers to your body becoming accustomed to the movement of the ship is very true.  On the other hand I had never heard of “land sickness” before.  When we first went out the seas were relatively flat, 3-4 feet, and I felt just a little off (my students would say I am alot off, but that is OK) and it took me a few days to adjust.  Then we had to go back to port and while back on land I felt ill.  The Earth would appear to move and I would have to hold on to something to help reality take hold.  After talking to a few people they said this is common.  Everyone on board is really nice and the food is plentiful and delicious.  I really want to get this posted so I can have something for everyone to read so I will end it here.  I will post again soon so stay tuned, pictures of our catches and a description of how we perform the sampling soon to come.

Tanya Scott, June 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tanya Scott
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 16 – 21, 2010

Mission:  Ecology of Juvenile Fishes  
Geographical Area: Central Oregon/Washington Coast
Current Location:  35 miles offshore, steaming to Seattle, WA
Date:  Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today is my last full day aboard the Miller Freeman.  It is currently 4:00 pm and I have just woken up!  I find that being on a ship rocks me to sleep.  Or, could it be that I was up until 6:00 am this morning?  Either way, I am fully rested and ready to rinse and store all of the scientific equipment in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning.  We are currently steaming towards Seattle, Washington where we will depart the ship.

Our work on Saturday turned out to be very interesting.  While pulling the midwater trawl, a small pod of Pacific Whitesided dolphin became interested in our tow.  They swam very close to the net for a time and had everyone worried that they may become entangled.  Luckily, they lost interest and swam away.  If they had become entangled in the net there are many protocols that would have been implemented.  The marine mammal stranding unit in Washington would have been called, a representative would have been sent to meet the ship, and many photographs taken as documentation.  It is always a concern that marine mammals may become entangled in nets but fortunately, this time was not one of those cases.

Krill brought in from the midwater trawl.

The catches from our midwater trawl brought up the familiar species of krill, purple lanternfish, rockfish, and hake.  Since the depth of this trawl does not target adult fish, we have been dealing almost exclusively with juvenile and larvae fish.  Our last haul produced more larvae rockfish than usual, which is good for the scientists conducting this survey.  They are, however, trying to determine where the largest concentrations of juvenile rockfish are during the season.  Rockfish are an important species in the Pacific Northwest.  It would be easy for you to think of how important flounder are in our area.  Rockfish are harvested for sale in fish markets and therefore are threatened by over harvesting.  It is important to monitor their movement and habitat in order to determine when and where Pacific Hake regulations should be put in place.  Another commercially important species is the Pacific Hake.  This fish is deboned and sold as fish sticks in the grocery store.  I’m sure that most of you have eaten a Pacific Hake and didn’t even know.  These fish are commonly caught by fisherman and, just as the rockfish, their populations are threatened by over harvesting.  When Pacific Hake are caught in the midwater trawl, their length is measured, recorded, and the fish are returned to the ocean.  All of the data collected by the scientist involved in this study will help to ensure the survival of these commercially viable species.  More importantly, keeping their populations stable will mean that the food web remains intact.  Just as we have discussed in class many times, everything on earth has its place.  Something else always depends on it for food, shelter, survival, and well being.

Pacific Hake

Since today is the last full day on board we will be preparing the equipment for transport back to Newport, Oregon.  It is important that everything is rinsed with freshwater to prevent corrosion.  After being rinsed and dried, we will package everything in boxes.  Our bunks will be stripped, our lockers emptied, and staterooms cleaned.  Although my time on board is coming to an end, I know that I will have many memories and experiences to share with you when I return.

Pacific Hake larvae

Tanya Scott

Tanya Scott, June 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tanya Scott
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 16 – 21, 2010

Mission:  Ecosystem Surveys
Date: Thursday, June 17, 2010
Current Location: Oregon/Washington Coast  44 55 N  124 37 W off Siletz Bay

Traveling from Newport, North Carolina to Newport, Oregon has been quite an adventure.  The most obvious difference has been the weather. When I left NC, the weather was typical for early June:  hot and muggy!!  Here in Oregon, it is a different story.  When I arrived, the skies were clear and the temperature was a comfortable 81 F.  It soon turned to overcast skies and cooler temperatures.  While I have enjoyed the cooler temperatures, I must admit that I do miss the NC sunshine!

One of the most striking differences between Newport, NC and Newport, OR is the coastline.  The coastline of Oregon is marked by cobblestone beaches made of breccia (a common igneous rock of the western coast), steep cliffs, and very unlike our sandy, quartz beaches of NC.  The Oregon beaches are breathtaking.  I have watched sea lions swim and rest on rocks jutting from the Pacific Ocean, seen thousands of nesting birds such as the Murre and Puffin, and collected many interesting pieces of driftwood to share with you when I return.

We made the drive north from Newport, OR to Astoria, OR yesterday morning after the captain determined that it was not safe to enter the harbor in Newport.  The Miller Freeman was underway at 1200 yesterday and we have steamed ahead since.  Currently, we are 26 miles off the coast of Oregon and are heading out to 50 miles offshore.  Along the way, scientists from Oregon State University have been preparing their gear and running tests to ensure that all equipment is running properly. Just as we do in science class, they conduct trials so that the data collected is reliable.  Remember, few things work correctly the first time around.  That rule is true even at sea!

Today marks the beginning of my first duty rotation. This means that I am responsible for helping the scientists with any jobs they have such as deploying equipment overboard and collecting data from 12:00 pm until 12:00 am.  I will be helping with one instrument called a “CTD”.  This device is lowered to 100 meters below the surface of the water and measures salinity, temperature, density, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and fluorescence.  Those of you who went with me to Hoop Pole Creek in Atlantic Beach measured some of these same parameters. Using the Secchi disk determines the turbidity or the cloudiness of the water.  The CTD does the same thing except for the fact that everything is measured using a computer and sent directly to a monitor on the ship for all to see!  The CTD is much more advanced than any equipment we have used in class, but offers the same data that you have already collected.

Tonight, I look forward to helping deploy a number of different nets or trawls that will be used to collect juvenille fish species.  I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope to see some interesting organisms to share with everyone tomorrow.  In the meantime, I am anxiously scanning the horizon in search of a whale.  I did see a pod of Pacific Whiteside Dolphin this morning. They were bowriding, which is when they ride along the bow of the ship and jump from the wake. It seems that many species of dolphin do this purely for the fun of it. These dolphin are notably smaller than the Common Bottlenose Dolphin seen in NC. They are dark grey on the top half of their body and white on the bottom.  I was close enough to them to see scars on their dorsal fins.
I look forward to sharing my adventures with you tomorrow.  Wish me luck as I will be up until midnight tonight helping with large trawl nets and hopefully collecting many exciting marine organisms.

Jillian Worssam, August 9, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 5 – August 1, 2004

Jillian Worssam aboard the Miller Freeman
Jillian Worssam aboard the Miller Freeman

Hello All, This will be my final visit from Alaska, The voyage on the ship is over, but I am far from done with this journey. It is amazing how much life can be packed into a month, and I feel ever so fortunate to have had this opportunity. My heart is full, my mind has been challenged. I am a bit sad as I miss the camaraderie and new friendships, thank goodness for e-mail. Thank you all for your support this past month, my goodness has it ONLY been a month!….hope you enjoy this last entry. Jillian I have attached a photo, hope it works….Also one of my last poems! As the humpback breaches I see a splash, a tail and then nothing. In the blink of an eye this mighty creature has defied gravity. I am in awe! Again and again the aerobatics continue for what reason I do not know, only that as witness I have been given a gift. A tufted puffin paddles by and I am inspired, so glad to have this moment, and so aware of the fragility of life. Seals lay upon floating pieces of ice, their guards down as they relax in pure abandon. I too am relaxed, enjoying the breeze as it plays against my skin. Loving the boats motion, as swell upon swell try to breach our hull. My heart beats to a new rhythm and I am humbled by the grandeur of this place!

Never in my life has a month passed so quickly, literally in the blink of an eye I have had the experience of a lifetime. So much has happened and I am a different woman. Thirty days ago I was prepared to walk in the shoes of another, to taste a different career and learn. Now that time has passed, and the shoes fit so well that I am tempted, so tempted to change the patterns of a life time. NOAA provides an amazing opportunity for teachers and I urge all educators to take advantage of their generosity, for they have enhanced my world beyond merewords.

One week ago I caught my first Halibut, over 50 pounds, and it was quite a challenge to land. I was then taught how to bleed the fish to improve the quality of the meat prior to my lesson on how to fillet. The tender pieces of flesh have been vacuumed packed and will be sent to me for shared consumption. Two weeks ago I hung from the gantry, thirty feet above the deck removing the cotter pin from the block holding the third wire (scientific equipment that sent data back to the ship while we were fishing).My safety was in the hands of men whom I had not previously known, and I had no fear. The pin was tricky, the pliers slippery in my hand, failure was not an option. I was trusted with a job, so there was no hesitation, I would succeed.

Three weeks ago I gutted my first fish, checked its gender, and measured it for scientific purposes. The stomach contents were preserved for further study and the otoliths removed so that the age could be determined. I saw thousands of pollock, and many other species, and have learned to truly appreciate a new ecosystem.

Four weeks ago I stood in Dutch Harbor, Alaska about to board a 215 foot NOAA research vessel with no idea of what was about to unfold. Here I was a teacher from Arizona, about to spend thirty days on the Bering Sea, to study walleye pollock, a fish I had never previously heard of.

Today I am a new person, I have an enhanced understanding of life, of career and the dedication these men and women have to both. I was the student, eager to learn and wanted to be a part of everything.

I was denied nothing for 30 days.  You want to paint Jillian, here are the brushes. What, you really want to clean the heads, go for it.  Ok, I will explain it to you one more time, the line needs to be taught, then you bring the left over the right, through the hole and there is the lover’s knot. (I never did master any knots, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t an eager study) Once the data is recorded and analyzed, fishing quotas can be established and the Bering Sea can continue to be a viable and healthy ecosystem.

This was my life, and with some melancholy I am sorry to leave. I have made friends expanded my mind, and had an amazing adventure. For many, their days hold no passion, no daily happiness. I have been reminded that life is tenuous, and not to be taken for granted. I want to get up every morning and be pleased with all that I have, and all that I can gain. I want to work with my peers and realize that the little things are not important, the big picture, the smile on my face, the spirit I hold, these are what count.

NOAA, the seventh branch, and least recognized of our military system, has given me a present beyond words, and it is with my every breath that I hope to share this gift with others. Little do my students know what is in store for them this year…as for me the adventure will surely continue!

Jillian Worssam, July 11, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 5 – August 1, 2004

Day: Six
Sunday July 11th, 2004 23:52

Longitude: 59° 32 Sea Wave Height: 2′
Latitude: 173° 51 Swell Wave Height: 2-4′

Visibility: 1.5miles fog Sea Water Temperature: 9.9C
Wind Direction: 221. Barometric Pressure: 1012 high pressure
Wind Speed: 9.1 kts Cloud Cover: complete 100%

Haul Data: CTD (conductivity / Temperature / Depth)
Depth of haul: 90 meters
Temperature at depth: 10° C surface – 2° C at bottom
Species breakdown: Informational gathering / no species collection

Science and Technology Log:

The CTD is a device that is hard to explain. Scientific in nature similar to an inverted cone that has a six inch diameter at the top. Today we will look at the condition of the water, the liquid habitat for this ecosystem. Conductivity will give the scientists, with some calculations, the percent of salt in solution. This is important information as the salinity affects the density of the water which in turn affects the speed of sound. Knowing the speed of sound is vital in acoustic fisheries surveys as the scientists use back scatter data in determining fish location and density. The density of water is also affected by the salinity and temperature of the water.

Today’s temperature at 90 meters was 2°C, at the surface it was a balmy 10°C. Ocean water like our atmosphere is in layers, each a distinct unit. The thermo cline was at 35 meters, with a graphic representation showing a distinct differentiation between the two water masses.

The CTD data is used in looking at correlations between where fish populations are found and if their placement is not only affected by the condition of the water, but if there are conditions that they prefer.

Personal Log:

Understanding the CTD has been difficult for me. This ecosystem is literally poles apart from a ponderosa pine type forest. I am learning an amazing amount of information and at the same time realizing how much I do not know. Oceanography is an amazing science, and phenomenally diverse.

Once again I spent an hour on the bridge, 2400-0100, standing watch. I did not realize that this nautical term is in fact correct as there are no seats on the bridge except the CO’s chair which is off limits. I was told that there is a common yarn that the captain’s chair is directly above his stateroom, and attached to a bell. If someone sits in the chair the bell will ring indicating that sacred territory has been breached. When a person stands watch for four hours, they stand watch. There are some counters with cushions to brace against, but that is it. While standing watch last night I got my first glimpse of a dall’s porpoise. The pictures that are commonly seen of porpoises show the entire animal usually gliding gracefully with a wave. Our view last night was a glimpse, a peak into the life of a marine mammal. It was Mark, the field operations officer who first spotted the sign, a brief splash within the bow wave of the boat. The porpoises travel the wave of a boat, literally catching rides. At one time there was the splash of three heads effortlessly coming up for air, a brief splash and again they were lost in the wave only to be seen moments later literally in the same place even though we were all moving forward.

There is a calmness here when the fog moves in, a sense of peace. We are out of touch with time, yes there are news briefs, but one does not need to read what is going on in other places. I am ok with the solitude, the sound of the engine the gentle rocking of the boat. This is a serene place to be, in summer!

Jilliam Worssam, July 6, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 5 – August 1, 2004

Day: One
Tuesday July 6th, 2004 20:15

Longitude: 171° 25 Sea Wave Height: 0-1′
Latitude: 57° 11 Swell Wave Height: 0-1′

Visibility: 12 (nm) Sea Water Temperature: 9°C
Wind Direction: 177° Barometric Pressure: 1026.1
Wind Speed: 8.1 kts Cloud Cover: 100% stratus

Haul Data
Depth of haul: 78m
Temperature at depth: 4°C
Species breakdown: Walleye Pollock / Chum Salmon / Jellyfish

Science and Technology Log:

Our first haul for this second leg of the Bering Sea MACE (mid-water assessment and conservation engineering) survey (July 5 – August 1, 2004) was completed at 20:00 with the predominantly walleye catch having been measured for length and the otolith ( ear bone) removed. At this point a data base was established to facilitate in the maintenance and establishment of quotas for fisheries management.

Fisheries Biologist Kresimir Williams recorded the data from the haul; fish length, weight, and maturity status. This is very critical information as the Bering Sea pollock fishery is one of the most successful and healthy fisheries in the world. It is this data that is used to determine how large a catch a commercial vessel can remove for each fishing season. Kresimir has been a fisheries biologist for almost six years researching pollock and developing data streams to assist the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in determining catch limits.

Personal Log:

I am working the four to four shift; four in the afternoon to four in the morning, heck of a schedule for a summer vacation. The best part of this phase is that with the northern summer daylight, you never feel tired; it is light all the time.

This is an amazing experience, an opportunity to see how others live. I have managed to meet everyone on the boat from the Captain CO, to the Chief Scientist, and find it amazing the lives they have chosen to lead. Thrust into this diverse world I am able, ever so briefly; to see how others live, how they earn a living, make daily contributions to society, find happiness.

The Miller Freeman, as I have been told has one of the most rigorous schedules within the NOAA task force, with approximately 260 days a year at sea. Many of the crew considers this vessel the workhorse of the fleet, managing to collect data that is vital in fisheries management. It is also amazing to observe the crew and officers on board as they have super attitudes, considering they spend approximately nine months away from their families. I have though been told that as the days get longer (actually shorter) and we get closer to our thirty day mark that the moral officer has to work a bit harder to keep spirits elevated. All I know is that I have been welcomed into all aspects of this vessel, from the engine room to the galley, the scientific labs to the weight room. Today I learned how to sex a fish, ever so basically; I mean can anyone think of a better way to spend a vacation?

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 17, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004

Day 9: Saturday, April 17, 2004

Latitude: 54.58.615
Longitude: 162.27.117

Weather: continuous clouds with drizzle
Visibility: 29.5-49.5 ft (Very High)
Wind direction: 181ees
Wind speed: 30m/s
Sea wave height: up to 20 feet
Sea level pressure: 996

Science and Technology Log

Last night we spent the entire night steaming south west down the Aleutian island chain, through the Unimak pass to the western side of the islands and past Dutch Harbor. Tonight we plan on picking up 4 moorings at Amukta pass and no new buoys will be deployed. The decision to move to the west side of the chain was made due to a small storm with 5 knot winds on the east side of the chain. If the weather improves we will move back over to the east side of the chain in a day or 2.

Personal Log

Last night I was awoken at 2:00 AM by some large waves that were tossing the boat (and me) back and forth. I kept thinking…”this boat has no centerboard” and “should I wake

up my roommate?” In the morning I discovered that my roommate was already awake and…this boat can take a lot more than what we saw last night. All of the tests are done with the centerboard up so we are still well within the limits of this boat. This journey has been an invaluable experience but I am very much looking forward to arriving in Dutch Harbor and seeing the wild horses that live there.

Question of the day: What are the factors that effect the formation of waves? How do the weather patterns differ between the Gulf of Alaska and the Bearing Sea

Laura

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 15, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004 

Day 7: Thursday, April 15, 2004

Latitude: 57.40.47N
Longitude: 155 12.38

Weather: continuous clouds
Visibility: 29.5-49.5 ft (Very High)
Wind direction: 220 degrees
Wind speed: 11 (m/s)
Sea level pressure: 26

Science and Technology Log:

Yesterday afternoon we began to collect data on “line 8” which is a line that goes across the Shelikof Straight from Kodiak Island to the Aleutian Peninsula. This is a line of moorings that has been in place for many years. After servicing the moorings, we began transiting back and forth taking CTD readings. This operation will take approximately 24 hours at which time we will begin moving South/West down the Aleutian Island Chain. As part of “The Ring of Fire” The Aleutian Islands are volcanically active and they continue to erupt on a regular basis. According to one of the ship’s crew who has been on this ship for many years and has seen them erupt, these volcanoes are explosive unlike our Hawaiian Volcanoes. Personal log Last night the ship had a couple hours of down time and I got a chance to go fishing. No one actually caught anything, but I suppose that’s why they call it fishing. Although thousands of tourists and commercial fishers flock to Alaska every year to catch the many different species of Salmon, the fishery remains one of the most healthy and prolific in the country. This is probably due to the relative inaccessibility of much of the state in combination with strict regulations. Recently the practice of farming Atlantic Salmon

has increased, much to the dismay of conservation Biologists.

Question of the day: Describe how Atlantic Salmon are farmed and processed? What are the negative impacts related to the farming of Atlantic Salmon? Discuss potential impacts to wild populations as well as local impacts due to pollution.

Picture of bumper sticker.
Picture of bumper sticker.

Laura

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 14, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004

Day 6: Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Latitude: 57.40.47N
Longitude: 155 12.38

Weather: continuous clouds
Visibility: 29.5-49.5 ft (Very High)
Wind direction: 220 degrees
Wind speed: 11 (m/s)
Sea level pressure: 26

Science and Technology Log

Last night we sailed south/west and this morning we are off the coast of the Alaska Peninsula in the vicinity of Katmai National Park. According to Carol Dewitt, one of the supervisors on this leg of the project, there have been an inordinate number of lost moorings on the GLOBEC line as compared to other moorings in this area. It has been suggested that this could possibly be due to long-line fishing interference but no definitive cause has been determined as of yet. Today we will recover and deploy another buoy and continue in a south westerly direction.

Personal log

Last night during my nightly visit to the bridge I discovered that the crew was closely observing 2 lights that were directly in our path. The concern was that they could possible be marker buoys for a long line and if we were to cross the line it could become entangled in our propeller. Fortunately the lights turned out to be a small boat and a marker for some rocks called “latex rocks”. There is only one captain (John Herring) on this boat and he cannot be on watch 24 hours a day. Often the driving of the boat is turned over to the other crew members including the XO (Executive office) as well as other less senior personnel such as the ensigns. After watching them all work I have complete confidence in their abilities, dedication and attention to detail.

Question of the day: What is long-line fishing and how is it impacting our fisheries? What regulations have been put in place to try and reduce negative impacts of long-liners?

Laura

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 13, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004

Day 5: Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Latitude: 59.05.72N
Longitude: 151 00.14

Weather: continuous clouds
Wind direction: 60 degrees
Wind speed: 19m/s)
Sea wave height: less than 2 feet
Sea level pressure: 13mb
Cloud cover: Cumulus

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday we failed to retrieve the buoy that had lost its floaters but we did successfully deploy a new buoy. During the night the boat sailed south west to our present position off the coast of the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula. This morning we deployed another buoy and took CTD readings. We have one or2 more buoys to recover and deploy and they we will be picking up several buoys that will not be replaced because their projects have completed.

Personal Log

Last night at around midnight, the ship finally got an hour of down time and I got to fish. No one else was much interested so I was out there on the stern of the boat in the middle of the night watching the sea birds and hoping for a bite. I got to thinking about all the different types of birds out here and all their different strategies. Some stay here year round while others migrate to warmer waters and return.

Question of the day: What species of Plover migrates between Hawai`i and Alaska. Illustrate the migration patterns and summarize how those patterns have been elucidated.

Laura

Dr. Laura Brezinsky, April 12, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Brezinsky
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 8 – April 22, 2004

Day 4: Monday, April 12, 2004

Latitude: 59.31.830N
Longitude: 149 10.28’W

Weather: clear Visibility: 29.5-49.5 ft (very high)
Wind direction: 355 degrees
Wind speed: 6 (m/s)
Sea wave height: virtually flat
Sea level pressure: 143mb
Cloud cover: Nimbostratus

Science and Technology Log

This morning we are off the coast of Seward. We have been having difficulty retrieving a mooring because it is not vertical in the water. At the base of the mooring there is a switch that releases the mooring from the anchor by remote control. The switch also has a sensor that tells the ship what the position of the mooring is. Apparently the mooring is horizontal in the water rather than vertical and that is likely the reason why we cannot
find it. The boat will return with a remote rover that will find and retrieve the mooring.

For now, we will continue on and get the next mooring which is closer in to the coast.

Laura waiting for a mooring.
Laura waiting for a mooring.

Personal Log

The seas are flat, the sun is shining and the coast is stunningly beautiful. We are close enough to land that I can see individual features. There is a very large coastal glacier directly inshore from us. I will try and look up the name of that glacier and report tomorrow on that.

Question of the day: What is the definition of a glacier? How are glaciers being used to track global change over geologic time?

Laura