NOAA Teacher At Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B Bigelow
May 2 -13, 2017
Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic
Longitude: 43degrees 33.310 N
Latitude: 067degrees 07.103W
Science and Technology:
One of the most interesting looking fish we have brought on board in the nets is the Goosefish (Lophius americanus), also known as the Monkfish. Its striking feature is its large mouth that can be as wide as the fish is long, lined with several rows of needle sharp teeth. The Goosefish has a mobile illicium, an angling apparatus with a fleshy appendage at its tip, the esca, that acts as a lure to attract its prey towards its huge mouth. When the Goosefish opens its mouth suddenly, a vacuum is created and its prey is sucked into its cavernous mouth. Its eyes are on the top of its head and there are small fleshy flaps encircling then lower jaw, almost a beard-like appearance. Its back is lined with spikes. The female lays an egg veil that can stretch 6-12 meters.
Diagram: “Fishes of The Gulf of Maine”, Bigelow and Schroeder, 3rd edition.The Goosefish is marketed as Monkfish for consumption.
Did you know the Goosefish is also known as the “poor man’s lobster” because of its light taste similar to lobster.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011
Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northern Atlantic Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2011
Weather Data Time: 12:00
Location: 41°47.405N, 67°21.702W
Air Temp: 18.4°C (65°F)
Water Temp: 17°C (63°F)
Wind Direction: South
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Sea Wave height: 1 foot
Sea Swell: 2 feet
Science and Technology Log
When I was a little girl I was always excited to pull the minnow trap up from the end of the dock to see what oddities I had caught accidentally while trying to trap minnows. I am reliving this excitement on a much larger scale on this research cruise. The dredge we are using to fish for ocean quahogs and surfclams is 5ft x 20ft, weighs 2500lbs, and is pulled for ¼ nautical mile each time it is towed. (That means it covers an area of about 9000 square feet.) As you might imagine it accidentally catches things besides the ocean quahogs and the surfclams that we are fishing for.
The dredge is lowered into the water off the back of the ship. Once it hits the ocean floor a powerful jet of water is sprayed into the ocean floor in front of it to “liquefy” the sand or mud on the ocean bottom. This loosens the clams and suspends them in the water, just above the bottom. (Ocean quahogs and surfclams aren’t far below the bottom; just a few inches.) Then, while they are suspended in the water the dredge scoops them up. The dredge is brought back up to the ship and dumped and we sort through the catch. The ocean quahogs, surfclams, and a few other species are kept to weigh and measure. Below is a video of the dredge being hauled back on the back deck of the ship.
After three watches I am getting pretty good at identifying ocean quahogs and surfclams. What is the difference between an Atlantic surfclam and an ocean quahog? Well, they are very similar! They are both bi-valve mollusks, which means that they have two shells covering a soft body. They both burrow into the sand so that only their siphon sticks out. Both of them filter their food, algae and plankton, through their siphon. One of the biggest differences between them is in the way that their shells connect, or hinge together. Another difference is their lifespan. The ocean quahog lives for more than 150 years and the Atlantic surfclam lives for approximately 30 years. Their size and shape are different too. Ocean quahogs are rounder than the Atlantic surfclams, which have a triangular shape. The Atlantic surfclam also grows larger than the ocean quahog.
Just like I was excited as a kid to find crayfish and bullheads in my minnow trap I am excited to see what the dredge brings up each time. So far our biggest catch was 4400 quahogs! Conversely, our smallest catch was just three quahogs! Sometimes the dredge is filled with empty shells, or empty shells and sand dollars, or thousands of clams, or sometimes it is really sandy. Each time it is a surprise and it gives you a brief glimpse of what the bottom looks like.
There are many potential dangers that you can face every day while working on a ship. In fact, since being aboard we have run three drills; man overboard, fire, and abandon ship. These drills are run on every trip so that everyone knows exactly what to do.
I think that there is something about being at sea on a ship that heightens your awareness of yourself. I have experienced that same sort of feeling when I am sea-kayaking in big water, or hiking on a bear trail. It is the feeling that there is something out there that is bigger than you are. You sense things in a much clearer and acute way.
This evening the sun was going down on the starboard side of the ship and the moon was coming up on the portside. We could see for miles and miles. Earlier today we watched a school of tuna swim past and dolphins in the distance. It was a beautiful clear and sunny day and we were 140 miles from land. We are lucky.
Questions to Ponder
The clams and quahogs are collected on this research cruise from the sea floor using a hydraulic dredge. The dredge is lowered and run along the seafloor for about 5 minutes in order to pick up the clams and quahogs. Each time this is done it is called a “tow.” How many people do you think are needed to conduct (operate the machinery and collect the data) one tow for clams and quahogs? How many different jobs are there during one tow?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 7 – 18, 2011
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Dates:June 16-17, 2011
June 17, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 9:27 AM
Winds 7.2 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.89 degrees C
Latitude 41 47.28 N
Longitude 069 49.13 W
We are headed back into Woods Hole sometime tomorrow.
In one of my conversations with Captain Jimmy, he told me that he likes scientists to “enter the ship as customers and leave as family.” Without a doubt, I feel like the whole R/V Hugh R. Sharp team has made that happen. From the excellent meals cooked three times daily, to the willingness of the crew to answer any of my questions, I have felt included and welcome.
My fellow scientists have made travel on this journey fun and worthwhile. I can’t count the number of times someone yelled over to me, “Hey Kathleen, get a picture of this. Your students will love it!” It has been a pleasure to be around others who are curious and passionate about the sea.
In my classroom, I try to convey to my students that science is about collaboration. I will have many real life examples to share with them when I return.
My thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, my colleagues and students at Freeport Middle School, and my family, for supporting me on this adventure of a lifetime!
June 16, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1:28 PM
Winds 9.3 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.67 degrees C
Latitude 41 08.86 N
Longitude 069 20.97 W
Science and Technology Log
It has been amazing to me to see the variations in the catches from the many tows. When the tension on the wire used to haul the net is high, it might be because we have a huge haul of sea scallops. Sometimes the table will be filled with so many sand dollars it is difficult to see anything else. We had a number of tows that contained large amounts of brittle stars. The arms of the brittle stars move like little worms. (It is eerie to see thousands of them wiggling.) The last tow, in the open area, had only forty-six scallops. The pile was filled with quahogs, urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and rocks. Sometimes the animals we collect are covered in mud and sometimes the sediment is very sandy. We are now traveling in the shipping channel and the sea floor is rocky. Before we began to tow in this area, the scientists put the rock chains on the dredge. There is also a metal chute attached to the table so that the larger rocks can more easily be rolled back into the ocean.
We have now completed the inventories in the closed areas of Georges Bank. I learn that large areas in the Gulf of Maine had originally been closed as a measure to restore groundfish stocks. What scientists discovered is that, over time, the sea scallops flourished in the closed areas. It was an unintended result of the fisheries management policies.
There is always something interesting to learn about the species that we collect. Sea scallops have the ability to move through the water column by clapping their shells together. Sometimes, moving up five or six inches can mean escape from a predator like a starfish. (Of note, during this study we also count and measure empty sea scallop shells, provided that they are still hinged together. These empty shells are called clappers.) Speaking of starfish, on this trip we have seen five species of starfish, in colors ranging from purple to yellow to orange. The common name for my favorite starfish is sunburst, an animal that looks just like it sounds. Monkfish, sometimes referred to as goosefish, are called an angler fish. There is a modified spine at the top of its mouth that appears as though the fish is dangling bait. With this structure, the monkfish can lure a prey near its enormous mouth (and sharp teeth) and capture it. The longhorn sculpin feel like they hiss or grunt when they are picked up. I have learned that it is likely the sound is the vibration of a muscle in their chest.
The technology used to support the science on this survey is remarkable. In the dry lab, there are fifteen computer screens being used to track all of the data collected. These are in addition to the many that are being used to manage the ship. Everything is computerized: the CTD collection, the route mapping, and the information about the species we are catching. After each tow, the Chief Scientist or Crew Chief can immediately plot the data from the catch. Several screens show images from the cameras that are placed at various locations on board the deck. From the dry lab, the scientists can watch the dredge go in and out and view the tension on each cable. When the technology fails, as it did for four hours one day this week, it is up to the crew and scientists to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.
When the ship is off shore for hundreds of miles, the skills and talents of each individual on board must be accessed for anything that happens out of the ordinary. The Captain is the chief medical officer. The crew acts as firefighters. The scientists and crew work together on mechanical issues – like yesterday when the hydraulics on the CTD stopped working. Working aboard a scientific research vessel is perfect for those who are flexible and innovative.
It is difficult to explain how beautiful the scene from the back deck of the ship looks. All I can see to the horizon lines is dark blue water. Flocks of seagulls follow the ship to scavenge the buckets of fish we throw overboard. Last evening the full moon was bright and round. When I breathe in the salt air, I think about how grateful I am that I am here.
Question of the Day
Why are the rubber rain pants worn by marine workers called “oilers”?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 7 – 18, 2011
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Dates: June 8-9, 2011
June 9, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge Time: 10:00 am
Winds 10 to 20 knots
Seas 3 to 4 feet
Science and Technology Log
This morning is the first day that I have awoken on board the ship. It will be my first twelve-hour shift. The scientists work either from noon until midnight or from midnight to noon. Kevin, the chief scientist, has assigned me to the day shift. I am very happy about this! We suit up in our foul weather gear. Those who have done this before explain to me that it is easiest to slip on the black rubber boots and rain pants like a firefighter who just got a call might do. We eagerly wait for the winch to pull the catch out of the water. The net drops everything out on the table. When we receive word from the engineer that all is clear, I don a hardhat, and hop up on the table with a white board that lists the station, strata and tow. My shipmate, La Shaun, snaps a photo record of the catch. We stand around the table and begin the inventory. We are looking for sea scallops and any we find go into a big orange basket. Other species that we separate out include: red hake, monkfish, haddock, skate, and ocean pout. We measure the length of the fish that we have separated. I imagine how the data might be used by scientists back on land to indicate the health of that portion of the ocean. As soon as we finish the haul and clean up, it is time to do it all over again. Every third catch we count the number of starfish and cancer crabs. I am excited to hold sponges, sea urchins, and hermit crabs. I am surprised to learn that the sand dollars are red.
Once all the sea life on the table has been sorted, it is time to head to the wet lab. There, the buckets of animals are counted and measured. Two persons work at each table measuring the fish. The fish is laid flat against the scale and one scientist uses a magnetic tool to capture the length electronically. During one catch, Aaron and I measured the length of 37 skate. I am impressed by the knowledge of the scientists who can easily tell the difference between a winter skate and a little skate. I hope by the end of the trip, I will be able to do so as quickly as they can.
I hardly notice the rocking of the ship while we are working. I think I may be starting to get my sea legs. On this first day there is very little time in between stations, and there is no real down time. I have learned how to shuck a sea scallop and seen the anatomy of the animal for the first time. I had been promised that I would get to work hard out on the open ocean and I am not disappointed.
Question of the DayDo you know the shape of the sea scallop shell? If you open the shell of a sea scallop you can immediately tell if it is a male or a female. How?
June 8, 2011
I reported to the Woods Hole dock at 7:30 in the morning. The day was bright and sunny, with temperatures in the 70s. The sight of the ship docked next to the NOAA building was so exciting. I climbed on board and introduced myself to Captain Jimmy who showed me right to the galley and offered me a cup of coffee. He was so welcoming! The ship had arrived in port at about 5:00 am and the crew and scientists were working to get everything ready to go by noon. I was shown my room, which is meant for four persons and has two sets of bunk beds. The room is so much bigger than it appeared in the photographs I saw! I chose a lower bunk and stowed my duffel bag underneath the bed in a cubby that was designed just for that. As more of those traveling on the journey arrived, I was interested to find that five of us have ties to Maine. We gathered to hear a briefing on the research that we will be supporting while on board the ship. Did you know that the American Sea Scallop is the most valuable fishery in the United States? Then we went off to lunch in the galley. The cook, Paul, served us an amazing lentil soup and sandwiches. The galley is full of snacks, a fridge with ice cream, and milk juice, coffee and tea, all of which are available day and night. As we were eating, I felt the ship start to move. We were told our first station is about eight hours away. (A station is a place where we collect a sample of the sea life.) Away we go!
Question of the Day What is the reason that Woods Hole became the location on Cape Cod for ocean research?
NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Weather from the Bridge Latitude 40.63 Longitude -72.92 Speed 4.80 kts Course 293.00 Wind Speed 19.13 kts Wind Dir. 139.69 º Surf. Water Temp. 18.76 ºC Surf. Water Sal. 31.62 PSU Air Temperature 16.20 ºC Relative Humidity 89.00% Barometric Pres. 101.44 mb Water Depth 28.52 m Cruise Start Date 10/2/2010
Science and Technology Log
In addition to collecting data about fish species in the Southern New England Atlantic Ocean, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is also collecting information about the ocean’s climate and plankton numbers. lankton refers to microscopic plants (phytoplankton), animals (zooplankton), decomposers (bacterioplankton), and the fish eggs and larvae of larger fish (ichthyoplankton). Plankton forms the base of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton is the food source for zooplankton, which in turn is the food source for larger fish. Water salinity and termperature (climate) are directly related to the production of plankton. A change in climate can cause a decrease in the production of plankton, therefore, less food for developing fish species. Low numbers of fish at the bottom of the food web means less food for fish at the top of the food web.
Plankton samples are taken at random trawl stations during the cruise. I had the opportunity to observe and assist the Senior Survey Technician, Jim Burkitt, during one sampling. Burkitt uses a Bongo Paired Zooplankton net system, which consists of two stainless steel cylinders with instruments that measure water flow, and two cone-shaped, fine mesh nets attached. The nets are lowered into the ocean and dragged alongside the ship for a specified amount of time, and at all levels of the ocean column. Burkitt monitors the location of the nets via computer during the sampling to ensure that the nets do not touch the ocean floor, thus gathering sediment instead of plankton.
The crew retrieves the nets at the end of the sampling period and places it on the deck of the ship. Once the nets are back on deck, we rinse the plankton from the top to the narrow, tied end of the nets byspraying the nets from the top towards the bottom.
When the catch is located at the bottom of the nets, we untiethe bottom and continue rinsing the sample into metal strainers. The top strainer has a large mesh screen to trap jelly fish and other organisms trapped in the net and to allow the smaller plankton to fall through to the lower strainer, which has a very small mesh screen used to collect the plankton sample. Here is what the sample looked like.
Finally, we carry the samples into the lab where we rinse the plankton into jars, add formaldehyde as a preservative, and seal the jars. The jars will be taken to the lab in Woods Hole for further analysis.
Even though many of our towing days were lost to gale force winds, we did end the cruise by catching some interesting species. First, was the Northern Stargazer (Astroscopus guttatus). The Northern Stargazer is found in shallow waters along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New York. It has a large head, small eyes on top of its head, and a large upward turned mouth. The Northern Stargazer buries itself in the sand on the ocean floor and waits for prey to swim by. Northern Stargazers also have an electrical organ around the eyes that can give us a jolt if we touch it.
Another interesting catch was the Armored Searobin (Peristedion miniatum). This species is bright crimson and is totally covered with bony plates. It can grow to be 13-14 inches long. It is found in the warm waters along the outer edge of the continental shelf in waters from Georges Bank off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts all the way down the Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina.
We also caught Monkfish or Goosefish (Lophius americanus). This fish is found along the eastern seaboard of the United States from Grand Bank down to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Monkfish live on the bottom of the ocean in sand, mud and shell habitats, and feed on whatever prey is abundant. The meat is said to taste a lot like lobster tail, and therefore is often referred to as “poor man’s lobster.”
Our most exciting catch came when we hauled in 212 striped sea bass! Striped bass occur along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence River in Canada all the way down to Florida. They live near the coast, in bays and tidal rivers. Striped bass have been very important to the United States fishing industry for centuries. The largest one we caught was 103 cm long and weighed 11.26 kg!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time working and learning during the second leg of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey cruise. It was a great opportunity to see research at work in a real world setting, and I’m sure my students will benefit from everything I’ve experienced. I want to thank the scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, and the crew aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow for allowing me to be a part of your lives for twelve days. If any of you teachers out there are interested in applying to the Teacher at Sea Program, I highly recommend it. Check out their website at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009
Mission: Sea scallop survey Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Date: June 19, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass.
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F
Science and Technology Log
The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts. Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land. Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface. They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.
The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi. We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer. These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm. It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed. Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency. These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.
The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters. When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now. There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans.
Questions of the Day
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?