Louise Todd, From the Bridge, September 26, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 26, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1012.23mb
Sea Temperature: 28.4˚C
Air Temperature: 29.6˚C
Wind speed: 6.43knots

Science and Technology Log:

This morning I went up to the bridge to learn about how the NOAA Corps Officers and the Captain navigate and maneuver the Oregon II.  Ensign Rachel Pryor, my roommate, and Captain Dave Nelson gave me a great tour of the bridge!

The Oregon II is 172 feet long and has a maximum speed of 11 knots.  It was built in 1967.  It has two engines although usually only one engine is used.  The second engine is used when transiting in and out of channels or to give the ship more power when in fairways, the areas of high traffic in the Gulf.  The Oregon II has a draft of 15 feet which means the hull extends 15 feet underneath the water line.  My stateroom is below the water line!  Typically the ship will not go into water shallower than 30 feet.

The bridge has a large number of monitors that provide a range of information to assist with navigation.  There are two radar screens, one typically set to a range of 12 miles and one typically set to a range of 8 miles.  These screens enable the officer navigating the ship to see obstructions, other ships and buoys.  When the radar picks up another vessel, it lists a wealth of information on the vessel including its current rate of speed and its destination.  The radar is also useful in displaying squalls, fast moving storms,  as they develop.

Radar Screen
The radar screen is on the far right

Weather is constantly being displayed on another monitor to help the officer determine what to expect throughout the day.

The Nobeltec is a computerized version of navigation charts that illustrates where the ship is and gives information on the distance until our next station, similar to a GPS in your car.  ENS Pryor compares the Nobeltec to hard copies of the chart every 30 minutes.  Using the hard copies of the charts provides insurance in case the Nobeltec is not working.

Charts
Navigation charts

When we arrive at a station, the speed and direction of the wind are carefully considered by the Officer of the Deck (OOD) as they are crucial in successfully setting and hauling back the line.  It is important that the ship is being pushed off of the line so the line doesn’t get tangled up in the propeller of the ship.  While we are setting the line, the OODis able to stop the engines and even back the ship up to maintain slack in the main line as needed.  Cameras on the stern enable the OOD to see the line being set out and make adjustments in the direction of the ship if needed.  The same considerations are taken when we are hauling back.  The ship typically does not go over 2 knots when the line is being brought back in.  The speed can be reduced as needed during the haul back.  The OOD carefully monitors the haul back from a small window on the side of the bridge.  A lot of work goes into navigating the Oregon II safely!

Personal Log:

I was amazed to see all the monitors up on the bridge!  Keeping everything straight requires a lot of focus.  Being up on the bridge gave me a new perspective of all that goes into each station.  We wouldn’t be able to see all of these sharks without the careful driving from the OOD.

The water has been very calm the past few days. It is like being on a lake.  We’ve had nice weather too!  A good breeze has kept us from getting too hot when we are setting the line or hauling back.

Did you Know?

The stations where we sample are placed into categories depending on their depth.  There are A, B and C stations.  A stations are the most shallow, 5-30 fathoms.  B stations are between 30 and 100 fathoms.  C stations are the deepest, 100-200 fathoms.  One fathom is equal to 6 feet.  A fathometer is used to measure the depth.

Fathometer
The fathometer is the screen on the left

Louise Todd, CTD and Samples, September 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 25, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1008.6mb
Sea Temperature: 28.3˚C
Air Temperature: 26.3˚C
Wind speed: 8.73knots

Science and Technology Log:

After we set the line, the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) is deployed at each station.

CTD
CTD ready to be deployed

This instrument provides information a complete profile of the physical characteristics of the water column, including salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen.  The CTD is deployed from the bow of the boat using a winch.

Deploying the CTD
Deploying the CTD

When it is first lowered in the water it calibrates at the surface for three minutes.  After it is calibrated it is lowered into the water until it reaches the bottom.  The CTD records data very quickly and provides valuable information about the station.  Conductivity is used to measure the salinity, the amount of salt dissolved in the water.  The CTD also measures the dissolved oxygen in the water.  Dissolved oxygen is an important reading as it reveals how much oxygen is available in that area.  The amount of oxygen available in the water indicates the amount of life this station could be capable of supporting.  Dissolved oxygen is affected by the temperature and salinity in an area.  Higher salinity and temperature result in lower dissolved oxygen levels.  Areas of very low dissolved oxygen, called hypoxia, result in dead zones.  NOAA monitors hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico using data from CTDs.

The otoliths and gonads are taken from all of the commercially and recreationally important fish like Snapper, Grouper and Tilefish.  Otoliths are used to age fish.  Aging fish provides information on the population dynamics for those species.  The otoliths are “ear bones” of the fish and are located in their heads.  It takes careful work with a knife and tweezers to remove the otoliths.

Removing otoliths
Removing otoliths

Once the otoliths are removed, they are placed in small envelopes to be examined in the lab in Pascagoula, MS.  Otoliths have rings similar to growth rings in trees that have to be carefully counted under a microscope to determine the age of the fish.

Otolith
Otolith

The gonads (ovaries or testes) are removed and the reproductive stage of the fish is determined.  The weights of the gonads are also recorded.  Small samples of the gonads are taken in order for the histology to be examined in the lab.  Examining the gonads closely will confirm the reproductive stage of the fish.  Gathering information about the reproductive stage of the fish also helps with understanding the population dynamics of a species and aids in management decisions.

Personal Log:

Taking the otoliths out of the fish was harder than I anticipated, especially on the larger fish.  It takes some muscle to get through the bone!

Otolith
Otolith removed from a Red Snapper

We have had a few very busy haul backs today.  One haul back had over 50 sharks!  My favorite shark today was a Bull Shark.  We caught two today but were only able to get one into the cradle long enough to get measurements on it.  We tagged it and then watched her swim away!  I can’t believe we are halfway through my second week.  Time is flying by!  I can’t wait to see what is on the line tomorrow!

Did you Know?

Yellowedge Grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites.  They start their lives as females and transform into males as they age.  Yellowedge Grouper are the only species of grouper we have caught.

Animals Seen

Here are a few of the animals we’ve seen so far!

Tilefish
Tilefish (Photo credit Christine Seither)
Sandbar
Sandbar shark in the cradle
Red Snapper
Red Snapper (Photo credit Christine Seither)
Yellowedge Grouper
Yellowedge Grouper (Photo credit Christine Seither)

Louise Todd, Haul Back, September 23, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 23, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1009.89mb
Sea Temperature: 28˚C
Air Temperature: 28.2˚C
Wind speed: 8.29knots

Science and Technology Log:

The haul back is definitely the most exciting part of each station.  Bringing the line back in gives you the chance to see what you caught!  Usually there is at least something on the line but my shift has had two totally empty lines which can be pretty disappointing.  An empty line is called a water haul since all you are hauling back is water!

After the line has been in the water for one hour, everyone on the shift assembles on the bow to help with the haul back.  One crew member operates the large winch used to wind the main line back up so it can be reused.

Line on the winch
Winch holding the main line

The crew member operating the winch unhooks each gangion from the main line  and hands it to another crew member.  That crew member passes it to a member of our shift who unhooks the number from the gangion.  The gangions are carefully placed back in the barrels so they are ready for the next station.  When something is on the line, the person handling the gangions will say “Fish on”.

Nurse Shark on the line
Nurse Shark on the line

Everyone gets ready to work when we hear that call.  Every fish that comes on board is measured. Usually fish are measured on their sides as that makes it easy to read the markings on the measuring board.

Measuring Grouper
Measuring a Yellowedge Grouper (Photo credit Christine Seither)
Measuring a Sandbar
Christine and Nick measuring a Sandbar Shark

Each shark is examined to determine its gender.

Sexing a shark
Determining the sex of a sharpnose shark (Photo credit Deb Zimmerman)

Male sharks have claspers, modified pelvic fins that are used during reproduction.  Female sharks do not have claspers.

Claspers
Claspers on a Blacktip

Fin clips, small pieces of the fin, are taken from all species of sharks.  The fin clips are used to examine the genetics of the sharks for confirmation of identification and population structure, both of which are important for management decisions. 

Shark Fin Clip
That’s me in the blue hardhat taking a fin clip from a Sandbar Shark(Photo credit Lisa Jones)

Skin biopsies are taken from any dogfish sharks  in order to differentiate between the species.  Tags are applied to all sharks. Tags are useful in tracing the movement of sharks.  When a shark, or any fish with a tag, is recaptured there is a phone number on the tag to call and report the location where the shark was recaptured.

Some sharks are small and relatively easy to handle.

Cuban Dogfish
Small Cuban Dogfish (Photo credit Christine Seither)

Other sharks are large and need to be hauled out of the water using the cradle.  The cradle enables the larger sharks to be processed quickly and then returned to the water.  A scale on the cradle provides a weight on the shark.  Today was the first time my shift caught anything big enough to need the cradle.  We used the cradle today for one Sandbar and two Silky Sharks.  Everyone on deck has to put a hardhat on when the cradle is used since the cradle is operated using a crane.

Silky Shark
Silky shark coming up in the cradle
Sandbar Shark
Sandbar Shark in the cradle

Personal Log:

I continue to have such a good time on the Oregon II.  My shift has had some successful stations which is always exciting.  We have had less downtime in between our stations than we did the first few days so we are usually able to do more than one station in our shifts.  The weather in the Gulf forced us to make a few small detours and gave us some rain yesterday but otherwise the seas have been calm and the weather has been beautiful.  It is hard to believe my first week is already over.  I am hopeful that we will continue our good luck with the stations this week!  The rocking of the boat makes it very easy for me to sleep at night when my shift is over.  I sleep very soundly!  The food in the galley is delicious and there are plenty of options at each meal.  I feel right at home on the Oregon II!

Did You Know?

Flying fish are active around the boat, especially when the spotlights are on during a haul back at night.  Flying fish are able to “fly” using their modified pectoral fins that they spread out.  This flying fish flew right onto the boat!

FlyingFish
Flying Fish

Louise Todd, Setting the Line, September 19, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 19, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1017.17mb
Sea Temperature: 28.8˚C
Air Temperature: 27˚C
Wind speed: 18.05 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Those of you following our progress on the NOAA Ship Tracker might have noticed some interesting movements of the ship.  We had some rough weather that forced us to skip a station, and the current by the mouth of the Mississippi River also forced us to skip a station.  The safety of everyone on board comes first so if the seas are too rough or the weather is bad we will skip a scheduled station and move to the next one.  Now we are off the coast of Florida and hope we can get some good fishing done!

This survey is being done using longlines.  Longlines are exactly as their name describes, long stretches of line with lots of hooks on them.  The line we are using is 6,000 feet long, the length of one nautical mile.  From that long line, there are 100 shorter lines called gangions hanging down with hooks on the end.  Each gangion is 12 feet long.

Gangions
Gangions in the barrel

When we arrive at a sampling station, everyone on our shift helps to set the line.  In order to set the line, we have to bait each one of the hooks with mackerel.

Baited gangions
Baited gangions ready to go

Once the hooks are baited, we wait for the Officer of the Deck (OOD), driving the ship from the bridge, to let us know that we are in position at the station and ready to start setting the line.  The first item deployed is a high flyer to announce the position of our line to other boats and to help us keep track of our line.

High Flyers
High flyers ready to be deployed

This is a bottom longline survey so after the high flyer is deployed, the first weight is deployed to help pull the line to the bottom of the ocean just above the seabed.  After the first weight is deployed, it is time to put out the first 50 hooks.  This is typically a three person job.  One person slings the bait by pulling the gangion from the barrel and getting ready to pass it to the crew member.  Another person adds a number tag to the gangion so each hook has its own number.

Numbers for hooks
Number clips are attached to each gangion

A member of the deck crew attaches each gangion to the main line and sends it over the side into the water.  The gangions are placed 60 feet apart.  The crew members are able to space them out just by sight!  The bridge announces every tenth of a mile over the radio so they are able to double check themselves as they set the line.  Another weight is deployed after the first 50 hooks.  A final weight is placed after the last hook.  The end of the line is marked with another high flyer.  Once the line has been set, we scrub the gangion barrels and the deck.  The line stays in the water for one hour.

Once the line has soaked for one hour, the fun begins!  Haul back is definitely my favorite part!  Sometimes it can be disappointing, like last night when there was absolutely nothing on the line.  Other times we are kept busy trying to work up everything on the line.  When the line is set and brought back in, everything is kept track of on a computer.  The computer allows us to record the time and exact location that every part of the line was deployed or retrieved.  The touchscreen makes it easy to record the data on the computer.

Computer
Computer ready to document what is on each hook

Personal Log:

It is nice to be doing some fishing!  There have been some long distances in between our stations so my shift has not gotten the opportunity to set the line as much as we would like.  I’m hopeful that the weather holds out for us so we can get a few stations in on our shift today.  Being able to see these sharks up close has been amazing.  I am enjoying working with the people on my shift and learning from each one of them.  Before we haul back the line, I ask everyone what their guess is for number of fish on the line.  My number has been 45 the past few haul backs and I’ve been wrong every time!  Christine was exactly right on one of our last haul backs when she guessed two.  I know I’ll be right one of these stations.  It is hard to get pictures of what comes up on the line because we get so busy processing everything.  I’m going to try to get more pictures of our next stations.

The views out in the Gulf are gorgeous.  I never get tired of them!

Moon Rising
Can you see the moon?
Sunset over the Gulf
Sunset over the Gulf

Did You Know?

When we arrive at a sampling station, the officer on watch must be aware of other ships and rigs in the area.  At times the bridge watchstander will make the decision to adjust the location of our sampling station based on large ships or rigs in the area.

Rig and Ship
Rigs and other ships in the area of a sampling station can force us to move the station

Louise Todd, Underway, September 16, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 16, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1014.01mb
Sea Temperature: 28.8˚Celsius
Air Temperature: 29.9˚C
Wind speed: 19.22 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Oregon II
Oregon II (Photo Credit NOAA)

We left Galveston a little before 2pm on Sunday, September 15.  We were in transit to our first sampling location and should arrive there around 8pm tonight.  Depending on the conditions we might actually be able to do some fishing tonight!

Today we went through our abandon ship drill.  The ship’s alarm is used to alert everyone on board in the event of an emergency.  Abandon ship is indicated by 7 short rings followed by one long ring of the alarm.  When the alarm sounds with the abandon ship signal, we must carry our survival suits, personal flotation devices (PFDs), long pants, a hat and a long-sleeved shirt to the well deck, at the bow (front) of the ship.  My survival suit and personal flotation device (PFD) are kept in cabinets in my room.  The survival suit is tricky to get on and it gets very, very warm when you are wearing it!

Survival Suit
In my survival suit (Photo Credit Lisa Jones)

Personal Log:

During this initial transit, there hasn’t been much for me to do.  I spent a lot of time sleeping on Sunday.  The way the waves rock the ship back and forth makes me very sleepy!  I have taken a few short naps today in order to be ready in case we do any fishing on the later part of my shift tonight.  I am on the day shift which means I will work noon to midnight.  I think it will take me some time to get used to staying up that late but I think these naps will help!  As we start fishing the days will be much busier for me so staying awake will be easy I hope.  The views off of the ship are amazing.  I was surprised to see how blue the water gets.

View off the ship
View off the Oregon II

My stateroom is very comfortable and I have plenty of space in drawers and cabinets for everything I brought with me.  I am getting used to latching doors and drawers behind me so they do not slam back and forth as the ship rocks.  On the ship there is always someone sleeping so everyone works hard to be courteous and stay quiet.

My stateroom
My stateroom

My roommate is an officer on the ship so we are usually in the room at different times.  Officers on NOAA ships are part of the NOAA Corps.  Roommates are usually assigned based on the shifts people are working so each person has some time alone in the room.  As we start fishing more I will bring my computer and other items I might want throughout the day into one of the labs on the ship so I won’t have to go in and out of the room when my roommate might be sleeping.  The curtains are helpful in blocking out any light that might prevent you from sleeping.  The showers are right next to my room which is convenient and the common head (bathroom) is just around the corner.

There are plenty of food choices in the galley on the ship and everything has been delicious.  In the mornings you can even get eggs made to order!  I certainly don’t think I will be going hungry!

Did You Know?

Even in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hypothermia is risk due to the difference in water temperature and our body temperatures.  The survival suit helps to protect our bodies from the difference in temperature.

 

Louise Todd: Ready to Go! September 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Soon to be Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 9, 2013

Welcome to my NOAA Teacher at Sea Blog!

Personal Log

Sea Pork
On Jekyll Island, GA with a Sea Pork

I am thrilled that in just a few days I will be aboard NOAA ShipOregon II as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  I have been eagerly waiting for this week to arrive and now it is almost here!  On Friday, September 13, I will fly from New Orleans to Houston and then drive to Galveston.  I will be aboard the Oregon II from Galveston, Texas until we dock in Pascagoula, Mississippi on September 29.

I am the Education Coordinator at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I manage our education animal collection, those animals that are used in programs at the aquarium and in our outreach programs, and I coordinate the AquaKid program.  Our animal collection includes a range of animals from saltwater invertebrates like horseshoe crabs to large reptiles like a red tail boa.  Caring for these animals is one of the best parts of my job.  I love interacting with them each day and ensuring they receive quality care.  Our program animals are an important part of our mission to connect our audiences to nature.  Inviting our guests to interact with these animal ambassadors helps demonstrate just how awesome animals can be!  The AquaKids are youth volunteers who enter our program when they are in 7th-9th grades.  AquaKids go through a training session during the month of July that covers basic marine biology and prepares them to serve as educators at the Aquarium for the next school year.  Some of my favorite parts of the summer training session with the AquaKids are the field trips we take every week and the dissection of spiny dogfish that we do in the last week of training.  I am ecstatic to be aboard the Oregon II and to be able to bring back new research and information to share with the AquaKids during our summer training.

Shark Disection
AquaKids dissecting a spiny dogfish
Audubon Youth Volunteers at the Sorting Table
Audubon Youth Volunteers at the sorting table on a summer field trip

Science and Technology Log

I will be aboard the Oregon II participating in the fourth and final leg of a shark and red snapper longline survey.  These longline surveys are crucial in assessing the populations of sharks and red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean.  You will be able to track the progress of the Oregon II as we move through the Gulf of Mexico using NOAA’s ship tracker.  I will be participating as a member of the science crew working a 12 hour shift each day.  I cannot wait to see what we catch during this leg of the survey!  This will be an amazing opportunity for me to see population research in action and to share that research with my blog readers and visitors to the Audubon Aquarium when I return from this experience.

I have had a great summer with trips to the barrier islands of Georgia for vacation and New York for my sister’s wedding.  This time aboard the Oregon II will be an exciting end to my summer.  I hope you will continue reading as I post about my experience and ask any  questions you might have in the comments section!

Julie Karre: Back to My Reality, August 12, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julie Karre
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013  

Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic
Date: Monday August 12, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
Sadly, I don’t know because I’m not there anymore.

The sunset on the last night. Exquisite. Photo Credit: Holly Perryman
The sunset on the last night. Exquisite. Photo Credit: Holly Perryman

Post-Cruise Log

I have been back on land for three days now and all I want to talk about are my adventures aboard the Oregon II. I miss everyone I met and hope that we all remain friends. But now that I am not in the moment and experiencing the adrenaline rush of handling sharks, I have time to think about all that I have learned and how I will make this experience valuable to my students. Because, while it was a true honor and privilege to have been aboard the Oregon II for two weeks, the real honor and privilege of my life is spending 10 months with students of Baltimore City Public Schools. And they matter the most right now.

I begin school in two weeks. Two weeks from now I will be standing in my classroom setting up what I hope to be a remarkable year of learning with 40 or so 7th graders and 40 or so 8th graders. Just picturing their faces coming through the door and the hugs and the squeals of delight as we get excited about seeing each other makes me the happiest version of myself.

My Armistead Gardens 7th graders received homemade cookies as a New Years Gift. I look forward to seeing them for a new year beginning August 26th.
My Armistead Gardens 7th graders received homemade cookies as a New Years Gift. I look forward to seeing them for a new year beginning August 26th.

IMG_0914

So what am I going to do with this experience? How will I make two of the most meaningful weeks of my life meaningful for kids who were not involved? How will I make what was mine, theirs?

Those are the questions that bounce around in my head all of the time now. No amount of blog writing and sharing pictures on Facebook matters if I don’t do this justice to those kids. And in the meantime, I would really like to make the people who made this possible proud. From the NOAA employees who run Teacher at Sea to the crew and scientists on the Oregon II to the volunteers who cheered me on and supported me to my parents who watched my dog, I want to make them proud.

So the brainstorming begins and this is where it starts. Over the course of the cruise, I kept track of our latitude and longitude at 11am each day and at each of our stations. During a 1-2 week unit during my Ecosystems In and Out of Balance semester of study, we will be using the research from my cruise to celebrate Shark Week – Armistead Gardens Style. We will begin by plotting the course of the Oregon II from July 26 to August 8. We will study the written descriptions of the shark species I encountered and see if we can match them with pictures. We will hypothesize how the flow of energy works in the marine ecosystems where these sharks are found – will the students guess that some of the big sharks eat some of the little sharks? I didn’t know that. Then we will begin to study what struggles these species encounter in an out-of-balance ecosystem – things like fishing and hypoxia and oil spills.

Beyond the marine science, we will look at who makes marine science possible. I cannot wait to share with these students the opportunities that abound in marine careers, from becoming a scientist like Kristin to driving a ship like Rachel.

This is just a beginning and I look forward to sharing the final product as I continue to develop it.

Thank you so much to everyone who followed my adventure. Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible. I will not let you down.

The volunteers from the first leg take their leave of the Oregon II and head back to their other lives. Photo Credit: Amy Schmitt
The volunteers from the first leg take their leave of the Oregon II and head back to their other lives. Photo Credit: Amy Schmitt
And now I am home with my lovely dog, Maddox.
And now I am home with my lovely dog, Maddox.


Animals Seen Over Two Weeks

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

I handle an Atlantic Sharpnose in one of my last hauls aboard the ship. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
I handle an Atlantic Sharpnose in one of my last hauls aboard the ship. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess

Blacknose Shark

Nurse Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead

Bull Shark

Sandbar Shark

Night Shark

Silky Shark

Ribbonfish

IMG_0977

A ribbonfish makes an appearance. Quite the face it has.
A ribbonfish makes an appearance. Quite the face it has.

Grouper

Red Snapper

Black Sea Bass

A black sea bass makes a guest appearance in one of the final hauls on the Oregon II's first leg.
A black sea bass makes a guest appearance in one of the final hauls on the Oregon II’s first leg. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess

Sea Turtles

Dolphins

Pilot Whales

Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi swim along as the night shift brings in the line. Photo Credit: Holly Perryman
Mahi Mahi swim along as the night shift brings in the line. Photo Credit: Holly Perryman

Sea stars

Jelly fish

Sea Pansy

Julia Harvey: We Came, We Fished, Now What? August 8, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julia Harvey
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 22 – August 10, 2013  

Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date:  8/8/13 

Weather Data from the Bridge (as of 17:00 Alaska Time):
Wind Speed:  15.72 knots
Temperature:  13.4 C
Humidity:  73%
Barometric Pressure:  1012.1 mb

I just read this heads up about the weather tonight.
I just read this heads up about the weather tonight.

 

Science and Technology Log:

We came.  We fished.  We measured, counted and weighed.  Now What?  We completed one last trawl on Tuesday night (August 6th).  When we finished we had caught over 65,000 walleye pollock and a whole lot of POP (Pacific ocean perch) on this leg of the survey.

The scientists now process and analyze the data.

Darin Jones and Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler going over data collected.
Darin Jones and Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler going over data collected.

Darin and Patrick will present at a public meeting when we are back in Kodiak on Friday.  They will discuss what was seen and preliminary findings of the walleye pollock survey.  Back in Seattle the MACE team will further evaluate the data along with data from the bottom trawl survey and determine the walleye pollock biomass for the Gulf of Alaska.  This will then be taken under advisement by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

There is also the lab to clean.  Even though we cleaned the lab after each trawl, it needed a good scrub down.  There were scales and slime hidden everywhere.  Just when you thought you were done, more scales were discovered.

Kirsten, Abigale and Darin cleaning the fish lab.
Kirsten, Abigale and Darin cleaning the fish lab.

Did You Know?

The note on the white board stated that there will be beam seas tonight.  What does that really mean?  It means the waves are moving in a direction roughly 90° from our heading.  So the water will be hitting us at a right angle to our keel.  It will be a rocking boat tonight.

Darin took a sample of the salmon shark’s fin when we caught it.  It will be sent to a scientist in Juneau who works at Auke Bay Laboratories (where Jodi works).  The sample will be used to examine the population genetics of the salmon shark and other species such as the Pacific sleeper shark.

Personal Log:

In my first blog, I wrote about a childhood dream of becoming an oceanographer.  After my third year of teaching in the Peace Corps, I decided education was my new direction.   I was excited to taste that bygone dream aboard the Oscar Dyson.  How do I feel now?  I jokingly sent an email to my assistant principal telling her to look for a new science teacher because I love life at sea.  I  love collecting data in the field.  Although I was not responsible for analyzing the data and I do miss my boys, I had an awesome cruise.  So where does that leave me?

Heading to Kodiak across the Gulf of Alaska
Heading to Kodiak across the Gulf of Alaska

It leaves me back in the classroom with an amazing sea voyage experience to share with my students.  I will always long for that oceanographic career that could have been.  But perhaps after my experience, I will inspire future oceanographers and fisheries scientists.  And I would do Teacher at Sea again in a heartbeat.  I will follow up with the outcomes and biomass estimates from MACE (Mid-Water Assessment & Conservation Engineering) and I will most definitely follow Jodi’s research on the use of multibeam sonar for seafloor mapping.

I want to say thank you to everyone who made my experience one of the best of my life and definitely the best professional development of my career.  Thank you to Jennifer Hammond, Elizabeth McMahon, Jennifer Annetta, Emily Susko and Robert Ostheimer for the opportunity to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.  Thank you to NOAA for developing a practical and realistic opportunity to connect my students to ocean science.  Thank you to the science team (Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler, Darin Jones, Paul Walline, Jodi Pirtle, Kirsten Simonsen, and Abigale McCarthy) aboard the Oscar Dyson for their willingness to train me, answer all of my questions, preview my blogs, and to allow me have a glimpse of their lives as scientists.  Thank you to Patrick Ressler and XO Chris Skapin for promptly providing feedback on my blogs.  And a special thanks to the night shift crew (Jodi, Paul and Darin).  I was very nervous about adjusting to my work hours (4 pm to 4 am) especially after falling asleep that first night, but I am very grateful for colleagues who were fascinating and night-time enjoyable.  Chats with everyone aboard the Oscar Dyson from fishermen to NOAA Corps to engineers to stewards to scientists were educational and pleasant.  I met lots of people from all over the U.S. and some just from Newport (2 hours from Eugene).

WOW.  How fortunate was I to be chosen?  I am nearly speechless about what I saw and what I did.  What a mind blowing three weeks.  Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!

Now I begin the transition of living during daylight hours.

Here I am
Here I am before the system hit us.

I hope everyone was able to sample a little of my adventure.  I appreciate everyone who followed my blog especially Camas Country Mill folks.

Julia Harvey: Working on the Night Shift (During Shark Week), August 5, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julia Harvey
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 22 – August 10, 2013     

Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date:  8/5/13 

Weather Data from the Bridge (as of 17:00 Alaska Time):
Wind Speed:  9.54 knots
Temperature:  15.7 C
Humidity: 83 %
Barometric Pressure:  1017.9 mb

Current Weather: The winds have decreased and we are not moving as much.  The weather report calls for an increase to the winds with 7 ft swells on Wednesday.  But maybe it will die down before it reaches us.

August 6th sunset
August 6th sunset

Science and Technology Log:

We only will fish during daylight hours.  The sun is now setting before 10:00 pm and rising around 5:30 am.  And even though we are not fishing between sunset and sunrise, science continues.  At nightfall, we break transect and Jodi begins her data collection.

The Sustainable Fisheries Act mandates an assessment of essential fish habitat.  This is in conjunction with stock assessments of groundfish.   Jodi’s research involves integrating multibeam accoustic technology to characterize trawlable and untrawlable seafloor types and habitat for managed species.

Species that are part of the groundfish survey.
Species that are part of the groundfish survey.
Photo courtesy of Chris Rooper (Alaska Fisheries Science Center) from the Snakehead Bank multi-beam survey

A bottom trawl survey is conducted every other year in the Gulf of Alaska.  The goal is to better identify seafloor types using multibeam acoustics.  This would help improve groundfish assessment, and limit damage to habitat and trawling gear.

The Gulf of Alaska survey area is divided into square grids.

Trawlable or Untrawlable?
Trawlable or Untrawlable?

On this cruise we are conducting multibeam mapping in trawlable and untrawlable grid cells.  A grid cell is divided into 3 equidistant transects for a multibeam survey.  Jodi directs the ship to follow these smaller transect lines.  While the ship is following the transects lines, the multibeam sonar is active and data is collected.

Multibeam sonar
Multibeam sonar
Photo courtesy of Tom Weber (University of New Hampshire)
Jodi monitors the screen during ME70 activity.
Jodi monitors the screen during ME70 activity.

The SIMRAD ME70 is the multibeam sonar that Jodi is using for her research.  There are 6 transducers on the ship that will send out a fan of 31beams of varying frequencies.  The strength of their return (backscatter) can be analyzed for sea floor type.  Looking at the diagram below, you can see the differences in backscatter clearly in the range of 30 to 50 degrees (away from straight down).

Illustration of the multi-beams generated. photo courtesy of http://www.id-scope.mc/Geophy03_EN.html
Illustration of the multi-beams generated.
photo courtesy of http://www.id-scope.mc/Geophy03_EN.html

Silts will have a very weak backscatter and rock will have a strong backscatter.

Substrate differences when looking at 30 - 50 degrees. Courtesy of Jodi Pirtle
Substrate differences when looking at 30 – 50 degrees.
Courtesy of Jodi Pirtle

After the transects are completed,  Jodi and Darin complete 1 – 3 camera drops to record visually how the seafloor appears.  This camera below will be lowered to the ocean floor and video footage will stream to the computer for 10 minutes.  Then the camera is brought up.

Drop Camera
Drop Camera

An example of an untrawlable area. Photo courtesy of Jodi Pirtle
An example of an untrawlable area.
Photo courtesy of Jodi Pirtle.

Last night, Darin gave me the opportunity to operate the camera drop.  After a bit of instruction, it was showtime.  I am very grateful for the chance to explore the seafloor.

I operated the drop camera.   Photo by Darin Jones
I operated the drop camera.
Photo by Darin Jones

Here is what I saw at 190 meters.

Fish and rocks on the seafloor.
Fish and rocks on the seafloor.
I saw a flatfish right in front of the camera.
I saw a flatfish right in front of the camera.

For more photos of my drop camera experience, see the end of this blog.

CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) drops are conducted in the grid as well.  Data that are gathered are used to correct for the speed of sound under varying conditions of the ocean.

CTD drop to record physical oceanographic data
CTD drop to record physical oceanographic data

The next day, Jodi processes the data from the ME70.  The bottom detection algorithm (a series of calculations) removes backscatter from the water column (from fish).

Each frame product represents 5 minutes of seafloor.  The following are outcomes from the algorithm and represent angle dependent data.  The images below, show backscatter on the left and bathymetry on the right.

This represents a homogenous sea floor.
This represents a homogenous sea floor.
This represents a heterogenous sea floor.
This represents a heterogenous sea floor.

Then Jodi takes into account a number of factors such as results from the CTD, motion of the boat (offset, attitude, pitch, roll), and tides.  These uncertainties are applied.

Uncertainties Photo courtesy of NOAA
Uncertainties
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Then she mosaics the data.

Result from Jodi's data.
Results
Photo courtesy of Tom Weber

The color image above represents the depth and the bottom image provides information on seafloor substrate.

The footage from the camera drops is also reviewed for more evidence of the seafloor substrate and to look for objects that would snag trawl nets.

I really appreciate Jodi taking the time to educate me on her research.  Her passion for her work is evident.  I look forward to seeing where her research leads.

Personal Log:

So who actually works the night shift (4pm to 4 am) in the “cave”.   Jodi Pirtle, Paul Walline and Darin Jones are the three scientists I have been lucky to work with during my cruise.

I  discussed Jodi’s work on the ship in the science section.  She has an extensive educational background.  She earned a BS in Biology from Western Washington University in Bellingham and then a MS in Environmental Science from Washington State University in Vancouver.  Then she earned a Ph.D in Fisheries from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  Her thesis was on ground fish habitat on rocky banks along the US west coast.  And her dissertation was based on red king crab nursery habitat.  She just finished her postdoc at the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping where her work applied multibeam acoustics to study trawlable and untrawlable seafloor types and groundfish habitat in the Gulf of Alaska.  She is now working on groundfish habitat suitability modeling after she was selected to be a National Research Council NOAA postdoc at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Auke Bay Lab in Juneau.  Jodi continues to integrate multibeam acoustics in her research at ABL.

Jodi was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska which we came near when we were in Prince William Sound.  I have enjoyed listening to her speak of growing up in Alaska.  There are no roads out of Cordova, so imagine traveling with a sports team in high school?  I will not forget how she described the Exxon Valdez oil spill to me from the eyes of herself at 11 years old.

I have greatly appreciated her knowledge of the creatures we bring up in the nets.  She has an eye for finding the hidden gems like the chaetognath (arrow worm).

Jodi with a lumpsucker fish
Jodi with a lumpsucker fish

Jodi enjoys cross country skiing, snow boarding, berry picking, hiking and yoga.  She introduced me to beautiful ripe salmon berries back on Kodiak.

Delicate Salmonberries
Delicate salmon berries

Darin is a MACE (Midwater Assessment & Conservation Engineering) scientist who earned his BS in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and then his MS in Fisheries Resources form the University of Idaho at Moscow.  His master’s work involved disease resistance in bull trout.  He spent 5 years collecting fishing data as an observer aboard commercial fishing boats in Alaska.  He also tagged cod on George’s Bank and worked at several conservation fish hatcheries before moving to Seattle to work for MACE.  Darin is part of the team to assess the biomass of the walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska.

Darin filets some of the fish caught.
Darin filets some of the fish caught.

I have heard that Darin played in a band with some MACE colleagues but they broke up because one of them moved.  Maybe there will be a reunion tour.

Darin measuring a spiny dogfish
Darin measuring a spiny dogfish

He is a surfer and has surfed on Kodiak but his favorite surf spot so far was in Costa Rica. Darin is an easy-going guy who I often call Scott because he reminds me so much of a colleague at school.  Darin has patiently explained my tasks to me and helped me learn what I am really doing.  And he supported me as I did my first camera drop.

Darin watching me control drop camera. Photo by Jodi Pirtle
Darin watching me control drop camera.
Photo by Jodi Pirtle

Paul is a native of Washington state and completed his academics there as well.  He earned a BS in Oceanography and a Ph.D in Fisheries Oceanography from the University of Washington.  For 20 years he worked at the Israel Limnological and Oceanographic Institute.  He was involved in managing the water quality in Lake Kinneret.  His role was to estimate the number of fish to determine their affect on water quality.  Paul accomplished this by developing acoustics surveys of fish stocks in Israel.  Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, provides Israel with 40% of its drinking water.

Lake Kinneret Courtesy of GoogleEarth
Lake Kinneret
Courtesy of GoogleEarth

In 2000, Paul moved back to Seattle and is working as a fisheries biologist for MACE.

Paul reading echograms and deciding to fish
Paul reading echograms and deciding to fish

I have been fortunate to see photographs that Paul has taken both on this trip and elsewhere.  He has an incredible talent for finding beauty.

Paul Walline
Paul Walline

I am writing this as we are tossing and turning in ten foot swells.  According to Paul, it doesn’t matter if the swells get any  bigger because the effect is the same. His calmness, knowledge and expertise remind me a lot of my dad.

As you can see, I worked with amazing, brilliant individuals.  The night shift rules.  We had awesome teamwork when a haul needed to be processed.

Jodi weighs and measures the pollock.  Darin removes otoliths and I packaged them up
Jodi weighs and measures the pollock. Darin removes otoliths and I packaged them up

And then we slept through the fog and awoke to beautiful sunsets (on some days).

Sunset by Yakutat Bay
Sunset by Yakutat Bay

Did You Know?

Glacial runoff changes the color of the ocean.  Compare the two photos.  The one at the bottom is near a glacier.

 

The ocean with no glacial runoff.
The ocean with no glacial runoff.
The ocean with glacial runoff.
The ocean with glacial runoff.

Animals Seen Today:

The bottom trawl that was brought up right when I began work, contained three types of sharks.  The smaller ones were spiny dogfish and spotted spiny dogfish.  The big one was a salmon shark.  Check out the video.

To read more about salmon sharks and to monitor their migration pattern, check out the content on Tagging of Pacific Predators website.  Click here: TOPP

My Drop Camera Experience

Checking out the bottom with the drop camera. Photo by Jodi Pirtle
Checking out the bottom with the drop camera.
Photo by Jodi Pirtle
Jodi and I monitoring the drop cam. Photo by Darin Jones
Jodi and I monitoring the drop cam.
Photo by Darin Jones
Julia bringing drop camera aboard. Photo by Darin Jones
Julia bringing drop camera aboard.
Photo by Darin Jones
Sea urchin in color.
Sea urchin in color.
Fish hiding on the left.
Fish hiding on the left.
Another sea urchin
Another sea urchin