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

Julie Karre: Heading Back to Land… August 5-6, 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 5 – Tuesday August 6, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
Monday – NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET
DOMINANT PERIOD 6 SECONDS

Tuesday – E WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 3 TO 4 FEET

Science and Technology Log

Meet the Scientists

Meet some of my favorite people in the world. Without these people my experience would have lacked the learning and laughter that made it such a joy.

Kristin Hannan

Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!
Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!
Kristin was the Field Party Chief for the first and second legs of the Longline survey. She was also my watch leader, which meant she was by my side in support every step of the way. And as I progressed as a shark handler, she was there with a high five every time. I hit the jackpot landing on a ship with Kristin. She is now off to visit Harry Potter World (I’m so jealous I can hardly stand it) before rejoining the the survey when it leaves Mayport. This is Kristin’s fifth year doing the Longline Survey. The first time she did it, she was a volunteer just like us. I wish Kristin the best of luck in all she does and hope to call her a friend for years to come.
Amy Schmitt
Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.
Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.
Amy is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. She has been with NOAA for two years, but has been working in research biology for most of her career. She is a native of Colorado and shares my blond hair and fair complexion. We could usually be found together cooling off in the dry lab as often as possible. It was also Amy who coined one of my nicknames on the cruise – Data Girl. According to the science team, the Teachers at Sea make excellent data recorders. I can’t imagine why 🙂
Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.
Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.
Lisa Jones
NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the second leg of Longline Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.
NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of Longline, Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.
Lisa has been doing the Longline survey for 16 years now. She is a wealth of information about sharks, living aboard a ship, and marine life. She is also a passionate dog lover, which many of the volunteers shared with her. Lisa will be taking over the duties of Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of the survey. She will be aboard the Oregon II for all four legs of the survey this year. That’s a lot of boat rocking!
Mike Hendon
NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.
NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.
Mike is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. He’s a seasoned veteran of the Longline survey and was a great mentor for those of us new to the shark-handling community. Mike also has two adorable kids and two cute dogs waiting for him at home. He was part of the science team for the first leg of the survey. He can sometimes be found wearing mismatched socks.
Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.
Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.

Personal Log

My final days are winding down and I am caught (no pun intended) off guard by how much I am going to miss this. There is such a peacefulness that comes from the rocking of a boat, especially if you don’t get seasick. And working alongside people who share a passionate nature – we may not all be passionate about the same things, but we are all passionate – is such a reinvigorating experience. These two weeks gave me an opportunity to talk about my environmental science integration in my classroom with people who care very much about environmental science. It was so inspiring to have them care about what I was doing in my classroom. It gives me another reason to trust the importance of what I’m doing as well as more people I want to make proud.

Fun list time! Things you get used to living on a ship:

  1. Noise. There is so much happening on a ship, from the engine to the cradle pulling up a shark. It’s all loud. But you get used to it.
  2. Sneaking into your stateroom as silently as possible so you don’t wake up your AWESOME roommate Rachel.

    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.
    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.
  3. Waiting. There’s a lot of waiting time on a survey like this. You find ways to make that time meaningful.

    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.
    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.
  4. Rocking. Duh.
  5. Taking high steps through doorways. The doors that separate the interior and exterior of the ship are water tight, so they don’t go all the way to the floor. You can only bash your shins in so many times before it becomes second nature.
  6. Sharks. I said in a previous post that this survey has been eye opening and it’s worth sharing again. I don’t have a marine science background and I had fallen victim to the media portrayals of sharks. I had no idea that there were sharks as small as the Sharpnose that can be handled by such an amateur like myself.

    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.
    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.
  7. Sunsets. Words cannot describe the colors that make their way to you when there’s uninterrupted skyline. Oh I will definitely miss those sunsets.

    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.
    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.
  8. The stars. I live a life of being asleep by 10pm and up at 6 am and often times forget to look up at the stars even on the nights when I might have been able to see them. These two weeks gave me some of the darkest nights I’ve had and some of the best company in the world.
Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline. Photo Credit: Mike Hendon
Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline.
Photo Credit: Mike Hendon

Julie Karre: I Am Smarter Than a Circle Hook, August 1, 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: Thursday August 1, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
SW WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET
INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS 

Science and Technology Log

Today we did two sets and haul backs. For the first haul back, I was on the computer recording hooks retrieved. The computer system records the hooks as they are set out, keeping track of the number and the latitude and longitude as it is put on the longline. During the haul back, the hook number is recorded when it is retrieved as well as its latitude and longitude again. Then on another pop-up screen, it asks if there was a fish on the hook or if the bait was missing, whole, or damaged. This data complements the data recorded on the fish brought up by giving a complete look at each station. I like doing data collection, whether on the computer or on paper recording the sharks’ measurements.

During the second haul, which we began as the sun began to dip into the horizon, I decided to really try handling the sharks. And what a wonderful experience it was.

When handling the sharks there are so many factors to remember. First, I have to get the measurements of that shark to the data recorder. But while I’m doing that, I have to remember that I am holding a living thing that is entirely out of its element – a true fish out of water. And while sharks might be intimidating (They are. Trust me.), they’re also fragile. Hooks are sharp and unsympathetic, so those of us handling have to take extra care not do exacerbate the damage done by the hook.

There came a moment when I realized I can do this. And what a wonderful feeling it was. Not very many people get to say they've handled sharks. I'm proud to be in that group who can.
There came a moment when I realized I can do this. And what a wonderful feeling it was. Not very many people get to say they’ve handled sharks. I’m proud to be in that group who can. Photo Credit: Holly Perryman

The circle hooks, pictured below, are designed to catch a shark or fish without the hook being swallowed, which would be much more harmful and reduce survival rates. But they are still really difficult to remove. First, they are difficult to remove because of the barb, which is there to keep the shark or fish from being able to flail itself off the hook. But they’re also difficult to remove because sharks’ skin is incredibly tough. The sharks I have touched range from feeling like really tough, thick leather to various grit sandpaper. The one exception so far for me was the Scalloped Hammerhead, which was really smooth. Upon further conversation with Kristin, I’ve learned that circle hooks have also been shown to reduce sea turtle mortality. It is thought that they might also reduce the mortality of by-catch (unintended catch) in tuna fisheries, though this theory needs further study to be validated.

Circle hooks are used during the longline survey to ensure catch with minimal risk of swallowing.
Circle hooks are used during the longline survey to ensure catch with minimal risk of swallowing.

Working out the hooks really intimidated me because while trying to get a sharp pointy object out of a shark, the shark is often flailing and flapping trying to get away from me. I found myself talking to each shark, assuring it that I was on its side and was trying to be as gentle as possible.

Ultimately, it’s a really great experience to handle sharks and I felt so proud of myself each time I removed a hook. But the best feeling in the world is releasing that shark and watching it swim away. I would always yell goodbye and release a “yay!” that the shark swam away.

Taking data on one of our awesome Scalloped Hammerheads. My favorite.
Taking data on one of our awesome Scalloped Hammerheads. My favorite. I’ve learned though that Scalloped Hammerheads have been labeled as over-fished and legislation is in place to help this species rebuild.

Personal Log

What a personally satisfying day. I could not be happier that I successfully handled sharks today. I feel like I’ve contributed to the team. I’ve done something that has to be done for each set and haul – recoding data, racking hooks, etc. – but now that I’ve handled sharks successfully, I definitely feel more useful.

I also feel like I’m finally adapting to the heat. It’s still overwhelming when I go from the air conditioned interior to the full force of the sun at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but I’m not as drained by it. That added with the excitement of handling the sharks and the possibility of seeing different species with each haul back has really kept me quite upbeat!

How can you not be happy when you're staring into the jaws of a Tiger Shark (132 lbs).
How can you not be upbeat when you’re staring into the jaws of a Tiger Shark (132 lbs).

On top of the excitement, it’s just generally a really good time with these people. I feel like I’ve made life-long friends and hope to see and keep in touch with them.

Meet the volunteers:

Day Shift

–       Kevin Travis:

Volunteer Kevin Travis handles sharks like it's no big deal.
Volunteer Kevin Travis handles sharks like it’s no big deal.
  • Kevin just graduated from high school and will be going to the University of Tampa in the fall. He plans to study Marine Biology. This is his first survey

–       Holly Perryman

Volunteer Holly Perryman works on removing the jaw from a dead shark.
Volunteer Holly Perryman assists with removing certain organs from a dead shark.
  • Holly is a graduate student at the University of Miami. This is her second survey. She was a volunteer on the Fall Groundfish survey last year.

–       Arjen Krijgsman

Volunteer Arjen celebrates his birthday aboard the Oregon II!
Volunteer Arjen celebrates his birthday aboard the Oregon II!
  • Arjen is a native of the Netherlands, but has been in the United States teaching for the last three years. Prior to teaching in the United States, he worked in schools doing various jobs in Russia, Japan, and Egypt. He is looking forward to becoming a US citizen. Volunteering on the Oregon II has become a hobby and feels a lot like coming home. He says “You come out a few times and people get to know you. It’s really quite lovely.” He loves the time spent on the water.

Night shift

–       Claudia Friess

Volunteer Claudia Friess has been on 2 previous surveys. She handles sharks like a pro.
Volunteer Claudia Friess has been on 2 previous surveys. She loves handling the sharks.
  • Claudia is a native of Germany, but she’s been in the United States since she was 17. She graduated from high school outside of Houston, Texas and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She is a fisheries analyst with Ocean Conservancy.

–       Page Vick

Volunteer Page Vick takes another Sharpnose Shark from a fisherman in an intense haul.
Volunteer Page Vick takes another Sharpnose Shark from a fisherman in an intense haul.

–       Ian Davenport

Ian (left) helping to measure a Tiger Shark.
Ian (left) helping to measure a Tiger Shark. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
  • Ian is from Manchester, England. He is currently working in the Biology Department at Xavier University after completing his PhD at Clemson University. He studies shark evolution and development. This is his fourth survey with NOAA.

This group of people have become fast friends and I am incredibly proud to work with them each day. I look forward to seeing what adventures they’re off to after this.

Did You Know?

There is a new unit of measurement aboard the Oregon II. It’s 5 feet and a quarter inch and it’s called a Julie.

As in “that shark was about one Julie long.”

Paul Ritter: They Are Watching Us, July 29, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paul Ritter
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 16– August 1, 2013 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographical area of cruise: southeastern US Atlantic Ocean waters (continental shelf and shelf-break waters ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC to Port St. Lucie, FL)
Date: July 29, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge

7-28-13 ship data

IMG_4921
Happy Anniversary, Jodee!

Before I start my blog today I want to take a minute to say Happy Anniversary to my wife Jodee.  We have been married 18 wonderful years and I love her more today than ever before.  I am sorry that we can be together because  the team and I are chasing reef fish in the Atlantic Ocean.  Actually, now that I think about it this is the first time that we have not been together on our Anniversary.  That being said, there are some surprises that are being delivered to the house and I hope you like them.  I Love You,  Dear.

Science and Technology Log
Date: Monday July 29, 2013

I woke up around 5:30 this morning and it was a calm and beautiful day.  The water was as smooth as glass.  I never thought the water could be so still in the ocean.  After grabbing a cup of java, I ventured out to see the sunrise.  There sure is something about seeing a sunrise when there’s no land in sight.  It was breathtaking.

As I got ready to set out the day’s traps with my team, I went in to the dry lab to ask Zeb, our Chief Scientist, what our drop sites looked like on the bottom.  There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for our team to be able to set traps every day.  The acoustics lab / night team, consisting of  Warren Mitchell, Chief Investigator and a NOAA fisheries biologist, David Berrane a NOAA fisheries biologist, Matt Wilson a NOAA hydrographer, Dawn Glasgow a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, and Neah Baechler a college student studying Geology at the College of Charleston, SC, started around 5:00 the day before.   This team is amazing.  They stay up all night mapping the ocean floor utilizing a technology that we refer to as the ME70.  The Simrad ME 70 is basically a very high resolution scientific multibeam sonar system that is utilized for data collection from the water column and the ocean floor.

What is very cool is that the system is capable of very high resolution mapping allowing the night team to predict where it is that we will have the best chances to find reef fish habitat the following day.  This team is the best at finding natural hard bottom habitat that is the quintessential reef-a-palooza.  How does the ME 70 work?  The ship sends out a cone of sound (ping) to the ocean floor and it bounces off of the ocean floor and back to the ship.  From there the ship’s computer knows the total distance that sound traveled traveled.  The data is then interpreted into a map of the ocean floor.  This explanation is overly simplified but it works.  Each morning the team takes the raw data from the ME 70 and it is corrected for tides, sound speed, and vessel offset (brings data to the waterline).  The raw sounding data is then processed into a bathymetric model that represents the sea floor and is the map that Zeb then uses to pick our trap locations.  It is magic.

Here is a sonar system measuring the depth of the ocean...
Here is a sonar system measuring the depth of the ocean…

Personal Log

Date: Monday  July 29, 2013

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Paul Ritter with a “stowaway”

Have you ever thought that animals were watching you?  I think about this all of the time.  I will be doing something and it is like my dogs are always trying to find out what I am up to.  The cats are constantly checking to see if I am going to put food in their bowl.

I do not have any animal paranoia but I do think they are watching us.   Our expedition has made me a believer.  Today we started setting our traps and we noticed that at some point in night the NOAA Ship Pisces gained two stowaways, a little House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), and a little yellow Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum).  These two little guys were keeping very close tabs on what our team was doing while we were setting our first traps of the day.  Gradually, this little dynamic duo gradually became more brave as we put our set of six traps into the water.  As I looked at the little birds, I was thinking to myself, “I have seen my cats watch me like this.”

I quickly looked for something to feed them.  While the NOAA Ship Pisces does carry just about everything you can think of, there is no bird food to be found.  Jenny, one of the fisheries biologist on my team, quickly came up with the idea to give the hungry little buggers some flax seed.  No go.  They were not interested.  They were however interested in the water she had set out.  Eventually, they both became brave enough to jump onto my hand in hopes of finding something there.  Again no go.  It was as we were setting out our next set of traps that the birds both did something very cool.  They were picking up the leftover bits and pieces of the Menhaden that had fallen on the ground.  Man they could eat.  There was no way they were going to leave their new found buffet.

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Paul Ritter and an octopus

During the collection of our second series of traps we noticed that again we had a stowaway.  A Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris) had climbed aboard our trap and rode it all the way to the surface.  Upon arrival to the ship, this orange speckled cephalopod decided to abandon the trap and hit the deck.  Holy cow, it’s hard to pick up an octopus.  Their tentacles go everywhere and their suction cups hold on to everything they come in contact with, including my arm.  Once it grabbed my arm, our eyes made contact.  This little guy was watching me.  Maybe he was trying to figure out what exactly I was, or trying to figure out if I was going to eat him.  Nonetheless, he was not letting go.   Eventually, a number of us were able to hold him before he decided he was tired of the game and fell over the side of the ship, back to the depths below.  Ironically, our third set of traps also netted an octopus.  I suggested that we rename our expedition the cephalopod survey.  The team did not think that was funny.

Once on board, the second octopus also had its eyes keenly focused on everyone and everything that was going on.   It stared everyone down.  I always thought octopuses were very cool, but now after my encounters I think they are amazing.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Normally, our third series of traps on board would mean the end of the day; however due to our amazing results from the previous trappings Zeb decided we could set three more individual traps on a short run.  As we set the traps, we noticed that our ship was being followed.  A pod 4 of Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) were playing on the waves around the ship and soon there would be more.   One by one, more dolphins showed up.  While we were bringing in the traps, the dolphins waited by the buoys to see what was going on.  We brought in the traps, emptied our catch of Black Sea Bass into our counting bins and Zach and I would roll the chevron traps back to the aft deck to be stored.  While we were walking back, I felt as if we were being followed.  Sure enough we looked down and there they were, following us to the back of the ship.  They truly were amazing to watch.  After the second trap was aboard, the bridge of the ship put the ship into reverse to get a better angle at the third and last trap.  I never thought a 209 foot ship could travel the same speed backward as forward.  It was exciting.  What was even more exhilarating was the fact that the dolphins were all on the back of the ship riding the wave as the ship pushed itself through the water.  I think my camera snapped fifty pictures before they disappeared under the Pisces.

This experience has been a life changing dream come true for me.  To be able to work, side by side, some of the most brilliant fisheries biologist, hydrographers, and geologist the planet has to offer has been humbling.  I am truly thankful to be able to be apart of  this crew and it is exciting to know that while we are exploring the different habitat and animals around us, they are watching us too.

Did You Know?

Did you know the word cephalopod means “head-footed”?

Did you know that octopuses can change their color using chromatophores? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-do-squid-and-octopuse

The name octopus came from the Greek language which means eight footed.

Want to know more about the Atlantic Spotted Dolphin?

http://www.arkive.org/atlantic-spotted-dolphin/stenella-frontalis/

Julie Karre: Let’s Haul it Back Now, Ya’ll! July 30, 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: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 

Weather Data from the Bridge
SW WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS BECOMING SE IN THE AFTERNOON
SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD 14 SECONDS
SLIGHT CHANGE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS

Science and Technology Log

Preparing for a haul back. Everyone wears a PFD (personal flotation device) during a haul and a helmet if the cradle is used.
Preparing for a haul back. Everyone wears a PFD (personal flotation device) during a haul and a helmet if the cradle is used.

What an incredibly fast-paced morning/end of shift for the night shift! As the day shift was getting up and wandering out to check in, the night shift was putting out their first set of the cruise. Day shift, which I’m on, put out two sets the afternoon/night before. Night shift had to skip two last night because of the current. But this haul back made up for it. The crew processed 64 sharks – Sharpnose and Blacknose – at a swift, demanding pace. It was a learning experience to see them handle it so calmly, never missing a beat.

Night shift volunteers Page Vick and Claudia Friess work together to remove a hook.
Night shift volunteers Page Vick and Claudia Friess work together to remove a hook while Ian Davenport records the data.
Night Shift Watch Leader and NOAA scientist Lisa Jones takes a Sharpnose Shark from a fisherman.
Night Shift Watch Leader and NOAA scientist Lisa Jones takes a Sharpnose Shark from a fisherman and removes its hook.
A weighed, measured, sexed shark is released to the ocean.
A weighed, measured, sexed shark is released to the ocean.

At noon it was our turn and by 2pm we were putting out the first of three hauls we would do that day. That first haul brought up 56 sharks in just over an hour’s time. I was recording the data as measurements were taken. We brought up Sharpnose Sharks and Blacknose Sharks. It has been such an eye-opening experience bringing up sharks these last two days because it is so easy to imagine sharks as being enormous and ferocious, which of course some are, but we are bringing up sharks that, for the most part, can be held up with one hand and weigh less than 4.5kg. I think it is important to remember that the images of The Great White and Bull Sharks are not necessarily representative of all sharks. That doesn’t mean that these smaller sharks are not dangerous, it just means they’re not enormous and overwhelming.

Volunteers Holly Perryman and Kevin Travis handle sharks as I record the data.
Volunteers Holly Perryman and Kevin Travis handle sharks as I record the data. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess

We had just enough time to rebait the hooks and hang out for a few minutes before we set out another set 9 miles later. That haul back was light, but did come with a Scalloped Hammerhead. When we get these large sharks (Nurse, Tiger, Hammerhead, Sandbar), it requires a large cradle attached to a crane. The cradle is lowered into the water and the shark is led on with the line attached to the hook. This requires a lot of precise coordination. The person operating the crane cannot see the shark and is then dependent on those at the opening to be clear and loud with directions. Two people hold ropes that stabilize the cradle. They have to stay in sync so that the moving shark doesn’t throw itself over a side, while another person is trying to control the shark with the line attached to the hook. It’s really incredible to watch this team of skilled fishermen and scientists work so quickly with such a large animal. Each large animal is measured, weighed, tagged, and a small tissue sample is taken. Then the cradle is lowered and it swims gracefully away.

It's Hammer time! This Scalloped Hammerhead was very exciting. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
It’s Hammer time! This Scalloped Hammerhead was very exciting. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
It's Hammer time! This Scalloped Hammerhead was very exciting. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
It’s Hammer time! Chief Boatswain Tim Martin keeps a firm grip on the head of the shark. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess

A quick dinner later and then we set out what ended up being our last set around 9:30 pm. At 10:50 pm we began our haul back, which was light on Sharpnose and Blacknose. We got a few and they were small, but the real treat was hauling up 4 Sandbars. Of the 4, we brought up 2 because the other 2 got away. The Sandbar is a really beautiful shark. It has a high first dorsal fin and is one of the largest coastal sharks in the world. According to Chief Scientist Kristin Hannan, the Sandbar’s large fin makes it more desirable by fishermen harvesting fins. Having seen these large, but gorgeous, animals and how gracefully they swim makes me sad that they would be desirable for such an unsustainable practice. Fortunately, in 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service banned all commercial landings of Sandbar Sharks. The Sandbar is currently listed as a vulnerable species due to overfishing.

Kristin Hannan measuring a Sandbar Shark in the cradle.
Kristin Hannan measuring a Sandbar Shark in the cradle.

This haul back gave me a unique perspective. In previous hauls I’d been over where the fish are measured, weighed, and data recorded. But this time I was racking hooks as they came back, which means that I was just below the window where NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor was driving the ship. This is ENS Pryor’s first longline survey and she said it’s the survey that has the deck and bridge the most connected. Because we’re pulling up animals from a bottom longline, the control of the ship is crucial. The driver must control the ship on station making sure it doesn’t drift over the longline and in those instances of bringing up big sharks on the cradle, he or she keeps us on the station so there isn’t too much tension on the line. Whether it’s ENS Pryor, another NOAA Corps officer, or the Captain, Master Dave Nelson, he or she is just as essential to the survey as the people handling the sharks. Truly a team effort.

The set ended right at a shift change and we were lucky to make that switch on a light haul. Most of the hooks came up empty, including emptying of our bait, so something down there enjoyed an easy free meal.

I took the opportunity to watch the stars for a while before heading to bed. I was not disappointed.

Personal Log

During those first three days of no fishing, much reading was done. I finished a book on Sunday and am waiting to start my other book since I only brought two, but others on the ship have been reading a lot during breaks. At least two people have read the entire Hunger Games Trilogy while on board. It should come as no surprise to my students that this makes me VERY happy. The seventh and eighth graders of Armistead Gardens will be returning to school in August for a Hunger Games semester. The eighth graders read the first book before we left school last year, so we are set to keep reading. The seventh graders begin the Games when we meet in August.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let the 19th Longline Games begin!
Ladies and Gentlemen, let the 19th Annual Longline Games begin! Volunteers Claudia Friess and Mike Hendon devouring the Hunger Games trilogy. Both have started and finished the series since we departed Pascagoula.

BOOK REPORT:

I finished the debut novel by Carrie Mesrobian, which is scheduled to be released this fall. I began reading on Thursday the 25th when I moved onto the ship, but I had to slow myself down because I only have one other book. So I paced it enough to give me a few more days of pleasure. And what a pleasure it is to read such a raw and real book. I read a lot of young adult fiction, mostly for pleasure and sometimes to know what my students are in. I love what young adult literature offers readers in terms of dealing with certain experiences. I have not read many young adult novels written from the male perspective, though. I know there are many, but I have not done a very good job of getting into them. I loved reading Evan. His self-loathing was so real that I was immediately on his side. I thought the sensitive subject matter was handled realistically and appropriately. Well done. Can’t wait to read it again.

An exquisite sunset at the end of a beautiful day.
An exquisite sunset at the end of a beautiful day.

Did You Know?

I learned this from a science teacher at Armistead Gardens Elem/Middle school – there are FOUR meteor showers peaking last night and tonight – Piscis, Austrinids, Aquariids, and Capricornids. Maybe some of my “shooting stars” were from these meteor showers. Thanks Ms. Palmisano for sharing your knowledge!

This is the 19th year of doing the Shark and Red Snapper Longline Survey. That’s a lot of data!

Animals Seen

Sharpnose, Rhizoprionodon terraenovae
blacknose, Carcharhinus acronotus
Sea Nettle, Chrysaora quinquecirrha
Sandbar, Carcharhinus plumbeus
Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini

Seastar

Volunteer Kevin Travis with a starfish that came up on a clip. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess
Volunteer Kevin Travis with a starfish that came up on a clip. Photo Credit: Claudia Friess

Julie Karre: A Day of No Fishing is Not a Day of Rest, July 27, 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 area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic
Date: July 27

Weather Data from the Bridge
W TO NW WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS
SEAS 1 TO 2 FT.

We departed Pascagoula yesterday with calm winds and steamy temperatures. Our team decided that with storms developing in and around the Gulf, it was best for us to head out to the Atlantic. So we’re all loaded in to hang out for a few days before the fishing begins.

Science and Technology Log

It would be easy to think of these traveling days as days of rest. But they are far from it. The ship’s crew and fishermen are hard at work each day keeping the ship running as it should. One of the tasks the fishing crew is responsible for is dealing with the rust that builds up on the ship. (Ok, seventh and eighth graders – why is rust such a problem for a ship?)

Because of the constant moisture, rust is a persistent problem on the ship, exacerbated by the salt. Whenever docked, the crew works tirelessly to get the ship into prime condition. Any of the deck equipment that can be removed gets taken to a workshop where it is sanded down to raw metal again and then galvanized. This increases the life of the equipment because galvanized steel doesn’t rust. That leaves all the parts that cannot be removed to be touched up piecemeal, as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols said. On a day like today – calm sea, light wind, and no fishing – the guys set to work on designated areas of the ship. Once an area of rust is identified, the rust must be removed. After removing the rust and vacuuming up all the dust and particles, the area gets primer painted twice and then its topcoat. The end result is a nice clean look to the boat.

Opening on the starboard side of the ship getting its rust removal makeover.
Opening on the starboard side of the ship getting its rust removal makeover.
Removing rust from the railing on the starboard side.
Skilled Fisherman Mike Conway removing rust from the railing on the starboard side.

In addition to keeping the ship in tip-top shape, it is essential to make sure all of the equipment used during the survey works appropriately. Around 9:40am, the Oregon II stopped moving and deployed a CTD unit (conductivity, temperature, depth). These cylinder shaped units carry tanks that bring water samples back to the ship from designated depths while the sensors read the water for its temperature, depth, and salinity.

Alongside the crew hard at work, the science team is busy doing work on sharks that came with us from Pascagoula. According to scientist Lisa Jones, some of these sharks are from surveys done to collect sharks following the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf in 2010. Others are sharks that needed further identification and information from surveys like the one I am on. Each shark is weighed and measured, sexed, and then internal organs are removed for further analysis, tissue samples are taken, and the remains of the shark are thrown overboard to reenter the food chain.

Mike recording data as Lead Scientist Kristen Hannan dissects a Gulper Shark from a previous survey.
Scientist Mike Hendon recording data as Lead Scientist Kristin Hannan dissects a Gulper Shark from a previous survey.

During this down time I was treated to a visit to the bridge, where officers steer the ship, among other things. NOAA Corps Officer LTjg Brian Adornato was on duty and offered me a glimpse of the technology that keeps us headed in the right direction. The Oregon II has one propeller controlled by two engines, which are both running while we steam across the Gulf. The boat was on its version of autopilot while I was visiting, which means the navigational heading is programmed and the boat is steered on that heading automatically. Whether steered by hand or computers, the ship is rarely perfectly on its heading. (Come on seventh and eighth graders – what factors are also influencing the ship’s movement?)

All of the navigation equipment driving the Oregon II.
All of the navigation equipment driving the Oregon II.

The wind and water are factors in how close the ship’s course over ground is to its heading. The waves, currents, and wind are all pushing the ship.

Personal Log

While the ship is buzzing with work, there is also lots of time to sit and share stories. I feel very lucky to be aboard the Oregon II at all, but to be aboard with such welcoming and friendly people feels like I hit the jackpot.

I share a room with NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor. She is on duty from 8 am – noon and from 8 pm to midnight. During those hours it is her job to drive the ship. I am on duty from noon to midnight, but during these days prior to fishing, I have a lot of free time. I have been reading, taking pictures, and hanging out with the others. The sleeping on the ship is easy and comfortable. And the food is delicious. Chief Steward Walter Coghlan is an excellent cook.

Some of the things that have caught me off guard should make perfect sense to my lovely seventh and eighth graders, like why I had a blurry camera. (Ok, kiddos – the ship is an air-conditioned vessel kept at cool temperatures to relieve the crew and scientists from the heat of the Gulf. What happens if you keep your camera in your room and bring it out onto the hot deck to take pictures?)

CONDENSATION! The cool glass of the lens becomes immediately foggy with condensation from the high temperatures outside.

It only took me one time of making that mistake and missing some great pictures because of it to learn my lesson. I now keep my camera in a room closer to the outside temperature so it’s always ready to take pictures – like this one of me in my survival suit! I’m also thrilled I didn’t miss the sunset.

The Abandon Ship drill requires everyone on board to get into a survival suit. It's not easy.
The Abandon Ship drill requires everyone on board to get into a survival suit. It’s not easy. – Photo Credit: Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin.
A beautiful sunset on my first night out at sea.
A beautiful sunset on my first night out at sea.
The sunset glistening on the calm water the second night.
The sunset glistening on the calm water the second night.

Did You Know?

Fathoms are a unit of measurement commonly used to measure the depth of a body of water. One fathom is exactly six feet.

Animals Seen

Flying Fish

Pilot Whales

Paul Ritter: Trap-Tastic – A Great Day in the Sun, July 18, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paul Ritter
Aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces
July 16– August 1, 2013 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographical area of cruise: Southeastern US Atlantic Ocean waters (continental shelf and shelf-break waters ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC to Port St. Lucie, FL)
Date: July 18, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge

7-18-13 ship data

Science and Technology Log

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Paul Ritter onboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Life at sea is crazy and amazing.  It is kind of like Forrest Gump would say “ you never know what you’re gonna get”.  Today we set out our first two sets of traps.  Six individual traps are baited up with a fish called Menhaden—Brevoortia tyrannus.

Menhaden are about 15 to 35 cm long and they very stinky.  They might stink more than any fish I have ever smelled.  Menhaden are high in oil and a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, which make them delicious to other fish and keeps them from having heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  It must work.  Think about it, I have never heard of a fish having a heart attack let alone Alzheimer’s.  Back to the traps….

Each trap gets four bait lines of Menhaden and then we cut up and throw in eight more just for good measure, kind of like they did in Jaws.  Once the bait is in, the trap door is shut, and cameras are put on tops of each trap.  One camera facing forward and one camera facing backwards completes the setup for the reef survey chevron trap.  The cool thing about the cameras on the traps is the front ones are Go Pro video cameras which are most often used in extreme sports.  I actually own two of them.  No. I am not really in to extreme sports.  We use them as helmet cams when we ride our four wheelers on trails.

The traps, which are individually numbered, are laid out on the aft deck (back) of the ship to prepare for sending them to the ocean floor.   An amazing feature of the ship is the ramp deck.  The moment Zeb “the chief scientist” gives the shout on the radio, Ryan “the skilled fisherman” (his actual title) pulls the lever and the back of the ship, or ramp deck, slides down.  It is at this point when the traps, cameras, and Menhaden are pushed off the back and all fly to the reef below.   It takes a little over a minute for the trap to reach the bottom which is around 70 meters or 223 feet deep.  Ninety minutes later we recover the traps one by one and inspect the catch.

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Menhaden bait fish dangling from stringers

Personal Log

Thursday July 18, 2013

Well, the great big exciting news for this expedition….  I don’t get sea sick.  Woo Hoo.  You might not think this is such an amazing thing but you have no idea how happy I am to be able to say this.  We had at least one person who got sick already and I am thankful not to have gone through it.

I woke up around 5:30 A.M. this morning to get ready for our first day of work.  Breakfast consisted of pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and juice.   I am here to tell you that the Chief Steward (Moises) aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces might be one of the best things to happen to her.   While I have only been on board for 48 hours, it is readily apparent that the crew has been well taken care of when it comes to eating.  Delicious.

After breakfast our team made our way to set up our video/chevron live trap on the aft (back)deck to prepare for the day’s work.  At around 7:45, we got the call from Zeb (the chief scientist) in the dry lab to start dropping traps.  First set of six traps made it into the water with no trouble.   Ninety minutes later we hauled them all back in one by one.  We emptied the live fish from the traps into tubs and placed them into the wet lab.  Zack Gillum, a graduate assistant from East Carolina University and my roommate for this expedition, and I carried the traps back to the aft deck and prepared them for re-baiting.  With the ship in full gear it only took about a half hour for us to reach our second drop zone or sampling area.

After our ninety minute bottom time, the traps came up, the traps were cleaned out and we were done sampling for the day.  The main reason we were done is that it was going to take us quite awhile to travel to our next sample site.    During this time of cleaning up, we emptied the traps, which were very smelly, and filled with half eaten Menhaden.  Wow they even stink after they have been underwater for ninety minutes.  which included swabbing the deck.  The only thing I could think of when we were scrubbing away is a song I learned during my childhood… It goes something like this….

Maybe you've heard the expression, "Swab the Deck?" It just means "Mop the Floor."
Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Swab the Deck?” It just means “Mop the Floor.”

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish),

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish),

If you’re a pirate and you know it, then your face will surely show it (swish, swish),

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish).

Trust me if you sing it once it will stick in your head the rest of your life, it has mine for the last 35 plus years.

Somewhere in the middle of about the 50th verse of the song, we had an emergency fire drill.  It was relatively easy.  We simply had to quickly make our way to our prearranged staging area.  No big deal.  Shortly after that the Captain of the Pisces called an emergency evacuation drill.  This drill was not quite as easy. We had to run to our stateroom, grab long sleeve t-shirts, long pants, a hat, and our survival suit.  Once on deck we had to don all of our gear in about sixty seconds.  Man that thing was hot and sweat was pouring off of me like water going over Niagara Falls.  What is worse, I looked like a giant red Gumby Doll.  After the drill we finished cleaning up our messes, and filleted all of our fish and whatever we do not need to keep for research, will get donated to the local food pantries.  NOAA is amazing and so are her people.

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Paul Ritter, in his ‘Gumby Suit’

 

Did You Know? 

Ships use different terms to describe direction on a ship.  They are easy to remember.

Port = left side

Starboard = Right side

Aft = Back

Virginia Warren: The Beginning of Life at Sea, July 11, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Great South Channel, near Nantucket
Date: July 11, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: SW winds 10 to 20 knots, seas 3 to 6 feet, widespread rain and scattered thunderstorms

Science and Technology Log:

The first part of the mission has been to tow the HabCam down the Great South Channel, around Nantucket, and then up part of Georges Bank. If you remember from my previous post, the HabCam stands for Habitat Camera Mapping System, which allows scientists to study the animals’ natural habitat. There are only two HabCams that have been built; the V2 which is an early prototype, and the V4 which is what we are using for this survey. This piece of equipment cost over 1.5 million dollars to design, develop, and build. One of the people on our science crew is the engineer that helped to design the frame built around the equipment to keep it safe. The HabCam has four strobe lights that enable the two cameras to be able to take 6 images per second. Not only does the HabCam have the capability of taking quality underwater images, but it also has sonar and several other data collectors that are capable of testing the water’s salinity, conductivity, pH, and more.

HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp
HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp

The scientists call the HabCam a vehicle. While the HabCam is deployed in the water, there are two people from the science crew that are always ‘flying’ the HabCam. They are called the pilot and co-pilot. The vehicle is tethered to the ship with a thick, fiber optic cable that also sends data information to the ship’s lab. The pilot uses a joy stick to fly the vehicle. Flying the HabCam vehicle can be a very tricky job because to fly it, the pilot walks a very fine line between having the vehicle close enough to the bottom of the ocean to get clear images and keeping the vehicle from crashing into huge boulders and underwater sand dunes. Pushing the joystick up allows the winch to let more cable out, which sends the vehicle closer to the bottom of the ocean. Pulling the joystick down, shortens the cable and brings the vehicle closer to the ship.

HabCam and Sonar View
The HabCam screen is on the bottom. The screen on top that looks like a desert is the sonar.

My job for the first half of the trip has been to take turns with the other day shift science crew members piloting and co-piloting the HabCam vehicle. The pilot keeps the vehicle at the correct depth, usually around 1.8 to 2.5 meters from the bottom of the ocean. The co-pilot annotates the images as they come from the HabCam. Annotating HabCam images entails quickly identifying objects in the image, such as a fish, crab, or scallop. This sounds easy enough, except that new images are flashing on the screen every second. Eventually the images will be color corrected on shore and annotated in greater detail.

Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.
Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.

The HabCam vehicle is also equipped with side scan sonar. In the pictures below (the ones that look like a picture of the desert) you can see the sand waves on the ocean floor and previous dredging marks.

Dredge Marks on Left Screen
Dredge Marks on Left Screen
Dredge Marks on Right Screen
Dredge Marks on Right Screen

Personal Log:

I began my journey by flying from Pensacola, Florida at 6 a.m. Sunday morning into Atlanta, Georgia’s airport. From Georgia I flew into Boston, Massachusetts and landed by about 12:30p.m. (That is 11:30 in Mobile time because Boston is an hour ahead of Mobile.) I was very excited to fly into Boston because as all of my students should know, Boston is a very important city for the American Revolutionary War as it is where the war started. I was able to tour the Old State House, which is where the Boston Massacre occurred, as well as explore the beautiful architecture that Boston has to offer! On my return trip home, I hope to be able to learn more about the history behind the city of Boston!

I stayed Sunday night in a hotel so that I would be able to catch a bus from Boston to Woods Hole bright and early Monday morning. Woods Hole is where I would meet up with the R/V Hugh R. Sharp. Woods Hole is an amazing little research community that is part of Cape Cod and has only one main street with a charming high bridge for the sail boats to enter or exit Eel Pond. I spent most of the day walking around and taking in the beautiful scenery of Wood’s Hole. That afternoon I was able to meet up with some the scientists that participate or have participated in scallop surveys. I slept on the ship that night and was able to get to know the ship’s crew and explore the ship.

My first day at sea was really nice. The ship crew made several comments about the water “looking like glass” because it was so calm. The Hugh R. Sharp has a really awesome ship crew. They were very welcoming and were open to any questions that I asked. As we left woods hole, the ship crew went over the safety procedures to follow should an emergency happen while we are at sea. My students should be happy to know that we even participated in a fire drill. I haven’t had any seasickness to speak of so far, knock on wood. The rocking of the ship actually made for some very sound sleeping!

The science crew shifts are broken into 12 hours. The night shift works from 12 midnight till 12 noon. The day shift works the opposite, 12 noon till 12 midnight. I am on the day shift working with the chief scientist.

Question of the Day:

Paul Ritter: Getting Ready to Sail with the Pisces and Her Crew! July 16, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paul Ritter
Almost on board NOAA Ship Pisces
July 16 – August 1, 2013

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographical area of cruise:southeastern US Atlantic Ocean waters (continental shelf and shelf-break waters ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC to Port St. Lucie, FL)
Date: July 16, 2013

Personal Log

My name is Paul Ritter and I am Biology and Earth Science teacher at Pontiac Township High School, in Pontiac, Illinois.  I have an amazing wife by the name of Jodee and am the proud papa to my two girls, Baylee and Taylor.  Even though I have only been gone for one day, I miss them already.  Pontiac is located 130 miles south of Chicago on Interstate 55.  Our community, where my wife, children, and I were born and raised,  is the epitome of Corn Town USA.  With that being said, our community does have several distinctions that set us apart from being a typical agricultural town.  Pontiac is home to the National Pontiac Automobile Museum, the Wall Dogs Museum for international artists, the National Route 66 museum, and a museum call the War Museum that showcases our service men and women who were in all of the major wars of the USA.  Our town is the number two tourism town in Illinois behind Chicago.  The number two largest landfill in the USA calls Pontiac home.  We have a maximum security prison that houses around 1,200 inmates.  Caterpillar, among other industry, is a valued company that hangs its hat in Pontiac. It hardly seems possible but this is my 20th year of being a teacher. You know, for me teaching is just as exciting today as it was that first year in the classroom.

The Ritter Family
The Ritter Family

Being from the Midwest, people from my region associate NOAA with our planet’s weather.  In reality, NOAA is so much more.  NOAA plays a major role in Environmental Satellite Data, Marine Fisheries, Oceans, Weather, and Atmospheric Research.  NOAA is so vitally important to the sustainability of our world.   It is for this exact reason that I applied to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  It is my goal to find real ways to integrate the amazing work of NOAA into our classes. My specific mission is aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces with the Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS) group which is a fishery-independent monitoring and research program targeting reef fish in southeast U.S. continental shelf waters.  Initiated in 2010, SEFIS works cooperatively with the long-term and ongoing Marine Resources Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction (MARMAP) sampling program to:

  • provide fishery-independent data to support reef fish stock assessments
  • perform reef fish ecology research, including, but not limited to
    • assessment of spatiotemporal distribution
    • habitat affiliation patterns
NOAA Ship Pisces was launched at VT Halter Marine, in Moss Point, Mississippi on December 19th, 2007, christened by Dr. Annette Nevin Shelby, wife of Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. Commissioned on November 6, 2009, Pisces is the third of four new Fisheries Survey Vessels to be built by NOAA. The ship was named Pisces by a team of five seventh grade students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven, Mississippi.
NOAA Ship Pisces was launched at VT Halter Marine, in Moss Point, Mississippi on December 19th, 2007, christened by Dr. Annette Nevin Shelby, wife of Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. Commissioned on November 6, 2009, Pisces is the third of four new Fisheries Survey Vessels to be built by NOAA. The ship was named Pisces by a team of five seventh grade students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven, Mississippi.

Monday July 15, 2013

I woke up extra early for some reason around 5:00 A.M even though the night before was a late night with the final night of my daughter Baylee’s play, the Little Mermaid.  Excited and anxious about leaving on my great expedition, I knew I needed to get out of the house or I was going to wake everyone else.  I headed to town and filled up the car with fuel.  Wanting to waste some time, I headed to some of our local stores to get some last minutes for the trip.  Around 8:30, Jodee and the girls drove me to the airport in Bloomington, Illinois.  It was exciting and sad at the same time.   I was very much looking forward to my expedition, but I wished I could take the family to be a part of the adventure.  We have had so many adventures together and I know they would have had a great time.  Maybe next time.  I flew from Bloomington to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and then finally landing in Jacksonville, Florida.  The ride from Bloomington to Chicago was quick and easy but the same could not be said for the next leg of the flight to Florida.

Our plane to Jacksonville was around 30 minutes late to land in Chicago and then when finally aboard we taxied around the runway for about 25 minutes.  It felt like we were on a behind the scenes tour of O’Hare.  I was waiting for the pilot to come over the announcements and say “Ladies and gentlemen if you look to your right you can see Lake Michigan”.  Finally in the air, somewhere over Georgia we hit the turbulence.  Man it was bumpy.  While this was going on, I took the opportunity to get to know the guy who was next to me in seat 11B.  Ironically, we went to the same college at the same time and lived in the same dormitory.  Small world.  We finally arrived in Jacksonville and off to the hotel I went.  You know it is funny,  I have been so fortunate to be able to travel to some amazing places, but I have never been on a ship in the ocean for pleasure or otherwise.  I am not really sure if I will get sea sick or not.  I’m thinking not, but I am guessing I will find out very quickly.

Tuesday July 16, 2013

Dr. Zeb Schobernd and the rest of the scientists are making their way down to meet me in Jacksonville to pick me up at the hotel.  Here is another very cool part of this trip….  Zeb’s hometown, which is Bloomington, Illinois, is only 35 miles from where my family I live.   From there we are headed to the Pisces which is in port to spend our first night on board.  I look forward to getting to know my new shipmates.

Did You Know?  NOAA does more than just weather? In fact, NOAA is involved in every aspect of our amazing world.  Here are some of their divisions. ·  National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service ·  National Marine Fisheries Service ·  National Ocean Service ·  National Weather Service ·  Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research  

Julie Karre: I’m Going Out to Sea! July 15, 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 Location: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 15, 2013

Pre-cruise Log

My dad can often be heard saying “it takes so little to amuse you.”

I’m generally excited about everything – a vacation to Hood River, Oregon, a night in watching reruns of The West Wing, a perfectly delicious homemade lasagna, watching Danny MacAskill’s Imaginate videos. There is really no limit to the things that make me happy and excited. It should come as no surprise then that when I was accepted to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I first called my parents and excitedly yelled into the phone “I’m going out to seeeaaaaaa!”

I love science and exploration so much I was Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus for Halloween!
I love science and exploration so much I was Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus for Halloween!

I am early in my teaching career and to have such an incredible opportunity at this time is something to truly be excited about. I began teaching Language Arts in Baltimore City Public Schools five years ago. I currently teach seventh and eighth Language Arts at Armistead Gardens Elementary/Middle School. One of my favorite things about being a Language Arts teacher is that it means I can do so many different things with my students as we grow in reading, writing, and thinking critically.

Some of you may be wondering “What the heck is a Language Arts teacher doing on this science research cruise?” I have many passions and environmental science is one of them. Two years ago I began teaching a semester-long unit on human impact and climate change. We started with water. For a few days, we became the water cycle so we could understand how water works, whether humans are here on Earth or not. And then we looked at how humans change the water cycle by changing the landscape and adding cities. Then we studied groundwater and water contamination by heading to the science lab and building groundwater models. Following water we went on land – looking at landforms, the most common land uses, and looking deeply at the costs and benefits of industrial vs. organic agriculture. After that, we took some time to really understand plastic – how it is used and how it breaks down. We spent a week looking deeply at what plastic is doing to our oceans, reading “Swirling Seas of Plastic” from ScienceNewsforKids.com. This was a really emotionally powerful unit for my classes as we looked at numerous pictures of animals whose lives are imperiled by plastic trash. Before winter break we finished up with looking at oil – what it is and where it comes from, drilling, and oil spills, even simulating an oil spill and clean up with pie plates filled with water, which I then poured vegetable oil into and challenged the students to clean up. Finally we put the pieces together and looked at climate change when we returned from break.

We built groundwater models. This one got a little flooded.
We built groundwater models. This one got a little flooded.
Groups hard at work trying to clean up an oil spill (vegetable oil in water). They had pipettes, yarn, cotton balls, coffee filters, and their brains to figure it out!
Groups hard at work trying to clean up an oil spill (vegetable oil in water). They had pipettes, yarn, cotton balls, coffee filters, and their brains to figure it out!

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We read practical informational texts along with Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, which gave my students a glimpse of what a future looks like if we keep exploiting our natural resouces.  We asked questions of each other and ourselves about what it all meant in our Baltimore community and for our nation and our world. When it was all done, each student chose a unique topic connected to one of our main ideas (water, land, plastic, oil, and climate change) and created their own informational text. Each class created a magazine. Few projects have been more exciting to be a part of or made me prouder of the finished product.

This unit of study (and a helpful friend) is what motivated me to apply for this hands-on experience at sea. I am looking forward to spending two weeks in the Gulf of Mexico, a region to which I have never been, doing this important work. My cruise will focus on coastal shark and red snapper populations. We will be catching sharks and red snappers, implanting tracking devices as well as taking measurements, before releasing them back to the wild. We will also be testing the water for temperature, salinity, and depth. The idea of being a part of a group doing this kind of research makes me even more excited than when the final Harry Potter book was released. And that is saying something.

As my time at sea draws nearer, I get more and more excited about how I will incorporate everything I learn and the research that I am a part of into next year’s science-based semester: Ecosystems In and Out of Balance. My seventh graders, who will soon be my eighth graders, eagerly await my updates about sharks and my adventures at sea. Many have promised to follow my blog and track the ship online.

Aside from teaching, my life includes the most amazing short-legged, long-bodied, huge-headed dog, named Maddox, a Husky-Corgi mix. I adopted Maddox during my second year of teaching and we have had some wonderful adventures together. Each summer we leave the Baltimore heat for the lakes of Michigan, where I grew up, and can spend as much time as we can doing the things we love. We walk, hike, paddle, and play. As a lover of Lake Michigan and a child described as a fish growing up, I am sure that this time in the Gulf of Mexico will only make my love of the water greater.  And while I’m sad Maddox can’t come on this grand adventure with me, I know that when I return, my fluffy boy will be all kisses and snuggles and no hard feelings.

I can't wait to compare the colors of Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.
I can’t wait to compare the colors of Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.
Maddox LOVES the water and is an excellent kayaking companion.
Maddox LOVES the water and is an excellent kayaking companion.

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I hope you will join me on this adventure by following my blog and taking an interest in the research I will be a part of on the Oregon IIPlease feel free to post questions in the comments below!

On my trip to Portland, Oregon earlier this summer, I gave my legs a real workout hiking Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia River.
On my trip to Portland, Oregon earlier this summer, I gave my legs a real workout hiking Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Now I’m headed out to sea on the Oregon II to give my muscles and my brain an experience of a lifetime!
Photo courtesy of http://www.moc.noaa.gov/ot/
The Oregon II in 2007.                                                           Photo courtesy of http://www.moc.noaa.gov/ot/

Virginia Warren: Introduction, June 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Personal Log:

Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello, my name is Virginia Warren and I live in Theodore, Alabama. I teach 5th grade science and social studies at Breitling Elementary School in Grand Bay. I am really excited to have been chosen by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to be a part of their Teacher at Sea program! I believe that one of my biggest responsibilities as a teacher is to educate my students about the importance of protecting and conserving the earth and its seas so that they will continue to thrive for many generations to come. Both Theodore and Grand Bay are only minutes from the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast has abundance of what I think are the prettiest, sugar-white-sand beaches the world has to offer. Growing up on the Gulf Coast has created a love and passion in my heart for the sea and all the wonder creatures that live in it! I’m so thankful to NOAA for giving me the opportunity to be a real scientist and to learn more about the scientific research behind protecting the seas that I love so much.

Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama!  Courtesy of https://i0.wp.com/dibeachhouses.com/resources/beach_front_condo_rental_on_dauphin_island.JPG?resize=400%2C266
Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama! 

Science and Technology Log:

I will be sailing from Woods Hole, Massachusetts aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp to participate in an Atlantic sea scallop survey. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp was built in 2006, is 146 feet long, and is the newest vessel in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment fleet. You can take a virtual tour of the ship by clicking here. If you would like to follow the ship while I am at sea you can track the ship here (Google Earth is required).

R/V Hugh R. Sharp Courtesy of http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2013/navy-researchers-reservists-evaluate-novel-passive-sonar-surveillance-methods
R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Courtesy of http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2013/navy-researchers-reservists-evaluate-novel-passive-sonar-surveillance-methods

The purpose of a sea scallop survey is to protect this important fishery from being over-harvested. Traditionally scientists will dredge the bottom of the ocean with a scallop dredge to collect samples. NOAA uses the information collected from the surveys to make decisions about which areas are okay to harvest scallops.

Atlantic Sea Scallop Courtesy of http://www.vims.edu/features/research/scallop_management.php
Atlantic Sea Scallop
Courtesy of http://www.vims.edu/features/research/scallop_management.php

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is equipped with a relatively new piece of equipment called the HabCam, short for Habitat Camera Mapping System. The HabCam is a less invasive way to survey populations and allows scientists to see what is on the ocean floor. This is an alternative method of surveying, compared to dredging. I look forward to learning how both methods of surveying work.

What I Hope to Learn:

I am so excited to be able to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a real scientist and to be able to participate in a genuine research experience. I hope to learn more about the scientific process and pass the knowledge I learn on to my students. I am also excited to learn about the different types of sea life found in the North West Atlantic Ocean and compare that with what I know of sea life from home on the Gulf of Mexico.

Please follow me on this adventure as I post my experiences on this blog. Let me know what you think by leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of every blog entry.

Sue Cullumber: Reflections – From the Atlantic to Arizona, June 26, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/26/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

1stgroup
Our first group for the EcoMon Survey. Kat, Kevin, Holly, Chris, Tom, Sue, Chris, and Cristina.

Personal Log: Well I’m back in my home state of Arizona.  It is really hot, the forecast is for it to be above 110º, and I miss the cool breezes of the Atlantic Ocean.  I am happy to be back in Arizona, but I will miss all the people, the marine creatures and the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.  I will remember  this experience for the rest of my life and look forward to sharing this exciting adventure with my students, friends and family.

2ndgroup2
Our 2nd group for the EcoMon Survey. Tom, Kris, Cristina, David, Sue, Chris, Kevin and Sarah.

On the last two days onboard we finished up our EcoMon Survey and had time to add 23 more Bongo Stations.  These were completed in two areas with the first just east of Maryland and the second off the coast of North Carolina. As we headed east of North Carolina we went into the Gulf Stream and the water temperature started to increase. At these stations our samples contained more larval fish than previously. We even brought up some deep-sea fish in two of these samples. One was a species of Gonostoma and the second a Hatchet fish. Both were fairly small and black with iridescent colors and had large mouths with many teeth.

deepseafish6_22
A fish, from the species Gonostoma, that was brought up in our Bongo net.
deepseahatchet6_22
A Hatchet fish in our Bongo net sample.

Our drifter buoy, WMO # 44932,  has been showing some movement since being deployed (to track movement, put GTS buoy for data set and WMO # for platform ID).  Currently it is at latitude/ longitude:  38.73ºN, 73.61ºW.  It does appear to be moving inland, but hopefully it will catch the current and start moving further into the Atlantic.  We will be tracking it at Howard Gray over the next year.

margaretcrablegs
Margaret Coyle, our chief steward, serving Alaskan crab legs.

Last day on the Gordon Gunter, Margaret, the chief steward, prepared a special meal for all of us.  The spread included: Alaskan crab legs, roast duck with plum sauce, NY loin strip Oscar, grilled salmon, asparagus, red potatoes, Italian rolls, cream of potato and bacon soup (which I had at lunch, delicious) and cranberry cheesecake.  I choose the crab, duck, asparagus, potatoes, and cheesecake – heavenly!!!  I probably shouldn’t have had the cheesecake as well,  but it was just delicious!  Margaret always had so many great choices it was really hard to make up your mind.

dolphinbottlenose
Bottlenose Dolphin at the bow of the Gordon Gunter.

Our last night on the Gordon Gunter was amazing. We had another unbelievable sunset with fantastic colors.  A friend of mine from Arizona said, “It makes our Arizona sunsets look very bland and I think they are some of the best I’ve seen.”  Then a group of Bottlenose dolphins visited the bow of the ship, so it was truly a remarkable night I will always remember.

sunsetfinal
Our final sunset on the Gordon Gunter.
sueongunter6_24
Enjoying the cool breezes of the Atlantic Ocean.

Question of the day? :  Why do you think the deep-sea fish have such large mouths?

Sue Cullumber: Drifting Away, June 21, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/21/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:  Time:  21.00 (9 pm)
Latitude/longitude:  3734.171ºN, 7507.538ºW
Temperature: 20.1ºC
Barrometer: 1023.73 mb
Speed: 9.6 knots

IMG_0878
Getting ready to launch the buoy – photo by Chris Taylor.
launchingdrifter
Launching the buoy from the ship’s stern – photo by Chris Taylor.

Science and Technology Log: 

This week we launched a Global Drifter Buoy (GDB) from the stern of the Gordon Gunter.  So what is a GDB? Basically it is a satellite tracked surface drifter buoy.  The drifter consists of a surface buoy, about the size of a beach ball, a drogue, which acts like a sea anchor and is attached underwater to the buoy  by a 15 meter long tether.

Drifter tracking: The drifter has a transmitter that sends data to passing satellites which provides the latitude/longitude of the drifter’s location. The location is determined from 16-20 satellite fixes per day.  The surface buoy contains 4 to 5  battery packs that each have 7-9 alkaline D-cell batteries, a transmitter, a thermistor to measure sea surface temperature, and some even have other instruments  to measure barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, salinity, and/or ocean color. It also has a submergence sensor to verify the drogue’s presence. Since the drogue is centered 15 meters underwater it  is able to measure mixed layer currents in the upper ocean. The drifter has a battery life of about 400 days before ending transmission.

buoy
Stickers from students at Howard Gray School.
decoratingdrifter
Attaching the stickers to the buoy – photo by Kris Winiarski.

Students at the Howard Gray School in Scottsdale, Arizona designed stickers that were used to decorate the buoy. The stickers have messages about the school, Arizona and NOAA so that if the buoy is ever retrieved this will provide information on who launched it.  In the upcoming year students at Howard Gray will be tracking the buoy from the satellite-based system  Argos that is used to collect and process the drifter data. You can follow our drifter here, by putting in the data set for the GTS buoy with a Platform ID of 44932 and select June 19, 2013 as the initial date of the deployment.

Why are drifter buoys deployed?

In 1982 the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) determined that worldwide drifter buoys (“drifters”) would be extremely important for oceanographic and climate research. Since then drifters have been placed throughout the world’s oceans to obtain information on ocean dynamics, climate variations and meteorological conditions.

IMG_0886
The Howard Gray School drifter on its ocean voyage.

NOAA’s Global Drifter Program (GDP) is the main part of the Global Surface Drifting Buoy Array, NOAA’s branch of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).  It has two main objectives:

1. Maintain a 5×5 worldwide degree array (every 5 degrees of the latitude/longitude of world’s oceans) of the 1250 satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys to maintain an accurate and globally set of on-site observations that include:  mixed layer currents, sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, winds and salinity.

2. Provide a data processing system of this data for scientific use.

bongossunset
Bongo nets going out for the plankton samples.
meshsamples
Plankton from the different mesh sizes. The left is from the smaller mesh and contains much more sample. Photo by Paula Rychtar.

EcoMon survey: We are continuing to take plankton samples and this week we started taking two different Bongo samples at the same station. Bongo mesh size (size of the holes in the net) was changed several years ago to a smaller mesh size of .33 mm. However, they need comparison samples for the previous nets that were used and had a mesh size of about .5 mm.  They had switched to the smaller net size because they felt that they were losing a large part of the plankton sample (basically plankton were able to escape through the larger holes). We are actually able to see this visually in the amount of samples that we obtain from the different sized mesh.

dolphinflying
Common Dolphins were frequent visitors to the Gordon Gunter.

Personal Log:

It’s hard to believe that my Teacher at Sea days are coming to a close. I have learned so much about life at sea, the ocean ecosystem, the importance of plankton, data collection, and the science behind it all.  I will miss the people, the ocean and beautiful sunsets and the ship, but I’m ready to get back to Arizona to share my adventure with my students, friends and family. I want to thank all the people that helped me during this trip including: the scientists and NOAA personnel, the NOAA Corps and ship personnel, the bird observers and all others on the trip.

Did you know? Drifters have even been placed in many remote locations that are infrequently visited or difficult to get to through air deployment.  They are invaluable tools in tracking and predicting the intensity of hurricanes, as well.

Question of the day?  What information would you like to see recorded by a Global Drifter Buoy and why?

shipsunset-2
Another beautiful sunset at sea.

Sue Cullumber: Testing the Water and More, June 19, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/19/2013
Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude/longitude: 3853.256 N, 7356.669W
Temperature: 18.6ºC
Barometer: 1014.67 mb
Speed: 9.7 knots

CTDscreen
CTD reading on the computer. Blue is density, red is salinity, green is temperature and black indicates the depth.

Science and Technology Log:

Even before the plankton samples are brought onboard, scientists start recording many types of data when the equipment is launched. The bongos are fitted with an electronic CTD (conductivity, temperature and density) and as they are lowered into the ocean the temperature, density and salinity (salt content) are recorded on a computer. This helps scientists with habitat modeling and determining the causes for changes in the zooplankton communities. Each bongo net also has a flow-through meter which records how much water is moving through the net during the launch and can is used to estimate the number of plankton found in one cubic meter of water.

ZIplankton
Zooplankton (Z) and Icthyoplankton (I) samples.

The plankton collected from the two bongo nets are separated into two main samples that will be tested for zooplankton and icthyoplankton (fish larvae and eggs). These get stored in a glass jars with either ethanol or formalin to preserve them. The formalin samples are sent to a lab in Poland for counting and identification. Formalin is good for preserving the shape of the organism, makes for easy identification, and is not flammable, so it can be sent abroad.  However, formalin destroys the genetics (DNA) of the organisms, which is why ethanol is used with some of the samples and these are tested at the NOAA lab in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

sueplankton
Holding one of our zooplankton samples – photo by Paula Rychtar.

When the samples are returned from Poland, the icthyoplankton samples are used by scientists to determine changes in the abundance of the different fish species. Whereas, the zooplankton samples are often used in studies on climate change. Scientists have found from current and historic research (over a span of about 40 years) that there are changes in the distribution of different species and increases in temperature of the ocean water.

At the Rosette stations we take nutrient samples from the different water depths. They are testing for nitrates, phosphates and silicates. Nutrient samples are an important indicator of zooplankton productivity. These nutrients get used up quickly near the surface by phytoplankton during the process of photosynthesis (remember phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain and are producers). As the nutrients pass through the food chain (zooplankton eating phytoplankton and then on up the chain) they are returned to the deeper areas by the oxidation of the sinking organic matter. Therefore, as you go deeper into the ocean these nutrients tend to build up.  The Rosettes also have a CTD attached to record conductivity, temperature and density at the different depths.

Chris-DICtests
Scientist, Chris Taylor, completing the dissolved inorganic carbon test.
CO2test
The dissolved inorganic carbon test uses chemicals to stop any further biological processes and suspend the CO2 in “time”.

Another test that is conducted on the Rosettes is for the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon. This test is an indicator of the amount of carbon dioxide that the ocean uptakes from outside sources (such as cars, factories or other man-made sources). Scientists want to know how atmospheric carbon is affecting ocean chemistry  and marine ecosystems and changing the PH (acids and bases) of the ocean water. One thing they are interested in is how this may be affecting the formation of calcium in marine organisms such as clams, oysters, and coral.

New word: oxidation – the chemical combination of a substance with oxygen.

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Cape Cod canal.

Personal Log:

This week we headed back south and went through the Cape Cod canal outside of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I had to get up a little earlier to see it, but it was well worth it.  The area is beautiful and there were many small boats and people enjoying the great weather.

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Small boat bringing in a new group to the Gordon Gunter.

We also did a small boat transfer to bring five new people onboard, while three others left at the same time. It was hard to say goodbye, but it will be nice to get to know all the new faces.

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Common Dolphins swimming next to the Gordon Gunter.

So now that we are heading south the weather is warming up. I have been told that we may start seeing Loggerhead turtles as the waters warm up – that would be so cool.  We had a visit by another group of Common Dolphins the other day. They were swimming along the side of the ship and then went up to the bow. They are just so fun to watch and photograph.

We have been seeing a lot of balloons (mylar and rubber) on the ocean surface. These are released into the air by people, often on cruise ships, and then land on the surface. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds often mistake these for jelly fish and eat them.  They can choke on the balloons or get tangled in the string, frequently leading to death. Today, we actually saw more balloons than sea birds!!! A good rule is to never release balloons into the air no matter where you live!

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A mylar balloon seen in the water by our ship.

Did you know?  A humpback whale will eat about 5000 pounds of krill in a day. While a blue whale eats about 8000 pounds of krill daily.

Question of the day?  If 1000 krill = 2 pounds, then together how many krill does a humpback and blue whale consume on a daily basis.

Blue Whale, Balaenoptera Musculus
Blue Whale, Balaenoptera Musculus

Sue Cullumber: Navigating for Plankton – It’s a Team Effort! June 15, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date:  6/15/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude/longitude:  4234.645N, 6946.914W
Temperature: 15.4ºC, 60ºF
Barometer: 1011.48 mb
Speed: 9.4 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Plankton is everywhere throughout the ocean, so how are the stations chosen and mapped?

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Looking over the map of our strata – photo by Cristina Bascuñán

Scientists first decide on a specific region or strata that they want to sample.  Then within this strata a specific number of stations is determined for sampling.  NOAA has developed a computer program that then randomly selects stations in the strata.  After these stations are generated, scientists play “connect the dots” to find the best route to get to all the stations. Once the route is generated adjustments are made based on time, weather and the team’s needs. These are plotted on a map and sent to the ship to see if further adjustments will need to be made.

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Map of our area of strata. We are currently following the red line. Many of the original stations to the east were dropped from the survey.

When the ship receives the map from the science party, they plot all the stations and make a track line to determine the shortest navigable route that they can take. Frequently the map that is originally provided has to be adjusted due to weather, navigation issues (if there is a shoal, or low area, the route may have to be changed), or ship problems. Once they come up with a plan, this has to be re-evaluated on a daily basis. For example during our survey we left four days later than planned, so many of the stations had to be taken out. Furthermore a large storm was coming in, so the route was changed again to avoid this weather. The Operation’s Officer onboard (Marc Weekley on the Gordon Gunter) speaks with the science party on a daily basis to keep the plan up to date and maintain a safe route throughout the survey.

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The Gyro Compass on the Gordon Gunter.
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The Sperry Marine – shows the location of vessels near the Gordon Gunter.
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Commanding Officer, Jeff Taylor, at the bridge with Ops Officer, Marc Weekley at the watch.

Ship Technology: The Gordon Gunter and all other NOAA vessels use many types of equipment to navigate the ship.  They have an electronic Gyro Compass which is constantly spinning to point to True North (not magnetic north).  This is accurate to a 10th of a degree and allows for other navigation systems on the ship to know with great accuracy what direction the ship is pointing. It also is used to steer the ship in auto pilot. When needed they can switch to manual control and hand steer the ship. They also have a magnetic compass onboard, if all electronics were to go out on the ship.  Also on the bridge are two radars, which provides position of all boats in the area and is used for collision avoidance. Underway, the Captain requires the ship to stay at least 1 nautical mile from other vessels unless he gives commands otherwise.

Once a station is reached the ship has to position itself so it will not go over the wire that is attached to the survey equipment.  Taking into consideration all of  the elements, which includes the wind speed, current weather conditions and the speed of the current, they usually try to position the boat so that the wind is on its port side.  In this way the wind is on the same side as the gear and it will not hit the propellors or the hull. The ship’s sonars determine the depth of the ocean floor and the scientists use this information to lower their equipment to a distance just above this depth.

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Cathleen Turner and Kevin Ryan take water samples from the Rosette.

Vocabulary:

Bow – front of the ship

Stern – back of the ship

Port – left of bow

Starboard – right of bow

Personal Log: 

Brrr… it’s cold!  To avoid the big storm we headed north to the Bay of Fundy that is located between Maine and Nova Scotia.  Seas were fairly calm, but was it cold at 9º C (48ºF), but with the wind chill it was probably closer to 5.5ºC (42ºF)!  We are now heading south so it is starting to warm up, but luckily it won’t be as hot as Arizona!

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Loggerhead turtle being tracked by a Blue Shark – photo by Tom Johnson
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Shearwater trying to take off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to take photos of animals in the ocean is very difficult.  You have to be in the right place, at the right time, and be ready. Today we saw several sightings of whales, but they were in the distance and only lasted a second.  During this trip, there was also a sighting of a shark attacking a Loggerhead turtle, but by the time I got to the bridge we had passed it by.  Lately we have seen a great variety of sea birds including:  shearwaters, puffins, sea gulls, and about twenty fiver other types. Even though it can be a little frustrating at times, it is still very calming to look out over the ocean and the sunsets are always amazing!

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Sailing into a beautiful sunset

I can’t believe that there is only one week left for the survey.  Time has gone so fast and I have learned so much.  Tomorrow we are doing a boat exchange and some people are leaving while others will come onboard.  I will miss those people that are leaving the ship, but look forward to meeting new people that will join our team.

Did you know?  The ratio of different salts (ions) in the ocean water are the about same in all of the world’s oceans.

puffin
One of the pufffins we saw up by Maine.

Sue Cullumber: Plankton, Food for the Sea! June 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/13/13
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:  Time:  8:25 am
Latitude/ Longitude:  4200.0122N, 6758.0338W
Temperature:  12.4ºC
Barometer:  1007.26mb
Speed:  9.1 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Why study plankton?  Plankton are at the bottom of the food chain. Remember they are free floating organisms that drift with the currents. That means that they provide food for many other animals and those animals are then eaten by larger animals and so on.  Therefore, plankton are important in the fact that if something happens to them, then the whole food chain is affected.

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Scientist, Chris Taylor, and Fisherman, Cliff Ferguson, bring the Bongo net back onto the ship.

So researchers are interested in learning all about the different types of plankton, their distribution and abundance in the ocean.  They want to answer questions such as: Have these factors changed over time?  Are we finding different kinds of plankton in different locations?  Has the amount of plankton changed?  How do the changes in the abundance and species of plankton affect higher trophic (feeding) levels?

Types of Plankton:

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Phytoplankton on the surface of the water.

Phytoplankton – The plants of the sea. They carry out photosynthesis, so they are found in the water column where light is able to reach. This can vary depending on how clear the water is.  If water is very clear, they can be found at deeper levels because the light can penetrate farther.  These are the primary producers of the ocean, providing food for the first order consumers – mainly some types of zooplankton.

Amphipods, the two larger organims, and Copepods, the pink organisms– some of the many types of zooplankton we are finding.

Zooplankton – Animal-like plankton.  These vary immensely by size, type, and location. They are classified by their taxonomy, size, and how long they stay planktonic (some only are planktonic in a larval stage where others are for their entire life) .  These plankton are consumers with some eating the phytoplankton and others eating other zooplankton. These are extremely important as larger consumers eat them and then even larger organisms eat these.

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Fish larvae in among some copepods.

Icthyoplankton – Fish larvae or eggs. These float and drift in the water and, therefore, are considered planktonic.  Since these are only planktonic for part of their life, they are called meroplankton.  Organisms that are planktonic their entire life are called holoplankton.

Vocabulary:

Plankton – free floating organisms that drift with the current.

Trophic level – position an organism occupies in the food chain.

Taxonomy – how scientists classify organisms.

Holoplankton – organisms that are planktonic their entire lives.

Meroplankton – organisms that are planktonic for only part of their lives.

I interviewed our lead scientist onboard the Gordon Gunter who studies plankton:

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Lead Scientist – Chris Melrose

Name: Chris Melrose

What is your Position? Research Oceanographer

What do you do?  Principal investigator on  the Northeast Fisheries’ Ship of Opportunity project.  We collect data from merchant vessels that are crossing areas that we are interested in. I also work on the Ecosystem Monitoring Surveys where my main area of interest is primary production and phytoplankton. They are the base of the food web and tell you a lot about the functioning of a marine ecosystem.  Much of my work was in coastal regions where there were concerns about eutrophication, the enhanced primary production due to inputs of nutrients from pollution.

Why is your work so important?  We are studying the planet we all live on and we are in a period of environmental change. Long term monitoring programs, like this one, allow us to compare data from the present with the past to see how things have changed and also helps us to make predictions about what will happen in the future.

Why did you decide to become a marine scientist and work with NOAA and ocean science?  I grew up on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and always had an interest in the ocean. It was a hobby, but now it’s a career.

What do you enjoy most? I like science and being able to be out in the field – it is more of an adventure than just being in a lab.

What part of your job is most unexpected? When you are out in the ocean, there are always surprises – nature, weather or difficulties with ships, so you always have to be ready to adapt.

How long have you worked for NOAA and as a marine scientist?  From 1998 to 2004 I was with NOAA as a graduate student, from 2004 to 2010 as a contract employee and in 2011 I became a full-time employee.

What is your favorite type of plankton?  Diatoms because they have so many different shapes and geometric designs.

What is your favorite marine animal? Octopus as they are clever and it is amazing how they can change their color and shape.

If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them?  Science and math are very important and you would need to attend graduate school.

What type of education do you need? At least a master’s degree to become a research scientist.

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Spraying down the Bongo nets – photo by Chris Melrose.

Personal Log:  

I am now getting use to my shift, noon to midnight.  At each station we put out the Bongo nets or Rosettes (more often the Bongos) and then we have to wash them down and strain out the plankton in a sieve to be saved later for the research. It gets a little harder and colder towards the end of the shift, but it has been very interesting seeing all the variety of plankton we are finding and how it changes from station to station.

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Waves were a little higher during a very foggy day on the Gordon Gunter.

Yesterday was very foggy and a little more rocky.  It was very hard to see anything, but still beautiful to look at the ocean around us.  Today it is clearer, but still somewhat rocky.  Sightings have been few, but we were able to catch some whales in the distance by seeing them “blow” – spirt out water through their blow holes.  A Storm is on the forecast and we have had to change our route. We will not be going as far east as planned and will head north to avoid the main barrage of the storm.

The ocean is such an amazing place, with all its life and vastness. It makes you realize just how small you are and how big the world really is!

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Sunset off the stern of the Gordon Gunter.
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Euphausid- commonly known as krill

Did you know? Many types of whales feed exclusively on euphausid (or krill), a shrimp like zooplankton.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of plankton?

Eric Velarde: ¡Preparando Para el Viaje! (Preparing for the Trip!) June 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Velarde
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Wednesday, June 13, 2013 – Tuesday, June 24, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Cape May – Cape Hatteras
Date: June 10, 2013

Personal Log

Mr. Velarde & Rudy (the family poodle)
Mr. Velarde & Rudy (the family poodle)

¡Hola! I am Mr. Eric Velarde, 9th-12th grade Honors Earth/Environmental Science, Honors Biology, and Physical Science teacher at The Early/Middle College at Bennett in Greensboro, NC. I have had the distinct honor of experiencing my first 3 years of teaching at a truly wonderful, unique learning community. The Early/Middle College at Bennett is located on the historic campus of Bennett College and serves as a nurturing learning environment for aspiring, young women. Our students are engaged in their learning through academic scholarship, leadership & character development, and service to others.

I am intensely excited about sharing this research experience with my students, colleagues, and the general public. It is my plan to create several interactive, engaging, and personalized learning modules from the experience that educators can easily access and adapt for their students. These learning modules will focus on utilizing NOAA’s research, 21st century technology, and collaborative learning strategies to leverage the participation of historically underrepresented groups in the atmospheric & ocean science fields in America. In addition, I plan to use my experience with photography to help unveil the details behind ocean science research careers to provide students with an in-depth experience of what it feels like to be a scientist at sea.

R/V Hugh R. Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Image Courtesy of NOAA)

I will be aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp from June 13th-25th to assist the Ecosystems Survey Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in a survey of the Atlantic Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) to determine distribution and abundance in the mid-Atlantic. Biological analysis will occur through ocean-floor dredging, sorting & categorization of specimens, and Hab-Cam photography. Data collected will be used to assess the abundance of the population, health of the population, and the sustainability status of the fishery.

The Grand Canyon in Summer 2009
The Grand Canyon in Summer 2009

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona has instilled in me a deep, sincere love of Geology & Geography which I still hold today. Upon moving to Greensboro, NC I began to shift my interests towards Agriculture through involvement with the National FFA Organization. My undergraduate career consisted of juggling the study of Biology, Women’s Studies, and Photography at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As my 2010 graduation neared, I enrolled in the UNC-Baccalaureate Education in Science & Teaching (UNC-BEST) program to prepare for lateral entry licensure as a high school science teacher. Upon graduation I promptly earned employment with Guilford County Schools with my current school, where I worked for 2 years before earning my licensure with Guilford County Schools Alternative Certification Track (GCS-ACT). I am now a licensed educator and I plan on spending the rest of my life in education.

Sisters in Science & LSAMP Scholar Collaborative Lab
Sisters in Science & LSAMP Scholar Collaborative Lab

Working with our higher-education partner, Bennett College, has afforded me a significant amount of working time and space to facilitate character development within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields with the Sisters in Science (SIS) mentorship program. Select Early/Middle college students who express interest in STEM are paired with a Bennett College Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholar to help foster their interest in STEM. Students perform laboratory experiments, participate in service learning initiatives, travel to scientific conferences, and attend scientific lectures with their mentors. SIS has now expanded to include Brothers & Sisters in Science (BSIS) for Middle School students, and continues to reap the benefits of funding from the Anne L. & George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust Foundation.

Nowadays I find myself constantly reassessing how I’ve facilitated a culture of lifelong learning, college & career readiness, and scientific curiosity in my students. Through professional development with North Carolina New SchoolsNational Youth Leadership Council, and the numerous opportunities provided by my school administrative team I have been able to begin to focus on character development, a growing passion of mine.

It is clear that this will be a significantly enriching experience both for myself and for students. More opportunities like the Teacher at Sea program are needed to help leverage teacher understanding of the size and scope of the field of science if we are to continue to advance our education, technology, and ultimately, our humanity into the far reaches of the Universe.

All the best,

-Mr. V

Sue Cullumber: Hooray, We Are Finally on Our Way! June 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/10/13
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time:  21:30 (9:30 pm)
Longitude/latitude: 40.50289N, 68.76736W
Temperature  14.1ºC
Barrometer 1017.35 mb
Knots  10.2

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Leaving Newport – photo by Chris Melrose.

Science and Technology Log:

After several ship issues, we were able to finally head out from Newport, RI on June 9th after 4 extra days in dock.  We have started the survey and are using two main types of equipment that we will deploy at the various stations: CTD/Bongo Nets and CTD Rosette Stations.  We were originally scheduled to visit about 160 stations, but due to the unforeseen ship issues, these may have to be scaled back.  Some of the stations will just be the Bongo and others only the Rosette, but some will include both sets of equipment.

Bongos
Bongo and baby bongos being deployed during the survey.

A bongo net is a two net system that basically, looks like a bongo drum.  It is used to bring up various types of plankton while a CTD is mounted above it on the tow wire to test for temperature, conductivity and depth during the tow. The two nets may have different sizes of mesh so that it will only  filter the various types of plankton based on the size of the holes.  The small mesh is able to capture the smaller phytoplankton, but the larger zooplankton (animals) can dart out of the way and avoid being captured. The larger mesh is able to catch the zooplankton but allows the phytoplankton to go through the openings. There are regular bongo nets and also baby bongo nets that may be launched at the same time to catch different types of plankton.

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Rosette CTD returning to the surface.

The Rosette CTD equipment is a series of 10 cylinders that can capture water from different depths to test for nutrient levels and dissolved inorganic carbon, which provides a measure of acidity in the ocean. These are fired remotely via an electronic trigger that is programed by a computer program where each cylinder can be fired seperately to get 10 samples from different depths.  It also has several sensors on it to measure oxygen, light and chlorophyll levels, as well as temperature and salinity (salt) from the surface to the bottom of the water column.

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Copepods and Krill from one of the bongo net catches.

Our first station was about 3 1/2 hours east of Newport, RI and it was a Bongo Station.  I am on the noon to midnight shift each day.  So on our first day, during my watch, we made four Bongo stops and two CTD Rosettes. Today we completed more of the Bongos on my watch.  We are bringing up a variety of zooplankton like copepods, ctenophores, krill, and some fish larvae.  We have also seen quite a bit of phytoplankton on the surface of the water.

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Wearing the survival suit – photo by Cathleen Turner.

Personal Log:

Being on a ship, I have to get used to the swaying and moving about.  It is constantly rocking, so it can be a little challenging to walk around.  I have been told that I will get used to this and it is actually great when you want to go to sleep!  Luckily I have not had any sea sickness yet and I hope that continues!  We completed several safety drills that included a fire drill and abandon ship drill where we had to put on our survival suits – now I look like a New England Lobster!

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Common dolphins swimming off the ship’s bow.
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Blue shark swimming beside the Gordon Gunter.

Today was an amazing day – was able to see Right Whales, Blue Sharks and Common Dolphins – with the dolphins surfing off the ship’s bow!  The Northern Right Whale is one of the most endangered species on the planet with only 300 left in the wild.  One of the reasons there are so few left is that swim on the surface and were excessively hunted and there feeding areas were within the Boston shipping lanes, so they were frequently hit by ships. Recently these shipping lanes have been moved to help protect these animals.  So I feel very privileged to have been able to see one!

Did you know? Plankton are the basis for the ocean food web.  They are plentiful, small, and free floating (they do not swim). The word plankton comes from the Greek word “planktos” which means drifting. “Plankton” from the TV show SpongeBob is actually a Copepod – a type of zooplankton.

Copepod
Copepod

Question of the day:  Why do you think it is important that the scientists study plankton?

Sue Cullumber: Flexibility – Teacher at Dock, June 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/9/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time – 8:15 am
Latitude and Longitude -41º32N, 71º19W
Temperature – 18º C, 65ºF
Barometer – 1019.5 mb

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The Gordon Gunter at the Newport Naval Station.

Science and Technology Log: 

Since we have been delayed in sailing, I have had the opportunity to interview several of the crew sailing with the Gordon Gunter to learn more about working at sea and in the marine sciences. Sailing one of the NOAA vessels for scientific research requires personnel from many different disciplines including the: scientists, NOAA Corps officers, engineers, ship stewards, fishermen, deck hands, computer and electronics personnel, bird and mammal observers,  and others.  I will continue to interview personnel and add them to my future blogs.

Interviews:

Lab Technician, Cristina Bascuñán
Lab Technician, Cristina Bascuñán

1. Name: Cristina Bascuñán

What is your Position?  Lab Technician

What do you do?  I’m in charge of the Rosette CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) equipment and Sea-Bird equipment. I schedule them for the different surveys and send them out for maintenance.

Why did you decide to work with NOAA and ocean science?  As a sophomore in college I started volunteering and loved it, so I volunteered for several more surveys and then went out to sea on a NOAA cruise and loved that.  I was doing 2 trips a summer.  Around that time I got hold of an oceanography branch chief of NOAA who was in need of a lab technician and the rest is history.

How long have you worked for NOAA?  I have worked for NOAA for 16 years. I volunteered for 3 years initially and was 19 on my first trip.

What do you enjoy most?  Meeting all the different people on the various cruises

What would you like to change?  During long trips I miss the comforts of home.

If not working for NOAA, what would you do?  I would be an architect.

What outside hobbies do you have?  When out at sea, I like to knit.  At home, I’m involved in many water activities like:  kayaking, fishing and going out on our skiff (small sailboat).

Where are you from? I have lived on the Cape for 16 years.

What is your favorite marine animal?  The Lumpfish – they look like they are made out of rubber.

What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea?  While out doing a MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System and is a net system for plankton in the ocean), we brought up a bunch of bones and some carrots.  Our group could not figure out where this could have come from or what animal the bones were from.  We found out later, that the Steward (meal preparation person) had tossed the slop basket from dinner into the sea and that’s what we brought up!

If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them?  Get experience and go out to sea on a research vessel to see if it is something you would like to do for a career.

Marc
Operations Officer, Marc Weekley

2. Name: Marc Weekely

What is your Position? Operations Officer onboard the Gordon Gunter

What do you do? I am the liaison between the operational side of the ship and the science party, making sure that what the scientists want to accomplish gets done.

Why did you decide to go into the NOAA Corps and ocean science? I have a B.S. in environmental science. In 2004, 2005 I found out about the NOAA Corps and it was a good way to mix the operational side with the science I already had.  All NOAA Corps officers have to do watches and get the ship to where the scientists need to go, which includes ship driving and navigation, which I also liked.

How long have you worked for NOAA?  I was commissioned in 2006.

What do you enjoy most?  The variety of operations, science, and projects that are available and learning about the different scientific research. The routine is always new and fresh and you can transfer to new ones frequently. For example, in the NOAA Corps you spend 2 years in the field on a ship and 2-3 years on a land assignment. I was in Antarctic in 2009 doing atmospheric research on air quality monitoring.

What would you like to change? Some of the assignments are only once in a lifetime and cannot return to them like going back to the South Pole.

What part of your job was the most unexpected?  When I first entered everything took me by surprise because I was not aware of the scope of the Corps. The opportunities to pursue what I was training for came much sooner than I realized. I was on the bridge controlling and driving a ship much sooner than I expected.

How are people chosen for NOAA ships? For many of the officers you fill out a “wish list” of where you want to go and then assigned according to needs and timing.

If not working in the Corps, what would you do? A job on or in the water.

If a student is interested in pursuing a career with NOAA or in marine science, what would you suggest to them? The Corps is looking for individuals with science, engineering and math backgrounds.  

What outside hobbies do you have?  Scuba diving and anything outdoors. I tried rock climbing in Boulder before going to the South Pole.

Where are you from? Currently I live in Moss-point, Mississippi, but I’m originally from Texas where my parents still live.

What is your favorite marine animal? Sharks because so little has changed in them over time. Even though they are a very frightening animal, I love to be in the water with them.

What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea?  Watching a 20 foot humpback whale full breech (entire body) out of the water is one of the most unusual and amazing things I have seen.

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Head Steward, Margaret Coyle

3. Chief Steward:  Margaret Coyle

What are some of the skills and experiences a person needs to become a ship’s steward? A person needs good cooking skills, organization,  to be personable, and dedicated. This is a career, I’m working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  “I live to cook and cook to live”.

What do you like most about your job? The cooking and sailing.

What  would you like to change? I hate the paperwork – “If I only had to just cook and order groceries, I would be the happiest person on the planet.”

How long have you been working for NOAA? I have been sailing since I was 20 and cooking for 25 years. I started in the coastguard as an engineer and then went back to school to be a cook. I have been with NOAA for 8 years, 2 months and 7 days.

What do you like most about working on the ocean?  The solitude and the lifestyle of just being at sea and having my own space and my galley setup.  Having a set schedule is something I like and also the rocking of the ship and the weather.

What part of your job did you least expect to do? When I came here I knew exactly what to expect.  Over the years the record keeping requirements have increased, which I did not expect.

How far in advance plan your meals? I have 8 years of menus and keep them all in my computer. I plan my menus by the people we have onboard and how many are going to be at a certain meal.  I have to plan and order 7 days in advance and I have to always order dairy and produce when we pull into a new port.

What training or experience would you suggest for high school students if they want to pursue a career as a Steward or other ocean careers?  You can go the military route and go through their school for cooking. Take Home Economics in HS and work in a restaurant – that will determine if you like it or hate it.

What advice would you give young people to eat more nutritiously? Eat dinner at a table with your family and have a conversation. Don’t sit in front of the TV or play on a computer. Don’t eat out of a bag instead choose something healthy like an apple.

If you weren’t a ship’s steward, what other career would you like to have?  This is my dream job! But if I didn’t cook, I would be a seamstress.

*What’s your favorite meal to prepare? Whatever someone wants to eat, is something I love to prepare.

*Do you ever run out of food? I once ran out of orange juice one year. We were in Mexico and I ordered 100 lbs. of oranges and squeezed 15 lbs each morning for fresh juice.

Do you have an outside hobby?  I sew clothes – My husband and I go to Renaissance fairs and I make the costumes for that. I love old movies as well and gardening.

Where are you from? Hurley, Mississippi and I’m married and have 2 children.

What is your favorite marine animal? The edible kind, salmon!

Here is one of her favorite recipes:

Sweet Potato Cheesecake 

2 cups Mashed sweet potato

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 eggs

2 lb cream cheese

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup melted butter

Beat cream cheese and sugar together till light. Add eggs one at a time.  Add sweet potatoes, spices and mix together.  Butter a spring-form pan and dust with graham crackers.  Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325º till filling is set.  Chill and serve with whipping cream.

I can’t wait to try this when we head out to sea!

newport-sue
Downtown Newport, RI
Photo by Kevin Ryan
okeanos
The NOAA Vessel – Okeanos Explorer

Personal Log:

One thing that I have learned in life is that many things are not under your control and you just have to make the best of each situation and be flexible.  So even though it has taken several more days to leave port than had been planned, I have had the opportunity to explore the base, visit another NOAA vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, interview several of the staff, and work on my blogs and photography. I have really enjoyed talking with the others onboard and visiting the areas around the base and in Newport, RI.