Allison Irwin: Tsunami Awareness, July 10, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7-25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Northern Coast of California

Date: July 10, 2019

Weather at 1600 Pacific Standard Time on Monday 08 July 2019.

We’ve made our way back near the coast and we’re currently progressing south at a cautious 6 knots through a relatively shallow, protected area called Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve.  The winds and sea are both calm. The deck is warm and sunny! The sky has just a few high level clouds that look like wisps of white painted onto a clear blue canvas. A long-sleeved cotton shirt is comfortable in this weather along with long pants and boots.

PERSONAL LOG

Sunday Night

07 July 2019

We left Yaquina Bay just after 1700 on Sunday evening. I was eating dinner when we left and had no idea we were moving. The ship is that smooth when it’s traveling slowly. I made it out just in time to see us pass the boundary between the bay and the Pacific Ocean. My job tonight is to stay up until 0200 so I can prepare for my 12 hour shift that starts Monday and runs from 1400-0200. We’ll see how that works out. I’m typically in bed long before 0200.

As the ship started making its way along the coast this evening, I sat on the Flying Bridge.  The Bridge on a ship is often at one of the highest levels and it’s the command center. The Flying Bridge is one level above that. It is all open air with no windows and no walls (there are railings, of course). It was freeing and frightening at the same time! I think that’s my favorite area on the ship. I plan to go there a lot over the next few weeks to feel the sunshine, clear my head, and prepare for the day. 

One of the scientists on board made a sensible comment yesterday. She said we should walk as much as we can before the ship sails because after that we won’t walk more than a few feet at a time in any given direction. Today I walked 7.5 miles all over Newport Marina. I’m tired, but I’m glad I heeded her advice!

THE SCIENCE

Sunday Morning

07 July 2019

Today I learned more than I ever wanted to know about tsunamis. I went on an estuaries tour with the Hatfield Marine Science Center this morning and we saw a lot of “Tsunami Evacuation Route” signs along our tour. The tour guide explained a tsunami is actually a series of waves and not just one giant wave like we see in movies. Additionally, it doesn’t really “break” the way we’re used to seeing waves crash into the beach. Those waves are caused by the wind moving over the surface of the water. A tsunami reaches the coastline more like a storm surge or like a very strong tide because the energy forcing this wave forward comes from deep within the ocean floor – from seismic or volcanic activity – and not from the wind. Thankfully, in the ocean (where I’ll be for the next three weeks!) a tsunami is only barely noticeable with maybe a three foot height increase. But once the force of all that moving water hits the shallow bottom of our coastline, the water begins to pile up and can reach anywhere from a few feet all the way up to 100 feet above sea level.

The Newport Marina is in a Tsunami Hazard Zone. Most tsunamis tend to be less than ten feet high because energy from the point of origin must travel many miles before reaching a coastline, but the Newport Marina is in a particularly hazardous area because it lies within the Cascadia Subduction Zone. If a major earthquake hits this close to home, a larger than average tsunami could follow in just fifteen minutes! The Newport Marina is only six feet above sea level, so even a relatively small tsunami would cause intense damage from both flooding and debris.

A major earthquake shakes the Cascadia Subduction Zone once every 300-350 years on average. The last major earthquake in Newport, OR occurred in 1700, so… they’re due for another one soon. That might be why the Hatfield Marine Science Center decided to design its brand new building in Newport Marina to be both earthquake and tsunami resistant using state-of-the-art engineering methods. It includes a unique ramp on the outside of the building that spans multiple levels so people have easy access to the evacuation location on top of the roof. After seeing the current evacuation location, a very small hill just across the street from the marina, I think it’s good they’re adding a facility with capacity for another 900 people!

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) provides a U.S. Tsunami Warning System. It works much like our system for tornadoes and thunderstorms by communicating four different levels – warnings, advisories, watches, or threats.

TEACHING CONNECTIONS

Sunday Afternoon

7 July 2019

The man I met yesterday while he filleted his catch from Yaquina Bay is still sitting on my mind. He shared his story with me.  When he was 18 years old, he was homeless. He had no connection to school because he didn’t fit into the square peg the narrow curriculum required. Pausing his rhythm with the fish, he tried to explain.

He’s dyslexic. When he was a kid, that threw him a gigantic curve ball. It took him a long time to learn how to adapt and overcome that challenge.  What strikes me about his story is that school didn’t help him, it held him back. Dyslexia is one of the most common types of learning disabilities. Students are faced with challenges in school every day – whether it’s a learning disability or other challenge – and teachers are often there to support, teach, and guide students through those challenges. But I see students every year who, like this gentleman, don’t fit into the script. They’re the outliers who need a different approach. 

Last year my district engaged in a study of Continuous School Improvement. While my understanding of it is still in its infancy, I do know that it requires us to look at multiple forms of data in order to get a wider picture of what is going on in our schools. We then use what we find to determine “where the fire is burning the hottest” (according to our Continuous School Improvement guru working with our district) and correct those issues first. Typically, by correcting those big ticket items, a trickle-down effect occurs that will solve some of the smaller issues organically.

I would definitely categorize the nature of this fisherman’s story as a big ticket item that many districts are trying to understand and correct. We all know that teacher in the building who connects with the students who don’t connect to school. There’s always that one teacher who manages to make this look easy – though it is not. 

Even though reading comprehension, the primary means to learning in most disciplines, is difficult for the gentleman I spoke to at the filleting station, he valued learning so much that he stuck with it even as he failed his classes. He told me that he has thousands of audiobooks and a whole library of traditional books at home which he’s been accumulating for years. We talked about Malcolm Gladwell, tax preparation, real estate, and a host of other diverse topics. He runs his own successful business that he politely called “medium sized” as he smiled, sheepishly at his friend.

I hope, just as I’m sure all teachers hope, that my students who struggle each year will value learning enough to push through the challenges they each face. While I might not always succeed in teaching every student the content of my discipline, I at least hope that they each leave my classroom at the end of the year with a sense of desire to learn more. To not give up when the challenges pummel them, wave after wave, and feel unrelenting. I hope that someone will speak to them one day, 20 years from now, and they’ll wink as they describe how successful they’ve become due to their hard work, resilience, and unshakable love for learning. And that they’ll come to realize strong literacy skills are an integral part of learning.

Teaching Resources

Allison Irwin: Traveling to the Ship, July 8, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7-25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Northern Coast of California

Date: July 8, 2019

Weather at 0800 on Monday 08 July 2019.

Winds and sea are calm. Weather is cool. Heavy overcast layer of white, thick clouds in the sky. Very comfortable out on deck with a sweater or light jacket. The visibility is unreal – I can see for miles! Nothing but cold water and salty air.


PERSONAL LOG

Friday Night

05 July 2019

Tomorrow I’ll board a ship with NOAA Officers and scientists headed for a three week research cruise in the Pacific Ocean. My whole life at home is not skipping a beat without me. But I feel like I’ve hit a pause button on my character. Like I won’t return to the movie of my life until the end of July. Important decisions get made without me. Disputes with family and friends won’t include my voice again for almost a month. Everything moves forward at home this summer but me.

I have a new appreciation for folks who dedicate their lives to careers requiring them to be away from home for long periods of time. This is only three weeks. I can’t imagine the way I would feel if I were leaving for three months. Or a year.  I do feel very grateful for the opportunity to spend the next three weeks with these people though. They will be, no doubt, passionate about their careers, and I’ll learn a lot from traveling with them.

THE SCIENCE

Saturday Morning

06 July 2019

After a 6 hour flight from the East Coast to the West Coast and a 2.5 hour car ride from Portland International Airport to Newport, Oregon, I’m finally on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker! A handful of scientists, two volunteers, and myself met at the airport. We coordinated so all our flights would arrive within an hour of each other so we could drive together. As soon as we got there, my roommate gave me a tour of the ship. It didn’t take very long, but there are a lot of ways to get lost! I felt a little disoriented after that. There is a galley and dining area which they call the mess. I’ve been told we have one of the best chefs on board our ship! A laundry room, exercise room, plenty of deck space, the bridge where NOAA Officers will navigate and operate the ship, and stairs. So. Many. Stairs.

Upon meeting the chief scientist, Kevin Stierhoff, it became clear that the Coastal Pelagic Species Survey is a big deal. NOAA runs this survey every year for about 80 days! They break it up into four 20 day legs. Most of the scientists will rotate through only one or two legs, but the NOAA Corps Officers in charge of the ship’s operation typically stay for the full survey. That’s a very long time to be away from home.

We’re traveling on the 2nd leg, so the survey has already been underway since June. It started farther north off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia and will meander down the coast for almost three months until it reaches the US-Mexico border. Kevin described the ship’s movements like someone explaining how to mow the lawn – we will run perpendicular to the coast in a back-and-forth pattern traveling south, slowly, until we get to the waters off San Francisco Bay. First we’ll travel straight out into the ocean, turn south for a bit, then travel straight back toward the coast. Repeat. Repeat… for three weeks.

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Patterned lines in a freshly mowed lawn – accessed on pixabay.com

Why such a funky pattern, you might ask? We’ll be using acoustic sampling during the day to determine where the most densely populated areas of fish are located. Then at night, we’ll put that data to good use, immediate use, as we trawl the waters for specific types of pelagic species. There are five species in particular that the scientists want to study – anchovy, herring, sardines, mackerel, and squid – because they’re managed species or ecologically important as prey for other species. That funky pattern of travel allows us to sample the whole coastal region.

It reminds of me of one of the scanning patterns the Civil Air Patrol uses when we conduct search and rescue missions from a Cessna. When I was trained to be a scanner in the back seat of the plane, they taught me to look for signs of a missing person or downed plane below me in a systematic way. If I just look sporadically at everything that pops into my line of scan, I’ll never find anything. It’s too haphazard. But if I start from a fixed point on the aircraft and scan out up to a mile, then bring my scan line back in toward the plane, I’ll naturally scan all the ground below me for clues as the plane moves forward.

Even though they’re looking primarily at those five coastal pelagic species, the scientists will catalogue every kind of fish or marine life they find in their trawl nets. They are meticulous. It’s such an important endeavor because it helps us to fish our waters using sustainable practices. If this survey finds that one of the fish species in question is not thriving, that the population sample of that species is too low, then NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will set harvest guidelines next year to help that species rebound. If it’s looking very dire, they might even determine that commercial fishing of that species needs to be put on pause for a while.

For more details about NOAA Fisheries and the importance of the annual Coastal Pelagic Species Survey, read this short two page guide called U.S. Fisheries Management: Sustainable Fisheries, Sustainable Seafood.

TEACHING CONNECTIONS

Saturday Evening

06 July 2019

Since the three hour time change traveling in this direction worked in my favor, I gained three extra hours of daylight to explore Newport.  I spent most of the evening walking around the small port where NOAA docked Reuben Lasker. It’s only a couple square miles, but it houses the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Visitor Center, Rogue Brewer’s on the Bay, and a public fishing pier. I walked a total of 6 miles today and was never bored.

The fishing culture struck me the most. Kids, adults, everyone seemed to have a working knowledge of local sustainability, ecosystems, commercial fishery practices, things that are so foreign to me. I suppose it would be like going to Pennsylvania and asking someone to explain deer hunting. Trust me, we can. But fishing? Not as much. I wish that we as teachers would tap into the local knowledge base more fully. From Pennsylvania for example, we could share Amish culture and heritage, details about the coal mining industry, steel production and engineering practices, hunting, and so much more. Until I realized how unaware I was of the local knowledge here in Newport, I never stopped to think about how rich and diverse my students’ local knowledge must be as well. One thing I plan to do this school year is dig into that local culture and explore it with my students.

I watched one gentleman as he filleted his catch at the filleting station just off the pier. To me it looked like a cooler of fish. I could tell you with certainty that they were indeed fish. But he knew each type, why the Lingcod had blue flesh instead of white, how many of each type he was allowed to take home with him, how to cook them, and the list goes on. I was impressed. In talking with others this evening, it seems like that’s par for the course here. Later, a couple of fishermen with a cooler full of crab started talking to me and offered me some to try. It was cleaned, cooked already, fresh out of Yaquina Bay. It was delicious – sweet and salty.

The people I interacted with today, every single one of them, were genuinely kind. They were patient and explained things to me when I didn’t understand. This is a lesson every teacher can take to the classroom. We know how important it is to smile and be kind. We know it. But sometimes it’s hard to put that into practice when we’re rounding into May and having to explain that one tricky concept again, pulling a different approach out of our magic hat, and hoping that this time it will click.

It’s not always easy to mask the frustration we feel when something that is so natural for us (in no doubt because we love the subject and have studied it for at least a decade) just doesn’t make sense to a student. And it’s not always the student I get frustrated with, it’s myself. Teachers tend to be their own worst critics. When a lesson doesn’t go as well as we expected, we double down and try harder the next day. No wonder so many of us burn out in the first five years and switch to a different career!

TEACHING RESOURCES

Justin Garritt: I Came, We Fished, I Learned. . . 2 Amazing Weeks Aboard Shimada: September 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 1-14, 2018

Mission: End of Hake Research

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 11-14, 2018: Day 11-14

Location: Off the coast of Newport, Oregon. End of research cruise.

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Throughout my life there have been moments when I recognize I am in the presence of something truly unique and special. Moments when I realize just how beautiful our planet can be. Moments I know will be engraved in my brain as life passes by. Hiking Zion National Park, night boat riding down the beautiful Saint Lawrence Seaway in the heart of the Thousands Islands, the view on top of Whiteface Ski Mountain, climbing the mountain islands in Greece, landing a helicopter on an Alaskan glacier, gigantic waves crashing in on an empty Puerto Rican beach with nothing but the moon in sight, taking a train ride up the gigantic Alps, and color of the fall leaves over the Castleton University skyline in Vermont are just a few of those moments I have been so privileged to have experienced in my short life. Monday evening, I got to add another new nature wonderland experience aboard the NOAA Bell M Shimada.

It was 5:15pm and I was eating a terrific dinner when one of the scientists came in the galley to tell us fishing was on hold because of the abundance of marine wildlife that was surrounding our ship. I immediately ran upstairs to check it out. When I stepped in the bridge (command room of the ship) the first thing I noticed was the beautiful blue skies with a touch of clouds and the sun that set the stage for the spectacle. My ears rang with the crashing waves against the boat and seagulls squawking in the background. As I looked over the side of the boat there were two pairs of dolphins synchronized swimming all around the ship. After a few minutes, three California sea lions came floating by on their backs waving at the passing ship. Another minute later, the dolphins came back for their encore followed by a spray of a Humpback whale spouting directly behind it. As the whale came closer it swam gracefully in an up and down pattern until it bent its massive dinosaur-like body down followed by its tail flipping over as it took a deep dive below the surface. As soon as the whale took the dive another pair of sea lions came floating by smiling as they took in the heat of the sun. Before I could look again, a Pelagic Cormorant landed directly in front of me on the ship. Right after I took a picture of that I looked up and saw at least fifteen spouts surrounding the ship like a spectator would see at the Bellagio Hotel light show in Las Vegas. For the next hour whale after whale surfaced, spouted, and even breached behind the beautiful blue sky backdrop. No matter where I looked I was seeing whales grace our presence. No camera could capture the magic of that hour as I ran from side to side on the viewing tower above the bridge to soak in as much of this experience as possible. I was in awe at the majesty of the sea creatures. As the ship made its way through the evening and to sunset, the whales slowly trickled off beyond sight as the sun came down in the background. Hope that future generations can experience this beauty for centuries to come.

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The reality is the ever growing world’s population consumes large amounts of fish.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that in 2016, the global seafood trade was worth $140 billion. In the US it is estimated that 1.5 million people are employed by the fishing industry. That is a lot of communities and families that rely on the resources in our water systems. Throughout the week I learned that so much of the work of NOAA is not limiting the growth and catch of our fishermen/fisherwomen, but it is to ensure there is a fish population to catch and future generations can experience what I was able to experience these past two weeks. Part of NOAA’s mission is to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. Having the most high tech equipment constantly being researched to seek improvements mixed with “ground truthing (catching and surveying)” to analyze different species is crucial for the future of the world’s fisheries.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the main goals for this research cruise. The first was to gather data to study the impact of the US 32mm net liners and the CANADIAN 7mm net liners. The second was to compare the old acoustic equipment called the EK60 with the new equipment called the EK80. Throughout the last two legs of the trip, scientists have gathered data and will be working on analyzing it over the coming months to make better conclusions on these goals. The vision is for someday to reduce the number of surveying trawls needed to determine the population of fish, and instead, use this highly advanced acoustics equipment instead. If those ships are filled with as curious, hardworking, and focused people as the people I met on this ship, I am confident we will be able to obtain this goal in the future.

Here are some pictures from the final 3 days of fishing and exploring the ship:

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Reading the acoustics for hake

 

Bringing my experience back to the classroom:

Throughout the past two weeks I constantly thought about how I can bring my experience back to my students in Baltimore. My students receive half the amount of hours of science instructional time than math and reading. After much reflection I decided to use the same core standards we are obligated to teach but begin rewriting most of the 6th grade statistics unit. At the start of the unit I will begin with the purpose of NOAA, pictures of my trip, and exciting stories from my adventure. From there I will have investment in the subject from my students which will allow me to dive in to applying data collected at sea to find: mean, mode, range, variability, mean absolute deviation (MAD), and interquartile range (IQR). We will also be able to use real live data to create histograms, frequency tables, box and whisker plots, and dot plots.  I believe it will be exciting for them to have the opportunity to apply required statistical concepts to learning how NOAA (along with others) survey our fish population so species will survive for generations to come. It will also make our school’s 6th grade teacher, Mr. Davis, very happy!

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An example of my change in classroom instructional materials to teach Box Plots with data from the research cruise.


At any given moment, there are thousands of NOAA employees studying our environment across the globe. I had the honor of sailing with incredibly intelligent and hardworking people who are dedicated to the mission. From them, I learned so many valuable things that I will carry with me as I disembark on Friday.

Chief Scientist, Rebecca Thomas was an excellent manager/role model. She taught me that leading through kindness, support, trusting others, and giving people rest will produce better and more accurate results than pushing people past their limitation.

 

Chief Scientist Rebecca Thomas

Scientist Steve de Bluis encouraged me to maintain a hobby outside of work that you love. Steve loves to fly planes and dive and talked about these trips all the time. You can tell how much joy it has brought him and how excited he is to continue to dive well into his retirement in a few years. He was also a BEAST in the wet lab!

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Roommate and Future Scientist Charlie Donahue taught me the importance of accuracy over speed. He constantly pushed me to be sure the data we were collecting was as accurate as possible. He never let speed and efficiency take away from quality. For those of you who know me, this is certainly an important push for me!

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Scientist John Pohl taught me about supporting newcomers. He was the first guy I met aboard and always spent time breaking down complicated science topics for me.

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Scientist John Pohl analyzes the depth of the net vs. the acoustic picture on his screen

Scientist Melanie Johnson taught me about working through chaos with calmness. She has been on both commercial and scientific ships and constantly kept calm during any situation that arose.

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Scientist Dezhang Chu (Super Chu) taught me about focus. No matter what was going on “Super Chu” always kept a clear view of his own goals and purpose aboard and stayed focused on the prize. Chu was also super hard working and was in the acoustics lab at 6:30am when I went to the gym and still in on his computer analyzing data from the day when I returned from yoga at 10pm. I think he could even give KIPP Ujima Resident-Principal Reese a run for it in terms of work ethic!

Volunteer Scientist Heather Rippman  taught me about service and life-long learning. Heather commits herself to volunteering for important science missions across the country. After leaving an executive position with Nike, she now travels and volunteers to learn all she can about marine science and give back to the marine science community. She shared so much knowledge with me and was the first person to teach me how to dissect hake.

Master Chef Arnold Dones reminded me about the power of food bringing people together. At exactly 7am, 11am, and 5pm, roughly 40 people from all over the country with all types of jobs aboard came together to feast. Arnold made that happen because of the pride he takes in his craft.

Chef Arnold

Chief Engineer Sabrina Taraboletti spent 3 hours with me on our last day to show me the massive engine room. She explained what every piece of equipment does below deck. I learned the science behind creating freshwater from sea water. I learned the regulations behind sewer and contaminants. The best part was climbing to the bottom of the ship and watching the shaft that makes the propeller turn move. Her team of engineers barely see daylight and work long hours to make sure the ship moves safely and all the amenities and scientific research equipment works flawlessly. She keeps the morale of her team high, keeps an impressively organized work space that is approximately the size of over a dozen typical garages, and is one of the most knowledgeable professionals I ever crossed paths with.


How to apply for the Teacher At Sea Program:

Ms. Ellmauer is a 25 year veteran science teacher from my hometown of Liberty, NY. She was also my high school ski coach. She has been following my blog and reached out about information on how to apply. I am humbled to see so many teachers and school officials reading my blog from across the country so I thought I would pass on the website with information about the program and how to apply for this once in a lifetime experience. Please reach out to me at JAGarritt@gmail.com if you have any questions.

https://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/home/


Tomorrow we pull in to Newport, Oregon, and the research cruise will come to an end. Thank you to the nearly one-thousand readers who have been following my journey. I am grateful for your support.

Good bye for now, until I hopefully sail again a part of the NOAA Teacher At Sea Alumni Program,

Justin

 

Justin Garritt: Precision in Science is Key. Calibrating Day and Ship Tour, September 5, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 5, 2018

Topic Today: Calibrating the Equipment and ship tour

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Today’s Location and Weather: Beautiful sunny skies calibrating in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington

Date: September 5, 2018

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Today’s blog will focus on calibration and a tour of the beautiful ship.

Calibration is the act of evaluating and adjusting the precision and accuracy of measurement equipment. It is intended to eliminate or reduce bias in an instrument’s readings. It compares the standard measurement with the measurement being made by the equipment. The accuracy of all measurements degrade over time by normal wear and tear. The purpose of calibration is to check the accuracy of the instrument and with this information, adjustments can be made if it is out of calibration. The bottom line is that calibration improves the accuracy of the measurement device which improves quality.

We calibrate many things in life. For an example, many teachers at my school have smart boimagesards or promethean boards. These boards are interactive white boards that allow teachers to teach using more interactive tools. As a math teacher, I have had a promethean board in my classroom which acts like a large touch screen computer that I take notes on, teach lectures on, give student feedback on, and play math games on.

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A teacher calibrating their smart board in a classroom

They have improved the learning experience for students in my class and across the globe. In order for the screen to work most accurately, we must perform routine calibrations on the board. If we don’t, there is often errors and where we touch the screen is not what actually shows up on the board. When these errors begin to occur, we must calibrate the board or else we won’t be as accurate when writing on the board.

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Police officers and military personnel must also use calibration in their work. Officers must routinely calibrate their weapons for accuracy. When at a safe and secure range, officers will “site-in” their weapons to determine if their scope is accurate. They will then make modifications to their weapons based on the calibration tests. This is another form of calibrating that improves the quality and accuracy of the equipment.

On board the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, calibration typically happens at the start and end of most legs. Sometimes the Chief Scientist will also make the decision to calibrate mid-leg. For the past two days we have been spending 12 to 15 hours per day calibrating the equipment to ensure the most accurate research can be completed and we can meet the goals of the leg.

Calibrating the equipment is an interesting process that involves the teamwork of all the scientists on board. The process begins with three scientists setting up down riggers on the outside of the boat. Two are set up on starboard side (right side of the ship) and one is set up on port side (left side of the ship). This creates a triangle which will allow the calibration sphere or what I like to call,  “the magic sphere”  to move in whatever direction needed. This same triangle shaped design is used to move cameras that fly above players in the Superbowl.

 

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The picture above shows how three lines suspended from down riggers that are attached to the sphere.

The pictures (with captions) show the process step by step.

We calibrated for two full days. It was surprising how long the process took. After  explanations from the many scientists on board I learned that the process is so long because we are assessing numerous acoustic transducers under the ship.  Then, for each transducer, we are calibrating the old acoustic system and the new acoustic system.

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All smiles at the end of calibration as we head out to continue our mission at sea:-)  In this photo: NOAA TAS Justin Garritt, Scientist Volunteer Heather Rippman, and Future Scientist Charlie Donahue (and roommate)

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A Tour of the ship

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NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is an incredible vessel that sails for months at a time. It has a crew of over 40 people (who I will be discussing in future blogs). The ship is a science lab with most state of the art equipment and also home for the crew on board that make the boat run 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. Here is a quick behind the scenes look at this remarkable vessel.

The Deck: When you embark the ship, the first thing you see is a huge deck with massive pieces of equipment. Each item has a different purpose based on what scientific study is taking place throughout the leg of the journey.

The Bridge: This is where the captain and his crew spend most of their day. The bridge has all of the most up-to-date technology to ensure we are all safe while on board. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship. The bridge has highly advanced radar to spot obstacles and other vessels. It also is the center of communication for all units on board the ship.

The Galley and Mess Hall: I expected to come on board and lose weight. Then I met Arnold. He is our incredible galley master who makes some of the best meals I have had on a ship. Yes, this better than food on a buffet line on a cruise. Arnold works his magic in a small kitchen and has to plan, order, and organize food two weeks out. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared and everyone eats in the mess hall. Beverages, cereal, salad, and most importantly, ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Every meal has a large menu posted on the television monitor and you can eat whatever you want. Every meal so far has been amazing.

Staterooms: Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As The bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light just in case you and your roommate are working different shifts.

Laundry Room: There are three washer machines and three dryers that crew can use to clean their clothes during off-duty hours

The Entertainment Room:  The living room of the ship. This room has a large screen TV,  comfy recliners, and hundreds of movies, including new releases.

The Acoustics Lab: The acoustics lab is like the situation room for the scientists. There are large computer screens every where that can monitor all of the things the scientists are doing. For the past two days, Rebecca, our Chief Scientist, along with other scientists, lead the calibration from that room.

The Wet Lab: The wet lab will be used to inspect and survey the hake when we start fishing later this week.

I only just began my exploration of the ship. I will have so many more places to share throughout the journey. Later this week I will be asking our Chief Engineer to take me on a behind the scenes tour of “below deck” which is where they turn salt water to freshwater, handle all trash on board, etc. I will also be asking a member of captain’s  officers to teach me a little about the navigation equipment up in the bridge. I will be sure to write about all I learn in future blogs.

Thank you for continuing to join me on this epic adventure.

Justin

 

 

 

Justin Garritt: What is NOAA and Why Are We Sailing? September 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 3, 2018

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
Date: September 3, 2018

Today was day two and my first full day on-board. I learned so much about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I learned about what our ship, Bell M. Shimada’s, mission was this cruise. I started to get acquainted with all the impressive things the ship has to offer. However, what I enjoyed most was meeting all the wonderful people who spend their lives on-board for months (or even years) serving us. Every single professional was warm and welcome and answered the thousand questions I asked today with a smile. It was an amazing day because of the crew and scientists who already made me feel at home.

I was unaware of what NOAA did before joining the Teacher at Sea Program. Today’s post is all about NOAA, the ship I am sailing on, and the mission ahead the next two weeks.

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My home for the next two weeks. . . NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

What is NOAA? Before I can get in to details about my journey, here is some information about the governmental agency that welcomes Teacher At Sea applicants with open arms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an American scientific agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. It was formed in 1970 and as of last year had over 11,000 employees. NOAA exists to monitor earth systems through research and analysis. It uses the research to assess and predict future changes of these earth systems and manage our precious resources for the betterment of society, the economy, and environment.

One component of NOAA studies our oceans. They ensure ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. One of the many ships that are used to study the oceanic environment (which I am fortunate to sail on these next two weeks) is NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. This ship is stationed on the west coast with forty-plus crew who work endlessly to make this ship run so NOAA scientists can perform important environmental studies. Every person I have met the past two days has been remarkable and you will hear more about them throughout my future blogs.

 

Why Are We Sailing? NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is one of dozens of NOAA ships that sail the ocean every day in order to research vital information about our environment. Every sailing has clear objectives that help achieve the goals that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association sets. On NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, hake fish surveys are completed every other year and research is done during off years. Fish surveys determine estimates of certain fish species. This vessel sails the entire west coast of the United States and then works with their Canadian counterparts to provide an estimate of a variety of species. NOAA uses this information to provide the fisherman with rules governing the amount of species that can be fished. During research years, like the one I currently am on, the vessels have different objectives that support their work.

For this leg, the ship has three main objectives:

#1: Pair trawling to determine net size impact: Evaluate the differences between the US 32mm nets and the CANADIAN 7mm nets. The questions being asked are does the differences in size of the two nets affect the size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

The reason this research is needed is because currently the Canadians and the United States have always used different size liners on the far tip of the net while surveying. The purpose of this experiment is to eliminate the possibility that there is bias in the data between the two countries when surveying their respective territories with slightly different net sizes.The hope is that the different liners do not affect the  size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

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#2: Comparing old acoustic equipment with new equipment: An acoustic transducer is a highly technological piece of equipment used on board scientific and commercial fishing vessels around the word. It emits a brief, focused pulse of sound into the water. If the sound encounters objects that are of different density than the surrounding medium, such as fish, they reflect some sound back toward the source. On-board N

OAA Ship Bell M. Shimada these echoes provide information on fish size, location, and abundance. NOAA is modernizing all of their acoustic equipment to a higher range of frequency. This is equivalent to when televisions went from black and white to color. This will hopefully allow scientists to collect more precise and accurate data.

The second goal of this cruise is to determine the differences in the frequency levels of both the new and the old technology. The goal in the long run is to reduce the number of surveying trolls needed to determine the population of fish, and instead, use this highly advanced acoustics equipment instead. It would be a more efficient and environmentally smarter option for the future.

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An illustration of a ship using multi-beam sonar. Image courtesy of NOAA

#3: Using oceanography to predict fish presence: During the night time, scientific studies continue. The ship never sleeps. Depending on where we saw and caught fish during the day time experiments, the captain will bring the boat back to that same area to determine what water characteristics were present. The goal is to find the correlation between increased hake presence and certain water characteristics.

Throughout the next two weeks I will take you behind the scenes on how the ship is collecting data and using the data to create a hypothesis for each goal.

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A beautiful view while calibrating today

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Immersion suit practice during drills

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The beautiful Seattle skyline

Upcoming Blogs through Sept 14:

Life on-board these beautiful ships

The galley is a work of art

Tour of the ship

Careers on-board

Daily tasks and updates on our ship leg’s mission and goals

Susan Dee: Microscopic Sea Life – Days 1-4, May 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Dee
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Northeastern Coast U.S.
Date: May 24, 2018
Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 40°32′
Longitude: 070°45′
Sea Wave Height:  1-2 feet
Wind Speed:  12 knots°
Wind Direction: west
Viability: unrestricted
Air Temperature:  13.5°C
Sky: Few clouds

Science and Technology Log

Tuesday, May 22, I arrived at Newport Naval Base and boarded NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to begin my Teacher at Sea journey by staying overnight on a docked ship.   Day 1 was filled with many new experiences as we headed out to sea.  The Henry B. Bigelow is part of a fleet of vessels commissioned to conduct  fishery surveys. To learn more about the Henry B. Bigelow,  check out this website:  Henry B. Bigelow. The objective of this cruise is to access the hydrographic, planktonic and pelagic components of North East U.S. continental shelf ecosystem.  The majority of the surveys we will take involve  the microbiotic parts of the sea –  phytoplankton, zooplankton and mesoplankton.  Plankton are small microscope organisms in the oceans that are extremely important to the entire Earth ecosystem.  These organisms are the foundation of the entire ocean food web. By studying their populations. scientists can get an accurate picture of the state of  larger ocean organism populations.

Susan and ship

Henry B. Bigelow

Leaving Newport Harbor

Leaving Newport Harbor

Before leaving the dock, I met with Emily Peacock from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to learn how to run an Imaging Flow Cytobot instrument that uses video and flow cytometric technology to capture images of phytoplankton. The IFCB was developed by Dr Heidi Sosik and Rob Olsen (WHOI) to get a better understanding of coastal plankton communities. The IFCB runs 24 hours a day collecting sea water and continuously measuring phytoplankton abundance.  Five milliliters of sea water are analyzed every 20 minutes and produces the images shown below.

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Emily Peacock teaching the usage of the Imaging Flow CytoBot (IFCB)

 

Imaging Flow Cytobot IFCB

Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB)

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Images of Phytoplankton taken by IFCB

The science party on board is made up of scientists from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) part of NOAA Fisheries Division. The chief scientist, Jerry Prezioso, works out of Narragansett Lab and the lead scientist, Tamara Holzworth Davis, is from the Woods Hole Lab, both from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Other members of the Science Party are Seabird/Marine Mammal observers and a student  from Maine Maritime Academy.  The Crew and scientist group work together to coordinate sampling stations. The crew gets the ship to the site and aid the scientists in deploying instruments. The scientists collect the data and samples at each station.  The Crew and scientists work together to find the best and most efficient sea route to each  sampling site. Note all the stops for specimen collection on map below. There definitely  has to be a plan!

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Proposed Cruise Track and Survey Locations

 

Personal Log

Because research instrument deployment is done 24 hours a day, the NOAA Corps crew and scientists are divided into two shifts. I am on watch 1200 – 2400 hours, considered the day shift. This schedule is working good for me. I finish duty at midnight, go to sleep till 9:00 AM and rise to be back on duty at noon. Not a bad schedule. Due to clear weather and calm seas, the ship headed east out of Newport Harbor towards the continental shelf and started collecting samples at planned stops.   I joined another group of scientists  observing bird and marine mammal populations from the flying bridge of the ship. Humpback whales and basking sharks breached  several times during the day

It has only been two days but I feel very acclimated to life at sea. I am not seasick, thanks to calm seas and the patch. Finding the way around the ship is getting easier- it is like a maze. Spotting a pod of humpback whales breaching and basking sharks was a highlight of the day. My Biology students back at May River  High School scored great on End of Course Exam. Congratulations May River High School Sharks! Thinking of y’all.

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Love My SHARKS!

Sam Northern: Welcome Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter! May 29, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sam Northern

Aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter

May 28 – June 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean

Date: May 29, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 41°31.8’N

Longitude: -71°18.9’W

Sky: 8/8 (Fully Cloudy, Overcast)

Wind Direction: NE

Wind Speed: 13 Knots

Barometric Pressure: 1005 Millibars

Humidity: 88%

Air Temperature: 11.5°C

Personal Log

In Port in Newport, Rhode Island (Sunday, May 28)

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The 224-foot Gordon Gunter at Pier 2 at the Naval Station Newport on the morning of sailing Leg 2 of the Survey.

Greetings from NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter! On my flight into Providence, Rhode Island (the Ocean State) I was met with lengthy coastlines and beautiful blue skies. Jerry Prezioso, (one of NOAA’s oceanographers), picked me up from the airport. We made our way to the ship, Gordon Gunter, at Pier 2 at the Naval Station Newport. To get there, we drove 37 miles southeast of Providence and crossed the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge and the Newport Bridge. Both bridges offered stunning scenes of shorelines that separated the picturesque sailboats from the majestic beach side houses. Newport, also known as City by the Sea, was a major 18th-century port city which is evident from the high number of surviving buildings from the colonial era.

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NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

Upon arrival at the pier, I passed two immense U.S. Coast Guard ships before laying eyes on what would be by new home for the next ten days—NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Several members of the crew were already there to welcome me aboard. The crew’s hospitality and Jerry’s tour of the ship eased my anxiety while at the same time, intensifying my excitement for the adventure that awaits.

After the tour, Jerry showed me to my stateroom. I was surprised to find out that I have my own cabin! There is a refrigerator, closet, desk, recliner, my very own sink, and a shared bathroom with the room next door. It also has a TV to watch any of the movies available on the ship.

After unpacking my luggage, I decided I would spend some time exploring the ship. I took photographs and captured 360-degree images of the ship’s many spaces. I intend to use my footage as a way to give my students a virtual tour of Gordon Gunter. When Jerry showed us the ship, he effortlessly moved from one place to the next. I, on the other hand, could not…at first. I felt as if I was stuck in a labyrinth. Yet, with the amount of time I will be spending on board Gordon Gunter, I am sure it will not take long to get the “lay of the land”.

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The Galley (Kitchen)

Getting lost is not always a bad thing. I can admit that I was not too upset when I took a wrong turn and ended up in the galley (the kitchen). I could tell right away from the appetizing aroma and the fresh fruits and vegetables that the meals were going to be amazing.

After Leg 1 of the Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey which concluded on Friday, May 26. Prior to the ship’s departure at 1400 hours on Memorial Day, the crew was busy with important maintenance and upkeep. With the adventure of a lifetime so close at hand, I could only hope that my excitement would give me at least a few hours of sleep.

Preparing for Departure (Monday, May 29)

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My first dinner on board ship Gordon Gunter.

To keep everyone happy when they are living in such close quarters, working strange shifts, and so far from home, good food is vital. Isn’t it always? Gordon Gunter is well known in the NOAA community for its fantastic food. The person responsible for our delicious and abundant food is Margaret Coyle, Chief Steward and her trusted comrade, Paul Acob, Second Cook. I first experienced their culinary skills at my first 6:30 a.m. breakfast. Remarkable! I could not wait for the meals to come.

Margaret has worked on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter for 13 years! Before NOAA, Margaret was in the Coast Guard for four years and her husband retired from the Coast Guard with 21 years of service. Margaret makes almost every dish from scratch—from juices to hummus. She is dedicated to providing a variety of meals that not only fill bellies but satisfy taste buds. You never quite know what to expect one meal to the next, and that my friends is the spice of life! Paul has spent 14 years with NOAA and 20 years in the Navy—that’s 34 years at sea! I greatly admire both Paul and Margaret for their service and continued commitment.

IMG_8493.JPGAs a Teacher at Sea, I am an active member of the science team. I have been assigned the day shift, which means I work from 12 noon to 12 midnight. I am happy with this shift because it is a little more of a regular schedule compared to beginning work at midnight and then sleeping during the daylight hours. However, it will definitely take time for me to adjust my eating and sleeping schedules with that of my work shift.

In preparation for our work at sea, we spent the afternoon reviewing guidelines and proper procedures. Safety is crucial on any ship, and I feel much better having gone through the welcome orientation. Now, I am prepared when it is time to perform any of the three emergency drills: fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. One can never be too cautious.

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The Gulf of Maine. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The second leg of the 2017 Spring EcoMon Survey consists of research at oceanography stations in the Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. These stations are randomly distributed and progress of the survey will depend on transit time, sea state, and water depth of the stations. Our research will calculate the spatial distribution of the following factors: water currents, water properties, phytoplankton, microzooplankton, mesozooplankton, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

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NOAA Flag

At 2:07 p.m. (our scheduled departure time), Gordon Gunter cast off from Coddington Cove at the Naval Station Newport. As we approached the Newport Bridge I took photos of the NAVY War College, Herring gulls nesting on a small island, passing ski boats, and the ocean view cottages. On the flying bridge an expert in magnetic compasses calibrated the ship’s mechanism and cleared the compass of excess debris.

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Compass Adjustment/Calibration

During a personnel transfer using the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB), a mechanical issue was identified and the ship needed to head back to the pier. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Lindsay Kurelja, informed us that we would begin our journey at 9:00 a.m. the next day, May 30.

Science and Technology Log

My head has been spinning with the different types of equipment and technology on board Gordon Gunter. I have a lot to learn! I would like to share a small bit of information about two important pieces of equipment that will be essential to our research in the coming days.

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Bongo Nets

1.) Since the majority of plankton is too small to see with the naked eye, these organisms must be viewed through a microscope. To do this, plankton must be collected from the ocean. You might be thinking, “But how? They are too small to catch.” That’s why we use bongo nets! Bongo nets allow scientists to strain plankton from the water using the bongo’s mesh net. Plankton and other matter from the sea will be deposited into a bucket at the end of the net which is called a cod-end. Different sized nets are used to capture different types of plankton. The bongo nets will be towed slowly through the water at each oceanography station we come to. I am looking forward to using the ship’s bongo nets to investigate marine life in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.

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CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth)

2.) At each station of this leg of the EcoMon survey, we will use a CTD device to determine the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of the ocean. On Gordon Gunter, the CTD is incorporated into a rosette, or carousel. This allows us to collect water samples from various depths at the same location. The CTD will give scientists a broad picture of the marine environment in the Northeast Atlantic.

New Terms/Phrases

Parts of a Ship (Source — Macmillan Dictionary):

  • Aft Deck: the part of the deck towards the back of the ship.
  • Bow: the front of the ship.
  • Bridge: the part of the ship from which it is controlled. (This is where the captain controls the ship.)
  • Deck: the outside top part of the ship that you can walk on.
  • Forward Deck: the part of the deck towards the front of the ship.
  • Port: the side of the ship that is on your left when you are looking forwards.
  • Starboard: the side of the ship that is on your right when you are looking forwards.
  • Stern: the back part of the ship.

Did You Know?

IMG_8444.JPGAt Pier 2 at Naval Station Newport were gigantic buoys the Coast Guard had recently cleaned and re-painted. Do you know why some are green and some are red? The colors help aid the navigation of ships. The red buoys are on the right/starboard side of the ship, and the green buoys should be on the left/port side of the vessel when heading upstream. I guess ships have their own rules of navigation just like vehicles on the road.