Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1
Geographic Area: Southeastern U.S. coast
Date: September 21, 2018
While aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II, I was able to create some art, which is my absolute passion in life. I was able use my time before and after most shifts to draw and paint the fish and sharks with watercolor paint and water from the ocean. It was tricky to paint with the constant movement of the ship, but I was able to paint over 20 paintings of sharks, fish, and the Oregon II over the 16 days on board the ship.
Now that I’ve been home for a month, I’ve had some time to reflect on my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience. If I told you my NOAA Teacher At Sea experience was incredible, I would be understating it quite a bit. I knew the excitement of working on the mighty NOAA Ship Oregon II and participating in the shark survey would be a highlight of my lifetime for sure. The opportunity to work with NOAA scientists, fishermen, and the rest of the crew was the best learning experience a teacher and artist could ask for. But just a week after returning, it was back to school and I needed to find ways to convey what I learned to my students. I began by creating a digital infographic about Longline Fishing so they would have a visual to go along with my explanation.
I wanted to inform my students to create awareness about the species of shark and other ocean inhabitants that are threatened and endangered. I also wanted them to learn science about the animals and incorporate some of that data into their art to make their images more impactful to those that see them. We want to compile related projects together until later in the year for our annual Night of the Arts- NOAA Edition.
We also created three life size Art Shark paintings and posted them in the hallways of our school to advocate for sharks through art and work to give sharks a more positive community image, and not the sensational, fearful media portrayal of sharks.
As a fine artist painter, the Teacher At Sea experience has helped to make my artwork much more accurate for several reasons. Primarily the reason was proximity. I was able to see the sharks and fish first hand everyday, and take many reference photos of our catch each day. I could now see the beautiful colors of different sharks while out of the water, which I never had seen before. I was also able to speak to the fishermen and scientists each day about the behaviors and biology of the fish and I gained insight from listening to their vast experiences in the oceans all around the globe.
Since being home, I’ve begun to paint a series of scientifically accurate side views of my favorite sharks, and eventually I will digitally compile them into one poster after I get 15 to 18 completed. After that, I’ll begin a series of paintings with sharks swimming in their natural environment to bring more color and visual dynamics onto the canvas. This has been the most inspiring adventure of my life, and I will continue to advocate for my favorite ocean animals by using art to bring the respect and admiration that these beautiful sharks deserve to continue to thrive long into Earth’s distant future.
Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1
Geographic Area: 30 35’ 34’’ N, 80 56’ 48’’ W, 20 miles off the coast of Jessup, Georgia
Date: August 2, 2018
Weather Data from Bridge: Wind speed 14 knots, Air Temp: 27c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 2 ft.
Science and Technology Log
Longline fishing is a technique that consists of one main fishing line with many baited hooks that come of that line on shorter lines, (like branches off a tree) attached at various distances. Long lines are used in both coastal areas and the open ocean and are often placed to target specific species. If the long line is suspended in the top or mid depth water, it is called pelagic longline fishing. If it is on or near the ocean floor by weighting it down to the sea floor, it is called bottom longline fishing. A high-flyer buoy is placed at either end to mark the position of the line in the water so boats can see it while submerged, and so it can be found when it needs to be retrieved. Weights are placed on each end and the middle of the line to hold the line down to a specified depth.
On board NOAA Ship Oregon II, the mission is a red snapper/shark longline fishing survey in the Gulf of Mexico and the Western North Atlantic coast. I was on the first of four legs of the survey that left Pascagoula, Mississippi, rounded the bottom of Florida and stopped for 44 stations between West Palm Beach FL, up to Cape Hatteras, NC, and back down to Port Canaveral, FL. NOAA’s mission is to research current shark and snapper populations in specific areas as determined by NOAA shark scientists and related state Fishery Departments.
The Oregon II has a large spool of 3mm monofilament fishing line on deck. For our survey, we used a line that was one mile long, and had 100 baited hooks approximately 50 feet apart. The hooks are attached to the line by gangions. Gangions are 12 foot long monofilament lines with a hook on one end and a manual fastener at the other end that can be taken on and off each time the line is deployed. All 100 hooks on the gangions are baited with Atlantic mackerel.
To deploy the line into the water, it takes a team of 6 people. The first person strings the line from the spool and through various pulleys along the length of the ship moving toward the back of the boat before tying it to the high flyer buoy and returning to the spool control to deploy the mile long line into the water. A team of two works to attach a specific number tag onto each gangion, and then to retrieve the 12 foot long gangion from a barrel. The numbered, baited, gangions are handed one by one to the next team member who attaches the gangion of the main long line every 60 feet as the line descends into the water. This crewman also places three weights on the line to hold it onto the ocean floor, one at each end, and one in the middle. When all hooks are deployed, the line is cut from the spool and the high-flyer buoy is attached to mark the end of the line in the water.
The last member of the science team is at a computer station on deck and they are in charge of inputting data into the computer. Each time a buoy, weight, or gangion goes into the water, a specific button is pushed to mark the items place in the water. This is done so when a shark comes up on a numbered hook, NOAA scientists know exactly the latitude, longitude and depth of where that specific shark was caught. Scientists upload this important data immediately to NOAA servers for later use so they can assess average populations in specific areas, among many other data points.
The bait stays down on the ocean floor for about an hour before the boat returns to retrieve it. The retrieval process is similar to deploying the line except that it takes longer to bring it in, as there are now some fish and sharks attached to the hooks. If the hooks are empty, the number is taken off the line, and the gangion is placed back in the barrel until the next station. If there is a shark or fish on the line, it is pulled onto the deck and data is collected before the shark is safely placed back into the water. The first step is unhooking the fish, before it is measured. The shark is measured from the tip of the nose to various parts of the body to determine the size in those areas. The gender of the shark is also determined, as well as the maturity. Finally, the shark is weighed on a scale and most are tagged before being photographed and released. The process only takes about two minutes to safely ensure the shark survives. The data is recorded on a data log, and after the retrieval, the data is input into a database.
Before coming on the Oregon II, I knew only about the fishing process on a larger scale from what I’d read about, or seen on television. I was slightly intimidated that without experience, I’d likely be slowing down the experienced team of professionals from their difficult job. As we headed out to sea, I found out it would take a few days before we reached our first station and that gave me time to get to know the crew, which was very valuable. There are two crews, each work 12 hours a day, so fishing was happening around the clock. I was able to listen to their advice and explanation of the techniques used in the long line process, and also some fantastic stories about their lives and families. Their patience with me and the other volunteers during those first few stations gave us time to get up to their speed, and from then out it was like clockwork. It was certainly hard to work outside all day, but the passion, skill, and humor of the crew made it quite fun work each day and night. It was impressive and amazing to see how this efficient process is used to help NOAA scientists and fishermen collect data from vast areas of the ocean for two weeks. I am proud to say I helped a great team to get information that can help us understand how to help populations of sharks and fish for long into the future.
Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1
Geographic Area:32 nautical miles SE of Key West Florida
Date: July 28, 2018
Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind speed 11 knots, Air Temp: 27.6c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 1 foot
Science and Technology Log: As we move through the Gulf of Mexico headed to our first research station, I didn’t have a job most of the day, so I sought to find out more information about what makes the great Oregon ll function to serve it’s crew of 28. One of the Engineers kindly offered me a tour of the engine room to see what lies below the service decks.
The ship is powered by twin 900 horse power engines that turn the propeller shaft up to 12 knots. When sailing between work stations, generally both engines are used, and when long line fishing begins, only one engine provides power as the ship moves around 2- 3 knots. The ship holds up to 70,000 gallons of fuel, and when both engines are running,1,000 gallons are used daily. There is also a bow thruster engine near the front of the ship that is much smaller and helps with finer movements at the dock, in stations, or when seas get rough.
There are 2 large electrical power generators that provide electricity to the ship for the multitude of research computers and data collectors. While out at sea, Oregon ll is always tracking weather data, water quality, live radar from above the ship, and also sonar from below the ocean. The generators also provide power for all the creature comforts you would need in any living environment, as this ship is the crew’s home during each leg of the trip. At times when less power is needed, one generator is shut down to conserve energy for later use.
The Oregon ll also provides it’s own clean water for equipment and human consumption. The Water Purification System uses Reverse Osmosis to take salt water from the ocean and turn it into potable water to wash, cook, clean with, and drink. A Reverse Osmosis System uses high pressure and pushes impure water through a semi-permeable membrane which allows clean water through the membrane, while allowing impurities (such as salt, bacteria, and sediment) to be blocked from coming through, and discharges the impurities back into the ocean.
Personal Log: I am having a great time getting to know the crew and their many jobs around the ship, and how each one affects the other. This symbiotic relationship is the heart of what makes every mission successful. There are the Ship’s Officers who chart the course, drive the ship, and oversee all Crew Members. The Deck Department makes sure the work areas are safe and equipment is working correctly. The Fishermen are in charge of the process of the Long Line Survey, from preparation, to process, to clean-up. The Engineering Department makes sure the interior of the ship and it’s equipment are functioning properly, which is a very wide ranging. I certainly wish I had these guys around my house during those tricky repairs!
The Steward Department is in charge of ordering, cooking, serving, and cleaning up of all meals for the crew. Finally, the Electronic Department has the complicated job of installing, operating, and fixing any electronic equipment. Let me tell you, there are miles of wires running through this ship and all of it is used to make the mission successful. All data is continually collected, and preserved for later study. Some of the water and weather data is uploaded to the NOAA website for the public’s use as well.
I really enjoyed hearing the wide ranges of places in America the Oregon ll crew come from. It is also impressive to hear the various places all around the world they’ve sailed before joining NOAA, and which other NOAA ships they’ve been crew members on. The diverse experience each crew person has in their field has really helped the mission many times over since I’ve been here. One thing I know is true is that each of them is happy to tell you about their families, and how much they love them and miss them while they’re away. Many of them have long seasons away from the ones they love, and count the days until they can come home.
Fun Fact: NOAA Ship Oregon ll turned 50 years old last year, and was honored for making the half century mark of service. It was built in 1967, right in it’s home port of Pascagoula, Mississippi
Animals Seen Today: Bottlenose Dolphin, Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, Flying Fish, Jelly Fish
Current Location: Impatiently waiting to sail in Centennial, Colorado
Date: June 20
Weather Data from the “Bridge” (AKA My Sun Porch):
Personal Log – An Introduction
Hello! My name is Staci DeSchryver and I will be traveling this upcoming July on the Oscar Elton Sette as part of the HICEAS program!
I am an Oceanography, Meteorology, and Earth Science teacher at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, CO. This August will kick off my 14th (yikes!) year teaching. I know you might be thinking, “Why Oceanography in a landlocked state?” Well, the reason why I can and do teach Oceanography is because of Teacher At Sea. I am an alumna, so this is my second official voyage through the Teacher At Sea program. It was all of the wonderful people I met, lessons I learned, and science that I participated in on the
Oscar Dyson in 2011 that led me to encourage my school to put an Oceanography course in place for seniors as a capstone course. This past year was the first year for the Oceanography and Meteorology courses, and they were very well received! I have three sections of each class next year, as well! (Shout out to all my recent senior grads reading this post! You were awesome!) We study our World’s Ocean from the top of the water column all the way to the deepest parts of the Marianas Trench, and from the tiniest atom all the way up to the largest whale. I believe it is one of the most comprehensive courses offered to our students – incorporating geology, chemistry, physics, and biology, but then again, I’m a bit biased.
Apart from being a teacher, I am a wife to my husband of 8 years, Stephen. We don’t have children, but we do have two hedgehogs, Tank and Willa, who keep us reasonably busy. Willa only has one eye, and Tank is named Tank because he’s abnormally large for a hedgie. They are the best lil’ hedgies we know. We enjoy camping, rock climbing, and hiking – the typical Coloradans, though we are both originally from Michigan. When we aren’t spending time together, I like to dance ballet, read, write, and I recently picked up a new weightlifting habit, which has led me to an entire new lifestyle of health and wellness with an occasional interjection of things like Ice Cream topped with caramel and Nachos when in the “off” season (hey, nobody’s perfect).
I will be leaving for Honolulu, Hawaii on July 4th to meet up with the fine scientists that make up the HICEAS team. What is HICEAS? Read below to find out more about HICEAS and the research we will be doing onboard!
The HICEAS (Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey) is a study of Cetaceans (Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises) and their habitats. Cetaceans live in the ocean, and are characterized by being carnivorous (we will get along just fine at the dinner table) and having fins (since I am a poor swimmer, I will humbly yield to what I can only assume is their instinctive expertise). This means that the study will cover all manners of these majestic creatures – from whales that are definitely easily identifiable as whales to whales that look like dolphins but are actually whales to porpoises that really look like whales but are actually dolphins and dolphins that look like dolphins that are dolphins and… are you exhausted yet? Here’s some good news – porpoises aren’t very common in Hawaiian waters, so that takes some of the stress out of identifying one of those groups, though we will still be on the lookout. Here’s where it gets tricky – it won’t be enough to just sight a whale, for example and say, “Hey! We have a whale!” The observers will be identifying the actual species of the whale (or dolphin or possible-porpoise). The observers who tackle this task are sharp and quick at what is truly a difficult and impressive skill. I’m sure this will be immediately confirmed when they spot, identify, and carry on before I say, “Wait! Where do you see it?”
There are 25 cetacean species native to Hawaiian waters, so that’s a big order to fill for the observers. And we will be out on the water until we locate every last one. Just kidding. But we will be looking to spot all of these species, and once found, we will do our best to estimate how many there are overall as a stock estimate. Ideally, these cetacean species will be classified into three categories – delphinids (dolphins and a few dolphin-like whales), deep diving whales (whales with teeth), and baleen whales (of the “swim away!” variety). Once identified in this broad sense, they will then be identified by species. However, I do have a feeling these two categorizations happen all at once.
Once the data is collected, there is an equation that is used to project stock estimates for the whole of the Pacific. More on this later, but I will just start by saying for all you math folk out there, it’s some seriously sophisticated data extrapolation. It involves maths that I have yet to master, but I have a month to figure it out, so it’s not looking too bleak for me just yet. In the meantime, I’m spending my time trying to figure out which cetaceans that look like dolphins are actually possible-porpoises, and which dolphins that look like dolphins are actually whales.
Goals and Objectives of the HICEAS
The HICEAS study operates as a part of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SFSC), both under the NOAA umbrella. Our chief scientist is Dr. Erin Oleson, who will be the lead on this leg of the cruise. HICEAS last collected data in 2010, and is now ready for the next round of stock assessments. HICEAS is a 187-day study, of which we will be participating in approximately 30 of those days for this particular leg. Our research area is 2.5 million square kilometers, and covers the whole of the Hawaiian Archipelago and it’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ! The HICEAS study has three primary goals:
Estimate the number of cetaceans in Hawaii.
Examine their population structure.
Understand their habitat.
Studies like the HICEAS are pretty rare (2002, 2010, and now 2017), so the scientists are doing their best to work together to collect as much information as they possibly can during the study. From what I can gather in lead-up chats with on board scientist Kym Yano, we will be traveling along lines called “transects” in the Pacific Ocean, looking for all the popular Cetacean hangouts. When a cetacean is sighted, we move toward the lil’ guy (or gal) and all his friends to take an estimate, and if it permits, a biopsy. There is a second team of scientists working below deck listening for Cetacean gossip (whale calls) as well. Acoustic scientists will record the whale or dolphin calls for later review and confirmation of identification of species, and, of course, general awesomeness.
But that’s not all!
We will also be dropping CTD’s twice per day, which is pretty standard ocean scientific practice. Recall that the CTD will give us an idea of temperature, salinity, and pressure variations with depth, alerting us to the presence and locations of any of the “clines” – thermocline, halocline, and pycnocline. Recall that in areas near the equator, rapid changes of temperature, salinity, and density with depth are pretty common year-round, but at the middle latitudes, these form and dissipate through the course of the solar year. These density changes with depth can block nutrients from moving to the surface, which can act as a cutoff to primary production. Further, the CTD readings will help the acoustic scientists to do their work, as salinity and temperature variations will change the speed of sound in water.
There will also be a team working to sight sea birds and other marine life that doesn’t fall under the cetacean study (think sea turtles and other fun marine life). This study is enormous in scope. And I’m so excited to be a part of it!
What is the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin?
It has to do with 3 identifiers: Faces, Fins, and Figures.
Bradford, A. L., Forney, K. A., Oleson, E. M., & Barlow, J. (2017). Abundance estimates of cetaceans from a line-transect survey within the U.S. Hawaiian Islands Exclusive Economic Zone. Fishery Bulletin,115(2), 129-142. doi:10.7755/fb.115.2.1
Barney Peterson Aboard NOAA Ship OREGON II August 13 – 28, 2016
Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 20, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 28 10.999 N
Longitude: 084 09.706 W
Air temperature: 90.68 F
Pressure: 1020.05 Mb
Sea Surface Temperature: 32.6 C
Wind Speed: 4.74 Kt
NOAA is a big organization! To say I am working for NOAA this summer is like saying I am visiting the USA…way too non-specific to mean much.
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is a part of the US Department of Commerce. The NOAA mission: Science, Service and Stewardship, is further stated simply as to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others; to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
To carry out that mission NOAA is further split into divisions that use a broadly diverse set of skills and abilities including satellite systems, ships, buoys, aircraft, research, high performance computing, and information management and distribution systems.* In later posts I will introduce you to some of the people who use those resources as they perform their jobs.
As a Teacher at Sea I am working under NOAA Fisheries. This program (TAS) “is designed to give teachers a clearer insight into our ocean planet, a greater understanding of maritime work and studies and to increase their level of environmental literacy by fostering an interdisciplinary research experience.”*
This summer I am assigned to NOAA Ship Oregon II, a fisheries research vessel of the National Marine Fisheries Service. We are conducting a long-line survey of fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The information we gather on species diversity and abundance will help the Service make decisions for management of our marine resources. What this boils down to for the average citizen may seem like what you are allowed to catch where, when, and how many; really the results are much, much more important. These decisions will be part of a plan to respond to changes in the health of our planet and the needs of all of us who inhabit it. “There is just one big ocean.”*
To understand what that last statement means, find a globe or an inflatable Earth Ball™. Put your index finger on a point in the Arctic Ocean. Now move your finger around the globe, always moving to your right, maybe a little up or down sometimes, until you get back to where you started. Your finger should never leave the “water” as it moves around the world. See! JUST ONE BIG OCEAN!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kaitlin Baird Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow September 4 – 20, 2012
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey with NOAA’s North East Fisheries Science Center Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean steaming to south New Jersey coast Date: September 8th
Location Data: Latitude: 38° 44.58’ N
Longitude: 73 ° 39.30’ W
Weather Data: Air Temperature: 23.2°C (approx. 74°F)
Wind Speed: 5.05 kts
Wind Direction: from N
Surface Water Temperature: 25.29 °C (approx. 78°F)
Weather conditions: Sunny and fair
Science and Technology Log
Other than testing out the FSCS today and learning the ropes, I also learned about another type of tow we are doing on this cruise. When looking at fish stock assessment it is also important to look at the base of the food chain, you guessed it, plankton. Today we were specifically targeting zooplankton, microscopic animal drifters in the ocean that are an important food source for many of the fish and other invertebrates that we are surveying.
When I saw the nets go in, they looked a bit different than those on the R/V HSBC Atlantic Explorer, and I learned a new term, BONGO net. This is the tandem net which we are using to tow for zooplankton at set locations while we are en route. Unlike the trawl net we tow these on the side of the ship verses the back so there is no interference by the wake made by the ship as it moves through the water. If you imagine a giant windsock with a plastic catchment at the end, this is what these nets look like. The pressure of the water moving through the net forces anything heavy to the “cod end” of the net and sieves the water out of the mesh that makes up the net.
The depth of the net tow is dependent upon bottom depth and protocol at each site, but they normally try to tow pretty close to the bottom (=/- 10 m). A separate, Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) recorder is also deployed with the nets to understand more about the ocean chemistry at set locations. There is such a variability when towing for plankton (as it can be quite patchy) that having the two nets gives you more opportunity to capture the diversity of life that is out there. The nets are also two different mesh sizes so that they can catch zooplankton in different size classes.
It was great to get fishing today off of the coast of Maryland. We were all ready to sort anything that came down the conveyer belt. The species get sorted and then brought to the FSCS stations. Here they are measured along with anything else that needs to be done to them. I helped to get otoliths prepared and input data on gut contents, condition and sex.
One of the things I noticed were a lot of flounders, both left eye and right eye. That’s right folks, flounder usually start with one eye on each side of their heads and then eventually (species dependent) it migrates as they mature so that they sit on the bottom with both eyes on top of their heads. Depending on which way they migrate they are designated as “left eye” or “right eye” as you can see in the photos below. Did you know? These eyes can move independently of each other, pretty cool stuff!
Stay tuned for more critters! Here is just a shortlist of some that we saw today!
Gulf stream flounder
Four spot flounder
Armored sea robin
LOTS of Squid
It is no small feat to conduct a research survey for NOAA. It takes many individuals with many different strengths to ensure a safe and successful cruise. From the captain of the ship who is responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew, to the stewards who ensure the crew is well fed and well kept, every crew member is important.
I interviewed many of the crew members to get a better idea of what their jobs entail and what they had to do to become qualified for their jobs. I complied all of the interviews into a video to introduce you to some of the Oregon II’s crew.
Safety Aboard the Oregon II
While out at sea, safety is a critical issue. Just as schools have fire and tornado drills, ships have drills of their own. All crew members have a role to fulfill during each drill. Emergency billets (assigned jobs during emergencies) are posted for each cruise in multiple locations on the ship.
Fire on a ship is a very critical situation. Because of this, fire drills are performed frequently to ensure all crew recognize the alarm, listen to important directions from the captain, and muster to their assigned stations. (To muster means to report and assemble together.) One long blast of the ship’s whistle signals a fire. (Think of someone yelling “Firrreee!!!”) Each crew member is assigned to a location to perform a specific duty. When the fire whistle is blown, some crew members are in charge of donning fire fighting suits and equipment, while others are in charge of making sure all crew have mustered to their stations.
Another drill performed on the ship is the abandon ship drill. This drill is performed so that crew will be prepared in the unlikely event that the they need to evacuate the ship. Seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast signals to the crew to abandon ship. Crew members must report to their staterooms to gather their PFDs (personal flotation devices), their immersion suits, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Once all emergency equipment is gathered, all crew meets on the deck at the bow of the ship to don their shirts, pants, hats, immersion suits, and PFDs. All of this gear is important for survival in the open ocean because it will keep you warm, protected, and afloat until rescue is achieved.
The last drill we perform is the man overboard drill. This drill is performed so that all crew will be ready to respond if a crew member falls overboard. If a crew member falls overboard, the ship’s whistle is blown three times (think of someone shouting “Maann Overr-boarrrd..!). If the crew member is close enough, and is not badly injured, a swimmer line can be thrown out. If the crew member is too far away from the ship or is injured, the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) will be deployed and will drive out to rescue the crew member. The crew member can be secured to a rescue basket and lifted back onboard the ship.
It is important to practice allof these drills so that everyone can move quickly and efficiently to handle and resolve the problem. All drills are performed at least once during each cruise.
Daily safety aboard the Oregon II is also important. When any heavy machinery is in operation, such as large cranes, it is important that all crew in the area don safety equipment. This equipment includes a hard hat and a PFD (personal flotation device). Since cranes are operated at least once at every sampling station, this safety equipment is readily available for crew members to use
I have now returned home from my grand adventure aboard the Oregon II. It took a few days for me to recover from “stillness illness” and get my land-legs back, but it feels nice to be back home. I miss working alongside the crew of the Oregon II and made many new friends that I hope to keep in touch with. Being a Teacher at Sea has been an experience of a lifetime. I learned so much about life at sea and studies in marine science. About half way through the cruise I had started to believe this was my full-time job! I am eager to share this experience with students and staff alike. I hope to spark new passions in students and excitement in staff to explore this opportunity from NOAA.
I want to thank all of the crew of the Oregon II for being so welcoming and including me as another crew member aboard the ship. I also want to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me such a wonderful opportunity. I hope to be part of future opportunities offered by this program.
The trawling net is used to collect groundfish samples. It is deployed from the stern of the ship and towed for 30 minutes. The net is towed back in and brought onboard to be emptied. During this process it is important that everyone at the stern of the ship is wearing a hard hat and a personal flotation device in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Once the net is lifted over the side of the ship and brought on deck, it is untied and emptied into large baskets.
The baskets are weighed before they are brought inside and emptied onto a large conveyor belt. The fish are spread out on the belt so they are easier to sort. The fish are sorted into individual baskets by species. Once all of the fish are sorted, we count them and find their total weight. We then work through each basket and measure, weigh, and identify the sex of each specimen. Once we are done measuring the fish, some are bagged, labeled and frozen for scientists to examine back at their labs. The rest of the fish are thrown back into the ocean.
We found many different species of vertebrates and invertebrates (fish with a spine, and those without a spine). Here are some of the fish we found:
It is important to document the length and weight of each fish collected in a trawl. We used special measuring boards and scales to collect this data. There are two boards, each is connected to one computer. When we measure the fish, we use a magnetic wand. When it touches the board, it sends a signal to the computer which records the length of the fish. Fish are measure at one of three lengths: fork length, standard length, and total length. Once the fish are measured, they are placed on a scale to be weighed. The scale is also connected to the computer and records the weight of the fish.
Day 12 – July 16th
Today is my last day at sea before we dock in Pascagoula,Mississippi. It has been quite a journey and I can’t believe it is already over. Though the work was hard and hot (and many times smelly), it was an amazing experience and I hope to one day have the opportunity to experience it again! I have met many wonderful people and hope to keep in touch with them! I have learned so much about our oceans and the life within them. I hope that my blogs have given you a glimpse into what life onboard the Oregon II is like and I hope that you have learned something about the work that takes place on the open seas.
Although this is my last day on the Oregon II, keep an eye out for one final blog. There will be interviews with the crew of the Oregon II, what their job is, why they chose this line of work, the steps they took to become a crew member of the Oregon II, and words of advice for students everywhere!
The Neuston net is the first net to be deployed at sampling stations. This net has a wide rectangular opening that skims the surface of the water to collect surface dwelling organisms. Before the net is deployed, a cylindrical cod end is attached to the bottom of the net. The cod end has many holes that are covered by a screen. The screen allows water to flow through, but the organisms to get caught. We usually deploy the neuston net for 10 minutes, but sometimes we only deploy it for 5 minutes, depending on the amount of sargassum that is collected inside the net.
Sargassum is a type of seaweed that floats at the surface of the water, almost like little islands. Sargassum provides an important habitat for many marine animals in the open ocean. We frequently find small filefish, jacks, and flying fish, as well as juvenile puffer fish, crabs, and shrimp. Young sea turtles also use the sargassum as a hiding place from larger predators, though we have not found any during this trip.
When sargassum makes its way into our Neuston net, we collect all of it into large buckets. We have to rinse all of the sargassum off into large buckets to make sure that we collect all of the creatures living inside of it. We do this because we want to get the most accurate sampling of the population of living organisms in the sampling area. Depending on how much sargassum is collected in the Neuston net, the collection process can anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour!
Once the sample has been rinsed into buckets, the buckets are poured into sieves. The sieves have screens that allow the water to flow through, but not the organisms we want to save. Once the buckets have been poured into the sieves, rinsed, and poured out again (to make sure nothing stuck to the inside of the bucket), we use alcohol to rinse the sieves into funnels that channel the sample into quart-sized jars. Once the entire sample has been rinsed into a jar, we fill the jar with alcohol, place a label inside the jar to record the location the sample came from, stick a similar label on the lid, and place the jar in a box back in our chem lab. The samples are analyzed later at a lab once the survey is over.
The Bongo Nets
Bongo nets are similar to the neuston net, but there are some differences. The bongo nets have cod ends like the neuston, but they have two cod ends because there are two separate nets, where the neuston has only one. The holes of the bongo cod ends are covered by screens that have smaller openings than the neuston cod ends so that they can collect smaller organisms. The main purpose of the bongo nets is to collect plankton samples. We cannot collect plankton easily using the neuston net because the openings in the screen on the cod end are larger.
Before the bongo nets are deployed, we have to report the numbers on the flow meters from the left bongo net and the right bongo net. The numbers on the flow meters are used to determine the amount of water that passed through the nets during deployment. Depending on how deep the water is determines how much water passes through the nets. After the nets are deployed, a sensor sends a message back to the lab to determine their depth. The person back in the lab monitors the depth and makes sure that the nets go as far down as possible, but do not make contact with the ocean floor. If the nets were to make contact with the ocean floor there is a good possibility that they could be damaged, which is why it’s so important to closely monitor the depth of the bongo nets. After the nets are brought back up on deck, the numbers are reported back to the lab where they subtract the first number of each flow meter (left bongo net and right bongo net) from the final number from each bongo. The difference is then divided by the length of time the net was deployed in the water.
Day 8 – July 12th
Today was a VERY slow day. We only had four sampling stations, and of those only one was a trawl station. I was able to work a bit more on my blogs today, and start working on some cool lesson plans to bring back to school with me this fall. We also managed to watch a couple movies and raid the ice cream freezer during our down time. The seas were exceptionally calm tonight, almost as smooth as glass. It was very calming and serene, almost surreal! I made sure to take several pictures before the sun had set. The waters were smooth for the rest of the night which made for easy sleeping..
Day 9 – July 13th
Trawling was the focus of today. We had 4 trawls plus a couple neuston and bongo net sampling stations, so it was quite the busy day! We saw quite a number of new species that we hadn’t seen in previous trawls so I made sure to photograph those to share with my students later. At one of our sampling stations, we collected almost 6 5-gallon buckets worth of sargassum in our neuston net. It took us quite a bit of time to rinse it all down and collect the samples into preservation jars. It took three, quart-sized jars to hold all of the sample we collected!
Day 10 – July 14th
I found out this was our last day of sampling before we make our way back to Pascagoula. We mostly had trawls today, so we got to examine lots of critters. We had lots of down time because one of our runs to a sampling station was almost four and a half hours long! I spent that time working on my blog, and taking a much needed nap to catch up on my sleep! We had a really pretty sunset right before a thunderstorm that delayed one of our trawls. We worked right up until the next team came onto their shift and took over cleaning up from our trawl.
Day 11 – July 15th
All of our sampling was completed over the night, but I was able to work on the last neuston/bongo sampling when I went onto my shift. After all of the sampling was done, it was time to start scrubbing everything down to get it back into ship shape! The wet lab, dry lab, neuston net, bongo nets, and the stern were all hosed down, power-washed, scrubbed, bleached, and Windex-ed until everything smelled clean again. It took us most of the afternoon, but when it was done, we were done! The rest of our time on the Oregon II was left for unwinding and relaxing. After a lunch of king crab legs and a Thanksgiving-like dinner, my stomach was happy and satisfied (but not until after an ice cream sandwich of course!) Movies filled the remainder of the afternoon and evening, until I was ready for bed.
Weather Details from Bridge: (at 19:45 GMT)
Air Temperature: 29.90 ◦C
Water Temperature: 29.40 ◦C
Relative Humidity: 64%
Wind Speed: 3.56 kts
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.90 mb
Science and Technology Log
This device is the first to be deployed at every sampling station. CTD stands for *Conductivity *Temperature *Depth. The salinity (the amount of salt in the water) is measured by looking at the conductivity. Salt has ions. Ions are like little electrical charges that are either positively charged or negatively charged. By measuring how many electrical charges (ionic charges) there are in the salt, we can measure how conductive the water is which will also tell us how much salt is in the water. This data is measured by the CTD and is transmitted by an electrical pulse. The depth is measured by the amount of pressure being pressed upon the device as it is lowered into the water. The temperature is measured by a temperature gauge. All of the data collection devices are attached to a large metal rosette wheel.
The frame is lowered into the water using a thick cable that is attached to a J-Frame (a large yellow arm that can be raised and lowered.) The cable runs through a pulley attached to the J-Frame to make sure the deployment of the CTD runs smoothly.
The CTD also measures dissolved oxygen levels (the amount of oxygen in the water). There is also a fluorometer which measures the amount of chlorophyll (phytoplankton activity) in the water.
As soon as the CTD is released into the water it begins collecting data. Data is collected continuously as it is lowered toward the ocean bottom. The data is sent through a very thin wire that transmits the data to one of the computers in the dry lab where it is documented for later analysis.
The CTD has three water collection Niskin bottles (large grey cylinders). Niskins are named after Shale Niskin who developed this bottle. Water collections using the Niskins are controlled by a computer in the dry lab. One click on a computer and the CTD will automatically snap shut the bottles. Older versions that were not controlled by computers had heavy metal messengers that were lowered down a string toward the collection bottle. When the messenger reached the top of the bottle, it would hit a trigger and snap the bottle shut.
Water collection does not occur at every sampling station, but when it is planned, the water is collected at the bottom. This is because we are focusing on the bottom of the ocean during this survey. We want to test the water at this depth to better understand the environment in which the organisms we are collecting live in and make predictions as to how human and nonhuman influences may harm this benthic (bottom) community. The water can be used for several different tests, but we use it to test the dissolved oxygen levels of the water.
Measuring dissolved oxygen levels is important because if it is extremely low — called “hypoxia” (2 mg/L or lower) — animals fail to survive. If dissolved oxygen is not present (0 mg/L) it is called “anoxia”. Hypoxic or anoxic areas are frequently referred to as “dead zones”.
Although the CTD has a digital device that measures the dissolved oxygen (DO) levels, we manually test the water for DO once a day to make sure that the CTD is calibrated correctly and that there are no malfunctions that need to be fixed. There are two different ways we manually test the water. One is by using a hand-held dissolved oxygen meter. This meter digitally calculates the dissolved oxygen levels. We lower this meter directly into one of the Niskins.
We also collect water samples from each of the three Niskins in glass beakers. We use these samples to run what’s called a Winkler’s tritration test. This is a chemical-based test that tells us how much dissolved oxygen is in the water.It is important to run so many different tests because if we only used one method, we couldn’t know if it was accurate or not. By running three different tests, we can compare the results from all three. If the result from one test comes up differently than the others, we know that test was not accurate but the other two tests were.
After the CTD is brought back up on deck, it is important to rinse it off with fresh water. This is because the salt from the ocean can damage the equipment and corrode (eat away at) the metal. Once a day we also run Triton-X (a type of soap) through the hoses of the CTD to keep the sensors clean and salt-free.
Day 5 – July 9th
Today was a bit slower because our sampling sites were father apart than they were on previous days. We continued collecting and preserving plankton, but trawling is the most exciting because you get to see so many different species. We conducted only one trawl today and it was a very small catch. It didn’t take long to collect all of the data we needed before we were back to waiting for our next plankton collection site. We had some interesting fish in our trawl including a small bat fish, a couple of starfish, several sea urchins, and a honeycomb moray eel. The highlight of my shift was during our last plankton trawling. It was around 21:00 (or 9:00 pm) so it was pitch black out with the only light coming from the ship and the stars. We started seeing a lot of flying fish jumping out of the water. We soon realized it was because a pod of spotted dolphin had found them. It was fun watching them jump and fly though the water to catch the fish. The group also had a couple young dolphins that stuck close to their mothers. I’d seen dolphins before, mostly in captivity or ones too far away from a boat to see clearly, so it was really neat to see them so close up!
Day 6 – July 10th
Today started out great. I woke up to get ready for my shift by heading down to the mess for lunch. It was one of my favorite meals – Mexican! When I read about other teacher’s experiences on NOAA ships and how great the food was I now understand what they were talking about! There is so much yummy food at all of the meals that it is frequently hard to decide what NOT to eat! And there is so much food available at each meal that you’ll never go hungry! I always end up walking away stuffed!
The weather was great up until the sun set. We were stuck in quite the thunderstorm. When there are storms with lightning in the area, no one is allowed out on deck for safety reasons.
We had to postpone a couple of our sampling stations until the storm passed over us, so we tried our best to keep ourselves occupied until the storm passed. Our internet went down for length of time, so we were left with books, movies, or just some relaxation time.
By the time the storm had passed, we had only one sampling station to complete before it was time for the next watch team to switch in.
Day 7 – July 11th
The first thing I noticed today was the panoramic view of large cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds – those are the clouds that produce thunderstorms. We managed to steer clear of them, but they certainly made some pretty skies.
We had a couple trawling stations which was great because it is always fun to discover and examine more species. While the trawls were small, we had some cool finds including a frogfish, a butterfly fish, and a black-nose shark.
A highlight from today was the full rainbow that graced our skies after dinner. I can’t recall ever seeing a full rainbow before so it was really cool to see one!
Did You Know?
Our CTD weighs about 200 pounds. On its current settings it can be deployed to a depth of up to 5,000 meters, but if we adjusted the settings it could go as far down as 10,000 meters! With all of the attachments and the steel cage, our CTD costs roughly around $100,000 to purchase. That’s why we have to handle it with care!