Alex Eilers, September 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT
Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: September 1, 2008

Science Log

The second week has been absolutely fabulous as we found a leatherback – in fact we found three!!! This week has been all about the turtle: from identifying the biotic and abiotic conditions that define leatherback turtle habitat and foraging grounds, to tracking and tagging – we’ve done it all.

• Abiotic oceanographic data provided by scientific instruments such as XBTs (expendable bathythermographs), CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth), and water samples containing nutrient data to characterize the abiotic foraging habitats of the leatherback turtle.

Alex working with the CTD device
Alex working with the CTD device

• Net tow samples characterized the biotic conditions such as the jellyfish species prevalent in the turtle diet: moon jellies, sea nettles, and egg yolk jellies.

Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly
Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly
Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole
Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole
Tracking the turtles via air surveillance and handheld antenna
Tracking the turtles via handheld antenna
Aerial survellance
Aerial surveillance
Tagging a big leatherback
Tagging a big leatherback

Alex Eilers, August 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 31, 2008

Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.
Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.

August 29 – Longline fishing for swordfish

Today’s major objective was to catch swordfish for tagging using a fishing method called longlining. Longline fishing uses one main line held just below the water’s surface with several buoys.  Attached to the main line are several smaller branch lines with hooks and bait.  The branch lines extent 42 feet or 7 fathoms into the ocean.

Preparing to launch the longline is quite a sight and it requires a number of individuals, each working in unison. There is a person who baits the hooks on the branch line then hooks it to the main line, another person attaches a glow stick (used to attract the swordfish), and a third person attaches the buoy to the main line.  There are also a number of people working behind the scenes sorting lines and working the winch. After all the branch lines are hooked to the main line, the line soaks in the water for several hours – in hopes that a swordfish will take the bait.

Crew setting gear
Crew setting gear

Reeling in the line took about two hours because the line was 4 miles long and held over 200 hooks.  I thought this was an extremely long line but was told that commercial fishing vessels use between 40 to 60 miles of line with thousands of branch lines. Wow!

Unfortunately, we were unable to tag any swordfish but hope to try again on Labor Day. What an incredible experience today has been.

August 30 and 31 – Rock’n and Roll’n

Whoa, Whoa… is about all you heard me say over the past two days.  We’re going through a rough patch today – high winds and swells up to 5 or 7 meters – between 15 and 20 feet.  We sure were glad the scientific equipment was secured during the first few days – because everything that wasn’t tied down went flying – including chairs, drinks and the crew.  The closest thing I could come to describing this experience would be like riding a non-stop Disney ride.  The inclinometer reading (an instrument that is use to detect the degrees a boat rolls) recorded a maximum tilt of about 36 degrees.   To put thing into perspective, I am now typing with one hand and holding the table with the other.  Unfortunately, many of the science projects were cancelled due to high seas.  We hope to be in the calmer waters of Monterey Bay area tomorrow.

Alex Eilers, August 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 27, 2008

Everyone! Here’s the latest from my adventures at sea.

Today the crew was busy testing equipment.  We tested both long-line fishing gear and box trawl netting!  Both

tests were successful and we are looking forward to the real thing – more to come on this subject later. The picture below shows Scott Benson holding the box trawl net “catch.”  Although it looks like group of eggs, they are actually members of the jellyfish family know as ctenophores or “comb jellies.”

Jellies
Jellies

We had a successful observation session today.  I’ll introduce you to some of the “stars” of the day.

Common Dolphins were everywhere.  We saw over 100 riding the waves on the bow of our boat.  They move with great speed – especially when you are trying to take a picture of them.

Common dolphins
Common dolphins

Risso’s Dolphins – This is an unusual looking dolphin with a rounded head – unlike the traditional dolphin we all know. These creatures have numerous scratches and scars over their body from other Risso’s and from the squid they eat.  They are gray when born and gradually become white with age.

Fin Whales – OK – I must admit – We didn’t actually see the Fin Whale but we did see the whale spouts from the three that we spotted.

Jelly Fish – We were excited to see so many Jellies – a favorite food of the Leatherback.  Most looked like “Moon Jellies” but without catching them we cannot be sure of the type since there are many species.

To Do… Research one or more of the animals highlighted above.

Alex Eilers, August 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.
In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 24, 2008

Today we were in assembly mode and I spent the majority of my time on the flying bridge (top deck). With the help of several scientists, we cleaned and replaced the viewing seats, installed the “Big Eyes” – (the largest pair of binoculars I’ve ever seen), and assembled and tested the Turtle tracking antennas.  The “Big Eyes” will be used to help track and identify marine mammals, leatherbacks and birds near the boat.  This is especially important prior to and during the times scientists have equipment in the water so we don’t catch or injure these animals. The receiver will be used to track the Leatherback Sea Turtles who have a transmitter attached to their carapace. The good news is we are receiving reports that there is a Leatherback approximately 110 miles off the coast of Monterey – the bad news is he may not be there when we arrive.

Safety training During our first true “day at sea” we had two practice safety drills; a fire in the galley (kitchen) and an abandon ship.  The crew handled both drills quickly and efficiently.  The abandon ship drill was exciting. When the bell rang, everyone was responsible for his or her own billet (job duty). My billet required me to grab my life preserver and survival suit and muster to the O1 deck (report to an area for role call).

Survival suit
Survival suit

Training to be a VO – visual observer We started the day on the flying bridge. Karin Forney, marine mammal researcher, trained us on how to be a marine animal visual observer or VO for short.  During the first observing session, we only saw a few animals – sea lions and various birds.

I’m getting fairly good at spotting kelp beds (seaweed), however, the scientists are not interested in them, so I still need more practice identifying marine mammals.

By the afternoon, we started to see more marine life.  A large pod of common dolphins swam playfully near the ship.  This was a beautiful sight to see but not ideal for net testing. We waited 30 minutes without a mammal sighting then successfully tested the nets. As the scientists were pulling the nets aboard we spotted another smaller pod of common dolphins, some California sea lions and a small mola mola (sun fish).  All in all it was a good day!

Watching for kelp
Watching for kelp

Alex Eilers, August 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 21, 2008

Well I’ve arrived in San Diego safe and sound.  The weather here is fantastic – warm, mostly sunny and a bit breezy.  Let’s hope it stays like his throughout my time at sea.  Here is a brief outline of how I’ve been preparing for the research cruise.  I started the day at a LUTH survey orientation meeting.  LUTH stands for Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitat. Lisa Ballance, the director of Protected Resources Division and Scott Benson, Chief Scientist welcomed the entire team.  We spent the morning listening to the research planned for the trip and I was amazed at the amount of science to be conducted.  This is going to be an exciting adventure. I must admit though – I’ve got some homework to do.  I have to become more familiar with the acronyms the scientists are using, like CTD’s, TSG’s and especially XBT’s – because I have to load these this afternoon.

After lunch we piled in the vans and headed toward the ship to begin the loading process.  My assignment was to load and store the XBT’s and help load the oceanographic equipment.  And, I did my homework – I found out that the XBT stands for eXpendable BathyThermograph and they are used for the collection of oceanographic temperature data.

I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture.  I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning.  Better get busy – more to come later.  Keep checking the website.
I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture. I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning. Better get busy – more to come later.

Sue White, June 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 7, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sat. 06-07-08 19:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.34.30 AM

The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow
The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow

Science and Technology Log 

Heading for San Francisco!

The weather has again had an effect on the scheduled research tasks. As the week went on the weather deteriorated so that some nights we could only do one trawl before the waves crashing over the aft deck made it too dangerous to be out there. Safety was the primary issue in everyone’s mind on the ship – bridge officers and the scientists discussed weather conditions and forecasts and the deck crew were careful to point out safety concerns involving equipment or wearing protective clothing. Even with the ship feeling like it was doing a wild tango at one point, I felt very secure.  Last night was a complete wash as far as doing the scheduled work.  By evening the ship officers decided to stay out the night in Drake’s Bay since the peninsula would give some shelter from the wind and waves.  We used the time to prepare for a new group to come aboard in San Francisco, cleaning our staterooms and doing laundry.    

I sorted through notes and organized the dozens of photos taken over the last 12 days.  Here are some squid facts Ken Baltz, the cruise leader told me about earlier in the cruise:

  • The Humboldt squid we caught were probably around 5 months old and will only live about 1 year
  • These squid are one of the fastest growing organism
  • They have a very rapid metabolism, eating about 20% of their body weight daily vs. our human requirement of 0.5 to 1%
Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals
Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals

The bongo plankton tow ties in with the squid sampling in an interesting way.  It shows how all of the research coordinated on the DAVID STARR JORDAN this cruise (and really all NOAA projects) is working towards understanding what life is like in the ocean and how the distribution of organisms is changing.  One plankton sample from each bongo tow was preserved in ethanol. The other sample was preserved in formalin (a formaldehyde solution).  The rationale behind this was that formalin denatures or destroys the structure of an organism’s DNA.  The ethanol sample could be used to do genetic testing. When the samples are examined back in the lab, the researchers are hoping to find paralarvae of the Humboldt squid in the same location as the adults collected this cruise. This would give credence to the idea that they are now breeding off the coast of California, rather than in the tropics as has been the accepted understanding.  Bill and Robert (two of the volunteers on this leg of the cruise) had great questions while Ken was explaining this part of his research. Bill (and the others) had been using a fluorescent lure to “jig” for squid. Squid are attracted to the bioluminescence found in some ocean animals, like the “headlights” on a California Headlight fish.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.

He asked if the squid are caught in the nets because they are hoping to feed on the small fish being concentrated there. His hypothesis was to see if luminescent lures in the net would increase the number of squid caught.  Robert asked about using radioactive isotopes to label squid and then look for the radioactive label in the paralarvae as a way to see patterns in breeding. Such intriguing thinking.  I was not alone in wanting to be awake for our entry into San Francisco Bay.  We enjoyed a hot breakfast for the first time in days (and for some the first time ever on the ship!) and were invigorated by bright sunshine. Well, the sun seemed bright through the San Francisco haze after being on the night shift! Everyone was outside by the time land was sighted and we enjoyed watching the Golden Gate Bridge get closer. For days I had not noticed much traffic at sea (especially at night)  so it felt like driving into a major city in that the traffic kept increasing the closer we got to the Bay.  Huge shipping barges and small personal sailboats were all out on a beautiful Saturday morning.

The map distance from Drake’s Bay was not far, but our speed entering the bay was such that it took several hours to get around the bend and in to where the piers are in San Francisco. Just as in leaving San Diego, the ship officers were busy piloting the ship to its place at the pier.  Staff from the Santa Cruz lab were waiting to help offload specimens, some ship personnel were already off duty and looking forward to a day in the city, and my husband was patiently waiting on the pier to hear my stories of life at sea.

Personal Log 

After almost two weeks at sea it was interesting to adjust to life on land. I did feel the ground moving as I walked and especially felt phantom ocean waves when I tried to sleep or take a shower (no grab bars to steady yourself on land though!). The sounds were so different too with less of the ongoing sound of the ship engine or the air system in my stateroom and more collective noise of traffic and airplanes. I had missed the simple sounds of my backyard birds, but did not notice this until I realized how wonderful the familiar can sound.  I am brimming with new information and connections to make with classroom labs and activities.  I (and my husband) can  hardly wait until school starts so I have a new audience for my Teacher at Sea stories.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Think about the area where you live. How many people in your neighborhood can you name?  List the types of dogs that live in your neighborhood, too.
  • Name any of the birds that may fly into your area.  (Is this naming business getting harder?)
  • Name any other wildlife that may inhabit your neighborhood.  (Remember that wildlife can be small and not all will be mammals!)
  • How many insects can you identify?  Can you name specific types of one kind of insect? In other words, can you tell the difference between a monarch and swallowtail butterfly? What about a skipper and a sulfur butterfly?
  • Scientists, from experience, can name an incredible number of organisms.  Often they can even give the scientific name for exactly one species that differs only slightly from another. You can also increase your naming ability with practice… what would you like to become an expert in identifying???
A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge
A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, June 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 1, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sun. 06-01-08 04:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.22.35 AM

Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.
Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.

Science and Technology Log 

It’s shrimp night!  We continue on up the coast of California.  The transect schedule for tonight is off Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. The catch tonight surprised us (again) by being completely unique from earlier trawls. Usually the largest part of what we sort is krill.  The first night it was very strange to see all of those eyes, but now the krill just seem like background to look past as you see other colors and textures. When we spread the catch out on our trays tonight, it was an orange pink instead of the typical brownish color. The nets were loaded with market shrimp!  Joao took off with some after we sorted and came back later with boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce. This was the second time he had acted as a seafood chef for everyone. Friday night Joao brought down the squid he had saved from Tuesday and Wednesday night.  He had been marinating it in his special recipe and spent the time before his shift sautéing squid strips for us.  He had also made some salsa that was perfect with it . . . and the saltine crackers some of us were needing tonight due to the waves. It brought to mind this passage from John Steinbeck’s introduction to The Log from the Sea of Cortez: “…we could see the fish alive and swimming, feel it plunge against the lines, drag it threshing over the rail, and even finally eat it.”

Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose' Coito ready to do a trawl
Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose’ Coito ready to do a trawl

We have a pattern down for the nights now. The scientists, deck crew and bridge are seamless in their coordination of a trawl. Everyone knows their job now and down to who turns the deck lights off once the nets are in the water seems to be done intuitively.  As soon as the nets are brought in, the sorting starts. Big fish, or worse the big jellyfish, are caught as the nets are being rolled up.  Some fish and the jellies are measured and added to a database by location.  Jellyfish are especially hard on the nets because of their weight.  If they become too plentiful, trawls can be cancelled to keep the nets from being destroyed.

Looking for rockfish - Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and Robert (left to right)
Looking for rockfish – Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and
Robert (left to right)

Here is my count from one tray of catch tonight:

  • 38 Myctophid (fish)
  • 22 Californian Headlight (fish)
  • 8 Sergestid ( tiny red dot shrimp)
  • 5 Black Smelt (fish)
  • 3 Black-tip (squid)
  • 1 Blue Lantern (fish)
  • 1 Gonatus (squid)

The fish are more familiar by now.  The Myctophid and Headlight fish looked so similar at first, but now I can see the two bioluminescent dots between the eyes on the Headlight fish. With more experience, it became even more obvious that there were many differences differences, but harder when they are hidden behind the more generic krill, or in the case of tonight’s haul, the pinkish shrimp.  The rockfish (Fig. 4) also have to been identified as separate from other fish also similar in size and color.  Side by side it is easy to see that these fish that are both dark in color.

Personal Log 

Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola
Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola

The waves just keep getting rougher as the cruise progresses.  The motion onboard varies with different activities. The bars to grasp in the shower and at various places around the ship are very practical, to say the least. Sleep is an interesting process where you can wake up with tired muscles from trying to keep yourself in place! Those with more experience have said that it is physically tiring to be onboard and that we should expect to need more sleep.  It is amazing how I have adjusted to sleeping during the day now.  The volunteers have been great to work with. They are now bringing their music down to play as we sort the catch from each trawl.

Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)
Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)

It is fun to hear the eclectic playlists they have.  I have also been impressed with how well-read they are.  We have been able to talk about books that range from Steinbeck to environmental awareness.  They also enjoy the oddities we find on our sorting trays… anything with suckers must be stuck on your finger to see how long it will hold on (little squid or octopi require peeling off!)  One night we had double tailed fish.  Somehow several of the fish that night managed to get one head caught in the other’s to the point that it looked like the head was in the center with a tail going off each side.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Look at Figure 6 above. How many different types of animals do you see? (Hint: Different colors are easy to spot, but also look for different eyes since some of the animals we found were transparent!  )
  • Can you find any animals that are not fish?  We found tiny squid and octopi most nights.  Squid tended to have really big eyes for their overall size.  Most of what you see in Figure 2 is krill.
  • Describe what makes the juvenile rockfish different from the sand dab shown above.

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, May 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 28, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Wed. 05-28-08 04:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.07.39 AM

This is the second night of collecting data for this leg of the cruise.  Last night was a real learning curve for those of us new to the work involved. As soon as they were aboard, the scientists in charge of the rockfish survey (Ken Baltz – the Chief Scientist, Keith Sakuma, and Brian Wells) were busy organizing equipment so they could begin at sunset. Each night the plan is to start by gathering plankton using the bongo nets. The plankton is processed and preserved for later study back at the scientist’s lab in Santa Cruz.  CTD (conductivity, water temperature, and depth) data is gathered throughout the day and night, and on the first night there was an electronics problem between the collection equipment that goes into the water and the computer.  Since weather has become such a factor on this cruise, the scientists did not want to lose any opportunity to gather data or specimens.  After sunset, the main focus through each night is to conduct mid-water trawls to collect data on fish populations and preserve samples for later study. All of this data goes into an ongoing database.

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.10.46 AM
Bongo Plankton Tow

Each volunteer had specific jobs associated with the different specimens or data being collected throughout the cruise. Figure 1 shows how Robert Cimitile and Bill Matsuba worked the bongo nets. Gabe Singer was responsible for the CTD readings throughout the night shift. Ben Gire sampled krill from each trawl for a separate Euphausia study, checking for species type and numbers of gravid (“pregnant”) in an area. We all worked to sort the catch from each trawl. Last night there were a number of midshipman fish in the catch.  Tonight there is a different sort of excitement since we are finding large numbers of Humboldt squid in the nets.  These are processed for other research groups who are studying stomach contents and establishing the squid’s genome.  Between trawls the deck crew, scientists, and volunteers “jigged” for squid using fluorescent jigs on fishing line over the port side of the ship. It was impressive to see the live squid and their reaction to being out of water. Their chromatophores pulse and change colors while they hiss water out of their siphons. Some also spray ink in the process.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!
Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!

These squid are huge compared to the tiny Gonatus or Loligo squid we have seen. The main fish being surveyed is the rockfish. They are few in numbers and when we do find one, it is placed in an ocean water ice bath to maintain them until Keith identifies them by species. This is also part of an ongoing, year-to-year survey to establish their distribution and numbers up the coast of California. Since they only come up to feed at night, they are the reason the trawls can only be done at night. It has been impressive to see the teamwork involved with working the cranes for the bongo nets and the CTD equipment, as well as the pulleys involved with the gates, and the trawlnet reel located on the gantry on the aft deck. Radio communication between the deck crew, the scientists, and the bridge starts each operation. The deck crew manipulates the equipment and the scientists and volunteers assist in positioning. They all have a part in collecting the specimens as they are brought up.  The bridge officers maintain the course and speed of the ship for all operations and also are vigilant about safety on the aft deck.  They maintain contact with the radio and also have visual contact with cameras.

Personal Log 

Jigging for the squid
Jigging for the squid

I feel rested tonight, but not quite used to working a night shift!  Last night was the first time I think I have ever been awake for 24 hours, so my bunk looked wonderful this morning. It was easy to sleep through the day after being so tired and now it is beginning to seem more normal to work at night. The squid are amazing the animal unit.  Seeing them alive and then being able to witness their dissection just a short time later was a singular experience that I will retell each spring now for my students.  Joao, one of the fishermen, showed me how to hold the live squid behind their eyes so the arms would not “get me”.  After seeing how they can latch on to fish even in the trawl net and how their beaks mince those fish, I have even more appreciation for what these animals can do as a predator!   I am learning how to recognize and name a great diversity of pelagic animals.  It has been an intensive learning curve for me in the last day (or should I call it night?) but I am starting to see the pattern of the trawls and it is very interesting to see how they vary according to transect location and even distance from the coast throughout the night.

Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)
Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)

Challenge Yourself 

  • How has the weather changed since my last log (Monday at noon)? Calculate the differences in wind speed and temperatures.  Has the ocean salinity changed?  Is the pressure rising or falling?
  • Do the temperature changes seem reasonable considering we have traveled north and the time of day is later?
  • The Humboldt squid are very well adapted for these conditions.  Would you be comfortable swimming in this water too?
Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall
Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, May 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 27, 2008

The wet lab's wind direction and wind speed instrumentation.  Original to when the ship was built in the 1960's??
The wet lab’s wind direction and wind speed instrumentation. Original to when the ship was built in the 1960’s??

Science and Technology Log 

The DAVID STARR JORDAN (DSJ) departed from San Diego, CA this morning to begin Leg 3 of the Juvenile Rockfish Survey research cruise.  The seas have been rough and Leg 2 of this cruise was cut short because of the weather conditions.  Since weather has been such a huge influence in the last few weeks in this area of the Pacific and led to a loss of days at sea for the research scientists, here is some background for understanding the abbreviations and terms found in the “Weather Data from the Bridge” section above:

GMT = Greenwich Mean Time, international time which is the basis of time in each time zone around the world. Greenwich, England is located at Longitude 0° 0′ 0″, Latitude 51° 28′ 38″N (North of the Equator) or where the east meets the west.  The DSJ is on Pacific Time which is 7 hours earlier.

Latitude is the distance the DSJ is north of the equator, expressed in degrees (or hours), minutes, and seconds.

Longitude is the distance the DSJ is west of the prime meridian which runs through Greenwich, England, expressed in degrees (or hours), minutes, and seconds.

(Ship) Speed / Wind Speed refers to how fast the ship is moving or how fast the wind is blowing. Speeds on water or in the air are measured in knots (kts). One knot is one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile (6076 feet) is a little longer than a mile here on land (5280 feet).  Use this conversion factor to change speed in the weather data to speeds on land:  1 knot = 1.16 mph.  Here is a fun visual that connects wind speed in knots to our more familiar miles per hour.  It also gives a more qualitative description of what different wind speeds are like.

(Ship’s) Course refers to the direction the ship is traveling to and is based on a 360o compass.

Wind Direction refers to the direction the wind is coming from.  It is also based on a 60o compass.

oC = degree Celsius

  • The conversion factor to change metric temperature to our more familiar Fahrenheit scale is: [(°C X 9) / 5] + 32 = °F 
  • An easy way to estimate, that you can do in your head, is to take °C and multiply it by 2 and then add 30 to get approximate °F: (°C X 2) + 30 = approx. °F 
  • Want to do it the other way?  Take your temperature at home, subtract 30 and divide by 2 to get the temperature in degree Celsius:  (°F – 30) / 2 = approx. °C 

Surface Water Salinity simply stated, describes how salty the ocean water is at the surface and can be referred to in PSUs (Practical Salinity Units).  It is based on the understanding that the electrical conductivity of seawater is related to its salinity.  A special conductivity meter is used at sea and the PSU value is calculated from the data.  PSU is not a unit of measurement, but a calculated value. The average world ocean salinity is around 35 PSU.

Relative Humidity is a measure of the amount of water in the air compared with the amount of water the air can hold at the temperature it happens to be when you measure it.  At the temperature given in the weather data above, the air has 71% of the moisture it can hold.  If the temperature decreases while the number of molecules of water is the same, then the relative humidity would increase.  The cooler air molecules are closer together and cannot hold as much water between them.

Barometric Pressure is the force the atmosphere is exerting on a given place, measured by an instrument called a barometer.  Think of it as being the “weight of air”.  Air pressure is recorded onboard using the unit mb, which stands for millibar.  A millibar is 1/1000th of a bar. A bar is a force equal to 100,000 Newtons pressing on a square meter.  You can feel the change in pressure in your ears when you are flying in an airplane.  High pressure usually means good weather and dropping pressure means the weather is changing. Low pressure often brings precipitation.

Vlad and Sam prepare to lift our link to land.
Vlad and Sam prepare to lift our link to land.

After being in port since Friday, the ship officers and crew are busy with a flurry of preparation to be at sea again. Bags of groceries were brought aboard this morning while a steady stream of people came aboard too.  The ship went from being asleep to bustling in a matter of hours.  Engines were started and soot flakes billowed.  Deck crew began the tasks of taking up the walkway and casting off. Ship officers were stationed on the port side (left hand side if you are facing towards the front of the ship) to report ship positions as we began to move away from the pier.  We headed out to sea, passing what looked like a series of empty boat slips. As we got closer I could see dolphins there and trainers were putting them through their paces.  The ship’s electronics technician, Kim Belveal (U.S.Navy, ret.), explained that this was a Navy training facility and the dolphins were trained to do very specific tasks, often tasks that reduced risk to people. We passed a Coast Guard ship truly under sail, rigged with huge sails. The lead fisherman, Jose’ Coito, has a son who is in the Coast Guard. He proudly told about his son’s training on that grand ship.

Personal Log 

It has been a whirlwind time in the last week for me.  I gave my last final exam for the school year on Friday morning, wrapped up the last details for school that afternoon, and headed home to pack. Since the last leg of the cruise was cut short, my travel plans changed within the last few days as well, meaning that I was going to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea one day earlier than planned and flying to a new destination as well. I flew to San Diego on Sunday and got to the ship Sunday evening. After settling into my stateroom, I felt a little like Goldilocks walking around the ship and making myself at home.  It was very quiet, but eventually I met the ship’s electronics technician and Sam Brandal, an able fisherman, who had also just arrived on the DAVID STARR JORDAN to fill in for someone on vacation.  It has been nice to have some down time to make the transition from school to my time as a Teacher at Sea.  I spent today on the fly bridge with my binoculars.  Chico Gomez, the chief bosun (also spelled boatswain), and Jose’ helped me spot whales on the horizon.  I also saw seals and dolphins closer in to the ship.  Sea jellies which ranged in size from about 2” to 10” floated by from time to time.  Work starts tomorrow when we pick up the scientists at Avila and do the first transect schedule for this leg of the cruise at Point Sal, CA . . .

Challenge Yourself 

Can you compile your own weather data from your home or school?  Use measuring instruments you already have, or research in your local newspaper or online.  Fill in the table below, converting your data to match the units and values from the DAVID STARR JORDAN bridge:

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 5.04.07 AM

Here’s a quote from Rachel Carson that pretty much sums up what it’s like to look off the side of the ship: “We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” What mysteries will I see?

Sue

Heather Diaz, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 5:30am. We caught 4 blues and 2 makos.  We also caught one pelagic ray.  They set a shark line out around 7:45. We were hoping to be able to finish one last set before going into port. We were scheduled to be in port around 3.

Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.
Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.

Dr. Russ Vetter explained what the different computers are used for in the aft lab.  There is one called at EK500/EQ50 which uses a split beam transponder to create a “map” of the ocean floor, so the scientists can use the data to find high spots, which sometimes are better for fishing. It also works as a sort of “fish finder” and the different things in the water show up in scale and color, so that you can see the approximate size of the animal/plant in the water.  He also explained the Navigation computer, which digitally shows the charts (with soundings), topographical features (like islands and coastline), and our course. It also provides information on other vessels that are nearby, and when available, that vessel’s name and number…the same navigation computer they also use on the Bridge. The Nav. Comp. also provides information like our latitude and longitude and our speed.

There is another computer which monitors wind speed and direction, temperature of the water (under the boat), barometric pressure, and salinity of the water.  All of these are real-time, and provide important information to the scientists.  There is also an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) computer which displays a constantly changing graph of current velocity relative to the ref layer.

The very last set of this leg was a bit slower than most, which may have been a good thing, since most people were starting to get a bit tired.  We had 2 blues and 2 makos. We were very pleased to find out that we had, during the entire leg, managed to capture 80 blue sharks (78 were measured, sexed, and released), 63 mako sharks (61 were tagged and released), 23 pelagic rays (23 were released, none were tagged), 3 molas (3 were tagged and released), and 1 lancetfish (which was released but not tagged).  Everyone seemed very pleased with the results, and now Dr. Suzy Kohin (Chief Scientist) and Dr. Heidi Dewar will head back to their lab at Southwest Fisheries to analyze the data.

Personal Log 

Last night the sky was very clear, so we were able to see a lot of stars, including the Milky Way, which was very easy to see last night.  The view from the Flying Bridge (the very top of the ship) is amazing, and we felt like we could see every star in the universe, even though we know we couldn’t. We could also see the far away glow of Los Angeles, a reminder that we will soon be back in port and that our trip is nearly over.  Nearby, there was a large tanker and a container ship, which also looked neat in the dark.  The container ship was still nearby this morning when we woke up.

The sunset this morning was amazing.  There were a few wispy Cirrus clouds in the sky, which reflected the glow of the sun long before the sun made its first appearance in the sky. It was truly a beautiful sunrise, and a great way to start off our last day!  This morning after the set, everyone was a bit disappointed that we have not caught a swordfish this trip.  But, Dr. Heidi Dewar said she would consider doing another swordfish study in the future.

Everyone is busy packing and getting their gear ready to go home.  Everyone, including me, is excited to be going home to see family and friends, but I think most people will be a little sad, too. For me, this has been an absolutely amazing experience!  I have learned so much, and I have seen more in the past week than I ever could have from reading books or watching documentaries.  There is just something so special about being able to feed a sea lion, touch a shark, or come within inches of a mola to feel the power of nature and the beauty of the ocean. I am awe struck in so many ways.  The people aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN could not have been kinder, and everyone has gone far out of their way to make me feel like part of the DSJ family.  Everyone from the captain and the officers, the boatswains, the stewards, and everyone in engineering has been friendly and helpful. I will surely miss everyone on board.  As for the scientists, they did an outstanding job of helping me to learn things and to make me feel like I was a real part of their crew. I will miss the lapping of the waves, the rolling of the ship, the camaraderie, the food, the animals, the scenery, the sunsets, and the sunsets.  And, although I cannot take any of them with me, I will have the memories of them all forever.

I want to sincerely thank Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, the amazing crew of the DAVID STARR JORDAN, Dr. Suzy Kohin, and her wonderful team of scientists for a fantastic experience!  I never imagined it would be this incredible!  I will be grateful to you all for a long, long, long time!  Thank you for allowing me to share these past 10 days with you, and I wish you all safe travels and many more beautiful sunsets at sea to come!

Heather Diaz, July 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 14, 2006

The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph.  The information is used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.
The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph and then used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

I had the opportunity to interview Jason Larese who is aboard for this cruise.  He works for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, which is part of NOAA Fisheries Program.  For the past 5 years he has been working with marine mammal studies, especially with dolphins.  Recently, he has been working on an albacore tuna tagging project. He analyses data from special tags that record light, depth, and temperature variations which help them to track where the tuna migrate and where/what they eat.  Since they know at what depths the tuna feed, they can narrow down the possibilities of what they are eating (since things tend to stay in predictable positions relative to the thermocline in the ocean).  He has enjoyed working with the Shark Abundance Survey, but he hopes to return to marine mammal research soon.

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am. We caught 4 makos, 14 blues, and 6 pelagic rays.  We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 3 makos and 2 blues.  During our first shark set today, a small blue shark died on the line. When they did the dissection of his stomach, they found the vertebrae and jaws of a Lizardfish, and several squid beaks. It was very interesting to see what this shark had for breakfast before we caught him. I was able to keep them to share with my class.

We did our second shark set around 2pm.  Dr. Heidi Dewar showed me how to take a temperature reading using the Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler. It is a small processor in the water-tight tube, which lowered over the side of the boat very slowly, to a depth of about 150 meters.  Then, it is raised very slowly. The water-tight tube is then opened in the lab and connected to a computer.  The information is then downloaded and imported into Excel, where it is translated into a graph.  They use this information to locate the thermocline, since many sea animals are restricted to the thermocline and above where there is a mix of warm and cold water (usually as a result of wind and waves). And, there are fewer animals in the colder temperatures below.

We hauled in the set around 6pm.  During this haul, we caught 3 blues and 9 makos.  One mako was badly tangled in the line, and he was not going to survive.  So, the shark (now that he has died) will be taken back to a lab at SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography where an MRI study will be conducted to examine the shark’s anatomy and physiology.  (This is not Russ’ study but one of some scientists at SCRIPPS and UCSD Medical school.)

Personal Log 

One interesting thing that happened during the first shark set, as we were setting the line, we saw loads of dolphins in the area. They appeared to be circling up fish and then eating them.  Several of them were quite close to the ship.  We estimated that there were at least 30 dolphins in the area surrounding our ship.  We were concerned that they would try to eat our bait and end up getting hooked, but none of them did.  It is extremely rare for dolphins to get hooked since they can detect the hook in the bait and avoid it.

We discovered a large mola floating near the ship, and several people tried to catch him with a fishing rod in order to try to tag it with a satellite tag.  They weren’t able to catch him.  Everyone is very interested in the molas, and the scientists here are collaborating on a research study to monitor their behavior and movements.  I found out that the mola (an ocean sunfish) actually eat jellyfish.  They don’t actually eat our bait, so when we catch one, it’s always been because the hook got caught in their fin by accident.  They are fascinating creatures, and it’s amazing to see a fish that is that huge!

I helped wrangle a few sharks this afternoon, but the last one that I did was very strong and I had a hard time holding on to him.  At one point, he whipped his head to the side and he yanked on my arm so hard I thought he would break free.  It was truly awesome to see just how strong these sharks are, without really even trying.  I also spent some time with Natalie Spear who was doing data recording during the second set.  I’m amazed at how many pieces of data have to be recorded, and how many things the data recorder has to do at once. It is definitely a more difficult job to do, and with all the commotion of the scientists who are processing the animal and are requesting different things all the time, it takes a very level-head to keep everything straight, especially since accuracy in recording all the different tag numbers is essential.  I have been very impressed with all my fellow scientists and their ability to keep up with all the demands of that position.  And, they manage to still have fun while doing it!

Heather Diaz, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am.  We caught 4 makos, 9 blues, and 3 pelagic rays.  One of the mako sharks that we caught during this set actually was brought up to the side of the ship and tied off with a leader rope. But, while we had him waiting at the back of the boat to be processed, he chewed through the monofilament line and disappeared.  Another interesting thing about this set was that at some point during the night, our line was severed.  We hauled in most of the line, but our flag was about ••• mile away from where the first part of the line ended.  We steamed ahead and caught up with it, then hauled the flag over.  João Alves, Lead Fisherman, was able to reattach the line so that we could use it again.  We aren’t sure why the line was severed, but there were several boats in the area, so one of them may have run it over in the dark.

We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 1 mako shark and 1 blue shark. We did our second shark set around 2pm.  We hauled in the set around 6pm.  We caught 3 mako sharks and 8 blue sharks.

I asked permission to go to the Bridge, and there I met up with Commanding Officer (CO) Alexandra Von Saunder as she was beginning her watch. She has been an officer in the NOAA Corps for 14 years, and she has been a captain for the past year.  The DAVID STARR JORDAN is the only ship for which she has been Captain. She actually resides in Seattle, but most of the year (sometimes up to 300 days out of 360 days) she spends most of her time at sea and away from the ship’s homeport.  She said that the things that she loves best about being at sea are being able to see the sights (animals, sunsets, scenery) and the uniqueness of every day, since it is much more interesting than being at a desk all day.  She said that the ship’s crew is like a family and that they are all very close, especially since they all eat together and spend most of the year together.  I have observed while aboard the DSJ that everyone is very friendly and on a first name basis with each other.  I have yet to see anyone who was unhappy with their job. Like Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, everyone I have spoken with says they love being aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN and that they would rather be here than on land.

David Starr Jordan from the skiff.  Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with Commanding Officer Saunder explained that the black shapes hanging from the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”.  This means that DSJ has gear in the water, such as when we are setting or hauling the longline, and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted.  At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way
David Starr Jordan from the skiff. Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with CO Saunder explained that the black shapes on the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”. This means that DSJ has gear in the water and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted. At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way

While on the bridge, CO Von Saunder also showed me all of the instruments and the charts that they use on the Bridge to run the ship.  It was very interesting to see how they can monitor everything from that one room, even how much oil is in the engines!  They have a neat computer system that plots where they are and radars that keep track of every other vessel in the area.  Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal explained to me that even small sailboats show up on their computer, and if they have been registered, their boat registration number and even the boat’s name will come up on their computer.  That way, if they need to hail the vessel, they can actually call them by name over the radio.

There are also many cameras around the ship, so that safety and security can be monitored at all times.  CO Von Saunder also showed me how they steer the ship, and control the speed.  She said that the ship will go about 10 knots at its fastest, but that when we are setting or hauling lines, the ship is only going a few knots.  She also said that the DAVID STARR JORDAN was launched in 1965, so it is due to be replaced in 2009. She wasn’t sure what the name of the new ship would be yet, but I can only hope it will be DAVID STARR JORDAN II. She said that a ship like this would probably be sold once it is retired, and that “She has a lot of life left in her.”  It is clear that when Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder speaks about her ship and her crew, she is talking about her very own family.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Junior Officer David Gothan.  He is fairly new to the NOAA Corps, but he hopes to retire from the NOAA Corps in 20 years.  He echoed Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder’s reasons for loving his work on the DSJ, as he said that what he enjoys the most about being at sea are seeing all the animals/scenery, meeting different people, and being able to go to different places all the time.  I get the impression that all of the NOAA officers on board truly love their job, and they are dedicated to being stewards of our oceans.

Personal Log 

I saw many different animals today, including dolphins and a few whales off in the distance. We also saw a few a sea lions who were basking in the sun.  When they do this, they kind of lie on their back and stick their flippers up out of the water.  They are so cute. One of them came quite close to our ship while we were de-baiting the second set, and people tried to throw him fish.  We nicknamed him “Eddie”.  He hung around for a while, but got bored and left the area after about 10 minutes.

It was truly a pleasure to speak with Lieutenant Von Saunder, Ensign David Gothan, and Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal.  And, I am excited to be able to share more of their insights about being a part of the NOAA Corps with my class!

Heather Diaz, July 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish, set done last night because of our excursion to Catalina Island.  Instead, we set our first line (shark line) at 6am.  We hauled in the line around 10am.  We caught 10 makos, 4 blues, 1 lancetfish, 3 pelagic rays, and 2 molas.  I had the opportunity to videotape the entire haul, which turned out to be one of our most productive.  1 mako died today during the haul because it had swallowed the hook and most likely suffered an internal injury. He was measured, weighed, and dissected for further research.  One of the makos we caught during this set was among the largest three we caught during this entire leg, and it was really interesting to see such a large shark, so close! We set our second line at around 12 noon.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 7 makos and 2 blues.  Two of the makos we caught during this set were among the largest three we caught during this entire leg.

This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other.  If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don't have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!
This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other. If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don’t have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!

Personal Log 

With our first set, things started off right off the bat with several makos.  Then, we got 2 humongous Sunfish (mola-mola)…and I mean they were huge! Then, we got a huge mako.  He was almost 2 meters long.  It was as long as the cradle itself! I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone was super excited and at that point. During the whole commotion, one mako was pulled over the side nearly dead.

We also had a lancet-fish which they hauled over the side while we were dealing with the monster mako in the cradle….and that was very much alive.  It was flipping all over the place.  Sean picked him up, took the hook out, and tossed it overboard. After we were all done and all the animals had been processed, we went over to look at the mako that they had brought on deck.  Although the mako was near death, it appeared to be still breathing a little, though it might have been a lingering reflex reaction.  After examining him on the deck, they weighed him and then started to dissect him. I have most of the dissection on tape.  It was very interesting to see where all the internal organs are located and to see how their muscle tissue is designed. Dr. Heidi Dewar explained how they use their muscle tissue design to actually preserve body heat. It was really fascinating.  I am excited to show my students her “lecture” on the muscles, and to share with them the dissection video, so that they can see what a shark looks like on the inside.  I think they will enjoy it.

During the second set, I was allowed to get down on the platform with the first two sharks…the first one, Dr. Suzy Kohin, Chief Scientist just explained everything.  The second one, I was able to get in there and actually do the stuff!  I collected the DNA sample of his dorsal fin…I put the tag in his dorsal fin…and, I gave him a shot of OTC in the ventral area. I also got to take its length measurement, which was freaky because I had to grab its tail and pull it straight. I don’t think the shark appreciated that much, and he squirmed a bit.  He was also bleeding. Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, said that he was bleeding a bit because he had swallowed the hook.  I opted not to do the spaghetti tag (which involves shoving this metal tip into their skin) and I opted not to cut the hook out of its mouth,.…it just seemed really, really, really REAL…and I didn’t want to mess up and come out of it missing a hand or something…or worse, having unintentionally hurt the animal.

Anyhow, I gave my kneepads over to Daniele who jumped in and finished the haul for me on the platform while I did the gangions.  Which, turned out to be too bad, since we got some really huge makos on this haul…everyone was very excited about them.  I think the largest was about 197cm.  They put special tags in the really large makos, which they called a PAT (Pop-Up Archival Tag).  They explained that these tags, which look more like turkey basters, are used to report data on temperature, depth, and even longitude so that they can better track the makos and learn more about their behaviors. They are especially looking for information about diving behaviors and their temperature and depth preferences.  I would love to see what they find out from these fish!

They also use a SPOT (Smart POsition and Temperature) tag.  This is almost translucent and is bolted the dorsal fin (only on larger sharks).  It looks a little like a computer mouse and is oval shaped. This tag sends radio signals to a satellite whenever the animal is near the surface, and they can use this information to track precisely where the animal is in the ocean.

Heather Diaz, July 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.
This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.

Science and Technology Log 

They set a swordfish line at around midnight, and we hauled it in around 6am. We caught one blue shark and one pelagic ray. We then set the first shark set at around 8am.  We hauled in the line around noon.  We caught one blue shark and 6 mako sharks, though one of the makos escaped with the gangion, leader, and hook still attached.

After that set, we headed for Santa Catalina Island where we would have liberty ashore.  We were taken over to the port at Avalon by João Alves on the skiff, I went over with Natalie Spear, Karina De La Rosa-Mesa, and Chico Gomez.  Everyone, except those on watch, was allowed to go ashore. Even the CO, Alexandra Von Saunder was able to make a quick visit to Avalon.  Most people shopped and/or had dinner in a restaurant.  A few people even went swimming at the beach!  Everyone had to be back aboard the ship by 11pm.  Karina De La Rosa-Mesa and I went back to the ship with Sean Suk and João Alves on the skiff at 9:45pm.

Personal Log 

Again, sea lions and dolphins were playing nearby today.  I tried to get pictures/video of them, but it doesn’t come out well on tape.  I love watching them…they are so graceful, and they really look like they are having a great time playing!  One sad thing happened today during our sets…one shark got away.  Someone dropped the leader line in the water and he took off. We can only hope that he is able to work the hook out on his own, soon.

Everyone was very excited to be given liberty ashore tonight in Avalon.  There are several people who have had the chance to come to Catalina before, so they are especially looking forward to this excursion. Catalina has changed so much since I was there 25 years ago!  There are many more houses and condos now near the harbor. Though, the town and the touristy areas are pretty much the same.  We enjoyed shopping and walking through the tiny streets.  And, seeing the golf carts everywhere was very amusing.  The Wrigley Mansion, which sits above the harbor is very beautiful, and many of the homes on the hill over the harbor are just fantastic. The moonrise was amazing, as it came over the hill…I think it was a full moon. Everyone in town seemed to be having a great time, and it was nice to be walking on land for a change (though, it did feel like the whole island was still moving with the rolling of the waves, even though I know it wasn’t!). I am looking forward to finding the pictures we took of the island when I was a child to compare them to today…I bet a lot has changed!

Heather Diaz, July 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged.  You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin.  After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform.  Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.
This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged. You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin. After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform. Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.

Science and Technology Log 

One team of scientists set a swordfish line at 3am.  We hauled in the swordfish longline at 6am.  We caught one pelagic ray. We set the first shark line at around 8am, and hauled it in around 12pm. We caught one blue shark.  We set the second shark line at around 2pm.  We let it soak an extra hour, and hauled it in around 6pm.  We caught one Blue shark, four mako sharks, and one pelagic ray.

I had an opportunity to take a tour of the engine room with 1st Engineer Chris Danals. We first visited the aft work room. Chris is crafting a wooden boat by hand! It is very neat looking. He said that he builds boats for fun. He showed me the rudder room, and it’s amazing to see how huge these two rudders are. They control the rudder from the Bridge.  In front of the aft work room is the engine room, which you have to climb down a ladder to get into. The noise is so loud that it is deafening, even with earplugs in.  He explained that there are two main engines, which are White Superior engines.  The port side engine is used to power the winch, which we use when we set/haul in the lines.

The starboard engine is the one we use to power the ship.  He said that the engines are diesel engines, and they get about 1 mile to the gallon.  Chris also explained that even though the computers monitor everything in the engine room, they still have to monitor all of the engines in person during each watch.  The engines are huge, each one being at least 6 feet tall and at least 15 feet long.  But, as Chris explained, it takes a lot of power to move a ship this large through the water! The ship’s top cruising speed is 10 knots, but he said we often travel only a few knots, especially when we are setting a line or hauling a line. And, there are times when we are not moving but a few feet per hour, while the longlines are soaking.

Another thing that Chris explained was how the ship makes water.  Since they can only bring a finite amount of water with them to sea, they have to rely on other methods to get fresh water once they are at sea. He said that they pump sea water in, then they use heat to separate the fresh water from the salt.  The only problem is that sometimes we aren’t moving, and the engines need to be hot in order to make water.

Personal Log 

This morning we were kind of between 4 islands: Santa Cruz/Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Catalina. I think we are headed west today.  You can’t see land anymore, and the waves have become much more intense…several stomach dropping waves this morning and last night. It is very foggy today, and it is quite cool outside.  It actually looks like it might rain.

Everyone was a bit disappointed when our first two hauls yielded only 1 animal each.  But, the last set was better, and everyone is looking forward to seeing if the blocks farther out might have better luck.

The real treat today was a California sea lion (which has been named Eddie).  He was following us after the last haul, eating the mackerel that we were discarding.  Eddie followed us for about 15 minutes, he was quite happy and kept coming up to the surface to look at us and blow water out of his nose. He was so cute! Of course, since we had been having bad luck with the sets, I did not bring my cameras downstairs, so I missed getting a picture of the whole thing!  I am hoping that “Eddie” will come back tomorrow!

During the night, they had to sound the fog horn several times to alert other boats that we were in the area. I thought it was the general alarm at first, but then I realized that it was just fog.

Heather Diaz, July 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 9, 2006

A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank.  Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.
A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank. Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish set done last night, so everyone got up at 6am to do the first of the shark sets for the day. We hauled in the first set at around 10am.  We caught one mako.  We set the second line at around 12pm.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 2 pelagic rays.

Personal Log 

We were just off the coast of Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  It was such a beautiful sight to see! Anacapa is very rugged, with lots of canyons and steep drop offs. I don’t think my pictures will do it justice!

A brown pelican decided to hang around today, so I got some good pictures of him. We tried to find him mackerel, but they were too big for him, and he just spit them back out.  Everyone was a bit disappointed into today’s turnout. But, Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist said that this block was not a very good spot for them during the last leg either (they repeat the survey in 2 different legs so that they get a better sampling).  We all hope that tomorrow we are able to catch more fish!  Dr. Russ Vetter fished between sets. He caught several Rockfish, most of which were orange colored. He said that these were bottom fish, and he is doing an independent research study on them.  He also caught a Halibut and a Scorpion fish.   He took DNA samples from them, then they were prepared as part of the barbecue!

Sean Suk caught a Sanddab this afternoon, but he threw it back in.  There were lots of boats….sailboats and motor boats around us while we were near the port…they kept coming by to check us out.  I’ve seen lots of big container ships while we’ve been in this area, as well. We went past an offshore oil rig this afternoon, and it was interesting to see just how close it is to the coastline of California!  I have seen oil rigs in Wyoming, but the offshore ones are very different. It was neat to be able to see one in person.

The exciting thing about today was that we had a barbecue on the aft deck.  We had kabobs and burgers. It was great!  The weather was gorgeous, and everyone laughed and a nice time.  The crew said that they have a barbecue almost every Sunday and that it is kind of like a tradition. We went to Channel Islands Harbor near Port Hueneme, CA.  They had to pick up some gear for the engineers at the port there.  The weather became a bit cool after the sun went down…and I think I will have to close the door to my stateroom because it will probably be too chilly!  We enjoyed watching the sunset, and we are all looking forward to another week together.

After it got dark, we went down to the bow observation chamber, which is way down in the belly of the bow, below sea level. You have to climb down through 2 locks and down about 30 stairs, straight down. It’s kind of scary down there.  There are 4 portholes which look out from the bow of the ship, and we could see the phosphorescent critters in the water. They glow green. It was very surreal.  Jason Larese, Stephanie Snyder, Daniele Adrizzone, and I went down, then Ryan Harris joined us about half way through.  Climbing up was not as scary as going down was!  I made it out safely, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything to show up in pictures.

Heather Diaz, July 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we set a special line for the Swordfish Feasibility Study.  This study is actually being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar, who has been researching sharks and other aquatic species for more than 14 years.  The purpose of this study is to see if swordfish can be caught using the shark sampling gear and handled safely for biological studies, such as tagging and sample collection.  To do this set, we used the same basic setup as we did with the sharks, with a few differences. First, the lines are made of monofilament A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”.  Stephanie instead of steel. Second, Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught.  Third, the bait used is squid, and each is baited with two.  Fourth, the leader lines also have a “Chemilure” on them, which is basically a light stick.  We have used yellow and green light-sticks. These light-sticks are clipped on the line near the bait, since swordfish will be attracted to the light.

A group of volunteer scientists set the lines at 3 am.  Then, the whole crew got up to haul in the lines at 6am. We didn’t catch any swordfish, but we did catch 1 blue shark and 1 pelagic ray. Around 8am, we set the shark line. We hauled in that line around noon.  We caught 2 blues and 2 makos. We had our abandon ship and fire drills today. For the abandon ship drill, I had to get my survival suit from my room, along with my hat.  I was already wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants, so I didn’t have to bring those. I also had to put on a life-vest. My meeting location was the second boat. During the fire drill, all the scientists had to meet in the aft lab. Afterwards, (he’s not an officer, but a civilian employee) 2nd Mate, Richard (Pat) Patana, gave us a speech about safety and he went over all the rules and procedures for both types of emergencies.  It was very interesting to hear.  All of the crew members are actually trained in fire procedures, and they wear the same gear that a fireman on land would wear. They are also trained in water emergency procedures, and they have been trained to “plug” and repair breeches in pipes and the hull of the boat, if there is ever a need.

Around 2pm, we set the shark line again. We hauled in that line around 6pm.  We caught 5 blues, 1 mako, and 2 pelagic rays.

A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic, though that is not the intended purpose of it. Rand Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.
A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the  shark’s age. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic. Rand
Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.

Personal Log 

During our last set, we accidentally lost a buoy.  I think it came unclipped from the line.  So, Chief Boatswain, Chico Gomez and Ordinary Fisherman Ryan Harris got the skiff down to go and rescue it, of course they couldn’t do it until the entire line had been set!  So, around 3pm, they asked me if I would go with them.  YEAH! Actually, two other scientists were able to go with us (Karina DeLaRosa-Mesa and Daniele Ardizzone).  It was a little scary climbing down off the boat because the ladder was a bit crooked.  However, it was safe, and everyone was able to get down without much difficulty.  We were able to go about 2 miles out away from the ship…which looked like a tiny little boat from so far away.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my camera because we all got really wet. On the excursion, we saw a mola up close, it was right off the bow of the skiff…I could have touched it, but when we got close enough to reach out for it, it dove under the water and out of sight. They are really strange looking.  After about 30 minutes, Chico Gomez spotted the buoy and I got to reach down and capture it and pull it aboard.  That was cool. We made it back to the ship just in time for dinner.

Unfortunately, our foam floated away before anyone could catch it.  They will need to go back and look for it later.  Dr. Rachel Graham was helping Dr. Suzy Kohin “process” the fish and accidentally smacked herself in the cheekbone with the bolt cutters.  It swelled up into a goose-egg. It looks like it really hurts.  The OOD, Sean Finney, came down to take a report. But, no medical report was filed after all since it was not a serious injury.  Dr. Rachel Graham is ok, but her cheek is bruised and she has a black eye.  She was able to laugh about it later, but everyone feels very badly that she got hurt.  We will all have to be extra vigilant to try to avoid further injuries.

After we finished our haul, the crew decided to go and look for the foam, which took us way, way, way off course. But, we looked until the sun went down and couldn’t find it.  I personally think that the trawler that was near us when we lost it picked it up.  At least, I hope so!

Two Baleen whales were playing not too far away from the ship today!  They hung around for about an hour, of course every time I got my camera out, they would go under the water. And, I don’t think I was fast enough to get a good shot of them.  It was very neat to see the plume of water blast out from the surface of the water, and then we could see them roll gently in and out of the water.  They are such graceful animals.  I would love to get to see them a bit closer!

The air is very crisp and it smells fantastic.  The gentle rolling of the ship over the waves is very relaxing, and everyone has said that they have never slept better than they have the last few days! I am looking forward to a nice sleep, and another exciting day with the sharks!

Heather Diaz, July 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 7, 2006

Boy Scout Troop 271, from San Diego, CA, arrives aboard the ship. Chief Boatswain Chico Gomez and Dr. Russ Vetter are also aboard the skiff. The Boy Scouts were participating in an oceanography course on Santa Catalina Island, and the troop was able to take a tour of the ship

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone woke up ready to catch some more sharks.  We set the first line at 6am. It soaked for about 4 hours. Then, we hauled in the line around 10am.  During the first set, we caught 7 blue sharks. Unfortunately, we also had one blue shark which died on the line. They think it must have become tangled up on the line, and it died.  It was not a very large animal.  They dissected it and researchers will use the samples to discover more about these incredible creatures. The afternoon set started around 12pm.  We hauled the line in around 4pm.  This time, we caught 1 blue, 1 mako, and 1 pelagic ray.

In the afternoon, we picked up another scientist, Dr. Russ Vetter, at Twin Harbors on the coast of Catalina Island. He will be helping us process the animals and tag them, along with Suzy and Rand. We also had 18 Boy Scouts from Troop 271 from San Diego, CA join us. They were brought aboard by Chico, who shuttled them over on the skiff from their campsite on Catalina Island. They had just finished taking a week long course on oceanography and they came aboard to see what our ship was doing.  I heard one of them say, “This is awesome, I can’t wait to be able to do this when I grow up!” I think there may be some future NOAA Corps officers in the making! They all seemed genuinely excited to learn about the sharks we are studying, and many of them said they wanted to come back and see more.  They all left with big smiles on their faces, and the camp “mom” was very excited to see what an impact the visit had on the boys.

Personal Log 

The sunrise this morning was gorgeous!  California sea lions and dolphins played alongside the ship all day, and we had a wonderful time watching them and enjoying the sunshine. The scenery is also gorgeous, with a great view of Santa Barbara Island not too far off in the distance.

Oh, one thing that happened during this set which was kind of sad is that we caught 1 blue shark that had gotten tangled up in the line and died, so when we hauled it in, it was dead. So, the pulled it on deck and dissected it.  I was able to get some video of it.  They are so cute when they are so small like that!  They took some DNA samples and some other body parts from it.  I didn’t stick around to see what they did with the rest of it.  Someone had asked for the jaw (a scientist from Long Beach Aquarium), but if they get another one, I will try to get a jaw.  It’s truly amazing to see how their jaw protrudes.  Also, I noticed that their teeth are almost translucent.  Very interesting!

The bait smelled particularly bad this afternoon.  But, we were off the coast of Catalina Island, so the scenery was gorgeous! I saw several dolphin playing, and even a few sea lions playing in the water nearby.

The sunset was equally as gorgeous tonight as it was yesterday, and we finished the evening off near Catalina Island. It was great to see the Boy Scouts come aboard as everything about the ship was exciting to them.  I wanted to spend more time talking with them, but they had to go back to shore so that we could move to our next block.  I hope that some of them continue to pursue their interest in science!  Perhaps someday they will be the Chief Scientist or CO of this cruise!

I am looking forward to seeing more of the Channel Islands!  I have only ever seen one of them, and I can’t wait to see Anacapa, as I have seen many photographs of this beautiful little island.

Heather Diaz, July 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 6, 2006

California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port for the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey.
California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port

Science and Technology Log 

After everyone boarded the ship and we were underway, the OOD, Junior Officer Sean Finney held a short welcome aboard meeting.  He explained the expectations of the scientific crew and regulations while aboard the ship.  Afterwards, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Suzy Kohin, held a meeting to explain our mission and to show us how the longlines would be set.

The mission of our cruise is to complete the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey, which is done annually. The first leg was completed last week. During this leg, we will resample the same blocks, so that the data can be compared.  Data will then be analyzed from the last 10 years to see if there have been in changes in the mako and blue shark populations. The primary targets for this survey are the juvenile pelagic sharks, the mako and blue sharks. Any other animal that is caught will be measured and that data will also be recorded.  Sharks will be tagged and released.  If there happens to be a shark that is no longer alive or who is too unhealthy to be released, they will be dissected and specific parts will be preserved for further research.  We are hoping that this will not happen.  We will also be taking a DNA sample from each shark that is caught.  At the end of each set, temperature and latitude and longitude will be recorded.  Primary and Secondary Blocks have been predetermined (as these have been the same for the survey over the past 10 years); however, there are a few days in which we may do sets in areas where the temperature of the water or slope of the ocean floor appear to be optimal for catching sharks to tag.

In addition to the primary survey, we will also be doing a Swordfish Feasibility Study, which is a project being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar.  She is looking to see if it is possible to catch swordfish in this area using a longline set, similar to the one we are using for the Shark Survey. They are also looking at whether or not it would be possible to control the fish well enough to be able to tag its dorsal fin.

Following our meetings, we practiced putting on our “gumby gear” (survival suit), which is made of neoprene and is intended to be worn only during abandon ship situations.  It is called “gumby gear” because it covers a person from head to toe in bright red neoprene.  Crew members aboard the ship are expected to keep their abandon ship gear close by in case of an emergency, and we have abandon ship drills and fire drills once a week.  Every stateroom is equipped with two survival suits and two life jackets.  Man overboard drills are conducted once every month or so.

The first longline, which we set at 4pm, was considered a practice set.  Setting the longline is comprised of several jobs.  The first job is done by Rand Rasmussen.  He begins the process by preparing the bait. For the shark sets, we use frozen mackerel.  Rand Rasmussen counts out the frozen mackerel and thaws them in 2 coolers using sea water. The mackerel are not baited completely thawed and are actually easier to bait if they are still a little frozen.

The next step is that the deck crew members prepare the lines by taking part of the line and unrolling it from the main roll.  They then string it through a pulley that runs along the side of the ship. After the line is ready, the bridge positions the ship so that we are in line with where we should be setting the line.  Then, when everyone is in place, they toss the flag. The flag is a flag that is connected to a long pole.  The bottom of the pole has a float on it, so that it stands upright.  There is also a bright yellow bag that looks like a windsock (called a sea anchor), which is also thrown into the water.  This catches the current, and helps to keep that end of the line straight.

Then, one person will unclip the leaders. These are made up of a gangion clip at one end, about 3 fathoms (18 feet) of steel wire, and a stainless steel hook at the other end.  The gangions are kept in cans, with 2 rows on 4 sides to which the gangions are clipped.  The hooks are looped inside one end of the gangion to keep our hands safe and out of the way from hands that might reach into the can.  There are 2 cans of gangions/hooks, and we set around 200 hooks during each set.  Once the gangion is unclipped from the can, the hook is removed from the loop, and both ends are handed off to the baiter.  The baiter puts the hook into the mackerel’s mouth, then loops it out the underside of the mouth and is then pushed into the back, making a sort of loop around the spine with the hook.  The line is then pulled tight.

The baited line is then passed off to the “clipper”.  This person waits for a small crimp to pass by on the line as it comes through the pulley and goes down into the water (towards the flag). There are actually 2 small crimps on the line which serve two purposes.  First, they keep the gangions from sliding off the line or moving positions.  Second, it makes sure that the spacing is uniform on the line.  The spacing for this survey is about 25 feet between each gangion. The clipper grabs the line with one hand, and then clips the gangion into the “slot” with the other.  The line moves very quickly because the ship is actually moving forward the whole time at a few knots, so the clipper must be fast and accurate.

After 5 baited lines have been clipped, a buoy is clipped on in what would then be the 6th slot on the line. The buoy goes through 2 stages of preparation.  First, the buoy is taken from the port side of the ship, where they are stored while not in use.  Then, they are clipped on a line near the setting line.  One person takes a leader line of nylon rope (again, about 3 fathoms long) and they attach it to the buoy.  Then they pass it off to a buoy person, who counts the gangions as they go by and then passes the buoy off to the clipper at the appropriate time.

While the scientists are working with the line, the deck crew is also working with the line at the winch.  There are always at least 2 deck crew members on hand to supervise the set. One person runs the winch, and they can adjust the winch to run the line faster or slower as needed. The other person carefully watches the line, to make sure that everyone is being safe and that the line is moving along safely.  They signal the winch operator if the line needs to be stopped or sped up.  They also keep in constant contact with the bridge to tell them how the set is going.

The bridge can watch the set process through a camera, which they can maneuver so that they can see the line as it comes off the winch, as it is being baited, and as it is deployed in the water. In addition, they can see the line on a computer screen which shows them the “box” where they are trying to set the line.  The box is an area on the navigational chart that the scientists have determined as the area in which they would like to set the line. We aren’t concerned about keeping the entire set within the box once we start, but the start point is selected so that most of the line will be in the box.  The bridge is responsible for watching for any other boats/ships that might be in the area which could interfere with our line.

Once all the buoys and lines have been deployed, the deck crew disconnects the lines from the winch and attaches the line at the back of the ship.  The bridge then watches the line while it “soaks” to make sure it stays as straight as possible.  The standard length of soak time for this survey is 4 hours.  While we are soaking, the scientists usually take a nap, play a game, catch up on email or research, relax on deck or in the crew’s lounge, get a temperature profile, prepare tags for the haul, catch up on data entry from previous sets, etc.

When it is time to haul, all of the scientists and 3 deck hands are needed.  The set up is a little different when we haul in the line, because there are 2 main areas of activity instead of just one. At the very rear of the ship, there is the tagging/measuring area.  This is done on two levels. The top level, which is on the same level as the aft deck, is where the data recorders and the deck hand that is operating the platform/cradle lift are located.  They are on opposite sides of the ramp.  The bottom level is at the bottom of the ramp and is where the platform and the “cradle” are located.  Usually Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, and 2 or 3 other scientists are down on the platform during the haul-in.  I will explain more about all these jobs below.

The area of activity nearest to the front (bow) of the ship begins with the deck crew members and the line.  Once the line is disconnected from the back of the ship, it is brought forwards so that it is in line with the winch.  It is threaded across a sort of pulley, and is reconnected to the winch. Two deck hands make sure the line is wound back on the main roll of line evenly.  To do this, one person operates the winch’s speed, and they can stop it if necessary, while the other person keeps pressure on the line by holding it with a special tool.  This makes sure the line winds correctly and does not get snagged.

Once the line is connected, the process is ready to begin.  The bridge gives permission for us to begin hauling in the line, and the first person, who stands near the pulley, unclips the gangion from the line.  That person then passes it off to one of two de-baiters.  These people pull the bait off the hook and drop it into the ocean.  They then put the hook into the gangion loop and pass the whole thing back to the clipper.  The clipper then clips the gangions back into their can (the exact reverse of the process when we set).  When buoys come up, the buoy line is handed over to a buoy person, who pulls up the leader line and disconnects the buoy from it. They then coil the leader back into its basket while another person takes the buoy to the other side of the deck and attaches it to a line where it is kept while not in use. If there is an animal on the line, everyone yells, “Shark!”, or whatever the animal is.  This alerts those at the rear of the ship that there is an animal coming to them.  The line that has the animal on it is unclipped, and then a “rope leader” is attached to it, which makes it possible to tie off the line to the ship if there are too many to be processed right away. Then someone “wrangles” the shark to the rear of the ship by literally walking the animal along the side of the boat until they reach the cradle.  It’s a very important job because they have to keep enough tension on the animal that the hook doesn’t slip out of their mouth, but they have to also be careful not to pull the animal up and out of the water, which could cause injury to the animal.

The cradle is a sort of half-tube that can be raised and lowered so that it is either closer or farther away from the water.  When an animal is brought around, the cradle is lowered so that it is in the water. One of the scientists takes the leader line and takes off the rope.  They then pull the animal into the cradle so that its head is facing the port side of the ship. The other scientist is waiting for the animal and he catches its mouth and eyes with one hand and covers the animal’s face with a wet cloth so that it can’t see and to help calm the animal.  He uses his arm and other hand to hold the animal down.  The scientist that lead the animal into the cradle also gets down on the platform and uses his arms to keep the animal still.

The first thing that is done is a DNA sample.  This is done by the Chief Scientist who uses hemostats to hold a small section of the animal’s fin (in the case of a shark, this is the dorsal fin). Then a small scalpel is used to remove a tiny section of fin.  This is held in the grip of the hemostat, which is then passed up to the data recorder on deck.  They put the sample into a small glass jar which is then labeled with the animal’s number and species. Most DNA samples collected were from makos because the researchers are trying to determine the population genetics structure of the shortfin mako shark in the North Pacific, though 3 other types of animals were also caught.

Once the DNA sample is done, the Chief Scientist inserts an ID tag, called a spaghetti tag, which is from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Services) into the animal, just in front of the dorsal fin. This is done by making a very small cut with the scalpel, and then the tag is inserted with a long metal probe, which lodges the tag underneath the skin.  The tag information is recorded by the data recorder, who later completes a registration card which will identify the animal by the date caught, length, sex, and species.  The registration card is kept on file, so that if the animal is ever caught in the future, they can track where the animal has been.

After the spaghetti tag is done, they do another tag, which is placed directly on the dorsal fin. This is called a Roto tag. To do this, the Chief Scientist punches a hole in the dorsal fin with a punch tool. Then, the tag is lined up with the hole and is riveted together.  This tag number is also recorded by the data recorder.  On some animals, they also place satellite tags and pop-off archival tags, but I have to learn more about how those work.  We didn’t do any of those today. The Roto tag has a special tag on it with instructions for fishermen.  If the animal is ever recaught, they can send the tag and some of the animal’s vertebrae in for a one hundred dollar reward.  This is only done on animals which receive the OTC injection.

Once the animal has been tagged, they turn it on one side to get the sex.  This is also recorded by the data recorder.  Then, they inject the animal with OTC (oxytetracycline) which is supposed to stain the animal’s vertebrae, which can later help to determine the age of the animal (like the rings on a tree).  It also works as an antibiotic, though that is not its primary purpose.  This injection is given just about in the middle of what most people would consider the belly of the animal into the visceral cavity.  The dosage is based on the approximate length of the animal and is measured out of a small needle.  The Chief Scientist gives the injection and holds the tiny hole where the injection was given for a few seconds to prevent any of the OTC from leaking out.

Then, they flip the animal back onto its stomach so that they can remove the hook.  They record where the hook was located (either the jaw or if they swallowed it).  They usually have to cut the barbed end of the hook off with bolt cutters.  The line and the broken hook are then thrown up to the deck to be recycled and refitted with new hooks for use again.

Once the hook is out, the animal is pushed to the end of the cradle and the tip of its nose is lined up with the very edge of the cradle.  The side of the cradle has a measuring stick on it. They hold the tail out straight and measure to the very end of it along the tape.  Once they have a measurement, they lower the cradle down into the water, and gently push the animal out the end so that it can swim away.  Usually makos dive straight down, but blues tend to swim around a while on the surface before diving out of sight.

Everything happens very quickly, so those who are processing the animal must be quick and efficient. The entire process takes no more than a few minutes, which is intended to limit the amount of stress on the animal, and so that we don’t keep them out of the water any longer than absolutely necessary.

Personal Log 

When we pulled out of the harbor, I was standing on the fly bridge (the very top).  I could see all the other ships and the other boat yards.  One cool thing I saw was the Naval Dolphin Training Station. It just looks like a bunch of square cement rings.  I could see the dolphins in them, though I don’t know if the pix came out or not.  I also saw a pier that was loaded with sea lions. In front of that, we passed a buoy marker which had become the napping place for 2 sea lions…they were very cute.  Once we were at sea, I was able to get in my room (room 01-1) and put my things away.  Then, I hit the bed and fell sound asleep. While I was asleep Chico Gomez, Chief Boatswain, and Sean Suk caught some Bonita….very pretty fish!  I didn’t get to see them whole.  But, the meat was a gorgeous salmony-pink color.  They said they will smoke it tomorrow afternoon.  They said I can try fishing sometime this week.  I will give it a try in a few days.

Because this afternoon was our first set, everyone was very excited to do all of the jobs.  I chose to do baiting first, and then I switched to doing the unclipping.  Both were fun, and everyone talks and laughs, so it was fun.  I was really excited to finally be on board and to get to meet everyone.  Hauling in the first set was amazing, and I got to see so many sharks! After the set, I spent the time unpacking and getting things ready for the rest of the cruise.

We caught 11 blues, 3 makos, and 1 pelagic ray.  We also caught 1 mola mola, but I didn’t see it. I am looking forward to seeing a mola at some point.  I couldn’t believe how different it was to see sharks so close, and not in an aquarium!

Today I learned how to tell the difference between a mako and a blue shark…the makos have more streamlined noses, a more silvery color, and they have a more symmetrical tail. The blues have a definite blue color to them, and their tails are distinctively larger on top than on the bottom. Also, makos have a more “thick” area in front of their tail, kind of like the keel of a boat, whereas the blues are more streamlined.  You can also tell the difference by their teeth. Mako sharks have little, almost needle-like teeth, whereas the blue sharks have triangular teeth which are serrated on the sides (that is, if you happen to get close enough to see one with its jaws open!).  But, they are all very cute!

The ray was also very amazing to see…they are a kind of steely-grey color, and kind of “spaceship” shaped.  Very different than the rays I’ve seen around the waters near Florida. I can’t wait to see more sharks and other sea animals tomorrow!

Brenton Burnett, July 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: July 1, 2006

A hooked pelagic ray swims aside the DAVID STARR JORDAN.
A hooked pelagic ray swims aside the DAVID STARR JORDAN.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 315 degrees
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-4’
Seawater temperature: 19.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1012.5 mb
Cloud cover: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Today’s first run was sharkless but instead we did catch eight pelagic stingrays. In the afternoon we caught two smaller makos and another ray. As I mentioned yesterday, chimera, skates and rays, and sharks make up Class Chondrichthyes.  The chimera are the most ancient grouping of these cartilaginous fish. Later came the skates, rays, and sharks in the Subclass Elasmobranch which make up 96% of the cartilaginous fish species. In general, the rays and skates are characterized by a flattened body with their pectoral fins fully attached to the head. This design is an adaptation to living on the seafloor.  Creatures that live here are described as benthic. This lifestyle is in contrast to sea life that lives in the open ocean, which is described as pelagic.

Which of the toy models is a ray and which is a skate?  Skates have dorsal fins located near the ends of their tails
Which of the toy models is a ray and which is a skate? Skates have dorsal fins located near the ends of their tails

The pelagic stingray is the only stingray that is not benthic. This behavior may be a relatively recent occurrence on evolutionary time scales, however, as it retains a number of characteristics best designed tails. Like all skates and rays, their mouths are located under their flattened body.  In this position, they can swim along the bottom and suck in prey off the seafloor. I recently witnessed such feeding as I fed a bat ray at SeaWorld last week.

The gills of skates and rays (collectively known as the batoids) are located underneath, or ventral, to the body. When resting on the bottom, water flow through the gills is limited and so obtaining oxygen would be a problem if it weren’t for another feature common in cartilaginous fish, the spiracle.  Most sharks also have spiracles, which are small holes on either side of their head. They have a respiratory function. In rays and skates these spiracles are located just behind the eyes up on the top of the head. When the pelagic rays are out of the water, the opening and closing of the spiracles as they breathed was obvious. There are two features most useful in distinguishing a skate from a ray.  Most skates have one or two dorsal fins located far back on their tails, and they never have spines that are typical of rays.

The spine of a ray is often toxic and used as a defense by the ray. When the pelagic rays were brought on board, the first priority was the safety of the humans.  The spine was snipped or if possible, the ray is placed upside down on foam that ultimately will take a spine “hit” and from then on cover the spine. The toxin of a ray’s spine is not delivered in the way a snake’s fangs might inject its poison.  A ray’s spine is serrated and acts like a harpoon or barbed hook, preventing removal in the opposite direction from which it was inserted.  The spine of a stingray has serrated edges but is in the form of a mucous that fills two that make it virtually impossible to remove a grooves on the underside of the spine.

The spiracles of a stingray are located just behind the eyes. The spine, sometimes two or three of them, is found near the base of the tail.
The spiracles of a stingray are located just behind the eyes. The spine, sometimes two or three of them, is found near the base of the tail.

A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam. A puncture made by the spine that may then be infected by the toxic mucous. Telling shark from batoid is not always easy. The order of sharks known as angel sharks bear resemblance to batoids but their pectoral fins are clearly not fully attached to the head, and their mouths are at the front of the head and not underneath as it is in all rays and skates. Other kinds of sharks and rays that can be confused are the sawshark, which is a shark, and the sawfish, which is a ray. Both have a bizarre flattened snout from which teeth stick laterally, or sideways, outwards. They both have a thicker more sharklike body.  Both have two dorsal fins, a set of pectoral fins and a set of pelvic fins.  But they are no more closely related than any shark is to any ray. When two different types of animals (or plants, or other living thing) are faced with similar challenges, they can sometimes independently evolve in a way that arrives at a similar solution.  Bats, birds and butterflies each independently evolved flight.  Triceratops and rhinos evolved head horns.  Mako sharks and dolphins evolved sleek torpedo shaped bodies for rapid swimming.

A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam.
A pelagic ray is on the shark platform belly
up. Its spine is safely lodged into the foam.

And sawsharks and sawfish have independently evolved a saw shaped snout.  Each is believed to use their snout to capture and kill prey.  But they also retain their sharkiness Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral  fins are distinctly unattached from the head. Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body. There five known species of sawsharks.  They, like most  other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head.  Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head. Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed  appearance. Sawsharks like other sharks have a sensitivity to the electrical disturbances created by moving fish and other prey. Their snout enhances this sensitivity. But the sawfish has no such electrical organ. The sawfish does have pectoral fins that attach fully to the head where the sawshark’s pectoral fins do not. Additionally, the pectoral and pelvic fins of the sawfish are flatter and more flush with the body.  And the gills of the sawfish are underneath the head, but they are found on the side of the head on the sawshark. Lastly, another feature that distinguishes the two are the sawshark barbels that stick out from the middles of their snouts like moustaches—sawfish do not have these.

The spine of a stingray has serrated edges that make it virtually impossible to remove a spine by simply pulling it out the way it went in.
The spine of a stingray has serrated edges that make it virtually impossible to remove a spine by simply pulling it out the way it went in.

I need to address a couple of student questions that I don’t believe I’ve yet answered:

Oxytetracycline (OTC), the dye used to stain the vertebrae for aging studies, is not known to do harm to the shark if given in excess.  However, a table of calculated dosages based on length is used because if too much OTC is used, growth layers other than just the present one will also become stained.

The J-hooks typically used are about four inches in length. The shark abundance survey has been going on since 1994, and to maintain consistent and scientifically comparable data, they continue to use these hooks.

Sharks have few enemies in the oceans.  They tend to be the top predators in their food webs, but as the vast majority of sharks are less than one meter (three feet) long, they can be come prey for other, larger sharks, or even whales like orca. By far the species that poses the largest threat to them are humans.  Mostly humans kill sharks when it is other types of fish that meant to be caught.  The shark would then be referred to as “by-catch”.  At other times sharks are intentionally caught for their meat or as sport—this is often the case for mako sharks.

Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral fins are distinctly unattached from the head.
Angel sharks are flattened like a ray but their pectoral fins are distinctly unattached from the head.

Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.

Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light.  For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.

The J-hook and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako  and thresher shark lines.

Personal Log 

I continue to have a good time here, if not for the sights and sounds but for the people I am working with.  Lots of interesting, friendly, and fun-loving folks.  And, happily, they have been quite tolerant, and even obliging of me walking around with my video camera catching this and that.

Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body.
Angel sharks have mouths at the front of the head while all batoids have mouths located ventrally, or under the body.
There five known species of sawsharks. They, like most other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head. Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head.
There five known species of sawsharks. They, like most other sharks, have their gill slits on the sides of their head. Also, their pectoral fins are not fully attached to the head.
Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed appearance.
Sawsharks have a pair of barbels coming from the sides of their snouts, giving them a mustachioed appearance.
Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.
Sawfish have their gills located underneath their head like all other batoids.
Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light. For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.
Oxytetracycline is light sensitive, meaning it reacts and breaks down when exposed to enough light. For this reason the bottle is brown and kept in a bag, and loaded syringes are kept inside a glove for ready use.
The J-hook and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako and thresher shark lines.
The J-hook (right) and somewhat smaller circle hook are used for mako and thresher shark lines.

Brenton Burnett, June 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: June 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction:  250 degrees
Wind speed:  9 kts
Sea wave height: <1
Swell wave height: 1-2’
Seawater temperature: 17.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure:  1015 mb
Cloud cover: Clear

Russ Vetter and Rand Rasmussen position a blue shark so  they can measure its length and remove the hook.
Russ Vetter and Rand Rasmussen position a blue shark so they can measure its length and remove the hook.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a slower day in terms of numbers of sharks—we only caught three. But the mood was good because each of the sharks caught was large enough to accommodate satellite tags.  And, we caught one of each species of shark that we anticipate seeing—a blue, a thresher and a mako.  The mako was particularly lively giving a good kick as it left the shark trough. Any of the sharks tagged on this trip, or others in the same effort, can be monitored here. On this cruise we have attached SPOT tags to two makos (on Tuesday #60986 and today, #60998), a blue (#60989) and a thresher (#53797). Note: I’m told that all four of these MAY be listed as blues on the website until the website is fully updated, but the tracks of all four sharks should be viewable right now!

All sharks are in the phylum Chordata.  They, along with rays and skates, and a strange and even more ancient group of fish called chimera, make up Class Chondrichthyes, which are the fish with skeletons made of cartilage.  The only bony material in a shark is its teeth and for this reason very few shark fossils beyond teeth are found.  The other classes of chordates are the jawless fishes (hagfish and lamprey), the bony fishes (minnows, mola, cod, seahorses, etc.), amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

The goblin shark—perhaps the ugliest shark ever!
The goblin shark—perhaps the ugliest shark ever!

Each class is divided up into orders, and there are eight orders of sharks— one order includes the sawsharks, another the whale shark and wobbegong, and another the angelsharks (which have some resemblance to rays).  The frilled and cow sharks make up another order, the bullhead sharks another, and there is an order for the dogfish sharks (including the spiny dogfish which might be the most numerous of all shark species—closer to shore, we may hook one).  All of these orders are sharks but when people think of sharks they typically envision either mackeral sharks, which include great whites, makos, tigers and threshers, or the ground sharks, which include leopard sharks, hammerheads and blue sharks.

The 16 species of mackeral sharks are among the most specialized of sharks. Many, like the mako, are swift swimmers.  Threshers have a tail that is as long as the rest of their body is. It is believed that they use this tail to “corral” fish and then slap the fish to stun them.  The goblin shark lives in the dark of the deep and has a strange snout jaw structure that makes it arguably the ugliest shark.  The first of these was caught in 1897 near Japan.  A scientist there delivered it to Professor David Starr Jordan, for whom the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship we are on is named.

The DAVID STARR JORDAN awaits the return of its Zodiac boat.
The ship awaits the return of its Zodiac boat.

With over 200 species, the ground sharks are the most diverse and varied order of sharks. The blue shark is a generalist living in open waters in nearly all of the world’s oceans. Others, like the catsharks are benthic, or bottom-dwelling.  Most are small and harmless but some are the largest of predatory sharks. All of them have what’s called a nictitating eyelid which covers the eyes to protect them as the shark bites.

Personal Log 

During today’s afternoon set, we inadvertently lost a buoy that was intended to be clipped to the longline. Fortunately, such a mishap is occasion to let loose the ship’s two engine Zodiac.  Myself, Stephanie Snyder (an intern with NOAA), Miguel Olvera, and crewmembers Chico Gomez and David Gothan, set out to retrieve it.  The buoy was dropped early in the set so we had to travel a couple miles out.  On the way, we briefly saw four molas.  Later a sea lion passed by.

An adventure here, an adventure there—the fifth day is as interesting as the first!

Brenton Burnett, June 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: June 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction:  306 degrees
Wind speed:  15 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 19.8 degrees C
Sea level pressure:  1017 mb
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

The beaks of a variety of squids and a fisheye lens found in a blue shark’s stomach.
The beaks of a variety of squids and a fisheye lens found in a blue shark’s stomach.

Science and Technology Log 

While today’s catches were lighter than yesterday’s, there were some very interesting new sights to see. One blue shark that made it up on deck, threw up some of its stomach contents.  Out came the remains of a pelagic (open water) crab and a number of squid beaks. The largest of these beaks was three centimeters (just over an inch) in diameter and the smallest less than a half a centimeter. Blue sharks are perhaps the most widely distributed shark, living in all oceans except in the polar latitudes. As such, they are generalists and eat squid, fish, smaller sharks and even birds. Jacques Cousteau even filmed blues shepherding virtually invisible krill into balled clusters so they could swim through the ball to feast. While setting the afternoon line, I saw a curved tip dorsal fin break the surface off the starboard bow. Then it disappeared under a wave.  Moments later as we caught up to it, a large disc of a fish could be seen below the fin—a mola!!  Molas are the largest bony fish though they are not the largest of all fishes. That honor belongs to the docile plankton-eating whale shark. Molas can reach a length over 4 m (13 feet), though the one we saw was closer to 2 m (6 feet).  Whale sharks, however, can grow to over 20 m (70 feet) long.

Bottlenose dolphins porpoising in front of the bow of the DAVID STARR JORDAN.
Bottlenose dolphins porpoising in front of the bow

Later, as we hauled the afternoon set, another mild surprise—a pelagic stingray was caught on our line! Once aboard, the highest priority was to disarm the poisonous spine projecting from the base of the stingray’s tail.  While Sean Suk, another Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) researcher, held the ray down, Suzy Kohin was able to clip the spine disabling the ray, but not harming it. Rays and skates evolved flattened bodies as an adaptation as benthic, or bottom feeders. Rays and skates, or batoids as they are called collectively, have a mouth positioned on the bottoms of their bodies so they can best feed along the bottom of the ocean. Pelagic rays, as their name implies, live in the open ocean. So the pelagic ray has evolved a unique style of feeding. When approaching a school of fish, this ray will turn upside down and curl its wings above it forming a funnel.  This funnel shape directs the fish right to its mouth.

In the evening, after our work was done for the day, a few of us were on the stern deck when a school of dolphins approached. Soon they surrounded the ship and a group of six or seven stayed with us porpoising at our bow for close to thirty minutes!  “Porpoising” is the arched jumping above the water as dolphins swim. This behavior allows these mammals to breathe while maintaining their pace.  Porpoising should not be confused with breaching which is a more vertical jump from the water. Breaching behavior has been observed in a number of whale species, but also in some sharks.  The two shark species best known for breaching happen to be the two species we are most interested in on this cruise—makos and threshers.  Scientists are not certain why whales breach, nor are they entirely certain why sharks breach.  At least a partial answer may be that they are making an attack on prey.  Many sharks, not just blues, are known to eat sea birds, and makos, specifically, have been seen jumping from the water in attempts to attack floating sea birds. White sharks, the larger cousins of makos, are known to breach but in False Bay near Dyer Island off South Africa, this behavior could even be described as common.  The unique seafloor topography there forces the southern fur seals to repeatedly swim from surface to seafloor as they make their way to the island (if they didn’t they would be eaten by the sharks outright). Researchers have discovered that as the great whites pursue the seals from the depths their momentum takes them up and fully out of the water in spectacular breaches.

Personal Log 

Every day on board brings something new to this mountain man.  On deck, when critters aren’t appearing on board or in the sea, there are always science folks to answer questions. Of course, that is when they aren’t watching World Cup soccer via the satellite TV.  ‘Til, tomorrow…

Brenton Burnett, June 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: June 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 300 degrees
Wind speed:  17 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3’
Swell wave height: 3’
Seawater temperature: 19.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure:  1015 mb
Cloud cover: Scattered clouds

A National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) tag and insertion  tool.
NOAA Fisheries tag and insertion tool

Science and Technology Log 

Dr. Kohin, our chief scientist, tapped me to assist on the shark platform this morning!  This means I helped remove the hook from sharks’ mouths and helped with the tagging.  Note: I didn’t get bit once nor was I lost overboard.  And the sharks did well, too. There are many tasks that lead up to shark tagging and hook removal.  As the long line is drawn in by electric winch, one member of the science team unclips the gangion (or the buoy) and passes it on to others for stowing. If no catch was made on that hook (which is the case most of the time), the bait has to be removed before stowing.  If there is a shark, however, it is walked “on its leash” to the stern (back) of the ship to the shark platform where Russ Vetter and Rand Rasmussen  (and often Suzy Kohin though she is also busy coordinating the efforts of everyone) work to collect data and release the animal.  Others record data and provide the materials necessary for tagging.  As is often the case when conducting scientific research, much of this work can be repetitive.  But when something comes in on the line, or when something unexpected happens like when a gangion is twisted on a line, there is lots of activity and excitement.

A ROTO tag clamp.
A ROTO tag clamp.

To be sure, the most excitement is on the shark platform.  This 4 foot by 8 foot (approximate) platform is connected along its long side to the shark trough. The shark platform is accessed from the deck by a large chute that is as wide as the platform is long.

The shark trough is lowered just under the water until the shark (still on the line) can be maneuvered into the shark trough by Russ.  Once there, Russ and Rand are quick to hold down the shark so that they can safely work on it.  Rand uses a small thick blanket to cover the shark’s mouth and sharp teeth.  Before releasing the animal, however, he needs to remove the hook.  While the two of them hold the shark, another person (which was me this morning) cuts the hook or wire lead. By this time the sex of the shark has been determined.  This is easily accomplished by observing the rear underside of the shark— two finger like “claspers” near the pelvic fins are present if the shark is a male.  The last step before releasing the shark is to measure its length.  A meter stick along the edge of the trough makes this an easy task.

SPOT tags being programmed for use.
SPOT tags being programmed for use.

If the shark is a mako or a thresher, however, a number of other tasks are undertaken before hook removal and release of the shark. First, a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)”spaghetti tag” is attached just forward and to the side of the dorsal fin. These are “conventional tags” which give the animal a number and provide an address to send the tag to if the animal were recaught.  The spaghetti tag is barely more than a plastic wire attached to a pointed piece of metal.  To insert it, a small incision is first made in the shark’s back.  Then, using an awl shaped tool, the metallic portion of the tag is wedged through the incision just under the skin. Because these tags may not stay in for life, a backup tag is also used.  These are called ROTO tags and they are attached directly to the dorsal fin. Sharks returned with ROTO tags also indicate to researchers that oxytetracycline has been injected into the shark. These tags, like others, contain reward information for the return of specimens or information about them.

For larger and healthier sharks, satellite tags, of which there are two, may be attached to the shark. The SPOT tag (smart position and temperature tag) is a bit thinner and smaller than a computer mouse.  Attached to the dorsal fin (in lieu of the ROTO tag), the SPOT tag has two metal washers on its exterior.  If the shark rises to the surface, with its dorsal fin out of the water, these washers dry long enough to disrupt the electrical current that normally passes between them through the water.  This cues the tag to transmit the shark’s position to a satellite.  Using these tags costs more than $2,000 each, so it is important to use them with animals that are large enough to receive them and ones who are in good health.

PAT tags ready for use.
PAT tags ready for use.

If a shark receives a SPOT tag, a PAT tag (popoff and archival tag) will also be attached. The PAT tag records water temperature, depth and light levels at one minute intervals. After a few months or some other specified time, the tag is designed to pop off and float to the surface.  At that time the tag transmits a summary of its data collection to researchers via satellite.  If the PAT tag can actually be recovered, the full set of data at its full resolution can be retrieved.

It is interesting to note that light levels act as a proxy for time of day given that noon and midnight can easily be determined from them.  And, in turn, this information can be translated into a longitudinal position as one notes the shift of day time from the location of tagging. Light level can also be used to determine latitude as on all days except those nearest the equinoxes, the length of day is dependent upon how far one is north or south.

Between the SPOT and PAT tags, the horizontal as well as vertical movement of the animal can be tracked over a period of time.  Using only conventional tags, only one additional location can be mapped, and that only with a recatching of the animal. With these methods, it is hoped that the travels of these young makos and threshers, will be better understood as they feed and breed.

Personal Log 

Every day has been exciting, but today helping on the shark platform has topped it all.  I was lucky, too, as that set was the most productive, so far.  We caught 57 sharks on 202 hooks—a pretty good batting average.  And five of these were makos.  We also caught a larger thresher shark, rare out this far.  I was thrilled to think I’d get to see this guy up close, but alas it was not to be. The thresher threw the hook and escaped—the big one got away! Fortunately, later in the trip we’ll likely be more in thresher waters!

Brenton Burnett, June 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: June 27, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 350 degrees
Wind speed: 9 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 20.0 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1012.7 mb
Cloud cover: Cloudy

The mako sharks we catch are one to two years old and are between 70 cm and 140 cm (around 3 feet) long.
The mako sharks we catch are one to two years old and are between 70 cm and 140 cm (around 3 feet) long.

Science and Technology Log 

Our first full day of setting and hauling netted 68 sharks. In the morning we caught 21 blues and 5 makos, and in the afternoon 39 blues and 3 makos.  Unfortunately, one mako and one blue did not survive and were brought aboard for sample collections.  Though everyone involved understands that the work being done here is ultimately about helping these sharks survive and thrive in the wild even when an animal dies, there is, among everyone, a definite sense of loss and regret when an animal is lost. The data collection process involves a great deal of care for that reason.

Studies have been done to look at the stress related hormone levels of sharks caught on long lines, and the length of “soak times” used in this project follow those recommended guidelines—three to four hours from the start time of setting the line to the start of hauling it in. The design of long line helps to maximize survival, too. The gangions, which are the lead and hook assembly that attach to the long line, are about three meters long which gives these sharks room to swim while hooked.  This is important for blues and makos as they, like many other sharks, need to keep in constant motion so fresh, oxygen-rich water is always moving through their gills.

Another challenge is that, on occasion, a shark will swallow the hook, so whenever possible a “circle hook” is used that will not hook in the stomach or esophagus, but only on a “corner” of some kind.  If a circle hook is swallowed it will get pulled out by the shark’s movement away from the line but when the animal turns away, the circle hook will catch in its mouth.  Even if a hook, like a J-hook, cannot be removed from an animal because it was swallowed, this does not necessarily mean it will die.  Sharks with hooks in them have been released and recaught years later. When a shark does die, its body is utilized to understand sharks better.  This is especially true for the mako sharks.  Dr. Jeff Graham and two of his students, Dovi Kacev and Noah Ben-Aderet, as well as Miguel Olvera, another graduate student, are collecting a number of tissue samples for themselves and others at their home universities.

The gills of the mako sharks are of interest because makos are a high-performance, speedy, shark. A comparative anatomy study is being done to compare the design of their gills to that of tunas, another high-performance fish, though tunas are in the class of bony fishes, Osteichthyes, and sharks are cartilaginous being members of Class Chondrichthyes.  For this reason, the gills of available specimens are being collected.

Shortfin makos (and, incidentally, common thresher sharks which also might be seen on this trip) are among the very few warm-blooded species of shark.  Higher temperatures facilitate their higher energy usage as the fastest sharks in the ocean.  Makos achieve higher body temperatures, in part, because their “red muscle” tissue is located close to the spinal column and not, as in most other sharks, close to the skin.  This red muscle is responsible for maintaining prolonged periods of powerful movement.  This muscle works in tandem with the circulatory system to create a heat exchange system called countercurrent circulation. The internal location of the red muscle and the countercurrent circulation work to preserve heat and even warm the blood before it reaches the heart.  For these reasons, studies are being conducted on the red muscle versus white muscle are being sampled for later examination.

Because of the mako’s high performance, and the relation of that performance to the circulatory system, heart tissue is also being collected. The vertebrae of the makos is being collected, too, for the purposes of trying to determine the ages of the animals.  This was discussed some yesterday in the discussion of oxytetracycline injections.

Finally, a cutting from a fin is also being collected to later extract DNA.  Relatively little is known about the movement of makos (hence our tagging of them).  By examining the genetic relationship of makos sampled, researchers will be able to determine if makos off the California coast are related to makos in other parts of the Pacific, including the southern hemisphere.

Personal Log 

Aside from the critters at hand, there have been lots of other activity to feed our curiosities. We’ve been seeing whale spouts, probably fin or blue whales, and Risso dolphins. Ann Coleman, an aquarist with Monterey Bay Aquarium and another member of the science team, suggested we might even see some molas!  Molas are the largest bony fish in the world reaching 1500 pounds and a record of 14 feet in total length!  We can hope!

Thankfully, I’ve had zero issues with seasickness.  In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed being rocked to sleep at night. And, thankfully, the food has been plentiful and quite yummy!  That’s all for now…

Brenton

Brenton Burnett, June 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brenton Burnett
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
June 26 – July 6, 2006

Mission: Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: June 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 350 degrees
Wind speed: 9 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 20.0 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1010.2 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8 Altocumulus, Altostratus

The DAVID STARR JORDAN awaits final fueling and preparation for our cruise.
The DAVID STARR JORDAN awaits final fueling and preparation for our cruise.

Science and Technology Log 

The DAVID STARR JORDAN was first commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, which later became part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Since its commission, it has logged over a million miles studying the biological and physical oceanography of the southwestern U.S. coast and eastern tropical Pacific.  While it has a range of 7500 nautical miles (nm) and can be out to sea for 30 days, our cruise will last for 10 days and cover only a few hundred nm.  It can berth up to 33 people, but on board this cruise are 12 officers, engineers and crew, and 12 scientists including myself.  In ideal conditions, the top cruising speed of the DAVID STARR JORDAN is 10 knots (about 12 mi/hr).

This mission’s goals are to assess shark abundance in the Pacific off the coast of California. This is done through long line fishing.  At 1800 hours and approximately 20 nm out from San Diego, we made our first “set”.  Making a set is truly a team effort involving no fewer than five of the ship’s crew and eight scientists.  The crew run the winches and navigate the ship, while the science team baits and sets the line.  Two people ready the “gangions”—a gangion consists of a 4” J-hook, an 8’ wire lead and a “tuna clip”. These two pass the gangions on to two others who bait each hook with a whole mackerel, which is about a 10” fish.  The baited gangions are then given to the “hooker” who clips them to the line that is running along the side of the ship and then back beyond the stern. Two others are readying balloon buoys that are attached between every five hooks. The length of the lead on the buoys, which is about 7 meters, plus the length of the gangions, about 3 meters, determines the depth of the baited hooks.

We baited 113 hooks along about 1.5 nm of line and let it soak for one hour.  At dusk we began to “haul” the line in. This, too, requires a team effort.  Tasks include removing the gangion from the line, “de-baiting” the hook, and stowing the gangion.  Of course, if there’s a catch, then it’s really exciting. The shark, still in the water on a hook, is walked to the stern to the shark platform.  There, senior scientists, Russ Vetter and Rand Rasmussen, and chief scientist Suzanne Kohin slide the shark into the shark trough, which is then quickly raised just above the water.  While two of them hold the shark, they remove the hook, measure and determine the sex of the shark.  All mako shark and thresher sharks will get a tag of one variety or another.  Though, most of our catches will be blue sharks, other researchers, specifically those at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), are tagging blue sharks.

Oxytetracycline is injected to some specimens, too.  OTC dyes the vertebra of the sharks.  The vertebra, like the rings of a tree grow layers over time.  It is not certain how often these layers form, one study suggests two in a year.  Injected sharks that are recaught later will help to answer this question, and ultimately help scientists understand how quickly sharks age and reach maturity.  Incidentally, recatches of this sort are typically done by fisherman who are given $100 for recording the shark’s length, the date it was caught, and for returning four to five vertebrae.

Our first set of the trip was a practice run of about 1.5 nm and 113 hooks.  The haul brought in four blue sharks and one mako.  From here on out, we’ll be making 2 two mile long sets a day with 200 or so hooks.

Personal Log 

Though we had a delayed start to our cruise—the two diesel trucks to fuel up the ship were late—there has been very little down time!  Now that I’ve been able to check email, I’ll get to questions next time!  Until then… Brenton 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 15, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Last night I was invited to attend an early morning session in the oceanography lab with oceanographer Candy Hall. Like most mornings on this cruise, she and colleague Liz Zele were collecting water samples from 1000 meters and up with a device known as the CDT (Conductivity, temperature with depth).  These samples are used to test things like  nutrient, salt, and chlorophyll levels. Candy also runs a primary productivity test on the samples.  This test will identify the rate at which phytoplankton grow.

After a short nap, I was off to the flying bridge.  Due to the fact that the sun was shining (a first in over 2 wks) and the seas were calm, it felt like a promising day.  There was the typical early morning fin whale sighting, followed by a lull.  During this let-up it must have been decided that our time would be best spent fishing for albacore (as several trawlers were within sight). Almost as soon as the fishing lines were tossed over a blue whale appeared not far from the boat.  The sun on the whale’s back made for a beautiful sight in and out of the water.  It did not take long to get the small boat launched and on the trail of the whale for a biopsy and photographs.  The time between mammal sightings was spent watching birds. My highlight today was observing a flock of arctic terns headed to Antarctica. This I am told is the longest migration of any animal.  Today became more fruitful when four adorable Dall’s porpoises flirted with our bow for several minutes.  To top it all off…as we were beginning to enjoy our first visible sunset and the rising of a nearly full moon, observers found spunky dolphins engaging in acrobatics worthy of gold medals near the horizon.  It was not long before they graced us with their playful presence. Several of us took turns in the bow chamber and caught some underwater glances as well as auditory treats!  Smiles all around.

Yesterday, Monday, a somewhat elusive whale species showed itself despite the horrid weather. Two Baird’s beaked whales appeared around the boat for several surfacings.  Luckily, the photographers were able to get a few good head shots. And, like most days, there was the morning fin whale sighting! Due to poor visibility, observers went off effort a bit early.  Sunday also supplied us with less than perfect condition, but a fin whale was recorded before noon. The JORDAN picked up a worn-out, far from home hitchhiker in the afternoon.  The deck of the ship hosted this cowbird for the evening. She hasn’t been seen since.

Saturday’s conditions were similar to Sundays, but it was even colder.  The only sighting was…you guessed it, a morning fin whale. When there are few sighting to report and animals to observe, the members of the JORDAN become curious about floating objects. During these “slow times” the ship has collected a few things, three buoys to be exact. Two of them are your standard orange plastic fishing buoys (probably headed for the dumpster).  These buoys provided bonus entertainment because they had lines attached to them and thus “things” attached to the lines. The other buoy is a much more prized and sought after glass fishing buoy once used by Japanese fishermen.  It was given to the captain.

Tomorrow is our last full day of the cruise.  Currently we are about 60 miles from the coast. Due to our position and course, tomorrow has the potential to be an outstanding day for observing marine mammals and birds.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

 

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 14, 2005

Drew Barth

Profile of More Crewmembers 

Name: Drew Barth
Age: 20
Home: Billings, MT
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Wiper–engine room
Years of experience: 1
Favorite part of job: Traveling to different places
Favorite cruise: Shark cruise
Favorite port: Yet to be discovered
Memorable experience: Dolphins bow riding while in the small boat
Continents visited: 1

 

 

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Jason Larese

Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
College: UC-San Diego and University of Washington
Major: Undergrad—chemical engineering; Graduate—Marine Policy
Job: Biological Technician
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Independent observer
Number of months at sea this year: 1
Highlight of job: Stimulating, exposure to interesting things
Memorable experience: First stranding—deceased juvenile gray whale; bow-riding dolphins in bioluminescence
Favorite species: Risso’s dolphins
Concern: Apathy
Continents visited: 4

 

 

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Mike Sapien

Name: Mike Sapien
Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 2nd cook
Years of experience: 2
Previous experience: In port support for DAVID STARR JORDAN and deck crew
Favorite part of job: Star gazing
Favorite cruise: Clipperton Island
Favorite port: Acapulco, Mexico
Memorable experience: An 8′ sand shark brought up in bottom trawl net
Other boats in NOAA fleet: ALBATROSS IV and DELAWARE
Continents visited: 1 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 13, 2005

Profile of Another Crewmember 

Name: Laura Morse
Age: 36
Home: Portsmouth, NH
College: SUNY Buffalo, NY
Majors: Biology and anthropology
Job: Field Biologist (specializing in marine mammals)
Position on the DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer
Years of experience: 11
Months at sea this year: 9 (including work with river dolphins in Cambodia)
Best part of job: Travel, being on the ocean, and the freedom and flexibility the job offers|
Concerns: Coastal pollution and fisheries interaction
Favorite species: North Atlantic right whales
Continents visited: 7 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 12, 2005

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

Science and Technology Log

Since I last checked in, several days and a lot of water have passed by.  I wish I could say the same for marine mammals!  For quite some time we have been in international waters between 200 and 300 miles off shore. Some time last night we made a turn that put us at a heading of about 105 for most of today.  The turn of the boat also seems to have brought a turn of good luck for the observers.  Up until today the sightings have been very sparse. Tuesday only one sighting of sperm whales was recorded and observations were delayed due to uncooperative weather. We did manage a successful fire-and- abandon-ship drill.  At about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday a sperm whale was sighted and the decision to launch a small boat for photos and biopsy was made.  Luckily for me, it was my turn in the rotation to take a ride. Despite using a directional hydrophone we were not as successful as we had hoped in tracking the whale while it was submerged.  The closest we were able to get was about 30 yards away.

Whale sighting
Whale sighting

Oddly enough, in our pursuit of the sperm whale we stumbled upon a fin whale and had good luck pursuing him/her.  The small boat returned to the JORDAN about at 6:30 p.m.  It was quite a unique and thrilling experience to get that close to a such a gigantic animal!  I am told that under normal circumstances, vessels must be at least 100 yards away from the whales or risk a hefty fine. Due to special permits we are allowed a more intimate experience.  Wednesday evening I assisted with the oceanography chores, including the bongo net tow. Thursday was a slow sighting day. It was not until the afternoon that a sperm whale was sighted. Shortly after dinner we passed by a weather buoy.  This excited the crew because often fish will hang out by buoys and other floating objects.  The observers took a short break and the boat made a few slow circles around the buoy.  To everyone’s dismay, no fish were caught.  By Thursday evening we had reached our western most position.

Today, Friday, was a relatively busy day for sightings.  In total, nine animals were observed. Most exciting was a blue whale that passed within a good viewing distance from the ship. Cameras were clicking away! One other blue whale was sighted and the small boat was launched. In addition to the blue whales, sperm whales and fin whales were added to today’s list.  Due to equipment failure and malfunction in the oceanography lab, I stayed away today!

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Using the hydrophone to track whales

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

lyons_log4
Jose Coito

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 9, 2005

Profiles of Four Crewmembers 

Name: Jose Coito; Age: 52; Home: San Diego; Position: Lead Fisherman–Deck department; Years on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 12; Previous experience: 22 years as a tuna fisherman; Favorite part of job: Working with different people, going different places, getting close to the whales in the small boat; Favorite port: “All good. Most every port we have a good time…eat, drink, have fun.” Most enjoyable cruise: Southern shark cruise; Number of continents visited: 4

Name: Annie Douglass; Age: 29; Home: Olympia, WA; College: Evergreen College, WA; Major: BA Science; Job: Mammal Biologist at Cascadia Research Collective;

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Annie Douglass

Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer/Mammal Photographer; Years of experience: 8 years; Months at sea this year: 6 months; Best part of job: Getting close to the mammals in a small boat; Memorable sighting: Observing 12 killer whales attack a stellar seal lion in the Olympic  Coast Sanctuary; Concerns for marine mammals: Run-off contaminants effect on coastal animals and under water noise pollution impact on whales; Favorite species: Blue whales and humpback whales; Continents visited: 3;

 

 

Thomas Staudt

Name: Thomas Staudt; Age: 56; Home: Tucson, AZ; College: University of Iowa; Major: Psychology; Job: Seasonal/Transient Employee; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Bird Observer; Years of experience: 30; Months at sea this year: 4; Memorable sighting: The first North American sighting of the Hornsby’s storm petrel off the DAVID STARR JORDAN last week! Concerns for seabirds: Loss of breeding habitat; Favorite species: Penguin; Continents visited: 7

 

 

Name: Candy Hall; Age: 29; Home: Cape Town, South African and York, England; College: University of Cape Town; Major: BSc Honors in Oceanography (working on masters); Job: Student; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Oceanographer; Years of experience: 10; Months at sea this year: 4; Best part of job: Ship life; Memorable sighting: A pod of killer whales right next to zodiac–too close to get a photo (2001, Oregon coast); Concerns for oceans: Anthropogenic pollution and over population; Favorite species: Killer whale; Continents visited: 4

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 8, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Choppy seas have made observations a bit challenging today.  Observers were able to spot a fin whale and calf this morning and another fin whale this afternoon.  The day ended with sperm whale sightings.  Our current position is increasing the number and variety of bird sightings.

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 2, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Due to a backlog of scheduled repairs, the JORDAN did not depart from its homeport, San Diego on July 30th as scheduled. On Monday August 1st, the ship headed into San Diego Bay so that adjustments could be made to its acoustic backscatter (somewhat like an echo sounder). While this was being done, cruise members not trained in small-boat operations were given a brief training.  After which, the Zodiacs were lowered into the bay and we spent part of the afternoon putting our training to use zipping around the bay.  Anchors were hoisted and the JORDAN left the bay about 5:00 p.m. Sightings since we left San Diego include the following: bottle nose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, short beaked common dolphins (which surrounded the boat by the 100s), two separate blue whale sightings, two separate sperm whale sightings (multiple animals each sighting),and a fin whale. Small boats were launched for the first blue whale and sperm whale sightings, and this allowed for photo identification and biopsies.  The two bird identifiers on board were thrilled to spot and photograph a Hornsby’s storm petrel.  This is the only documented North American sighting.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 1, 2005

David Starr Jordan
NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan

Cruise Information and Background 

The name of this west-coast cruise is Collaborative Survey of Cetacean (marine mammals) Abundance and the Pelagic (ocean) Ecosystem (CSCAPE). It is a collaboration between the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Sanctuaries Program. In addition to counting marine mammals, scientist hope to add to photo-identification stocks, collect biopsies, observe cetacean behavior, collect oceanographic-related data for ecosystems analysis, contribute to the leatherback turtle prey study, and collect data from sonobuoys.  There are a total of seven cruise legs, which will take the DAVID STARR JORDAN the length of the west coast and 300 miles off shore.  The ship will be following a predetermined grid pattern.  Each leg lasts 20 days. After the 20 days at sea the JORDAN will rest at various ports along the west coast for four days.

Scanning for marine mammals
Scanning for marine mammals

The boat has a regular staff of 16: four NOAA Corps officers, five engineers, five deck crew, and two cooks. For this cruise an additional 13 scientists take the total number to 29. The scientists fall under the command of the cruise leader.  She is responsible for directing nine animal observers, two oceanographers, and one Teacher at Sea. The mammal observers are on the flying bridge from sunrise (6:50) until sunset (8:45). The six observers rotate across three stations on the flying bridge, spending 40 minutes at each station.  During their watch two of the observers are scanning the waters with mega-binoculars referred to as big eyes (both on the port and starboard side of the ship), while the third observer mans a computer and enters in mammal data in the event a mammal is spotted. In addition to the three mammal observers, the two bird observers alternate in two-hour shifts. Last, but not least, each leg of the cruise has an independent observer.

Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll
Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll

The oceanographers spend the majority of their day sleeping–only because they are busy with operations before sunrise and deep into the evening hours. Daily, there are water samples taken before and after sunrise up to 1000 meters.  These samples allow the oceanographers to collect data about chlorophyll content, salt content, nutrient content, and primary productivity.  On a regular basis throughout the day they also collect surface-water samples for chlorophyll analysis and conduct regular water temperature tests.  Most nights after the sun has set, they also collect plankton in a bongo net tow.

When the members of the JORDAN are not working there is a lot of emailing friends and family, reading, sharing stories, watching one of 500+ movies, preparing professional reports, studying, working out and catching tuna off the aft deck.

Catch of the day!
Catch of the day!