Scott Donnelly, April 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 27, 2008

CTD getting a much needed rest
CTD getting a much needed rest

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10-15 kts
Seas: 2-3 ft
Light rain showers, dense fog, in port.

Science and Technology Log 

Coordinates for today’s measurements (two sampling stations) are 43O30’N, 124O23’W and 125O40’W, six and twenty miles from the coast at depths of 100m (330ft) and 400m (1,315ft) respectively in addition to measurements (three sampling stations) for coordinates 43O40’N, 124O16’W to 125O25’W, three to ten miles from the coast at depths of 80m (265ft) to 120m (395ft). Bob and I have become efficient pros at deploying and retrieving the four biological sampling nets. It takes us no more than 35 minutes to complete all the biological sampling and that includes the ten minute tow required for the Manta net to sample the surface.

Personal Log 

Today is the last day of the cruise. My final 4-hour early morning shift of the cruise went well. The last sampling station for the cruise was completed at ~0930. I spent the morning downloading data, adding information to my NOAA TAS logs, packing my personal gear, cleaning my sleeping area, and enjoying the last few hours on the open ocean from atop the flying bridge philosophically pondering its future and perhaps humanity’s future. In the meantime the NOAA crew was busy making preparations for docking in Coos Bay. For the last leg of the cruise into Coos Bay the science team assembled on the McARTHUR II flying bridge to enjoy the Oregon coastal scenery, relax, and take photos. Lots and lots of photos! I overheard one science team member say that he took 1.7 gigabits of photos during the cruise! Another took over 200 photos in one day alone. Wow! Thank goodness for digital cameras or else that would have been quite expensive to process if film had been used.

Entering the channel to Coos Bay, OR
Entering the channel to Coos Bay, OR

The cruise’s end was bittersweet. For ten days I had been away from my wife and two young children. I missed them even though I emailed them everyday from the ship. I can’t wait to see them. At the same time though the cruise was so enjoyable in so many ways it’s hard to pinpoint one or two that stand out head and shoulders above the rest. It was hard work no doubt about it and at times I thought I’d never get a decent sleep. But the science team assembled by Chief Scientist Steve Rumrill was from the beginning and to the end a well-oiled machine that understood the mission’s objectives and dealt with problems that came to light in a timely and professional manner. I’m not aware of any issues that arose during the cruise between the science team members themselves or between the science team and NOAA crew. If they existed, then they must have been dealt with and worked out immediately. To me it’s a testament to the professionalism shown by all- science team and NOAA crew- on the cruise and the leadership of those chosen to lead.

The Lorax
The Lorax

Over time I’ll likely forget most of the names of those I met on this cruise. Time and age tend to do that as I’ve already experienced even in my relatively young age. But it’s less likely that I’ll forget the faces, the natural scenes observed, and the conversations had. How could I forget the graceful albatross gliding without effort and with such skill inches above the water without ever flapping its wings? Or the bioluminescence of krill? Or the first time while on the bridge the bow of the ship sunk low in the trough of a wave, the horizon and sky disappearing.

And what’s to become of the world’s oceans? What’s for sure is that for the next twenty years humanity will continue to exert more pressure on the world’s oceans to feed its relentless population growth, satisfy its rapacious appetite for resources, and serve as the transportation conduit to keep the world’s consumer economies afloat (no pun intended). Throughout human history the marine world has always delivered but there are signs that it may be in trouble, too tired to keep up with the maddening pace that the modern world has set, too exhausted to give freely as its finite resources are an ever alarming rate.  I’m reminded of two small, unassuming but prophetic (and hence controversial) children’s books written by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein almost forty years ago, The Lorax and The Giving Tree respectively. I’ve read them to my two children numerous times. After this cruise they make even more sense.

The Giving Tree
The Giving Tree

Without complaint the oceans have given much to humanity. In many ways the oceans are liquid gold. The history of human achievement is defined in large measure by our historical relationship with the marine world. It’s teeming with an abundance of life struggling to survive in the oceans’ harsh salt water environment. The current plight of the marine world represents a defining challenge humans must confront when planning for the future of our troubled planet. The historical narrative of the oceans is written in its sediments, water, and the genetic database of the million of organisms that call the ocean home. The future narrative is being written right now. What is its fate?

In conclusion, this cruise has given me a rarefied, first-hand look at the ocean world in which I live. To be sure our planet is misnamed. Rather than Earth, instead it should be named Oceanus, for our world is a water world that gives so much pleasure and asks for so little in return. What is its fate?

OCEANUS….what is its fate?
OCEANUS….what is its fate?

Scott Donnelly, April 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 26, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10-15 kts
Seas: 2 ft
Light rain showers, reduced visibility

NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly ready to deploy a bongo net
NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly ready to deploy a bongo net

Science and Technology Log 

Both the morning and afternoon shifts went off without any problems. Coordinates of the seven sites for the longitudinal sampling along the Coquille Estuary Line are 43O07’N, 124O29’W to 125O15’W extending 2 to 40 miles from shore and from depths of 44m (145ft) to 2,300m (7,550ft).  My tenth 4-hour shift was spent traveling north to the first sampling site along the Umpqua Estuary Line. Coordinates for the longitudinal measurements are 43O40’N, 124O16’W to 125O02’W extending 3 to 40 miles from shore and from depths of 80m (265ft) to 1,300m (4,265ft). See map below.

 Personal Log 

Coordinates for the longitudinal measurements of the first sampling site of my shift
Coordinates for the longitudinal measurements of the first sampling site of my shift

In preparing for Saturday’s early morning shift, I noticed when I walked onto the ship’s fantail that the night sky was clear and stars dotted the dark night heavens. I made my way to the flying bridge to observe the cloudless night sky lit up with millions of stars. All the major constellations visible in the northern hemisphere at this time of year just after midnight were easily seen in all their brilliance and mystery. The cool, crisp salty air added to the beauty of the moment. It made for a peaceful, philosophical moment. But as I have found in my brief stay in Oregon such celestial opportunities do not present themselves often and when they do it’s not for long. Clouds soon appeared, blocking the view and ending any chance to identify and name all the major constellations. After finishing the early morning shift I stayed up until after sunrise to take advantage again of photographing the sun rising above the eastern horizon through a thin layer of clouds.

Such meteorological conditions created a sky painted with various shades and hues of red, orange, and yellow. It was if a giant painter had a brush and painted the sky- his canvas- a riot of colors pleasing to the eye and emotions. The science of immaterial light from the sun interacting with the material gaseous atmosphere and clouds and the timing made for a time of quiet reflection and contemplation of the vastness of the universe and the relative insignificance of the Milky Way galaxy and our blue ocean planet. Tomorrow is the last day of the cruise. I have one more early morning shift. We are scheduled to dock in Coos Bay sometime in the early afternoon.

Sunrise off the southern Oregon coast as seen from NOAA ship McARTHUR II
Sunrise off the southern Oregon coast as seen from NOAA ship McARTHUR II

Scott Donnelly, April 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 25, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 5-10 kts
Seas: 2 ft
Rain likely

A nautical chart of the Coos Bay area
A nautical chart of the Coos Bay area

Science and Technology Log 

Longitudinal sampling continues along the Coos Bay Line. Coordinates for all measurements (twelve sampling stations total) along Coos Bay are 43O20’N, 124O27’W to 125O27’ extending 3 to 55 miles from shore and from depths of 50m (165ft) to 2,800m (9,200ft). Today was my seventh (morning) and (afternoon) eighth 4-hour shift. All went well.

Personal Log 

After the morning shift I asked my shift mate and veteran sailboat skipper Bob Sleeth to give me some pointers on how to set a nautical heading using parallel rulers. I know all about latitude and longitude but have never sat down with a nautical chart and looked at all the interesting information found on them. As a kid I watched a lot of old World War II naval films like Midway and Iwo Jima and I remember the scenes where the captain and senior officers are studying a nautical chart of the western Pacific with obvious intensity in order to plot a heading to cut off supplies for the Japanese navy or whatever. I always thought those scenes cool.

NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly charting a marine navigational heading
NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly charting a marine navigational heading

So here I am thirty years or so later, a happily married father of two and professor of chemistry, in my mind pretending the role of ship’s navigator on the famous WWII battleship USS Missouri as I consult with Capt. Stuart Murray in setting a heading to Tokyo Harbor with General of the Army Douglas MacArthur on board, making last-minute preparations for the surrender of the Empire of Japan ending World War II. I guess I can blame all the fresh ocean air I’ve taken in the past week for such a fantasy.

About mid-morning after a deep sleep I went to the flying bridge (observation deck) located above the ship’s operations bridge to watch the true masters of the sky- the albatross- glide effortlessly just inches above the glassy, mirrored ocean surface. The albatross rarely flaps its wings when flying. Rather, the albatross conserves its energy for its long distance oceanic travels by using the uplift from the wind deflected off ocean waves. Their long, slender, aerodynamically efficient wing structure allows the albatross to stay aloft for hours at a time. They soar in long looping arcs. They indeed are a grand spectacle to observe.

View from the McARTHUR II flying bridge
View from the McARTHUR II flying bridge

 

Scott Donnelly, April 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 24, 2008

Water collection from Niskin bottles
Water collection from Niskin bottles

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10 kts
Seas: 2 ft
Light rain showers possible

Science and Technology Log 

As forecasted for Wednesday night the turbulent seas have calmed and the howling winds coming from all directions have subsided. On occasion a large wave smashes into the ship broadside. But, for the most part, it seems like the storm has moved onto land. Sampling operations restarted around 2000 (8pm) last night. This morning from 0100 to 0500 is my sixth 4-hour shift. Today nearshore and offshore CTD and biological sampling continues at different longitudes 124O29’W to 125O15’W but constant latitude 43O07’N. This is called a longitudinal sampling survey. The latitude and longitude coordinates align with the westward flow of water from Coos Bay estuary in Coos Bay, OR. Along these coordinates CTD deployment will reach depths as shallow as 50m (164ft) to as deep as ~2,800m (~9,200ft)! Round-trip CTD measurements will take more time due to progressively greater depths with increasing distance from the OR coast. On my morning shift we collected samples at two stations. At the second station 30 miles from the coast the CTD was deployed to a depth of 600m (1,970 feet).

Monitoring CTD data
Monitoring CTD data

During Thursday’s afternoon shift (my seventh 4-hour shift) the CTD was lowered to a  depth of ~2,700m (~8,860 feet) located 50 miles from the coast. At this distance out at  sea, the coastal landmass drops below the horizon due to the curvature of the earth and the up and down wave action. The round-trip CTD deployment and retrieval to such great depths take about two hours to complete. The dissolved oxygen (DO) probe measurements indicate a secondary DO layer in deep water.  So how are the continuous data measured by the CTD organized? What are the trends in data? In science graphs are used to organize numerical data into a visual representation that’s easier to analyze and to see trends. Below is a representative drawing of how CTD and wet lab data are organized and presented in the same visual space. Note the generous use of colors to focus the eyes and show the differences in data trends.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 4.55.48 AMWhat are some trends that can be inferred from the graph above? First, with increasing depth, seawater becomes colder (maroon line) until below a certain depth the water temperature is more or less at a constant or uniformly cold temperature (compared to the surface). Second, the amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) in seawater (green line) is greatest near the surface and decreases, at first slightly then abruptly, with increasing depth below the surface. Third, salinity (red line), which is directly related to conductivity, increases with increasing depth. Furthermore, in general seawater pH (blue line) becomes more acidic (and conversely, less basic) with increasing depth. Last, marine photosynthetic activity as measured by chlorophyll a in phytoplankton (purple line) is limited to the ocean’s upper water column called the photic zone. Below this depth, sunlight’s penetrating ability in seawater is significantly reduced below levels for photosynthesis to be carried out efficiently and without a great expense of energy.

The consistently low (acidic) pH measurements of deep water collected by the Niskin bottles and analyzed on deck in the wet lab are a concern since calcium carbonate (CaCO3) solubility is pH dependent. On this cruise the pH measurements between surface and deep waters show a difference of two orders of magnitude or a 100 fold difference. Roughly, pH = 8 for surface water versus pH = 6 for deep water offshore. This difference in two pH units (ΔpH = 2) is considerable as it indicates that the deep water samples are 100 times more acidic than the surface water. pH is a logarithmic base ten relationship, i.e. pH  = -log [acid] where the brackets indicate the concentration of acid present in a seawater sample. A mathematical difference in two pH units (ΔpH = 2) translates into a 100 fold (10ΔpH = 102) difference in acid concentration. Refer to the Saturday, April 19 log for a discussion concerning the importance of CaCO3 in the marine environment and the net acidification of seawater.

Personal Log 

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 4.56.10 AMAfter the morning shift but before a hearty breakfast of eggs, hashed browns, sausage, bacon, and juice, I hung out on the ship’s port side to watch the sunrise, a memorable mix of red, yellow, and orange painting the sky. It was one of the best sunrises I remember and that’s saying a lot since I live in southern Arizona, where the sunrises and sunsets are the stuff of legends. With the low pressure system having moved over land, the sea was calm and the temperature considerably warmer with no clouds positioned between it and the ocean.  Perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t sighted a whale or a whale spout, even in shallower, more nutrient-rich coastal waters. It’s not that I haven’t looked as each day I’ve visited the flying bridge (observation deck) above the operations bridge enjoying the immensity of the vast Pacific.

A flock of albatross have begun following the ship I suspect in hopes of getting a fish meal, mistakenly thinking that the McARTHUR II is a trawler.  I saw trash, which I couldn’t identify without binoculars, floating on the surface. Sadly, even the vast, deep oceans and its inhabitants are not immune from humanity’s detritus. The history of humanity and its civilizations are intimately linked to the world’s oceans. This will not change. Humanity’s future as well is linked to its maritime heritage. The oceans have fed us well and have unselfishly given its resources without complaint.  Perhaps it’s time we return the compliment and lessen our impact.

 

Scott Donnelly, April 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10 kts, 30 kt gusts
Seas: 4-7 ft
Light rain showers

Low resolution radar image of the storm system that postponed cruise operations
Low resolution radar image of the storm system that postponed cruise operations

Science and Technology Log 

My fourth (0100 to 0500, 1am to 5am) and fifth (1300 to 1700, 1pm to 5pm) 4-hour shifts are postponed due to the continued inclement weather. Seas are turbulent (combined seas 16 feet) and the winds blow non-stop (30 knots with gusts near 40 knots) from all directions it seems. Standing on deck both port and starboard, the howling wind throws sharp sea spray darts at my unprotected face. For a seasoned mariner these conditions are probably routine, if not prosaic. But for a newbie like me, with a little more than 48 hours of sea time experience, they are impressive and awe-inspiring, especially so given that I’m watching

it all from in the midst of the storm and not from the relative safety of the shore as I’ve done at times in San Diego. I climb the stairs to the ship’s bridge to watch and videotape this grand spectacle. The captain is calm and seems unimpressed with the temperamental, chaotic happenings outside. As I make my way to the bridge’s front viewing window he says to me, “Crummy weather isn’t it.” Without thinking, I nod my head in agreement. Also, a gale warning remains in effect until 1400 (2pm) this afternoon. A gale force wind  has sustained surface speeds greater than 34 knots (39mph).

CTD deployment and biological sampling with the nets are postponed until the weather subsides and is more conducive to on deck activity. If the weather cooperates and the night forecast is accurate, the plan is to resume water sampling with the CTD and collection of marine organisms around 2000 (8pm) tonight. In the meantime the CTD has been securely fastened to the fantail deck. The coordinates for today’s postponed longitudinal sampling (constant latitude, changes in longitude) are 43O07’N, 124O29’W to 125O15’W.

With the postponement in work activity in today’s log I’ll discuss a number of topics. In the following paragraphs I’ll discuss some of the nautical terms used in marine weather conditions as found in today’s forecast (see beginning of log, top) and what a low pressure system is. In yesterday’s log I described what a bongo net is and how it works. Today I’ll talk about the marine organisms that a bongo net collects and also describe the other three zooplankton nets used on this cruise- the Manta, ring, and HAB nets. Let’s begin with nautical terms used in marine weather forecasts.

Winds are identified with respect to the direction from which the wind originates. Surface water currents on the other hand are identified with respect to the direction they are flowing. So for example, today’s morning forecasted southeast (SE) winds originate from the southeast and blow toward the northwest (NW) since in general winds travel in a straight line path when not disrupted. Conversely, today’s forecasted morning southwest (SW) swells are traveling in the southwest direction. Marine wind and ship speeds are measured in terms of knots (kts). One knot (one nautical mile per hour, nm/hr) equals 1.15 statuary (or land) miles per hour, mph. Today’s forecasted morning wind speed of 25kts then equals 29mph, with morning gusts (G) forecasted at 30kts or 35mph and subsiding by mid-afternoon.

A change in winds from the SE to the E and then NW as forecasted from AM to PM indicates that the storm system is moving in a northeast direction onto land.
A change in winds from the SE to the E and then NW as forecasted from AM to PM indicates that the storm system is moving in a northeast direction onto land.

What is a swell? A swell is a mature wind wave of a given wavelength (distance between successive wave crests, i.e. the highest point of a wave) that forms orderly undulations seen on the ocean surface. Swells are described with respect to their height and period. Wave height is self-explanatory. What about wave period? Notice in the weather forecast that a wave period is defined in terms of time (typically seconds). Let’s use a hypothetical situation to explain a wave period. Suppose you are standing on deck, looking out across the vast sea, and a wave passes across your line of sight. Seven seconds later another wave crosses your line of sight, which remains unchanged. Seven seconds later another wave passes; your line of sight is still unchanged. The wave period then is the time elapsed for successive waves to pass a fixed point. In general, the longer the period, the calmer the sea.

Dense krill “soup”
Dense krill “soup”

Since my arrival in Oregon on Friday, April 18 a low pressure system has been positioned off the Oregon coast bringing clouds and precipitation. Today’s stormy seas are a result of a low pressure system. The winds and clouds in a low pressure system rotate in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from satellites above. So if the winds blow from the southeast (SE) and are sustained, this indicates that the northern region of the low pressure system is south of the observer. In yesterday’s log I wrote briefly about how a bongo net is deployed and its function. So what marine organisms are collected in a bongo net? On this cruise at the depths the bongo net is deployed, it’s mostly a thumb-sized, shrimplike crustacean called krill. Krill are an important and central component of the oceans’ food chains and webs. In the northeastern Pacific the predominant species of krill is Euphausia pacifica. They are prolific consumers of microscopic marine organisms too small to see with the naked eye. But they too are consumed in enormous quantities by seabirds, squid, fishes, whales, and more recently, humans.    

As seen in the upper right photo Euphausia pacifica krill have red “spots” along the entire length of their transparent, tubular bodies. These “spots” are photophores (light emitting organs) that emit blue light when a krill is agitated. During the 0100 to 0500 shift when it’s relatively dark on deck, one can see the blue emitted light from individual krill (but not all simultaneously) when the detached cod end of the bongo net is shaken. The emission of light from living organisms is called bioluminescence.  Remember the scene in the 2003 Academy Award winning, computer-animated family film Finding Nemo when Nemo’s iconic clownfish father, Marlin, and his absent-minded blue tang friend Dory descend into the pitch-black deep water to find the scuba mask dropped when Marlin’s colorful, curious son Nemo was captured by the scuba diver. Dory is mesmerized by a glowing light that suddenly appears. Both eventually escape becoming a meal for a deep water fish that uses bioluminescence to attract and then eat unsuspecting prey.

Euphausia pacifica
Euphausia pacifica

A sub-category of bioluminescence is chemiluminescence, which refers to the emission of visible light on account of a chemical reaction. In the krill’s photophores is a creatively named molecule called luciferin, which combines with its complementary enzyme called luciferase, to emit blue light. Of all the known bioluminescence in the natural, biological world, an overwhelming majority is found in marine organisms, especially those found in deep water where light from the sun does not penetrate.

In yesterday’s log I wrote briefly about the function of a bongo net in collecting marine organisms (zooplankton) in a horizontal water column below the ocean’s surface. How are the nearly weightless, free-floating zooplankton found at the ocean’s surface and a few inches below collected? In the following paragraphs I’ll answer this question and also describe the nets used to collect marine organisms in a water column vertical (or perpendicular) to the surface.

Manta net in action
Manta net in action

A Manta net (also called a Neuston net) collects zooplankton at and a few inches below the ocean’s surface. Like a bongo net it too collects marine organisms found in a horizontal column of seawater. This requires the ship to be moving forward. Since a Manta net collects marine organisms at the surface and a few inches below, weights are not attached to the Manta net’s metal rectangular frame which also serves as its mouth. Floats are permanently attached to the right and left of the net’s mouth. A rotary flowmeter is suspended in the net’s mouth so the water volume can be determined. Like a bongo net the biomass density (number of organisms per volume water) then can be estimated. For our cruise the Manta net was deployed starboard once every shift for a total of ten minutes for each cast.

NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly (green helmet)  retrieving a Manta net
Scott Donnelly (green helmet) retrieving a Manta net

Two other nets used on this cruise are a ring net and a HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) net, both of which are used to collect samples in a column of water vertical or perpendicular to the ocean surface. Consequently, the ship must not be moving and the net weighted for vertical sampling of a water column to occur since the nets themselves are not dense enough to sink. Deployment and retrieval of both nets are simple enough. Basically, the net is attached to a winch cable and a weight, is slowly lowered into the water to the desired depth and kept there for the desired time before it’s slowly lifted upward through the water, brought alongside the ship and suspended, washed with seawater, lifted onto the ship’s deck, and the collected sample removed from the cod end. The organisms collected represent those found in the vertical column of water through which the net ascended. On account of their small, compact size and weight, both the ring and HAB nets can be managed with one person, thereby freeing the other to take care of other sampling tasks.

Manta net skimming the surface for zooplankton
Manta net skimming the surface for zooplankton

What is Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)? HAB is caused by the elevated levels of toxins produced by certain marine algae that proliferate when seawater conditions are favorable for increased rates of reproduction. The microscopic algae are consumed by the ocean’s voracious eaters called phytoplankton. One of the toxins released by these certain marine algae is domoic acid, which accumulates in the phytoplankton that consume the algae. The phytoplankton are eaten by shellfish and fish such as anchovies and sardines. Domoic acid is poisonous to the shellfish and other fish thereby increasing mortality rates. If the toxin levels are elevated, massive die-offs occur, beaches are closed, and the sale and human consumption of shellfish, etc. are prohibited. The biological, social, and economic impacts are painful.

Personal Log 

In spite of the ship’s constant pitching and rolling in these unsettled, stormy seas, I slept well Tuesday night, taking two hour catnaps, waking for ten minutes or so, and then falling back to sleep for another two hours or so before waking after midnight to get ready for the 1am shift. About mid-morning I made a visit to the bridge where ship operations are carried out. According to ship’s radar the low pressure system and local squalls causing the inclement weather shows signs of letting up.

HAB net deployment as seen from above Ring net deployment
HAB net deployment as seen from above

Almost three full days on the ship and I have shown no indications or symptoms of sea sickness in spite of the constantly changing seas. According to the NOAA crew I’ve earned my sea legs and it’s not likely that I’ll get sea sick. So much for all the tablets of Dramamine I brought.  I took some memorable video from the bridge (both inside and outside) of the ship’s bow rising and falling between waves, some of them smashing violently into the McARTHUR’s bow on both the port (left) and starboard (right) sides, sending seawater spray up to the bridge window and all about the bow’s deck. I felt like a true mariner. Still no sightings of whales, orca, or the Black Pearl of Pirates of the Caribbean film fame.

 

Scott Donnelly, April 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10 kts, 25 kts gusts
Seas: 4-7 ft
Rain showers possible

Open Niskin bottles on CTD platform
Open Niskin bottles on CTD platform

Science and Technology Log 

What’s the significance of the NH Line (Newport Hydrographic, 44O39’N)? Water and biotic data acquisition at the NH Line began over 40 years ago. The NH Line then is significant on account of the long-term historical sample collection and data sets that it provides. Consequently, temporal (time) comparisons involving water and biotic data can be made over decades as opposed to shorter lengths of time such as years or months. It’s my understanding that nearshore and offshore sampling along the Oregon Continental Shelf (OCS) always includes the NH Line. My second 4-hour shift began at 0100 and ended shortly after 0500. Regardless of time of day each shift sets up and collects water samples from each of the twelve Niskin bottles on the CTD rosette. Typically, three water samples are collected at a particular depth. How does remote sub-surface water sampling work? When the CTD is deployed from the ship’s fantail, initially the top and bottom lids on all twelve Niskin bottles are open as shown in the photo below.

The CTD is lowered into the water and once the desired depth is reached the requisite number of Niskin bottles are closed electronically from the ship by whoever is in the control room. For my shift it’s team leader Ali Helms. After that is done, the CTD then is lowered or raised to another depth where another “firing” takes place and more water samples at a different depth are collected. When sampling is complete, the CTD is raised to the surface and onto the ship where it is secured to the fantail deck. The water in each Niskin bottle is collected and taken to the ship’s wet lab where each water sample collected at a particular depth is analyzed for other water quality parameters not measured by the CTD.

YSI datalogger
YSI datalogger

Other water parameters measured on this cruise in the wet lab include: total dissolved solids (TDS), pH, and turbidity (how transparent, or conversely cloudy, is the water). A YSI 6600 datalogger interfaced with a multi-sensor water quality probe (sonde) is used to measure the aforementioned water parameters. See photos below. The CTD and Niskin bottles then are hosed down with freshwater and reset for the next sampling site.  After the CTD is reset for the next sampling site, then it’s time to collect biotic samples from the surface and at different depths. Biological sampling always follows a CTD cast. On this cruise biological sampling is carried out on the ship’s starboard side just fore of the fantail. Collection of marine invertebrate (boneless) organisms uses nets that vary in size, shape, density of net mesh (number of threads per inch), and volume of detachable sample collection container (called a cod end). Sampling nets are conical in shape and typically are made from Dacron or nylon threads that are woven in a consistent, interlocking pattern. Each specifically designed net is attached to a wire cable and deployed from the starboard side. If collection/sampling is done below the water’s surface (also called sub-surface), a weight is attached to the net’s metal frame.  A bongo net is an example of a net used for the collection of invertebrate marine organisms at some defined depth below the surface (see photos below).

Multi-sensor water sonde
Multi-sensor water sonde

A bongo net collects organisms by water flowing into the net, which is parallel or horizontal to the water surface at some depth below the surface. Consequently, use of a bongo net requires that the ship moves forward. Deployment of a bongo net requires the use of trigonometry, a favorite math course of mine in high school a long time ago. The length of cable let out by the NOAA deckhand operating the winch with cable does not equal the depth that the bongo net is lowered below the surface. (This would be true if the net was simply dropped straight down over the side of the ship.) Let’s use the drawing below to illustrate this.

Suppose sample collection is to be done at 100m (328 feet) below the water’s surface. More than 100m of cable needs to be let out in order to lower the bongo net to 100m below the water’s surface. How much cable beyond 100m is let out (x) depends on the angle (θ) of the net (and hence cable) to the water’s surface. The angle θ is measured by a protractor attached to the cable and pulley at the position identified with the blue star in the drawing. The angle θ in turn depends on the ship’s forward speed. To calculate the length of cable that needs to be let out, the following trigonometric formula involving right triangles is used: sin θ = cos-1θ = 100mx. The calculated value x is communicated to the NOAA deckhand, who controls the winch that lets out the desired length of cable. When this cable length is reached, retrieval of the bongo net begins.

Duel sampling bongo nets ready for retrieval
Duel sampling bongo nets ready for retrieval

The volume of water that contains the marine organisms and that flows through the bongo net is recorded by a torpedo-shaped rotary flowmeter (left photo below), which is suspended by wires or thick fishing line in the middle of the net’s mouth. As water moves past the meter’s end, it smacks into and transfers its momentum to the flowmeter’s propeller, which rotates or spins. The propeller’s shaft in turn is linked to a mechanical counter inside the meter’s body (right photo below). A complete revolution of the propeller equates to a certain number of counts and that is related to a certain volume of water that has flowed past the meter.  The mathematical difference between the two numbers recorded before the net’s deployment and after the net’s retrieval is plugged into a mathematical formula to obtain the estimated total volume of water that flowed through the net’s mouth during the time of collection. Consequently, the weight or number of biomass collected by the net can be related to the volume of water in which the biomass was found. This gives an idea about the density of biomass (weight or number of biomass units per volume seawater, g/m3) in a horizontal column of seawater at a given depth and site. In tomorrow’s log I’ll talk about what marine organisms a bongo net collects (including photos) and also discuss and describe the three other nets used on this cruise to collect marine invertebrates.

Mechanical counter in flowmeter
Mechanical counter in flowmeter

Personal Log 

So far after one full day at sea, I haven’t experienced any indications of sea sickness in spite of rough seas (see weather forecast at beginning of log). Four other science team members haven’t been as fortunate. I didn’t witness any visible bioluminescent surface events on the early morning shift (0100 to 0500). I walked to the ship’s bow since this would likely be the best place to witness bioluminescence given all the agitation of seawater there. I left a bit disappointed but there are still five days remaining. The CTD and both the DO and chlorophyll probes (sensors) operated without any problems.

Bob and I communicate well and have similar personalities and intellectual interests. Before carrying out a task we discuss how it’s to be done and then agree to do it as discussed and in the order discussed. Communication is critical because when sampling for biological organisms for example, the nets have large, heavy weights attached so once the net is lifted from the ship’s deck for deployment the weight is airborne so to speak and free to move without resistance. Getting clobbered in the head or chest obviously would not be pleasant. The bongo net uses a 75 pound weight and the net’s solid metal frame must weigh another 25 pounds. Caution and paying attention are paramount once 100 pounds are lifted from the deck, suspended from a cable free to move about with the rolling and pitching of the ship with only air providing any sort of resistance against its movement.

 Rotary flowmeter
Rotary flowmeter

Bob and I have delegated certain tasks between us. We agreed that when a net is deployed, he will always control the net’s upper halve where the net’s “mouth” and weight are located; I in turn will control the net’s bottom halve where the netting and sample containers or cod ends are located. When the net is ready to be lifted from the sea and returned to the ship’s deck, the tasks for retrieval are the same as for deployment, though in reverse order from deployment. Before the net is lifted shipboard, it’s washed or rinsed top to bottom with seawater from a garden hose that gets seawater pumped directly from the Pacific. Washing is necessary because the collected marine organisms adhere to the net’s mesh so in order to get them into the sample container (cod end) at net’s end they must be “forced” down into the cod end. Once the net is shipboard, the cod end and collected organisms are emptied into a sample jar, sample preservative is added, and the container is labeled appropriately.

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Scott Donnelly, April 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 0620 Sunset: 2010
Wind: 10 kts
Seas: 4-7 ft
Rain showers

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse where the mighty Columbia River collides with the Pacific Ocean
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse where the mighty Columbia River collides with the Pacific Ocean

Science and Technology Log

With childlike anticipation and excitement I waited for the McARTHUR II to be freed from its berth and be given the freedom to sail towards the ocean world ruled by Neptune, the god of water and sea in Roman mythology. The time had finally arrived and with the captain’s decision we pulled away from the dock, turned 180O, and set “sail” due west to where the water worlds of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean collide. After exiting the Columbia and entering the Pacific, the McARTHUR II would turn south and set a heading toward the first sampling station located about nine miles offshore due west of Cape Falcon. ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) is early afternoon. In the meantime I enjoyed the rugged, coastal scenery of the far southwestern tip of the state of Washington on the northern shore of the Columbia River. Before long I was officially an ocean mariner. An important question was soon to be answered: How long would it take for me to obtain my sea legs? 

It was time to get to work. Before reaching the first sampling site the science team met in the lounge to try on thermal survival suits to determine if they fit properly. It was cumbersome putting on the heavy red suit; I looked liked the cartoon character Gumby (but red rather than green) but it gave me a bit of peace of mind. Hopefully, that’s the last I’ll see of that suit. Next, we met on the ship’s fantail (back lower working deck of the ship). The Chief Bos’n discussed shipboard operations that are carried out on and safety issues associated with the fantail, the working section of the ship. Hardhats and a working vest are mandatory. We then learned how to operate the “A” frame that aids in deployment and retrieval of the heavy, bulky CTD platform, how to properly attach the Niskin bottles’ cables to the triggering latch at the top of the CTD, and lastly how to correctly deliver the water collected inside the Niskin bottles to a sample container for analysis in the ship’s wet lab.

From the fantail we moved to the main deck on the starboard side aft of the ship’s middle section to learn how to deploy, retrieve, and collect samples from the four types of zooplankton nets, each of which also requires recording certain kinds of data about the cast. I’ll discuss biological sampling in more detail later. Admittedly, when it was all done I was a bit overwhelmed but figured that after a station or two when I developed a rhythm and familiarity with the equipment and time scale for collecting samples, I would get the hang of it.

It was 1500 (3pm) and the McARTHUR II had rendezvoused with the first nearshore sampling site about 10 miles west of Cape Falcon (45O46’N, 124O10’W). Preparations were complete and now it was time to begin 24 hour non-stop operations. I put on rain gear and rubber boots, found some dry gloves, and adjusted my hardhat and workvest. With that, Bob Sleeth and I made our way to the “A” frame to prepare for the first CTD deployment.

Personal Log 

Winch (foreground left) and “A” frame (background) used to deploy and retrieve the CTD platform
Winch (foreground left) and “A” frame (background) used to deploy and retrieve the CTD platform

My first full day at sea. We departed early morning on schedule from the Astoria dock. As expected we met rough waters where the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean meet. The day was overcast as is typical for this region of the U.S. this time of year, and cold. It snowed during the trip out to sea. Along the Columbia I was treated to the gorgeous coastal cliffs of Cape Disappointment to the north and the snow capped mountains south of Astoria. The swells subsided once the McARTHUR II reached water depths >200 feet. I’ve been out to sea for over twelve hours now and I’ve experienced no signs of sea sickness though the waters have been relatively calm. I am still earning my “sea legs” but I suppose by cruise’s end I won’t run into the hallway walls, the hallway water fountain, or my bed as often.

The overcast, gray skies ruined any chance in witnessing a marine sunset. I was still energized and excited like a kid on a “candy high” when I crawled into my lower bunk bed at 1900 (7pm). With my first shift complete I looked forward to my second shift at 0100 (1am). I figured though that I wouldn’t sleep with it being a new environment, new sounds, new smells, and the ship pitching and rolling. For the next five hours I went back and forth between sleep and semi-sleep where you’re relaxed but at the same time fully aware of the surroundings. Half past midnight I rolled out of bed, got dressed, and went to the dry lab to prepare for the 0100 to 0500 shift. 

Scott Donnelly, April 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 20, 2008

NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly (green helmet) and fellow science team member Bob Sleeth collecting zooplankton
NOAA TAS Scott Donnelly (green helmet) and fellow science team member Bob Sleeth collecting zooplankton

Science and Technology Log 

The start of the cruise has been delayed one day due to the rough, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous waters where the mighty eastward flowing Columbia River and its massive volume of freshwater collides head on with the cold, salty water of the vast Pacific Ocean. Where this water slugfest happens, sands bars shift repeatedly this way and that way as the pushing and shoving between the massive volumes of sea and freshwater continues without interruption. At low tide the sand bars are easily seen; they are numerous and of great area and irregular in shape.

On account of the delay, most of the day was spent making sure instruments worked properly and non-instrument equipment was organized to maximize efficiency. Perhaps though more importantly, the delay gave the eleven science team members— most of them complete strangers to one another—extra time to get to know one another. This is important because all of us will be shipboard for eight days confined to quaint sleeping quarters, working, eating, relaxing, playing, and interacting with each other. There’s no escaping once the ship moves away from the dock and goes out to sea. It also gave science team members time to get to know the ship’s crew, who themselves play a key role in the overall success of the mission.

Science team meeting in the dry lab aboard NOAA ship McARTHUR II
Science team meeting in the dry lab aboard NOAA ship McARTHUR II

Communication is a two-way street. From the science team perspective we have to communicate with each other and also with the crew in order to be productive and minimize mistakes. Ocean science truly is an interdisciplinary endeavor that relies on the talents and work ethic of the people involved. This brings me to my next topic. Science is a uniquely human pursuit; good science relies on people. Modern scientific inquiry is all about assembling the best minds and talent possible into a highly productive team. It’s not just about brains though. Personalities and people skills matter too. In fact, they matter a lot. They can make or break a scientific mission. All it takes is an individual with a 60-grit sandpaper personality to upset the ebb and flow of human group dynamics.

Ocean science is all about teamwork!  

In a few hours I’ll see how such dynamics work out on this cruise with this assemblage of people, the youngest being an undergraduate science major and the oldest a retired Silicon Valley engineer. Four of the eleven science team members (myself included) have never been at sea. We don’t know what to expect or, for that matter, think about with respect to what lies ahead this next full week.

After lunch we met as a group with the NOAA Corps officers and reviewed the ship’s rules and regulations. We then had a science team meeting whereby the cruise’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Steven Rumrill, gave a brief overview of the cruise’s scientific mission, discussed shipboard operations, the cruise’s plans and objectives, and the itinerary and the logistics associated with sample collection and data acquisition.

In summary, the science team will measure a number of salient water quality parameters (see my log April 19, 2008) and collect samples of marine invertebrates (boneless organisms) along the Oregon Continental Shelf (OCS) at varying depths and distances from the coast over the period of 20-27 April 2008. This time of year was chosen because it precedes the development of an upwelling/hypoxia event that is anticipated to develop later in the summer of 2008. (The oceanographic terms upwelling and hypoxia will be discussed later in this log.) Water and biological sampling will continue non-stop for 24hrs per day, every day of the cruise except the last day when preparations are made for eventual docking.

Each work shift is four hours in length and is followed by an eight hour rest & relaxation (R&R) period. My assigned shift mate is Bob Sleeth and the team leader Ali Helms, a research cruise veteran who works full-time under Chief Scientist Steve Rumrill at South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR). Ali will work the CTD controls in the dry lab while Bob and I will collect water samples from the CTD Niskin bottles and also zooplankton and phytoplankton using specially designed nets deployed starboard (right side of ship) to various depths and eventually retrieved after a certain length of time. Our daily shift schedule is from 0100 to 0500 (1am to 5am) and 1300 to 1700 (1pm to 5pm) with an eight hour R&R period in between each shift. Once started operations will continue on a 24-hour basis without interruption unless for inclement weather or seas.

The map to the right shows the major geographical regions where sampling will occur along the continental shelf of Oregon between Astoria (46O10’N, 123O50’W) and Cape Blanco (42O51’N, 124O41’W). At each sampling site biological (phytoplankton and zooplankton) samples will be collected at varying depths using special collection nets of varying mesh and design.

The operating area for this cruise is the nearshore region of the Oregon Continental Shelf (OCS), between Astoria (Cape Falcon 45o46’N, 124o40’W) and Cape Blanco (42o51’N, 124o41’W) at sites or stations ranging from 3 to 55 miles off the coast. Multiple sampling stations are scheduled along the Newport Hydrographic (NH) Line (maroon line), the Umpqua Estuary Line (green line), the Coos Bay Line (blue line), and the Coquille Estuary Line (orange line). The number of sampling stations is indicated by the number adjacent each colored line. Sampling also will take place at multiple sites (26 total) south of the Columbia River-Pacific Ocean interface and north of the NH Line as indicated by the purple circle on the map at right. Weather permitting, in total there are 59 sites where chemical and biological characterization of the water column will be carried out.

Previously I mentioned the oceanographic terms upwelling. So what is upwelling? A short definition is that upwelling is a vertical water circulation pattern in which deep, cold and typically nutrient- rich seawater moves upward to the ocean surface. Upwelling occurs in a number of places around the world on the western side of continents. It is caused either by strong, consistent winds blowing parallel to the shore as is the case on the Oregon coast in the summer months, or by deep, cold ocean currents smashing into the continental landmass and having no where to go but up as is the case in the southern hemisphere off southern Chile (South America) and Namibia (southwestern Africa). During summer in the northeastern Pacific, a clockwise rotating, high-pressure air system is positioned off the Washington-Oregon coast. Strong northerly winds blow south parallel to the Washington-Oregon coasts pushing the surface water towards the equator. At the southernmost region of the high pressure air system the water is pushed out to sea, away from the Oregon coast. As the surface water is pushed south toward the equator, deep, cold water from below upwells and thereby replaces the warmer, less dense surface water displaced to the south by winds of the high-pressure air system.

Hypoxia describes seawater that is low in dissolved oxygen gas (DO). Generally, the accepted concentration value for waters deemed hypoxic is less than (<) 1.5mg O2/L seawater. Marine organisms vary in their oxygen demand. The more active and larger swimming marine organisms such as tuna and mackerel typically require more oxygen per body weight in order to generate the metabolic activity necessary to supply their dense muscles with the requisite energy to slice through the water oftentimes counter to the current. So an active fish that moves into hypoxic waters decreases its chance of survival.

Oregon coast
Oregon coast

Personal Log 

As expected I didn’t sleep well last night, the first night on the ship. It wasn’t because of the ship’s movement either. It hardly moved as the Columbia River was calm with the wind blowing weakly. It’s a given that more often than not I sleep poorly in a new environment whether it’s a hotel, my in-laws home, or camping. Even if dead tired at best I’ll catnap for 1.5 hour intervals at the most, if lucky.

I was assigned to share living-sleeping quarters with three other science team members. The cabin contained two bunk bed units (top and bottom) separated by a wall, two small desks in the corners, ample storage space below each lower bunk bed and all along three of the four walls of the room, a (very) small lavatory with a hot/cold water shower and toilet, and a sink with hot/cold water to freshen up in the morning or before bed. In spite of the room’s relatively small size (~12ft x ~12ft), the storage capacity was more than enough to accommodate the personal gear of four people for simple, Spartan living. Every square inch of wall space was utilized for storage or some other useful, practical function. Basically, no space was wasted. Wall hooks were everywhere to hang jackets. Each bed had its own reading light, a full-length curtain for privacy (relatively speaking), and a side bumper so that when the ship rolled one didn’t roll out of bed onto the floor. Overall, it was a good example of efficient use of space for simple, practical, but productive living.

The mission delay provided more time for me to talk to and get to know members of science team, particularly my assigned shift mate Bob Sleeth, a retired Silicon Valley electronics engineer. After a hearty breakfast we spent Sunday morning exploring the quiet Astoria waterfront. Bob and a friend sailed in a 35 foot yacht from San Diego to French Polynesia in the South Pacific, spending a year sailing to and from the small islands that constitute the vast archipelago of beautiful islands including Bora Bora and Tahiti.

Cargo ship arriving at Astoria port
Cargo ship arriving at Astoria port

After lunch I spent a considerable amount of time studying the wrestling match between the ebb and flow of the high and low tides of the Columbia River. Salt water vs. fresh water. Bob gave me a few pointers on how wave structure gives a clue about the subtle changes in wind direction and speed at the water’s surface. This led to a lengthy conversation about how the nameless but intrepid mariners of ancient times, the Vikings, and those of the Age of Maritime Discovery of the European Renaissance (Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus, James Cook and many more) used their observational powers to chart the vast oceans without the aid of longitudinal coordinates. For example, the appearance of a certain bird over water, marine organism, or the change in surface water color or texture possibly meant that land or an island, yet unseen over the curvature of the earth’s surface, lay just below the horizon.

Throughout the day a number of cargo ships loaded with goods made their way slowly into port. That led to a discussion about how a seemingly small decrease in water volume translates into cargo ships having to shed weight else they run aground. Early tomorrow morning we start the mission and head out to the intimidating, deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. 

Scott Donnelly, April 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 20-27, 2008

Mission: Assembly of Science Team and Movement of Science Gear/Equipment
Geographical Area: Coos Bay to Astoria, Oregon
Date: April 19, 2008

Loading gear onto the McARTHUR II in the snow and rain
Loading gear onto the McARTHUR II in the snow and rain

Science and Technology Log 

The long, winding drive along US Highway 101 from Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston to Astoria was well worth it. For the most part every turn opened to a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean to the west. To the east, lush, verdant open meadows, some inundated with small ponds and bordered by thick coniferous forests, pleased our eyes. We stopped in Newport, OR to pick up a science team member and had lunch at a local restaurant with a microbrewery. I feasted on Kobe Chili.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Scott Donnelly, next to a CTD with Niskin bottles in port at Astoria, OR
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Scott Donnelly, next to a CTD with Niskin bottles in port at Astoria, OR

After arriving at the Astoria dock (45O12’N, 124O50’W) late afternoon and loading all the gear, equipment, and supplies aboard the McARTHUR II, we spent the evening moving personal gear into our assigned shipboard cabins, setting up and troubleshooting the computer and data collection systems, organizing the ship’s wet lab, installing dissolved oxygen (DO) and chlorophyll fluorometer sensors onto the shipboard Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) platform, and calibrating the instruments in preparation for the cruise.  The scientific instrumentation that will be used on the cruise is impressive and worth mentioning since in science data are only as good and believable as the tools used to collect it. The cruise’s instrument workhorse will be the CTD as it will be used at every sample site. The following physical-chemical water quality parameters will be measured continuously as the CTD descends and then ascends through the water column: conductivity, temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen (DO), and chlorophyll a fluorescence. Attached to the CTD are twelve cylindrical Niskin bottles, each with a volume capacity of 2.5 liters (0.66gal). Water collected in the Niskin bottles at various depths will be collected and taken to the ship’s wet lab where the following water quality parameters will be measured using a multi-sensor sonde or probe: salinity, pH, and turbidity. The photo below shows the CTD with Niskin bottles.

Let’s begin by talking about a CTD, which measures seawater’s conductivity (more or less the amount of dissolved ions in a given mass or volume of seawater), its temperature, and depth of the surrounding water column at the time a measurement is made. The latter two parameters are self-explanatory so let’s focus on conductivity. Seawater conducts electrical current because seawater contains dissolved ions, i.e. charged particles, either positive or negative. The major ions in seawater contributing to its conductivity are predominately sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl) but other ions in varying amounts, depending on location and depth, are present as well. Examples include magnesium (Mg+2), calcium (Ca+2), carbonate (CO3-2), bicarbonate (HCO3), and sulfate (SO4-2). Other important elements found in trace or very small amounts in seawater are lithium (Li+), iodine (I), zinc (Zn+2), iron (Fe+2 and Fe+3), and aluminum (Al+3). This list is not exhaustive by any means.

Conductivity is related to salinity. In general, the greater seawater’s conductivity, the greater its salinity. Salinity of seawater though is not constant; it depends on a number of factors, two of the more important being depth and temperature.  Atmospheric gases, namely molecular nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), and carbon dioxide (CO2), readily dissolve in seawater, particularly so at the ocean’s surface where wave action facilitates this process. A dissolved oxygen (DO) probe (or sensor, typically the two words mean the same thing) measures the mass (or weight) of O2 dissolved in a given mass or volume of water. The units associated with a measured value then would be either mg O2(g)/kg seawater or mg O2(g)/L seawater. The symbol mg means milligrams, kg means kilograms (1kg = 1,000g = 2.2 pounds), and L means liter. Why is the denominator in the ratio either kg or L? The unit kg is a unit for mass, which does not depend on temperature. The mass (or weight) of a substance does not change simply because it gets warmer or cooler because mass measures the quantity of matter of the substance. The mass of any substance then is independent of temperature. If a book weighs one pound, it weighs one pound regardless if it’s placed in the sun or in the freezer. The unit L (liter) is a unit for volume, the value of which does depend on temperature. An object of some mass occupies a greater volume when warm than when cool.

Also attached to the CTD platform is a chlorophyll a fluorescence sensor, which measures the mass of chlorophyll (typically in micrograms, mcg or μg) per volume (typically one liter, L) seawater (overall units mcg/L). Small biological organisms called phytoplankton contain chlorophyll and hence carry out photosynthesis. Like the photosynthesis carried out by terrestrial vegetation, phytoplankton utilize the red and blue light-absorbing molecule called chlorophyll and the carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in seawater to produce biomass and molecular oxygen gas (O2). The famous equation for photosynthesis is:

CO2 + red and/blue light + H2O Ö biomass + O2 Photosynthesis though doesn’t work unless sufficient red and/or blue light from the sun is available at the depths phytoplankton are found. The zone in the ocean near the surface where marine photosynthesis takes place is called the photic zone.

The amount of chlorophyll measured by the sensor is in direct proportion to the amount of photosynthesizing phytoplankton found in seawater. Chlorophyll then can be counted so to speak by making the chlorophyll molecule in phytoplankton fluoresce, i.e. emit light. A chlorophyll fluorescence sensor (CFS) shoots a pulse of blue light into the surrounding seawater. A chlorophyll molecule absorbs the blue light which causes it to emit (give off) red light. The CFS sensor measures the red light emitted. Basically, the more red light that’s emitted means the more chlorophyll-containing phytoplankton present in the surrounding seawater at the depth where the measurement occurs.

Pelagic snail collected off the southern Oregon coast near Coos Bay
Pelagic snail collected off the southern Oregon coast

A CO2 probe interfaced with a computer for continuous real-time data collection measures the amount of gaseous CO2 (in milligrams, mg) dissolved in a given volume of water (typically one liter). Measuring CO2 in seawater is done to gauge the extent of CO2 gas the ocean “cleans” or “scrubs” (not the television show) from the atmosphere. The world’s oceans are huge CO2 sinks because they absorb enormous amounts of gaseous CO2 from the atmosphere annually, a good amount of which is converted into biomass by the photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton.

The “unused” dissolved CO2 forms carbonic acid, H2CO3, which in turn drops the seawater pH, thereby eventually making seawater more acidic. This added acidity (drop in pH) is countered or buffered by the ocean’s natural basic pH, resulting in essentially no net change in pH. But this buffering capacity has limits. If the buffering capacity is exceeded by the addition of too much CO2 in a given time period or the reduction in phytoplankton photosynthesis, then the net result is a drop in pH, making the seawater more acidic. This change in seawater chemistry, in turn, can have deleterious effects on the biology of marine organisms, especially those organisms that live and reproduce in a limited pH range.

One marine organism that is expected to succumb to the predicted net acidification of the oceans over the next decade or so, if not sooner, is the pelagic snail (see photo below). The term pelagic means open so a pelagic snail is found in the open ocean away from the coast.

Why is the pelagic snail threatened? Acidification of the ocean increases the solubility of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the major constituent of the shells of marine organisms. Solubility is a chemistry term that relates the amount of substance (CaCO3) dissolved in a liquid, in this instance seawater. Essentially a drop in pH (acidification) increases the amount of calcium carbonate in the exoskeleton or shells of marine organisms dissolved, thereby producing thinner shells. Ultimately the shell becomes too thin and any major wave action will break the shell and the organism dies. To show this process, place an egg in a glass of vinegar overnight. The egg shell’s chemical composition is CaCO3. Vinegar is acidic. Over time the shell becomes progressively thinner. Eventually the egg shell dissolves away completely if the egg remains in the vinegar long enough. The yolk inside the egg then is no longer protected by the shell.

Personal Log 

NOAA vessel McARTHUR II in port in Astoria, OR
NOAA vessel McARTHUR II in port in Astoria, OR

I awoke Saturday morning to the music of song birds and a slight drizzle. I couldn’t identify which type of song bird but it didn’t matter; it was a good start to what would be a great day. Early Saturday morning we packed the scientific gear and sensitive equipment/instruments for the seven-hour vehicular transport along US Highway 101 to Astoria, Oregon (45O12’N, 124O50’W), where the NOAA research ship and crew of the McARTHUR II (see photo left) were docked and awaiting our arrival. The south-north drive along US Highway 101 is long and winding but is replete with breathtaking scenery at every turn. It’s highly recommended when visiting Oregon.

The seven-hour drive in the minivan from Coos Bay to Astoria was a good chance to interact with and talk to some of the other science team members, all of whom I had never met nor talked to previous to today. We all would be shipboard with each other for nine straight days. I had better get to know them and get an idea what makes them tick. I’m sure they thought the same.

In addition, over the past year or so I have developed a keen interest in how ships work and as I came to find out during the seven-hour drive so too did a fellow science team member, Bob Sleeth, who sat adjacent to me during the drive to Astoria. The NOAA crew was most welcoming and eager to talk about their ship. Bob and I were treated to an immensely educational tour of the McARTHUR’s navigational systems capabilities from Ensign Andrew Colegrove, a NOAA junior officer who obviously is passionate about both his job and maritime history; he also has a wealth and breadth of knowledge about the practical, engineering ins-andouts of modern ship technology and operational systems. I lost track of time but I’m sure the personal tour lasted more than two hours.

Beth Lancaster, April 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 13, 2008

reported surface sea water temperatures for the California coast from satellite data.  The region of sampling is indicated by the box.
Reported surface sea water temps for the CA coast from satellite data. The region of sampling is indicated by the box.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

April 11, 2008 
Wind – Northwest 4-17 knots
Swell Waves – 3-8 Feet
Surface Sea Water Temperature – 9.3-11.9oC

April 12, 2008 
Wind – Light Swell Waves –1 to less than 1 foot
Surface Sea Water Temp – 9.2-12.5oC

Science & Technology Log April 13, 2008 

At the onset of this cruise, ocean winds and swells kept scientists on alert for the next rock of the boat or wave crashing over the side, and into the fantail work area. These winds play an important role in delivering nutrient rich cold waters to the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of Farallones marine areas – this process is referred to as upwelling.  Conditions on Thursday April 11 marked a noticeable change in the weather for this research cruise.  Winds hit a low of 4 knots and swells of three feet were reported from the bridge for the majority of the day.  On April 12 it was hard to believe that we were conducting research out on the ocean.  Conditions were magnificent.  Winds were light and swells were less than one foot.  This change in conditions is termed a period of “relaxation.” 

The term relaxation refers to a period when winds decrease, allowing for conditions that promote a boost in primary productivity.  These conditions include decreased turbulence and the presence of sun and nutrients. The nutrients are readily available from the upwelling and phytoplankton are retained in the well-lit surface waters due to the decrease in wind mixing and the resulting stratification (layering) of the surface waters – thus, providing the optimal conditions for photosynthesis to take place.  Figure one shows surface water temperatures from April 12, 2008.  There was a visible change over the course of the research cruise in surface temperatures with the decrease in winds and swells indicating conditions suitable for primary productivity.

Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.
Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.

Continuous samples of plankton were taken during the day-time throughout the course of the research cruise. My observations suggest that samples collected early in the trip revealed little macroscopic (visible to the eye) plankton, while samples collected later in the trip during the relaxation event are more diverse and robust. Samples will be examined following the research cruise to draw conclusions based upon quantitative data. Night-time operations included targeted sampling for krill to look at species composition, overall abundance, age and sex.  Krill feed on phytoplankton, and will at times appear green after feeding. The optimal conditions for phytoplankton growth during a period of relaxation will result in a feast for krill that migrate up the water column at night to feed. A large portion of many resident and migratory bird and mammal diets consists of krill, indicating their importance to this marine ecosystem.

Weather conditions over the last few days also provided great visibility for mammal and bird observers. Nevertheless, there were still very few sightings of birds and mammals during this time period.  One sighting of importance was of a short-tailed albatross, an endangered species that is an infrequent visitor to the California Current ecosystem.  The short-tailed albatross population is estimated at 2000, and is currently recovering from feather harvesting in the late nineteenth century and loss of breeding grounds to a natural disaster.  For more information on the short-tailed albatross visit here.

Putting it all together….. 

All of the sampling done over the course of this cruise will allow scientists to look at the dynamics of the food chain during the early springtime.  This is just a small piece of a larger puzzle. The same sampling protocol has been utilized at different times of year in the same research area since the projects beginning in 2004.  This will allow researchers to look at the entire ecosystem, its health, and the interdependence of species to drive management decisions.

Laysan Albatross.
Laysan Albatross.

Personal Log 

As the trip comes to an end I’m grateful to both the scientists and crew members onboard the McARTHUR II. I now have a better understanding of physical oceanography, and the Cordell Bank and Farallones Escarpment ecosystem which I am looking forward to sharing with students for years to come. The McArthur crew has been kind enough to answer every one of my many questions, made me feel welcome, and given me an idea of what life is like at sea. Thank you! This was truly an experience I will remember and look forward to sharing with others.

Animals Seen April 11, 2008 

Cassin’s Auklet (36), Black-legged Kittiwake (1), Western Gull (61), Herring Gull (1), Red-necked Phalarope (8), Sooty Shearwater (12), Northern Fulmar (6), Steller sea-lion (35), California Gull (6), Rhinoceros Auklet (9), Black-footed Albatross (6), and Bonaparte’s Gull (1).

Animals Seen April 12, 2008 

Black-footed Albatross (11), Northern Fulmar (6), Western Gull (48), California Gull (5), Cassin’s Auklet (25), Common Loon (2), Common Murre (58), Bonaparte’s Gull (4), Sooty Shearwater (8), Dall’s Porpoise (6), Red-necked Phalarope (26), Pink-footed Shearwater (3), California Sea Lion (2),  Rhinoceros Auklet (10), Humpback Whale (1), Harbor Seal (1), and Glaucous-winged Gull (2).

Beth Lancaster, April 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 9, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind – Northwest 20 – 35 knots
Swell Waves – 4-12 feet
Sea Water Temp – 9.4 – 10.5oC

A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells that range from 12 to 15 feet.
A 24-hour forecast of sea conditions for April 7, 2008 off the West Coast of the United States. The red section indicates swells 12 to 15 feet.
Reported sea surface temperatures from April 7, 2008 for coastal California from satellite data.  The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast.  The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5oC and the blue 8.6-10oC.
Today’s reported sea surface temperatures for coastal California from satellite data. The coastal wind did in fact cause an upwelling and cooling of water along the coast. The purple area indicates temperatures 8-8.5 degrees C.

The weather reports collected from the bridge of the McARTHUR II reported that the waters traveled over the course of the day did in fact reach 12 feet.  The winds from the northwest cause an upwelling effect, which brings deep, nutrient-rich cooler waters to the continental shelf area off the coast of California. This nutrient-rich water plays a large role in the food web of the area, increasing primary productivity, which will then result in large numbers of marine mammals and birds due to the availability of prey items.  This period of upwelling in the area of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries marks the beginning of a productive time of year.

Science and Technology Log 

Part of the mission on this cruise is to gather oceanographic processes data to look at the relationship between biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors within the study area.  While many samples are being collected through observation and survey equipment outside of the ship, there is just as much being collected in the laboratory onboard the McArthur II. The ship is equipped with several pieces of equipment that report physical features and measurements throughout the day.  This information is recorded for scientists onboard to utilize in their data analysis.  The following is a list of equipment, and their functions being used to measure oceanic processes:

Thermosalinograph (TSG) – Surface water is pumped from the ocean through a hose to this piece of equipment which measures temperature and salinity.  There is an additional probe that measures CO2. All information collected during the course of the cruise will be given to researchers to use in data analysis.

Scientific Echosounder – Sends a sound wave into the water column.  If there is anything in the water column this sound wave will reflect back to the ship. The longer it takes for the reflected wave to get back to the ship the farther away the target is.  Comparing three different frequencies emitted by the echosounder allow scientists to identify different types of plankton in the water column, and set sampling sites.

Navigation Software – Allows researchers to track where they have been and where they are going. Because nets and other equipment are being deployed from the ship this computer software allows scientists to view the charted underwater topography to determine placement and depth of equipment.  By marking sample sites using the software, scientists can look at the relationship between the ocean’s topography and living organisms collected.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.
NOAA TAS Beth Lancaster (left) and NOAA Chief scientist Dr. Lisa Etherington (right) view sampling areas using navigation software in the McARTHUR II’s dry lab.

Personal Log 

Pteropod collected from a hoop net.
Pteropod collected from a hoop net.

I have been onboard the McARTHUR II for four days, and have enjoyed every minute of helping out with the research project. Scientists have been so patient and willing to answer all of my questions. The crewmembers onboard the McARTHUR II are very friendly and helpful. I now have a much better understanding of the marine physical environment than I did upon my arrival!  I am enjoying living at sea, even the small bunks!  The ship is actually very large you would never know there were more than twenty people onboard!

Animals Seen Today

Black-footed Albatross, Pteropod, Pigeon Guillemot, Copepods, Brandt’s Cormorant,  Ctenophore, Sooty Shearwater, Krill, Northern Fulmar, Microscopic Plankton, Black-legged Kittiwake, California Gull, Western Gull, Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, Rhinoceros, Auklet, and Bonaparte’s Gull.

Beth Lancaster, April 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 7, 2008

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster bottles a surface water sample that will be tested for the presence of nutrients.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the first full daytime operations.  We began shortly after 7:00 a.m., and covered a 90 kilometer transect throughout the course of the day ending at 6:00 p.m.  At each sampling point along the transect a series of measurements and observations were made to look at relationships between the physical ocean environment, and abundance of living organisms that are observed and collected to gain a better understanding of the physical and biological features of the area, and how they interact. The daytime crew was divided into two groups: the marine mammal and bird observers, and a second group that was responsible for collecting water and plankton samples as well as other various physical measurements of the water.  I worked with the second group, and will share what sampling I assisted with.

At each sampling point we used the CTD, which is a piece of equipment that has several probes on it, to collect a vertical sample of the water column.  When the CTD is deployed into the water it is sent down 200 meters below the surface and collects water conductivity (used to calculate salinity), temperature, depth, and turbidity. There is also a fluorometer attached to the CTD that measures the fluorescence of chlorophyll-a, which approximates the abundance of phytoplankton.  The CTD collects all this data, and can then be downloaded onto a computer.  Surface water samples were also collected at each sampling point, and will be tested for the presence of nutrients which would also have a direct impact on the abundance of organisms in the area.

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton
sample collected using a hoop net.

To gather information on the living organisms present at each site, a hoop net was used to collect samples of plankton.  The net was sent down approximately 50 meters, and collected all of the tiny living organisms (zooplankton) on a screen as the net was pulled through the water column. When the hoop net was brought back onboard, the cod end of the net (where the sample is collected) was transferred to a sample bottle, and preserved for further investigations in the laboratory. In addition to the living organisms collected in the hoop net, marine mammal and bird observations are being made from the flying bridge of the ship. That would be the highest point on the boat, and not the location for people who are afraid of heights. Due to rough sea conditions (10-12 foot swells), sightings were few and far between today.  Springtime within Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a time where strong winds cause upwelling of deeper waters towards the surface near the coast.  This upwelled water is colder and has higher nutrient concentrations.

Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.
Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.

This influx in nutrients means the ecosystem becomes very productive. Given this high influx of nutrients, prey items for birds and mammals are readily available. The food of choice for a lot of these organisms is krill (a shrimplike zooplankton.)  We did collect some krill in the hoop net during the day, but the abundance of krill in shallower water is much greater in the evening, when krill migrate from deep depths towards the surface.  The night crew is collecting krill using a tucker trawl, which has three separate nets that are opened and closed at different depths. Krill play a vital role in the ecosystem scientists are currently studying. They provide nourishment for resident and migratory birds as well as marine mammals.  There is sufficient nutrient availability for primary producers which are then food for primary consumers such as krill, and therefore food availability for secondary consumers such as fish and tertiary consumers such as whales and dolphins.

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Throughout the week the same measurements will be taken at different sights along the continental shelf and continental slope in the region of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Farallones Escarpment (within Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary). This information will allow scientists to better understand the dynamic relationship between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes.  Data gathered will also be used in conservation planning of the marine sanctuaries.

Some Animal Sightings 
Black-footed Albatross, Ancient Murrelet, Northern Fulmar, Laysan Albatross, and Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

Elsa Stuber, June 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 9, 2007

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:00 and arrived in San Francisco @ 08:00  Unloaded equipment, mostly by winch onto truck; cleaned quarters and wet and dry labs.

In preparing my report I have included the data from the casts I worked on. As they were a dollar each to reproduce at Kinkos, I decided to only include those four-colored graphs for beam transmission, depth, salinity, and temperature that illustrate different types of locations, near shore or at sea of varying depths. These graphs certainly show the increase in salinity with depth and the falling of temperature with depth.  They show the inverse relationship between the beam transmission and fluorescence. Compare Table 3, Table 6, Table 7, and Table 9 that are from very different depths. There is a lot of information here for my students to analyze.

This has been a stimulating learning experience.  My students like most high school students are not near the ocean, maybe have never been to an ocean.  I think sharing this first hand experience along with the pictures and doing demonstrations of our work and showing the data collected will open a perspective in their minds about the ocean.  They will realize from the chlorophyll analysis and fluorescence the narrow level of the bottom of the food chain. This will bring home the concern for the protection of the health of the biotic life in our oceans.  I intend to do a mock set up of our lab procedures and have them brainstorm how experimental error could be introduced.  This should reinforce the importance of careful procedure in any scientific work.

The scientific staff on this cruise has been exceptional in willing to share their knowledge and, even when we were all tired, to answer my many, many questions about each individuals work in oceanography.  I have found them to be conscientious scientists very interested, stimulated in their work. Some have given me pictures.  Several have done extended work in Antarctica, which was particularly interesting to me. As well, the MBARI staff was very supportive as the other Teacher At Sea and I were learning procedures for our work. It felt good to see how cooperative, flexible they all were with one another no matter how long the days.  I wish we could have been able to go to the MBARI lab this coming week to see how the work continues there.  I intend to go on line and read more about their research and research findings. This will be something to investigate and follow with my students and extending their understanding of the oceans and the oceanographers’ work.

Elsa Stuber, June 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 8, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction 282 NW
Wind speed: 18.9 knots
Sea wave height: 3-5 feet
Sea temperature: 10.5 C
Air temperature: 13.5 C
Sea level pressure: 1013.36
Cloud cover: 100 % status clouds

Science and Technology Log 

Wind woke me up at 06:00, boat rolling.  Early morning 03:00—05:00 winds were 30 knots. Casts 31, 32, and 33 processed by other teams.

Cast 34 @ 09:24 Station H3  Latitude 36.44117 N  Longitude 122.01108 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Samples processed and stored.  Data for cast is Table 16 at the end of the report.  Worked on chlorophyll analysis with flurometer.

Cast 35 @ 11:47 Station C1  Latitude 36.478487N  Longitude 121.508392 W Cast depth 225 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 225, 200,. 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Samples processed and stored.  Data for cast is Table 17 at the end of the report. I worked on chlorophyll analysis off and on throughout the day.

The HyperPro instrument to measure light up to 40 meters depth in the water has been tested at mid-day each day.  One tube is pointed down and opposite tube is pointed up sensing light levels. A third tube is strapped to the railing registering light levels at all times.  Seechi was used during the daylight hours as well. MBARI staff gave us some Styrofoam cups, two sizes, to decorate as we wanted using different permanent colored markers.  We put all of them in a mesh laundry bag and attached it to a 1000-meter depth cast.  When they came back up they had shrunk to 1/6th of the original size. It demonstrates the amount of air in the Styrofoam, which should be a good illustration for my students.

Wildlife observations: humpback whales, dolphins, sea gulls, cormorants, sooty shearwaters, and albatross. Kathryn said the sooty shearwater cannot take off from the ground very well. This bird will climb up the trunk of a tree a ways and take off from there. They will wear the bark down going up a path on the tree.  She hoped we would see a Yaeger bird, a bird that chases other birds that have been feeding, making them drop their food. That’s how the Yaeger feeds. It is very aggressive she said in pursuing other birds.

Moved to an area in Monterey Bay where whales had been sighted.  Saw five at a distance of half a mile, sometimes a fin, but mostly the whale’s spout from the blowhole.

Packing up equipment so ready to unload early tomorrow in San Francisco.

Each day the plan of the day is posted by the FOO.  I include an example at the end of the report.

We did extra stations as we are ahead of schedule.   Cast 36 @23:58 nutrients only. Final station done by Troy, nutrients only at 03:00 June 9, 2007

Bed at 01:00 June 9th

Elsa Stuber, June 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 7, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction: NW
Sea wave height: 5-8 ft.
Sea temperature: 12.79 C
Air temperature: 14.7 C
Swell wave: 5-8 ft.
Sea Level pressure: 1016.
Cloud cover: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:30. Breakfast and watched with mammal observer on flying bridge.  Saw a few albatross. Very rough water, windy, cold.

Cast 21, 22 and 23 taken by other teams.

Cast 24 @ 08:55 Station 67-75 Latitude  35.5749N Longitude 123.504491 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 2000, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Very windy. Data for cast is Table 12 at the end of the report

Cast 25 @ 11:35 Station NPS 5 Latitude  36.026137 N  Longitude 123.400087 W   Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters Nutrient samples only taken at this cast.  Data for cast is Table 13 at the end of the report.  Very windy (23 knots)

Spent time again on the flying bridge with mammal observer.  She said on the Beaufort Scale winds above 4 one doesn’t expect to see wildlife out in the ocean. Beaufort scale today is “5”.

Casts 26, 27, and 28 ( wind 26 knots) processed by other teams.

Cast 29 @ 21:27 Station NPS 3 Latitude 36.22583N Longitude 122.57275 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000,900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters Nutrients samples only collected at this cast. Very windy (wind 22 knots) and water is rough. Data for cast is Table 14 at the end of the report. Worked on chlorophyll analysis.

Took photos of some of the net tow specimen jars to show the extreme of near shore and out at sea differences in material.  Specimens observed today–some shrimp, a few jellyfish, a squid, pteropods, heteropods.  There is not the large amount of krill as observed in the net tow collections closer to shore.

Cast 30 @ 23:37 Station 67-60  Latitude  36.275608 N  Longitude 122.466380 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Very windy (23 knots) Samples processed and stored Data for cast is Table 15 at the end of the report.

Bed 01:00 June 8th

Elsa Stuber, June 6, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 6, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction: 291
Wind speed: 16 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft.
Swell wave: 5-7ft.
Sea temperature: 14.671 C
Air temperature: 16.1 C
Sea level pressure: 1021
Cloud cover: 25% scattered cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 07:00 Discussion continued on how to do deep casts with CTD and avoid kink in wire: lower it slower or put on more weight or etc.  Some staff short on sleep after working with CTD repair last night. I do fine on six hours a night but I feel it when it’s five.  I will try for a nap today.

Cast 13 and 14 were done with other staff and went without problems.  They will try a deep cast again today.

Cast 15 08:00 Station 65-90 Latitude 35.03387N  Longitude -127.45604 W at depth to 1000 m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters In the wet lab work the funnel for sample #8 was not locked tightly and the apparatus leaked. I put on a new filter and took another seawater sample for #8.  Samples processes and stored. Data for cast is Table 7 at the end of the report.

The two 4′ by 6′ incubators on deck contain the C14 spiked samples placed in a continually flowing seawater bath for twenty-four hours.  Samples are placed in metal tubes with various numbers of holes in the tubes.  The various tubes are designed so that the samples are exposed to 50%, 30%, 15%, 5% and 1%.  One set of samples is not in tubes, but in full sunlight. Then they are evaluated for the rate the phytoplankton incorporate the Carbon 14 as described in Day 3.

Began chlorophyll analysis on the filtered specimens from the range of depths at each station that have been in the freezer more than twenty-four hours.

Marguerite went over the procedure using the flurometer to process the sample. It must be turned on at least one hour before running the tests and the chlorophyll samples #1-12 plus 1 and 5 micron samples must be at room temperature in the dark for at least one hour before beginning. She calibrated the flurometer with acetone.  We rinse the cuvette three times with a couple of milliliters of sample, and then add the remainder to the cuvette.  It will be about 2/3 full or more.  Wipe the cuvette well with a lab wipe to remove any oil on glass from your hand/fingers, place sample gently into flurometer.  The first reading should be taken after it has stabilized, usually 15-20 seconds.  Then two drops of 5% hydrochloric acid are added to degrade the chlorophyll pigment.  A second reading is taken to measure the remaining pigment. These are recorded on a “Bottle Sample Data Sheet”, an example of which is included as Table 8 at the end of the report.  After measurements are recorded, the sample is thrown out in a collection container and the vials disposed of in a waste container.

The cuvette is rinsed three times with acetone and then begin processing the next sample. Again it really helped to have seen this procedure demonstrated on the DVD that was sent to me ahead of the trip.  I was much better prepared.  It was important for the research done as well because if one made a mistake in the sample procedure, there was no sample in reserve to be able to run the test again. I did samples for a couple of hours in the afternoon and a couple more in the evening when I was scheduled for working but waiting for a cast to come up.

Cast 16 and 17 were processed by other team.

Cast 18 @ 15:35 Station 67-90 Latitude 35.4670N  Longitude -124.9409 W Cast depth 4380 went very well. Processed by Erich and Charlotte. Cylinders tripped at 4380 bottom, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 750, 500, 250, 0 meters; Data for cast as Table 9 at the end of the report.

I observed a couple of bongo net tows today. Live net tows are collecting zooplankton and other seawater specimens from the first 200 meters of depth.  The bongo nets have two .8-meter diameter rings with a mesh net and a polycarbonate tube at the end.  The nets were deployed using the ship’s starboard winch equipped with at least 300 meters of wire. The ship maintains a vertical wire angle during the tow of approximately 45 degrees. Kit Clark, the oceanographer in charge of net tows said it was important that the winch be able to maintain a slow, constant retrieval speed.  When nets are retrieved, they are hosed down to wash specimen sticking to the mesh down into the polycarbonate tube. The specimens are transferred to jars and fixed with formalin. There were a lot of krill and one viper eel in the specimens I observed this morning.

Wildlife observer saw three albatross today.  Cast 19 @ 21:14 Station-NPS-8 Latitude 35.325665 N  Longitude 124.438304 W  Cast depth 1000 meters; Cylinders tripped at 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters; Nutrient samples only taken for this cast; Data for cast is Table 10 at the end of the report.

Cast 20 @ 11:29 Station 67-85 Latitude 35.6249 N Longitude -124.5544W  Cast depth 1000 meters; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters; Bottle # 2 leaked, was empty, so no sample collected. Always check that funnels are locked tight before I begin. Samples processed and stored; Data for cast is Table 11 at the end of the report.

Long discussion of the structure and movement of ocean currents.  Dr. Collins is a brilliant scientist, such depth in oceanography.  He uses vocabulary during his explanations that need explanation in themselves. The Great Lakes and fresh water bodies are a lot simpler.

Discussed with Dr. Collins the military value of the studies we are doing.  He said the military does sea floor mapping, looks for mines and things on the sea floor. He explained that there are levels of optimum transmission of sound, channels for submarines.  Determining these best channels relates to the salinity and temperature

Bed @ 01:00 June 7th

Elsa Stuber, June 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 5, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction 275.64
Wind speed: 13 knots
Air temperature: 16.1 C
Sea wave Height: 1-2 feet
Seawater temperature: 13.98 C
Swell wave: 4-6 feet
Sea level pressure: 1017.4
Cloud cover: 50%, stratus

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:00 and went to flying bridge to observe with Kathryn.  Not much wildlife to see other than a few sea gulls. Color of water so blue.  Temperature is cool early in the morning. Breakfast good fruit, lots of starches, sausages.  A time to talk to crewmembers about the different trips of MCARTHUR II from Alaska to Peru.  Jim spoke in detail @ working as a fisherman in Alaska, ice in his moustache, not needing very heavy clothes because you worked so hard you got hot.  He said it was 06:00 until 22:00 in summer time.  He spoke about fishing limit rules, coordinating with Japanese fishing boats, and also how the catch numbers have fallen since ten or fifteen years ago.

Cast 6 and 7 were early in the morning with other cruise staff. All proceeded as expected.

Cast 8 @ 08:18 Station 60-75 Latitude 37.067N Longitude 124.4145 W Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Data for cast is Table 5 at end of report. Cast information time is always written in Greenwich time; I subtract seven hours to show our time on ship for the station work.  The Cast information listing for latitude and longitude is close but not exact to Table 1 for the CalCOFI stations. In the 1000 meter depth casts it takes about forty minutes for the CTD to go down to depth and come up again, stopping at the different levels for the specific rosette to open.

I learned more information on the testing of samples from Marguerite Blum, MBARI oceanographer: The nutrient samples contain nitrates and nitrites as well as silicates, phosphates.  The nitrates and nitrites area examined at Moss Landing lab with an auto flow analyzer, which translates sample into voltage and indicates the amount of the nutrient in the sample.

QP (quantitative phytoplankton) will show up to fifteen general types of phytoplankton in a sample.  This is an expensive test to run.  The flow cytometry test divides the sample into four groups: bacteria, prokaryotes, eukarotyes, and zooplankton.  It will determine a general number of how many of each are present in the sample.

The Carbon 14 test shows the amount of carbon uptake by the phytoplankton.  C14 of specimen fluoresces and radioactive emission level counted on a scintillation counter. The chlorophyll analysis of the green chlorophyll is run on the flurometer.  Samples that have been in the freezer 24 hours we will process in the dry lab while on this cruise.  On this cast I also handled the A* filter, the HPLC filter and the POC filter, placing them in their red, blue, and green cryovials respectively, and then put in the liquid nitrogen container. The analysis of HPLC, POC, FCM and N15 samples are not done at Moss Landing but are sent out to other labs for processing.

Cast 9 @ 11:45 Station 60-80 Latitude 36.5677N  Longitude 125.0327 W Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters; Data for cast is Table 6 at end of report.

There have been bongo net tows at our stations, but often when I am working or sleeping. I have seen some of the specimens caught which are in jars with formalin.  I hope to see a net tow start to finish soon.

I have watched with Kathryn, the Mammal observer, during different periods today and have not seen any wildlife. She saw seven dolphins earlier in the day.  I asked her about the tagging of sea life and she talked about the guidelines. She said the organization had to apply for a permit to the National Marine Fisheries.  This may take up to a year to obtain. A boat doing tagging must display a special flag with a research number on it. The permit will specify the number of “takes” (getting close to or affecting the animal such as a whale or turtle).  She said a lot of information was available on line at TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Pelagics). When it’s on the surface, the signal from the tagged animal will beam up to satellite and transmit its location. How long it will function depends on the battery life, and of course a small animal can only carry a small battery.  The scientist will set the frequency of the beam according to the frequency of the animal at the surface. A sea lion surfaces every fifteen minutes so its battery will last three weeks.  A turtle will surface every second day so its battery will last six months to a year or more. Scientists want to recapture radio equipment so watch closely at the animal’s location.  The equipment will give off a signal for at least a week after it falls off.  Researchers put gummy worms under the suction cups on whales and know it will take about a week for that sugar to be dissolved, and then the apparatus will fall off.  Tic Tacs with suction cups also work.. The equipment is numbered for location and will be returned if found by any ships, any countries at sea. She said a problem that can occur is that is that the sensor on the collar could get algae grown over it so it stays off.

Cast 10 and 11 were with other cruise staff.

Cast 12 was started @ 22:45 and was to be a deep cast, 4500m.  When it reached @1100m transmission of data stopped.  The CTD was brought back to the surface and worked on by staff about three hours. A kink had developed in the wire.  That section was cut out and all connections redone.

Data retrieved gives information for the 1100 m at this location for beam transmission, salinity, temperature, and fluorescence all taken by the computer monitoring system in the dry lab. Bottle samples were not taken.

To bed @ 02:00 June 6th I am greatly stewing about the CTD problems with all it means to the research, to the cruise,  and the expense of it all.

Turtle Haste, June 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Turtle Haste
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 -7, 2007

Mission: CalCOFI Survey: Ecosystem Survey and Seafloor Recovery Evaluation
Geographical Area: Central CA National Marine Sanctuary
Date: June 5, 2007

The Oblique Bongo nets.
The Oblique Bongo nets.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  6 miles
Wind Direction: Northwest
Wind Speed: 10-20 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Height: 3-5 feet at 10 second intervals
Surface Water Temperature: 13.96 – degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 16.1 – degrees Celsius
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.6 millibars

Science and Technology Log 

Bongo Nets-Upon arriving at station 60-50, Kit Clark and I began the zooplankton tows with the oblique Bongo nets, also referred to as the “bongos.” The process involved is to tow the nets an oblique angle acquired by calculating the wire put out with the angle it is towed at. There is an angle measuring tool that looks like a level attached to the payout line that is monitored. Adjustments are made depending on the angle to achieve  an angle of 45 degrees +/-3 degrees for the nets to reach  an approximate depth of 200 meters. The bongo device itself has a 22 kg weight attached to the bottom of the yoke frame to cause it to sink. As the ship is traveling at 1-2 knots, a fixed amount of cable is paid out; the net is held at depth for 30 seconds and then is retrieved at a constant rate of 20 meters per minute.  Upon retrieval of the bongo, samples are hosed into the cup at the end of the net to collect as much material as possible. A volume displacement measure is acquired by subtracting the amount of water the zooplankton displaces in a 1000 milliliter cylinder.  The time to reach depth, time at depth, and retrieval time are recorded to monitor angle and depth.  

Kit Clark identifies various zooplankton caught in a Bongo net to Charlotte Hill.
Kit Clark identifies various zooplankton caught in a Bongo net to Charlotte Hill.

A tow was made at each station along the 60 survey line after the first station. The first station had too many crab pots and was too shallow to acquire a depth of 200 meters. At night, the anticipated nocturnal rising of krill occurred to present a sample dominated by krill as compared to the daytime samples of copepods.  Daylight hours also presented samples of ctenaphore tendrils that “gunked” up the net. An obvious difference between daylight and night tows was the presence of krill in greater numbers. This is expected as especially near Monterey Bay over the canyon is known for Humpback and Blue whales who stop to feed on their migration. Kit noticed that the krill out past the continental shelf and along most of our tows with the exception of the ones conducted in Monterey Canyon were not as “fat and well fed” as the ones within the canyon area itself. Krill over the canyon are in overall better condition due to a localized upwelling feature in the canyon that brings nutrient rich deep water up to increase the productivity of phytoplankton.

Kit Clark strains zooplankton from the bongo nets to evaluate the displaced volume of organisms trapped while towing.
Kit Clark strains zooplankton from the bongo nets to evaluate the displaced volume of organisms trapped while towing.

A general list of zoo plankton collected: Euphausiid (krill) and Copepods Pteropods (sea butterfly) Heteropods (Gelatinous Molluscs) Velella velella (By the Wind Sailors) a surface traveling creature Doliolids and Salps Ostracods Argyropelecus aculeatus (Hatchet fish) Atolla (deep water jelly) Cephalopods Tomopferiids Myctophild Ichthyoplankton Flashlight fish Siphonophore Radiolaria have used with students is identifying water masses in the Atlantic by physical characteristics. We use Temperature-Salinity (T-S) diagram at specific depths to identify water masses based on the density. I was hoping to collect water samples from various depths in the Pacific as well to use in the same activity. In discussions with Dr. Collins of the US Naval Post-Graduate school I learned that the Pacific is less uniquely identifiable than the Atlantic. The layered masses of the central Atlantic would not be as easily recognizable. We spent several days discussing the formation and circulation of deep waters in the Pacific in an attempt to understand the interaction between the atmosphere, chemistry, and surface current contribution to deep water mixing.  From these discussions I learned that there are actually three sources of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW).  Furthermore, I learned that the mixing of NADW and Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) in the Pacific created what is known as Common DeepWater (CDW) and that it is more difficult to actually identify Pacific water masses that I originally understood.

The bottles on the CTD rosette. In the foreground is the bottle containing 4380meter water at 1.518 degree water, the background contains the water from near the surface at 14.169 degrees.
The bottles on the CTD rosette. In the foreground is the bottle containing 4380 meter water at 1.518 degree water, the background contains the water from near the surface at 14.169 degrees.

The two casts were made at the farthest points from shore with the collection of water in the bottles to be used specifically for evaluation of dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Dr. Collins asked for my input to for the overall bottle collection depths to ensure that I would have a set of samples from similar depths to match the Atlantic set I use. The Pacific deep water cast bottles are from the following meter depths for the first cast: 4462, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 7500, 500, 250. The Pacific deep water cast bottles are from the following meter depths for the second cast: 4380, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 7500, 500, 250, and 14. The Atlantic deep water samples that I already have are from the following meter depths and associated water masses: 4000 (Antarctic Bottom Water), 2000 (Antarctic Intermediate Water), 1000 (North Atlantic Deep Water), 500 (Mediterranean Intermediate Water), and 100 (North Atlantic Central Surface Water).  Once the CTD was brought on deck, I noticed that the bottles containing the deepest water, although insulated showed condensation. Even though I understand that the temperature of the deep water is considerable colder than sea water at the surface, the ability to observe this drove the point home. Erich Rienecker of MBARI suggested that I feel the water around the rosette of bottles to really understand the temperature difference. This was the first time I had the opportunity to work with the CTD as I was working specifically with the Bongo nets. The bottle from 4380 meters had a temperature of 1.518 degrees Celsius and the surface bottle (14 meters) Another activity that the MBARI folks made sure that all of the science team and MCARTHUR II crew members had the opportunity to participate in was to send a decorated Styrofoam cup down in a mesh bag to “squish” it, or remove the air as a result of the pressure differential. Science team members spent quite a bit of time decorating cups. We even sent down a cup decorated with Flat Stanley. 

Charlotte Hill of the US Naval Academy prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
Charlotte Hill of the US Naval Academy prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.

Zooplankton – Wikipedia has a good general description of most of the organisms listed. I found specific information as I used Google for the unique species, although some of the more specific critters were really hard to find. For further information visit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A census of plankton is being conducted through the Census of Marine Life.

AABW = Antarctic Bottom Water;  NADW = North Atlantic Deep Water;  AAIW = Antarctic Intermediate Water;  SACW = South Atlantic Central Water;  NACW= North Atlantic Central Water.

Water Mass – a body of water with a common formation history. “This is based on the observation that water renewal in the deep ocean is the result of water mass formation in contact with the atmosphere, spreading from the formation region without atmospheric contact, and decay through mixing with other water masses.”

Flat Stanley – A character from a story by Jeff Brown who has adventures as a result of being flattened by a bulletin board. Classes read the story, send out their versions of Stanley to friends and associated with a scrapbook to record his adventures here.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares a cup to be sent down to -4500 meters with the CTD.
The CTD on the fantail of the MCARTHUR II with Styrofoam cups in the green mesh bag for the second deep cast of -4500 meters.
The CTD on the fantail of the MCARTHUR II with Styrofoam cups in the green mesh bag for the second deep cast of -4500 meters.
This is a “regular” Styrofoam 10 oz cup and the two cups that returned from 4500 meters. The far right cup has a Flat Stanley drawn on it.
This is a “regular” Styrofoam 10 oz cup and the two cups that returned from 4500 meters. The far right cup has a Flat Stanley drawn on it.

haste_log2h

Elsa Stuber, June 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 4, 2007

Weather DAY 2: San Francisco to sea 
Visibility: Some fog before 12:00, which later cleared
Wind direction: 282.14
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Seawater temperature: 14.159 C.
Sea level pressure: 1017.15
Air temperature: 14.1 C
Cloud cover: 100% stratus

Science and Technology Log 

Awoke 06:00 and did journal work until 07:15 breakfast.  Studied cruise information.   As suggested by CS Tim, I took a Dramamine II last evening and one this morning.  I don’t want to have seasick problems.  I don’t feel any side effects from the medication.

Safety meeting 09:00 with FOO Middlemiss. It is important to close the heavy doors when going and coming on the ship. We reviewed procedures for Man Overboard, Fire, and Abandon Ship.

Fire: signal = 10-second continuous bringing of the General Alarm bell and a 10-second continuous sounding of the ship’s whistle. Proceed to fantail of ship.

Abandon ship: signal =seven or more short blasts on the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast. Bring survival clothing and PFD to life raft location on the bridge.  We practiced putting on survival clothing:  feet and legs in then hood on your head before putting arms in sleeves and zipping up.  Difficult to do getting arms in by yourself; this is not a quick maneuver.  Mine was the smallest size; feet and arm-hand portion pretty big on me, but I would survive. I brought my mustang survival jacket along on the cruise as well.

Man Overboard: If witnessed throw life ring buoy into the water and call for assistance immediately. After one minute throw a second life ring buoy in the water.  Try to keep visual surveillance of the person in the water. Signal = three short blasts on the ship’s whistle.

For safety drills, dismissal from drill signal = three shorts blasts on the ship’s whistle. Mess hall information, store information, medicine location given.

Ship departed San Francisco approximately 10:15 with very foggy weather, foghorn blowing. It is very loud. If wearing plugs, the hearing of anyone working close to foghorn such as the wildlife observer on the flying bridge would be affected over time.  Special ear protection is needed for persons at that observational post.  Kathryn Whitaker is the wildlife observer on this cruise. She is stationed on the bridge with a lap top computer to record type and quantity of all birds and sea life she observes.  Kathryn is observing from daylight to sundown except going down for meals.  She uses powerful binoculars and camera to photograph whatever she sees.  On some cruises she has two or more staff working with her, one of whom is typing in the computer all that the observers are calling out that they are seeing which is often a great deal if the ship is nearer shore than we will be for most of this cruise.  As we leave SF Bay we see a dead gray whale floating, Kathryn points out the grease trail from the decaying whale blubber floating out on the water. There are cormorants and seagulls in large numbers flying in the area of the ship for the first three and a half hours of our trip. Then we only observe some seagulls.

The overall survey plan is to proceed offshore along CalCOFI (California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation) Line 60, occupying stations each 10-20 nMi (nautical miles) to ~175 nMi offshore.  Then proceed to stations each 20nMi northeast to station 67-90 at the offshore terminus of Line 67, and work back into shore along Line 67 with stations 10-20 nMi apart. After the station work is completed, the ship will return to San Francisco and offload gear and personnel.  I will include the CalCOGI station information in Table 1 and Figure 1 of this report.

Operations at the stations are to collect physical, chemical, and biological data by CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) and its rosette bottles, net tows, and underway surface measurements.  All CTD casts at the stations are to the bottom or 1000 dbars whichever is shallowest. At stations #12 and #16 two deep casts (4500m) are planned conditions and time permitting. Secchi disk cast will be made at daytime stations.  HyperPro optical sensor casts are to be made at midday stations.  Oblique bongo net tows will be to 200m depths.

CalCOFI survey continuous operations while underway will include logging meteorological and sea surface property, a pCO2 measuring system in the wet lab, the incubators for chlorophyll seawater samples on the fantail, and the marine mammal observer.

Cast 1 @ 13:51 Station 60-50, Latitude 37.948N & Longitude -122.888W, Cast depth 40m, Bottom depth 48m, CTD cylinders tripped at 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 1.5, 0 meters   Data for cast is Table 2 and accompanying data graph including percent beam transmission, depth, temperature, and fluorescence at end of my report. Participants: Tim and Erich from MBARI, USN Charlotte, TAS Elsa  This was good hands on practice for the sampling work.  Charlotte and I received a lot of help, tips for technique.  Tim is very patient with our learning curve.

  1.  We check stopper at bottom of rosette cylinder to determine that it didn’t leak.  Pull out stopper and should only be a couple of milliliters squirting out.  Then open valve at top of rosette to take the sample.
  2.  Open stopper by lining up black circle drawn on stopper with peg on stopper and pull out. Rinse 280ml sample bottle three times with @ 15ml of sea water from rosette and then fill sample bottle to overflowing, close stopper.  Rinse small nutrient sample bottle 3 times and then fill it half to two-thirds full. Tim and Erich were filling other bottles for C14, N15, POC, QP, HPLC, FCM, and A* tests which are described below.
  3.  In wet lab, nutrients numbered sequentially are put in cartons and then promptly put into the freezer.  These will be processed later at the MBARI lab.
  4.  Funnels with filters for the twelve samples were set up prior to reaching the station.  Turn on aspirator pump.  Filter solutions through flasks.  Suction for all samples is improved if you turn off valve on those that have already filtered through.  You can’t get paper filter off the filter piece if suction is still operating.  Be careful at all times to check that sample number matches its numbered filter apparatus, and glass vial the filter is stored in when filtration complete.
  5.  Put particular filter for the fractionated 5 micron and 1 micron filtering.  Sample is labeled “F” collected by MBARI scientist. Pour 100ml of sample into each funnel for these samples.
  6.  Add the 10ml. measured amount of 90% acetone to each glass vial with its filter to “fix” the phytoplankton on the filter.  Place these in the carton in sequential order to be placed in the freezer. These remain there in the dark for at least 24 hours before we can test for chlorophyll levels with the flurometer.
  7. Label samples for casts read for example S307c#2, #5.  Meaning June 3-9 Cruise S307 cast #2 sample #5
  8. Three other filtrations were done which are color labeled: green POC organic carbon, how much carbon is in the water other than the plankton detritus; red A* filter will be evaluated in spectrophotometer to get all wave lengths of life, not just chlorophyll; and blue, HPLC -high performance liquid chromatography which will show 23 pigment types commonly associated with different algae so they may be qualified and quantified for the level the sample was taken.
  9.  The MBARI scientists take the C14 and N15 radioactive samples.
  10.  Set empty bottles in rack and carrying case and put out on back deck to be ready for the next cast. Put new filters in the 12 funnels in the wet lab to be ready for the next cast.

Chief Scientist Tim Pennington sent a DVD with demonstrations on how different sampling and testing of the samples are handled.  It was very helpful to see this walk through ahead, with emphasis on the problems that can arise with the techniques and suggestions on what to do about them.

Cast 2 @ 15:35 Station 60-52.5 , Latitude 37.864N  Longitude -123.065W, Cast depth to 80m, bottom depth 90m; CTD cylinders tripped at 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0  meters Data for cast is Table 3 and accompanying data graph at end of report.

CTD goes down and is monitored by observer in dry lab, CTD technician Doug or Dr. Collins. The observer communicates with the bridge and crew to raise the CTD, stop at each specified depth, and to trip open the particular rosette flask at this depth.

I worked on Cast 2 and became a little more efficient.  I’m continuing to try to observe all very carefully so as not to make any mistakes.  Procedures are very precise for accuracy.

Casts 3, 4 were not on my watch.  During that time I went to the flying bridge to do wildlife observation with Kathryn. There were numbers of cormorants and seagulls.  She had seen four dolphins @ half a mile away earlier in the day.

Cast 5 at station 60-57.5 at 21:42 Latitude 36.86N Longitude -123.3612W  Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80 ,60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Data for cast is Table 4 and accompanying graph at end of report. The water from 1000 meters is very cold, 3.843 C compared to 12.144 C at the surface.

The seas are pretty calm so collecting water samples, working with the equipment,  walking around is not a problem.  I have no hint of seasickness so I won’t continue to take Dramamine unless I begin to feel queasy.

Spigot on rosette #12 black circle marker has faded and needs to be remarked.

Go to bed @ 00.30 6/5/07. I’m sharing quarters with three others and my bed is a top bunk. Bunks are not very big, but I’m only 5′ tall so size of bunk is not a problem.  I can just barely sit up though and it is tricky to make it up in the morning.  Plenty of blankets and linens supplied.

 

Turtle Haste, June 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Turtle Haste
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 -7, 2007

Mission: CalCOFI Survey: Ecosystem Survey and Seafloor Recovery Evaluation
Geographical Area: Central CA National Marine Sanctuary
Date: June 4, 2007

Charlotte Hill and Erich Rienecker collect water samples from a CTD cast.
Charlotte Hill and Erich Rienecker collect water samples from a CTD cast.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 0 – fog
Cloud Cover: 100 %
Wind Direction: 280 – degrees
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot in AM, 2 foot in PM
Swell Height: AM swells of 2-3 feet, PM mixed swells of 4-6 feet
Surface Water Temperature: 14.15 – degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 14.16 – degrees Celsius
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.15 millibars

Science and Technology Log 

Established survey lines on this cruise have been monitored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute or MBARI, since the early 1990 by collecting the same biological and chemical data. I was referred to http://www-mlrg.ucsd.edu/data/data.html for more details and the overview of the survey. Our particular survey lines begins outside of the Golden Gate Bridge, traveling westward  for a while, then we will perform a cast of 4500 meters then travel south to for another 4500 meter cast and turn East to finish the survey line near Monterey Bay. The survey lines are numbered in a particular pattern that will be used to identify all samples from each station. At some points we will be beyond the Territorial Seas of the United States, but within the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Kit Clark and Troy Benbow demonstrate the bowline to NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber.
Kit Clark and Troy Benbow demonstrate the bowline to NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber.

What is collected at each station:  A CTD measures specific properties of seawater including salinity, temperature and fluorescence as it is lowered off the stern of the ship. The CTD descends under the supervision of the CTD technician, crane operator and assisting crew member to the prescribed depth while generating real-time data in graph form through the descent. Once at depth, the technician is in radio contact with the crane operator who raises the CTD to prescribed depths where bottles are tripped to collect water samples at stated intervals. Generally the prescribed depth is 1000 meters with exceptions at the near shore stations where the depth is less than 1000 meters. Other data is collected from HyperPro Optical sensor casts, made at midday stations and Secchi disk casts made at all daytime stations following CTD casts. Oblique bongo net tows for zooplankton are made after the CTD casts at a depth of 200 meters.  As the water is collected, several chemical tests are performed, including dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Dissolved oxygen is tested from each cast using a set of chemicals that is very similar to ones I have used in fresh water chemical analysis as well as nutrients to assess the changes in sediment load. Phytoplankton samples are collected for processing and culturing. In addition, a surface observer is stationed on the flying bridge to document all marine mammals and birds that are encountered. There is an interest in cetaceans, specifically beaked whales.

Marguerite Blum models under the Bay Bridge while loading science gear.
Marguerite Blum models under the Bay Bridge while loading science gear.

Personal Log 

I found a ship’s billet on my door to tell me where to muster for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  I made sure to visit all the locations to ensure that I knew where to go. The “plan of the day” is posted in convenient locations by ship’s personnel and is required reading in order to know what activities and meetings, are planned. I was able to try on my “gumby” suit and heavy PFD. I identified what is now called the “Leedo Deck” reminiscent of the television show Love Boat where science team members have placed a few lawn chairs for relaxing on aft section of  deck one, near the phytoplankton incubation trays. As we depart San Francisco, we will sail out of the Golden Gate, under the Golden Gate Bridge. Although I had hoped for clear weather for the trip under the bridge, it was foggy.

Dr. Kurt Collins listening to the ball game on the “Leedo deck” off watch.
Dr. Kurt Collins listening to the ball game on the “Lido deck” off watch.

Question of the Day 

How does the collection and evaluation of phytoplankton assist with monitoring oceanic primary production and our understanding of the role the ocean plays as a global carbon sink? 

I need to read more about the total project and perform more interviews of the cooperating scientists to better answer this.

Addendum : Glossary of Terms 

An overall map of all the stations is here.

Exclusive Economic Zone – extends for 200 nautical miles (370 km) beyond the baselines of the territorial sea.

Territorial Waters or sea-an area of coastal waters that extends at most twelve nautical miles from the mean low water mark of a littoral state that is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state.

Nautical Mile – is 1852 meters.

Erich Rienecker sets up the filter system to process phytoplankton from the CTD casts.
Erich Rienecker sets up the filter system to process phytoplankton from the CTD casts.

CTD – A CTD recorder, which stands for Conductivity-Temperature-Depth recorder, measures salinity, the amount of seawater conductivity in practical salinity units. It also measures pressure recorded in decibars. Since depth and pressure are directly related, a measurement in decibars can be converted to depth in meters. Temperature is measured as well and other sensors may be placed on the device as well. The one used had an altimeter to compare to the ships depth sounder and deployed cable for an accurate measure of the depth of the device.

HyperPro Optical sensor – measures light refraction at different wavelengths through the water column as compared to the surface measurement. This device is lowered by hand to a set depth. It is a hyperspectral radiometer, recording optical data in the wavelength region between 350 and 800 nanometers.

Oblique bongo net – a set of rings (thus the name bongo as it looks like a bongo drum) designed for oblique plankton tows. The rings are connected to nets which cone into two catch devices at the ends. Bongos are towed at 200 meters , devised by allowing 300 meters of cable out and towing it at an angle of 45-degrees. Adjustments in cable length are made depending on the angle reached. 

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares the seawater phytoplankton incubation trays.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elsa Stuber prepares the seawater phytoplankton incubation trays.

Secchi disk – is used to measure how deep a person can see into the water. It is lowered into the ocean by unwinding the waterproof tape to which it is attached and until the observer loses sight of it. The disk is then raised until it reappears. The depth of the water where the disk vanishes and reappears is the Secchi disk reading. The depth level reading on the tape at the surface level of the ocean is recorded to the nearest foot.

Sea Level Pressure (from Wikipedia) Also referred to as Mean sea level pressure (MSLP or QFF) is the pressure at sea level or (when measured at a given elevation on land) the station pressure reduced to sea level assuming an isothermal layer at the station temperature. This is the pressure normally given in weather reports on radio, television, and newspapers or on the Internet. When barometers in the home are set to match the local weather reports, they measure pressure reduced to sea level, not the actual local atmospheric pressure.  Average sea-level pressure is 101.325 kPa (mbar) or 29.921 inches of mercury (inHg). 

Visibility – how far in front, or around the ship one can see. In this case, using the marine mammal observer’s scale, based on nautical miles.

Wind Direction- Which direction the wind is blowing FROM. 0 is north, 180 is south, 270 is west. This may also be recorded using the abbreviation of the direction in capital letters.

Sea Wave Height and Swell Height – estimates (based on an average of waves passing under buoys) the height of a wave (from crest to trough) of individual waves and larger waves.

Dissolved oxygen- the amount of oxygen that is available in the water for organisms to use for ventilation, typically referred to in parts per million, or ppm.

Phytoplankton – (from Wikipedia) are the autotrophic component of the plankton that drift in the water column. The name comes from the Greek terms, phyton or “plant” and πλαγκτος (“planktos”), meaning “wanderer” or “drifter”. Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. However, when present in high enough numbers, they may appear as a green discoloration of the water due to the presence of chlorophyll within their cells (although the actual color may vary with the species of phytoplankton present due to varying levels of chlorophyll or the presence of accessory pigments such as phycobiliproteins).

Zooplankton – (from Wikipedia) are the heterotrophic (or detritivorous) component of the plankton that drift in the water column of oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The name is derived from the Greek terms, ζον (“zoon”) meaning “animal”, and πλαγκτος (“planktos”) meaning “wanderer” or “drifter”[1]. Many zooplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. Zooplankton is a broad categorisation spanning a range of organism sizes that includes both small protozoans and large metazoans. It includes holoplanktonic organisms whose complete life cycle lies within the plankton, and meroplanktonic organisms that spend part of their life cycle in the plankton before graduating to either the nekton or a sessile, benthic existence. Through their consumption and processing of phytoplankton (and other food sources), zooplankton play an important role in aquatic food webs, both as a resource for consumers on higher trophic levels and as a conduit for packaging the organic material in the biological pump. 

Gumby Suit – big, plastic, orange suits that are designed to protect a person from the cold water. Made of a material similar to what scuba divers wear. The suit is thicker, more buoyant and designed to remain dry inside. Suits are very bulky and are supposed to cover the entire body except the face.

PFD – personal floatation device, lifejacket, or “puff-duh”

Flying Bridge – located on the very top and most forward deck of the ship. On the MCARTHUR II, the flying bridge is above, or on top of the bridge. All ship personnel and crew when engaging in science activities keep in contact through the bridge with radios. Radio protocol requires the location being called to be stated first, followed by the calling location. For example,” bridge, flying bridge” If one is calling the bridge from the flying bridge.

Plan of the Day – is posted throughout the ship in common locations. This bulletin informs both crew and science personnel as to ship activities, wave height and safety issues.

Elsa Stuber, June 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 3, 2007

Weather DAY 1: San Francisco, Pier 30/32 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 270 NW
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Sea wave height in harbor: 1′
Seawater temperature: 15.129 C.
Sea level pressure: 1016.4
Air temperature: 15.2
Cloud cover: 1/4 cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

The day began @ 07:30 picking up equipment at Moss Landing and riding up to San Francisco in van with other MCARTHUR II cruise members: Chief Scientist Tim Pennington, Biological Oceanographers-Marguerite Blum, Kit Clark, Erich Rienecker, Troy Benbow, Charlotte Hill; Physical Oceanographer, Dr. Curt Collins; CTD technician, Doug Conlin. At Pier 30/32, Marine Mammal Biologist, Katherine Whitaker, joined us and the other Teacher at Sea participant, Turtle Haste.

Tim Pennington coordinated the staging operation with the (FOO) Field Operation Officer Lt. Amanda Middlemiss.  The large equipment for the cruise was at the pier on a flat bed truck and was loaded by crane on the ship’s deck with the assistance of the ship’s crew. All scientists were involved in unpacking the gear and setting up the wet lab and dry lab for the Time Series study work.  As these labs have been physically updated since the last MBARI cruise on MCARTHUR II, set up in these labs required some modifications. All staff commented on the benefits and advantages of the lab improvements.

I reviewed material I researched on line prior to cruise about the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) Time Series program.  The focus is on the relations between oceanic carbon and nitrogen cycles and climate variability with emphasis on measuring the primary phytoplankton production.  The research involves both observational and experimental studies with shipboard measurements of physical, chemical and biological parameters during cruises in Monterey Bay (since 1989) and offshore into the California Current (since 1997) at different seasons of the year.  The data collected over this time span is being used to construct synthetic views of the oceanographic system dynamics of the California Current. The work has documented seasonal cycles, El Ninos and La Ninas and longer decade-scale cycles (e.g., Pacific Decadal Oscillation).  The overall goal is to learn as much as possible about the earth’s climate and ocean systems, and therefore it is important to understand these cycles. Beyond construction of views of the California Current cycles and understanding the causation of them, will scientists determine that the directions show potential effects of global warming?

As stated in the summary of the MBARI Time Series Program report 2007: “Is this a local-or remotely-driven effect?  We are uncertain. Is it important? You bet.  Why? Because we area certain that (1) conclusions about global climate change begin with local observations, and (2) unusual conditions are often highly informative.”

Chief Scientist (CS) Tim Pennington went over the wet lab organization with the three of us new to working there, defining the different sample bottles and chemicals used in collecting and processing the sea water samples.  He showed us which type of samples were stored in the freezer or in the liquid nitrogen, and which were placed in the seawater bath on the back deck. We signed up for our individual research tasks, my assignment is seawater sample collection from the rosette bottles of the CTD and processing in the wet lab. When filtered samples are ready, to process with the flurometer for chlorophyll level. My shift is 08:00 – 12:00 and 20:00-24:00.  I work with CS Tim. Then we are free to study/work in other areas as you would like or as you are needed.  We put duct tape ridge along front edge of wet lab tables to help stop materials from sliding off counter if ship is rolling.

At 16:00 we moved our personal belongings to our assigned quarters and then were free to explore the set-up of the MCARTHUR II. Important to note were the areas where one must wear a hard hat and a PFD. No open toed footwear outside your quarters. Pay attention to stay far away from winches when they are being used.

FOO Lt. Middlemiss requested that we review the safety instructions packet found in our quarters and that we should be ready for the safety drill to take place the next day.

Bed at 00:30 June 4th.

Kimberly Pratt, July 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 23, 2005

Peter Pyle
Peter Pyle

Crew Interviews

Another successful scientist is Peter Pyle.  Peter became interested in Ornithology while helping his dad, a meteorologist, band birds in their backyard in Oahu, Hawaii.  Peter attended Swarthmore College and received his BA in Biology.  Peter who loves field work lived on the Farallon Islands for 24 years as a field biologist. When Peter is not  doing field work, he is busily writing scientific papers and manuals to compliment field guides for Ornithologists.  His manuals help age/sex determination, species ID, and are written for “bird in hand” observations.  Peter’s favorite bird is a Bristle-thighed Curlew, which is a rare bird that breeds in Alaska and winters in Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Peter likes it because it acts like a goofball. Peter, who is married, has an understanding and independent wife. Peter’s advice to someone who would like to be an Ornithologist is to be a field person. In the field you get dirty, have to be patient; you may spend hours in cold blinds waiting.  You have to have a passion for biology really be successful. Lastly, Peter advises that if your heart is in the right place, you’ll be a successful biologist.

Rich Pagen (back), Tim O'Toole
Rich Pagen (back), Tim O’Toole

Another Ornithologist on this mission is Rich Pagen. Rich, who did his undergrad work in Environmental Studies, received his MA in Wildlife Biology.  Currently he lives in Minnesota, but in the past he lived on Catalina Island. He also taught an outdoor science class in Pasadena. During a Sea Bird meeting, he met Lisa Ballance who got him interested in the CSCAPE project. Previously, Rich has done shark satellite tagging, and has gone to Antarctica as a naturalist on a passenger ship. Rich will be completing this cruise as a Bird Observer.

If this group of scientists could have an action figure, it would be Juan Carlos Salinas.  Juan is in charge of tissue biopsy of the whales and dolphins. He is able to obtain these biopsies in very difficult circumstances. Juan who lives in Mexico City was hand picked  for these missions because of his talent for obtaining biopsy’s and his knowledge of marine mammals.  Juan learned biopsy sampling while in Baja in 1991 when studying humpback whales.

 Juan Carlos Salinas
Juan Carlos Salinas

Juan has had extensive field work experience and will be going to Hawaii with the McARTHUR II until November 30th.  He’s excited about his mission to Hawaii because you always see something different.  The Hawaiian waters are just being studied and what’s out there is relatively unknown. During the mission in Hawaii, he will do species ID, population studies, determine the health of the animals and finally learn about their genetics. Juan states that the field of biology is much more specialized than before with genetics being the big thing today. Another marine mammal observer that is talented in tissue biopsy is Ernesto Vasquez. Ernesto, who is married with a family, does field work cruises about once per year. He currently works at the National  Resource Ministry as a Marine Biologist in LaPaz, Mexico. He’s been with the government for 3 years.  He graduated school in 1998 with his degrees in Marine Biology.  While away, he e-mails his wife and family and he likes getting close to the animals, and getting tissue samples to.

Currently being trained in biopsy operations is marine biologist Tim O’Toole. Tim graduated from San Diego State University and did his post graduate work in Australia. An avid surfer, Tim enjoys the ocean and having the opportunity to gain further field experience working with marine mammals. While on this research cruise, he’s gaining experience from other scientists as well as reading, and learning Spanish. He does, however miss friends and family and likes to stay in touch.

Ernesto Vasquez
Ernesto Vasquez

Kimberly Pratt, July 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Humpback breaching
Humpback breaching

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 22, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

Scientific Log 

Again we are seeing up to 80 marine mammals per day, and are doing well on our track lines.  The wind picked up, making it more difficult to do observations, but we are moving right along to get finished by Sunday. Some of the regulars are humpbacks, blue whales, Dall’s porpoise, fin whales, pacific-white sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and pinnipeds. I’ve attached photos of breaching humpbacks that we’ve seen. Hopefully through my logs and interviews you’ve learned about marine mammals, sea birds and ship operations.  To learn more about this mission go to the NOAA Fisheries Southwest Science Center website.  Look under “What’s new in the sanctuary.”

Completing the dive
Completing the dive

Personal Log

Upon reflecting on my adventure, I’ve found that the trip fully exceeded my expectations.  I expected to feel intimidated by the scientists and science, and to my relief was accepted and welcomed by all the scientists on board and they were most eager to teach me what  I needed to know. I’ve learned that to be a good scientist you must have good observational skills, computer skills, and be knowledgeable about data and statistics.  I’ve also learned that science takes time, is very exact, and requires you to be detail orientated.   Additionally, I’ve learned that to get along with others on a ship, you need to have a good sense of humor and be flexible. As the cruise comes to an end I’m really looking forward to getting home, doing further reflection on my experience and translating it into rich and meaningful curriculum for my students. Again, thanks to Karin, all the scientists, and the crew on board the McARTHUR II, this has been a wonderful experience.

As of this post, we have now finished all of our tracklines.   Tomorrow – Saturday we’ll be spending the day in Monterey Bay doing grab samples and additional small boat operations.  We will then head into port in San Francisco on Sunday as scheduled.

Kimberly Pratt, July 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 21, 2005

Cornelia Oedekoven
Cornelia Oedekoven

Crew Interviews: Scientists on board the McARTHUR II

The scientists on board the McARTHUR II are hardworking, dedicated people.  Their shifts can start at sunrise 6:00 am and end at sunset 9:00 pm.  Most scientists are on watch for two hours then off for two hours during the whole day.  While on watch they are observing mammals or birds, entering data and taking photographs.  When they’re off watch, they eat, do laundry, exercise and relax.  On board a ship, there are no weekends, so their schedule is set 7 days per week.

An excellent Senior Marine Mammal observer as well as the photo ID specialist is Cornelia Oedekoven. Cornelia is a soft spoken person who has an eye for detail.  She meticulously goes through the photos taken on the cruise then enters them in the data base.  This can be quite a project as some days there are as many 300 photos to be  processed. Cornelia, whose background is in marine biology, graduated from Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universitaet, Bonn, or the University of Bonn, Germany.  She received her “diplom” which is equivalent to a master’s degree in Biology.  She came to the United States to study marine ornithology in San Francisco. She now lives in San Diego.  She enjoys ship life because she’s met a lot of friends, and there is no commute to work. While on board, Cornelia has been known to do haircuts for other scientists and she also does oil painting.  In the past she’s done sea bird work, and she’ll be involved with CSCAPE until December 10th at which time she’ll go home to Germany to visit her family.  To be a successful marine biologist, she advises to get your degree, and then do as many internships as possible.

Holly Fearnbach
Holly Fearnbach

When things slow down on this cruise, you can count on Holly Fearnbach to say “we need a good Killer Whale sighting”. Holly, who has always liked marine biology, grew up near the beach. She received her BS in marine biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and from Old Dominion University she received her MS.  She’s looking to get her PhD from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where she will focus her research on Killer Whales.  She states that right now there are 3 different types of Killer Whales, residents, off-shores and transients.  She’s excited because they are now finding another type in Antarctica. She loves the discovery of different types of marine mammals and her past work was with Bottlenose Dolphins.  She likes being on these field work cruises because she learns so much from the Cruise leaders and has been taught much from the scientists at the South West Fisheries Science Centers.  To become a scientist who studies whales and dolphins, she advises to do internships, and do volunteer work early in school. She also states that you need a good work ethic.  Holly, who is a marathon runner, actually trains while on ship.  She has completed 12 marathons and says that it is a great stress reliever.  She does however miss dry land and her friends and family while she is away.

 Jan Roletto
Jan Roletto

An Independent Observer on board the McARTHUR II is Jan Roletto. Jan is the Research Coordinator for the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.  Her primary role as Research Coordinator is to attract researchers to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the management agency protecting these waters. The science department conducts research, monitoring, permitting, disturbance, and investigates pollution issues.  The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects the body of water from Bodega Head to Año Nuevo, south of San Francisco. The Farallon Islands are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the  National Wildlife Refuge works to maintain the seabirds and pinniped colonies on the islands. Jan’s background is in Marine Biology and she attended San Francisco State University. She really likes seeing different things and is challenged by the Sanctuary work. She states that sometimes they work with boat groundings, environmental issues, watershed issues, estuaries, pelagic and coastal areas; all very different ecosystems.  Her challenge as Research Coordinator is the lack of funding that the sanctuary receives for research and monitoring.  To enter the field of Marine Science, she advises to do your schooling, learn about computers, math and statistics.  She states that you will apply these disciplines to biology. Furthermore, she advises to volunteer and do unpaid internships as it is a small field and can be competitive.

Sage Tezak grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in San Francisco.  Sage has run a volunteer program for the last 3 years monitoring harbor seals for human related and other disturbances. That job brought her to San Francisco. Before that she lived in Humboldt and she’ll be starting grad school in 2 weeks at Prescott College in Conservational Biology/Environmental Studies.  She likes having the opportunity to gain further field experience and to see the  operations of a research cruise.

Sage Tezak
Sage Tezak

Kimberly Pratt, July 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Elegant Tern
Elegant Tern. Photo credit: Sophie Webb.

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 20, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 3602.734 N
Longitude: 12153.520 W
Visibility: 8 miles
Wind Direction: Variable
Wind Speed: light
Sea Wave Height: <1  ft
Swell Wave Height: 2-3  ft.
Sea Level Pressure 1014.0
Cloud Cover: Cloudy
Temperature: 16.0

Heerman’s Gull
Heerman’s Gull. Photo credit: Sophie Webb.

 

Scientific Log

Our days continue to be hazy and cloudy. We are getting more track lines done and are staying “on effort” more frequently, yesterday, we had around 70 sightings of marine mammals.  We are still seeing humpbacks, killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, harbor porpoises, pacific-white sided dolphins, minke whales, beaked whales, Dall’s porpoise, as well as California sea lions, northern fur seals, and elephant seals. The California current is one of the most productive in the world.

Yesterday, afternoon, about 3 miles from Big Sur, a Blue Whale surfaced right on the bow of the ship. It was beautiful to see the whale with the Big Sur coastline in the background.

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar. Photo credit: Sophie Webb

Ornithologists are observing many birds including the resident breeders – Common Murre, Ashy Storm Petrels, Cassin’s Auklets, and Western Gulls.  Additionally, they’ve observed Black-footed Albatross – (Hawaiian Island breeder), Sooty Shearwaters (New Zealand breeders), Pink footed Shearwaters (breed in Chile), South Polar Skua’s (Antarctic breeder), Red Necked Phalaropes, Sabine’s Gulls (Artic breeders), Heerman’s comes up the California current from Mexico, also 95% breed on the same island as the Heerman’s Gull, the Terns winter in Northern Chile, and Southern Peru.

Personal Log

The days are getting busy with sightings as we continue to work track lines in the southern marine sanctuaries.  Although hazy and foggy, the weather has been quite pleasant.  The ocean has been relatively flat, with little waves and small swells.  This makes it easier to sight blows and marine mammals.

Today I’ll be editing video, and hopefully will have some good footage to share with you. We are trying a new way to get my logs off the ship.  I will still answer e-mail to scientist7.mcarthur@noaa.gov until Sunday afternoon.

Pinkfooted Shearwater
Pinkfooted Shearwater. Photo credit: Sophie Webb
Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater. Photo credit: Sophie Webb

Photos by: Sophie Webb

Kimberly Pratt, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Greg Hubner
First Mate Greg Hubner

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 19, 2005

Crew Interviews: “The Officers of the McARTHUR II”

Officers of the McARTHUR II are commissioned by NOAA.  They are uniformed personnel with the exception of the First Mate.  They all are assigned different watches and their primary responsibilities are, under direction of the Commanding Officer, to run the ship, navigate, take care of the ship’s medical needs and to make sure that shipboard operations are running smoothly.

The McARTHUR II has 6 officers on board – LCDR Morris, First Mate Greg Hubner (who is not uniformed), Operations Officer Nathan (Herb) Hancock, Navigation Officer Paul Householder, and Junior Officers, Ensign Steven Barry, and Ensign Paul Smidansky.  All NOAA Corps Officers have two years at sea, initially followed by three years of shore duty and rotate between sea and shore duty unless they are aviators.

Nathan Hancock
Operations Officer Nathan Hancock

First Mate Greg Hubner has been with NOAA for 26 years. He has a background in the Navy and started with NOAA as a deck hand. He is currently a licensed Officer and enjoys being out to sea. He likes seeing different countries and his favorite port is an island off of Spain. Another NOAA ship, RONALD H. BROWN, is involved with international research so some NOAA ships travel the world, and Greg has had the opportunity to see many countries and cultures.

Operations Officer Nathan Hancock is readily noticeable by his sense of humor and laughter.  Nathan graduated with a BS degree in Environmental Sciences and a MS degree in Geology and Geophysics. Nathan really enjoys his position as it enables him to “drive the boat”.  In the future, he would like to be transferred to the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary or fly into hurricanes. Nathan developed a love for the water when he was a child living at the ocean and running charters with his father a marine biologist.

Navigation Officer Paul Householder is also the medical person in charge.  He has a BA/BS in Chemical Engineering and joined NOAA after being laid off during the downsizing of the semi- conductor era. He’s been with the ship for over a year and is adjusting to sea life. He likes seeing the different places, but does miss his weekends.

Paul Householder
Navigation Officer Paul Householder

Ensigns Barry and Smidansky both have a background in Meteorology and Barry would like to join the National Weather Service. Barry, who joined NOAA in February ’04, enjoys the adventure of meeting different people.  On this tour, it will be his first time visiting Hawaii.  Ensign Smidansky, is a licensed airplane pilot, and is looking to join the air fleet of NOAA, but for the time being is enjoying his time at sea.

In order to become a NOAA Corps Officer, you need a college degree, preferable with a background in science or math.  You must be under 35 years old, with no arrests or criminal background.  Also, it takes between 6-9 months for your application to be processed and then the Secretary of the Commerce grants you a temporary commission.  The Senate grants you permanent status.  You must undergo three months training at the Merchant Marine Academy and then are assigned to a ship at sea to become a qualified deck officer. NOAA is constantly training officers for higher positions and Officer Householder will be promoted soon to Lt. Jr. Grade. All of the officers while professional and polite still have a sense of humor, they are gracious enough to keep answering the question – “where are we?”

Question: Malka, grade 5 – Where does the ship/vessel get fresh water?  The ship makes its own water, we take salt water and process it to turn it into fresh water.  Everyday we make 2,000 gallons worth. The process is started 10 miles out to sea.

Steven Barry
Ensign Steven Barry
Paul Smidansky
Ensign Paul Smidansky

Kimberly Pratt, July 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 18, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

Scientific Log 

Our days have been mostly foggy with the sun peaking through rarely. After not seeing the sun for days, we were all delighted when the bridge announced that there was sun and many of us ran outside right away!  Right now we’re outside of Pt. Reyes, continuing on transect lines. The animals we’ve observed lately are: a pod of Killer Whales feeding, several Humpback Whales, schools of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and Northern Right Whale dolphins.

The Zodiac was launched and tissue samples and photo ID was taken of the Killer Whales. (photos attached) This evening two Humpbacks gave us quite a show.  They rolled next to the ship, breached, and slapped their flippers. Many times we could see their bellies as they lazily made their way by the ship rolling and diving, quite peacefully.  Video and photo was taken of these amazing animals.

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

The bird observers have been especially busy. In the past few days they’ve identified Black-footed Albatross, Common Murre, lots of Sooty Shearwaters, Pink footed Shearwaters, Ashy Storm Petrels that breed on the Farallons, and Cassini’s Auklets. Also seen are South Polar Skua’s, and Red Neck Phalaropes who are Artic breeders.  We’ve also seen Mola Mola fish, and a Mako shark with a pointy snout.  We’re continuing Bongo Net Tows and continue to collect plankton, larvae and small jellyfish.

Personal Log

Thanks to Rich Pagen being back on board, I am now focusing more on taking video, completing interviews, doing logs and e-mail correspondence. My interviews have gone well; the crew has been responsive and also forgiving when I’ve made mistakes.  For the remainder of the trip, I’ll be focusing on interviewing more of the scientists, developing curriculum and completing logs.  It’s been great meeting all the crew and finding out more about them. With less than a week to go, I’m treasuring every moment. This has been a great trip!

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

 

Until later…
Kim

Thanks to Cornelia Oedekoven for the Orca photos.

Kimberly Pratt, July 17, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Kevin Lackey

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 17, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Dynamite Deck Crew”

If you walk around the McARTHUR II you will encounter hardworking and dedicated Mariners.  These individuals are the deck crew. Outside my door every morning is Korie Mielke, diligently sweeping and swabbing the hall.  On the deck below you will find Charles Sanford painting along with Dave Hermanson, and Teresa Moss. In the evenings, Jake Longbine operates the cranes and wenches for the CTD tests. Throughout the day you’ll find Steve Pierce and Kevin Lackey busily fixing items or on the bridge.The deck crew is responsible for the operation of all the ship’s machinery.  They also paint and clean the ship.  They are instrumental in helping the scientists complete their mission assisting with collections and run the small boat operations.  A deck hand will do watches as a quartermaster who is a lookout for things that may damage the ship and also report on weather observations. In addition, they drive the ship at the Officer’s command.

Jake Longbine

The deck crew comes from a variety of backgrounds, some have college degrees, and others have prior military experience.  Teresa has a fashion and marketing background. She joined NOAA through her mother who is a security officer for NOAA in Seattle. Charles’ who has a military background often thinks about becoming a teacher.  Kevin’s background is in wildlife conservation and his position with NOAA is the first sea duty he’s had.  Kevin really likes the variety and has enjoyed going to see Alaska and sail in Russian waters.  He, like some of the other deck crew found that being on duty with no weekends is taxing.  Also, living and working with other people in a space the size of 224 x 42 ft, (about the size of Cabello’s cluster of classrooms #22 – 26), can be difficult at times.  The deck crew like being a part of the McARTHUR II and it is evident by their good nature and hardworking spirits. After porting in San Francisco, they will be headed off to Hawaii – to warmer waters and climates.

Charles Sanford

School Questions:

Aira grade 5: What is the size of one room on a ship?

Answer: Average size is 10×12

Tania, grade 5 – Where do you guys sleep?

Answer: Some people have a single room with a double sized bed. Others sleep in bunk beds.

Malka, grade 5 – What type of food do you eat?

Answer: The food is very good, usually at every meal there is a meat choice and a vegetarian choice.  At lunch and dinner, you can have salad bar and there is always dessert.

Teresa Moss

 

Korie Mielke

Kimberly Pratt, July 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 16, 2005

Humpback Fluke – white and black
Humpback Fluke – white and black

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 3650.918 N
Longitude: 12159.753 W
Visibility: < 1
Wind Direction: 280
Wind Speed: 3 knots
Sea Wave Height :< 1
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy/light drizzle
Temperature: 16.7 c

Scientific Log 

Our days lately have been mostly foggy and drizzly, making marine mammal observations very difficult. During the times that observations were made, we’ve seen Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Harbor Porpoise, a Blue Whale, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Grampus Dolphins, and Sea Lions.  I’ve attached pictures that show Humpback Whale flukes.  The scientists are using the pictures to ID them.  Yesterday, Fin Whales surfaced approx. 200 meters off our bow and swam with the ship for a little while.

Humpback Fluke – all black
Humpback Fluke – all black

We observed Harbor Porpoise as we entered Monterey Bay. They are a small porpoise and are identified by their small pointy dorsal fin.  Observation of Harbor Porpoise is difficult and you can only get a fleeting glance at their dorsal fins before they are gone.

At first you might mistake Grampus dolphins for Killer Whales by looking at their dorsal, but upon closer inspection you’ll find they have a light body marked by scratches or lines. Two nights ago, we did a Bongo Net drop and were able to collect 7 jars full of krill, plankton and myctophids (small Lantern fish).  This showed that the area was very healthy and full of abundance. As far as birds go, we observed part of the Monterey Bay flock of Sooty Shearwaters numbered at approximately 250,000. Today we picked up Scientist Rich Pagen in Santa Cruz, joining us after being ill and we hope to continue observations as we head back out to sea from Monterey Bay.

Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking
Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking

Personal log

We’ve had quite a bit of down time enabling me to answer e-mail, do logs, and interviews. When we are “on effort” I am on the Flying Bridge helping with data entry, observations and trying to video our sightings. At night I help the Oceanographers, Mindy Kelley and Liz Zele doing the Bongo Net Tows and we are often out until 10:30 or 11:00 pm.  Today, we were close to shore, so we had cell service to call friends and loved ones.   I’m still having a really good time, the whales and dolphins are breathtaking. I envy your hot weather!

Sea Lions
Sea Lions

Kimberly Pratt, July 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview8Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 15, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Electronic Gurus”

The McARTHUR II is fortunate to have two very talented men handling its electronics and surveys.  They are Electronic Chief Clay Norfleet and Sr. Survey Tech Lacey O’Neal. Electronic Chief Clay Norfleet is responsible for all the radar, radio, Simrad, computers, networks e-mail communication and ship cell phones. Clay comes to NOAA after an extensive career in the US Navy. In the Navy, he conducted torpedo research and traveled extensively. His favorite port was Seychelles, 200 miles east of Madagascar. He enjoys his position with NOAA and likes the camaraderie with his shipmates.  He will be sailing with the McARTHUR II to Hawaii and then will be boarding the OSCAR ELTON SETTE, sailing to Guam and Saipan to lend support to NOAA personnel. Clay is used to extended time at sea.  In the Navy, he was out for 9-10 months at a time and one time he didn’t see land for 124 days.  While in port in San Francisco, he plans to shop for things for the ship.  His advice for someone wanting to be an Electronics Tech would be to get certifications before applying.

pratt_interview8aAnother talented man works in the dry lab, surrounded by beautiful photos of Humpback, Killer Whales and dolphins. This man is the very helpful Sr. Survey Technician, Lacey O’Neil.  Lacey helps the oceanographers do their work. He runs the computers for the CTD, SCS system an also runs the ship store. He’s been on both the McARTHUR and McARTHUR II for a combined 7 years.  He was previously in the military serving as a paratrooper. His hobby is photography, so being on the McARTHUR II gives him an opportunity to take great pictures of marine mammals.  He also enjoys going to Hawaii with the ship and gets to meet a lot of interesting people.

Kimberly Pratt, July 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Humpback fluke
Humpback fluke. Photo by Cornelia Oedekoven.

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 14, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3544.108 N
Longitude: 12151.852 W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 330
Wind Speed:  5 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  15.0

Blow hole
Blow hole. Photo by Cornelia Oedekoven.

Scientific Log

Again, it’s been very foggy or windy, limiting our time out observing mammals and birds. We are however, seeing many Humpback Whales. During two of the sightings Humpbacks came up to the boat – 300 meters away.  Humpbacks are named because their dorsal fin is on a hump.  Also Humpbacks surface and blow for a couple of minutes, allowing the scientists to get a good look at them.  After surfacing and blowing, they then dive, showing off their impressive flukes. Scientist ID Humpbacks by their flukes, dorsal and bumps or knobs on their rostrum (or beak).  An interesting fact is that the underside of a humpback’s fluke is different for each animal, (like their fingerprint) so getting good photo ID is imperative. Along with the Humpbacks, we’ve seen Pacific Whiteside Dolphins who ride the bow of the Humpbacks.  As far as birds go, we’ve seen a migration, 15-20 Red necked Phalaropes, South Polar Skuas who breed in the Antarctica, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Albatrosses, Gulls, and many Sooty Shearwaters.

Personal Log

It’s quite impressive to actually hear the whale’s breath. In fact being on the “fantail” rear of the boat, we located them by their breathing.  Being so close to the Humpbacks was really a great experience. I was able to get video, so I look forward to sharing it with you all.  The cruise is still going well, when we’re slow, I’ve been e-mailing, reading and doing interviews.

Yesterday the swells were as high as 10-12 ft. with 5-6 foot wind waves, so unfortunately, my sea sickness flared up again.  After speaking with the Medical Officer and resting, I feel much better.  I didn’t know that your body has to acclimate to different sea states so my sea legs are still growing.  Maybe after the cruise I’ll be taller!  Hope all is well. Thanks for all of the e-mails.

Thanks to Cornelia Oedekoven for the photos.

Kimberly Pratt, July 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 13, 2005

Mindy Kelley
Mindy Kelley

Crew Interviews: The Oceanographers

Every evening, one hour after sunset, while everyone on the ship is settling down to a good night’s rest, the oceanographers are busy, collecting samples, analyzing data and preparing for the next collection that has to be taken.

On board the McARTHUR II, you will find oceanographers, Mindy Kelley and Liz Zele.  When you first meet them you’re struck with their laughter, and the lightheartedness of these two scientists. You have to have a sense of humor when working at odd hours and conditions, and these two scientists know how to do serious science and yet still have fun.

Mindy Kelley has always enjoyed the ocean, especially when she visited Florida during family vacations.  Born in Pennsylvania, she treasured these trips and it led her to becoming a Marine Scientist.  She went to school at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and did summer field work through Wallops Island, VA.  Her field work led her to the Assateauge Island National Seashore where she gained extensive experience within the Barrier Islands and its marshes.  She obtained a BA in Biology and a BS in Marine Science/and Environmental Studies.

Her education took a total of 5 years.  Her first job was working with the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection – West Nile virus surveillance program. It was a great experience and pushed her forward to pursue a Marine Science career instead a settling on an environmental career.  Mindy really likes the computer aspect of being an oceanographer and hands on collecting of specimens.  She enjoys seeing her field work and data analysis come together and makes sense.  Working in the field is quite challenging.  This tour she will be gone from July 2nd to November 30th on the McARTHUR II.  After porting in San Francisco on the 24th she’ll head to Hawaii for the rest of her tour.  In order to meet the demands of ship life she relaxes by e-mailing, doing art projects, listening to music and practicing ballet. With a long history of practicing ballet, Mindy has adapted her routine so she can still work out on the ship.  While in port in Hawaii, she’ll attend some classes to make sure that her training is not being compromised.  Her advice to someone perusing a career in Oceanography would be to take a lot of math.  She says, “even if you don’t like math, when you can apply it to science, you’ll start to like it”. She also advises to take calculus, chemistry and physics.  Most importantly is the desire to make it work.

You have to be assertive and aggressive to work in the field and if you are, then you’ll be successful. Her goal is to return to school, and do further studies in computer science, physical and biological oceanography. A typical day in the life of an oceanographer is demanding.  They arise 1 hour before sunrise, around 4 am, collecting chrophyll,  nutrients, salt samples and productivity.  Next, throughout the day they collect surface chlorophyll, temperature, and record other data.  1 hour after sunset, they run a CTD station and then to a Bongo Tow. They also send daily reports to their home base in LaJolla, CA and monitor their data throughout the day.

Liz Zele
Liz Zele

Helping Mindy with this large task is Liz Zele.  Liz has a background in marine mammal identification and acoustics. She attended the University of San Diego where she received her degree in Marine Science with a biology emphasis.  After she graduated, she was involved with science education and informal science.  Liz has worked for NOAA for almost three years and this is her second long cruise. She enjoys field work because it lets her use what she learned in school, but she does admit however that she misses her family and friends while out at sea.

This project started for her in late June and will end on December 7th on board the DAVID STARR JORDAN working with another oceanographer. In order to relax on board a ship, Liz reads, watches movies, and goes to the gym.  In December, Liz hopes to buy a home and would like to open an education facility and continue with marine mammal acoustics.  For anyone wishing to enter the field of marine science she advises to volunteer and go after opportunities.  She states the field is very competitive so network and meet as many people as you can.

Kimberly Pratt, July 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 12, 2005

Fluke that helps in photo identification
Fluke that helps in photo identification

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

Scientific Log 

For the past few days, it’s been either foggy or too windy to do observations.  The last big sighting was on July 10th where we spotted about 30 Sperm Whales.  It was easy to identify the Sperm Whales as their blow is at a 45 degree angle.  Also Sperm Whales like to float at the top of the water so tracking and finding them is relatively easy.  Juan Carlos Salinas and Tim O’Toole, was able to obtain 10 different biopsy samples and Holly Fearnbach and Cornelia Oedekoven obtained photo id. Sperm whales are identified by their flukes, noting scratches, tears or missing pieces.  The scientists will try to identify specific whales.  In the attached pictures, you will see heads of Sperm Whales, note the blow hole on the side of one, also try and look for scratches or cuts on the flukes.

Blow hole
Blow hole

Personal Log

Because of the weather, observations have been slow.  Yesterday, I did observe a Humpback Whale breaching in the distance. Today I’ve been doing interviews, reading and doing e-mail correspondence.  Hopefully the weather will clear and we can go back to regular observations to see more wildlife.  Right now we’re off of Pt. Sir, near Big Sur and will continue to track right outside our own coastline.  Hope all is well.

Kimberly Pratt, July 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 11, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Serving up Yummy treats – The Cooks of the McARTHUR II”

pratt_interview6Sitting in the galley of the McARTHUR II, is like sitting in a warm kitchen with good food all around. The Cooks, Art Mercado- Chief Steward and 2nd Cook Art Mercado, has been with NOAA for 32 years. He started as Mess Man, then was promoted to 2nd cook, and then to Captain Steward. He’s sailed on the FAIRWEATHER, the Old McARTHUR, and the DISCOVERER to Guam. He’s sailed all over the world, including Hawaii, Costa Rica, Montecito, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. His duties as Chief Steward is to order all the food, plan menus, supervise the 2nd cook, and do all the cooking with the 2nd cook. He cooks for 39-40 when there is a full compliment.  The best thing about his position is that it keeps him busy; he gets to talk to officers, crew and  scientists. Also he loves it when he can fish and has caught 110 lb. Yellow fin, 35 lb, Mahi Mahi, a 95 lb. Wahoo.  The only challenge is that sometimes he gets bored and sometime feels like he has too much to do.  When he gets bored, he watches TV and walks around the ship.  Art will be retiring in 1 ½ years and is thinking about Hawaii for his retirement years.  His most memorable cruise with NOAA is when he was in Alaska, not only did they have beach barbeques, but they also were allowed to go on-shore and see beaver, deer and moose.  His toughest cruise was in the Bering Strait when the weather became very rough. Even though his supplies were secure, they still fell off the shelves and made a big mess.

pratt_interview6aHelping Art is 2nd Cook Carrie Mortell, who has been with NOAA one year in August. Carrie’s experience is with a fishing boat in Alaska. She used to fish for Salmon in the summer and Black Cod and Halibut in the spring and fall. She loved the excitement of being out at sea on a 40 ft. Power Troller. At that time she lived in Prince Wales, Alaska. She enjoyed Alaska because she was surrounded by water and saw plenty of deer, moose and even bear.  She came to work for NOAA because she really likes being on the water, and is looking at either Alaska or Hawaii as her home port.  Her life on the McARTHUR II is very busy.  She needs to be at work at 5 am and finishes her day between 6-6:30 pm.  She likes the fast paced work on the McARTHUR and during her time off she likes to read, relax, exercise and play cards, Carrie along with Art prepare 3 meals per day, along with a morning snack.  Her favorite thing to bake is desserts and her favorite fish to eat is King Salmon, which she states is high in Omega-3.  Carrie’s having fun working for NOAA.

Kimberly Pratt, July 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 10, 2005

Orca pod
Orca pod

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 38,55.2 N
Longitude: 124.22.003 W
Visibility:  < 1miles
Wind Speed & Direction:  200 degrees, 8 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2
Sea Swell Height: 5-6 ft.
Sea Level Pressure: 1016.2
Cloud Cover: cloudy and foggy
Temperature:  21.8 Celsius

Scientific Log

Orcas found! Yesterday evening, approximately 8 Killer Whales were tracked and observed off the bow of the McARTHUR II. Scientists are right now trying to determine if they are resident, off-shore, or transient whales.  This they will do by looking at their saddles, the area just under the dorsal fin.  It has already been determined that this pod did not have a large bull as none of the whales had the very large dorsal fin.  Male bull fins can be as large at 6ft high. A southern resident Killer Whale is reported to be over 100 years old. Attached are 2 photos of the group we observed last night, and also an  older picture of a baby Orca, as evidenced by the yellow/pinkish coloring.  Thanks to Holly Fearnbach for the photos.

Orca dorsal fin
Orca dorsal fin

Today we are heading closer to the California coast, north of Bodega Bay. It has been foggy all day with no chance to do observations.

Personal Log

I had to get these out to all of you. Seeing so many wild Orcas was breathtaking. The flying bridge was full of oohs, and awes as everyone ran to get their cameras.  One of the animals spy-hopped to look around and we observed them for about 40 minutes.  I also thought you might enjoy the “baby” orca picture. Last night there were some juveniles in the group, as evidenced by the smaller dorsal fins.

Kimberly Pratt, July 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Jay Prueher
Jay Prueher

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 10, 2005

Crew Interviews: Interview with the Engineering Dept.

The Engineering Department onboard the McARTHUR II is really amazing.  They are responsible for many of the operations on board.  They maintain and operate the 4 generators that provide all the electricity.  One generator can power 10, 075 light bulbs!  The electric/diesel engine has 3400 HP and consumes 2,850 gallons of fuel a day.  The ship that was built in 1984 was originally a Navy spy ship, spying on submarines.  The ship also makes its own water by taking in sea water, boiling it, letting it evaporate, treating it, and then it can be used by everyone on the ship.  The ship processes approx. 2400 gallons of water and 2200 gallons are used, so a 2 day reserve is kept on board.  The ship also has a machine shop to fix or create parts that my break down while out at sea.  The ship has two propellers and its top speed is 11.5 knots.

Luke Staiger, Jim Reed
Luke Staiger, Jim Reed

The ship can go 90 days at 3 knots. The ship has 7 levels including the fly bridge.  The person in charge of the Engineering Department is Jay Prueher who is the Chief Engineer. He’s worked for NOAA for 10 years and has a total of 20 years in Alaska. His favorite ports are Sitka and Juneau. What he likes best about ship life is no commute and dislikes being away from his family.  His wife, who won the Washington State lottery, resides in their home in the Cascade Mountains with their 6 cats and 6 dogs. During his time off, he likes to visit his daughter in warm and dry Tennessee. He really likes this department because all the engineers work together to envision what the scientists need to complete their mission.  Then they plan to make it real.  Even though Jay does enjoy his job, he plans to retire in 1 year, 11 months and 13 days, to spend time with his family in their beautiful home.

Thanks to all the engineering staff for touring me around and teaching me about the ship.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson
June Bruns
June Bruns

 

Kimberly Pratt, July 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 9, 2005

Blue whale
Blue whale

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 41.16.4’ N
Longitude: 125.58.30W
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Speed & Direction:  Light and variable
Sea Wave Height: <1
Sea Swell Height: 5-6 ft.
Sea Level Pressure: 1016.0
Cloud Cover: 5/8 of sky cloudy, AS (Alto Stratus), CS (Cumulus  Stratus), AC (Alto Cumulus), C (Cumulus)
Temperature:  21.8 Celsius

Scientific Log

Yesterday was a very slow day.  One of the scientists became ill so the ship was diverted to Coos Bay, Oregon. After a medical evaluation, it was decided that he would return to the ship at a later time.  We then left Coos Bay, and came into stormy weather, so operations were at a stand-still. We did still do bird observations, and we spotted Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Common Murres, Fulmars, and Leech’s Storm Petrels. At 2100, I met with Oceanographers, Liz Zele, and Mindy Kelly and proceeded to help with the CTD and the Bongo Nets.  The CTD gives scientists samples for conductivity, temperature, depth.  Next, a bongo net is lowered to a specific depth (300 meters) and brought to the surface at a constant angle. In this way a variety of fish and plankton can be collected and later identified. The specimens collected are very special because many of them are species in larval stage. By looking at this microscopic view of the ocean you  may easily identify it as the “nursery of the ocean”, displaying the many larval forms. The tests were concluded at approx. 2300 hrs.

Launching the zodiak
Launching the zodiak

Today was a much busier day.  Watch started at 0600 and as I was entering data for the bird observations we spotted some Blue whales.  Dr. Forney decided to launch the smaller boat (the Zodiac) for a closer look at the whales. I boarded the boat with the other scientists and we were lowered into the ocean. After getting everyone secure, we took off in pursuit of the Blue whales.  We spotted approximately 6 whales including a mother and calf. Biopsies were taken of these whales and we spent approximately 3 hours in pursuit to identify them.  We also identified Dall’s porpoise.

Personal log 

I must say climbing into a Zodiac in pursuit of whales has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had.  The Zodiac skims the water at about 35 mph. and often we were airborne. The Blue whales that we found were unbelievably huge, as they can grow to 20-33 meters long.  We were approximately 100 meters away from them; I could hear their blows and was amazed at their gracefulness.  Besides the whales being exciting, all is going really well. I did have another bout of seasickness, but now that I’m wearing the patch, (medication for seasickness) I’m doing fine. The food here is very good, and there is down time to read, learn or watch movies.  Ship life is like a great  big family and everyone gets along pretty well.  Right now we are south/west of Crescent City, headed south to the Cordell Banks, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuaries.  Soon, I’ll be in closer waters. Hope all is doing well back at home.  Thanks for responding to my logs, I welcome comments, corrections or questions. It keeps me busy!

P.S. In the Zodiac, I’m the one in the back with the orange “Mustang Suit” on, looking a little confused. If you look closely you can see the biopsy dart on the side of the Blue whale.

Kimberly Pratt, July 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 8, 2005

pratt_interview4Crew Interviews: the Commanding Officer

Today, I met with LCDR Daniel Morris on the McARTHUR II.  Morris is one of 270 uniformed officers of the NOAA Corps.  His assignment is varied with 2 years of duty on a ship and 3 years at shore. Morris’ background is in the Navy, where he attended the Naval Academy, and was promoted from Ensign to Lt. Jr. Grade, to Lt. Upon leaving the Navy, after some time he joined the NOAA Corps.  In NOAA he again started as an Ensign, Lt. Jr. Grade, Lt. Commander and now is a Lt. Commander.  In August, Dan will be completing this tour of ship duty and will then be posted at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. While on board the McARTHUR II, Morris is responsible for all the operations on the ship, and the safety of personnel on board.  One of his challenges as Commanding Officer is to make the ship a better place to work and live.  Morris is on-call at all times aboard the McARTHUR II.  He is consulted with navigation questions and vessel traffic situations. During his down time he likes to ride his stationary bike and read. He keeps in contact with his wife who he met while he was a sailing instructor in the Navy and two daughters who live in Gloucester, Massachusetts via e-mail.  In the past, Dan has sailed the original McARTHUR, and the FERREL.  A port of call that he really enjoyed was in Panama, where he spent time with a friend whose backyard was in a rainforest. He describes life on board a ship like a very small city, and close attachments are made.  All personnel who have experienced storms and challenging situations work harder together and become closer.  There are 22 people who work together to run the ship, and Morris, admires the crew who work onboard a ship year in and year out. Morris also believes that educating others about sea life is important as he’s done outreach and worked with teachers to give them reports and pictures from sea to share with their students. His advice for anyone wanting a career in maritime is to learn the skills you need for working on board a ship.  He also stresses the importance of learning the Maritime traditions, and getting a mentor to help you to get the most out of a maritime career.

Kimberly Pratt, July 7, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 7, 2005

White-sided dolphins
White-sided dolphins

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  44, 20, 7 N
Longitude: -126, 27, 7 W
Visibility:  10
Wind direction: 220
Wind Speed: 220
Sea Wave Height:  12
Swell Wave Height:  3-5
Sea Level pressure: 16.1
Cloud Cover: 7/8, AC, AS, CU
Temperature:  17.1

Scientific Log

Yesterday, we had the good fortune to see a school of Pacific White Sided dolphin, which swam at our bow for about 1/2 hr. A biopsy was taken of two of the animals, by Scientists, Tim O’Toole and Juan Carlos who used a crossbow with a special “grabber” attached to the arrow. A piece of skin and a piece of blubber will be analyzed.  Also swimming with the school were 2-3 baby dolphins.  Also spotted was a Humpback whale. A very busy day…

Today, we’ve spotted 2-3 Fin whales, along with a pod of Killer Whales.  The small boat was launched and tissue samples were taken from one of the Fin whales.  The Fin whale seemed rather curious as it approached the small boat at a close range.  The Killer Whales, however, were more cunning and a tissue sample could not be taken because their swimming pattern was very erratic.

As far as birds go, we spotted several Puffins, with beautiful markings on their heads; Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Leach’s Storm Petrels and lots of Seagulls.  Peter Pyle and Sophie Webb have trained me in the data entry part of their observations, so I am now helping them on the bridge when possible.  Tonight, I’ll be learning more about the CDT cast and also the Bongo Tow.

Personal Log

Yesterday was our first day out to sea, and my first experience with ocean swells.  I will admit I did develop sea sickness – or getting my sea legs as it’s called.  Chief Scientist Karen Forney, joked that may my sea legs grow quickly.  Ha! I’m now recovered, with no worse for wear. I guess it’s a rite of passage that all sea goers must experience.  So now I’m seasoned.  I’m very grateful to Chief Scientist Forney who in the middle of my sickness, came to my room and let me know about the dolphins outside.  She knew I wouldn’t want to miss it and she was right!  Another wonderful sight is the different tones of blue that can be seen when looking out over the water.  The weather has been nice, and we are now in the waters off of central Oregon.  We hope to be in central California by this weekend, depending on how things go.  The crew and scientists are extremely supportive and patient with all of my questions, and I’m learning a lot. I’ll post another log in a day or two.

Kimberly Pratt, July 6, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview3Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 6, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Making a Difference, One Survey at a Time”

Conservation, helping our oceans and educating others is Karin Forney’s goal. As a young girl, she was mystified by the ocean, but moved overseas to Germany.  Missing the ocean, she knew she had to return and when she did she became one of the leading experts in the field of whales and porpoises on the West Coast. Karin is one of a few scientists in the Coastal Marine Mammal Program which focuses on determining the numbers of marine life, human impact and what influences their population.  During the CSCAPE (Collaborative Survey Cetacean Abundance Pelagic Ecosystem) project, she is serving as Chief Scientist.  Her position while on the ship for 3 legs is that of Cruise Leader who is responsible for all aspects of the research program while under way. In port, at her home base in Santa Cruz, California, her job responsibilities are to assess marine mammal populations in the EEZ, (exclusive economic zone) of CA/OR/WA and  Hawaii. To do this she conducts surveys to estimate abundance and trends, studies stock structures and sub-populations.  She also estimates the human caused mortality of marine mammals by the fishing industry and ship strikes.  This she does by applying a formula to evaluate the level of human take that will still sustain a population.  If the level is too high she then works with the fisheries to bring down the mortality rates caused by humans.

Karin’s broad background in marine science has given her the skills and knowledge that she needs to make a difference.  Karin received her BA in Ecology Behavior and Evolution, her MA in Biology both from UC San Diego, and her PhD. in Oceanography, studying at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Her dissertation focused on the variability of marine ecosystems and how it affects abundance, using environmental data to predict when and where marine mammals will be found.

Married to another Marine Biologist, Karin spends extensive amounts of time working in the field. She loves seeing the animals, yet sometimes it’s difficult when the weather is bad and observations can’t be made.  Karin has had many accomplishments, but she’s been personally moved by the fact that 18 years ago, she didn’t know anything about marine mammals, and now she’s a leading expert in her field. She’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had to learn about cetaceans and most importantly always tries to teach others about conservation efforts to help our marine environment. She advises to never underestimate the potential to do damage to our oceans, every meal, fish, and trash has implications for species.

For a person interested in becoming a Marine Scientist, she recommends that you develop a broad knowledge base, learn physics, chemistry and math.  You may like dolphins and whales, but you need to develop good skills.  Karin’s computer programming skills got her this job, even though she was a Marine Biologist.  She also recommends that you follow your heart, and do a good job at whatever you do.  Also be flexible and seize opportunities when they become available to you.

Answers to students questions: Elijah – 3rd grade:  How deep is the ocean? Karin: The deepest parts are over 30,000 feet, (10,000 meters), but most of the oceans are about 12,000 feet (400 meters) deep.  That’s about 2.5 miles deep.

Jennie 5th grade: Where do you find dolphins, whales, sea otters and seals? Karin: All in the ocean. (Ha) Some prefer closer to shore like the otters and Bottlenose Dolphins, some are far from shore like Sperm Whales.  Essentially, you can find marine mammals everywhere.

Amber – 5th grade:  What do jellyfish eat? Karin: Jellyfish are fierce predators.  They capture zooplankton, little fish and larval crabs. Because Jellyfish are clear, you can look into their stomachs and see what they’ve been eating,

Sana – 5th grade: Why are most small fish skinny and thin? Karin: Actually it’s hydrodynamic, they are like little torpedoes.  If they swim a lot they are long and thin, whereas; bottom dwellers are rounder. Also the little fish need to swim fast to get away.

Sana – 5th grade: Do sharks eat anything else but fishes? Karin: Sharks also eat marine mammals, including; seals, sea lions, squid, Blue sharks eat krill too.

Haleermah – 5th grade:  How much do dolphins weigh? Karin: The littlest ones weigh about as much as a fifth grader, (90 lbs).  The biggest ones- a male Killer Whale, can weigh over 8 tons.

Haleermah – 5th grade:  Do whales ever bite? Karin: Baleen whales have no teeth, they swallow things whole, toothed whales – the dolphins will bite, sort of like a “bad dog”.  Killer Whales generally don’t bite people, but they will bite each other.

Vince Rosato – 4th/5th grade Teacher – How many varieties of dolphins are there?  What is the percent of Bottlenose Dolphins?  What are the differences between porpoises and dolphins?

Karin: There are approximately 40 different dolphin species.  The Bottlenose is the most abundant near shore, yet they are a small fraction of the total dolphin population.  Less than 10% of all dolphins are Bottlenose. The difference between porpoise and dolphins are:

  1. Their skull shape – the porpoise has a blunt head,
  2. Teeth – tooth shape in a dolphin is conical, the porpoise is spade like.
  3. Porpoises are in smaller groups – less social.
  4. Porpoises are generally found in the higher latitudes except the Finless porpoise.

Kimberly Pratt, July 5, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Elliot Bay, Seattle
Date: July 5, 2005

Kim Pratt in her survival suit
Kim Pratt in her survival suit

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 47.37.2’ N
Longitude: 122.22.3’W
Visibility: 8-10
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Sea Swell Height: 0
Sea Level Pressure: 1012.2
Cloud Cover: 8/8, AS, AC
Temperature:  20 Celsius

Scientific Log

Chief Scientist Karin Forney called all the scientists together for our first meeting at 0930 in the dry lab.  She gave an overview of the schedule of operations for our cruise and explained the day’s activities which were drills, CDT calibration, and scientist set-up and prep. The CDT or Conductivity, Temperature/Depth devices are used to get readings of salinity, temperature, depth, density and conductivity of the ocean water.  The CDT will be lowered to 500 meters when deployed.  Scientists also set-up their stations and  prepared for their busy days ahead. I worked with Rich Pagan, Sophie Webb, and Peter Pyle to create range finders out of pencils.  The range finders will help them determine whether the birds they observe are at 300, 200 or 100 meter distance.

Seabird illustrations, Sophie Webb
Seabird illustrations, Sophie Webb

Personal Log

Beautiful fireworks, warm weather and a wonderful array of boats showed Seattle in its glory! I spent the evening on board the McARTHUR which had an awesome view of the fireworks. What a send off for our cruise the next day.

I awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking and looked forward to today’s launch. We left Seattle, at 0930, and headed out of Lake Union.  After motoring through two draw bridges – the Fremont Bridge and the Ballard Bridge, we then got a special treat by going through the government locks – or the Hiram M. Chittam locks.  Locks are used to raise or lower water levels to allow passage from one body of water to another.  In this case, we were leaving Lake Union (freshwater) and going to Elliot Bay (salt water).  We waited patiently as the gates closed, and the water lowered us down for passage into Elliot Bay.  Upon leaving Elliot Bay, we dropped anchor to start the CDT calibration.  We then had an abandon ship drill in which I had to put on a very funny orange suit, affectionately know as Gumby suits.  As soon as it was donned, Chief Scientist Forney and Jan Rolleto ran to get their cameras because I looked so comical.  Finally, we had a fire drill and then the scientists set to work.  It was really fun working with Rich, Jim and Sophie. Sophie Webb has published two children’s books, Looking for Seabirds and My Season with Penguins, which are very well done and illustrated.  Recommended reading….. Right now, we’re still anchored in Elliot Bay with a beautiful view of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle and Mt. Rainer. Tonight we’ll head off to the ocean and all the wonders we will see.

Kimberly Pratt, July 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview2Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 4, 2005

Crew Interviews: “A Beautiful Birder”

Walking into the Dry Lab on the MCARTHUR II ship, you are likely to find a quiet, unobtrusive, and humble woman, carefully and delicately sketching her latest find.  You have just found Sophie Webb, Senior Bird Observer on the MCARTHUR II. Sophie has been sailing with NOAA for over 13 years. Her responsibilities are; to census sea birds, and edit and organize data at night. Sophie’s love for birds started at a young age, when living is Cape Cod she attended Audubon Camp, a camp for young Ornithologists or Birders as they are called.   After that she attended Boston University, and received her BA in Biology. During college she volunteered at the New England Aquarium and worked on college projects.  After college she lived in a 12 sq. ft cabin outside of Stinson Beach and also in New York, working at the Museum of Natural History painting bird specimens.  Now, she does field research on ships, sketches at the Museum of Natural  History, paints and is working on her latest children’s book.  Her accomplishments are many, she co-authored and illustrated Field Guides to Birds of Mexico and Central America published by Oxford Press and completed two children’s books, My Season with Sea Birds and Looking for Penguins. She has just recently finished another book titled the Birds of Brazil.

She really loves seeing birds that you normally would not see and an interesting bird she observed is a Honduran Emerald hummingbird seen in Honduras.  This is very special because one had not been identified since the mid 1950’s. She views these birds during her extensive travel to locations such as the Galapagos Islands, Bolivia, Australia,  Aleutian Island chain, and the Antarctica on her various research projects.  Doing field work at sea can be either very busy or very quiet.  To fill in the down time, Sophie, exercises, paints, writes and does e-mail.

Her career has depth and variety, and in order to be a successful birder she advises that you volunteer for field studies whenever possible.  Learn good computer and camera skills, practice field sketching and learn all about birds at every opportunity.

The other day I witnessed Sophie’s love for her craft.  We were watching Pacific White-Sided Dolphins when all of a sudden a large flock of birds was seen.  Her blue eyes sparkled with delight, when resident and long distance birds were identified. Some birds had traveled to the area from New Zealand, the Artic, Hawaii and Chile. These long distance birds come to this area because it is so productive.

Sophie is an inspiration to all women, especially girls or women wishing to enter scientific fields. She demonstrates that being a scientist is fun and exciting, yet she advises, that you have to stand your ground and sometimes be assertive yet non-confrontational. Sophie demonstrates that she has all these talents as evidenced by her successful and beautiful career.

Kimberly Pratt, July 3, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview1Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 3, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Capt. Cotton of the Flying Bridge”

Entering the Flying Bridge on the MCARTHUR II is to enter into Jim Cotton’s personal playground.  Laughter fills his face and excitement abounds as he listens to Johnny Cash and looks through the “Big Eyes” telescopes (25 power telescopes that enable the viewer to see over 7 miles) to see what he loves most of all – marine mammals.  Jim’s reputation preceded him on this cruise as one of the finest marine mammal observers to be found. Jim is a Senior Mammal Observer with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).  He’s been working for NOAA since 1978 and his primary responsibilities are; Field Biologist, Observer, Flying Bridge quality control, data editing, and photo biopsy. Jim’s background is a BA in Zoology, BA in Biology and a minor in Botany, all received at Humboldt University.  One of his most rewarding projects was collecting flying fish in the East Tropical Pacific and helping Bob Pittman collect 35,000 samples to work on a new taxonomy (classification system) for flying fish.   Jim has always wanted to be a biologist, and his dedication to his field is evident.  However, it’s not easy being a field biologist and the hardest part is the time spent away from his daughter who is studying business and also away from his sweetheart of 15 years. Yet, he believes the sacrifice is worth it.  One of the most motivating factors in his career is being able to look at animals that few people will ever see.  He encourages all people to follow their dreams and especially students to learn to write well, learn computer science, and have a background in statistics.  Finally, in a laugh and big smile Jim simply says, “I have the best job in the world”.  That says enough…

Questions answered by Jim Cotton.

Sarbjit, 5th grade: How will you peel the skin from the whales and dolphins (for biopsy)?

Jim:  Their skin is very thin like a cuticle on you finger.  It can be cut with a scalpel.  When we do a biopsy the animals don’t do avoidance behavior (running away) so it doesn’t look like it bothers them.  Actually, it spooks them more if you don’t hit them and it splashes into the water.

Michelle – 5th grade: How do dolphins communicate with other dolphins?

Jim:  They use echolocation, sending off a sonar wave and having it hit an object and bounce off back to them.  They also use their vision, they look around and lastly many are brightly colored allowing them to see each other more easily’

Michelle – Do young dolphins hunt their own food?

Jim:  Actually it is a learned behavior the parents teach their young.  There were school of Spotted dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico that he observed being taught how to hunt.  Killer whales had surrounded prey, kept them corralled as the mother dolphins taught their babies how to hunt the prey inside of the corral. In the end the big male Killer whale ate the prey, but it gave the dolphin’s good practice at hunting.

Michelle: What do dolphins eat?

Jim:  They eat fish, squid. The Killer Whales eat marine mammals.

Kimberly Pratt, July 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 2, 2005

Teacher at Sea, Kim Pratt
Teacher at Sea, Kim Pratt

Weather Data from Bridge

None, in port.

Personal log

Today has been a very busy and productive day. After getting up at 5:30 AM, I boarded Alaska Airlines and headed to Seattle. Upon landing in Seattle, I was greeted by a cloudy, humid day and luckily no rain.  After taking a shuttle to the NOAA Headquarters I caught my first glimpse of the MCARTHUR II – I was not disappointed! The ship was larger than I expected with many decks.  I met with the 3rd Mate – Donn Pratt! (No, we are not related!)  He gave me the grand tour, showed me my room and helped me learn the terms starboard and port. Starboard means the right of the ship when looking towards the front and port is the left side of the ship when looking towards the front. Also starboard side is odd, with green coloring and port is even with red coloring. My first lesson of the trip!  After unpacking I then met with the Chief Scientist, Karin Forney, who again toured me around and showed me the various locations of where we’ll be doing observations.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already been impressed with the friendliness of all on board, the organization of the ship and the equipment they have for research.  I hope to learn more about the ship in the upcoming weeks, and report back some amazing whale and dolphin sightings as well as the progress of the research we’re doing.  I look forward to an exciting, educational and fun trip!