Sian Proctor: It’s Getting Fishy, July 20, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 2 – 22, 2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 20, 2017

 

Me with an adult pollock.

Me with an adult pollock.

Weather Data from the Bridge

  • Latitude:  57° 47.02 N
  • Longitude: 152° 24.56 W
  • Time: 1700
  • Sky: Overcast
  • Visibility:  2 nautical miles
  • Wind Direction: variable
  • Wind Speed:  Knots
  • Sea Wave Height:  0  foot swell
  • Barometric Pressure:  994 millibars
  • Sea Water Temperature:   11.9° C
  • Air Temperature:   12.2° C

Science and Technology Log: It’s Getting Fishy!

Alaska pollock are found in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and are part of the cod family. The dorsal side of the pollock is speckled brown in color with a slight olive green hue and the ventral side is silver. They eat krill, copepods, and small fish – mainly their own offspring. They quickly grow into adults, reaching reproductive age after 3-4 years, and are very fertile, replacing harvested fish in just a few years. Pollock swim in large schools during the day and disperse overnight. They can be found throughout the water column, but young pollock tend to live in the mid-water region while the older fish tend to live near the sea floor.

Alaska_Pollock_-_source_NOAA_fishwatch.govScience-based monitoring and management play a key role in the sustainability of the Alaska pollock fishery. It is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council based on data provided by the NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. The Alaska pollock fishery is the largest, by volume, in the United States and one of the most valuable in the world.  Products made from pollock include fish fillet, roe eggs, and imitation crab. The entire industry is valued at over a billion dollars. It is also considered one of the best-managed fisheries in the world. Scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center conduct acoustic trawl surveys to estimate the abundance of Alaska pollock using acoustics and by catching small samples.

While on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson I had the opportunity to spend time in  the fish lab learning how pollock data are collected.. This video is an example of what I experienced.

The main way commercial pollock is caught in the United States is by net. Scientifically trained observers are sent out on U.S. pollock fishing boats and, similar to the NOAA scientists, they collect sample data from each catch and send it back to NOAA.  They also observe the fishing practices on the boat and  report any regulatory infractions. All the collected data and interactions between the fishing industry and NOAA have been established to make sure the Alaska pollock fishery remains sustainable.

NOAA Opportunities for students: https://www.afsc.noaa.gov/education/students/careers.htm 

Interview with Michael Martin

Fisheries Biologist

  • Official Title
    • Deputy Director
  • Normal Job Duties
    • Leadership and administration of the Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division within Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC)
  • What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
    • Fish lab biologist
  • How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • of and on for ~ 10 years
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I loved exploring sea creatures a the beach as a kid; Jacques Cousteau.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • Getting out of the office; Seeing amazing scientists do their work and getting to participate.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • The information we collect plays a very important role in managing fisheries in Alaska, providing economic and food security for many people. We also do tremendous research that benefits the science community and subsequently people world-wide. We are among the leaders in understanding fish and invertebrate abundance and behavior in the world.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do if I grow up! Probably between 10 and 13 years old I developed an interest in the ocean.
  • What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
    • Dealing with bureaucracy.
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • Leading a group of scientists is, in some ways, like herding a group of very intelligent cats. They are very focused on their research and have very strong opinions about things that they feel could detract their ability to do the best job possible. This can be a challenge for me at times, but is a great problem to have!
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • Being able to facilitate scientists and help them accomplish their goals is very rewarding.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • Rescuing a family in a life raft that had been missing for 3+ days.

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Interview with Meredith Emery

Fisheries Biologist

  • Official Title
    • Survey Technician
  • Normal Job Duties
    • As Survey Technicians, our primary responsibility is to monitor and maintain fisheries and oceanographic equipment. In addition, we have to run and verify the Scientific Computer System (SCS) is collecting quality data and all the ship’s sensors connected to SCS are working properly. We also are the liaison between scientists and the crew members, and assist the scientists with any part of their research. Survey Technicians have the unique opportunity to participate in all aspects of the fisheries or oceanographic operation start to finish. During the fishing operations: 1. Scientist communicates to the people on the bridge, deck and survey technicians when they are going to fishing. 2. We put the fishing equipment on the net, as the net is casting out. 3. Assist the scientists log net dimension data when the net is in the water. 4. As the net is being recovered, we retrieve all the fishing equipment. 5. We help the deck with emptying the catch on the fish table, when needed. 6. Lastly, which is my favorite part, is when we get to assist the scientists collect biological fish samples in the wet lab. During oceanographic operations we are in charge of deploying and recovering the equipment (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD)). In addition we verify all the sensors on the CTD are presenting quality real time data. From the CTD we can collect water samples that can be used for several studies, like salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, or micro plankton. We are able to see the operations in action, understand the importance of the research through the science perspective and ultimately know the reason the Oscar Dyson is in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.
  • What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
    • I am one of two Survey Technicians on the Oscar Dyson.
  • How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • I have been working on the Oscar Dyson about 10 months.
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • My fascination for the ocean started when I was young playing with the anemones on the rocky intertidal beach. I’ve always enjoyed being at the beach and seeing the organisms there. I became curious of life at sea and really wanted to see the marine wild life in action, especially when the ice first melts and there is a high abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton that attracts marine mammals, birds and fish to migrate there. Being on the Oscar Dyson, I was able to observe the fluctuation between high abundance of phytoplankton, zooplankton or fish, depending on the area and time of year.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • I enjoy seeing the scenery. Like the untouched lands, glaciers, marine wild life; the fishes, mammals or birds. Also I like seeing the endless blue of the ocean, especially calm weather. Really puts the vastness of the ocean in perspective.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • The reason I pursued a career in studying the ocean is because I come to realize that people take the ocean for granted and don’t recognize how much we depend on it. I obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology emphasis marine. One of my favorite college courses was oceanography. It was the first time for me to see the connection between geology, physics, chemistry and biology in one scenario like in the ocean processes. Each component relies on the other. First the geological features of the ocean floor and land masses influences the physics of the current flow, wave motion, and up-welling. Then the ocean movement determines the mixing and distribution of the water chemistry. Finally the biodiversity, location, and populations of marine organisms rely on the water chemistry, like nutrients or dissolved oxygen.

Personal Log

I really enjoyed learning about the variety of sea creatures in the Gulf of Alaska. Here is a video showing a few of the sea creatures I encountered. Totally amazing!

Education Tidbit: FishWatch Website

Another cool resources is the Fishwatch website. Here you can learn more information about sustainable fisheries and the science behind the fish we eat. It is worth checking out!

Did You Know?

Did you know that fresh pollock have a very distinctive smell that isn’t like any other fish? It’s not fishy – more like dirty feet!

Sian Proctor: Nothing But Net!, July 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard Oscar Dyson

July 2 – 22, 2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 12, 2017

Me next to chafing gear from AWT. Image by Meredith Emery.

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

  • Latitude:   56° 46.8 N
  • Longitude: 154° 13.7 W
  • Time: 0800
  • Sky:Clear
  • Visibility: 10 nautical miles
  • Wind Direction: 279
  • Wind Speed: 9 Knots
  • Sea Wave Height: 1-2 foot swell
  • Barometric Pressure: 1019.9 millibars
  • Sea Water Temperature:   11.1°C
  • Air Temperature:   12.0°C
  • Sunrise: 0531
  • Sunset: 2300

Science and Technology Log: Nothing But Net!

Once the scientists determine where and how deep they want to fish, based on analyzing the echogram, then the boat moves into position and the net is deployed. Safety is the top priority when working on the vessel. The deckhands all have to wear life jackets, hard hats, and good boots when working on deck because the conditions can be sunny one moment and stormy the next.  There is some serious hardware at the back of boat. There are cranes, winches, and spools of wire ropes & chains. The Chief Boatswain is responsible for all deck operations and deploying any gear overboard. The following video illustrates the sampling process using an Aleutian Wing Trawl net.

There is a camera (aka camtrawl) attached to the net along with a small pocket net. The pocket net is designed to catch tiny animals that slip through the AWT meshes. The pocket mesh only catches a small amount of escaping animals which can then be used to determine what was in the water column with the bigger pollock. The camtrawl has a pair of cameras that shoot stereo images of what is entering the net. The camtrawl was developed by NOAA scientists and its goal is to estimate the size and identify the species that enter the net using visual recognition software from University of Washington. The ultimate goal of the camtrawl is to be able to identify everything entering the net without ever having to actually catch the fish.

 

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A limitation of the AWT is that it can’t go closer than a few meters from the sea floor. Pollock are semi-pelagic so they are sometimes down at the sea floor and a different net is used. The Poly Nor’Easter (PNE) is used to trawl along the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska because the bottom can be rocky. The PNE has roller gear along its bottom to keep it from getting stuck. The opening of the PNE is 6 meters tall and 15 meters wide and also funnels to a codend.

There is a third net on Oscar Dyson called the Methot and it is used to catch large plankton such as krill. The Methot is so small that it sits on the deck and is easily lifted and put into the water. The net you use is determined by what you are trying to catch and where they are located in the water column.

Interview with Ryan Harris

Chief Boatswain

Chief Boatswain Ryan Harris managing Oscar Dyson crane.

  • Official Title
    • Chief Boatswain
  • Normal Job Duties
    • I am in charge of the deck operations on board the ship from deploying gear over the side to up keep of the ship.
  • How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • 15 months
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • I get to see things normal people do not.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • 11 years ago I fell in love with the excitement of travel.
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • Trying to keep all the gear working to complete the mission.
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • I get to serve my country and leave something behind that me and my family can be proud of.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • Seeing killer Whales 5 feet away.

Interview with Tom Stucki

Lead Fishermen

Lead Fishermen Tom Stucki on the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson. Image by Matthew Phillips.

  • Official Title
    • Lead Fishermen
  • Normal Job Duties
    • I run the winches for trawls, Maintain and fix the nets, help with maintenance of our equipment. Paint and preserve the ship when time and weather allows, clean up inside of ship.
  •  How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • 2 months this time and a month long trip last year. I am a relief pool employee. I fill in where the fleet needs me.
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I grew up on the coast in a fishing community.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • The crew and work we do.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • Our work is translated back to the commercial fleets so we don’t end up overfishing.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • Once I got out of the Army and went on my first successful Salmon fishing trip.
  • What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
    • Traveling as a relief pool employee.
  • What are some of the challenges with your job?
    • Working 12 hour days for months at a time.
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • Knowing that the work I am helping with actually matters and hopefully will have positive implications down the road.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • There are lots but its always nice in the middle of a trawl when you look up the sun is setting the water is flat calm and you think to yourself “yeah, I get paid for doing this.

Interview with Jay Michelsen

Skilled Fisherman

  • Official Title
    • Skilled Fisherman
  • Normal Job Duties
    • Operations of equipment to facilitate the needs of the science party.
  •  How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
    • two years
  • Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
    • I love the challenge of creating something stable from something so uncertain and ever changing as the ocean.
  • What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
    • Seeing some of the creatures that the ocean has living in its depth.
  • Why is your work (or research) important?
    • My work is important more for personal reasons, I am able to support my family and make their lives more comfortable. My work on the ship is nothing special besides understanding the rigging and being able to trouble shoot issues that arise just as quickly as they show up.
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
    • I have wanted to pursue a career on the water for as long as I can remember, however it was my mother five years ago who pushed me to follow that desire.
  • What are some of the rewards with your job?
    • I enjoy seeing the creatures that we pull up from the ocean. The pay isn’t bad. If you are able to stay in for a long period of time, you can get a stable retirement.
  • Describe a memorable moment at sea.
    • There was a time that we brought up a salmon shark in the net and I was able to get it back into the water by cutting a hole in the net and pulling it out with the help of another deckhand. It was exhilarating!

Personal Log

Me in the survival suit.

I will admit that my biggest concern with going to sea was the thought of falling overboard. Now that I have been on Oscar Dyson I have learned that safety is a top priority and there are a lot of procedures for keeping everyone productive yet safe. Every week there are safety drills such as fire, abandon ship, and person overboard. The one I like the most is the abandon ship because I get to try on the survival suit. The waters here are so cold that survival overboard is unlikely without the survival suit.

It is comforting to know that the crew of Oscar Dyson work hard to keep themselves and everyone on board safe. I am no longer afraid of falling overboard because I’ve learned to be safe when navigating around the vessel and I have finally developed my sea legs – well sort of! The weather has been amazing with smooth sailing almost everyday. We did have a few days with some rolling seas and I had to put a seasickness patch behind my ear.

 

Education Tidbit: NOAA Fisheries Website

Another cool NOAA website that lets you explore deeper into fisheries and this video shows you how to find information for educators and students.

Did You Know?

The average size of a Bering Sea commercial fishing net is 60m tall by 120m wide.

Sian Proctor: A Ship & Seashells! July 3, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 2 – 22, 2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 3, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude:   57° 47′ 24″ N
Longitude: 152° 24′ 26″ W
Time: 1000
Sky: Broken Clouds
Visibility:  10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 068
Wind Speed:  5 knots
Sea Wave Height:   <1 foot swell
Barometric Pressure:  1013.3 millibars
Sea Water Temperature:   9.0° C
Air Temperature:   9.8° C

IMG_2307

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in Kodiak, Alaska

Science and Technology Log

Oscar Dyson is one of NOAA’s fisheries survey vessels. It was commissioned in 2005 and its home port is Kodiak, Alaska. The ship was named after the Alaskan fisherman Oscar Dyson who was an activist for improving the fishing industry. He passed away in 1995. The purpose of Oscar Dyson is to collect data on marine life and ecosystems primarily in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Most of the research has been focused on the management of Alaska pollock, which is the largest fishery by volume in the United States. The ship houses a crew of up to 24, which includes NOAA Corps officers, engineers, deck hands, survey technicians, stewards, and electronic technicians along with up to 15 scientists. They all work together to make daily operations on the Oscar Dyson a success.

The 208 ft. long Oscar Dyson runs on 4 super charged diesel engines. The engines are designed to produce up to 3 megawatts of electricity a day. The alternating current is converted into direct current in order to power the two propulsion motors. Oscar Dyson’s engine room is fully automated and will add or remove diesel generators based on load demand. Oscar Dyson has a cruising speed of 12 knots and a range of 12,000 nautical miles.

I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious my accommodations are on Oscar Dyson. I am in a 4-person room but have only 1 roommate. Her name is Alex Padilla. She is an ocean engineering graduate student from University of New Hampshire interested in  studying the acoustics of bubbles. Our room has bunk beds on both sides of the room, a desk, multiple storage lockers, a toilet & shower, and a large wall mounted TV with movies and Direct TV.

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Just down the passageway from my stateroom is a crew lounge where we can gather and watch movies. There is a mess deck (cafeteria) that serves three meals a day and is open 24/7 for soup, salad, and snacks. Oscar Dyson has a variety of labs that I will cover in future blogs. I was fortunate to have 3 days on the ship before our departure and have become somewhat familiar with the layout of the ship.

Click here for more specification on the Oscar Dyson: NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson Specification

Personal Log

I got to go on a field trip to Fossil Beach before leaving Kodiak and here is a short video about my experience.

To dive deeper into the fossils and geologic history of that region you can click this link for Allison and Marincovich Jr’s geologic survey paper: A Late Oligocene or Earliest Miocene Molluscan Fauna From Sitkinak Island, Alaska

Click this link for more information on concretions.

Did You Know?

The Weather Bureau was founded in 1870 and Fish and Fisheries in 1971, making up the first conservation agency for the United States. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration was started in 1970 as an agency within the department of Commerce. Today NOAA has many branches that focus on weather, climate, ocean & coasts, fisheries, satellites, marine & aviation, etc. You can learn more about the history of NOAA and the various branches by clicking this link: NOAA.gov

Sian Proctor: Desert to Sea, June 30, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Sian Proctor

Aboard Oscar Dyson

July 2 – 22, 2017

Mission: Gulf of Alaska Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 30, 2017

Video Above: My 360 degree introduction video from the Atacama Desert, Chile.

I am very excited and grateful to be a 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Teacher at Sea (TAS). The TAS program has existed since 1990 and their mission is to provide real world research experience for kindergarten through college-level teachers. The application process opens in the fall and teachers are notified in the spring if they are selected. This year there are 29 teachers who have either already sailed or, like me, are about to embark. Check out the TAS FAQ’s page to learn more about the program: NOAA TAS Frequently Asked Questions.

Where is Kodiak, Alaska?

Video Above: Google Earth view of where I will be starting my Teacher at Sea cruise.

Kodiak, Alaska is a small fishing village on Kodiak Island. There are two ways to get to the island – by air or by sea. I will be flying to Kodiak from Anchorage and will board the NOAA vessel Oscar Dyson. This is my 3rd time visiting Alaska but my first time at sea. I got engaged in 2014 on top of the Harding Icefield in Kanai Fjords National Park.

Weather Data

Video Above: NOAA National Weather Service for June 30 2017: Interactive Digital Map

Having just arrived home from one of the driest deserts in the world (Atacama, Chile) I am reminded that the desert is my home. I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona, far away from the sea, for the past 25 years. I love the warm sunny heat of the desert but not when it gets over 110 degrees. So I am looking forward to a change in weather and scenery. Alaska is beautiful in the summer with really long days of sunlight. I am hoping to see a whole new view of this rugged wild state during my three seeks at sea. I just hope I don’t get sea sick!

Science and Technology Log

I have three objectives for my TAS adventure. They are:

  1. To be able to describe how and why we research pollock.
  2. To be able to describe life at sea on a NOAA ship and the careers associated with the NOAA Corps.
  3. To be able to describe navigation techniques and how they have changed over time.

My ultimate goal is be able to bring this information back to the classroom. I have always been fascinated with navigation. Reading maps is an important part of being a geologist and I wonder how similar or different it will be at sea. As a geology student I leaned how to map the contact between two rocks. So I am really curious to learn how you chase fish in the sea. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or want me to investigate something while at sea.

Personal Log

When you apply to the TAS program they ask you which type of research cruise (hydrographic, oceanographic, or fisheries) you would prefer. I checked both hydrographic or oceanographic because of my geology background. I teach about weather, climate change, and have always been curious about how we map the ocean. So I am a little nervous about being on a fisheries cruise for 3 weeks. But I am also excited about the opportunity to learn and explore something completely outside my norm. My family finds this amusing because as a kid all I did was fish.

Proctor Fishing

Me fishing around 9 years old.

Here is a photo of me fishing at age 9. During the summer time, while living in New Hampshire, I use to fish everyday. But around the age of 12 that changed. I became less interested in the biological world and more into the physical world (geology, physics, chemistry, etc.). I stopped fishing and haven’t picked up a pole in over 35 years.  Even when I was into fishing as a kid, I still didn’t like touching them. Now I will be spending 3 weeks studying Alaska pollock (walleye pollock) off the coast of Alaska. As a result of this experience, I wonder if the girl in this photo will rise like a phoenix and fall back in love with fishing. Hmm – at the moment I’m thinking it’s a 50-50 chance! What do you think? Leave me a message in the comments below.

Did You Know?

The word fish (noun) has an old English connection meaning any animal living exclusively in water. (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary)

Marsha Lenz: In Honor of the Seafarer, July 27, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson

 June 8-28, 2017

IMG_2756

Appropriate attire is important for fishing.

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 27, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

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Sorting fish requires teamwork.

Latitude: 55 42.0 N

Longitude: 156 16.4 W

Time: 1000

Visibility: 6 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 199

Wind Speed: 11 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1002.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 9.4°C

Air Temperature: 10°C

Science and Technology Log

For the science/technology part of the blog, I usually focus on one part of the sciences that we are participating in every day, a piece of technology on the boat, or one specific career that one of the 31 people on board have. Today, however, I’d like to share the big picture of how the science, the careers, and the technology all interact and intersect with each other. I have spent countless hours in the Acoustics lab, in the Fish lab, on the Bridge, and in the Chem lab with a diverse group of extremely skilled and talented people. Here’s what I have witnessed over and over again: They is constantly troubleshooting, coding, and then creating a product/outcome.

For example, let’s just take a look at the Fish lab. (Almost) everything in the lab was designed and created by the NOAA team of scientists for the specific purpose of collecting data on pollock populations. They did not buy the software anywhere. They created it. Over the past three weeks, I have witnessed, on an on-going basis, the scientists in the lab, create, refine, and test their codes for the various programs that they use for their data entry and end of survey reports.

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Abigail created a code to illustrate how many otoliths were caught on each transect.

Just yesterday, Abigail created a new code to create a chart that shows how many otoliths were collected from each transect line. This part of the program had not yet been made, so she did it. This is something that happens throughout the day, all day long.

 

When the team needed a quick way to measure and record the lengths of the fish (using a ruler and writing down every length on a piece of paper and then recording that into the computer database took a long time!), they designed AND created the Ichthystick. This records the length of each fish electronically, and then it enters that data directly into the database. It saves a lot of time. They even put my name into the system as one of the scientists!

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The list of things that the scientists create goes on and on: from charts, to computer programs, to the equipment that they use to collect the data. It was a really important reminder for me of how essential teaching coding and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is in the classroom. Unfortunately, with budget cuts, it’s often hard for schools, especially very rural ones, to integrate these topics into the daily classroom routine. I really want to ensure that my students have the skills and knowledge to continue in the sciences so that they, too, can have careers that allow them to use their creativity and intelligence, meet great people, and use these abilities to help protect and care for the planet we live on.

Personal Log

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Though there were some gray days, the views still brought everyone outside.

We are now on our transit home. I have very mixed feelings about being back on land and heading back to Humboldt County. I will be back in the comfort of my living room in 2 days. Of course, I am very excited to see my kids, visit with my friends, and take walks in the forests. Yet, there is a part of me that is already feeling a bit nostalgic for the friendships that I have built on board and the soothing rolling of the ocean. Though we worked 12 hour days, the people that I worked with made the time go by fast. Though the thought of spending three weeks on a boat with 30 total strangers might seem like an uncomfortable eternity, the days quickly blended together into a memorable event that I will not forget for a long time. We laughed at the littlest things, ate 3 meals a days together (excellent meals, I might add. Thank you so much Kimrie and Lenette!), made fun of bad movies, shared personal stories of struggles or hardships, showed off pictures of our children, and took moments to exercise (bring on the Plank Challenge!). We played cards, drew silly pictures, savored chocolate and fancy cheese, discussed the challenges that future generations face, and lengthed A LOT of fish. It is not often that one has an opportunity to spend 12 hours a day with the same people (total strangers, I might add), for 3 weeks straight, in a confined space.

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Team Plank Oscar Dyson found ways to practice planking  in between hauls.

My only regret is not having made the time to sit and down and have an “interview” with every single person on the ship. It was through my interviews with people that I was struck by the unique story that each person has. I felt that it was not only important to listen to their history, but also to share it. I only intended to interview a few people on the ship, but once I got started, I felt like I couldn’t stop. The life of a seafaring person is under appreciated in our society. Yet, we rely on fishermen/women to provide the nation with all of the seafood that is eaten. We also rely on marine scientists, survey technicians, NOAA Corps, stewards, observers, NOAA Engineers, and deck hands to help us with this and to give us valuable information about the health of our oceans and marine life.

Through my conversations and interviews, I have learned that the life of a seafarer requires a lot of sacrifice. Life at sea has many challenges. Much of the crew spends many months at a time away from their families. They spend 24/7 rolling around on the ocean, in very small spaces. Most of time, the ocean is yielding and the gentle rocking of the boat can soothe one into a deep slumber. Yet, there are also times, when she roars her head a bit and reminds us that we are just a speck in the vastness of her depth and power.

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Being a survey technician requires a lot of hard work.

The life of a seafarer, even a part-time one, is not for everyone.   They can’t just go to the store to go shopping, visit the dentist for a toothache, or go to the movies with a friend. They may miss important milestone events, such as their kid’s graduation or their parent’s 75th birthday. It can be trying to be separated from the daily musings of friends and family. There are days when all they see is gray sky and gray ocean. The Internet connection on a vessel is hit or miss (if you have one at all!) so they can’t easily stay connected with loved ones. It can begin to feel lonely and isolated.   I am grateful for all the seafarers, in whatever capacity they serve, who sacrifice so much, in the name of science, sustainable fishing, and the well being of our oceans.

In addition to the seafarers, I would also like to acknowledge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Before embarking on my adventure as a Teacher At Sea, I had very little idea of what NOAA was and even less of an idea as to what they did. I knew that they gave me my weather forecast and that they studied the oceans and the atmosphere. I now know that NOAA is so much more than just that. In my first blog out at sea, I looked online to see what NOAA does. I wrote, “Its mission is to ‘understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources’. This is easily condensed into three words: Science, Service and Stewardship.” This makes so much more sense to me now. Without NOAA and its close to 12,000 scientists, engineers, and staff who work for them, we would not be able to study and monitor specific areas of our earth. It is through NOAA that we can continue to be informed and make the correct choices to be responsible stewards of this delicate planet.

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Rick Towler designs many of the fishing  data programs and equipment that are used on the Oscar Dyson.

I know that I will continue to reflect on these last three weeks as I settle back into my own routine on land. As I become reacquainted with these routines, I know that my time as a Teacher At Sea will slowly settle further and further back into my bank of life- changing experiences and will become one of the endless memories that help make me who I am. I do hope though to keep some of the insights that I have gained on this research cruise in the forefront of my educational teachings. I look forward to sharing what I learned with my future fifth graders. Let us all continue to be good stewards and tread lightly.

I would like to thank everyone on the Oscar Dyson. Everyone including the CO, the XO, and all of the NOAA Corps officers, the Engineers, the deck crew, the survey technicians, the observers, the stewards, and the science team all made me feel very welcome and at home. Everyone was patient with me as I learned the ways of the seafarer and the ins and outs of the Oscar Dyson. I also want to thank everyone with the NOAA Teacher At Sea program for allowing this opportunity to happen for me and publishing my blog posts. I am eternally grateful.

Did You Know?

The Oscar Dyson has six onboard laboratories: a wet lab, dry lab, electronics/computer lab, bio lab, acoustics lab and hydrographics lab. The ship carries a multibeam echo sounder that collects information about the sea floor and the contents of the water column.

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I even  found a Pi joke!

 

Interview with Bruce Mokiao

Lead Fisherman

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Bruce’s smile and positive attitude were contagious.

What is your position here on the Oscar Dyson?

I am the lead fisherman on the boat.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been doing this for 16 years.

What got you interested in living your life on the sea?

Well, it was a couple of things. First, it was the Conservation Corps. That, and fishing. I didn’t know about NOAA until I was fishing commercially.   The person who picked up the fish that we brought back was a NOAA employee. I learned a lot about NOAA from him. I thought that it would be a good way to make a living and support my family.

What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is fishing, of course. I also like the data. It is all very interesting. I like science. I love this ship. I also really like the people that I work with. The crew makes a big difference in your day to day duties.

What is your job description?

I run the night shift. I supervise some of the other deck hands and I am the assistant to the chief botswain. I also mop and do general maintenance of things on the ship. I fix nets. I am basically in charge of running the fishing side of things.

 What are your hours?

I work from 2315 (11:15 pm) to 1145. I like running the night shift.

What are some of the challenges with your job?

Well, the environment is challenging. I am still getting used to living in Alaska. I am from Hawaii, so it is a big change for me. Alaska gets cold. I miss being with my family. That is also hard for me. And then, decision-making is hard. I have to think things through to make sure that the decisions I make on the ship will not have negative consequences. There is a lot of responsibility in my hands.

What motivates you every day?

My family. When my days get hard, I think about my family. My kids give my energy. I have 3. One is about to get married. I also think of the Chinese word for power, Yo Jer. I remind myself that I am “Yo jer” and that gives me the power to keep going.

Do you have any advice for my students?

Yes! Go to school. Go to a lot of school. Do what you can do to find opportunities. Find something that you love to do and things will fall into place. Live life to its fullest. Life does get hard sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up.

♥♥♥♥

Thank you to EVERYONE that helped make this happen!

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The sunrise next to Mt. Pavlov was a memorable event.

Marsha Lenz: Celebrating Science and the Solstice, June 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 21, 2017

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Though modern technology is used daily, one can still find traditional charting tools on the Bridge.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 55 15.0 N

Longitude: 160 06.7 W

Time: 1300

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: VAR

Wind Speed: LT

Sea Wave Height: <1 foot

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 9.8°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

            We have been surveying transect lines (sometimes we fish, sometimes we don’t). During the times that we aren’t fishing, I find myself looking out at the ocean A LOT! During these quiet times on the ship, I am reminded of how large the oceans are. I found a quiet window to sit by in the Chem Lab and enjoy watching as the waves dance off of the side of the ship.

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Abigail enjoys singing to the fish.

During some of these times when we are not collecting data from fish, identifying species from the DropCam, or preparing for the next haul, I find myself reading, which is a luxury all in itself. A friend of mine lent me to book to read and as I was reading the other day, the author quoted Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne said, “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” I found this to be fitting for what I am doing on this survey, for the three weeks that I am a Teacher At Sea.   Though I am surrounded by trained and educated professionals, I have realized that mistakes still happen and are something to be expected.   They happen regularly. Often, actually. And, it’s a good thing that they do. They are important for learning. When humans make mistakes, hopefully, we can adjust our actions/behaviors to reduce the chances of that same “mistake” from happening again. When applied to science, the same idea is also true. When  we can collect data from something that we are studying, we learn about the ways that it interacts with its surroundings. Through these findings, we not only learn more about what we are studying, but then take measures to protect its survival.

We had a real experience like this happen just the other day. For days, the “backscatter” was picking up images of fish that the scientists didn’t think were pollock on the bottom of the ocean. Backscatter is what the scientists use to “see” different groups of fish and quantify how many are in the water. The ship uses various echosounders.  Several times, the science team decided to collect fish samples from these areas.  Every time that they decided to “go fishing”, we pulled up pollock. The team was baffled. They had a hypothesis as to why they were not catching what they thought they saw on the backscatter. They thought that it was rockfish that were hanging around rocks, but the pollock were being caught as the net went down and came back up.  Finally, after several attempts of not catching anything but pollock, they decided to put down the DropCam and actually try to see what was going on down there.

At that point, the Chem lab was filled with scientists. Everyone wanted to see what was going to show up on the monitor. The NOAA Corps Commanding Officer even came to see what was going to show up on the monitor.  The room will filled with excitement.

 

Abigail steers the DropCam and watches the monitor simultaneously.

We see rockfish!

          It was just as they predicted!  The rockfish were hanging out in the rocks.  It was a moment of great satisfaction for the scientists. They were able to identify some of the fish on the backscatter that was causing them so much confusion! Yay, science!

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This is a pollock!

Later in the day, we went fishing and collected the usual data (sex, length, weight, etc.) from the pollock.  There are usually 4 of us at a time in the Fish lab.  We are getting into a routine in the lab and I am getting more familiar with my responsibilities and duties. I start by controlling the door release, which controls the amount of fish released onto the conveyor belt. After all of the fish have been weighed, I separate the females and males.  Once that has been done, I take the lengths of a sample of the fish that we caught. When I finish, I assist Ethan and Abigail in removing and  collecting the otoliths from a selected fish sample.  Then, its clean-up time.  Though we all have appropriate gear on, I somehow still end up having fish scales all over me.  Imagine that!

Every time that we “go fishing”, a “pocket net” is also deployed.  This is a net that has finer mesh and is designed to catch much smaller marine life.  On this haul, we caught squid, age “zero” pollock, and isopods.

In the evening, we headed towards Morzhovoi Bay.  There, we were greeted by a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins.  They spent some time swimming next to us.  When they discovered that we were not that interesting, they swam off.  They did leave us though with a great sense of awe and appreciation (and a few great pictures!).

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Personal Log

Happy Summer Solstice!  Today is the longest day of the year!  We have had some spectacular days. We were all excited as we got up this morning to welcome the rising of the sun. We woke up and were holding position in front of Mt. Pavlof.  We saw the sunrise and went up to the  Flying Bridge to do some morning yoga.  After a wonderful breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese, salmon, Larrupin sauce, and Slug Slime, I went back up to the Bridge to get a full 360 degree view of the bay.  There I saw a humpback whale swimming around.  This will definitely be a summer solstice to remember!

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Did You Know?

A humpback whale is about the size of a school bus and weighs about 40 tons! They also communicate with each other with songs under the water.

sidenote: I know I wrote in my last blog that I was going to discuss the fishing process today, but there were so many other amazing things that happened that it is going to have to wait until next time. Sorry!

 

Marsha Lenz: The Octopus and the CTD, June 21, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017

 

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 21, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 54 38.9 N

Longitude: 161 39.2 W

Time: 0800

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 185

Wind Speed: 9 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

Every morning when I come to start my shift, the scientists on the previous shift are in the middle of doing “DropCam’s.”   The DropCam is a camera that drops down to the ocean floor and takes pictures of what is going on down there. We have been getting some amazing pictures from the DropCam. The camera goes down about 150 meters (depending on the depth of the ocean floor). Sometimes, the ocean is very sandy and has very little (that we can see) activity going on. Other times, the video feed is full of fish and other marine life. We have seen so much diversity on the ocean floor.

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Since being on the Oscar Dyson, we now have seen two octopuses on the boat (well, one was on the DropCam); one was in the juvenile stage and one in the adult stage of life. I’d like to take a moment to talk about how amazing an octopus is. First of all, let’s talk about how they can change color to match their surroundings. They use special pigment cells in their skin to change colors. They have the ability to even blend into patterned rocks and corrals. When we caught the baby octopus, we saw it change its color to white to blend into the white cup we were holding it in.

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An octopus can fit through spaces as small as the size of its beak (photo credit: factsandideas.com).

They are considered to be very intelligent animals. They have been known to be able to open jars, escape from enclosures, solve mazes, and squirt water at targets. They have the ability to squeeze through things that are as small as the size of their beaks. In aquariums, they have also been known to mimic (and actually learn from) other octopuses.

Even though they can get up to be 16 feet long and weigh up to 110 pounds, they only live to be about 4 years old. That is a very short lifespan. After the females lay their eggs (they lay about 100,00 eggs), they brood over them for many months. During this time, they often do not eat. She protects her eggs for 6-7 months, and then she dies shortly after they are born.

When they are looking over their eggs they do eat, they primarily eat shrimp, fish, clams, and lobsters. They have a beak-like mouth that they can use to puncture and tear fish. They have also been known to eat sharks and birds. During the first 3 months of their lives, they eat plankton. Plankton are small and microscopic organisms that drift or float in the sea. They consist of diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals.

The CTD

After the last DropCam is retrieved, a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) is usually deployed, which collects data from various depths of the oceans. The primary function of the CTD is to measure the conductivity and temperature of the water column at various depths. Conductivity is related to the salinity, or saltiness, of the water. Studying the salinity of the water is a very critical part of studying the ocean, which is made up of salt water. The conductivity, along the temperature and depth, provide scientists with profiles of various parts of the ocean.

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The CTD is attached to a larger frame called a rosette.   This holds various water-sampling bottles and other sensors that measure the physical and chemical properties of the water at various depths. With this information, scientists can make inferences about changes that they may be seeing in the data and this can give them a better understanding about the oceans.  The data collected daily from the CTD is analyzed by Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the end of the survey.

Personal Log

Things on the boat are definitely becoming more routine. We continue to work in 12-hour shifts (mine starting at 4 am). The days consist of getting up, having coffee and a bagel, coming down to the Chem Lab to relieve the night shift, where we take over doing DropCams.  After our DropCams, we get to watch the sunrise or other spectacular views.

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We then will go up for breakfast at 7. I have really been enjoying having someone else (Lenette and Kimrie) not only make meals for me every day, but also do my dishes. What a luxury! After breakfast, we’ll “go fishing” and suit up to analyze the catch. (I’ll go into details about in the next blog) and then we’ll go have lunch. After lunch, we brainstorm the plans for the afternoon and take care of small projects. Before we know it, 4 pm rolls around and the next crew starts their shift.

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Chief Scientist, Darin Jones, shows me how to conduct a trawl.

I make it to dinner at 5, and then I slowly make my way back to the stateroom.  If it is  nice out, I will go up to the bridge to look for marine animals or walk around looking at the amazing landscape.  I find myself extremely tired around 7 and get ready for bed.  I am usually asleep by 8. It’s “good night” and sweet dreams for me!

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Despite the occasional wind, the views are breathtaking.

Did You Know?

 The oldest octopus fossil is from an animal that lived 296 million years ago — millions of years before the dinosaurs lived.

Question for my class:

 What is the name of this weather instrument?

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This year we learned about various tools to help measure weather. I saw this on the bridge of the ship. It measures the speed and direction of the wind. Do you remember what it is called?

 answer:  A  ___ ___  M  ___ ___  E  ___ ___  R                                                                                      

Interview with Darin Jones

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Darin analyzes backscatter from a recent transect.

What role do you play on this survey?

I am the Field Party Chief which means that I am the member of the science party that is responsible for making sure as much of our original objective gets completed as possible and I also serve as the main contact between the officers that operate the ship and the science party when important decisions or changes in the plan occur.

What inspired you to pursue this as a career?

I was a contract observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service following college and dreamed about one day working directly for them.  I thought that would be an awesome career and I feel lucky to have had my dreams realized.

How long have you been working in this field?

I have been in my current position for 10 years but have been in the marine biology field for the last 25 years.

What sort of training/education did you receive?

I got my Undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Fisheries Resources.  I was also an observer aboard commercial fishing vessels for 5 years which provided invaluable sea going experience and knowledge.

Are fisheries something that more people need to know about? Why?

I think fisheries and the health of the oceans is something that people should know more about because they are vital to life on land and important indicators of the status and health of our climate and planet. The oceans are the heart of the earth and drive many other processes.

 

What interests you most about the data collected on this survey?

The data that we collect is directly used to sustainably manage the pollock fishery so I am proud to contribute to that.  It’s neat to be able to track a fish population as it grows through the years and watch how many survive from one year to the next. We are also collecting interesting data on the percentage of certain rockfish species in different types of habitat that can be used to help determine the abundance of those species.

What is the most challenging part of your job?  The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my job is being away from my family for long periods of time. Another challenging aspect is the time management of planning and executing the survey objectives in a finite amount of time. Plans have to be constantly monitored and adjusted depending on weather, equipment malfunction, and other unexpected circumstances. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am contributing to the scientific knowledge that is helping to sustainably manage fisheries.

What words of advice do you have for my students if they want to pursue a career is biology or the sciences?

Math skills are a very important part of biology and the sciences so learn as much as you can.  Also getting experiences in fields that you are interested in is very important so volunteer with organizations that interest you and unexpected opportunities will open up.

 

 What is your favorite marine animal?

I think my favorite marine animal is the Pacific viperfish.  It is a creature from the deep and has very long teeth and looks very ferocious, however they only grow to a maximum of about a foot long, but I’ve only seen specimens that were about 2 inches long. It amazes me how creatures can survive in the dark depths and immense pressures of the deep ocean.

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The Pacific viperfish can be found 200-5,000 feet below the ocean surface. (photo credit: Earthguide & Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Do you have anything else that you would like to add or share?

Do your homework and get all the extra credit that you can, kid!