Kip Chambers: Parting Shots II of II… August 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

 

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey   

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: August 7, 2017

 

 

L to R Austin Phill Nina Kip

Left to Right: Austin, Phill, Nina, Kip

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:  (Pratt, Kansas)

Date: 08/07/2017                                    Wind Speed: E at 9 mph

Time: 19:25                                               Latitude: 37.7o N

Temperature: 22o C                                  Longitude: 98.75o W  

 

Science and Technology Log:

A week has passed since I left the Reuben Lasker, but I have continued to monitor the haul reports from the ship.  The last haul report indicates that haul #79 of the West Coast Pelagics Survey was conducted off of the coast of California just south of San Francisco Bay.  The survey is fast approaching the concluding date of August 11th when the Reuben Lasker is scheduled to be in port in San Diego.  Based on their current location, there are probably only a couple of days/nights of sampling left for the survey before the ship has to steam for its home port of San Diego.

As I looked through the spreadsheet with the summary of the data that is being collected for the survey, I can’t help but be impressed by the volume of data and the efficiency in which it is being recorded.  Although I was only on the ship for a short period of time, I know how much work is involved in preparing for the evening trawls and how much time it takes to process the catch and record the data.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talented, dedicated, hard-working science team members aboard the Reuben Lasker.  Below is a series of interviews with many of the science team members that I had the pleasure to work with while I was on the ship.

 Each team member was asked the following 3 questions:

Q1:  Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?

Q2:  What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?

Q3:  What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?

Science Team Member: Phill Dionne

 

 

Q1:  Phill’s post-secondary academic career started at Stoney Brook College in New York where as an undergraduate he studied Geology.  Phill’s undergraduate program also included time in Hawaii where he took several courses towards his minor in Marine Science. After his bachelor’s degree, Phill spent a year in the Florida Keys, initially as an intern, then as a marine science instructor at a science camp.  As Phill continued to pursue his educational goals he began to focus on marine science as a career pathway.  Ultimately, Phill completed a graduate degree program at the University of Maine where he studied the migrations and abundance of ESA listed sturgeon and earned masters degrees in marine biology and marine policy.

Phill moved to the state of Washington in 2011 where he currently works for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Phill’s current positon as Senior Research Scientist includes overseeing programs centered on habitat and stock assessments for forage fish including surf smelt, sand lance and Pacific herring.

Q2:  When asked what he had learned during his time on the Reuben Lasker, Phill pointed to gaining a better understanding of the techniques and challenges associated with managing coastal fisheries, and how they differ from nearshore survey techniques.

Q3:  Phill’s advice to first year college students considering a career in science is to get experience in data management and to get involved in internships early in your academic career.  Phill also emphasized that it is important to understand that a career in marine science is more than just a job, it is a “lifestyle” that requires commitment and hard work.

Science Team Member: Andrew Thompson

Q1:  Although originally from California, Andrew earned his graduate degree from the University of Georgia where his studies focused on stream ecology.  Eventually Andrew would earn his PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara.  As part of his work for his PhD, Andrew studied a unique mutualistic symbiotic relationship between a species of shrimp and shrimp gobies (fish) on tropical reefs near Tahiti.  In this unusual relationship there is a system of communication between the fish and shrimp in which the fish acts as a type of watchdog for the shrimp communicating the level of danger in the environment to the shrimp based on the number of tail flips.  After a stint with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in California, Andrew began working for NOAA in 2007 where he specializes in identification of larval fish.

Q2:  Having experienced multiple assignments on NOAA research vessels, Andrew’s response to what he had learned while on this cruise related to his enjoyment in watching the younger volunteers see and experience new things.  He voiced an optimism in the younger generation expressing how many “good, talented kids are coming through programs today.”  One of the observations that Andrew pointed out about this survey was the number of pyrosomes that are being found which is uncommon for this geographical area.  In a bit of an unusual find, a juvenile medusa fish within a pyrosome also sparked Andrew’s interest (see photo above).

Q3:  With regards to advice for prospective students, Andrew pointed out that a career path in science is often non-linear.  Like many of the science team members that I interviewed, he talked about how important it is to persevere and push through the difficult times as you pursue your goals.

Science Team Member: Nina Rosen

 

 

Q1:  Nina Rosen grew up in California where her connection and love of the ocean developed at an early age.  Nina completed her undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University in northern California.  Her graduate degree is a masters degree in advanced studies (MAS) from SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography.  Nina’s work while at SCRIPPS was focused on understanding interactions between communities and ocean resources with a particular interest in small scale fisheries.  Nina’s background includes a diverse work history that includes working as a naturalist at field stations in Alaska, and working with the Department of California Fish and Wildlife to gather information from anglers that is used to help manage the California’s recreational fisheries.

Note: A special thank you to Nina.  Many of the outstanding photos included on my blogs throughout the survey were taken by her (see images above).

Q2:  When asked about what she had learned while on the survey, Nina stressed how important it was for a variety of people with different specialties to come together and communicate effectively to make the project successful.  I think her comment “all of the parts need to come together to understand the fishery” reflects her holistic approach to trying to understand our oceans and how people interact with this precious resource.

Q3:  Nina’s response when asked what advice she would give to 1st year college students interested in a career in science was simple and to the point. She said “go for it” reflecting her enthusiasm for marine science and research.  She went on to point out how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself because “you never know what may come out of the experience.”

Science Team Member:  Austin Grodt

 

Q1:    Austin is from Orange, California, he will be entering his 4th year of studies at the University of California in San Diego majoring in environmental chemistry.  In addition to going to school, Austin works as a California state lifeguard.  Like many of the people I met while on the ship Austin’s connection to our oceans is central to his core values.  When I first met Austin he described himself saying “I am a stereotypical California guy, I am all about the water.”

Q2:  With regards to what he has learned while on the survey, Austin expressed that he had developed a greater understanding of the state of California fisheries and how they operate.  Austin also spent a lot of time interacting with the members of NOAA Corps learning about how the ship functions and large vessel navigation.

Q3:  When asked what advice he would give 1st year college students Austin said “when it gets hard don’t be discouraged, keep pushing. It is totally worth it.”  Austin also pointed out that the opportunities and number of fields available for STEM graduates are diverse and “in higher quantity than you can imagine.”

Science Team Member: Lanora

Q1:  Lanora’s first experiences with the ocean were in the Gulf of Mexico during family vacations. She went on to earn a BS degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.  After graduating, she spent time working for NOAA on research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.  Lanora would eventually return to school and complete a masters program in marine science at the University of South Alabama.  In 2016 she would once again go to work as a NOAA scientist where she is currently working on research vessels stationed out of California.

Q2:  When asked what she had learned during the survey Lanora said “all of the pieces have to come together in order for the big picture to work.”  She went on to explain that several groups of people with a common task have to work together in order for the overall goals of the survey to be accomplished.

Q3:  Lanora’s advice to college students interested in marine science is to seek out opportunities to volunteer and participate in internships.  She indicated it was important to explore different areas to find out what you are truly interested in.  Like many of the science team members she went on to say that if you are passionate about science “go for it, don’t quit, and persevere.”

Personal Log:  Final Thoughts…

 

The most important, lasting impression that I will take away from this experience is the quality and commitment of the people that I have met along the way.  Although I will remember all of the people that I have worked with, the individuals on the science team have each given me something special.  I will remember and learn from: Dave, his calm demeanor, focus and attention to detail; Sue, her easy smile, and determination; Lanora, her relentless work ethic, and ability to manage multiple layers of responsibility; Andrew, his sense of optimism and genuine happiness; Phill, his relaxed sense of self awareness and wisdom beyond his years; Nina, her contagious laugh and commitment to, and love of our oceans; Austin, his boundless energy and curiosity about everything… thank you.

I also learned that the ocean has a heartbeat. If you’re quiet you can hear it in the rhythm of the waves.  The ocean has a soul; you can feel it in your feet if you wiggle you toes in the sand.  The ocean has an immensity and strength beyond imagination.  At first glance it seems as if the ocean has a beauty, diversity and abundance that is boundless, but of course it is not.

Due to our relentless pursuit of resources, and the pollution generated by that pursuit, our oceans are hurting.  We have to do better.  In many ways we live in troubling times, but as I learned from Andrew, it is not too late to be optimistic.  We can live a more peaceful, balanced existence with the planet’s resources and the other organisms that call the earth home.  It is my sincere desire that through hard work, education and the commitment of people from all generations we can come together to make our oceans and the planet a more harmonious home for all species…Thank you to everyone who has made this journey such a rewarding experience.

Learn more about education and career opportunities in marine science at the web site below.

NOAA Fisheries: Southwest Fisheries Science Center

https://swfsc.noaa.gov/swfsc.aspx?id=7532&ParentMenuId=33

 

 

Kip Chambers: Parting Shots I of II… July 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17-30, 2017

Mission: West Coast Pelagics Survey  

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: 07/22/2017

 Weather Data from the Bridge: (Pratt, Kansas)

Date: 08/02/2017                                                                    Wind Speed: SE at 5 mph

Time: 18:40                                                                            Latitude: 37.7o N

Temperature: 29o C                                                                Longitude: 98.75o W

Science and Technology Log:

During my last few days aboard the Reuben Lasker before steaming to Bodega Bay for a small boat transfer on July 30th, we were fishing off of the southern Oregon coast. The ship continued to run the longitudinal transect lines using acoustics and collecting data using the continuous underway fish egg sampler (CUFES) during the day and performing targeted trawls for coastal pelagic species (CPS) at night. The weather and the pyrosomes picked up as we moved down the Oregon coast to northern California, but on what would turn out to be the last trawl of my trip in the early morning hours of July 28th, we had our biggest catch of the trip with over 730 kg in the net. Once again we saw 3 of the 4 CPS fish species that are targeted for the survey including the Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, and jack mackerel, but no northern anchovies were to be found. The science crew worked efficiently to process the large haul and collect the data that will be used to provide the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) with information that can be used to help understand the dynamics of CPS in the California Current. The data collected from the CPS fish species includes length and weight, otoliths (used to age the fish), gender and reproductive stage, and DNA samples. The information from these different parameters will provide the biologists at SWFSC with information that can be used to understand the nature of the different populations of the CPS fish species that are being studied.

 

 

I am home now in southcentral Kansas, but as I am writing this, I can picture the science team beginning preparations for a night of trawling probably just north of Bodega Bay. By now (22:00) it is likely that a bongo tow and the conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) probe samples have been collected providing data that will be used to calibrate and maximize the effectiveness of the acoustics for the area. Lanora and the rest of the team will have prepped the lab for a night of sampling, weather data will be recorded, and someone (maybe Nina or Austin) will be on mammal watch on the bridge. It all seems so familiar now; I hope the rest of the survey goes as well as the first half of the second leg. I will be thinking about and wondering how the science team of the Reuben Lasker is doing somewhere off the coast of California as I settle in for the night. One thing I am sure of, after spending two weeks aboard the ship, is that the entire crew on the Reuben Lasker is working together, diligently, as a team, using sound scientific practices to produce the best data possible to guide decisions about the fisheries resources in the California Current.

 

 

 

Video Transcription: (Narration by Kip Chambers)

(0:01) Ok, we’re preparing to remove otoliths from a jack mackerel. It’s for the Coastal Pelagic Species survey on the Reuben Lasker, July 27, 2017.
(0:22) We have Phil, from Washington Fish & Game, who’s going to walk us through the procedure. 
(0:30) The otoliths are essentially the fish’s ear bones. They help with orientation and balance, and also have annual rings that be used to age the fish.
(0:48) And so the initial cut is – looks like it’s just in front of the operculum and about a blade-width deep. 
(1:01) And the secondary cut is from the anterior, just above the eyes and kind of right level with the orbital of the eyes, back to the vertical cut.
(1:22) It’s a fairly large jack mackerel. And, once the skull cap has been removed, you can see the brain case, and you have the front brain and kind of the hind brain where it starts to narrow…
(1:42) … and just posterior to the hind brain, there are two small cavities, and that was the right side of the fish’s otolith, 
(1:55) … and that is the left side. And that is very well done. Thank you Phil.

 

I wanted to use a portion of this section of the blog to share some comments that were expressed to me from the members of the science team as I interviewed them before I left last week. The first “interview” was with Dave Griffith, the chief scientist for the survey. Dave was kind enough to provide me with a written response to my questions; his responses can be found below.

Dave Griffith

Chief Scientist Dave Griffith

Q1: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, including education and work history?

Q1: I was born and raised in a small suburb of Los Angeles county called Temple City. Located in the San Gabriel valley at the base of the San Gabriel mountains, it was the perfect place to exercise the love and curiosity of the animals I could find not only in my backyard but also in the local mountains. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I realized I had a knack for sciences especially biology. This interest and appeal was spurred on by my high school teacher, Al Shuey. With little concept of a career, I continued on to a junior college after high school still not sure of my direction. Here I dabbled in welding, art, music and literature but always rising to the surface was my love of sciences. My fate was sealed.

I entered San Diego State’s science program and was able to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree of science. For my dissertation I studied the re-colonization capabilities of meiofaunal harpacticoid copepods in response to disturbed or de-faunated sediments within Mission Bay. While studying for my masters, I was hired by Hubbs-Sea World Marine Laboratory as the initial group of researchers to begin the OREHAP project which is still operational today. The OREHAP project’s hypothesis was that releasing hatchery reared fish into the wild, in this case white seabass (Atractocion nobilis), would stimulate the natural population to increase recruitment and enhance the population. At the time the white seabass population numbers were at their all time low. During that time of employment at HSWML, I was also teaching zoology at SDSU as a teaching assistant in the graduate program. I was also the laboratory manager and in charge of field studies at Hubbs. My plate was pretty full at the time.

I heard about the opening at the SWFSC through a colleague of mine that I was working with while helping her conduct field work for her Ph.D. at Scripps. I applied and was hired on as the cruise leader in the Ship Operations/CalCOFI group for all field work conducted within CFRD (now FRD) working under Richard Charter. That was 1989. I have now been the supervisor of the Ship Operations/CalCOFI group since 2005.

My main objective on the Coastal Pelagic Fish survey as the cruise leader is to oversee all of the operations conducted by personnel from FRD during the survey. All scientific changes or decisions are made by the cruise leader using science knowledge, logic, common sense and a healthy input from all scientists aboard. I am the liaison between the scientific contingent and the ship’s workforce as well as the contact for the SWFSC laboratory. The expertise I bring out in the field is specific to fish egg identification, fish biology, field sampling techniques, knowledge of the California Current Large Ecosystem and sampling equipment.

Q2: What have you learned from your time on the Reuben Lasker during the 2nd leg of the Pelagic Species Survey?

Q2: First, that you never have preconceived ideas of what you expect to find. You always come out with knowledge of previous studies and a potential of what you might see, but the ocean always will show you and demonstrate just how little you know. When I was beginning in this career I was able to witness the complete dominance of a northern anchovy centric distribution change to a Pacific sardine centric distribution and now possibly back again. It’s mind boggling. I remember one of my colleagues, one of the pre-eminent fish biologists in the field, Paul Smith say to me during these transitions say, “Well, you take everything you’ve learned over the past 40 years, throw it out the window and start over again.” Yeah, the ocean environment will do that to you.

Q3: What advice would you give to a 1st year college student that was interested in pursuing a career in marine science?

Q3: Keep an open mind. Once you enter a four year university you will see areas of study that you never thought or believed existed. Have a concept of where you want to be but don’t ignore the various nuances that you see along the way. Go for the highest degree you feel capable of achieving and do it now because it becomes so much more difficult as you get older or the further away you get from academics if you begin working in a science position.

And last, and I feel most important. Read. Read everything. Journals, magazines, classics, modern novels, anything and everything and never stop. Communication is such an incredibly important part of science and you need to have a command of the language. Not only is reading enjoyable but it will make you a better writer, a better speaker and a better scientist.

 

Personal Log:

I am back home in Kansas now after wrapping up my assignment on the Reuben Lasker and I have started to contemplate my experiences over the last couple of weeks. There are so many facets related to what I have learned during my time on the ship; the technology and mechanics of such a large research vessel are both fascinating and daunting at the same time. There are so many moving parts that all have to come together and work in a very harsh environment in order for the ship to function; it is a testament to the men and women that operate the boat that things operate so smoothly. As impressive as the technology and research is on the Reuben Lasker, it is the people that have made the biggest impact on me.

You can see from Dave’s response above that there are some incredibly talented, dedicated individuals on the ship. I would like to share with you some of my observations about some of those people that I worked with including Dave Griffith. Dave is not only an outstanding scientist that has spent a lifetime making important contributions to fisheries science, he is also an incredibly well rounded person and an encyclopedia of knowledge. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Dave for his patience, and willingness to listen and provide insight and advice to me during my time on the ship. In my upcoming blog, I will provide more information about the other members of the science team that I had the pleasure to work with while on board. Until then please enjoy the pictures and video from my last week on the Reuben Lasker.

Kip Chambers: Rocking and Rolling on the Reuben Lasker… July 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: July 22, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge:

 Date: 07/22/2017                                                                 Wind Speed: NW at 8 Knots

Time: 20:20                                                                            Latitude: N 43 53.78

Temperature: 18.5 C                                                              Longitude: W 124 38.7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kip and Austin Pacific sardine data (Photo Credit: Nina Rosen)

Science and Technology Log:

After steaming north out of San Francisco, the Reuben Lasker arrived on location just south of Newport, Oregon early Wednesday (07/19) morning ready to begin the 2nd leg of the West Coast Pelagics Survey (WCPS). The survey is targeting coastal pelagic species (CPS).  The Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) uses the following characteristics to describe CPS. CPS have relatively short life spans, high reproductive potential, responsivity to climate change, schooling or swarming behavior, and inhabiting the upper or mixed layer of the water column (swfsc.noaa.gov/).  The survey uses a combination of methods to try to locate the target species for sampling.  The primary fish target species for the survey include Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and the northern anchovy (Engrraulis mordax).  In addition to these fish species, the market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) is also included as a target species for the survey.  These coastal pelagic species are critical to the ecology of the California Current pelagic ecosystem.

Source: https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?id=1041&ParentMenuId=110

A very important part of the survey involves using the acoustic trawling method (ATM) to locate and sample CPS.  This method of sampling uses a systematic approach to help locate the target species that are being monitored.  The area for the survey is laid out using a transect system. Transect lines (perpendicular to the coast) are latitudinal at 10 mile intervals and approximately 30-40 miles long.  During the day, the ship follows these transect lines while using a continuous underway fish egg sampler (CUFES) and “listening” for CPS using some of the most advanced acoustics systems in the world.  CUFES pulls water in from below the ship at a rate of 640 liters/ minute.  As the water moves through the sampler it passes through a fine mesh filter that is continuously agitated.  Any plankton or fish eggs that are larger than 505 microns are screened out, collected, and analyzed at 30 minute intervals.  The CUFES requires constant monitoring and an experienced eye to be able to identify the various organisms in the sample.  That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the lead scientists on the survey, Dave Griffith and Sue Manion.  As this information is coming in it is entered into a computer that plots the results in relationship to the transect line that is being traversed.  Of particular interest to the scientists on this survey are Pacific sardine eggs due to declining populations of this important forage fish over the last 10 years.

Along with the CUFES data, the survey is being guided by a complex array of sonars and split beam eco-sounders.  Dan Palance, is the ships acoustician.  Dan monitors and collects data from 2 split beam echo-sounders, the EK60 and the EK80 and 3 multi-beam sonars, the MS70, ME70 and the SX90.  As the ship moves down the transect line information from the eco-sounders and sonars is being monitored and analyzed.  The images from the acoustics system provide insight into what types of fish or other marine organisms may be present near the transect line.  Dan and the lead scientists use the data from CUFES and acoustics system to determine the best locations to trawl for the target species.  Once the likely target areas are determined, the lead scientist will consult with the NOAA Corps officers to eventually determine where the boat will trawl.  There is an incredible amount of information and data that is being generated to direct the survey.  Each group of people involved bring their own unique skill set to the table, and communication between these groups is essential to the success of the survey.

Once the location for sampling areas has been determined, a series of trawls will be conducted in those areas.  The trawls are done at night to provide the best opportunity to catch the target species which are migrating up in the water column following the plankton species that they feed on.  Since arriving on location we have been able to average 2-3 tows per night.  The Reuben Lasker is equipped with trawl net (13 X 20 meter fishing mouth) with progressively smaller mesh as you move towards the cod end.  The net is deployed behind the boat and fishes from the surface down to a depth of about 13 meters for 45 minutes.  As the net is hauled back the excitement and anticipation about what may be inside grows.  Over the course of the last 3 days we have found 3 of the 4 CPS fish species that are being monitored and market squid. The target fish species that we have seen so far include the Pacific sardine, jack mackerel, and Pacific mackerel.  We have not found northern anchovies yet, but we have seen a variety of other marine organisms (listed below).  Once the haul is collected from the net it is brought into the wet lab to be “worked up.”  Everything that comes up in the net will be weighed and/or measured.  In addition to weight and length measurements, gender is determined and DNA samples and otoliths are collected for the target fish species.

Along with CUFES there is another process in place for collecting plankton using a “bongo net.”  These paired nets are lowered into the water over the starboard side paying out 300 meter of cable before beginning the retrieval process.  Once 300 meters of cable have been released the ship will set a speed to establish a 45O angle in the cable connecting to the bongos.  As ship is underway the nets will be retrieved at of 20 meters/minute.  Once at the surface the nets contents are washed down into a fine mesh collecting bag at the bottom of the net.  This sample is preserved and will be analyzed to gain a better understanding of the planktonic community found in the water column.  The data from the bongo nets is used to help calibrate the acoustics systems.  The sampling protocol for the bongo nets has been well established and consistently followed for a long period of time leading to a reliable data set.  There is also a system in place using a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) probe for collecting water chemistry data at regular intervals.  The data collected from the various sampling methods is used to help direct the management of CPS in the California Current.

Personal Log:

As we push south down the Oregon coast the science team is settling into a routine and becoming more efficient at processing the hauls.  I feel fortunate to be part of such an eclectic group of people.  The team is made up seven members with a variety of backgrounds and experience, but all sharing the common goal of provide consistent, reliable data that can be used to help protect the ecological integrity of our oceans.  In up-coming posts I hope to be able to provide a brief summary of the individual team members.

Tonight (7/24) will be the fourth set of trawls for this leg.  Despite some of the challenges of switching over to an 8:00 pm to 8 am schedule the teams’ morale is high and everyone on the team is always eager to pitch in and lend a helping hand whenever it is needed.  Although there have been some long shifts and the weather has been pretty rough over the last few days, the people I have met are making this an incredibly rewarding experience.  Please find below a tentative list of common names for some of the species that we have seen since leaving San Francisco…

Taxa list from the net (common names):

 

Pacific sardine                                                        pacific mackerel

jack mackerel                                                           market squid

clubhook squid                                                        hake

northern spearnose poacher                                 pomfret

American shad                                                         ctenophores

blue shark                                                                  lions mane jellyfish

egg yolk jellyfish                                                      pyrosomes

blue lantern fish                                                      steelhead

northern lantern fish                                             chum salmon

California lantern fish                                           pink salmon

Observed from the deck:

humpback whale                                             albatross

Dawn White: Otoliths & a “Wet” Farewell: July 2, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

 Dawn White

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 19 – July 1, 2017

 

Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: July 2, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge (As in back home in North Branch, MN)

Date: July 2, 2017                                                             Wind Speed: 8 kts

Time: 7:30 p.m.                                                                 Latitude: 45.5102° N

Temperature: 26.7 oC                                                     Longitude:  92.9931° W

Science and Technology Log

It wasn’t until the last day or two of my leg of the research project that we finally started to catch the species the scientists were specifically looking to track and even then there were only a few.

Angela removes an otolith from the sample target species

Here’s Angela dissecting one of our first samples.  If the young captured were either sardines or anchovies, they were massed, length taken, sex determined (including whether or not they were sexually mature, if possible), and their otoliths were removed.

So what the heck are otoliths and why would anyone want to remove them?

Otoliths are small, bony parts of a fish’s earbones.  They help the fish with balance and orientation.  These bones are made of calcium carbonate and similar to the formation of rings on a tree, they grow with a ring-like pattern based on seasonal metabolic rates.  While the fish is growing faster during the warmer summer months, the rings are broader and more translucent.  Then, during the cooler winter months when a fish’s metabolic rate begins to slow down, that part of the ring appears to be more dense or opaque.

Look at the first illustration below that was taken from a 2008 NOAA press release.  On the lower right you see an image of an otolith from a haddock.  Each species has otoliths of a particular size and shape. If you know the region of ocean from which a set of otoliths was obtained, you may be able to determine the species by utilizing one of the many otolith references that can be accessed online, such as found in this memorandum published by NOAA researcher Mark S. Lowry.

 

The enlarged image on the right was taken from the NOAA Images Library.  Here you can see the rings very distinctly.

Extension question for my students:  Using the otolith image on the right, determine how old the fish was at the time of capture.  Not sure how to do this just yet?  Want to test your accuracy?  Read up on what is involved in the study of sclerochronology first. Then test yourself with this otolith aging interactive.  Enjoy!

Once the otoliths have been removed they are wiped clean and placed in a small vial to finish drying out.  The otoliths are cataloged and sent to the lab for evaluation as shown in the photos below.

 

The combination of measurements taken allow those studying the population to look at the demographics of the catch (What % of the population is juvenile?  What % is sexually mature? What is the relationship between % male vs. female?).  This data provides a sampling of the population’s health and viability, which can then be extrapolated to the population as a whole.  This information can then be used to help inform policy with regards to how heavily these populations can be fished without causing damage to the ecosystems of which they are a part.

 

Personal Log – It’s time to go home!

It seemed like we had just gotten started and it was time to go!  Although they had mixed work/sleep schedules, the science team was willing to gather to see me off.

Angela, Dereka, Dawn (TAS), Nick, Amy, Bryan, Sue, Emily

What an amazing learning experience!  My only regret was that we didn’t start to find the species requiring the more intense, time-consuming dissection and data collection until the very end.  I wanted to make sure I was doing my part!  In return, what I get to take home to my students is invaluable. I can’t wait to share all I have learned about life aboard a research vessel, the many ways in which this unique habitat is being studied, and the vast opportunities that await those who are interested in marine ecosystems.

The only travel plan that was not prearranged regarding my TAS adventure was the exact location of my departure from the Reuben Lasker.  What I did know was that it was to be a “wet transfer.”  What I didn’t know was exactly what that meant.  It was so much fun finding out!

The Reuben Lasker has a limited number of ports along the west coast where it is possible for it to dock.  The ship’s size, unique keel, and specialized, below-ship sonar equipment require channels to be much deeper than many smaller ports possess.  Because of this, whenever there is to be an exchange of personnel made before a larger port is reached, an onboard transfer craft brings those getting off to a smaller port along the way.  This allows the main vessel to stay in safer waters much further off shore.  Once the exchange of people and gear is made, the transfer boat returns to the ship and the journey continues.

Unique points to consider on this type of trip, however, are that you need to get the transfer boat launched from the main vessel, the ship lets you off several miles from port, and the boat has no seats – you stand up the whole way!  Who knew that even getting back to the mainland was to be an adventure?!

You can see the transfer boat below (right side in the picture – port side of the ship).  Notice how the Reuben Lasker carries it hoisted up off the floor of the back deck.

View of the transfer boat (at right) stored on Reuben Lasker

The transfer boat gets lowered to deck level so we can all step in.  Our gear is stored in the open bow and we all load in the back.  Behind the center console are poles with handles that give us something stable to hold on to as we will be standing for the duration of the trip.  We all wear life jackets and hard hats as the boat is lowered along-side the main ship.

Here’s Skilled Fisherman Victor Pinones ready at the controls as he lowers us to sea level.

Skilled fisherman Victor Pinones ready at the controls

The two outboard motors are started while we are along-side so we are ready to move away from the Reuben Lasker the minute we hit the water.  And we’re off! To give you some perspective of the size of the Reuben Lasker as it looks from the water, you can see Emily, Angela, and Dereka waving to me from the Level-1 deck.

View of NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker from the transfer boat

It didn’t take long before the ship was but a spot on the horizon….

Here’s a better look at the transfer vessel as crew members prepare to for the return trip.

Bon voyage to all!  Safe travels!

Did You Know?

Fun fact: Baby squid are adorable!  Just had to share one last image from under the microscope – thanks, Nick, for pointing this out!  At this larval stage, the squid are mainly transparent except for their developing eyes and chromatophores (sac-like structures filled with pigments that help the squid undergo color changes).  You can observe this process in action at the Smithsonian’s  Ocean Portal web site.

 

Looking at the enlarged photo at right you can just make out the scale – our little friend was a whole 3 mm in diameter!  Too cute!

Kip Chambers: Gone Fishing… July 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 17 – 30, 2017

 

Mission:  West Coast Pelagics Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: 07/17/2017

 

Science and Technology Log: 

I had my first opportunity to get a look at the Reuben Lasker when I arrived at the Exploratorium on Pier 15 in San Francisco (SF) on the 16th of July.  My first impression was, this is a big, incredibly sophisticated research vessel.  The boat has been in port for a few days as it prepares to leave for the 2nd leg of the West Coast Pelagics Survey.  The first leg of the survey was conducted over the previous three weeks starting off of the coast of Vancouver Island and working down to the coast of Oregon.  The vessel will be steaming out tomorrow (7/18/17) back to where the first leg was completed to begin the 2nd leg of the survey.  The 2nd leg will begin near Newport, Oregon and continue down the coast of California finishing in San Diego on/or about August 11th.

I am beginning to get to know the crew, which is made up of members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, civilian mariners and a science team.  All of the crews are under the NOAA umbrella and work closely together. The NOAA Corps, and civilian mariners are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the boat while the science crew’s role is to design the survey, collect samples, record, and analyze the data for the project.

There are 32 people on the boat, and I am amazed at the diversity of skills, education and background that is represented by everyone that is on-board.  It is encouraging to know there are so many talented people involved in this type of research. In just the short time that I have spent on the ship I have gained a better understanding of the many opportunities that are available for students in marine science.

As you might expect on a modern research vessel the technology is everywhere.  There are multiple sonar systems, numerous sensors that record continuous environmental information, and the wheelhouse is equipped with an array of navigational systems and computers that link to sensors throughout the vessel.  There are also the major mechanical components necessary to deploy and retrieve nets, gear, and various sensors.  I am eagerly anticipating seeing how all of these pieces fit together once we begin sampling.

Over the past 2 days while we have been in port, I have had a chance to explore the area around the dock and have found that NOAA is making a big impact on a global scale.  As I was walking up to the ship I noticed a buoy in the harbor that was labeled with PMEL-CO2 (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory).  Upon closer inspection I saw the NOAA symbol above the lettering and found an information plate on the rail describing the data the sensors on the buoy were collecting.  This buoy and others like it moored across the world’s oceans are collecting information about CO2 levels in our oceans.  The information is relayed to a satellite and then to a data center for analysis.  The data collected by these buoys will help provide a better understanding of how rising CO2 levels are affecting our oceans.  As I walked through the area surrounding the dock I found several more examples of research and educational programs that NOAA was supporting.  NOAA’s commitment to sound science and support for educational programs like the Teacher at Sea program is making a difference in how people interact with the planet.

 

Personal Log:

My journey to join the crew and scientist aboard the Reuben Lasker has been a rewarding experience in and of itself.  After arriving in SF I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring the area around the bay.  There is a great interactive facility near Pier 15 called the Exploratorium that is a designed to provide an enriching, educational experience featuring science and art displays. As I wondered through the facility it reminded me of why I love science and how creative approaches can inspire and bring out the child like curiosity and joy of learning in all of us.  I also had the opportunity to tour the impressive Aquarium of the Bay that had fantastic exhibits featuring marine invertebrates, numerous species of saltwater fish (including lots of sharks) and river otters.  NOAA’s fingerprint can be found here too, with a display explaining how NOAA is providing educational support for a program called The National Estuary Research and Reserve System that emphasize the importance of protecting and restoring estuaries.   It has been a very busy and fulfilling 3 days.  As I am writing, the ship is steaming toward Newport, Oregon and is already collecting data for the survey using a continuous underway egg sampler (CUFES). The CUFES sampler collects plankton and fish egg samples that will provide important data used by NOAA scientists to better understand the abundance and distribution of pelagic fish species in the California Current.  Once we arrive on location we will start using the acoustic trawling method (ATM) to sample for coastal pelagic fish species.  I can only imagine what wonders might lay ahead as we continue our journey,

I recently attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (KATS) conference and listened to a very good presentation by Jeff Goldstein.   One the things he said struck me as particularly important.  He said, “Evidence based conclusions are important.”  It is important that we don’t disregard and ignore information that is based on good scientific principles and analysis.  My experiences over the last several days has given me a greater appreciation for critical role that NOAA plays in providing us with that information.  The photos above are representative of my first few days in SF and on-board the Reuben Lasker.

FYI: sometimes it seems like NOAA has its own special language, here is a small sample of some of the acronyms that I have picked up on so far…

CO – Commanding Officer

XO – Executive Officer

OO – Operations Officer

ATM – Acoustic Trawl  Method

CTD – Conductivity, Temperature and Depth

CUFES – Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler

CPS – Coastal Pelagic Species

SWFSC – Southwest Fisheries Science Center

NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service

Links to Explore:

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/

The Exploratorium in San Francisco

https://www.exploratorium.edu/

Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco

https://www.aquariumofthebay.org/

The National Estuary Research and Reserve System

https://coast.noaa.gov/nerrs/

Dawn White: Pinging for Populations, June 29, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

 Dawn White

Aboard NOAA Ship the Reuben Lasker

June 19 – July 1, 2017

 

Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: June 29, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: June 29, 2017                                                         Wind Speed: 7.7 kts

Time: 6:15 p.m.                                                                 Latitude: 4805.5N

Temperature: 12.7oC                                                      Longitude: 12520.07W

 

Science and Technology Log

The technology present on this ship is amazing and at the same time quite overwhelming.  These systems allow for data to be collected on a wide range of variables both continuously and simultaneously.  Below are a couple of photos of the acoustics room where multiple sensors are monitoring the feedback from sonar systems placed below the ship’s hull.  One of the acoustic probes sends out sound waves in a cone-like formation directly below the ship.  Another unit emits sound waves in a horizontal pattern.  The ship was designed to run as quietly as possible so as to not disturb the marine life present in the waters as the ship passes by and also to reduce the interference of the ship’s sounds with the acoustics feedback.

 

 

Acoustics technician Dan Palance managing the multiple computers that are constantly collecting data.

Multiple programs help to eliminate the “noise” received by the probes until all that remains are images that represent schools of fish and their location relative to the ocean floor.

 

The images above were taken from a poster on board the Reuben Lasker. They illustrate the range of the water column surveyed by the various acoustic systems.

 

The “soundings” are received by the ship, processed and “cleaned up” using a series of program algorithms. The image below shows the feedback received from one of the systems.

Displays of feedback from an acoustics system

Once the background “noise” has been eliminated, the resulting image will show locations of fish, school size, and the depth (y axis) at which they can be found.

Graph of acoustic feedback, with background “noise” eliminated, depicting depth and size of fish schools

 

Extension question for my students reading this:  Approximately how deep are the schools of fish being picked up by the sonar at this location?

Acoustics aren’t the only tools used to try pinpoint the locations of the fish schools.  As I wrote about on an earlier blog, the CUFES egg sampler is used to monitor the presence of fish eggs in the waters that the ship passes over.  Water samples are analyzed every half hour.  If egg samples appear in an area where there is also a strong acoustics signal, then that may be a location the ship will return to for the night’s trawl.  The main focus of this trip is to monitor the anchovy and sardine populations, so extra attention is paid to the locations where those eggs appear in the samples.

Personal Log:

Each time we drop the net for an evening trawl it is always retrieved with a bit of suspense:  What’s going to be in the net this time?  How big is the haul?  Will we capture any of the key species or haul in something completely different?

I can honestly say that while on board there were no two hauls exactly the same.  We continued to capture large quantities of pyrosomes – unbelievable amounts.  Check out the net-tearing load we encountered one night.  We literally had to weigh them by the basketful!

Here I am getting ready to help unload this large catch.

TAS Dawn White prepares to help unload large catch

 

Net-tearing load of pyrosomes!

Above is the codend of the net filled with pyrosomes and fish.  A 5-basket sample was pulled aside for analysis.  The remainder was simply classified and massed.

While I was certainly don’t need to see another pyrosome any time soon, there were plenty of other times when some very unique species made an appearance!

Pacific Jack Mackerel

Solitary Common Salp

TAS Dawn White holds a Blue Shark

Dogfish Shark

Did you know?

The dogfish shark (pictured above) was one of about 50 or so that were caught in the same haul.  We had trawled through a school that was feeding on the small fish found at the ocean surface during the evening hours.  This is the same species of shark that is commonly provided to students for dissection.  Use the search terms “dogfish shark dissection” and see what you find!

Kip Chambers: From the Prairies to the Oceans… July 5, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea 

Kip Chambers

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker 

July 17 – 30, 2017

Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: July 5, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge: (Pratt, KS)

Date: 07/05/2017
Wind Speed: SE at 6 mph
Time: 16:00
Latitude: 37.7o N
Temperature: 29o C
Longitude: 98.75o W

Science and Technology Log:

Soon I will be aboard one of the most technologically advanced fishing vessels in the world, the NOAA research vessel Reuben Lasker. I will be participating on the second leg of the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) West Coast Sardine Survey. The ship will depart on the 17th of July from San Francisco, CA to conduct a survey primarily focused on Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) populations. The data collected from this survey, and others like it, will be used by NOAA and other federal and state agencies to make decisions about how to best manage the Pacific sardine fishery to ensure that Pacific sardines are harvested in a sustainable manner. The data provided by these types of surveys is critical to ensuring that appropriate regulations are put in place to protect the ecological integrity of our complex, marine ecosystems.

Personal Log:

Hello, my name is Kip Chambers. I am a biology instructor at Pratt Community College (PCC). PCC is a small liberal arts/vocational technical school located in south-central Kansas. I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) program. I first learned about the program from a colleague more than 15 years ago, and it has been something that I have been contemplating for the last several years. After applying in the fall I was ecstatic to find out in early February that I had been accepted to the program. Even though I was born and raised in Kansas, and Pratt, Kansas is more the 600 miles away from our nearest ocean (Gulf of Mexico), I have always been fascinated by the immensity, power and beauty of our oceans. I have often been asked “what do the oceans have to do with Kansas?” For those of you who live near an ocean, or work directly with these precious resources, this may seem like a silly question, but for many of my students and people in my community there can be a lack of understanding of how our oceans affect all of us, and how critical they are to maintaining the biogeochemical cycles and energy flow that make life possible on the planet.

The story of Kansas’ geological history cannot be told without talking about oceans. The map below depicts the 11 physiographic regions that outline the geology of Kansas. Many of the rocks at and below the surface of Kansas were deposited as shallow seas moved into and out of Kansas over millions of years. Because of this, Kansas has a rich marine fossil record that provides insight into the role oceans played in shaping our state. There is an excellent web site that is maintained by the Kansas Geological Survey that provides additional information about our state’s geology and the types of marine fossils that can be found in many areas of the state.

Kansas Physiographic Regions           Figure 1.1 Physiographic regions of Kansas provided by the  Kansas Geological Survey. (http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Extension/home.html)

The geology of Kansas is just one way oceans have affected our state; our economy, weather patterns, and ecology are all influenced by our oceans. Helping students to connect to our oceans, and understand that oceans impact the ecology of the entire planet, regardless of where you live is one of the main objectives that I hope to accomplish as I move forward with this project. It is my sincere hope that through my experiences with the TAS program I will become a more effective communicator and stronger advocate for relating the importance of protecting our planet’s most valuable resource, our oceans.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the people that have helped make this opportunity possible. Thank you to the NOAA TAS program, the crew and scientists of the Reuben Lasker that I look forward to joining soon, Pratt Community College, my family and friends and my beautiful wife Janet. See you in San Francisco…

Images from the Sunflower State:

 

Figure 1.2  Upper left, wind and wheat, lower left, energy production, upper right, generalized flight plan, lower right, Chambers’ family (Sadie, Janet, & Kip).  All photos from DK Chambers, map from Google Earth.

Links:

Kip Chambers’ page on NOAA Teacher at Sea Program website:
http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/2017/Dave*Chambers/blogs

Kansas Geological Survey’s GeoKansas website:
http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Extension/home.html

Pacific Fishery Management Council’s documents on Coastal Pelagic Species assessments:
http://www.pcouncil.org/coastal-pelagic-species/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/