Tom Savage, Introduction, June 2, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
     (Almost)  On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
        June 10 – 19, 2015

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise:  North Atlantic
Date: June 2, 2015

Personal Log

Greetings from Western NC.  My name is Tom Savage, and I am a Science teacher at the Henderson County Early College in Flat Rock, NC. I currently teach Chemistry, Earth Science, Biology and Physical Science. In a few days I will be flying to Rhode Island and boarding NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow, a research vessel. We will be traveling in the North Atlantic region, mostly in Georges Bank which is located east of Cape Cod and the Islands.  The research mission will focus on two types of whales: Sei and Beaked Whales. Our primary goals will be photo-ID and biopsy collection, acoustic recording, and prey sampling.  I am looking forward to learning about the marine life and ocean ecosystem, and I look forward to sharing this knowledge with my students.

This will not be the first time that I have been out to sea.  A few years ago, I spent a week with eighteen other science teachers from across the county, scuba diving within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This week long program was sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation and NOAA.  This exceptional professional development provided an opportunity to explore, photograph and develop lesson plans with a focus on coral reefs. I also learned about how important the Gulf of Mexico is to the oil industry.  I had the opportunity to dive under an abandoned oil platform and discovered the rich, abundant animal life and how these structures improve the fish population.

Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked as a park ranger at many national parks including the Grand Canyon, Glacier and Acadia. Working at these national treasures was wonderful and very beneficial to my teaching.

Providing young adults with as many experiences and career possibilities is the hallmark of my teaching. During the year, I arrange a “Discover SCUBA” at the local YMCA. Students who have participated in this have gone on to become certified. In the fall I have offered “Discover Flying” at a local airport, sponsored by the “Young Eagles” program. Here students fly around our school and community witnessing their home from the air. A few students have gone on to study various aviation careers.

Flying
“Discover Flying”

 

I am very excited in learning about the many career opportunities that are available on NOAA research vessels. It would be very rewarding to see a few of my students become employed with the NOAA Corps or follow a career in science due to this voyage.

Regards,

~  Tom

 

 

Kaitlin Baird: From the Sargasso Sea to the Northeast Atlantic, August 19th, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaitlin Baird
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 4 – 20, 2012

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey with NOAA’s North East Fisheries  Science Center
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean from Cape May to Cape Hatteras
Date: August 19, 2012

Pre-cruise Personal Log

In a little over two weeks I am set to board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow at the Newport Rhode Island dock on a NOAA Fisheries survey cruise as a part of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program.  My name is Kaitlin Baird, and I am a science educator at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. At this U.S. based not-for-profit, I get to teach students from 2nd grade all the way up to my Road Scholar program. Many of my students come to visit the Institute from all over the world to learn more about the ocean around Bermuda. I have just finished up with 24 interns for the summer as a part of BIOS’ Ocean Academy and I am set for the next adventure!

I am originally from New Jersey where I grew up finding critters along the beaches of the Jersey shore. My mom always used to laugh when I tried to keep critters alive in the outdoor shower. I was one of those kids that was always in the water. Probably no big surprise that I went on to study and teach marine biology!  I am looking forward to my critter cruise and even more so looking forward to learning new species of the Northern Atlantic.

Sargasso Sea Map
The Sargasso Sea is the only sea without a land boundary and entirely in the Atlantic!
Have a look at this NOAA map above.

Being in the Sargasso Sea in Bermuda, we are subtropical. We get a whole suite of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove species. You can see some photos of some critters I’ve spotted this summer!

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I have a few goals for the cruise:

  1. Learn as much as possible from the scientists on the cruise
  2. Participate in taking and understanding data collected on the cruise
  3. Posting and taking photos of some of our critters surveyed on the cruise
  4. Explaining to my students what we are doing and why it’s important!

If there is anything you would like to learn more about as I travel, let me know in the “comments” section below!

Wish me luck, I’m headed North!

Janet Nelson: On Georges Bank, June 22, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area: North Atlantic
Friday, June 22, 2012 

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Longitude: 068 24.69 West
Latitude: 41.40.50 North
Wind speed: 7.9 kt
Air temp: 18.5 C
Depth: 194.7 feet (32.2 fathoms)

Science and Technology Log:

Our route in George’s Bank
Our route in George’s Bank

Yesterday was a 12 hour shift of towing the HabCam. The strangely unique thing about that was the terrain. We are on the western edge of Georges Bank and the sand waves on the ocean floor are incredible! There are waves as high as 10 meters that come upon you in a blink of an eye. By observing the side scan sonar it looks very similar to being in a desert, or on the surface of Mars. We refer to driving the HabCam through these areas as piloting the “White knuckle express”.

side scan sonar/sand waves
side scan sonar/sand waves

To get through these areas Scott was able to use geographic images collected by the United States Geological Survey and created an overlay of the pictures onto our tow path, alerting us to any possible hazards in navigation. This data allowed us to anticipate any potential dangers before they arose.

Irritated sea scallop
Irritated sea scallop

We continue to see skates, various fishes, lobsters and sand dollars, and in places, huge amounts of scallops. The images will be reviewed back at the lab in Woods Hole, MA. I have been able to see some of them and the clarity is amazing.

Today, we are continuing to tow the HabCam. When finished, we will have taken images from hundreds of nautical miles with over 4 million images taken on Leg II! We will put in the scallop dredge toward the end of my shift. We will then conduct back to back dredge tows on the way back to Woods Hole totaling over 100 nautical miles for this portion of the trip.

Me, heading in to get my foul weather gear on
Me, heading in to get my foul weather gear on

Personal Log:

Yesterday was a beautiful day at sea. It was, however, strange. The sea was really calm and the sun was shining in a big beautiful sky. The strange thing was that about 300 yards out was fog. There were many commercial fishing vessels all around us. It felt like being in an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or some creepy Steven King novel. I am thankful, however, for smooth sailing.

Commercial fishing vessel
Commercial fishing vessel

 

a day at sea
A day at sea

The crew continues to be awesome. We had flank steak and baked potatoes for supper last night. Lee, our chef, is amazing. Everything she makes is from scratch and there is always plenty. The only reason someone would go hungry on this ship is if it was by choice. Lee takes very good care of us! I have had ample opportunity to get to know others who share my shift. Mike, Jessica and I are science volunteers. Jon and Nicole are the NOAA staff along with Scott an associate scientist at WHOI( Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) on the science team. We get along “swimmingly” and have fun banter to break up any monotony.

I am sleeping very well at night. I think it’s the rocking of the ship that lulls me to sleep. I think I will miss that when I get home. Funny, how at the beginning of this journey I was cursing the very waves that now rock me to sleep. The way the body adjusts is amazing.

I will be home in four days. This week has swiftly gone by. Although I miss home, I feel I will miss people from this ship and the experience of being at sea (minus the sickness!) My mind is already putting together science lessons for my biology classes this fall. I do, however, have three full days left on this ship and I plan to make the most of it. Keep checking the blog to find out what happens next on the great adventure in the North Atlantic Ocean!

Sunset, 6/21/12
Sunset, 6/21/12

Alexandra Keenan: A Whale of an Adventure Begins! June 16, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra Keenan
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 18 – June 29

Mission: Cetacean biology
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine
Date: June 16, 2012

Personal Log

Saludos! My name is Alexandra Keenan, and I teach Astronomy and Physics at Rio Grande City High School. Rio Grande City is a rural town located at the arid edge of the Rio Grande Valley. Because of our unique position on the Texas-Mexico border, our community is characterized by a rich melding of language and culture. Life in a border town is not always easy, but my talented and dedicated colleagues at RGC High School passionately advocate for our students, and our outstanding students gracefully rise to and surmount the many challenges presented to them.

Che's
Me in downtown Rio Grande City. Our historic buildings are evocative of the old “Wild West.”
Rio Grande City
Taquerias dot the highway running through our town– evidence of the binational character of the community.

I applied to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program because making careers in science seem real and attainable to students is a priority in my classroom.  NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides a wonderful opportunity for teachers to have an interdisciplinary research experience aboard one of their research or survey ships. I believe that through this extraordinary opportunity,  I can make our units in scientific inquiry and sound come alive while increasing students’  interest in and enthusiasm for protecting our ocean planet. I will also be able to provide my students firsthand knowledge on careers at NOAA. I hope to show my students that there is a big, beautiful world out there worth protecting and that they too can have an adventure.

The adventure begins on June 18th when the NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow departs from Newport, RI. I’ll be on the vessel as a member of the scientific research party. We will be monitoring populations of the school-bus-sized North Atlantic right whale by:

  • using photo-identification techniques
  • obtaining biopsies from live whales (wow!)
  • catching zooplankton
  • recovering specials buoys that have been monitoring the whales’ acoustic behavior (the sounds they make)
Aerial view of North Atlantic right whale swimming with calf. (photo: NOAA)

Why would we do all of this? Because North Atlantic Right Whales are among the most endangered whales in the world. Historically, they were heavily hunted during the whaling era. Now, they are endangered by shipping vessels and commercial fishing equipment. The data we gather and analyze will help governing bodies make management decisions to protect these majestic animals.

NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow (photo: NOAA)

The next time you hear from me, it’ll be from the waters of the Gulf of Maine!

Fair winds!

Christopher Faist: Beast or Famine, July 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean and Seabird Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 30, 2011

Weather Data
Air Temp:  19 ºC
Water Temp: 18 ºC
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Water Depth: 64 meters

Science and Technology Log

When traveling in the ocean you never know what you will get.  Scientists can try to predict the weather or the amount of animals that will be seen in a particular area but nothing is as valuable as going to the area and recording what you see.  For the last couple of days we have been traveling in deep water off the continental shelf of the east coast of the United States.  Yesterday, we made a turn toward the edge of the shelf and we were very surprised by what we found.  (Check the Ship Tracker to view our path.)

The ocean can best be described as a patchy, dynamic environment.  Some days we have traveled for hours and not seen a single animal but on days like yesterday, we saw so many animals our single data recorder was busy all day.  Since the start of this cruise we have averaged about 30 sightings a days.  Yesterday, we had 30 sightings in the first 30 minutes of observation and ended with over 115 sightings.

Two Common Dolphins
Two Common Dolphins

Species ranged from abundant Common Dolphin, to rare and elusive beaked whales.  The sighting conditions were so outstanding the Marine Mammal Observers were identifying everything from a small warbler to the second largest whale, a Fin Whale.  Large whales, like Sei and Minke Whales, were concentrated in one area, while the dolphins were seen in other areas.  We passed over several undersea canyons and cetacean abundance over these canyons was like nothing one of the scientists had ever seen.

Two tools in the ship’s wide array of scientific tools, help scientists document the small animals that the whales and dolphins might be feeding on over the top of the canyons.  One is the XBT, or Expendable Bathythermograph, and the second is a VPR, or Video Plankton Recorder.  The XBT is launched from the moving ship to document the temperature  and water density along the ship’s track.  They are inexpensive and record data in real-time, giving accurate and up to date information about the area the animals are most abundant.  The VPR is a tool used at night, while the ship moves slowly, to take pictures of the plankton that occurs along our route.

Example of a VPR image
Example of a VPR image

The combination of temperature, depth and photographs of plankton gives scientists a clear picture of the environment that congregates large densities of cetaceans.  By understanding the factors that contribute to cetacean population changes, scientists are able to make recommendations to lawmakers about how to protect this natural resource from human impact like bycatch from the fishing industry or ship strikes in commonly trafficked shipping lanes.

Personal Log

I am disappointed that we only have two days left on our trip.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at sea.  Crazy weather this morning of 30 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas will not be a fun memory but thankfully, this evening the weather settled down and we watched a beautiful sunset while playing games on the top deck.  I am not sure that I could be a marine mammal observer but I look forward to taking this unique opportunity and turning it into a learning experience for my students.

Since this will be my last post from sea I thought I would leave you with some images of ocean life that was not a marine mammal or seabird.  Enjoy.

Flying Fish
Flying Fish
Blue Shark
Blue Shark
Dusky Shark
Dusky Shark

Christopher Faist: Introduction, July 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 14, 2011

Personal Log

My name is Chris Faist and I am a NOAA Teacher At Sea participant for the 2011 field season aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.  I teach middle school life science in southern California at Carmel Valley Middle School.  In a few days I will be traveling from Rhode Island to the coastal waters off the east coast to experience the North Atlantic for the first time.

I have been assigned to a cetacean (whale and dolphin), sea turtle and seabird survey cruise in the North Atlantic.  The cruise objectives are to:
1) determine the distribution and abundance of cetaceans, sea turtles and sea birds within the study area;
2) collect vocalizations of cetaceans using passive acoustic arrays;
3) determine the distribution and relative abundance of plankton;
4) collect hydrographic and meteorological data;
5) when possible, collect biopsy samples and photo-identification pictures of cetaceans.

Chris Faist with a Gray Whale
Chris Faist with a Gray Whale

As the trained observers look for animals, my job will be to record their observations in a computer system.  They will be reporting what species they see, the approximate number and location of the animals which I will then input into the ship’s computer.  These observations, as well as the recordings taken from our underwater microphone, or hydrophone, will allow scientists back in the lab to estimate the number of animals that live off the east coast of the United States.

All of my previous boat trips have been in the Pacific Ocean, so this cruise will give me an opportunity to see whales, like the North Atlantic Right Whale, that I have never seen before.

Wish me luck!

Anne Artz: Introduction, July 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 14, 2011

Personal Log

I’ve spent most of my life on the west coast, about a mile from the beach.   I teach Environmental Science and Biology to high school students and we frequently visit the Pacific Ocean to collect data.  This summer, I am doing research on the east coast leaving from Woods Hole, MA aboard the NOAA Ship Delaware II as part of NOAA‘s Teacher at Sea Program.

NOAA Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

I’m excited about our experiment – collecting data about the Sea Clam and Ocean Quahog.  My students already have a summer reading project about the particular species we are looking for and I hope to be able to share some new information with them when school begins in August.

I love the outdoors and am looking forward to a new adventure at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. I’m guessing it’s going to be different seeing the sun rise over the ocean instead of setting.

Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass. 
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F

Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.
Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts.  Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land.  Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface.  They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

lawrence_log6The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi.  We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer.  These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm.  It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed.  Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency.  These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.

The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!
The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!

Personal Log 

The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters.  When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now.  There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans. 

Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge
Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge

Questions of the Day 
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
1015mb pressure
Seas 2-4ft
Partly cloudy early, clearing sunny skies late afternoon

Science and Technology Log 

The bridge of a ship is a very busy place where all activities that are occurring on the ship being managed from this location.  When any equipment is going overboard it is the responsibility of the captain or first mate to ensure that it is done safely and correctly.  The ship must follow a predetermined route for each stations sampling and be kept on tract by precise navigating from the bridge. Whenever anything goes overboard the bridge has to be notified, it is important for the bridge to know everything that is in the water to avoid the boat from being fouled up by miscellaneous line in the water.  This could be dangerous and costly for the ship and crew.

Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures
Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures

Captain Bill Byam has been very helpful to me and my fellow teacher at sea making sure we have the availability of the crew and ship to write our journal entries and then submit them online to NOAA. The ship’s crew is also responsible for deployments and retrieving of all instruments put overboard the ship. Along with the dredge and occasional CTD is deployed to get a profile of the water column and collect water samples at varying depths.  The water samples can be used for a variety of things, such as water filtering to see what microscopic critters may be present, chemical analysis, as well as conductivity or salinity of the water.  The CTD is standard instruments used on most science research vessels.  The crew on the Sharp are very proficient, professional, and hard working as they also help with assisting the scientist with some of the work on deck.

Personal Log 

Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges
Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges

The cruise has gone very smoothly with lots of scientific data have been collected for future analysis. I have worked closely on the deck with members of the noon to midnight shift for almost two weeks.  In that time we have collected many samples of scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, many varieties of fish, and even occasional pieces of trash left from man’s misuse of the ocean.  I hope to be able to take the knowledge gleaned from this experience and the scientist onboard the ship and give my students back in Oklahoma a better understanding of our oceans and how their health impacts everyone around world even those in land-locked Oklahoma.  It has been my goal to better inform my 5th-8th grade students, my college students who are training to become teachers, and the general lay member how all of us impact the health of the oceans and how important the oceans are to us all in maintaining a homeostatic balance with the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere.   We all have much to gain with a healthy ocean system and much more to lose if we are not adequate in our stewardship of our oceans.

I would like to give a special thanks to Chief Scientist Stacy Rowe for allowing me to participate in all aspects of the cruise and collecting samples.  The team I am with are very cordial and extremely helpful in answering all my questions.  They made me feel a part of the team and not an outsider. It was great to work with a group of people who are so dedicated.  When one team member finished a task they simply moved to help another team member until the whole catch was sorted, measured, and weighed.  It is good to work with people who are equally vested in their work. No one person stood and watched as others worked, each did an equal share of the work and made sure the task was completed in a timely and organized fashion.  This made the long hours of the shift seem shorter and the days went by much quicker.  It is always good to be a part of a good team.  Thanks to the crew aboard the Sharp, and the scientist that made this trip a profitable one, not only for me but also for my students back in Oklahoma.  Thank you Bill Byam, captain aboard the Sharp and all of his dedicated crew.  The ship’s crew, were hospitable host and I really enjoyed meeting you all.  Thanks to NOAA for allowing a previous teacher at sea another opportunity to learn more about the oceans and have another lifetime memory to share with others. 

Questions of the Day 
What instrument does a ship use today to navigate in precise lines? (hint cars use it also to find their way around town)

Who is Hugh R. Sharp? (ship is named after him)

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
Temperature: 13˚C
Seas 3-4ft
1015 mb of pressure

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of sophisticated equipment aboard a science research vessel of today. Shad who is one of the scientists aboard the ship explained to me how they used to do scallop surveys on older ships just a few years ago. Then they would catch scallops using the dredge net that was then hauled onboard and dumped on the deck.  The scientist would then get on their hands and knees and sort through the pile for scallops or whatever they were looking for. The pile would have to be scoured twice to ensure everything was accounted for. There was a lot of shoveling and moving of the pile as things were being sorted. The work was long, dirty, and backbreaking.

Today the Sharp has a sorting table onboard which makes the job much easier and gives the ship and crew the availability of adding more stations to the survey and getting much more work done than in past seasons. Below is a photo of a magnetic measuring board.  The scallop or fish are placed on the board and a magnetic wand is put at the end of the sample where an accurate measurement is made and placed into the computer showing the size of the sample.  This process is much faster than measuring and recording by hand.  They are also weighed in large baskets to determine average weight of the catch.

Personal Log 

Scallops opening in the warm sun!
Scallops opening in the warm sun!

Some days have been very long at times yet fruitful.  A week has passed and we have collected thousands of scallops, hundreds of thousands of starfish, and many other species of bottom dwelling fishes and animals.  I have observed many varieties and species of animals that I have never seen before except on TV or in a textbook.  This hands-on experience will leave an indelible picture in my mind for many years of what research life is like onboard a research vessel. There are many dedicated scientist and crewmembers in NOAA fisheries that are insuring the viability of certain species so that commercial fishing does not over fish areas of our oceans.

These scientists do valuable research in the labs around the United States but also go out on research vessels and get their hands dirty, work extremely hard, and commit a large part of the personal lives to preservation of species in our oceans so that future generations can enjoy the wide diversity that our oceans provide for us today.  NOAA has scientist working all around the oceans of the United States as well as other parts of the world to give science a better understanding of the vital role each species has in its environment and how that species overpopulation or disappearance could impact the immediate area, larger habitat of the ocean, and the world as a whole. I feel more at ease knowing that there are dedicated people in the world ensuring not only the interest of humans but are also advocating for all species.  The diversity on earth is better understood every year giving scientist and the general public a better understanding of each species role on the world stage of life.

Question of the Day 
What does the term Keystone species mean?

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
NE winds 15-20KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving off land
Temperature at Sea 68˚F
Foggy with low visibility, light rain periodically

Science and Technology Log 

The crew is busy collecting scallops.  Occasionally between tows, the crew shuck scallops to eat onboard, this is allowable in open areas.  A meal of freshly shucked scallops will be enjoyed by those onboard the ship.  Shucking scallops is a skill that can be learned over several days.  A long curved skinny knife is inserted between the shells and part of the scallop is cut away from the shell.  With a little skill one more quick cut of the knife and all the inside parts of the scallop are whisked away leaving behind a cylinder shaped piece of white meat that is the part of the scallop enjoyed by people around the world.

TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).
TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).

Some dredges produced scallops exclusively, while others produce very few scallops and lots of starfishes or sand dollars.  Scientists are trying to understand the dynamics between the starfish and scallop populations as well as other species.  Getting rid or over fishing one species can have a profound effect on other species especially if that species is considered a keystone species in that particular environment.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)
The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp is one of the newer ships in the fleet of research vessels along the Atlantic coast. The ship is 146 feet long with state of the art equipment onboard to help it complete missions vital to ocean research.  It cost about $14,000 dollars a day to keep the ship doing research while at sea. The ship is very versatile and has completed a varied amount of differing research cruises along the east coast of the United States.  I am amazed at how quiet the ship is when running. I have been on two other research vessels, and they were much louder when underway.  The Sharp has diesel engines that run electric motors making it run much quieter and smoother than other research ships. The ship will also turn on a dime usually it takes quite of bit of time and space to turn a ship around. This is not true on the Sharp it will turn very quickly due the bow thrusters onboard the ship. The ship may be smaller than many research vessels, however it is versatile and efficient when conducting research along the Atlantic coast.

The crew which are captained by Bill Byam are well trained and prepared for the task required of them to make sure the science is completed in a timely manner and efficiently for the scientist aboard. I have found working with the crew to be an enjoyable experience.  The food onboard is superb, Paul is a great cook and prepares unique dishes for every meal and is also an avid fellow soccer fan.

Question of the Day 
What and how do scallops eat to survive?

Name two predators of scallops. 

Jeff Lawrence, June 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
S winds 5-10KT
Seas 1-2ft
Barometric pressure 1029mb
Air Temperature 78˚F
Visibility clear
Cold front moving offshore towards us later today, rain expected.

The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.
The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The sorting table is full of activity as soon as the dredge is pulled aboard the ship. After the crew secure all lines and dump the load the volunteers and scientist begin to sort through the biological that has been brought up from the bottom or the Atlantic Ocean.  Each dredge can bring a varied amount of sea life on the ship.  We are always looking for scallop, yet every third dredge we also sort for crabs. All fish are also sorted and counted.

After all the sorting is done the fish, scallops, and crabs are weighed and measured for length. They are then logged into the onboard computer for analysis of results for each catch.  We are trawling along closed areas for scallops. These areas have been closed for commercial fishing to ensure that the population has time to recover in that area. Scallop surveys are carried out by the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, in three phases during the summer.  Duane and I are on the second leg, which encompasses the area to the east of Delaware, areas around Long Island, and the area around Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Personal Log 

You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.
You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.

The work aboard the ship can be very long and laborious. The days are long, as each member of the cruise will do a 12-hour shift.  My shift is from noon to midnight.  The conditions can vary greatly during a shift. During the day the sun may be out with light winds and it gets very warm with all the wet weather gear that is worn during sorting. It is necessary to leave the gear on between dredges, since they occur so often. As soon as the sun goes down the temperatures can drop very rapidly.  It is important to keep a hooded sweatshirt and other warm weather gear nearby for the changing conditions.  All gear must be taken with you when you leave your cabin so that the other shift can sleep uninterrupted.  The days are long, with the goal of all who are onboard to get the science completed in a timely fashion.  Keeping a ship stored with goods and running is very expensive so the goal is to get as much science completed in the allotted time as possible.

Question of the Day 
What other bottom dwelling species in the Atlantic are under protection from over-fishing?

Animals Seen Today 
Scallops, eels, crabs, starfish, clams, silver dollars, urchins, goose fish, and many varieties of bottom dwelling fish.

Jeff Lawrence, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW winds: 5-10KT
Seas: 1-2ft
Barometric pressure: 1035 mb
Air Temperature: 75˚F
Visibility: clear

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp set sail this morning around 9AM from Lewes, DE.  There are 11 members of the scientific crew and volunteers, including two TAS participants: myself (Jeff Lawrence) from Oklahoma and Duane Sanders from Ohio.  We spent the morning introducing ourselves and watching safety videos in case of emergency on the ship.  A ship can be an exciting yet dangerous place to work.  There is no ambulance or fire department to call in case of a fire or other emergency. Each member aboard the ship is responsible for not only their own safety, but that of their shipmates also.  Above is a photo of Duane and I as we don the safety immersion suits also known as the “Gumby” suit.

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 11.19.00 PM
TAS Jeff Lawrence and TAS Duane Sanders don their immersion suits during a safety drill.

The suits can be difficult to don but everyone onboard is expected to know how to put the suit on effectively in case of an emergency at sea that may require us to abandon ship.  The waters off the northeast coast of the U.S. can still be quite cold even in early summer and hypothermia can set in a matter of minutes.

Bridge of R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Bridge of R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp has set sail for a station about 60 miles due east of Lewes, Delaware. I have been on two other research vessels with the Sharp being the smallest.  It is a newer ship and while quarters are quite close they are well maintained and comfortable.  The day started out with sunny skies and warm winds. The further out to sea we traverse the cooler the temperature feels as the wind blows across the cooler water.  We have just run into a fog bank and there is little to see at the present time.

Skies have cleared off and it is a beautiful day out in the Atlantic.  We are sailing to the first station and the crew aboard is getting everything ready for the first tow. There is a lot to do on the ship even when sailing between stations. The crew has to make sure there are not structural, hardware, or software problems before we arrive at the first station. As mentioned earlier I also onboard with another Teacher at Sea participant, his name is Duane Sanders and he teaches at a school near Cincinnati, Ohio.  Today has been a great start to the trip with the excellent weather and smooth sailing conditions.

Questions of the Day 
What is a Sea Scallop and are there differing varieties or species?

Name three other ships that do research for NOAA.

Lollie Garay, May 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 19, 2009

Day Shift Crew (left-ft): Larry Brady, Shayla Williams, Vic Nordahl, Gary Pearson, Shad Mahlum, Lollie Garay
Day Shift Crew (left-ft): Larry Brady, Shayla Williams, Vic Nordahl, Gary Pearson, Shad Mahlum, Lollie Garay

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 12.72˚C
True wind: 1.7 KT
Seas: 2-3 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Our day began on Station 170 with calm seas, clear skies and warm sunshine. We completed the last sampling tow late in the afternoon and began the final clean-up. All the equipment and gear was washed down and packed. We are now headed back to Lewes, Delaware where our voyage began.

Mary Moore waits on the dredge to come in.
Mary Moore waits on the dredge to come in.

It’s hard to believe 12 days have gone by already. It has been amazing journey and I have learned so much. The men and women whose work takes them to the seas are to be commended. It is hard work with long hours in all kinds of weather. But in all of science team and crew I sense the pride and the commitment each has for their work. I am going home with stories and images to share with my classroom, friends and family with a first-hand perspective. And I leave my crew with profound gratitude for all they have taught me.

Personal Log 

I spent some time last night talking with the youngest member of the ship’s crew, Mary Moore. Mary comes from four generations of commercial fishermen. She admitted that she decided early on she did not want to follow her parents’ footsteps .But after looking at other career choices she came full circle and does indeed work at sea. Mary earned a Hundred Ton License which allows her to drive vessels up to 100 tons. She went to school in Florida for Seaman Training where she learned Basic fire-fighting, First Aid/CPR, Survival at Sea, and Personal Responsibility. When I asked her what she liked most about her job or the sea she said, “Just being out at sea–it feels like home.” Watching the last rays of sunlight dancing on the smooth, rolling sea, I can understand what she means. In twelve days I found a personal sense of accomplishment and a love of the sea as well.

Lollie
Lollie

Lollie Garay, May 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

The camera is attached to the dredge
The camera is attached to the dredge

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Scattered showers, thunderstorms
Temp: 9.28˚ C
True wind: 13.4 KT

Science and Technology Log 

Today a video camera was attached to the dredge.  Using the camera they are able to see when the dredge is actually on the ground to determine the amount of bottom contact.  It is important to verify sensors like these anytime you work in science. The inclinometer records angle changes that we can interpret into a time on bottom which can be used to calculate a tow distance or bottom contact. This is compared to the tow distance calculated from the GPS recorded by FSCS.   Unfortunately, the inclinometer angle change is not abrupt enough to determine the start time, so the camera is used to determine the amount of time before we start recording tow distance with FSCS.

Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!
Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!

We have two days of sampling left and then we begin to clean and pack. The first dredge today brought up so many sand dollars that they had to shovel some away before they could even secure the dredge! By late afternoon we were back into starfish; in all the dredges the scallop count was comparatively small.

Personal Log 

Around 4PM the skies cleared and we had sunshine again! It was a welcome sight after days of fog, cloud cover, and cold. That, along with calmer seas, made for a great day. Sitting on deck in the warmth of the Sun watching the wave action, I reflect all the different moods of the sea I have seen. I also think about all the wondrous animals I have seen; and wonder about how much more life there is that we didn’t see.

Lollie and a heap of Sand dollars!
Lollie and a heap of sand dollars!

Lollie Garay, May 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 17, 2009

It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!
It was great to see the Sun again after all the fog!

Weather Date from the Bridge 
Showers/scattered thunderstorms
Temp: 12.2˚C
Winds: 11.1KT
Seas: 5-8 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We have completed 138 stations and are halfway through today’s shift. Our transit today will take us to the closest we’ve been to the coast. Having said that, we are still about 40 miles offshore. The weather today has been better than we expected. Seas are still choppy, and the air is very cool.

Captain Jimmy Warrington
Captain Jimmy Warrington

Working out on deck requires us to bundle up. The fog has lifted after cutting visibility down to 100 ft yesterday! The captain said that he had three different computers going at the same time to insure safe navigation. This led to a conversation about how technology has changed on ships. Captain Warrington said in the old days all they used were 2 radars, a stopwatch, and “dead reckoning” where they lay out a line of travel (their course) on paper. As you can see from my past conversations about the science night crewmembers, people come from all walks of life to work in NOAA’s Fisheries Service. I have not written about the science day crew because the other Teacher At Sea, Elise Olivieri is working with them. Check out her logs to see what’s happening on her shift! And what about the ship’s crew?

First Mate Chris Bogan
First Mate Chris Bogan

We have Vessel Master James Warrington (the Captain). He has been with the University of Delaware for 25 years, and a Captain for 18 years. He started out as an engineer and decided he would like it better on the bridge! He has to go through re-certification periodically to maintain his license. I asked him what his most interesting assignment of all time was and he said it was working at the Bermuda Biological Station. Chris Bogan has been a Vessel Master since 1983 and is the First Mate on this cruise. He told me that 90% of his family had been sea captains, on both sides of his family!

Cook Paul Gomez
Cook Paul Gomez

One of the most important crewmembers on board is Paul Gomez, the cook! Paul is originally from Ecuador. His family lives in New York, but Paul, his wife and children live in Delaware. Paul has worked with the University of Delaware for 5 years and stays out at sea most of the year. He has been out at sea for 165 days already this year. Paul says he really enjoys his work because of all the people he meets.  You can ask anyone on this cruise and they will tell you that he is a fabulous chef! And he is always smiling.

Personal Log 

Lollie in Foul Weather Gear
Lollie in Foul Weather Gear

We had a lot of smiles this evening. We are within satellite range that has brought our cell phones back to life, at least for awhile. We are just off the coast of Manhattan, so everyone got busy with a call home. We also got a glimpse of city lights off in the distance. As I was getting into my foul weather gear again tonight, I started thinking about how many times this has happened this week. We have averaged 9 stations per day on our shift and have been working for 9 days so far, which means that I have put on this gear 81 times. This may sound trivial to you, but it’s one of those little details that help you laugh as you near the end of another long 12 hour shift!

New animals Seen Today 

An interesting little crab (Parchment worm Polyonyx) that makes its home in Parchment Worm tubes.

Lollie Garay, May 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!
Look at the size of the rock the dredge brought up!

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 14.11 C
True wind: 11KT
Seas: 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Our day begins with calmer seas and some sunshine, the fog lingers, draped softly over the sea. We are making good progress in the number of stations sampled. However, there is word that a storm may be approaching on Sunday. We expect to be closer to the coastline by then, so perhaps we won’t feel the full brunt of the weather system. Wave action will determine if the dredge is deployed or not.

Looking through a Windowpane fish!
Looking through a Windowpane fish!

By late afternoon through tonight the winds have picked up again. Waves are pounding the ship as we move between stations. We’ve had some interesting catches today, mostly sand dollars with few scallops. But this evening we pulled up a large boulder! Then we had a catch with no scallops at all. Another dredge brought up a Windowpane flounder also known as daylight. If you hold it up to the light, you can see right through it! Another interesting specimen is the black rectangular egg sac of a Skate. You can see the embryo of the fish inside when you hold it up to the light as well. You just never know what‘s going to come up in the net. Yesterday I was talking about the green slimy secretion from sand dollars. Today Shad was telling me about Horseshoe Crabs. Turns out they have blue blood, the result of using copper to oxidize their blood instead of oxygen like we do!

Personal Log 

Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?
Can you see the Skate embryo in the sac?

In the few minutes that we have between stations, it‘s not unusual to hear the crew talking about their families and loved ones. Anecdotes shared accentuate the human factor in this service. Especially late in the shift, it’s fun to exchange stories about home. I’m back in my cabin ready to call it a night. As I lay in my bunk I feel the ship fighting against the waves. A funny thought occurred to me: the cabins are below the water! We’ve been sleeping “in the sea”!

New animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth fish Liparid (sea snail)

A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.
A Horseshoe Crab hurries across the sorting table.

Lollie Garay, May 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚C
True wind: 4.1 KT
Seas: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?
See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?

We’ve been at sea for seven days now and the daily sampling continues. Winds are not as strong as yesterday and we’re all glad. Skies are overcast and a thick fog surrounds us. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred today. By the time our shift ended we had completed 9 sampling stations. The majority of the dredges brought up were full of sand dollars. Lots of sand dollars mean slimy green secretions all over everything! Live sand dollars have a felt-like coating of fine spines. They shuffle through loose sand and feed on diatoms and microorganisms. Flounders and other bottom fishes feed on them. Their color is highly soluble and stains.

Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.
Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.

I’ll continue my conversations about my day shift crew. Larry Brady is a Biological Science Technician with the NOAA Fisheries Service. A former business manager with McGraw-Hill, he began volunteering with the Northeast Region Fisheries Services Sandy Hooks Lab in New Jersey. He found he really enjoyed what he did. One thing led to another and he has now been with the NOAA fisheries for 9 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the FSCS hardware and auditing data.

Dr. Shayla D. Williams is a research chemist at the Howard Marine Science Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She is researching fatty acid chemical tracers in two Northeast fisheries key resource species: Summer Flounders and Black Sea Bass. Fatty acids are a reflection of one’s diet.  As Dr. Williams says, “You are what you eat.” Gary Pearson is on his first survey cruise. Formerly with the Massachusetts Military Reservation, 102nd Fighter Wing division, he has been with the NOAA Fisheries Service maintenance department for three years. Gary works with just about every physical aspect of this survey, except for data entry. 

Personal Log 

Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.
Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.

As the night shift came on duty tonight, “Doc” A.J. told me that he had sandwiched his head between pillows to keep from rolling around and slept just fine through the tempestuous day. So, once I finally got to my bunk I thought about what he said. I only had one pillow, but I did have my life jacket. So, I tucked myself between the life jacket and the wall. He was right! I didn’t roll either and slept all through the night!

New Animals Seen Today 

Spiny Dogfish (2) Pipe fish

Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
A Pipe Fish
A Pipe Fish

Lollie Garay, May 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 14.89C
True Wind: 18KTs
Seas: 4-6ft

Science and Technology Log 

Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab
Vic Nordahl and Shad Mahlum in the wet lab

We are at station 90 as I write, or try to write.  A front has moved in and brought wind and wave action that has us rolling. As I sit in the wet lab, the wind data on the computer jumps from 20-24 KTs. I had to write this journal entry by hand first because it was too difficult to work on the computer! However work proceeds, we just need to secure anything that can fall or roll. So how do we get on “station”? Stations are a pre-determined number of sampling stratums identified by beginning and ending Latitudes and Longitudes. Stratum is defined by depth intervals. Sampling is done in the same stratums every year, but the actual stations may not be the same.

Last night I was out on deck and saw lights dancing in the middle of the darkness. I was told they were the lights from other vessels. I asked why there were fishermen here if this was a closed area. Turns out that some commercial fishermen have special access permits that allow them to fish in pass-by zones. They can only use these permits a certain number of times for a certain number of years. I also learned that they are monitored by a satellite system that can see who is there.

A front brings fog and high seas, again!
A front brings fog and high seas, again!

I have mentioned some members of my shift crew in my logs. I would like to talk a little more about who they are, what they do and why they are here, in my remaining logs. Chief Scientist Kevin has been with the Fisheries Service since 2002. He is responsible for the overall operations on the science side. He oversees the Watch Chiefs; is responsible for data auditing and cruise track planning; and maintains communication with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute about the progress of the survey.

Vic Nordahl is a Fishery Biologist at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole and is part of the senior staff of the group. He mentors and supervises the fisheries survey team and is out at sea two times a year with the scallop survey. He also does a triennial Surf Clam and Quahog survey. He is currently working on calibrating a time series between the NOAA Ship Albatross and the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp. The Albatross has been retired after 36 years of service. Shad Mahlum, our Watch Chief, is a Sea Tech with NOAA Fisheries Service. Before joining NOAA a year ago, he served 7 years in the Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard, Shad attended school in Bozeman Montana where he studied Zoology and Fresh Water fisheries.

Personal Log 

This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.
This exotic looking creature is a Chain Dogfish.

Before I had even opened my eyes, I felt the ship rolling. Winds from a front that moved in are churning up the seas which make simple things like showering a real challenge. I know that while we are towing the dredge the ship moves slower so I waited in bed until I felt us slow down. Then I jumped up and raced into the shower hoping I could make it through getting dressed before we picked up speed. I almost made it! During one of our last stations a HUGE wave crashed all the way across the stern. I was in the wet lab processing scallops when I heard and saw the action. Wish I had had my camera ready! I think we work harder during these wave events because it’s just so hard to do anything without straining those sea legs and arms to maintain your balance! Hope we have a calmer day tomorrow.

New Animals Seen Today 

Chain Dogfish 

Lollie Garay, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚ C
Wind: E-SE 8.9 KT
Seas: 3-5 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

“Monkey Dung”
“Monkey Dung”

The seas have been favorable to us again and we begin work under sunshine skies. We are still sampling in the Elephant Trunk area.  At this writing we are approaching station #75. We have had a variety of different catches today; in fact most dredges are different. One might be full of starfish, another full of sand or mud and crabs, and others full of scallops – every one of them is different. The biggest dredge of the day brought up about 4000 scallops!

Starfish and crab are also sorted and counted at every third station. There are primarily 3 different types of starfish in this area. Researchers do a representative sampling to estimate what types are out here. So far the biggest starfish I have seen had arms about 24 cm long (Asterias vulgaris); the smallest about .5cm. (Asterias forbesi). Starfish are natural predators to scallops. I have noticed that when the catch has lots of starfish, the numbers of scallops goes down. I asked Vic Nordahl about this and he said that it may be possible that the number of starfish suggests the results of predation, or it could simply be that this area is not good for scallops. Crabs are counted to determine numbers and distribution. The majority of crabs in this area are from the Genus Cancer: Rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) and Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis).

A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!
A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!

Sulphur sponges, or Monkey Dung, also come up in the dredges. It‘s a yellow thick sponge with pores so small that there don’t appear to be any. It smells like sulphur and looks like monkey dung! Are sponges plant or animal?  There is still some question about whether a sponge is an individual or a colony of sponges. Sponges are the most primitive of multi-cellular animals, and lack organs or systems. What we see in the dredges is only a very small sampling of the variety and numbers of species that call the sea “home”. And every organism that comes up in the dredges validates the reason for conducting fishery surveys.

Personal Log 

The 12 hours of work we put in each day goes by fairly quickly. My shift crew members lighten up the long day with their sense of humors and laughter.  But make no mistake, they take their work very seriously. I am always asking questions (as usual) and they always respond patiently. I really feel like a contributing member of this team now, not just a visitor. The night was cold on deck, so I head to my cabin with a cup of hot tea at the end of my shift. Tomorrow is a new day!

Answer to the question: What’s the difference between a Deep Sea scallop and a Bay scallop? 

Unusual eggs—what kind are they?
Unusual eggs—what kind are they?

A deep sea scallop is orange or cream colored, is a larger scallop and has a larger meat (adductor muscle).  The shell is not as concave and lacks the ridges of the bay scallop shell. They are distributed in depths from 20 meters to 150 meters.  A Bay scallop is smaller in size and has a smaller meat in proportion to the shell size. The shell is ridged and usually mottled colored in shades of red, white, brown and tan.  They tend to be distributed in depths from right at shore to 20 meters.  They occupy different habitats.

New Question of the Day 
What is the connection between false Quahogs and the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts?

Animals Seen Today 
Razor clams, Ocean Quahogs, False Quahog, Pod of Dolphins (racing around the ship again!), Cragmon shrimp, Red spiked Sea Urchin, Storm Petrels, Sheer water gulls, and Common gulls.

Lollie Garay, May 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
High pressure ridge building late today until wed
Temperature: 12.22˚ C
True winds: 5KTS Seas: 2-4 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Wynne readies the CTD.
Wynne readies the CTD.

As soon as our shift began today, the dredge was already on deck so we went straight to work. After several stations I noticed that the scallop and crab count was lower than yesterday. We are working in an area called Elephant Trunk. It is named this because the bathymetry of the sea floor makes it look like one. We have many stations in this Closed area, so we may see an increase in scallop numbers as the shift progresses.

Today I learned about “clappers”. Clappers are scallop shells that have no meat in them. They are sorted out from the rest and counted. I asked Vic Nordahl why they were important and he said that clappers give us an estimation of natural mortality or predation, so they need to keep count of how many are found.

Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?
Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?

Between dredges today, I spoke with Wynne Tucker. Wynne is an oceanographic tech from the University of Delaware and is in her third season on this research vessel. Wynne does a CTD cast every third station. A CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. She takes samples in the water column at depths of 50-70M. Sensors on the CTD send information to a computer where the data is recorded. The CTD also records information about fluorescence, presence of particulates, and oxygen. The data gives us a visual of the water column which is then sent to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for analysis. When Wynne is not doing CTD casts, she is working at many different jobs Larry Brady and I processed some special samples this evening. We usually measure 5 scallops. Two of the samples had a larval or young Red Hake inside. It lives inside the scallop shell for protection from predators and is tucked on one side of it. This is not a symbiotic relationship, rather more commensalism. I continue to be amazed about the life systems in these waters!

Personal Log 

Elise Olivieri (the teacher from New York) and I have made plans to photograph each other as we work. We work different 12 hour shifts so we do not see each other except during the shift change. And as we have both learned, there is not time for picture taking once the work begins! Unfortunately, our pictures will not be included in our journals at this time, but will be added upon our return!

Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!
Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!

My day ended with two incredible sights. First, as I carried the special samples up to the storage cage, I looked out from the portside at a totally dark scene. You could not make out sky or sea- it all blended into …black! I have never seen anything quite like that before. The second occurred on the starboard side just as I was ending my shift.  Glen Rountree (NOAA Fisheries Service volunteer) told me he had seen a strange red light in the sky and after looking through his binoculars realized it was the Moon. Elise and I grabbed our cameras and went out on deck. It was beautiful! One solitary red light in the middle of black! It was a good way to end the day.

Question of the Day 
What is the difference between symbiosis and commensalism?

Animals Seen Today 
Spider Crab, Sea Squirts, Gulf Stream Flounders, and Bobtail Squid. 

Lollie Garay, May 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 11, 2009

Look at the scallops!
Look at the scallops!

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Stationary front persists
Temperature: 53˚F
Winds 10-20 KT
Seas 4-6 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

The new day brings overcast skies and a very aggressive science agenda. When I walked out on deck at the beginning of my shift I noticed everyone was bundled up, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. I also noticed many baskets of scallops-everywhere! Yesterday we were working in an Open area where commercial fishing is allowed, and the number of scallops we brought up in the dredge was very small. We even had one catch with no scallops! Why is this?

Is it overfishing, predation, larval transport lack of success, or just not a good area for scallops?

Gear is always ready to "jump into"!
Gear is always ready to “jump into”!

Today we were working in a Closed area and the number of scallops I saw was amazing. As the day progressed we continued to get large numbers in the catch and a variety of sizes. This area is very productive, the result of being allowed time to reproduce and grow.  As we move northward now, I was told that the number of scallops will grow even more. As promised, the work today was intense. We moved quickly between stations which meant that we had to process the catch and cleanup before the other station. (Sampling is done at pre-determined sites called stations.) The science team has a limited number of days for this survey, so the pace will most likely stay the same. We are at station 55/560 this evening!

Personal Log 

I think I have settled into the routine of doing a scallop survey. The timing between dredges varies, but I can anticipate when I have to put on my gear and be ready to go. The gear I speak of includes rubber coveralls, life jacket, rubber boots and gloves. They are always “at the ready” next to the lab door, along with cameras! After my first station at the sorting table I fully understood why we have to wear these cumbersome outfits. When we are finished sorting we have sand, mud, and stuff all over us! When the work for each station is complete, we hose off everything including ourselves! The evenings get really cool out here, so I have a light jacket to wear under my gear. This morning when I retrieved it from the lab I couldn’t decide whether to wash it or burn it!

What is this unusual fish? A smiling Skate
What is this unusual fish? A smiling Skate

Sometimes when the stations are very close to each other I stay in my gear and sit on deck to work on my journals or, just sit. Gazing out to the sea, I can understand the sense of responsibility these researchers have for insuring the sustainability of the seas. The ability to hold some of these marine specimens right out of the ocean brings meaning to this work.

Animals Seen Today 

Horseshoe Crabs, Sand dollars, Sand cucumbers, Sea Mouse, and Sea Urchin.

Question of the Day 

What color are Sand Dollars when they are alive?

Lollie Garay, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table
The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Stationary front persists
West winds 10-20KT Seas 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We began our shift today sampling in an area called Del Marva Closed Area, which is an area currently closed to scallop fishing. We conducted 8 dredge hauls last night in spite of the turbulent weather that pursued us. But today, we had calmer seas and beautiful blue skies.

The serious work of sorting and measuring the catch begins right after the dredge is brought up and secured. As it is coming up, someone on either side of the dredge uses a rake to shake the net which allows the catch to fall out. After the net is secured, readings are taken using from a sensor mounted to the dredge. The sensor is called an inclinometer; it measures the dredge angle during the 15minute tow.  This allows the scientists to calculate the amount of time the dredge is on the bottom. Then I hop on the table to hold a whiteboard with the pertinent station information written on it next to the catch which is photographed for documentation. Then the frenzy begins! I leave and someone else gets on the sorting table to rake the catch towards waiting sorters who have several buckets and baskets ready.

The sorting begins!
The sorting begins!

The catch is a mixture of scallops, crabs, fish, lots of starfish, assorted other specimens and sometimes sand. We are primarily sorting out sea scallops and fish, but have had some stations that require us to sort out crabs as well. We work quickly to separate the catch which is then taken into the wet lab for measurement. I have been working with Larry Brady from NOAA Fisheries, learning how to measure scallops using the FSCS system. The FSCS is the Fisheries Scientific Computer System which is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data. FSCS uses touchscreen monitors, motion compensation scales and electronic measuring boards. I feed Larry the scallops one after the other as he measures them using a magnetic wand. This information is automatically recorded into the data base. Last night we had a large number of scallops to process. However, today we have seen less and less; in fact we had one catch with none! The fish are not as plentiful either although we have seen various different specimens.

Starfish are plentiful on this catch!
Starfish are plentiful on this catch!

There are also special scallop samples that need to be processed. First, the scallops are cleaned with wire brushes. Then they are weighed in their shells. After this is recorded, they are opened to remove the meat and gonads, which are weighed separately. This information provides us with the gender of the scallop and can approximate their age. I dry the shells and number them. Then I put them into a cloth sack, tag them with identifying information and put them into the deep freeze.

The fish are also weighed and their species is recorded. Sometimes specimens need to be counted (I counted small crabs today).  Once all the measurements are taken, everything is washed down! That includes the deck, the sorting table all the catch buckets, the FSCS measuring boards and the lab floors. We are then ready for the next dredge haul which follows approximately 20-30 minutes later. This pace continues throughout the shift, barring any mechanical or weather issues.

Personal Log 

Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.
Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.

I am very impressed by the precision of the work that the science team does. As I waited for the dredge to unload a catch this evening I reflected on how everyone does their job quickly and efficiently. It’s something I never fully appreciated – that there are people out on the seas doing this very thing all the time! Already in one full day, they have taught me so much about how the fisheries system works, and they have expanded my knowledge of different marine organisms. Even as we sort quickly through the catch, they are always identifying specimens to me and answering my questions.

Loligo Squid
Loligo Squid

One of the most amazing sights for me has been the incredible number of starfish that each catch brings up! I have never seen so many, and I am learning about the different types. I am also learning how to shuck scallops for the galley for dinner. So far this has not been strength of mine, but I am determined to master this skill! By the way, our lunch today was scallop soup! The beautiful sunset today gave way to the almost-full moon shining on the seas. My shift is over for tonight, I’d best get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Dolphins—made a quick but too brief appearance alongside the ship today. I caught a glimpse as they raced by. Polka dot Kuskeel; Baby Goosefish; Loligo Squid (pronounced Lollie go!) Snake Eel; and Clear Nose Skate.

Lollie Garay, May 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW winds 10-15KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving of land

Science and Technology Log 

Research Vessel Hugh R.Sharp just before we set sail
Research Vessel Hugh R.Sharp just before we set sail

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp set sail this morning around 8AM from Lewes, DE.  There are 13 members of a science team including two teachers: Elise Olivieri and myself. There are 9 crew members as well, for a total of 22 people onboard. We met this morning for introductions and a briefing on the schedule of the day. Captain Jimmy Warrington gave safety instructions and a muster drill was held on the stern of the ship. With logistics covered, the team got to work preparing for a test tow of the scallop dredge. The dredge is 8ft wide and is made of a metal frame from which netting and a bag constructed of rings is attached aftward. It is lowered with a winch off the stern of the vessel and descends to depths that range from 10 meters to 150 meters. As the ship moves at a speed of 3.8 nautical miles per hour for 15 minutes, organism is being scraped off the seafloor. A test tow is conducted near the shore to make sure this important equipment is working properly. In the event that something needs work, we are close enough to go back for repairs

Lollie in her survival suit during the muster drill
Lollie in her survival suit during the muster drill

The focus of this NOAA Fisheries cruise is to survey the population of Placopecten magellanicus, the deep-sea scallop.  Chief scientist Kevin McIntosh (NOAA-Fisheries) leads the team of researchers for Leg 1 of this survey which will do representative sampling.  Victor Nordahl (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for organizing the sampling survey. The NOAA Fisheries Service monitors the populations of sea scallops in the federal waters on the Eastern continental shelf of the U.S.  In 2007, scallops represented the most valuable commercial fishery, along with lobsters. It is critical to monitor their populations to avoid over-fishing of these waters. Fishing areas are either open or closed, meaning that fishing is either allowed or not. Closed areas allow time for repopulation of the area of the commercial species. Temperature and depth are important for scallops. The species we are studying are found in waters cooler than 20C (68F) along the North Atlantic continental shelf area between Newfoundland and North Carolina. In the 12day time period of Leg 1 of this survey, we will conduct about 15 sampling stations per day, working 24hrs a day. I am working the noon-midnight shift. Today being the first day, my team will work from 4pm-midnight.On Sunday we begin the 12 hr. shifts. Each crew has a Watch Chief responsible for making sure everything runs well with the survey on his watch. Our Watch Chief is Shad Mahlum (NOAA Fisheries).

Personal Log 

Rough seas sure made it hard to get those sea legs going!
Rough seas sure made it hard to get those sea legs going!

My bunk mate for this cruise is Elise Olivieri, a TAS from New York. We share a small room with bunks and on the first night we realized that without a ladder to use, she definitely had to take the top! (Elise has more height to her than I!) We experienced some rough seas this first day due to storms that were circling around. When night fell, we could see lightning in the distance. We were tossed around quite a bit during the late hours of our shift, bumping into walls, equipment and each other! Waves pounded over onto the deck where we worked and sprayed chilly waters over everything it could reach. Sure made it hard to get those sea legs going.

By the end of my shift I felt that I had a good understanding of my role on the survey team. I am working with a great group people who have been most patient with all my questions. They are teaching me a lot about scallops, marine life and the importance of their jobs. This is going to be a great experience!

Question of the Day 

What’s the difference between an East Coast Deep Sea Scallop and an East Coast Bay Scallop?

Rebecca Bell, August 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 23, 2008

Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent beneath the water.
Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent under.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1919(GMT)
Latitude: 4219.5N Longitude: 6812.5 W
Air Temp 0C: 20.7
Sea Water Temp 0C: 19.6

Science and Technology Log 

The Shrinky Cup Caper 

A trip to sea is not complete without the classic experiment on ocean depth and pressure— Styrofoam cup shrinking. Styrofoam cups are decorated with markers, and then lowered in a bag attached to the cable during a vertical cast. In our experiments, pressure is measured in decibars (dbar). This means that 1 dbar equals about 1 meter of depth. So 100 dbars = 100 meters; 1000 dbars =1000 meters. For every 10m (33ft) of water depth, the pressure increases by about 15 pounds per square inch (psi). At depth, pressure from the overlying ocean water becomes very high, but water is only slightly compressible. At a depth of 4,000 meters, water decreases in volume only by 1.8 percent. Although the high pressure at depth has only a slight effect on the water, it has a much greater effect on easily compressible materials such as Styrofoam.

Attaching the bag of cups to cable Over they go!
Attaching the cups

Styrofoam has air in it. As the cups go down, pressure forces out the air. See the results of the experiment for yourself. The depth of the cast was 200 meters or about 600 feet. (You can now calculate the total lbs of pressure on the cups). Addendum: Alison discovered that putting one of the shrunken cups down a second time resulted in an even smaller cup. The cups were sent to 200 meters again. Below right is a photo of the result of reshrinking the cup. Apparently, time has something to do with the final size as well. Resources: NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site – Explorations; Submarine Ring of Fire. AMNH Explore the Deep Oceans Lessons.

Over they go!
Over they go!

Personal Log 

There is a noticeable difference in the amount of plankton we pull in at different depths and temperatures. I can fairly well predict what we will net based on the depth and temperature at a sample site. I’ve also noticed that the presence of sea birds means to start looking for whales and dolphins. I assume that where there is a lot of plankton (food) there are more fish and other lunch menu items for birds and dolphins. A high population of plankton means we are more likely to see more kinds of larger animals.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Krill
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphins
  • Terns
  • Minke whales
  • Pilot whales
  • Mola mola (4)
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right, the original size
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right,
the original size

Rebecca Bell, August 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4224.2 N Longitude: 6659.1 W
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 202m

Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!
Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a buoy! Today has been busy—a vertical cast, baby bongos and the big bongos. But let me tell you about the other things. First of all, Alison and I deployed my very own buoy. NOAA has an Adopt-A-Drifter (buoy) program. Jerry Prezioso, our Chief Scientist, thoughtfully signed me up for it before we sailed. We deployed it today at George’s Bank, the deepest station we will reach.

The deployment consisted of picking up the basketball-sized buoy and throwing it over the side. There is a transmitter in the black float which will allow us to track the buoy’s motion for years. NOAA uses these buoys to assemble weather reports, monitor climate changes, etc. The buoy consists of the round ball with the transmitter and a “drogue” a long “tube” of cloth that fills with water. The purpose of the tube is to make sure it is the ocean current that moves the buoy, not wind.

With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean
With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean

There is a diagram on the Adopt-A-Drifter site. The ball and drogue (sounds like an English pub) are attached to a metal ring which anchors the drogue and the ball. Here I am with the MSDE-decorated buoy. You can barely see the metal ring. The drogue is the green thing, folded up. You throw the whole thing overboard. The paper and tape dissolve and the drogue unfurls. It has to be kept tied up so you don’t go overboard with the drifter.  NOAA’s Office of Climate Observation sponsors the “Adopt-A- Drifter” program.  According to the Web site: “The “Adopt-A- Drifter” program (allows you to access) information about drifting buoys (drifters) that move with the ocean currents around the globe. The drifter floats in the ocean water and is powered by batteries located in the dome. The drifter data that are collected, including location with a GPS, are sent to a satellite and then to a land station where everyone can access the data.

And off it goes on its long journey
And off it goes on its long journey

Drifters are continually being deployed from ships around the world. They last for a number of years unless they collide with something like an island in the middle of the ocean or a continent. Each drifter receives aWMO ID # (World Meteorological Organization Identification Number) so the data can be archived. The purpose of the drifters is to gather the information necessary for countries to: 1) forecast and assess climate variability and change, and 2) effectively plan for and manage response to climate change.”

This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge
This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge

We will release it in George’s Basin at 4224.2 N latitude; 6659.1 W longitude. This is an interesting area because of the way currents converge near this site.  Above is a map of the area.  Below it is a diagram showing the major currents.

A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II
A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II

As you can see, the buoy was deployed where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current encounter each other. There is a chance that the buoy will travel into the Gulf Stream or through the Northeast Channel into the North Atlantic Current. It might also just stay within the basin, caught in the large gyre within the Basin. You can get on-line and track the buoy to see what happens to it.

More from the Web site:

“The Adopt-A- Drifter program provides an opportunity for teachers to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. An educational sticker from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and teachers and their students access sea surface temperature and/or sea surface pressure data from the drifter online. Students plot the coordinates of the drifter on a tracking chart as it moves freely across the ocean and make connections between the data accessed on line and other maps showing ocean currents and winds. Drifter data are used to track major ocean currents and eddies globally, ground truth data from satellites, build models of climate and weather patterns and predict the movement of pollutants if dumped or accidentally spilled into the sea. It is important for teachers and students to understand how the data are measured, how often data are downloaded, and what data are available for schools and the general public to access.”

Source: Modified from Follow the world’s ocean currents with NOAA’s Adopt a Drifter Program 

Stanitski, D.M.; Hammond, J. OCEANS, 2005. Proceedings of MTS/IEEE

Personal Log 

As we move further north, our nets started pulling in krill. I hoped that whales were not far behind. I was not disappointed. Yesterday we encountered dolphins on three separate occasions. One group came very near the ship and I have some good video of them “porpoising” through the waves. We also spotted a whale spout, but I could not see the whale. Later in the day, during our safety drill, I was looking out to sea just as a pilot whale leaped straight into the air. We were able to see that there were a number of these whales feeding in that area. Towards afternoon, we saw a group of Minke whales. In late afternoon, another spout was spotted and we saw a huge tail disappear under the water- probably a humpback whale.

For More Information 

NOAA’s Adopt-A- Drifter Program

NOAA Lesson plans: Ocean Currents

Climate Observation System

Ocean Explorer related lesson: Islands in the Stream- How geologic feature(s) in the structure of the ocean floor may cause an eddy to form in the current above it

NOAA National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service Lesson on the dynamics of the ocean using satellite data; Investigating the Gulf Stream 

NASA Lesson: Global Winds

Climate and Weather Animations Educypedia

NOAA Office of Climate Observation

NOAA Buoy and Drifter Oceanography 

Rebecca Bell, August 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4000.7 N Longitude: 6931.5
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 114m

The Delaware’slatest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank
The Delaware’s latest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank

Science and Technology Log 

We are heading east out to sea, right now at 4005 N latitude, 6942 W longitude. (Pull out those atlases). We will begin a turn north towards Georges Bank. Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Georges Bank is (was) one of the most productive North Atlantic fisheries (Grand Banks being the most productive). “Legend has it that the first European sailors found cod so abundant that they could be scooped out of the water in baskets. Until the last decades of this century these banks were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds… (Source: AMNH web site below).

This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.
This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.

Northeastern fishery landings are valued at approximately $800 million dockside, of which a large proportion is produced on Georges Bank. Recently, scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have undertaken an effort to document direct interactions between physical environmental factors and the abundance and distribution of fishery species. (Source: USGS below). This means that the water chemistry, temperature and other factors affect how many fish there are, how many kinds of fish there are, and where they are. The article from USGS explains that the sea floor sediments that form Georges Bank came from the time when glaciers scoured the area. Since that time, sea level has risen, covering the glacial sediments, and tides and currents are eroding the bottom. When this erosion happens, small sediment particles are winnowed out by tides and currents leaving larger gravel-sized sediments on the floor. This kind of surface is good for scallop larvae and other small animals so they can settle on the bottom and not get buried by sand. Thus, the type of sediment on the ocean floor helps determine what kinds of animals can live there.

This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Interestingly enough, politics and international relations have affected our trip to Georges Bank. We have been waiting for clearance through the U.S. State Department working with the Canadian government, to get permission to go into Canadian waters. As Wikipedia explains below, part of Georges Bank is “owned” by the U.S. and part is “owned” by Canada. Our route is to take us through the eastern part of Georges Bank, the part owned by Canada. Unfortunately, due to the speed of processing the request, we just this morning found out we got clearance to go there. If the request had been denied, we would have had to sail around the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to avoid Canadian waters. Fortunately, we are now good to go.

From Wikipedia: 

“During the 1960s and 1970s, oil exploration companies determined that the seafloor beneath Georges Bank possesses untold petroleum reserves. However, both Canada and the United States agreed to a moratorium on exploration and production activities in lieu of conservation of its waters for the fisheries.

The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each respective nation. In recognition of the controversy, both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 NM limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada’s portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.”

American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/biobulletin/biobulletin/story1208.html (easy to medium to read)

USGS http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/georges-bank/ (more difficult to read) The map above is also from the USGS website.

Personal Log 

It’s been a very quiet day today. We had several station samples this morning. At the first one, around 6:30 a.m. one of the crew members spotted two whales. They were too far away to see what kind they were. I, unfortunately, was inside the ship at that time and missed it. However, we are heading north so maybe we will have a chance to see some.

Rebecca Bell, August 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   1807 (GMT)
Latitude:  36.05.40 N Longitude: 75.24.30 W
Air Temp 0C: 25.3 0C
Sea Water Temp:  26.7 0C

On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods
On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods

Science and Technology Log 

The most common zooplankton we have seen so far are salps, amphipods, arrow worms and copepods. Pteropods (sea butterfly) have been in a number of samples but are not numerous. Salps look like clear, jelly-like marbles. We’ve encountered these animals in warm, shallow water. They are holoplanktonic relatives of sea squirts (Urochordata). Salps are filter feeders, using cilia to move suspended particles from the water. They feed by pumping water through a sieve to remove bacteria and nanoplankton, and are thus, a very important link in the food chain. Some species of salps form huge chains by budding. They show both sexual and asexual life stages. For more about salps and photos see this website.

Amphipods are also extremely common crustaceans. There is no carapace (shell-like covering), but their bodies are flattened side-to-side, much like a shrimp.  Their bodies are segmented with 6 segments in the head, 8 in the thorax and 6 in the abdomen.1 They have a brood pouch on their thoracic limbs. They have a variety of limbs used for feeding, crawling or jumping. One group lives off a host, feeding on salp tissues. Some types live in tubes; others use their back legs to anchor themselves while they sway to and fro in the water column. Some species swim rapidly while others stay near the bottom of the ocean. Many will move vertically in the water column, moving near the surface during the day, and sinking again at night. The species we are catching has large compound eyes that can be seen by the naked eye. For more about amphipods, visit this website. 

Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.
Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.

Copepods are very common crustaceans, with more than 200 species and 10,000 families. 2 We have found more of these than any other organism. Copepods are omnivorous. Some groups graze on microplankton; other groups of copepods prey on larger plankton, including other copepods. They are an important link in the food chain as well, moving carbon from a microscopic level to a larger trophic (feeding) level. They are eaten by jellyfish, fish, comb jellies and arrow worms. Copepods have “antennae” that have special sensors that detect water movement around them. They are able to move toward prey by contracting a muscle that runs in a circle around their bodies. For more about copepods, visit this website.

Arrow worms (Chaetognatha) are common along coasts, but we did not catch any out away from shore. Arrow worms are classified in their own group, distinct from Annelids (earthworms), round worms and flatworms, which are all separate groups of worms. They are predators, often waiting to ambush their prey. When their cilia detect prey, usually copepods, the arrow worm contracts 2 muscles that run dorsally and ventrally (top to bottom) to strike. Their mouths have spines that grab the prey and smaller “teeth” produce a venom that subdues the prey. The prey is swallowed whole. Arrow worms, in turn, are eaten by jellyfish, copepods and fish.

Sea Butterflies were not common, but they are very interesting. Sea butterflies (pteropods) are holoplanktonic mollusks, related to snails. Basically, they are shell-less snails. Their foot is modified into winglike structures (ptero= winged) that they flap as they swim through the water. Their bodies are tube-shaped and clear. The bodies and wings of the species we have seen are an orange-pink color. They are predators and are preyed upon by fish, sea birds and whales.

References: 

Information for these paragraphs were modified and combined from the following sources: 1 Newell, G.E. and Newell, R.C.; Marine Plankton: A Practical Guide; 5th edition; 1977; Hutchinson & Co; London.2 Johnson, William S. and Allen, Dennis M.; Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: A Guide to Their Identification and Ecology; 2005; Johns Hopkins University Press.

Personal Log 

This morning we saw dark clouds in the distance. You could see rain falling from the clouds. Nearby we could see the tail of a water spout disappearing into the clouds.  We sampled our southern-most station and are now heading north along the coast just south of Chesapeake Bay. The samples we are pulling now have a lot of diatoms.

Rebecca Bell, August 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude:  3846.7 Longitude: 7302.1
Temp 25.4 C

Bongo net
Bongo net

Science and Technology Log 

In the last post, I explained WHY we are collecting zooplankton. This post will illustrate HOW the samples are taken.

The samples are collected using a device called a bongo net (Yes, like the musical instrument).  You can see the metal rings and the nets hang from the metal rings. One net is marked with red and the other green. This allows you to tell the two nets apart. The samples from the red side will be used for the ichthyoplankton study. The samples from the green side will be used for the zooplankton study.

The white device is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth). You attach it to the bongo net frame and turn it on. The CTD takes measurements on the way into the water and on the way out of the water. When the bridge clears you, the computer operator (inside) tells the hydraulics operator to start letting out the line and at what speed to let it out and bring it in. You calculate the amount of time in and out using a chart that is based on changing depth. You have to calculate it so you get at least a 5-minute tow.

The CTD
The CTD

Now the bongo nets are raised on the A-frame. You can see the CTD above the bongos (right picture) and there is a lead weight beneath and between the nets. Next, the A-frame moves the nets over the side of the ship and they are lowered into the water. You cruise for at least 5 minutes. The idea is to get within 5 meters of the bottom, then start bringing the nets back in. The computer operator keeps track of where the bottom is. The idea is to stop the line going out in time so the nets don’t hit the bottom and pull up a bunch of sand. Then you just have to wait for the tow, and eventually for the nets to come back up.

The bongos are removed from the A-frame and brought into the wet lab. You use the hose to wash the plankton down to the bottom of the net. The bottom of the net is put into the sieve. When the net is hosed down to the sieve end, you untie the bottom of the net and let the plankton wash into the sieves. The mesh captures zooplankton, but lets smaller phytoplankton through. Finally you rinse the plankton from the sieves into a jar with 5% formalin for preservation. A label is put into the jar as well as on top of the jar, stating station number, date and time.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.

Personal Log 

We had a fire drill and an “abandon ship” safety drill. In the picture to the right, I am wearing a survival suit, lovingly known as a “Gumby suit”. If you abandon ship, you have to run to the deck and put on this suit. It is one piece, with inflatable neck rest, whistle and flashing pocket light so you can be spotted. You have to lay the suit out on deck, and sit down in it. Feet go in first, then you stand up and pull the rest over your head, find the arms etc. Look at the look on my face. Not too sure about this! The front flap closes to show only your eyes–on me a little higher. You should try zipping the front zipper with thick rubber gloves that are too big for you. It reminds me of the astronauts trying to fix the space station. I have a new appreciation for how difficult it is too, like, HOLD anything. The best news yet–we get to practice next week again.

Deploying the Bongo net
Deploying the Bongo net
The A-frame
The A-frame
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
Becky waits for the nets to come back up after the tow
Waiting for the nets to come back up after the tow
Becky rinsing down the net
Becky rinsing down the net
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for preservation
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for
preservation
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.

 

Rebecca Bell, August 14, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 14, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   134628 (GMT)
Latitude:  40.33.06N Longitude: 72.47.36W
Air Temp 0C: 22.1
Sea Water Temp:  22.3 0C

NOAA Ship Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Science and Technology Log 

We sailed from Woods Hole, MA on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 on the first of three legs as part of the Ecosystem Monitoring Program. There are two main objectives of the cruise. The first is to see how well the fish population is doing by sampling and counting fish larvae. The number of fish is important to the fisheries industry- those folks who bring cod and other fish to your table. The second objective is to monitor the zooplankton population. Fish feed on the zooplankton, so a healthy zooplankton population may mean a healthier fish population. We also are monitoring the physical properties of the water; in this case, salinity and temperature. These influence where fish larvae and zooplankton can survive and where and how far they can be dispersed.

There are 125-130 sites randomly selected for sampling. At each site, a pair of bongo nets are dropped and the two samples are collected side-by-side, for a total of 250-260 samples. One sample is designated for the ichthyoplankton (fish larvae) study, and the other for the study of zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. Near-surface along-track chlorophyll-a fluorescence, which indicates abundance of phytoplankton (i.e. food for the zooplankton), water temperature and salinity are constantly measured with the vessel’s flow-through sampling system. We will also be collecting a separate set of samples as we approach the Chesapeake Bay. These will be used to study aging of fish larvae.

Zooplankton include both unicellular and multicellular organisms. Many can easily be seen with the naked eye. Zooplankton can be classified in a number of ways. One way is to classify them by life history. Holoplankton are those that are planktonic during their entire life cycle (lifers). Meroplankton refers to those plankton in a developmental stage, like eggs and larvae (shorttimers). These larvae will grow into larger organisms such as jellyfish, mollusks, fish, starfish and sea urchins, crustaceans, copepods and amphipods.

The term “plankton” comes from a Greek word for “wanderer” or “drifter”.1 This may imply that these organisms are passively moved about by currents. However, many can power around on their own, using several different methods such as cilia, muscle contraction, or appendages on the head, thorax or abdomen. They also move vertically in the water column, up toward sunlight during daylight hours and downward at night. Krill (whale food), on the other hand, do the opposite- travel downward during the day and up at night.

The first two samples contained a vast number of salps. A salp is holoplanktonic and is related to sea squirts (urochordates). They are filter feeders, catching bacteria and extremely small plankton in mucous-covered “nets” that act as sieves. Salps are an important part of the ocean food chain.

Samples 3-5 show a greater variety of organisms- comb jellies (ctenophores), arrow worms (Chaetognatha) fish larvae and amphipods. Samples 6-8 are dominated by copepods. There are salps, too, but not nearly as many (about 1/3 fewer) as we saw in the first 2 samples.

So I am looking at these results and wondering: Are there patterns to the distribution of these assemblages? Are salps found in warm water or cooler water?  Does temperature matter at all? Do they like deeper water?  Higher or lower salinity? Combinations of any of these? Are they found where another organism is found?

Personal Log 

We began our first work shift today, er, last night, um, this morning at 3 a.m. I work the 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. That means to bed around 7pm., rise and shine at 2:30 a.m. Well, rise, anyway. Not much shining till later.

As I sat on the deck in darkness, waiting to reach our first sample site, I spotted the light from another ship on the horizon. I watched as the light traveled up a wave, then down a wave then up, up, up, up, still up. I could not believe how high it was going, knowing we were doing the same thing. It’s a good thing it doesn’t feel like that. We are now heading south, back towards the Chesapeake Bay. It is getting hotter and muggier, just like home.

We saw dolphins today. A large leatherback turtle was spotted from the bridge. The 3pm- 3am. shift reported seeing flying fish.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Sea butterfly
  • Dolphins
  • Gulls (4 species)

1 Source: Online Etymology Dictionarywww.etymologyonline.com.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

Tiffany Risch, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: July 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Hazy in the morning with less than 6 miles visibility
  • Calm seas with little cloud cover
  • Wind speed = 5 knots
  • Waves = Wind drives waves < 1 foot
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Science and Technology Log 

Today started with an early morning shift, working from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.  As my watch took over, the DELAWARE II began steaming towards the first station of the day to conduct a survey of the surf clam and quahog size and abundance inhabiting this specific area. In order to complete a survey of the area, a dredge is used to capture any surf clams or quahogs that are pushed out of the bottom sediment.  On the top of the dredge are hoses that push pressurized water onto the bottom to loosen up any bivalves.  A bivalve is an organism that has shells consisting of two halves, such as in a clam or a scallop. The dredge is towed behind the DELAWARE II for five minutes at a speed of 1.5 nautical miles per hour.  Attached to the dredge are sensors which transmit dredge performance information back to scientists in the dry lab to record and analyze.  The accuracy of the survey depends greatly on the credibility of the sensor data, and therefore, scientists must monitor variability of the dredge.  After the dredge is brought back to the surface, the load must be sorted, measured, and then discarded.

After listening to a presentation by Larry Jacobson, I learned a lot of new facts about both Atlantic sufclams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean quahogs. Surf clams live only about 15 years, grow very fast, and can inhabit ocean waters stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Newfoundland.  These bivalves are found in waters less than 50 meters of water. Ocean quahogs on the other hand can live for greater than 100 years, are very slow growing, and are found in ocean waters between 50 and 100 meters deep from Cape Hatteras, around the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Giving power to the hydraulic pump.
Giving power to the hydraulic pump.

Scientists on this cruise are also interested in studying other aspects of the clam populations, such as a condition called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Because bivalves are filter feeders, they eat by filtering food out of the waters around them.  Sometimes, algae can contaminate clams using a toxin that is harmful to humans.  When this happens and humans eat the shellfish, they themselves can become quite sick.  Samples of clam meats are being taken during this research cruise to be studied back at a lab and determine what exactly is happening in regards to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Personal Log 

Today has been quite interesting, as I moved through the many stations that are involved with conducting this survey. I was trained on how to measure clams in the wet lab, how to apply the power to the dredge in the dry lab, and even how to shuck a clam to retrieve the meat which is also measured.  I was also quite amazed regarding how efficient everyone is on the ship, as we all have a job to do, and it all gets done before we arrive at the next station.

One of my highlights today was overcoming my sea sickness and finally getting my sea legs!  Everyone is so supportive, from the officers, to the scientists, and to the volunteers who are all so nice and helpful. I’m looking forward to my next eight days at sea and learning more about the research being conducted.

Laurie Degenhart, July 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 170° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 18.9° C
Air temp 22.6° C
Swells: 1
Atmosphere: Clear

Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge
Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

The last two days have been less hectic.  The scientists have had to make several repairs.  The sensors on the dredge were having problems recording data.  Sean Lucey, Chris Pickett, and TK Arbusto, as well as other scientists have spent several hours replacing sensors and making sure that the sensors were logging accurate data.  In order for the survey to be reliable the scientists at sea and in the lab decided that the ship needed to return to previously tested sites to  insure that the sampling techniques had not changed with the changes in the sensor.

We have sampled both Quahogs and Surf Clams today.  It seems that some locations are dominated by the Quahogs, while others are mainly Surf Clams. The weather has been hot and humid.  So far in the trip, the Delaware II has been able to avoid the storms farther to the south. Tonight however, the winds are starting to pick up. We may see rain! Today I climbed up in the dredge compartment when it was full of clay.  Even though I knew that the dredge was very safe, I still worried that I might fall into the ocean.  The clay was very dense with rocks. Sean Lucey, chief scientist, used a high pressure hose to loosen the majority of the mud, but it was still a big slippery muddy job.  John, the Chief Bosun, told me that a full load of mud weighs almost 9000 pounds!  There were very few clams in the load.

Personal Log 

This shift has been very busy. The tows have been pretty much back to back.  All the people on my shift have formed a great team.  Though the work is hard we seem to be able to make it fun….

I continue to be impressed with the NOAA officers and scientists.  The scientists have to have knowledge of oceanography, marine biology and statistics in order to execute accurate sampling.  Another area of expertise is in trouble shooting all the scientific equipment… after all there is no running to the hardware store for spare parts. Today when the sensors broke the scientists, mechanical engineers, and the bosun had to work together to correct the problem.

Both the NOAA officers and the scientists have to be able to cope with volunteers (me included) that have no knowledge of life at sea. Each new crewmember has learn to fit in…I’m sure that this tries the patience of the seasoned crew.  Being aware of all the ins and outs of life at sea is quite a learning process. For example, I went to the bridge after dark… it seemed to be pitch black…. actually the Executive Officer was “on watch”  having the lights out made it easier for him to see both the ocean and the electronic equipment that he had  to use in order to safely captain the ship.

One of my goals for the trip is to put together a collection of photographs that depicts all the aspects of life aboard the Delaware II.  So far I have over 300 photographs.  The crew seems quite pleased…many members ask if I can take more pictures.

During this voyage I have learned a great deal about how a ship runs.  I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work aboard the Delaware.  I will create a DVD with the images and video clips that I have gathered. I want to share my experience with students, teachers, and student teachers. NOAA offers great resources for educators and a vast selection of careers for those who wish to live a life that is rewarding and exciting.

Laurie Degenhart, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 24.2° C
Air temp 24.6° C
Swells: 0
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.
Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.

We are now into day 7 of our clam survey.  Everyone on the ship pulls together as a team to make each tow a success.  Each location for a dredge site is called a station.  The NOAA crew in charge of the ship must not only be at exactly the correct longitude and latitude, but the depth of the water, the speed of the tow, and the condition of the sea (waves and swells) must also be considered. There are three separate places on the ship where these decisions are made.  The bridge controls the location of the ship and notes the conditions of the sea.  The chief bosun controls the dredge towing. He manages the cables, depth, and length of the tow. The scientist in the lab choose the exact location of the tow and the depth.  The scientists use sensors attached to the dredge to log data about the tow. The bosun reels the cable back to the ship and onto the platform.  After the tow has been made the deck hands secure the dredge compartment where the catch is.

The scientific crew then measures and counts the clams.  A scientist from the FDA, Stacey Etheridge, has the science crew shuck a certain number of clams.  She then homogenizes them in a food processor to take back to the laboratory to test for possible toxins.  The NOAA scientists collect data on the different types of clams as well as the size and weight.  They are also trying to determine the age of the clam given the rings on the shell. In addition to the scientist on the Delaware II, there is an entire NOAA crew.  There are engineers, ship’s officers, and fishermen.  Everyone has specific assignments.  The NOAA officers are at sea approximately 244 days a year.  The NOAA careers website here.

Personal Log 

The scientists must have many skills in order to keep the study going.  Not only do they have to know about the clams, but also how to fix problems with the computer program and its sensors, as well as the mechanical operation of the dredge equipment.

The weather at sea has been very hot and humid.  The hours are long. We do approximately 10 tows on a twelve-hour shift.  Think about this… each tow gathers around 4 thousand pounds of material off the ocean floor.  That makes 40,000 pounds.  There are 7 people on our shift. That means each of us sorts and moves around 5700 pounds in a shift…. that’s as much as a small car!  I guess I can have dessert with lunch today.  The work is enjoyable.

Tina and I have shucked over 500 clams.  We ROCK, or should I say CLAM, at shelling Quahogs.  The Captain told me that we may feel the effects of tropical storm, Cristobol.  I sure hope I don’t get seasick.  I learned a new skill…swabbing the deck.  It is amazing the range of tasks each crewmember has to have to keep the ship running smoothly.

Our Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, oversees all of the roles of the scientists and volunteers.  It’s a big job and he sets the tone for the rest of us.  Everyone is positive and willing to do whatever is needed. Jakub, the Watch Chief, oversees the general operation of sorting and measuring the clams.  Both Sean and Jakub are great at teaching me the ropes so that I can do my best.  One time as I was on my way to my “station” Sean remarked,  “I know you’ll be ready.”  I thought that was great, sometimes I get anxious about doing the exact right thing at the right time.

I am starting to think about the lesson plans that I am going to write.  I want to make a simulation of a clam survey for elementary students using Oreo Cookies to gather data.  Sean is going to give me data from the trip to use in my lesson plans.  One of my goals for my presentations is to go to various Vocational Classes to talk about all the facets of NOAA as a career path. I also want to develop a presentation about the roles of a scientist, showing the different aspects of the skills that they have.

Once again the meals have been great.  I was told that the Stewards, John and Walter, have a reputation for providing the best food of all the NOAA ships.  Sure seems right to me!  We have had great meals. One night we had Sea Bass, another night we had lamb chops.  There is always an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Then there is dessert… apple pie!

Laurie Degenhart, July 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 7 knots
Sea temperature: 20.7° C
Air temp 24.4° C
Swells: 160 4’ 12 sec.
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log (Monday, July 14 – Thursday, July 17) 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.

We set sail midday on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. Monday was spent with repairs. We heard a presentation by Dr.Larry Jacobson, the head of the Clam Survey Project.  He explained that there was a general shift in the populations of Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs.

This study is collecting data for his team to use in determining the changes and possible causes of the change.  NOAA and the clam fishing industry enjoy a good relationship, working handin-hand to protect the clam population and promote clam fishing. We were taken to the NOAA storeroom and outfitted with our “foul weather gear.” We wear the gear on board to sort and shuck clams. We each were issued boots, yellow bib overalls, and an orange rain slicker….I look quite dashing.

Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.
Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.

Chief scientist, Sean Lucey, gave us a general description of the work that we would be doing.  Sean stressed how important accuracy is in all the facets of the Clam Survey.  There are several assignments.  Each person is assigned a shift.  My shift is from Noon until midnight.  That’s 12 hours! We are not to return to our room until our shift is over, because the other women I share the room are on the opposite shift and will be sleeping. I am on a team with Jakub Kircun, as the Watch Chief.  He is very patient and kind, even when I make a mistake.  There are seven people on our team: four NOAA scientists, one graduate student who is studying plankton, one volunteer, and me, the Teacher at Sea.

General Description of a Clam Dredge 

The back of the Delaware II has a large metal dredge (it looks like a giant square shifter-See photo.) The cage is lowered to the sea floor at pre-determined random locations and dragged by a special cable called a hauser for exactly 5 minutes.  Then the dredge is hauled back to the boat and its contents are dumped on a platform.  We all sort through the dredged material sorting out clams and other sea life, throwing the rest back out to sea. The clams are measured, weighed, and some meat specimens are taken for examination.  Computers record a vast array of information for the scientists.  Sean Lucey (Chief Scientist) is always making decisions where we go and provides the lab and other scientists information about the catch.  The team does around 10 or so tows in a twelve hour shift.

First Assignment 

I was assigned by, Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record information about the tow a using computerized data collection system called SCS (Scientific Computer Systems). I go into a room on the bridge and listen to the deck department communicating with the bridge and I record when the dredge is on the bottom, towing, and back on deck.  The information is tracked in SCS with button pushers. I also log information about wave height, swell direction, and swell height, which I receive from the officer on watch.  I also need to record depth, time, and speed of the boat during a dredge tow. This provides accurate data for the scientists back on land to analyze. As soon as that part of my job is finished, I come down stairs to help sort and shuck the clams..

The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II
The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II

Personal Log 

Holy Cow, a 12 hour shift….from noon until mid-night!  I was worried, but the shift seems to fly by. There is always something that needs to be done.  I was assigned by Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record the sensors for the dredge itself.  What a responsibility!!! Talk about pressure.  Sean, Chief Scientist, has been really great. His sense of humor has helped ease my stress.  I never realized how much computers are used aboard a ship to monitor experimental data.  Not to mention the general running of the ship….. There are 31 computers in all. For each tow which Sean and Jakub call a station, I do the recording for the dredge then come down stairs…put on my boots and bib overalls and head out to sort the clams with the others on my team.  It’s a big job…good thing I am used to working in the woods of Wyoming… otherwise, I don’t think I could keep up!!!

Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.
Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.

After we sort the clams, Tina, a graduate student from University of Connecticut, and I measure and weigh the clams using a special computerized machine called a Limnoterra Fish Measuring Board. Tina and I are becoming great clam shuckers. We need to weigh the clams both with and without the shell. Joe, the other volunteer, also helps weigh and shuck the clams.  Sometimes they are sweet smelling… but sometimes not!  They look nothing like Howard Johnson’s Clam Strips!

I have started a shell collection to bring back to my school.  I will be working with the Science Coordinator to design science experiments that use data from our trip.  The Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, is working with me to develop lesson plans that use the data being collected. Just learning to find my way around the ship has been a challenge.  I’ve learned to find the galley…. great food. Walt and John, the ship’s stewards, are fantastic chefs.  Today we had crab cakes with lemon sauce, vegetables, and peach cobbler with whipped cream for dessert.  I am telling myself that as much physical work as I am doing I can eat what I want….that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

All the crew has been welcoming and accepting.  Richie and Adam, NOAA crewmembers, take care of securing the dredge. It looks like a dangerous job to me!  They both have a great sense of humor.

Jill Carpenter, September 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 180
Wind speed: 14 kts
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Swell wave height: 7 ft./9 sec. from 90o
Seawater temperature: 16.8oC
Sea level pressure: 1018.7mb
Cloud cover: PC

Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.
Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.

Science and Technology Log 

The trip is winding down and we will be in port in a few hours. I am writing this final log in the early hours of the morning of my last night shift.  We will soon be approaching Cape Cod Canal, and our time of arrival into Woods Hole is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. On last night’s shift, we passed the time taking CTD measurements and logging the events. Unfortunately, no trawls were completed since we didn’t come upon a location with an abundance of fish. Tonight we began with a trawl. As with the last trawl, the majority of our catch was redfish.  We also caught Atlantic herring, northern shrimp, anchovies, pearlsides, silver hake and red hake, short fin squid, several dogfish and a goosefish. The catch from the trawl was sorted by species, just as before.  The individual species were weighed and measured.  Again, we took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length. Additional information was again gathered on the herring including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data.

I was also able to interview a few more of the crewmembers on the ship. Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove (otherwise known as Captain) has worked his way up to his Commander position during his 17 years experience with NOAA.  Richard has a degree in Marine Biology and has loved the ocean from the time he was a child.  His extensive background experiences include being a satellite oceanographer for the NOAA Hurricane Center, working for the National Marine Sanctuary on oil spill cleanups, and serving the Peace Corps as a fisheries officer in Antigua.  As commanding officer of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II, his job involves overseeing the entire ship, supervising officers, and safely completing missions.  He claims the best part of his job is working with the crew, which he thinks of as his family at sea, although he admits it is still tough being away from his real family.  As one can imagine, the job of commanding officer comes with a great amount of responsibility.  Richard is in charge of a $12 1/2 million ship and a crew of 34 people.  Pretty intimidating!

Jill Carpenter in her survival suit
Jill Carpenter in her survival suit

He has a great deal of fond memories and stories of rough seas, though he recalls one humorous incident in particular.  He was once on board a ship off the coast of Alaska when the seas were 25-30 ft. It was so rough that all the crew could do was ride out the seas; the cooks weren’t even able to make a meal!  On a dare from the other crew members, Richard tried jumping up to touch his back to the ceiling, but mistimed his jump and ended up being slammed to the floor when the ship descended quickly and the ceiling pushed him down.  He was stunned, but otherwise okay.  This legendary stunt is still spoken of amongst Richard’s seafaring friends.  Richard recommends taking many classes in science and math if one is interested in commanding a ship.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois has experienced a lot of rough weather during his six years at sea aboard NOAA ships. He has many responsibilities aboard the DELAWARE II.  A lead fisherman splits a 24 hour shift with the boatswain, and their duties are to operate the machinery on deck, such as the nets, winches and crane.  Pete is responsible for the fishermen’s and scientists’ safety on deck while machinery is operating.  He also oversees the deployments and recoveries of scientific instruments such as the CTD sensor. Additional duties of a lead fisherman include general maintenance of the ship, such as loading and unloading stores and equipment.  Mr. Langlois also serves as third mate of the ship.  A third mate is in charge of the track lines of the ship and acts as a representative of the captain.

One of the first things that Pete recommends for future sailors is to try spending time aboard a ship to see if you like it.  It is also necessary to get your Able Seaman Certificate which is issued by the U.S Coast Guard. One path to pursuing your career is through a maritime academy, such as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  He claims there is a high demand for all positions aboard ships, and it is important to get experience at sea in order to get an Able Seamen or Captain’s license.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II

Personal Log

Although I am sad for the trip to be over, I am looking forward to returning home to my family, friends, and classroom and sharing my experience with them.  This trip has been invaluable to me in so many ways.  I have met many amazing people, I have participated in recording ocean data, and I have seen how much thought, effort and talent goes into a fisheries research vessel.  I am fortunate to have completed 3 mid-water trawls while on board. Being able to see and touch the fish that we are studying was amazing.  I gained hands-on knowledge and experience, and I began to see the species not as slimy and gross fish, but as a necessary tool for progressing our understanding of ocean species.

The crew of the DELAWARE II has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating to me.  I appreciated all of their care, time and patience with me as I learned about life on board a scientific research ship. Their sincere good natures and the humorous spirits will always be remembered by me.  I can now better understand the wisdom shared by our Chief Scientist, Bill Michaels, about how people and teamwork are to be greatly appreciated. People are such a large part of what make a job enjoyable.  It is easy to see that the entire crew of the DELAWARE II enjoy their jobs and each other’s company. They make an unbelievably great team. Thanks to all of the crewmembers of the DELAWARE II. I will never forget you or my experiences on board.  My students will surely benefit from my gained knowledge for years to come.  Thanks again for sharing a slice of your lives with me.  I’ve been inspired by all of you.

Jill Carpenter, September 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction:  60 degrees
Wind speed: 17 knots
Sea wave height: 5 feet
Swell wave height: ~ 1f
Seawater temperature: 17.3oC
Sea level pressure: 1029.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC (partly cloudy)

TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Science and Technology Log

On Sunday, the DELAWARE II steamed out of the Great Harbor.  Our first stop was Cape Cod Bay, and then we continued to the Gulf on Maine. It’s great to be at sea! My first night on the night shift felt very productive to me.  I worked with fisheries biologists Dr. Jech and Karen to rig up the monofilament (fishing line) so we could attach the copper spheres beneath the hull in order to complete calibrations of the acoustic system.  As explained in an earlier log, calibrations are required for each survey to ensure data quality and to verify that the equipment is working properly. We were mostly successful, but a few events slowed our progress, such as having to reposition the ship because of fixed gear (lobster traps) in the water near us.  Once we located the copper spheres in each of the remote-controlled downriggers in order to move the copper sphere in all directions within the beam.  After we worked out all the bugs during the first calibration, the system worked smoothly for the two remaining frequency calibrations.  When we finished, we disassembled the downriggers and put away the gear.

We finished our first shift by deploying a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensor and keeping track of it in the Event Log book and computer program.  A CTD is an instrument that is equipped with devices which measure the salinity and temperature of the water and the depth of the instrument.  Connected to a cable and winch system, it is lowered into the water within meters of the ocean floor, all the while taking measurements and sending data to computers on deck.  A profile of salinity and temperature is taken at the end of each transect, or path, that the ship makes and also before a trawl is completed.

TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Deploying a CTD is a joint effort on the part of the officers on the bridge, the fishermen and the scientists. Communication takes place via walkie-talkies to synchronize the deployment time.  While the officers on the bridge maintain the location of the ship and watch out for traffic, the fishermen are deploying the CTD instrument and the scientists are logging the event, recording information such as time of deployment and the latitude and longitude of the deployment. My second night on the night shift was also very eventful.  We had begun a series of transects, which basically means that the ship zigzags back and forth across the ocean in order to take CTD measurements and locate large schools of fish for the purpose of trawling, or catching fish for biological sampling. Twice during the night, in the middle of parallel transects, we completed trawls.  The High Speed Midwater Rope Trawl (HSMRT) is a funnel-shaped net attached to wires, also known as trawl warps, which are spooled onto winches located on the aft deck of the ship. The HSMRT is used to collect biological samples.  The decision on where to trawl rests with the scientists as they interpret acoustic data, so if the acoustic system shows that there is a large collection of objects (hopefully fish) below the surface, a trawl may be completed.  Trawling is also a group effort between the officers, the fishermen, and the scientists.  The net is set out and retrieved by the fishermen who control the depth of the net and monitor its performance.  The officers on the bridge work with the fishermen during the trawl to ensure its success.

The catch from the trawls is sorted by species. Then the individual species are weighed and measured.  The catch from our first trawl included redfish, Atlantic herring, lumpfish, and northern shrimp.  We then took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length.  Because herring is the primary focus of this survey, additional information was also gathered on this species including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data. This is done by using a stylus to press the buttons on the computer screen to enter the catch information.  The scales used for weighing the fish and the measuring boards automatically send their information into the computer system.  The data is saved and later will be analyzed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught with a mid-water trawl for the Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught for the Herring Hydroacoustic Survey

Personal Log

I apologize for not writing in a few days. As I predicted, the shift work is taking a bit of a toll on me, and I haven’t been sleeping well during the day due to slight seasickness.  It is such a strange feeling to be lying in bed and rocking back and forth. Sometimes the boat pitched so much that my stomach got butterflies, just like when you ride a roller coaster and go down a steep hill. I had to keep getting up and sitting on one of the decks so I could see the horizon and get some fresh air.  Our stateroom has no windows, so there is no way of telling what the conditions are outside.  I had to laugh at myself when I went up to the bridge, expecting to see a ferocious storm and high sea swells, only to find blue skies and slightly choppy waters. A combination of Dramamine, ginger root tablets, and Saltine crackers also helped to calm my stomach.

This past night of sleeping (rather, day of sleeping) went much better.  I seemed to be used to the motion of the ship, and I fell asleep right away.  It helped to wedge myself in between the wall and my bag to keep from rocking back and forth so much.  I feel rested and much more confident to handle the seas.  It was forecasted that Hurricane Florence would make our ride a bit rough, though she is passing several hundred miles from our location and seas have been much calmer than expected, which is fine with me!  Even so, I can now see why we had to spend time tying down equipment so it wouldn’t slide or roll. When the ship was docked, it was hard to imagine it moving so much to necessitate securing items so well, but the need was evident to me after this shift.  Several times during the night, the ship rolled side to side so much that even heavy items fell over and off tables.  The chairs we were sitting in kept sliding back and forth, and we had to hang on to the tables to keep from moving around! It was wild. I loved it! I tried to get a picture, but I had to hang on instead!

Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.
Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.

I was proud of myself when we completed our trawls and I had to handle the fish. It was rather disturbing to see the eyes and stomachs of the fish bulge out because of the change in pressure. We had to be careful when picking up the redfish because of the prickly spines sticking out of their fins. I was a little apprehensive to feel the fish through my gloves, and I was very grossed out at the thought of picking up a slimy, dead fish, but I tried to put that aside so that I could be of some help, at least.  The biologists I was working with jumped right in and weren’t squeamish at all.  After all, this is part of their job and the focus of their research. I tried to be brave and handle the fish confidently and without shrieking just as they did, but I still looked a bit wimpy.  The important thing, though, is that I tried something new and walked away with an invaluable learning experience. Cutting apart a herring to examine its insides was a little over my limit, but I tried it anyway and now I am glad that I did. I figured that it’s not every day that I have the chance to dissect a fish in the name of research.

I spoke with Mrs. Nelson the other day, and she said I have a bright group of fifth graders awaiting my return.  I can’t wait to show all of you my pictures and share this incredible learning experience with you.

Question of the Day

When weighing fish on board the ship, it is necessary to “tare” the scale.  This means that if a fish is being weighed in a bucket, we must first put the empty bucket on the scale, and then we need to reset the scale so it measures to zero kilograms.  After that, we place the fish in the bucket and put it back on the scale.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to tare a scale when weighing objects that are in containers?

Jill Carpenter, September 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 240 degrees
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: no swell
Seawater temperature: 19.4 degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure: 1016.2 millibars
Cloud cover: hazy skies 1/8

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck

Science and Technology Log

Today, the DELAWARE II left the port and steamed out into the waters of Vineyard Sound for the day. It was exciting to finally get underway.  While out at sea, the AFTV underwent additional testing and troubleshooting. I was able to work the joystick which controls the video camera on the front of the AFTV and enter information into the Event Log program to document the beginning and end of the AFTV deployment.  We steamed back to Woods Hole for the evening, and our scheduled time of departure is tomorrow at noon. Once we leave tomorrow, we should be out to sea for the remainder of the cruise. Additionally, I was able to interview two other members of the crew. The Chief Scientist aboard this mission is Fisheries Research Biologist Bill Michaels.  He has worked for NOAA and been a chief scientist for 27 years. He started as a co-op student at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Bill’s parents knew he would grow up to be a scientist when they saw him spending his time collecting feathers and examining flowers as a six-year old. He has extensive training in marine and fisheries biology and has been in charge of the National Marine Fisheries acoustic program working on advanced sampling techniques for almost 10 years.  Bill has logged over 2000 days at sea and has been a part of many different research boats in many different countries! Bill believes that by incorporating advanced technologies into cruise operations, we will be able to provide more accurate, cost-effective and timely scientific information in order to meet NOAA’s goals. 

Mr. Michaels says the best parts about his job are the diversity associated with the work and the teamwork involved.  Because of these, he has enjoyed every day of his career.  Although he loves working with new technologies such as his new Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle, he has come to enjoy working with people more and more, especially with scientists from other countries. Bill shared with me that he once went overboard during winter temperatures, though he wouldn’t say if it was by accident or on purpose!  Some of his more challenging voyage experiences include being out to sea with 25 ft waves, having to sleep in a fish bin, and being on a foreign boat that was infested with cockroaches.  Bill’s advice to someone who would like to become a scientist is to focus on all subjects, not just biology and math.  He says that you can’t be a good biologist by studying only biology.  He advises future biologists to understand people, value teamwork, appreciate different cultures, learn new technologies, and study from a variety of disciplines, ranging from geology to English and foreign languages.

TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board
TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board

I also spoke with my roommate and NOAA Program and Management Analyst, Jeannine Cody. She works in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Management and Budget in the Program Planning and Budget Formulation Division.  She serves a liaison to NMFS’ Office of Science and Technology, the Ecosystem Observations Program, and the Climate and Ecosystems Productivity Program.  She also tracks all of NMFS’ research and development activities at their six Science Centers. Each year, the President of the United States submits a budget request asking Congress for money to support NOAA activities. It’s kind of like asking for an allowance and then telling your parents the reason why you need the money.  In Jeannine’s line of work, telling the reasons why money is needed is called a budget justification. Each fiscal year (Oct 1 through Sept 30) she works on budget justifications for NOAA’s fisheries research programs.  This involves talking to a scientist to understand his/her plans for research in the upcoming year and writing a summary about the need for the activity, the cost of the activity, and the benefits to the country. She says that although her job description changes day to day, she spends much of her time responding to questions from the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget and from Congressional staff. 

I found it interesting that Jeannine first became interested in working in marine biology while watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV show as child.  Later, she volunteered to work with National Museum of Natural History curator Dr. Clyde Roper after watching a Discovery Channel program on giant squid.  She’s proud to say that one of her reference letters for graduate school had a giant squid at the top of the letterhead!  Ten years later, Jeannine’s back where she started as a research collaborator in the Museum’s Division of Fishes.

Sunset from Cape Cod Bay
Sunset from Cape Cod Bay

She says the best part of her job is when her efforts are successful in getting funding for NMFS’ programs. “It’s nice to know that you’re a part of a larger effort to understand the oceans and marine life,” says Jeannine.  To prepare for a NMFS career in program planning and budget formulation, Jeannine recommends a biological degree, such as one in fisheries science, marine biology, environmental biology, or environmental policy.  You should be comfortable working with numbers and asking a lot of tough questions. Jeannine spends a lot of time writing, creating slideshow presentations, designing websites and talking to different groups, therefore good communication skills will help as well. Internships, fellowships and volunteering on NMFS cruises are also great ways to know how NMFS works.

Personal Log

What a beautiful day! It was a wonderful experience to be steaming on board the ship.  It was a warm, sunny day, although it was considerably cooler when we got away from land. Today was the first day that I was able to get weather and sea measurements from the bridge. I am hoping to become independent in reading the instruments that take these measurements by the time we return.

On the return trip, I was able to sit up on the flying deck (which is the top level deck) and watch as we pulled back in to the harbor at Woods Hole. The view was incredible and made me feel so far away from Virginia!  Don’t worry, I am still planning on returning to school on the 18th! I am sure once we begin with the more intense work load that comes with trawling and completing biological sampling, paired with the overnight (6 PM to 6 AM) watch that I have been assigned to, I will be looking forward to returning to my own bed soon enough!

Question of the Day

A seafaring riddle for you: What is alive without breath, As cold as death, Never thirsty, never drinking, All in mail but never clinking?

Jill Carpenter, September 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 8, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.
Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was spent on last minute performance testing to verify that the ship’s instrumentation is working properly.  Crewmembers finished tying down equipment, the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle was tested and adjusted with minor protective modifications, and the Scientific Computer System was finished being set up.  The DELAWARE II is scheduled to depart tomorrow at noon. I was also able to interview several of the crewmembers on board the ship.  Each person has such an interesting story and so much knowledge to share. The first person that I had a chance to interview was Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych.  He has many duties on board the ship.  As a navigation officer, he is responsible for all the charts used to navigate the ship. He starts the navigation process by creating a route on the computer, then transfers and double checks the route on the paper charts. Mark is on his first sea tour which has mostly been in the northern Atlantic Ocean.  His favorite part about his job is that he gets to draw on big pieces of paper and that he has the opportunity to see some wonderful sunsets. Navigation Officer Frydrych has additional duties on board the DELAWARE II as well. Another title he holds is Junior Officer where he inventories and periodically checks the safety equipment like the fire extinguishers and escape hatches.

TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.
TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.

For anyone interested in becoming an officer aboard a NOAA ship, Mark recommends pursuing a scientific or engineering degree.  He says that computer experience and math classes would also be helpful.  Mark would eventually like to be trained as a NOAA Corps pilot. The other person that I was able to speak with was fisheries biologist Karen Bolles.  Her research involves using morphometrics (analysis of shape) to examine body shape differences among Atlantic herring spawning groups in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (stock discrimination).  This will help improve the accuracy of our herring stock assessments and harvesting strategies. Using computer programs, Karen analyzes differences among groups of herring, using characteristics such as mouth length. Because herring spawning groups mix during non-spawning time, these findings can be used to determine proportions of different spawning stock herring that may constitute research and commercial catches.

Karen’s research has taken her from mid-Atlantic waters north to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. She has also been a scientific member on research vessels operating off Iceland and in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia. Karen has survived some challenging voyages at sea, including a two-week cod survey trip around the island of Iceland that took place during extremely rough winter weather where nobody on board spoke English!

TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

When talking with Ms. Bolles, it is very evident that she is passionate about her job. She says that she loves the feeling of helping to improve fisheries management and stock assessments.  She especially enjoys using digital image analysis systems to measure morphometric characteristics, but her main passion is working with fishermen to gain knowledge and to fine-tune her fish sampling designs.  One thing about the field of marine biology that was surprising to her in the beginning was the amount of math and statistics that is used to analyze biological data.  Karen’s advice for individuals pursuing experience in the marine science field is to get involved with volunteer opportunities, independent studies, and internships that come your way.  She stresses the importance of hands-on experience, understanding how to work with large data sets and spreadsheets, and good writing skills.

Personal Log

I am very excited to get out on the open water and begin to use the equipment to conduct surveys and take measurements.  I am also a little anxious to put to use all that I have been learning; I hope I can remember how to enter all the information accurately.  See, even teachers get worried before a test! I am enjoying talking with each of the crewmembers.  I feel fortunate to be on a cruise with such a good group of people!

Question of the Day

The fish that the DELAWARE II will be studying are classified as pelagic fish, which means that they live in the top layer of the ocean away from the seashores or ocean floor.  1. Why do you think that most of the oceans creatures live in the top layer of the ocean?  2. Research to find what percentage of sea life lives in this zone.

Jill Carpenter, September 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 7, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a very exciting day aboard the DELAWARE II. Scientists and crewmembers worked together to deploy the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV) into the water for the first time in order to complete initial testing.  The AFTV was delivered to the NOAA pier yesterday and loaded on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.  Chief Scientist Bill Michaels explained to me how he designed the AFTV in collaboration with Deep Sea Systems International.  This new piece of scientific research equipment utilizes the latest underwater technology to improve measurements in support of NOAA’s strategic goals (e.g., Essential Fish Habitat, Stock Assessment Improvement Plan).  The AFTV is presently configured for verification of acoustic targets in the water column during NOAA’s Herring Acoustic Survey (RV DELAWARE II cruise DE200615). The AFTV provides a universal platform in which acoustical, optical and environmental sensors are integrated. The AFTV electronics convert these data to ethernet signals that are transmitted through the 2000 m of fiberoptic cable to a laptop providing network ready information.  For example, real-time underwater video images during cruise operations can be viewed from a computer on land provided satellite transmission.  The advantage of this towfish is that new technologies, such as newly developed sensors, can be readily plugged into the towbody’s ethernet-based electronics to accomplish various cruise objectives.  The AFTV can be reconfigured during future cruises for marine habitat classification (video mosaics and acoustic classification of the seafloor).

Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.
Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.

We also had the chance to learn how to use the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). This computerized system is used for electronically recording data from the biological sampling that will be completed on board.  Nancy McHugh, a fisheries biologist and FSCS administrator from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, showed us how to operate the system and record our information accurately.  In the past, data had to be hand-recorded, and errors were not caught until months later.  Nowadays, using the FSCS allows us to digitally record measurement data, such as lengths and weights, in real time and gives us the advantage of computer-audited data which flags the scientists for potential errors.

Afterwards, Dr. Jech explained the ship’s Scientific Computer System (SCS) located on the bridge of the ship. This PC-based system continuously collects information from more than a hundred sensors on board. Information about the ship’s location and route, weather conditions, ocean conditions and biological sampling is gathered, recorded and synchronized on these computers.  We also practiced entering data into computers using the SCS Event Log program which documents all operational events, such as each time the scientists lower sensors into the water or collect fish samples.

Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow

Personal Log

It was great to witness the experimental launching of a new piece of scientific equipment.  I think my fifth graders would be really excited to witness firsthand this underwater vehicle being placed in the water. It looks like a large yellow plastic box with metal pipes that make up the frame.  Attached to the back are “wings” that help to stabilize it, and in the front are spotlights and video equipment to take pictures of fish. It is controlled by joysticks and computers on board the ship. It is like an underwater robot.  Very cool! I think it is also an invaluable learning experience for me to see the process of scientific experimentation happening right here on board the ship. Between the calibrations, setting up the Scientific Computer System, and launching the AFTV, I have witnessed scientists and crewmembers informally using various scientific methods to find better solutions and problem solve when the unexpected arises.

Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.
Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.

It is exciting to see science experiments happening every day, with real people in a real-life context, instead reading about it from a worksheet or having that intangible image in my mind of a mad scientist in a white lab coat stirring a beaker of something bubbling.  Science is accessible to everybody!  You don’t have to be in a fancy laboratory or have the latest equipment.  It can be done inside or out, on a boat or in your backyard. Science encompasses so many fields and is available to anyone with a curious mind.  I am excited to share this realization with my students and make science more real to them.

Question of the Day

Two words that I am using aboard the ship are “starboard” and “port”.  What do these two words mean?  Where do they come from, and why are they important to use when on board a ship? 

Jill Carpenter, September 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 6, 2006

The Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.
The AFTV is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Science and Technology Log

It has been a busy day aboard the DELAWARE II as we are preparing to get underway on Friday or Saturday. The uncertainty about our departure date is due to the set-up and system testing of the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV). The AFTV is a recently constructed submersible vehicle that is designed to use acoustical and optical sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.  Because the AFTV has not previously been set up on the ship, performance tests may require more than one day.  The ship will remain in Woods Hole until the AFTV system is ready.

This morning, we began with a continued effort to calibrate the hydroacoustic systems using the copper sphere attached to the downriggers with fishing line. We were successful in placing the copper sphere in the hydroacoustic beam, but again had to postpone our efforts due to seaweed interference.  We now plan on completing the calibrations in Cape Cod Bay. The remainder of the morning and afternoon was spent helping to load and organize additional supplies on board.  A lot of thought goes into securing items on the ship in order to prevent them from falling or rolling around when we are at sea.

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

The more I see scientists and crewmembers securing equipment, the more concerned I become about maintaining my balance on board the ship. In the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s “Manual for First-time Sailors,” the advice is to use your life preserver to “wedge” yourself against your bunk rail to avoid being tossed around when sleeping.  From the preparations I am witnessing aboard the ship, it looks like I will be taking this advice! My work day finished with helping Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech secure computer equipment to the ship. We did this by using wood boards, screws and tape to attach equipment to immobile objects.  I found it comical to tape down the computer keyboards.  This ship may be pitching more than I expect! I learned a bit of ship trivia that I found interesting.  A ship’s foghorn is used to communicate many messages.

The following are the meanings of some sound patterns of a ship’s foghorn: 1 prolonged blast = the ship is leaving the port; 1 prolonged blast every 2 minutes = the ship is steaming (traveling) through fog; 1 prolonged blast followed by 2 short blasts every 2 minutes = the ship is fishing in fog; 5 short blasts = danger, get out of the way! 1 prolonged blast followed by 3 short blasts = the ship is leaving the dock in reverse

Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.
Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.

Personal Log

It amazes me how much preparation and behind-the-scenes work goes into getting ready for a fisheries research trip.  Everyone is hurrying around the ship, completing last-minute duties and running tests on electronic equipment.  They have all been very friendly and patient with me; I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the entire crew of the DELAWARE II.

I spent the evening typing logs and adjusting the size of my digital pictures to fulfill space requirements on emails.  I find it challenging and somewhat time consuming to “translate” all of the scientific explanations into language that is more friendly to a room of elementary school students (and to myself as well!). I am grateful to several members of the crew for their input and suggestions on the wording of certain complex concepts. My evening ended with a walk into the village of Woods Hole.  I find Woods Hole such an interesting and charming little town.  Located on the southwest corner of Cape Cod, Woods Hole has developed into a world leader in marine and fisheries research.  This scientific community is the home of the world renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), each contributing great advances to the field of marine science research.

TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.
TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.

Don’t worry, Hutchison Farm Elementary, I haven’t forgotten about you! I am sure there is just as much hustle and bustle going on there during the first week of school!  I am anxious to see each one of you; I know I can expect a very mature and intelligent group of fifth graders.  Thanks so much for being on your best behavior for Mrs. Nelson! I have been sleeping like a rock on board the ship.  I am  appreciating these restful nights now because I don’t know if I can count on a peaceful night sleep once we are out to sea! The food is also very good, and I am becoming known for my big appetite. The chefs, Dennis and John, are excellent cooks.  I look forward to each meal they serve.  Looks like I won’t be losing any weight!

Question of the Day 

1. The NOAA scientists and crewmembers need to bring many materials on board with them when they go to sea. If they forget something, they will not be able to return to get it, and there are no stores in the middle of the ocean.

a. What would you bring to sea with you if you were going for a week?

b. What would you absolutely need to bring with you?

c. What if you could only bring 10 items?  What would they be?

d. What if you were only able to bring 5 items? What would they be?  Two items?

My stateroom, or bedroom, on board the DELAWARE II
My stateroom, or bedroom, on board 
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA

Jill Carpenter, September 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 5, 2006

NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

Weather Data from Bridge
Weather data not collected while in port

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday evening. After a short walk through town, I came upon the Northeast Fisheries Science Center building and NOAA pier where the DELAWARE II was docked.  For the next 10 days, this vessel will be completing part 1 of a 3-leg Hydroacoustic (water-sound) Survey, and I will be a part of it!  I will bring back the knowledge and experiences that I gain and share these with my classroom of fifth grade students in South Riding, Virginia. The DELAWARE II is a stern trawler ship, which means that it is designed to catch fish and other sea life in nets from the rear (stern) of the ship.  The ship was built in 1968, is 155 ft long, and displaces 600 tons of water.

Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.
Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.

The purpose of this survey is to estimate the number of certain species of northwest Atlantic pelagic (mid-water) fish.  The ship will use technologies such as multifrequency and omni (all) directional sonar to provide information about the fish.  We will also take select samples of certain species for biological data, such as weight, length, age, and prey items (stomach contents). 

After breakfast, my roommate and I helped research fisheries biologist Dr.Mike Jech and herring biologist Karen Bolles load equipment needed for the trip.  Some of the supplies loaded were computer equipment, tool boxes, life vests, and equipment for collecting and measuring fish, such as large plastic baskets, measuring boards, and waterproof labels.

About mid-morning, we shifted piers from the NOAA pier to the neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) pier.  The first goal, before getting underway, was to calibrate the sonar systems on board.  We needed to calibrate to make sure the system is working properly and to maintain consistency and standardize this survey to all previous hydroacoustic surveys. This helps scientists to find the fish they are researching and obtain important information about them such as behavior and size of the schools.

Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port
Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port

The calibration is accomplished by lowering a copper sphere, which is about the size of an orange, below the hull of the ship so that it is in the hydroacoustic beams.  The acoustic beam is shaped like a flashlight beam. This process should be performed at slack tide (when the water is moving the least) so we have the most control of the sphere. The copper ball will bounce an echo back to the ship, and the scientists can translate that data into information that will make sense to them. It took patience to calibrate the sonar system.  First, Mike, Karen and I worked to position the copper sphere so that it was in the sonar beams.  This was done by using downriggers (which are like large fishing reels) and fishing line to lower and adjust the copper sphere below the hull. We eventually had to postpone the calibration because of the high amount of seaweed that interfered with the echo from the sphere. I also had the opportunity to receive a tour of the fore deck of the boat.  Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych showed me around the bow and explained some of the equipment to me, such as the hawse pipe (the tube where the anchor chain drops down) and the wildcat (the drive that lifts the anchor chain and anchor. Also, I learned that rope on board a ship is called “line”.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.
Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.

Personal Log

When I first caught sight of the DELAWARE II, my new home for the next 10 days, I was in awe. It looked to me like a ship that you would see on the Discovery Channel!  It has so much technical equipment on board, and the ship seems so large when you are standing next to it on the pier. It was a different story when I got on board!  The hallways are more narrow than I am used to, and my room is only about 7’ x 10’ but sleeps 4 people!  I have quickly become used to the size of the interior of the ship and have learned how to maneuver quickly around the passageways.

I am most fearful of becoming seasick while on board.  I keep my motion-sickness medicine and wristbands with me at all times.  I am still a little worried, though, since I can already feel the ship rocking and we haven’t even let the port yet!

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.

I have been thinking of my students today and wondering how their first day of fifth-grade is going. I am looking forward to returning and getting to know each one of you!  I hope your year is off to a good start and I am eager to share my experience with all of you! Take care of Mrs. Nelson!

Question of the Day

1. How old is the DELAWARE II?

2. What does it mean to “displace” water?  Can you think of a time when you have displaced water?

3. I learned that lengths of chain are measured in “shots” instead of feet or meters.  A shot is 90 feet of chain. If 5 shots of chain are needed to be released in order for the anchor to touch bottom, how much chain will that be?

Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA
Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA

Candice Autry, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 16, 2006

“Experiences on the Fast Rescue Boat” 

TAS Candice Autry prepares to use the CTD instrument which collects water information related to conductivity, temperature, and depth.
Candice Autry prepares to use the CTD instrument which collects water information related to conductivity, temperature, and depth.

Science and Technology Log 

Today I had the opportunity to go out on the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) to use the conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) instrument in various places in the harbor.  The CTD looks like a simple white tube; however, the capabilities of the CTD are far from simple!  This devise provides essential data for scientists. Three of us boarded the small FRB, loaded the CTD, and were off to our locations. The first observation noted is that being on the fast rescue boat is a different boating experience compared to the launches and the THOMAS JEFFERSON. The “fast” part of the description is fitting; the boat moves quickly!  The main function of the CTD is to collect data about how the conductivity and temperature of water changes relative to depth. Conductivity and temperature information is important because the concentration of the salt of the seawater can be determined by these two changing variables.

Candice Autry holds the CTD instrument. We collected information from three locations; once in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
Candice Autry holds the CTD instrument. We collected information from three locations; once in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The CTD devise can also help surveyors determine the speed of sound in the water. The information from the CTD is used in conjunction with multi-beam sonar providing accurate data about the depths of obstructions on the seafloor. The metal frame seen in the picture on the outside of the mechanism is called a rosette.  We attached a rope to the rosette of the CTD, turned it on to collect data, held the devise in the water for two minutes for adjustment, then lowered the instrument down to the bottom of the seafloor. Once the CTD hits the bottom of the seafloor, the rope is pulled back up, the devise is put back into the fast rescue boat, turned off, and it is off to the next location to collect data.  We deployed the CTD in three different locations in the morning and three different locations in the afternoon. At each place where data collection occurred, the location was recorded by using a global positioning system.  Back on the THOMAS JEFFERSON, the information that the CTD collected is downloaded to a computer where specialized software is used to understand the data.

Personal Log 

All of the experiences on the THOMAS JEFFERSON have been interesting and fun.  Tomorrow I will be helping some of the crew on the deck of the ship.  Exposure to saltwater often causes rust to occur; a ship requires constant maintenance!  I am also realizing that this adventure will be over soon, with less than two days left. Until tomorrow…..

A closer view of the CTD.
A closer view of the CTD.
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit shares the chart used as a guide for the launches to collect data. The red lines in the white area of the chart represent the paths the launches took to collect data using side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technologies.
Surveyor Peter Lewit shares the chart used to collect data. The red lines in the white area represent the paths the launches took.

Candice Autry, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 15, 2006

Crew members prepare the launches to collect data using side-scan and multi-beam sonar
Crew members prepare the launches to collect data using side-scan and multi-beam sonar

Weather 
AM: SW winds 15-20 knots, Seas 1-2 feet
PM: W winds 10-15 knots, Seas 1-2 feet  Chance of showers

Science and Technology Log: Data Collection Begins! 

We have made it to our destination after a thirty-hour journey. It is exciting to get started with data collection, I am curious what is on the bottom of a busy harbor.  After a brief safety meeting that kicks off the morning, we prepare to go out on the launches to begin the process of making a chart that will provide information about obstructions in navigable waters. The teamwork of the crew of the THOMAS JEFFERSON is inspiring to watch, each with a specific duty communicating and working together so that launches are safely deployed.  Today two launches will collect data using side-scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technologies.

The launch is ready to start collecting data. Typically, a launch has a driver, another person to look out for water traffic, and a surveyor who observes the data being collected and who manipulates the computers connected to the "fish" below the launch.
The launch is ready to collect data. Typically, a launch has a driver, a person to look out for water traffic, and a surveyor who observes the data being collected and manipulates the computers connected to the “fish” below the launch.
Bernard Pooser behind the wheel of the launch. The route he drives in the harbor is very specific, and he must follow careful ‘driving lines’ that the surveyor also sees on one of the four computer screens inside of the launch.  This job is much easier said than done, a real challenge!
Bernard Pooser driving the launch in the harbor. The route is very specific and he must follow careful ‘driving lines’ that the surveyor also sees on one of the four computer screens inside of the launch. This job is much easier said than done!
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit prepares to collect data utilizing side scan sonar. Side-scan sonar provides a picture that shows light and dark images that provide high-resolution images of obstructions on the seafloor.
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit prepares to collect side scan sonar data, which provides light and dark high-resolution images of obstructions on the seafloor.

The launch I am on today utilizes side-scan sonar, which incorporates sound navigation and ranging that is used for searching for objects on the seafloor. This technology transmits sound energy, which sends a beam from the “fish” (the instrument underneath the launch) that bounces off the seafloor and other objects. Once the sound energy hits the floor, it then bounces back to the fish in the form of an echo. These beams are sent in a fan-shaped pattern that sweeps the seafloor from underneath the launch to approximately 75 meters from either side of the boat (although distances can reach 100 meters).  The strength of the echo is recorded as a “picture” that can be seen on a computer screen.  If there is an object on the bottom of the seafloor, such as a protrusion, the return signal will be strong and will create a dark image on the screen.  If the return signal has a weak return, then the image on the computer will look light.  A tire on the seafloor, or a barge that has sunk is easily seen and depicted! These images are fascinating.

Surveyor Doug Wood observes computer screens where data is being collected. The green triangle is showing multi-beam sonar data.
Surveyor Doug Wood observes computers where data is being collected.

The benefit of side-scan sonar allows for high-resolution of what is on the seafloor. The only drawback of side-scan sonar technology is that the depth of these obstructions cannot be ascertained. Determining the depth of an obstruction is where multi-beam sonar is applied.  Multi-beam sonar utilizes fan-shaped sonar that records depths.  This is done by recording the time it takes for the acoustic signal to travel from the receiver to the seafloor (or object on the seafloor) back to the receiver. The receiver is often referred to as a transducer. The multi-beam sonar transducer is attached underneath the launch.  The combination of side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar create for specific data that can be shared so that navigable waters are safe.

Personal Log: “I have my sea legs!” 

I must admit I was a bit nervous about being seasick!  Our thirty-hour journey was difficult for me for only about three hours, right at the beginning of the trip.  I am very happy for a short experience with seasickness! After getting my sea legs, it is interesting to realize that one can adapt quickly. Often I felt like I was being rocked to sleep as we made our way to our destination through the waves of the ocean. After being on a ship for a couple of days, experiencing land is an interesting sensation. I missed moving around on water and felt as if I were on water even though I was on land! I do not really miss being on land at all.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Candice Autry, enjoys pudding while taking a break from observing data collection using side-scan sonar. The Statue of Liberty is in the background!
Candice Autry, enjoys pudding while taking a break from observing data collection. The Statue of Liberty is in the background!

Candice Autry, August 7-12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 7 -12, 2006

“Ships have many pieces of complicated equipment!” 

The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a necessary part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail
The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail

Personal Log 

Hello, greetings from Teacher at Sea Candice Autry.  I teach science to middle school students at a wonderful school called Sheridan School in Washington, DC.  I have been given the great opportunity to sail with the crew on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. Our cruise has been delayed several days due to unforeseen problems with some of the complex and necessary equipment on the ship.  It is important to be flexible with any kind of change, so these past few days have given me the opportunity to explore the ship as we wait for final repairs. The objectives of this particular ship primarily involve hydrographic surveys.  Hydrography is the science that has to do with measuring and describing physical characteristics of bodies of water and the shore areas close to land. Thanks to hydrographic surveys, ships, ferries, pleasure boats, and other vessels can safely navigate in busy waters without hitting any obstructions on the bottom of a harbor.

A functioning crane on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON lifts the necessary fast rescue boat (FRB) aboard.
A crane lifts the necessary fast rescue boat aboard.

Hydrographic surveys can also locate submerged wrecks in deep waters; examples include unfortunate events such as shipwrecks out at sea as well as plane crashes over the ocean. These surveys are done by using technology that involves side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technology. The combination of these two types of technologies can create a clear picture of a barrier on the ocean floor and the depth of the obstruction.

The THOMAS JEFFERSON holds several smaller boats including two launches (one launch is visible in the picture, it is the gray boat) that have this sonar technology located underneath the vessel. The instrument that collects data is often called a “fish.”  The data can be seen on a computer screen so that the surveyors can view the data being collected.  Once we reach our destination, we will use these launches, one equipped with a fish that uses multi-beam sonar technology and the other with a fish that uses side scan sonar to create a chart of what is on the bottom of a very busy harbor!

Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
 A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge
A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge

Patti Conner, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2006

Data: (collected very early morning, 3AM) 
Air temperature = 18 C0 (65 F0 )
Water temperature = 18.9 C0 (68 F0)
Weather = rain
Depth of trawl = 98 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.28 ppm
Wind speed = 18 knots

Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk
Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk

Science and Technology Log 

We have been very busy collecting samples of scallops and fish.  We are weighing and measuring the scallops.  Some of the dredge amounts are huge so we collect all the scallops and take a sub-sample and weigh and measure those.  Another sample of scallops is cleaned, measured and frozen to determine the age of the scallops which is done at a lab on shore. We collect cancer crabs and starfish and count them as they eat scallops and we want to see the amount of predation. We are covering all 24 hours so there is a day watch from noon to midnight, and there is a night watch (mine) from midnight to noon.  When you eat a scallop, you are eating the abductor muscle.  This muscle can be quite large in a Sea Scallop which allows it to “swim” across the ocean floor and not creep along like a clam does.

Personal Log 

Two days ago the weather was warm and sunny.  I was lucky enough to see whales. I have never seen a whale out of captivity before and it was beautiful to see.  This morning there were very heavy rains and lightning. It didn’t take long for that weather front to move on. I am tired as my body is still adjusting to the work schedule. The work is also very physical as much of what we are sampling ends up back in the ocean.  We are collecting, shoveling, measuring and cleaning all the time. A few more day and we’ll be back to port at Woods Hole.  I will be returning to finish teaching summer school on Monday.  I can’t wait to be in the classroom and see my students again.

Answer to last log: The picture was the internal structures of a scallop, a two-shelled mollusk. The black dots were eyes. I read that the eyes are fairly complex structures with retinas, lenses, and a large nerve fiber.

Patti Conner, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 4, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C(62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 19.2 C0 (66 F0)
Weather = hazy
Depth of trawl = 85 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.06 ppm
Wind speed = 10.56 knots

I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV
I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

The 12 hour shift is going very well. It is a little cooler out here than I expected, but the water temperature does affect the air. It is quite foggy today as we continue to travel northeast around Georges Bank. We have been in a little deeper water today, and have collected fewer scallops but we continue to bring in fish and many broken mollusk shells. Surprisingly, we brought up more algae than before even though the water is deeper. The main fish we are collecting are: Flounder, Hake, Skates, Sculpin, and Goosefish (also know as Monk Fish). I will be sending some pictures of the fish as well as some more invertebrate pictures.

Personal Log 

I miss being at home and respect those who are at sea working. It is demanding work, but when the sun rises over the water it is an impressive site and makes everything seem worthwhile. I wouldn’t care to be out here in the winter, but the boat and crew are except for a few weeks of the year. Next time we have a snow day, I’ll be thinking of my friends out here on the boat in howling winds. Today we had a little time between dredging so I was able to come up with several new labs for next year. My students will have a few new labs for our Under The Sea Unit. We will have some fish, and reptile (Sea Turtle) identifications to make using taxonomic keys. I am also working on a Squid dissection lab in addition to the Starfish dissection lab. Of course there will be a lab on Scallops (no, we are not going to eat them!).

Invertebrate identification from previous log = Echinoderms (Sunstars), and Vertebrate identification = Me! 

What invertebrate is this?  Look at the number of shells.  What are the small black spots?

connor_log3a

Patti Conner, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 2, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C0 (62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 15.5 C0 (60 F0)
Weather = sunny, windy
Depth of trawl = 45.4 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.54 ppm
Wind speed = 13.52 knots

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are sailing northeast of our sailing position yesterday. We are going to circle Georges Bank counterclockwise. Our dredges today were interesting. We continue to bring scallops in, but my watch team tells me there are more plentiful spots to come.  At one site, we found so many sand dollars that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This particular species of sand dollar produces a very brilliant green colored pigment which stains everything (starfish, algae, fish and me!).  I am learning to identify the many species of starfish that we bring in.  One of my jobs is to count them at various sites by randomly selecting from the dredge material.  At one site, I was counting hundreds of them.  It’s amazing how well they can hide and are camouflaged in the algae.  Many of the scallops have thick red layers of red algae on them (remember that red algae can grow at deeper depths because the red pigment can trap the minimal amount of sunlight needed for photosynthesis), and they also can be found carrying Porifera (sponges) on them which also helps them to be camouflaged.

Personal Log 

I do love it out here. My inner ear and brain has adjusted to the perpetual motion of the boat. I have not had a problem with seasickness yet.  It has helped that the weather has been nice. I am also doing well with the midnight to noon work schedule.  It is a little funny to see the fog roll across the deck of the boat in the darkness of the night.  Sunrise is my favorite time as the light changes how everything looks, especially the dredge samples, and it is nice to see the waves and the great expanse of the water.

Yesterdays invertebrate sample: Starfish (phylum = Echinodermata).

Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!
Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!

Patti Conner, July 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: July 31, 2006

Weather Data
Air temperature = 17 C0
Water temperature = 18.3 C0
Weather = Fog, haze
Depth of trawl = 60.9 meters
Water salinity = 31.03 ppm
Wind speed = 13 knots

The ALBATROSS lV moored at port, Woods Hole, MA
The ALBATROSS lV moored at port, Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log 

I woke up at 11:00 PM (23:00) Monday and started to get ready for my first 12-hour watch.  The ship changed to two 12-hour watches this year instead of the 6 hours on, 6 hours off, 6 hours on, 6 hours off watches.  I would think that the 12 hour watches are less disruptive to our biological clocks, and would make it much easier to get into a working, eating and sleeping pattern.  The scientists and crewmembers on my watch seem quite happy with this schedule.  We are sailing around Georges Bank, and doing 15-minute dredging samples at computer predetermined sites.  Some of the sites are close together and others are spaced farther apart.  When the dredging gear is brought aboard, there is a scramble to sort through the material.  We are separating fish and scallops and counting them, and then the other invertebrate animals are returned to the sea. The scallops are taken to the wet, biology lab and weighed and measured using computerized equipment and a program which tallies the data for scientists to interpret here and on shore. Since the scallop industry is such a large economic industry, these studies help to ensure the survival of the business and ecosystem.

Personal Log 

What an amazing journey this has been. I will never forget seeing my first sampling of marine organisms dredged up from the bottom of the sea.  Sorting through the algae, fish and invertebrates is just an exciting experience. It is fabulous to see fish that I have never seen before, and see their mouth shape and structure which allows them to eat and survive. The invertebrates such as mollusks, sponges and echinoderms are fabulous and abundant. To reinforce our invertebrate phyla, I will be posting an animal picture of the day and asking you to identify the phylum.  I will post the answer the next day. Do you remember these guys (or gals)?

What phyla do these animals belong to?

Joel Jaroch, July 10-28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joel Jaroch
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Dates: July 10-29, 2006

I will be presenting my experience on the ALBATROSS IV a bit different from the typical Teacher at Sea log format because of some challenges we faced in getting to sea and given the work schedule we kept—12 hour shifts, leaving me a bit exhausted from the work.

So, from this entry you will get an overall “look” at what took place during the time at sea for the Sea Scallop survey. Since the work done for each 12 hour shift was the same procedurally and only the change was in content of what was caught, I believe you will find the way in which I am presenting my experiences as more reader friendly.

As my shift ended at noon each day, I will present the weather data from the bridge in a chart for the 1200 hour each day we were at sea. This allows you to see change in the weather over the days at the same time each day. What do you see in terms of sea and air temperature change as we steamed north at the end of our survey? Can you guess which day(s) we felt the effects of Tropical Storm Beryl?

The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.
The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.

Science and Technology Component: 

In a 12 hour period of sampling for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop a wide array of organisms were taken from the sea floor bottom with the dredge. The dredge was run for a set amount of time, always 15 minutes. Over those few minutes and the ALBATROSS IV running at about 3.85 knots, the dredge tow covered about 1 nautical mile.

When this is done a station would have been sampled. There are a certain number of stations that are sampled within what is called a stratum. The number of stations sampled in any given strata is dependent upon strata size. A strata is defined by an area of uniform depth AND what substrate exists on the sea floor. Substrate is the living and non-living things found on the sea floor bottom.

The number of stations per stratum is determined based on two factors – area of stratum and the importance of that area to the scallop assessment (the computer randomly picks the locations but the number or stations is predetermined.) A non-random station becomes part of the survey sample when a site is picked on purpose by NOAA scientists or other scientists because there is a specific reason to go there for sampling. For example, one reason a station is non-random is because a scientist wants to develop a history for a station to monitor changes over time.

Along the North Atlantic there are many strata and the potential for hundreds of stations for NOAA scientist use to assess the sea scallop population. Therefore, for the first leg of the 2006 Sea Scallop survey 295 stations were sampled. This was done with two teams of 8 to 9 people working 24 hours a day. One shift worked from noon to midnight while the other team began work at midnight and finished at noon. The following chart shows how many stations were sampled by each team for the dates July 13 through 27. The primary reason for the wide range of stations sampled from shift to shift and day-to-day has to do with the distance between stations. The greater the distance the longer it took the ALBATROSS IV to steam to the next station. Also weather conditions had certainly slowed some of the sampling. With any thunder and lightning, the NOAA officers would not permit the team to be on the back deck sorting a sample for obvious safety reasons.

Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.
Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.

A TEAM: So, who is on a team? Two people on the bridge at all times, a NOAA officer and lookout. As safety is the number one priority of the NOAA officer on the bridge, the lookout helps the officer by looking out for anything that may not be caught by the ship’s radar so that the officer can navigate the ship from station to station. There are two people on constant watch of the two 565 horsepower engines, the two smaller engines that generate electricity, the units that produce freshwater from sea water, the hydraulic machinery that power the boom, Gantry and winch along with all the other mechanical parts and machinery, the two cooks that keep us fueled for the long shifts, a watch chief (Sean Lacey for my shift) who is under the guidance of the chief scientist (Stacy Rowe) for this leg, two other NOAA Biological Science Technicians (Bill Duffy and Alicia Long), the two fisherman – deck crew that manage the boom, Gantry, and winch cables because of safety issues (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway for my shift), the boom, Gantry, and winch operator (Lino Luis) and three volunteers.

Teamwork and constant communication between ALL parties took place to ensure that sampling success was achieved and safety was always observed.  A STATION: What happened at the end of any 15 minute dredge tow? A series of events would be put into action by all members of the shift. Those on the bridge move the ship to the next station, the engineers ensure that the machine components are running properly, and the science and volunteer crew, along with the greatly appreciated help of the fisherman (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway on my shift) and the Gantry operator (Lino Luis) got to the task of analyzing the haul. THE routine on the stern of the ALBATROSS IV was always the same when it came to going through a station haul—the only change seen from station to station was the contents of a haul.

So, for the 14 days that the two teams worked, 295 stations were sampled and the work to analyze each haul looked the same. Needless to say, as each station and day passed, the actual processing of a haul was done more efficiently.

And what would this work look like for a team? Below are the procedures we used to analyze each haul. In addition, you will find the data we collected for one 12 hour shift combined in a chart to give you an idea of what was caught. The data was for the midnight to noon shift on July 16th.

PROCEDURES FOR ANALYZING A STATION HAUL:

  1. Gantry hauls the dredge from sea floor bottom and nearly aboard the ship after the 15 minute tow through the designated station. A winch does the final work and brings the dredge aboard the ship on the back deck.
  2. An Inclinometer reading is gathered from dredge using the Optic Shuttle to transfer data to computer so as to check how the dredge ran on sea floor bottom. NOTE: Only twice did the dredge flip in the process of sampling the 295 stations! Although the graphed data from the inclinometer verified this, the NOAA scientist also suspected a dredge flip given the amount of material hauled from sea floor bottom as well as the marks on the top of the dredge as it ran upside down on the sea floor bottom – the sand shining the metal of dredge top.
  3. Dredge tow contents are emptied onto deck for processing using boom.
  4. Digital camera records haul pile along with a small white marker board that gives strata number, station number, tow number, whether it is a random or non-random station, and if the stratum was open or closed to certain fishing. Closed area regulations vary – often it does not mean that it is closed only to scallop fishermen, some areas are completely closed to all fishing, some are open at certain times of the year to certain types of fishing.
  5. The crew systematically searched through the haul to pull out all specified living organisms and nonliving items to be placed in either 5 gallon buckets (white) or bushel baskets (red)—fish generally placed into the buckets and scallops into the baskets. The watch chief tells all members to switch spots at the pile once the first search is done so that we all look through the pile a second time, working from a spot that someone else worked to ensure all required items are pulled from the pile. Sometimes so many scallops were brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV, that every available bushel basket was filled.
  6. Every third station a member takes handfuls from the haul—moving around the haul to get as random sample as possible, and fills a one gallon bucket to sub-sample the entire haul for starfish. The sub-sample is searched for all starfish which are then sorted by species and counted. The actual number of starfish, by species, is expanded to an Expected Number of starfish for the entire haul using an expansion factor. In addition, all Cancer species crabs were counted in total while other crabs are not counted. The reason Cancer species are counted is because there appears to be a relationship to the number of these crabs and scallops – ie. more of these crabs means less scallops.
  7. Every third station the CTD test is deployed to the sea floor bottom using the SeaBird Sensory Device to test for three specific water parameters: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. Twice a day a water sample is also collected—in the General Oceanics 12 tube and bottled during this same CTD cast for the purpose of calibrating the Sensory Device. The software used to record this data was created by NOAA with the wiring from the device running all the way into the designated computer from the boom where the CTD sensor instrument is lowered to sea floor and brought back by the boom.
  8. All specified specimens—living and non-living, are entered into the NOAA created software: Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). There are three processing stations to do this, each with their own touch screen monitor to activate and record the data to FSCS. All members helped in the processing of the catch, first by sorting fish by species, counting crabs and starfish when required as third station.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.

9. The sea scallops is generally the first to be entered into FSCS for weight. If the haul contains a great number of bushel baskets, a sub-sample will be used to represent the whole and then expanded to represent the whole catch for that station. For example, if 12 bushel baskets of sea scallops were collected from the haul, approximately 500 scallops are to be measured for length. This could be 2 to 3 baskets from the 12. Say it is 2 baskets given the size distribution—that is, they are nearly all the same size OR the size varies greatly among the scallops, all the scallops in those 2 baskets will be measured using the Limnoterra FMB IV measuring board —an magnet wand that will activate a signal to record the scallop length to the FSCS. The program then expands, in this case, the sub-sample to the entire catch by an expansion factor of 6 to give an Expected Number of scallops for this haul.

10.The weight of all fish, by species is recorded into FSCS while only certain fish species (see chart below) are measured for length to go along with the number of fish caught by species.

Sampling baskets
Sampling baskets

11.For non-random sites or for specific requests from scientists, certain fish species and specific scallop data may need to be collected, processed, and put into the flash freezer. For example, a scientist want all Fawn Cusk-eel fish for sound production study while another scientist wants scallop meat weights and gonad weights for an age and growth study. Labels for such requests are printed on an Eltron TLP 2742 printer. Specimens are put into either ziplock plastic bag or cloth sacks.

12.Using the saltwater hoses, processing stations and deck area is cleaned for the next station haul. We all take a breather—especially necessary when we have a large haul of scallops requiring a lot of processing.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.

Catch Data for Stations 45 – 57 North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2006 

1 Recorded Number: Actual number of organisms collected, counted, and recorded. 2 Little Skate: A certain number of this fish is also evaluated for sexual maturity and recorded. 3 Expected Number: When a large number of organisms are caught for any given haul (in our case only for starfish and scallops) a small subset of the specific organism catch would be randomly selected. That subset would be counted and recorded. Using an expansion factor, an expected number of the specific organism for that haul would be determined to represent the entire catch for that haul.  4 StarFish: For this chart I have combined all starfish species into one group whereas NOAA scientists record the starfish by species. In addition, starfish are sub-sampled every third station only from the entire haul. 5 Sea Scallop Clapper: This refers to sea scallop shells that are still attached at the hinge, as a bivalve, but do not have a living scallop inside. NOAA records this data because the number and size of clappers provides a means for determining recent death in a given area.

As the chart above represents the entire catch for stations 45 through 57 over a given 12 hour period of July 16th, the next 12 hour period of work, or the next could look completely different from a data point of view. For example, during several of my 12 hour shifts we caught few scallops compared to the data given above—an expected number of scallops of 22,142 for stations 45 through 57. Certainly for that 12 hour period we had a significant work load given the number of scallops hauled aboard the ship with the need to put them all in the bushel baskets and then measuring the length of a sub-sample of the entire haul when such a large number were brought aboard.

Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.
Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.

Summary of Science and Technology Component: 

After reading all of the above information there are a few things that I would like you to understand completely. The procedures that we carried out each 12 hour shift was the same. This allowed us to become familiar with the steps we needed to take in analyzing each haul and therefore work more efficiently as a team. Following the same procedures on every tow allows for tows to be comparable with other tows – this is true for all tows conducted this year and throughout the history of the scallop survey. This is very important when it comes to analyzing the data. The aspect that changed was the contents of each haul brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV at each station that we sampled. For me there was always that little bit of excitement in seeing if something new would be in the next haul. Inevitably I was able to see new and different organisms with each haul. The pipe fish and sea horse being just two examples.

Finally, I appreciate the work that ALL aboard the ALBATROSS IV are doing to continue this North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey. As such a long ongoing survey, the amount of data that NOAA has and continues to build year to year, their work and efforts seem to prove truly worthwhile as the vitality of the sea scallop population is healthy. I think of the relationship that must exist between the fisherman making their livelihood from the sea scallop and entire NOAA crew that studies the scallop and believe the relationship is a good one. The wild stock sea scallops that you and I can buy from the local grocery store is evidence that all involved parties are making this marine resource a well managed one based upon a cooperative relationship between many parties. Three cheers for all involved!!!

Conversations I had with NOAA Crew: 

1. Who needs more “fuel” in one 24 hour period, 33 hard working individuals aboard the ALBATROSS IV or a 565 horse power engine?

In talking with Kevin Cruse, Chief Mechanical Engineer, he had told me that the 565 hp Caterpillar engine will consume about 1000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel in a 24 hour period. He went on to tell me that, on average, the total water use during a similar 24 hour period is also about 1000 gallons of water. The ship is equipped with two Maxim Evaporators that can produce 1900 gallons of fresh water a day from the sea water. Usually just one of the evaporators is running at a time. The ALBATROSS IV can hold up to 22,324 gallons of freshwater. Kevin said that it is important to keep as much freshwater in the holding tanks because as the diesel fuel is used up, with the loss that weight (1 gallon of diesel fuel is about 7 pounds) the ship loses a little bit of stability as it does not ride as low in the water.

2. The conveniences of “staying in touch….”

Although the technology in not truly that new, Billy Dowdell, Electronic Technician, gave me an explanation as to how the integration of computers and a satellite helped me keep in touch with my family while I was at sea. The Skycell Satellite Transceiver takes stored emails from the crew aboard the ship and sends them out two at a time while receiving emails destined for those of us aboard the ALBATROSS IV, also two at a time and only for $6.00 per minute. As a regular schedule, emails are sent and received three times a day. Billy allowed me to help send and receive a batch of emails one afternoon. It all took just a few moments. This technology is a great feature for those at sea so that we can keep in touch with our loved ones. I appreciated the contact from my family.

3. What would be some of your initial thoughts and ideas if I say ALBATROSS IV Engine Room?

I wonder if ‘loud’ and ‘hot’ come to mind? Tim Monaghan, General Vessel Assistant, gave me the grand tour of the engine room, ear protection required. It is a world unto itself! Aside from being loud and hot the next thing that struck me was the overall neatness of the entire place, not to mention what must be miles and miles of wiring and piping. Of course, it also could be the five engines that are so obvious: two 565 hp Caterpillar engines that power the 8 foot diameter—3 blade propeller cursing at 10 knots, three smaller engines for electricity generation and to power the hydraulic systems. Although there is a vast supply of spare parts aboard the ship as back up parts, the crew of the engine room can also fabricate some specific parts if need be. Impressive. Finally, I was told, “It’s a Caterpillar.” As the sea scallop survey runs 24 hours a day and we were at sea for 15 days, I found it incredible that the 565 hp engine (only one was running) was constantly working without a hiccup. The constant burning of the #2 diesel fuel supply would allow the ALBATROSS IV to run about 3900 nautical miles. Not bad for a ship commissioned in May of 1963.

4. So, you wonder about being an NOAA Officer?

I had the chance to talk with all of the NOAA officers and had an interesting conversation with Navigation Officer, Chris Daniels. Safety of all aboard in paramount as Chris made this clear to me from the beginning of our conversation. While on the bridge, this is what Chris is most concerned with. As a great responsibility you have to be able to manage this, otherwise the officer work may not be for you. In addition, he told me that all NOAA officers rotate between assignments at sea and on land; two years at sea and three years on land assignment. So, you must be willing and able to cope with the constant change in job site and environment. Chris feels this is actually a perk because to travel though out the country, whether at sea or on land assignment, is a great opportunity to see other places and constantly meet new people. Which brings up the final point—the family life. Although growing up as a child of a military family, he does not deny that for some to find a person that will cope with the constant change and movement is a real issue needing consideration before becoming an officer. This is especially true given that NOAA officers are at sea 240 days each year!

The top side of many scallops can be quite beautiful as these samples show.
The top side of many scallops can be quite beautiful as these samples show.

5. So you want to be a NOAA Scientist?

I had the great pleasure of working with three young and extremely intelligent people. Their overall effort and diligence were duly noted as Biological Science Technicians. First, Sean Lucey, also serving as Watch Chief for the midnight to noon shift, will begin his masters degree work this fall. What he enjoys most about the survey is the opportunity to be outdoors, on the open ocean, taking in the wonderful view. He also considers it all a great adventure. Although he finds challenges in getting the volunteers to mesh and work together as a group, he welcomes this part of the job also because of how it will help him continue to grow as a crew leader. Second is Bill Duffy, with a hardy laugh that grows from deep down within and rolls out loud and clear. He finds the work he is doing truly rewarding because the sea scallop survey is being done for the sake of science. The work certainly will impact the lives of many and feels his work will help secure the livelihood of fisherman for a long time to come. The challenge of such work for Bill is being away from loved ones for extended periods of time. As the work covers many hours and much of it done on our hands and knees, the physical demands of the job are also noted by Bill as a real challenge. He does marvel at the overall diversity of the volunteers that help out with the survey work, meeting new and interesting people from all walks-of-life. Finally, Alicia Long, having worked for NOAA for the past three years, she also has plans to return to school to get her masters degree. What she finds rewarding about these surveys is that every trip is different, with something new happening each time (and she is not just talking about the volunteers). She went on to say that training volunteers takes time and when we have the routine down, it is about the end of the survey. She finds the ground fish survey work truly challenging with the cold, windy and rough seas— enough to tax even the most seasoned scientist.

6. And the work of a Skilled Fisherman?

I had the great pleasure to talk with Steve Flavin, a Skilled Fisherman, as we worked the same midnight to noon shift. He talked about many aspects of being a Skilled Fisherman for NOAA as well as what it was like to be a fisherman making a living from the sea before coming to NOAA. He certainly has the keen eyes of a fisherman and person who has spent a great deal of time at sea, a great wealth of knowledge about the sea, and a real compassion for the living organisms hauled aboard the ALBATROSS IV—he would often set aside a hermit crab or two so as to return them to the sea as soon as possible. Yet, of all the things we talked about and all that he shared, his interest in the osprey that had found a perch on the upper reaches of the ship did not surprise me as to who he is. After one of the hauls, he had set aside a fish that had been counted for that station. From the back port side of the ship, he tossed the fish in a nice clean arch over the side, to ensure that the osprey would see it. Sure enough, the osprey, in one fluid motion, flew off the perch, down to the sea, and deftly plucked the fish from the sea. Returning to its perch, the osprey proceeded to eat the fish. Within a few hours it took flight from that perch to some distant point. Steve speculated that it may have gained back some strength (as it was on the perch for over 24 hours!!!) and was able to move on. Many land birds that end up blown to sea often end up dying because they eventually drink sea water. Thank goodness the osprey didn’t.

Sea Scallops have light sensory spots –the dark circular marks, to help them detect changes in light amount.
Sea Scallops have light sensory spots –the dark circular marks, to help them detect changes in light amount.

Personal Logs

July 10, 2006 

Day one after arriving in Woods Hole, flying into Boston from Philadelphia and taking a bus trip from Logan Airport to the ALBATROSS IV. An entire crew was putting two 1600 meter cables onto winch spools for setting out and hauling back the dredge for each station we sampled. Meet with Ms. Hart and she gave all scientists an overview of the sea scallop survey. Meals aboard ship are filling and complete. We did not get under way because of certain issues that needed addressing on the ALBATROSS IV.

July 12, 2006: 

Still at dock because of ship issues. So, Dave, the other teacher aboard ship and I went to a NOAA warehouse to work on two dredges, replacing several parts of the dredge. It was a hands-on learning experience. This work is necessary so that there are always backup dredges available to use on the ALBATROSS IV as the sea floor bottom can cause havoc upon the dredges—you wouldn’t believe the size of some of the rocks brought aboard the ship.

July 13, 2006: 

All hands aboard and the ALBATROSS IV leaves Woods Hole around 6pm. The breeze in my face felt good as I stood starboard side, taking in the sites and trying to contain my excitement. Need to get to bed as so as possible because I will be getting up in a few hours to start the midnight to noon shift.

July 14, 2006: 

End of my first shift of the survey. We did not have to start until about 6am as we had to steam to the very first station to sample. So we got the chance to ease into the work— completing our shift after only 6 hours. Yet, the new smells (the sand dollars produce a strong odor) and the “rough” seas – all new to me, resulted in a weakness in the stomach and legs. The thought of food alone was enough to keep me away from the mess hall and I certainly was not talkative at that time. Water and PLENTY of saltine crackers became my nourishment for the next few days!

July 16, 2006: 

As the 12 hours is a long shift, we have to approach the work as running a marathon and not a sprint—working “slow” and steady. We had many hauls and the catches were large, lots of sea scallops to process. For two of our hauls we filled 28 bushel baskets with large sized scallops! It is a site to see. Starting to challenge my stomach again by eating something other than saltine crackers and it responded with some grumblings.

July 17, 2006: 

Such a calm sea has also calmed my stomach on such a beautiful and clear day, just like yesterday. An osprey has been overhead aboard the ALBATROSS IV for over 24 hours. Wonder if it has gotten tired of standing on its perch for so long without “sitting” to rest. One of the crew was able to entice it from it purchase by throwing a fish in a high arch overboard. The osprey didn’t miss that and took it’s time in eating every part of the fish.

July 18, 2006: 

There was a red glowing ball, balanced easily on the morning horizon. What a sight which a photo cannot fully capture. I want it etched into my mind for recall at a later date and truly enjoy and marvel at. I do miss the sunsets as I need to be in bed for a 11pm wake-up call.

July 21, 2006: 

Needed to skip a few days of note taking because of tropical storm Beryl and the havoc it played on my mind and stomach. Understand that the sea was plenty rough for me during the storm but I was told that these 7 to 8 foot waves were typical during the fall and winter ground fish survey. I can’t imagine the trials my stomach would need to endure with seas that boil more so. Life jackets were required as we worked in these rough waters on the back deck. The bridge finally made the call around 5am to stop all deck research work as seas riled even more. Interesting, we “jogged”—the ALBATROSS IV running at only a few knots, with the movement of the water and winds with the plan of having the storm pass us up. Therefore, we didn’t get many stations sampled. Needless to say, I was in bed shortly after our shift was over—skipping lunch for sure, as a means to quiet my stomach and sleep as much as I could through the storm. I found that lying in my bunk that the movement of the ship did not bother me as much as being seasick—although sleep was fitful.

After several late night hours of true hard work, we are given a spectacular light show to help ease us into the morning hours aboard the ALBATROSS IV.
After several late night hours of true hard work, we are given a spectacular light show to help ease us into the morning hours aboard the ALBATROSS IV.

July 23, 2006: 

Given a tour of the engine room and the use of the satellite system to send and receive emails yesterday. Plenty of information and sites to take in as both places are integral parts of ship operations. Rain and thunderstorms today slowed our progress. We can’t be out on the back deck during thunderstorms for obvious safety concerns. So didn’t get as many stations completed. Have notice a slight change in overall attitude of many of crew aboard the ALBATROSS IV—as the end of the survey is in sight?

July 25, 2006: 

Had a chance to talk in detail with one of the young NOAA officers, Chris Daniels. He really shed a great deal of light on what it is like to be an officer. Found it extremely interesting. We had a long steam between 2 stations today, a 6 hour steam, which certainly cut into the number of stations we worked today during my shift. The rest was appreciated as we head towards Georges Bank to sample there.

July 26, 2006: 

The size of the scallops on Georges Bank are incredible, many in the 15cm to 16cm range! The weather has been extremely agreeable to my stomach and appealing to the eye—a calm blue sea.

July 27, 2006: 

Our last day of sampling and real excitement is in the air. There was a lot of distance between stations so we did not get to many stations. This was kind of a nice way to end all the work, on a bit of an easy note. And then the steam for port while cleaning up all the places that the scientists have used in our work. “Many hands make light work”, as both crews work together to clean up our work areas.

And, if you ask me, I would do it all again. There are many people to thank but I want to mention the other Teacher at Sea, Dave Riddle, who so willingly shared his work and photos with me. Also, Alicia Long put together a CD of photos and data for me to use in putting all of this together. So thanks.

Finally, it was a pleasure and honor to meet so many wonderful people aboard the ALBATROSS IV. They all made me feel welcome and at ease even when I was feeling a bit seasick.

Thank you kindly,

Joel