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.


“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.


~  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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


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.