Chris Imhof, November 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 19, 2009

Science Log

After 3 days and many hours in front of computer screens and monitors I almost forgot I was on a boat. Tonight is my last night on the Pisces, and although at times it has been rough, I have started to get used to the rocking of the ship and know every crew member by name. I ran about the ship when I have had a second, to take in things knowing I will have chance tomorrow . I will miss looking across the open sea and having opportunities to catch a glimpse of a shark fin near the side of the ship and a huge sea turtle making its way across the waves. I will miss talking to the crew and the scientists, and working with Jeannine Foucault the other Teacher at Sea. I’ll probably write another log tomorrow to sum up the experience, but its hard

to rally up for a science log when you are tired and many of have to pack to disembark at Jacksonville tomorrow morning. As for the Pisces and her crew, they will make their way back to Pascagoula for the Holidays.

Chris Imhof, November 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 18, 2009

Science Log

NOAA’s mission is to “protect, restore and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources.” The way NOAA does this is through science – a voyage like this may seem like moving from point to point and placing a really cool piece of technology in the water to see what’s on the bottom – but these are all tools that are being used to be able to carry out the tenets of protect, restore and manage.

We have visited half our sites now and have surveyed different environments in and out of Marine Protected Areas. Different environments, yet with commonalities – all the sites are near exposed “hard-bottom” or exposed limestone on the shelf bottom. There may be miles of sand waves and algae – but theses exposed, complex and bio-encrusted features are “oasis’s” for all sorts of ocean life – especially fish. As the ROV maneuvers across the sandy waves, it is usually the glint of a school of fish or reflection of a fish eye that provides a beacon to a feature. If these features are “oasis” habitats then they should be protected. Granted, these limestone blocks can do more damage to fishing line and gear, evident in the amount of line found in the high relief areas – but in the case of some of the North Florida MPA, we encountered the fragile deep water Occulina Coral which is vulnerable especially when nets are being dragged across these areas.

Another commonality noticed is the growing presence of the beautiful Lion Fish (Pterois volitans) – this native of Pacific waters was released intentionally or unintentionally in the early 1990’s around Florida and have since spread to areas above North Carolina and south to the Caribbean, especially along reefs and rocky outcrops. They join an infamous ranks of other invasive species including the European Green Crab, Asian Eel and Zebra Mussel. The Lion-Fish, besides having an array of venomous spines. has a keen strategy of “corralling” prey with their fins and eating them in one gulp. This will impact the small fish and crustaceans in these habitats as well as the added competition with indigenous or native predators such as snappers and grouper fish – which are currently commercially fished. This is where “manage” comes in – here is a “new” invasive species in that is growing in population and spreading geographically, impacting the habitat by out-competing, in some cases, the established predators – how can it be managed.

Especially when the Lion-fish has few natural enemies. The Lion Fish is a tricky one – as an invasive species, missions like this one help to understand the long-term impact the Lion-Fish is having on these habitats. Using technology like multi-beam mapping and ROV technology can provide data for scientists and in turn give councils, commissions and government the knowledge to manage these areas through smart-solution-based policy.

References:

coastalscience.noaa.gov/documents/factsheet_lionfish.pdf

http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag135.htm

Chris Imhof, November 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 17, 2009

Science Log

We sailed last night to our first “station” – The North Florida Marine Protected Area – and by 7:00 am this morning the ROV pilots Lance Brown and Glenn Taylor were going through the “pre-flight” checklist on the ROV; Lance working the controls in the lab, Glenn outside taking care of the deployment and extraction of the vehicle on the starboard weather deck. Soon they were meeting with the Lead NOAA scientist Andy David to talk through the operations of the deployment and extraction and more specifically the methodology of what they were trying to accomplish at this site.

The North Florida MPA area has been protected since 2004 – meaning no sailing or fishing occurs in this area. Some of the area has been mapped by multi-beam sonar – so what scientist then do with ROV technology is “Ground-Truthing” in which after examining the multi-beam maps – choose features to explore and check visually how they compare with their maps. Since the ROV sends real time video feed to the lab, the scientist watch and note the features, the animals that are present or not present in the habitat. They also perform a down shot every 2 minutes, or stop the ROV – point the camera down and take a picture – later in the lab they quantify the habitat by gridding the photograph and counting the number of species. Todays North Florida site tested sites inside the Marine Protected Area as well as sites/features outside the MPA for comparison as well as to help make future decisions of extending possible areas into the protective zone or even species.

After the scientists met, the Pisces crew and captain Jeremy Adams met on the weather deck to talk through the operation – sync their communications and what if scenarios. In all, there were 3 ROV dives which went extremely smooth, mainly due to the organization and communication of everyone involved.

The highlights of the dive were the spectacular features of the exposed limestone near the drop offs and the amazing habitats – for all my preparation the diversity of fish was overwhelming – I could identify a few featured fish like the Lionfish, barracudas and Moray Eels – I was unprepared to see a real sea turtle hanging out by some rocks or a Goliath Grouper which came out of nowhere. I learned many new fish which I hope to be able to call out from the monitor tomorrow like the Reef Butterfly, Squirrel Fish, Amberjack, Scamp, Soldier fish, Purple and Yellow Tail Reef Fish. I was helpful in identifying some of the Occulina deep coral species, the sponges (which you couldn’t miss) as well as pick out old fish line, a bottle and and an old anchor jammed into the rocks near the edge.

I’ll let the pictures and video slices tell most of the story. We are cruising all night again to our most northern site Edisto – off South Carolina and then work back from there.

Jeannine Foucault, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

Survival suit for safety
Survival suit for safety

Science Log

Today we were ported in Jacksonville, FL. It was load up and set up day for the additional scientists and the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).

The ROV is similar to a traveling robot that will be lowered down onto the ocean floor and will be remotely operated from the ship while recording ocean life at each MPA (Marine Protected Area) that we visit. Since PISCES is a brand new ship she wasn’t equipped for all the hardware and software needed for the ROV; therefore, all the engineers, deckhands, scientists, and crew were involved in a speedy setup. The scientists also loaded a fish trap just in case we need extra data in addition to the ROV.

We set off to our first MPA in North Florida to do our first ROV trial testing in the morning to get some live data. I am so anxious to see how the ROV works and what sort of data we will receive. I know I will sleep well tonight because I was working right along side everyone. Remember all those measurements I have you take and then convert them from English to metric units? That’s what I had to do today. We had to measure how far the equipment was in respect to the size of the ship, etc. You want to know how you will use what you learn in ‘real life’? Well, here it is!

I did see a dolphin today, but too quick for a pic! SRRY ūüôā

Also, I was able to watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Chris Imhof, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

NOAA Ship Pisces in port
NOAA Ship Pisces in port

Science Log

We arrived late last night back in Jacksonville, Florida docking at the Atlantic Marine Docks – taking on 8 scientists who will leading the ROV operations – over the next few days. The next morning was a flurry of activity as the science crew began to unload their equipment and the crew of the Pisces operated the cranes and prepared the the sides of the ship and the winches for deployment of the ROV.

While Jeannine stayed aboard to help running cables and rigging the GPS equipment needed for pinpointing the position of the ROV relative to the ship – I chose to join the scouting party inland; myself, Lieutenant Dunsford, Engineer Tony Assouad and Lead Scientist Andy David made contact with local at the village of “Walmart” and acquired much needed supplies.

AtlantisGear was stowed and the equipment set up, the science party met for their safety briefing, followed by a larger conversation of what we will be accomplishing over the next couple of days. We plan to take the “Deep Ocean ROV” to at 3 sites – testing in and outside the MPA or “Marine Protected Area” about sites a day. We will be running mostly day time operations and transitioning to next station at night as well as doing some multibeam mapping – using the same type of technology I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. When the Pisces arrives in an area it will begin to “mow the lawn” – doing transects back and forth to create a map of the ocean floor below so the scientists can better choose targets or areas to avoid during the daytime ROV operation. For the most part we are assisting the scientists with the launching and retrieval of the ROV as well as monitoring what the ROV sees from a TV in the Dry Lab on the Pisces.

ROV equipment
ROV equipment

Like a lot of science the ROV will be recording a ton of data which will be more carefully evaluated over the next few months after the voyage. Many of the places we document in and out of the MPA will be explored again to see changes – so in a way this study sets a baseline for future missions. I am excited to see how they launch the ROV, which will give me some ideas for when my Innovation Technology Seminar launches their little rovers in a few weeks. The operator/pilot of the rover will be inside the dry lab talking through a headset to another rover scientist outside monitoring the 900 feet of cable – talking to a deck crew member operating a winch. We are hoping not only for calm waters on the surface for deployment-but quiet currents below so ROV has the opportunity to explore, rather than ride the current.

A few porpoises rolled along side the ship enough to enjoy, but too quick to get a good picture. Only the gray pelicans on the dock would stand still to pose. Before we pulled out of Jacksonville we climbed to the top of the Flying Deck to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in the distance. Even though we didn’t do much today it was still a pretty great day. ūüôā

Chris Imhof, November 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 15, 2009

Science Log

Rough winds and big choppy waves coming around the Keys and into the Gulf Stream last night kept many awake and few of us with a taste of sea sickness. We make port in Jacksonville tonight and take on the ROV and more scientists. While making the first leg of this voyage it has been good to get to meet most of the crew and learn what they do and where they work on the Pisces; these include NOAA engineers, electrical and computer technicians, deck crew, stewards, and the NOAA Core officers. Since this is a maiden voyage, many of these people have worked on other NOAA ships – bringing their expertise and skills to get the Pisces up and working smoothly. Many of this crew will stay with the Pisces – operating the ship for NOAA scientists who come aboard to run experiments or do research in the months to come.

When I boarded the Pisces last Wednesday, the mammal scientists Tony Martinez and Lance Garrison were already on board testing equipment for an expedition this coming January – for detecting concentrations of sperm whale prey – from small fish to squid – acoustically and visually. Two pieces of technology they use are the EK60 Echosounder and ME70 Splitbeam:

1) The EK60 Simrad Echo-Sounder: This piece of technology uses a devices called a transducers that are located on the bottom of the Pisces to detect organisms. The Echo-Sounder operates on 4 frequencies Рsplit beams of 200 and 120 khz (kilohertz) for shallow water detection Рgiving good data on zooplankton and small schools of fish, and the 18 and 38 khz frequencies which can detect fish, mammals and squid much deeper. The transducers issue a ping at each frequency every .5 seconds which bounce back creating a picture or vertical scatter. The scatter shown is a reflective signature Рwhich the scientist use to identify what is below.

2) The ME70:  The ME70 is brand new technology that uses a single high frequency Рbut based on amplitude reverberates from 80 transducers in a fan or swath -like shining a spot light down the water column. This gives another kind of visual image of what is below Рespecially the characteristics of the concentrations of zooplankton and nekton or schools of fish.

Tools and technology like this help scientists conduct surveys of marine species in deep and shallow waters, they can improve the way we estimate fish stocks – and the more it is used and tested can be a passive way to identify species in their habitats through their acoustic signatures.

An interesting aspect of this technology is the growing study of “swarm behavior” – understanding why schools of fish glide in precise synchronous movement. This field of study is becoming more important as we learn that self-organizing coordinated systems like schools of fish are extremely resilient and efficient. Mammal studies conducted by Tony and Lance aboard the Pisces may have larger implications in the future when looking at the behavior of crowds, or traffic on a highway, or how people move in a work place.

Jeannine Foucault, November 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 14, 2009

Science Log

Of the many things I have learned so far there are three things that are standing out in my mind right now that I can share…..1) there is so much ionization in the ocean (salinity) that if it’s not neutralized it can cause many rusting/electrical problems on the ship 2) water on the ship is purified by passing through a UV light before it is sent for drinking and using on the ship 3) plank owners are called the very first crew members on a new ship!

When I went on the tour of the engine room or should I say rooms. The engineer pointed to a sign that read “cathode”. Well, I know my physical science students remember that a cathode is an electrode where an electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Anyway, the ship has all this salt water flowing in (lots of NACL) that has an electric charge so it has to be neutralized using the cathode so the water doesn’t cause any high electrical charges that can be dangerous with so much high voltage already running on the ship. Cool, huh?

Then the engineer explained the process of making water. The ship goes through about 1800 gallons of water per day. Through the process of purifying the water at the final stage is a tiny box with a long rectangular tin attached to a long thick wire. Above this box water flows through another tube flowing across the rectangular box. It reads ‘CAUTION: UV radition light’. As the water flows across the UV light it is emitting short wavelengths of ionizing radiation to rid of any living microorganisms in the water making it suitable to drink.

Finally, another crew member discussed the aspect of the ‘plank owners’. This is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. So since PISCES was commission on November 6, 2009 and the entire crew that is with me now on the ship was a member of the crew then they are all the plank owners of PISCES and I am the office plank owner Teacher at Sea!

Chris Imhof, November 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 13, 2009

Science Log

Safety is a priority aboard the Pisces – without a sense of safe operations and knowing what to do in a situation – it would be very hard to run effective science missions – everything from knowing where a safe place to stand, when and where to wear a hard hat and what to do in an event or situation. Within hours of leaving port we assembled with the science team for a briefing and learned where we would muster in case of a drill. A muster station is a place you have been assigned when there is an alarm and/or the ship’s horn is blown to communicate to the crew an emergency, situation or event. Once assembled in the designated area, an assigned person calls the bridge to inform that everyone in that station has been accounted for.

I would go to my muster station in the case of a man-over-board -this is communicated with 3 prolonged blasts of the ship’s horn. If I was on deck and saw a person go overboard- I would yell “man-over-board!” and point over the side until I was relieved by an officer – and at the same time be throwing everything under the sun that could float to leave a trail for the ship to follow as it slowed and turned around.

It wasn’t more than an hour after our meeting, while exploring the ship that a drill was issued. As we made our way up 3 decks to our mustering station, we passed crew skillfully and methodically going through the procedures of extinguishing an imaginary “fire” on the starboard deck.

After a few minutes the captain had everyone assemble on the deck where the drill took place and with the XO led a discussion of how it went. What was impressive was the nature of the discussion in which crew members in different departments brought their knowledge and experience to consider other dimensions of the situation – glass windows, machinery or nearby materials that could cause furthers complications or additional measures etc. This type of collaboration builds the cohesion of a ships’ crew as well as the security and safety aboard the ship.

Following the briefing the crew was dismissed and within a short amount of time the ship’s horn blared 6 short blasts and a single long blast – indicating an abandon ship – in this situation/drill we mustered on a side of the ship – bringing with us a life vest, hat and immersion suit. The Pisces is equipped with self-inflatable life rafts on each side of the ship – each sides’ rafts hold more than 60 crew – this is in case one side of the ship cannot be reached or rafts are unable to be used-all ships have this in place today largely due to the Titanic disaster. Following this we learned how to quickly and efficiently put on our immersion suits. This tight fitting, insulated survival suit protects you not only from the elements but the brightness alone increases your chance of rescue. The suit fits snug leaving very little of your skin exposed, it is equipped with an additional flotation device behind your neck and a whistle.

Safety is science – it is also such an important part of how the Pisces runs – how the officers, crew and scientist work, and how the ship is built, runs and operates – as a Teacher at Sea who is staying just a brief time, it has heightened my sense to be more aware of everything around me not just the sea and the science but also how things aboard the ship operate and how each person works and fits into the big picture.

Chris Imhof, November 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 12, 2009

Science Log

After playing tourist in Jacksonville for a day I jumped at the chance to fly to Gulf Port Mississippi and join the Crew, Marine Mammal Scientists, and a fellow Teacher at Sea on the 3-day shakedown maiden voyage of the NOAA ship Pisces into the Gulf of Mexico up the Florida Strait back to Jacksonville. When I arrived Wednesday, most of the crew were gone enjoying the holiday before we would ship out. I stowed my gear in my stateroom¬†and began to explore the ship. Fortunately, I ran into Christopher Flint, a Port Engineer who oversees the design, construction and refit of much of the NOAA fleet. Mr. Flint took me through the galley, weather deck, bridge, flying deck the winch and engine room, fish labs and even the ships’ sanitation area called the “Domestic Equipment Room” on a whirlwind tour that pretty much did me in for the night.

The Pisces is the 3rd of 4 new Fisheries Survey ships built for the NOAA Fleet – It is a beautiful state-of-the-art ship 208 feet long and 49.2 feet wide or breadth – it can travel a steady 14 knots. Each of the class of NOAA ships is built for different scientific purposes but all the ships of the fleet carry out a mission “to protect, restore and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem management.”

When I woke early this morning, the crew were moving about in a well-practiced sequence of procedures to get the Pisces underway. I met more members of the crew on my aimless search through up/down ladders to the Main Deck where I knew contained the galley and thus coffee. The fact many of the crew have come on this maiden cruise from other NOAA ships and work efficiently and seamless was amazing.

The Pisces can carry a crew of 6 commissioned NOAA officers, 4 engineers, 11 crew and 15 scientists. Of the crew I talk to, many have spent over 10 to 20 years with NOAA and have served on many ships; many have fondness for a certain ship or area, all carry a sense of pride for what they contribute to the overall mission. Although I have spent little more than a day on the ship, the more I watch and talk to people aboard the Pisces – the crew, the officers, and the scientists- everyone knows that they need to depend, respect and trust each other to do a good job.

Making my way to smell of breakfast and coffee in the galley I finally meet Jeanine Foucault, another Teacher at Sea. Jeannine was accepted to the Teacher at Sea Program a few years ago – after she and her Seventh-grade students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven Mississippi were selected to name the newest NOAA ship the Pisces. Over the past couple of years Jeanine and her students have seen the keel laying ceremony and the launch of the Pisces. Her team of students are now juniors in different high schools, but still follow the progress of the Pisces – one student even attended the commissioning ceremony a week ago. Many cruises and types of work are offered to Teachers at Sea – from working in the Bering Sea to Hawaii or the Caribbean – Jeanine is just as excited as I am to be here and share this experience with her students – out of all the different adventures she could of have gone on – she has waited a long time to be just on the Pisces!

Chris Imhof, November 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 10, 2009

Science Log

Ida has impacted things somewhat – the wave height at the offshore buoy at Pisces’ departing port rose to 18 to 22 feet in an hour – eventually the port was closed. The latest is the Pisces will go to sea in the next day or so. This will probably delay the arrival of the ship here by a day.

While waiting this out I’ve taken some walks along the St. John River, which runs through downtown Jacksonville to the ocean. Essentially it is a large estuary that mixes freshwater and sea – creating an environment for all sorts of interesting creatures including the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris).

These creatures fall under the Order Sirenia – which goes back to Greek mythology and the Sirens – beautiful women who would lure sailors and ships onto the rocks and reefs with their songs – apparently after a long voyage across the Atlantic sailors mistook these creatures as beautiful women or mermaids and the name stuck – Maybe this explains the success of the Sturbucks logo. Even early scientists who first began to study the manatee saw them as a close relative to of the walrus – makes sense – actually the closest relative to the manatee is the elephant! One really wonders to connection to Ariel?

I asked around where I might see one of these creature here? I walked to an area away from main part of town – along the river where I was told manatees sometimes come to feed – the waves were choppy and murky so I could’nt see much, but no surprise manatees do spend 6 to 8 hours a day eating up to 200 pounds of vegetation along the bottom of these areas – grinding up grasses and other vegetation using 24 to 32 flat surface molars in the back of their mouths. Grinding that much ruffage a day has its toll, not just on one’s lower intestine – manatees have adapted by growing new teeth constantly – over a lifetime can grow up to 60 new teeth. Manatees take care of their teeth as well – after eating they clean their teeth using stiff grassy plants like a tooth brush – they even roll small rocks in the mouths to loosen plant debris.

Unfortuneatly, there are less than 2000 Florida manatees left – they are often the victims motorboats, cold water stress and destruction of habitat. While I was looking, people I talked to were proud to talk about the efforts to protect the manatee along the St. John River –

So today I didn’t see a manatee, but maybe my problem was – I was looking for that mermaid on the side of my Starbucks cup. ūüôā

Chris Imhof, November 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 8, 2009

Science Log

Yesterday, at the Deep Sea Corals Briefing we took a trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences “Wet Lab.” This off-site lab -Prairie Ridge-was once a 38-acre cattle pasture – and is now being used by the museum to restore the original Piedmont ecosystem and for outdoor education. The “wet lab” is located on site and is where many of the samples collected by scientists studying the deep coral reef ecosytem – go to be “processed” and “curate” the research.

The lab contains microscopes, hand lenses, lots of jars, species identification field guides. Specimens – usually fish come to the lab where they are identified and classified- placed in jars of 70% ethanol for long-term storage. Some specimens however are stored in 95% ethanol for potential DNA research.

Why are keeping specimens important? – Specimens classified here are entered on a global data base so scientists have access to them from anywhere-global diversity. Scientists study the specimens to compare with other species, morphology (the branch of biology dealing with the form and structure of organisms), compare age and growth, and understand over time where animals lived and are living geographically.The oldest specimens of fish were collected in the 1840’s – this gives scientists a chance to tell how species have changed over the past 150 years. Scientists also use specimens to develop “dichotomous keys”-a key for the identifying organisms based on a series of choices between characteristics.

The lab itself was pretty cool – The collection here contains over 800,000 specimens – one of the top 5 in the US – like a warehouse though it felt like Raiders of the Lost Anchovy – and strangely like the beginning of every zombie movie. Like expeditions to the Amazon – nearly every trip to the deep water coral habitat scientists have discovered a new species – hopefully this voyage will add another piece to the global bio-diversity puzzle. ūüôā

Chris Imhof, November 7, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 7, 2009

Science Log

Today I attended the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences –¬†NOAA workshop on Deep Water Corals a few blocks from the North¬†Carolina State Capital. Scientists, Professors, Teachers, Museum¬†personnel and Management specialists met to discuss research,¬†current understanding, methodology, protection and management of¬†the deep water coral reef which exists on the edges of the planets’¬†continental shelf and slopes. Most people are aware of the warm¬†water shallow reefs that occur worldwide – most people however are¬†unaware of the corals and the reefs that exist nearly 1000′ feet¬†beneath the surface of the ocean. Actually, only with the¬†availability and technology of submersibles and remote operated¬†vehicles (ROV’s) in recent years have scientists really begun to¬†understand this unique ecosystem and the potential threats.

Awareness of these corals Рdominated by the species of deep stony corals (Class Anthozoa) Lophelia pertusa Рwas made primarily by fisherman who pulled these branching corals up with their nets. An interesting fact is the Lophelia species itself may have been classified by the creator of the system of classification himself РCarolus Linneus. It was easily a couple of hundred of years from the time of Linnaeus classification to the moment a human saw these corals in their natural habitat. One of the scientists at this meetings was Sandra Brooke РDirector of the Coral Conservation Center Рwho discussed the differences between shallow and deep corals. Whereas many know about the significance and threats to shallow water corals Рthe need to recognize the significance of deep water corals is even more vital. This is what I hope to convey through this site and my trip. Deep water corals provide a diverse Рif not more diverse ecosystem as shallow corals. Lophelia and other deep corals provide the eco-framework for thousands of species Рessentially a rainforest of the deep sea. These corals have already begun to provide extracts to fight cancer, Alzheimers and viral infections. Since all things in the deep cold waters take so long to grow РLophelia and other species can be hundreds to thousands of years old ( A Golden Coral colony recently harvested for jewelry was found to be 4000 years old).

Corals have growth rings not unlike trees, in the corals scientists¬†can see a window into the ocean’s past – determine ocean¬†temperatures, salinity, heavy metals and other trace elements in¬†the corals can indicate volcanic eruptions and even Saharaan dust¬†storms. So not only do these corals provide a home and place on the¬†food chain for thousands of species-contain a potential wealth of¬†medicines – like a Rainforest – they are like our Redwoods and¬†Bristlecones and ice cores – providing a window into the planet’s¬†paleoecology. I hope to discuss more about what I learned at this¬†briefing to set the stage for my voyage next week- including the¬†technology and methodology scientists use to explore the deep seas-¬†what specimens and data scientists collects, what happens to these¬†specimens and how and what scientists learn from these specimens.¬†The species of animals that lives on the deep water reefs and how¬†scientists, the government and private sector work together to¬†manage these ecosystems into the future.

Elizabeth Martz, August 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Martz, works aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Martz, works aboard NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV.

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 5, 2007

Personal Log

12:50 p.m. I boarded the airplane at BWI for its journey to Boston, MA. This little plane handled the changes of air pressure, air currents, take off, landing, and so much more… Excellent experience. I documented my journey in the air by taking numerous pictures with my camera.   This photo shows the details of the land about 25 minutes into flight from BWI to Boston.  3:20 p.m. Bus to Wood’s Hole:  It was an experience. I loved the plane ride. I did not enjoy the bus ride. It took forever to reach Wood’s Hole.  6:30 p.m. Arrive on NOAA boat: Awesome vessel!  I discovered details about the ship’s size, location of my room, crew members, & security personnel.  I am so thankful that NOAA allowed me to stay onboard the ALBATROSS IV the night before I began my duties as a researcher. I was able to see and understand more about the life on a sea vessel.

The ALBATROSS IV is docked at Wood’s Hole preparing for its journey on the high seas.  It is an impressive ship with lots of equipment.
The ALBATROSS IV is docked at Wood’s Hole preparing for its journey on the high seas. It is an impressive ship.

Other volunteers arrived to board the ship. Adrienne, a Teacher from New York, teaches Spanish and more.  Vickery and Greg are scientists from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) who are researching the Sea Scallops. Sean, cousin of the Chief Scientist, is heading towards a degree from the University of Maine.  We are all enthusiastically ready for this trip on board the ALBATROSS IV.

7:00- 11:50 p.m. Walked at Wood’s Hole: I am so impressed by this town (small & sweet).  I had dinner at Shucker’s Seafood Restaurant.  Yummy!  Upon returning to the boat, I talked with scientists and security about their experiences and what they love about being out at sea.

The view from the plane.
The view from the plane.

Claude Larson, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.7¬į C
Water Temperature: 22.9
Relative Humidity 93%
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: SE 120

Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.
Jakub Kircun teaches Claude Larson how to insert the probe that measures inclination in the top of the dredge equipment.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the beginning of our first 12 hour watches. The tows were relatively well spaced which allowed for ample clean up time between tows and even for a little down time as we steamed for over an hour and I have a few minutes to write this log entry.

As I learn the skills needed to be useful on the Scallop Survey, I want to give you an idea of how a tow is carried out. The bridge generally gives us a ten minute alert before a tow over the all call system.  From that point we can finish up what we are doing and prepare for the tow. A crew member operates a huge winch and block and tackle that moves a thick metal cable. The cable is attached to a large metal hook that is attached to an 8 foot wide dredge net. The net is raised from the aft deck of the ship and put in the water.  The dredge net is then towed for fifteen minutes and then lifted onto the deck.  At this time, a probe that measures inclination is inserted in the dredge rigging and information about the collection of the tow is recorded and loaded onto another computer for later use.

While the probe is being read, someone takes a picture of the pile of organisms on deck with a small whiteboard with important information.  This information includes the station number, stratum and tow number, as well as whether this area is open or closed to commercial fishing.

The watch crew then brings baskets and buckets over to the edges of the pile and kneels on cushions to sift through the collected material.  We sort the collection into sea scallops, fish and, on each third tow, we also collect crabs. After a few minutes we shift areas and continue to look for certain animals, this helps us to make sure we have found all of the organisms we are looking for.  The fish are then further sorted by species.  The watch chief weighs each separate species and records that information on the FSCS, Fisheries Scientific Computer System. There are three FSCS stations and we all get to work at one of them.  The computer allows you to take the scallop or fish and lay it on a long board. The organism is held along the front panel of the system and a magnet is placed at the other end. The magnet causes the computer to automatically record the length of the scallop or fish. From there some of the scallop shells are cleaned for a scientist back in Woods Hole, Dvora Hart, and carefully labeled and placed in a cloth bag. Some of the scallops are also dissected for an FDA study on PSPs, paralytic shellfish poisoning. When ever we catch a monkfish, also known as a goosefish, one of the scientists on the watch crew dissects it for vertebrae for a study they are doing on aging the fish and its reproductive stage.

Once all the organisms are measured, weighed, dissected or cleaned, the remainder of the pile is shoveled in large baskets and thrown back into the ocean.  Each basket and bucket is rinsed as is each FSCS station.  If another tow is arriving shortly, the watch crew prepares for repeating this process. The steps happen in relatively that order, however they also occur in a sort of unison and the watch crew starts to form a rhythm.  The watch chief and veteran crew members help any of the new folks on board, which is great since we are sometimes unsure what to do next or how to do a new task.  The old saying of many hands make light work definitely applies here. With each tow there are surprises to dig for. Sometimes you get to see large egg cases or beautiful shellfish and unusual fish.

With all of this said, the all call has just given us a ten minute to station call.  I must get ready for whatever treasures will be brought up with this collection.

Claude Larson, July 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Claude Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 24, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots SW
Atmospheric Pressure: 1019 mB
Cloud cover: 4/8 cirrus, stratus and cumulous
Air temperature: 18.3¬ļ C 65¬ļ F
Water temperature: 18.9 ¬ļ C 66 ¬ļ F

Teacher at Sea, Claude Larson, waves hello from the aft deck of the Albatross IV as she dons her immersion suit during an abandon ship drill.
Claude Larson waves hello from the aft deck as she dons her immersion suit during an abandon ship drill.

Science and Technology Log 

Although our departure date was delayed by one day due to some problems with the air conditioning system that cools the staterooms, we are glad that the problem has been resolved and we are underway on Tuesday, July 24. We left from the dock at approximately 9:00 AM under partially cloudy skies and with a light breeze. Just as I was standing on the hurricane deck enjoying the view of the diminishing landscape, there is an all call onboard and we are asked to muster in our stations for a fire drill.

We gathered all of our emergency gear and met in the wet lab area of the ship. In a few minutes, an abandon ship drill is announced and we head out to our life raft assignments and don our bright red immersion suits.¬† They are a bit of a task to put on, but provide ample protection should we ever actually abandon ship. They are known as the ‚ÄúGumby Suits‚ÄĚ and I have made that my first image in my log of this cruise.

A few minutes after we put away our emergency gear, the Chief Scientist, Stacy Rowe asks the crew for a test tow to ensure that all of the equipment we will need to survey the scallops is in working order. This is a great opportunity for those of us who are new on board to see how the procedure works. The deck hands skillfully direct the large dredge net over the back of the boat and release a specific length of cable based on depth of the water.  Unfortunately, during the first attempt the net flips and does not collect any specimens.  However, the second tow is more successful and allows us to get a collection of organisms large enough to sample.

Those of us who have never been on a scallop survey before get to work.  While kneeling on mats we sort through the pile for any living organisms.  These are put in blue buckets. The organisms are then sorted by species and we get a hands-on lesson from Larry Brady, our Watch Chief on how to identify certain organisms.  Once all the species are identified and sorted, we weigh them, count them and measure the length of a few using FSCS, the Fisheries Scientific Computer System. The deck, baskets and buckets are cleaned and put back until the next tow. Our next tow is south of Long Island, approximately 87 nautical miles away, so we take the opportunity to enjoy a quick lunch break and some down time until we are on our modified watch schedule from 6 PM to Midnight.

I am looking forward to our first official tow and the treasures we will find there.  Hopefully my body will have made some adjustments to the rocking and rolling of the ship as we steam through the Atlantic.  In the meantime, I will leave you with my question of the day.

Why would scientists who are studying the overall health of an ocean environment collect and study organisms from the bottom of the ocean?