NOAA Teacher at Sea Andi Webb Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 11 – 19, 2014
Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July 16, 2014 Science and Technology Log
Do you ever wonder sometimes how people are so generous with their time and talents? That’s how I feel onboard the Oregon II with a crew that is simply amazing at their work. The thing is, though, they make it seem like it’s not work to them. Oh, it’s hard work-that’s certain. But they all seem to enjoy it. There is passion for the ocean here, for the environment, for honing your craft. I feel certain I’m among some of the best scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, Deck Crew, Engineers-you name it. As if that weren’t enough, you can’t beat the food in the Galley! Who knew you could get French Silk Pie on a Groundfish Survey? Shhh….We’ll just keep that a secret!
Many people like to write about the scientific facts of NOAA in their blogs and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I mean, this is science in action, right? Me, however? I like to write about how people make me feel. The people of the Oregon II make me feel welcome. They make me feel happy I’m here. I asked one of the scientists today to please tell me, without worrying about political correctness, if the crew really enjoys the teachers being on board. She readily answered, “I love for teachers to be here. You’re all so excited to learn and that makes it fun for us!” How refreshing. As I write this, someone just knocked on my door and told me they put my clothes in the dryer for me. Really? Does it get much better than this? Teacher at Sea is about learning what scientists do but to me, it’s also about immersing yourself in the work and the friendship on board. As I work the noon to midnight shift each day and the trawls come in, we “haul back” together. Brittany, Michael, and Mark know so much and I learn more and more each day. I’m thankful for them. Kim is sharing items I can use in my classroom. They’ve included me in what they do, they’re teaching me, and I’m making friends. For that, I am thankful.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature: 19.30° C
Wind Speed: 20.74 knots 5 on the Beaufort wind scale Relative Humidity: 88.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,020.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 21.39° C
Science and Technology Log
High winds, moderately rough seas, and difficulties with the ship’s positioning system all contributed to the delay of the first scheduled launch of TowCam on our midnight shift. Even though the necessary decision meant a loss of precious underwater time, it is better to delay than risk losing expensive equipment.
When the seas calmed down we were able to launch TowCam, but first we had to go through the pre-launch checklist. I helped Lizet as she prepared TowCam.
The batteries are under very high pressure when TowCam goes to the ocean floor so we have to push out the air before each trip. I help by tightening the battery caps. Every time I am on deck I must put safety first. I always wear a hard hat and the life vest.
When everything has been checked and double checked, the operator gives the signal, and the deck crew of the Bigelow use the winch and tag lines to launch TowCam on its next mission.
Look at the picture carefully. The deck crew always wear their safety equipment too! They hook themselves to the ship by their belts, and they wear safety vests and hardhats. The deck crew on Bigelow also make sure everyone follows the safety rules.
As soon at TowCam is in the water, everyone wants to view the images sent by the camera, but the TowCam operator must keep an eye on the monitors.
TowCam operators watch eight different computer monitors to control TowCam’s movements. With the help of mathematic modelers and previously collected data about the structure of the ocean floor, the scientists choose locations where they think they will find corals. These locations are called “stations.”
The ship must make very small movements to get the camera in the correct place on station. The operator will say something like, “Lab to Bridge- move 10 m to the North please.”… Then they watch the camera and the monitors to see if TowCam moves to the correct position. Sometimes TowCam floats right past the spot scientists want to see, and then the operators have to try to get it back into position to take the pictures. Not every station has the corals the scientists hope to find. But even knowing where corals are not is important information. After several hours of picture taking, we move on the next station.
Even in calm seas controlling TowCam is a challenging process. Remember, TowCam hovers over the ocean floor attached to the ship by a wire. Fully loaded it weighs over 800 pounds in the air. Since the ship moves TowCam by pulling it, it is not easy to follow the scientists’ plan.
However, when the perfect coral images appear on the screen, no one thinks about how hard they were to find. We all crowd around the monitors and watch in amazement. The scientists try to figure out types of corals in the picture, and then they wait for the next picture to see if there are even more! We have found corals at lots of stations!
Think about a time you tried to pull something tied to the back of a rope. Was it easy to steer? Did it get stuck?
We have talked a bit about how scientists find and try to study corals using the underwater camera and other sensors on TowCam. On other missions scientists sometimes use remote control underwater vehicles ROVs. Unlike TowCam which is dragged behind the ship, these vehicles are more versatile because they are driven and controlled remotely using a joy stick similar to the ones you use for computer games. Sometimes scientists even go to the ocean floor and drive themselves around using submersibles. One thing is certain, you have to get under the water to study corals.
Scientists go to all this trouble because corals are important to our Earth’s oceans. They are very old, and they provide habitat for other animals.
As you grow, it will be your job to find ways to study and protect corals and all other living things in the oceans.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 24.60° C
Wind Speed: 4.5 knots
Relative Humidity: 88.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,010.30 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 24.49° C
Science and Technology Log
Look who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam. No you silly students…not me! TowCam is exploring the deep ocean between the twilight zone and the midnight zone, and it is not possible for people to travel in deep water without very special equipment.
Our mascot Lowell Lion accompanied TowCam as it was deployed for Tow 2.
At this location, TowCam reached a depth of over 1900 meters below the surface of the ocean. That is more than one mile-straight down! It was a good mission. The camera was sending some very interesting images back to the ship. As I was doing my job logging, I was watching these first images. I was able to see hard bottom- the best habitat for corals. I also saw fish and sea stars, and then I saw the corals! They looked like little fuzzies on the rocks. The scientists had the ship hold position right over of the corals so they could take lots of pictures. The TowCam operator used controls on the ship to raise and lower TowCam to get close to the corals without touching the cliffs where the corals were living.
Students: Can you imagine using remote controls to move the TowCam? I bet you would be good at it. Perhaps the video games you play will help prepare you to fly TowCam when you finish college.
Well, when TowCam came back on the ship, Lowell was very wet, but he handled the cold, dark high pressure very well. Thanks to Greg and Lizet, Lowell stayed on the TowCam Sled!
Once TowCam was secured on the deck. We went out to take care of TowCam. What a big surprise to find other creatures hitchhiking on TowCam. Lowell the Lion must have made some friends.
The first deep sea visitor was a spiny orange sea star.
The orange sea star was found on TowCam deployment #2.
Isn’t it beautiful? We all rushed to see it. Dr. Nizinski carefully examined and measured the sea star. She used her tweezers to pick up a tiny sample the sea star leg, and she put the sample into a little bottle with a label. She will use the sample to test the DNA to help classify the sea star. She will find the sea star’s “family.”
It was exciting to find the sea star, but when we looked further one of the scientists saw a piece of coral tucked in a hiding place on TowCam. Dr. Martha took care of the coral also. The coral will become a permanent record that reminds us that this type of coral lives here.
Do you see how carefully the sample is documented? Some of the things we do in school like labeling and dating our illustrations and our work prepare you to be a scientist.
Many years from now someone can look at the coral in this picture and see that the sample was collected on the Bigelow TowCam #2, on July 8th. The ruler in the picture helps everyone know the approximate size.
One of the components on TowCam we have not talked about yet is the slurp.
Try to find the Slurp on TowCam.
The “slurp” is really an underwater vacuum cleaner that sucks up water, sediment, and sometimes small creatures. When TowCam is in deep water, the scientists watch the images to decide when it is a good time to trigger the slurp. They have to choose carefully because the slurp can be done only once on each trip to the bottom.
The scientists used the slurp on Tow #2. The collection container looked like it just had “mud” and water. It was emptied through a sieve to separate the “mud” and other things from water. The scientists carefully examined what looked like regular mud but tiny organisms like bivalves, gastropods, and small brittle stars were found in the sieve. These animals were also handled very carefully.
This brittle star was found with mud and sediment slurped from the ocean bottom.
Can you find any other living things in this picture?
You never know what is hiding in the mud. I bet we could do this kind of exploring right in our school’s courtyard. What do you think we could find if we examined our mud?
I think we should talk about the ocean today. Many of us have had some experience with the ocean. Maybe you have been to the beach, and maybe you have even seen some of the cool creatures that can be found on the beach. I have seen crabs, horseshoe crabs, clams, and plenty of jellyfish, but the scientists on Bigelow are working in a very different part of the ocean.
If you visit the beach, you are only swimming in a teeny tiny part of the ocean. Maybe you are allowed in the ocean up to your knees to a depth of 20 inches (about 1/2 a meter), or maybe you are brave and are able to go in the ocean with an adult up to your waist to a depth of 30 inches (about 3/4 a meter). Even if you have been crabbing or fishing in the Delaware Bay where the average depth is 50 feet (15.24 meters) you have been in only the most shallow part of the ocean. TowCam has been down as far as 1.2 miles(2000 meters). That is not even the deepest ocean! The ocean is divided into zones according to depth and sunlight penetration. I learned about the top three zones.
The sunlight zone– the upper 200 meters of the ocean are also called the euphotic zone. Many fish, marine mammals like dolphins and whales, and sea turtles live in this band of the ocean. At these depths there is light, plants, and food for creatures to survive. Not much light penetrates past this zone.
The twilight zone– this middle zone is between 200 meters and 1000 meters and is called the disphotic zone. Because of the lack of light, plants cannot live in this zone. Many animals like bioluminescent creatures with twinkling lights do live in this zone. Some examples of other creatures living in this zone includes: crabs, gastropods, octopus, urchins, and sand dollars.
The midnight zone– this zone is below 1000 meters and is also called the aphoticzone has no sunlight and is absolutely dark. At these depths the water pressure is extreme, and the temperature is near freezing. 90% of the ocean is in the midnight zone.So you can see that when you are at the beach, you are never in the “Deep Ocean.” You are still in a great place to find many amazing creatures. Keep your eyes open! Be curious! Make sure you do some exploring the next time you visit this important habitat. Then write and tell me about the things you find.Try to draw and label the three zones of the ocean. Be sure to draw the living things in the correct zone.
Next time: Someone will be working on deck getting TowCam ready for deployment. Hint: It will not be Lowell. : )
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Monday, July 7 , 2012
Latitude: 39.29 °
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 23.40° C
Wind Speed: 15 Kts
Relative Humidity: 90.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,011.99 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 23.66° C
Science and Technology Log
At 7:00 pm last night the Henry B. Bigelow left Pier 2 from the Newport Naval Base. Narragansett Bay was crowded with sailboats, yachts, and even a tall ship, but once we passed under the bridge, we knew we were really on our way. Now that we are at sea, everyone onboard will begin his or her watch. I will be working 12 am to 12 pm along with some of the scientists. Even though I never worked night work before, I was excited to learn about my jobs!
One of our jobs is to keep track of the “TowCam” when it is in the water. Every ten minutes while the TowCam is deployed (sent underwater) we log the location of the ship using Latitude and Longitude. We also have to keep track of other important data like depth. The information is logged on the computer in a spreadsheet and then the points are plotted on a map. A single deployment can last 8 hours. That is a lot of data logging! These documents provide back up in case something were to happen to the data that is stored electronically. I will have other jobs also, and to get ready for those duties, Lizet helped me get to know the TowCam better by explaining each component.
Students:See if you can find each part Lizet showed me on the picture of the TowCam in my last blog.
Camera– The camera is the most important part of the TowCam. You need a very special camera that will work in cold deep water. When the TowCam is close to the ocean floor this digital camera takes one picture every 10 seconds. The thumbnails or samples of the pictures are sent to computers on the ship by the data link. The camera operator described the thumbnails like the picture you see when you look at the back of your camera. When I look at the thumbnails I don’t usually see much in the picture. The scientists know what they are looking for, and they can recognize hard bottom on the ocean floor and corals. They see fish and other sea creatures too, and when they see a picture they like, they will ask the ship navigator to “hold the setting” so they can take more pictures. Remember, the scientists are trying to find corals, or places where corals might live. If they have a picture, they have proof that these special animals live in a certain habitat that should be protected.
Strobe light– There are two strobe lights on the TowCam. The deep ocean does not have
natural lighting because the sunlight does not reach down that far. The strobe light flashes each time a picture is taken. If the TowCam did not have these special lights, you would not be able to see any of the pictures from the camera. These lights are tested every time the TowCam is deployed.
CTD- The CTD is an instrument that has sensors to measure Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth in a certain water column. It is attached to the TowCam and the information from the CTD is sent to the computers through the datalink. This information gives the scientists a better understanding about the ocean water and the habitat for the creatures they are looking for. Look for more components on the TowCam. How do you think the TowCam gets its power?
I am getting adjusted to life at sea. For the first few days, when we were still on the dock I did not have much to do. ESN Zygas gave me a job and let me find updates for the navigational charts that are stored on the bridge. The charts are maps of the oceans and waterways that help the NOAA Corps team steer the boat, and these charts get updated when markers like buoys are moved or when the water depths and locations change. Up-to-date charts keep the ships safe. I was glad to do a job that helped keep us safe. Now that we are at sea, I have been working my watch. The work varies. We have hours of watching TowCam on the bottom of the sea and charting the positions of the ship. Then we have the excitement when the camera comes on-board with pictures and samples that need to be processed.
One of the best things about this experience is that I am the student just like my students at Lowell. I am excited to learn all of the new things, but I am frustrated when I don’t understand. Sometimes I am embarrassed when I have to ask questions. Yesterday I was working with some of the images and I was looking for fish. All I had to do was write “yes” there is a fish in this photo. Well, I had to ask Dave (one of the scientists) for help. I had to ask, “Is this a fish?” Can you imagine that? A teacher like me not knowing a fish! It was like finding the hidden pictures in the Highlight magazine!
So instead of being frustrated, I am open to learning new things. I keep practicing and try not to make mistakes, but when I do make those mistakes, I just try again. By the time we go through the thousands of pictures I may not be a pro, but I will be better. I can see that I am improving already. I can find the red fish without zooming in -the red color probably helps!
Next time: Wait until you see who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam. You won’t believe what they brought back with them.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date:Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Location: Latitude: 41.52778° N
Longitude: -71.31556° W
Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature: 28°C (83°F)
Wind Speed: 19 knots (22 mph), Beaufort scale: 5 Wind Direction: from N
Relative Humidity: 80%
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.90 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 28°C (83°F)
Happy Independence Day!
Science and Technology Log
Here aboard the Henry B. Bigelow we are sporting the red, white, and blue showing our pride for our Nation. The grill is hot and the hamburgers and hotdogs are ready for our lunch. Our July 4th is much more relaxing than we expected. We should be out gathering data. Images from TowCam verifying true bottom have not been observed. Creatures from the deep have not been collected, and important discoveries have not yet been made. We are still on Pier 2 at the Newport Naval Base. The information we have received from the Bigelow engineers is that the winches are not operational because a printed circuit board, which is involved with the computerized control of the hydraulic system that powers the winches has burnt out. It cannot be fixed with duct tape.
Engineers, crew and the scientific team are attempting to get the parts we need … from locations across the country…from another ship the Nancy Foster… on a holiday. Are you feeling their pain?
The scientific team has worked so diligently in preparing for this cruise. Teams of researchers who do not normally work so closely came together for this mission. They joined their funding sources, their research and their “equipment” (the ship, TowCam, computer software, etc.) to develop a multipurpose mission that will add data to their work in order to build a deeper understanding of deep-sea coral habitats. Some of the most experienced people in the ocean science community are aboard. Their enthusiasm and passion for their work is contagious. I heard one of the scientists is on his 50th cruise! (Happy golden anniversary!) What a lineup!
While the team is visibly disappointed with the setback, they have worked together to solve the problem. During the science team meeting scientists shared when something like “this” happened to them. Executive Officer Bohaboy wrote about problem solving at sea. He wrote, “Though it is very rare that we suffer multiple lost days at sea like we did at the beginning of this trip, every cruise always has issues to overcome. The ship itself is a very complex system of linked systems. A break down in one of these systems can cause a delay in the mission. Note that one of the most important shipboard systems, which might be easy to overlook, is the ship’s crew and scientists, whose specialized skills and training are crucial to completing the mission.” Yes, the mission is not what was expected, but everyone moves forward and makes the best of a difficult situation. The members of the team have also kept working on their individual projects, and while Vince may have enough work to keep him busy for two years, I am trying to find things to do.
I too have made the best of the situation. Not used to sitting around, I have been reading and writing. (See I told you never to travel without a good book!) I found an excellent small picnic table on deck where I can be out of the way, and still watch what is going on. I have also found ways to keep busy by watching, listening, and having conversations with the scientists so I can build a better understanding of their work. We all have lots of questions when we are learning new things, but before I ask questions, I watch, listen and think. I try to find of answers myself. Everyone on board has been helpful and supportive. The most exciting thing is when the scientists, mappers, or modelers say, “Let me show you!”
The students at Lowell helped create a list of Big Questions about the oceans and corals, and today we will begin to talk about question #2:
One way the scientists study the corals is by identifying places where corals like to live. They figure if they find the habitat, they will locate corals. On this mission, a TowCam (towed camera) is towed by the ship and will record images of what the bottom of the ocean looks like (Ground-truthing). It will also show what animals live there.
When you think about it, the technical setback is an excellent lesson for you students at Lowell School. Many times we want to do something and we just cannot do it. So many things can keep us from doing our best work. Some problems are within our ability to fix, some are not. We can blame others, get emotional, and give up, or we can find solutions that will help us meet those challenges to be better prepared the next time. This team solved their problems by cooperating with and working with one another. You can use the teamwork problem solving strategy in your work too! The simple message of problem solving crosses all activities we do as students, teachers, and scientists. We may not be conducting the research (yet), but we are problem solving. “How can we make this work?” “How can we do this better?”
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep Sea Coral Survey Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: June 6, 2012
Current Location: Philadelphia, PA; Latitude:40.0409483; Longitude:-75.1287162
Greetings and Welcome to My NOAA Blog!
I am Kathleen (Kate) DeLussey from the J. R. Lowell School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in a city of 1.5 million, I have spent most of my life in the same five-mile radius. The school where I teach is right down the street from the elementary school I went to when I was a child. I am a true city kid. You may have taken a yellow bus to school, but I rode the “El” train. Water came out of the “tap” and early fish experiences included both rectangular “sticks” and orange pets, but we will not talk about either of those things here.
So, you may question why a woman like me, a teacher with four children who experienced her first plane flight last year, would be excited about participating in scientific research aboard a NOAA vessel as a Teacher at Sea. Especially when I am not exactly sure about what I am going to be doing, (Hint: The more I learn about the Oceans and Atmosphere, the more information I have to share with our students at Lowell School.)
You may also be wondering why a Reading Specialist in a K-4 school would be so interested in what is happening in Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere, especially when I come from such a large city. (Hint: We all need to learn about and care for our Earth’s Oceans.)
Finally, you may be wondering how a teacher’s experience at sea will encourage our students, and their families to connect with and learn more about the Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere. (Hint: When I show you how wonderful and important our Oceans are to the life of all things on Earth, you will just have to get involved!)
If you are thinking and asking questions like these as you read, GREAT! When students and teachers just have to know, they are behaving like scientists, and like writers.
I just had to know more about NOAA’s work. I have read many things, seen TV programs, and visited Web sites to teach me about oceans, but I still have many questions.
How do the scientists at NOAA understand and forecast the weather?
How do they understand fish?
What types of jobs do the people at NOAA have?
How can my students prepare for careers at NOAA?
Where can my students find the answers to their own questions?
How can I find out more?
I was researching the answers to these questions on the NOAA website when I saw the chance for teachers to go to sea. I applied, and I was chosen! To use the words of our principal Mrs. Runner, “WHOOOO WHOOOO!” I am so excited to be participating as a Teacher at Sea.
After I found out I was going to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I wanted to prepare my students for ocean learning and did what all good teachers do at the beginning of a lesson. I asked my third grade friends in Room 207 some questions. “What do you know about the Oceans? Tell me everything you know!” Of course, the students wrote the “lists” of things they “knew” about the oceans and they really shared some of their thinking as they wrote.
What the students in Room 207 report they know about the oceans:
Emily, Isaiah, and Lusine had the longest lists, and while all of the students reported they “knew” something about oceans, most of the answers on the student lists looked like this:
The oceans cover most of the Earth’s surface
The oceans have lots of living things like fish, crabs, and sharks
The oceans are important to the Earth
You can swim in the ocean
You can see that for our students to become ocean experts, they really needed more details to add to their list of “what they know.”
(Some of the ideas the students put on the list were not true, and I do not want to put those ideas on this list, because I want to include only true information in my Blog.) I do not want to confuse anyone about a topic as important as Earth’s Oceans.
This list only had Big Ideas about the oceans and even with my thinking, we could not add many details. You can see we all have a lot to learn about our oceans.
So, I am be bringing the future “Ocean Literacy” of our 1,000 students with me as I work with NOAA during my Teacher at Sea adventure. (Hi kids!)
Our big questions for this mission will be:
What are Deep Sea Coral Reefs?
How do scientists study deep sea coral reefs?
What do scientists do with the information they gather during their research?
I am participating on this trip because I want to find answers to our questions. I also want to be sure everyone understands NOAA’s work so we all can participate as scientists and writers to help protect our Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere.
Join me–not only a teacher–but also a citizen of the Earth planet as I work as a guest scientist aboard the Henry B. Bigelow,a NOAA research vessel.
Continue to ask questions as you read my blogs. We may not find the answers to all of our Big Questions, but we will be better prepared to find our answers as we gain knowledge and as we add details to our scientific knowledge and to our writing.
Hopefully, at the end of my journey, you may be wondering if you could to this “At Sea” research too!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Anne Mortimer Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson July 4 — 22, 2011
Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska Date: July 16, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Sat. July 16, 2011—sunny and windy
Air Temperature: 10.8⁰C
Sea Temperature: 9.3 ⁰C
Wind direction: 208.9⁰C
Wind speed: 23 knots
Science and Technology Log
Everyday on the ship there are many other research projects that are occurring, in addition to the pollock survey. Other scientists (currently not on this leg) are collecting data from a multiple beam system to look at the characteristics of the ocean floor, such as roughness or sound reflectivity, using 30 sound beams (of various frequencies between 100 and 115kHz) in a fan-shaped configuration. For this project, the researchers use several devices. First, they need updated temperature and depth data, which allows them to calculate the speed of sound and the attenuation coefficient (how easily a fish is penetrated by a beam – a large attenuation coefficient means that the beam is quickly weakened as it goes through the fish), which vary as a function of temperature and salinity. To do this, they have chosen select locations to release an expendable bathythermograph, or “XBT.”
This torpedo-shaped device is launched overboard with a gun-like dispenser. It has a long coil of fine, copper wire that begins spinning out when it’s released and the wire transmits temperature data back to the ship through the cable in the launch dispenser, and then to the database in the lab. The depth is calculated based on the assumed descent rate of the torpedo.
In order to confirm the suspected bottom composition from the multi-beam measurements, a drop camera is deployed at specific locations. The drop camera is usually performed off the side of the ship at night, so it doesn’t interfere with operations that can only happen during the day. The deck crew will deploy the drop-camera using a hydraulic winch, where it is lowered to the bottom. The camera then records for 5 minutes of time at the bottom. Several camera drops are usually completed in an area.
Another operation that happens mostly at night, is using the “Drop TS” or Drop Target Strength echo-sounder. The DTS is used to get a stronger signal at closer range to fish. This helps the scientists differentiate the signals, or echo, that individual fish may give. Many fish have swim bladders (or air bladders) that allow them to regulate their buoyancy in the water. There is a large difference in the sound velocity in air and in water, so this swim bladder causes fish to give strong echo returns. The DTS can give them a better idea of fish counts when looking at the echograms, but they aren’t perfect. No fish will remain still or perfectly straight. Just like the echograms from the single source mounted on the hull of the ship, the colors red and brown show strong signals, yellow is medium, and blue and green are weak.
We are now traveling south through Shelikof Strait. This body of water runs northeast to southwest along the Alaska Peninsula on the east side of the Kodiak Archipelago. It extends about 150 miles and is dominated by many glaciers, cliffs, and both active and dormant volcanoes. The Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands are part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” This is a seismically active area because the Pacific plate is subducting below the North American plate. This has been occurring for millions of years, also giving glaciers time to scour away at the mountains, creating U-shaped valleys and sharp peaks. We’ve had particularly good weather the past few days and caught a great sunset behind the island-volcano Augustine.
So far we are on day 2 (3?) of fair weather and partly sunny skies and I love it. Shelikof Strait is just amazing–there are volcanoes every direction you look and we’ve had beautiful sunset after beautiful sunset. The transect lines we are running in these waters run east-west so we are very close to shore every few hours which means lots of time for pictures. Tonight I went to the flying bridge with Kathleen, the other teacher, so we could whale watch. She had been up earlier (she works the day shift!) and saw a fin whale not too far from the shore and boat. We saw lots of whale blows far off in many directions, but none again that close.
Later after the sun went down and I had started my laundry and next blog entry. The net was in the water for another trawl. Luckily it wasn’t a big catch (I was tired and not ready to slice open tons of fish), but a very little one — literally! We caught mostly juvenile pollock and some smelt fish called eulachon and capelin. We also got our token salmon — we seem to catch one with every trawl — and some squid and jellies. We had some technical difficulties with the catch-processing program, so we were a little delayed in getting started and we had a team of two rather than three. Needless to say, we didn’t finish until after 2 am. Just in time to have some Cheerios for dinner.
The highlight of the night was Dall’s porpoises, which were following the boat to four different drop-camera sights! They were darting everywhere — it was fantastic!
NOAA TEACHER AT SEA STEVEN WILKIE ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OREGON II JUNE 23 — JULY 4, 2011
Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 4, 2011
Surf. Water Temp.
Surf. Water Sal.
My final watch ended last night with what was one of our largest catches of the trip. The knowledge that it was our last trawl–well mine at least–and the Oregon II will head back out in a few days for its final leg of the ground fish survey, allowed us to knock it out in no time.
It is amazing how similar my experience has been on this trip to the experiences I have with my students in my classes at school. They come in “green” on the first few days of class: some of them have a some background knowledge, some of them have little, but slowly but surely as we build on their existing knowledge they get to a point where they are confident enough to speak up about issues and content that we have been discussing. Towards the end of the year, they can link the ideas of what was talked about at the beginning of the year to what we discussed the week before final exams. Everything is connected.
I feel now, how I hope my students feel on their last few days of my classes. A sense of understanding, a battery of skills that I didn’t have when I started now at my disposal, and an appreciation for what it is that the people who taught me know and do on a daily basis. In all of my years of professional development, summer workshops and the like, I can say that none has been as enjoyable or rewarding as this experience.
I came into the Teacher at Sea program with a good sense of the marine environment, and I have relied heavily on NOAA’s resources for years to help my students better understand the ocean and its processes. But to see firsthand how some of that information is gathered and to get a sense of how hard these scientists work to ensure their data and procedures are valid is both commendable and reassuring, as I am consistently telling my students how good procedures will lead them to good data, and will, in turn, allow them to draw well-supported conclusions.
I pride myself on the hands-on approach I bring to science in my classroom, and nothing is more hands on then being elbow deep in 600 croakers flopping on the deck! Everyone learns differently. I am a learn-by-doing kind of guy, and I try to provide as much of that in my classroom as possible, but even doing something doesn’t guarantee that you will understand it–that often requires a good teacher. The Oregon II’s crew is the epitome of good teachers in action. I have to personally extend a thank you to Brittany Palm, my watch leader, and Michael Hendon the chief scientist on board. Both of these gifted scientists helped me go from a fumbling, taxonomically challenged amateur, to a less fumbling, taxonomically appreciative assistant in training! Their patience as we butchered scientific names and misidentified organisms allowed us to slowly but surely get a better understanding of the procedures until we could practically work up a catch on our own. Well, we left the fish we couldn’t identify for them, but none the less….
I am happy to be heading home to my family and to a more regular work day (12 hour shifts are tough), but I do think I will miss the experience and the camaraderie among the people on the ship, and the soothing rhythm of the ship’s engines and the waves. I hope those of you that read this get a sense of what an awesome experience this is, as well as take away the importance of the work that NOAA does, and the need for it!