Samantha Adams: A Brief Introduction to… July 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Samantha Adams

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

July 25 – August 3, 2017

Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station deployment (WHOTS-14)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaii, Pacific Ocean

Date: 21 July 2017

Weather Data from the “Bridge” (New York City, NY):

Latitude & Longitude: 40.78°N, 73.97°W. Air temperature: 90°F. Wind direction: Variable. Wind speed: 7 mph. Sky Cover: Broken.

… the Science:

Aerial view of the Hi'ialakai
The NOAA ship Hi’ialakai. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

In just a few short days (huzzah!) I’ll have the privilege of sailing aboard NOAA ship Hi’ialakai on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s fourteenth Hawaii Ocean Time-series station deployment. Although I’ve not yet seen the ship or met the scientists I’ll be learning from and working with (I haven’t even left the mainland US!), I’ve been eagerly doing research to catch up on some of the basics.

The location of the ALOHA measurement site. Photo courtesy of the University of Hawai’i.

Since 2004, the WHOTS stations have been measuring the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, as part of a long term study on ocean circulation. The site where the WHOTS stations are deployed is called ALOHA (A Long-Term Oligotrophic Habitat Assessment), located about 100 kilometers north of Oahu, Hawaii. The ALOHA station, maintained and monitored by the University of Hawai’i since 1988, makes oceanographic measurements (like water temperature, direction and speed of ocean currents, and amounts of plankton). The objective of the project is to use the area as a case study, as it is representative of the North Pacific subtropical gyre.


Diagram of Pacific Ocean circulations.
Diagram of the gyres (circulations) in the North Pacific Ocean. The green circles labeled “WGP” and “EGP” show the locations of the Western and Eastern Garbage Patches. Image courtesy of NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.
WHOTS-14 mooring diagram.
Diagram of the WHOTS station. Notice how many instruments are on the mooring line, below the surface! Photo courtesy of the University of Hawai’i.


WHOTS stations are moored (anchored) buoys. The buoy includes instruments floating on the surface to measure the weather (air temperature, wind speed, relative humidity, etc.), and there are also instruments along the mooring line to measure things like water temperature, currents and salinity. The instruments below the surface make measurements at the same time as the meteorological measurements on the surface, so that air and sea interactions can be accurately studied.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution visit the ALOHA site every year, to deploy a new WHOTS station, and retrieve older ones. Check out this video of the WHOTS-13 research cruise!

… the Teacher:

The summer I turned five, my house was struck by lightning. The bolt blew out my window, scattering glass shards across my bed, blasted chunks of concrete out of the driveway below, and set the garage on fire — which was almost immediately put out by torrential rain. I have been fascinated by the atmosphere ever since. When I learned I had been chosen for the WHOTS-14 research cruise, I was ecstatic. Not only because I’d been selected to participate in such an amazing opportunity, but because I would have the chance to learn more about the oceans, and how they interact with the ocean of air above them. 

Students making weather measurements.
PAIHS Monroe students measuring water vapor and aerosols in the atmosphere, November 2016. Photo by SJ Adams.

I have taught science in New York City for eight years. For the past six years, I have taught twelfth grade geoscience at Pan American International High School at the James Monroe campus (PAIHS Monroe), in the Bronx. Each year, I do my best to get my students as excited about science as I am. For the past few years, that has meant dragging them outside in near-freezing temperatures to measure the local air quality. (So, maybe not the best method I could have chosen!)

(All of my students: “It’s too cold, Miss!” Samantha: “If it’s not too cold for the instruments, it’s not too cold for you!”)

These measurements were made as part of NASA GLOBE‘s Air Quality Student Research Campaign, and I was able to present their work at NASA Langley Research Center.

I hope that my experiences aboard the Hi’ialakai with the WHOTS-14 research cruise will teach me more about the ocean of air we live in, and help me develop more — warmer — ways to get my students interested in science!

Scientific poster of atmospheric water vapor measurements.
PAIHS Monroe students studied a method of measuring water vapor in the air with an infrared thermometer as part of NASA GLOBE’s Air Quality Student Research Campaign.

Did You Know?

From NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation operations page: “Hi‘ialakai is a combination of Hawaiian words. Hi‘i means “to hold in one’s arms”; ala is route; and kai is the sea. Thus, NOAA named this ship to signify “embracing pathways to the sea”.”

Julia Harvey: More to a Mooring than meets the Eye, June 26, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Julia Harvey

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

June 25 – July 3, 2016


Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)

Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii

Date: June 26th, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Wind Direction: 100 degrees (slightly east southeast)

Temperature: 24.5 degrees C

Barometric Pressure: 1014.7 mb

Science and Technology Log

One of the primary objectives of this WHOTS project is to deploy WHOTS-13 mooring. This will be accomplished on our second day at sea.

Site of Mooring-13 courtesy of WHOTS Project Instructions
Site of Mooring-13
(courtesy of WHOTS Project Instructions)

The mooring site was chosen because it is far enough away from Hawaii so that it is not influenced by the landmasses. Mooring 13 will be located near mooring 12 in the North Pacific Ocean where the Northeast Trade Winds blow. Data collected from the moorings will be used to better understand the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. Instruments on the buoy record atmospheric conditions and instruments attached to the mooring line record oceanic conditions.

A look at interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean.
A look at interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. [R. Weller, WHOI]






There is a lot more going on than just plopping a mooring in the sea. Chief Scientist Al Plueddemann from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his team began in-port prep work on June 16th. This included loading, positioning and securing the scientific equipment on the ship.  A meteorological system needed to be installed on the Hi’ialakai to collect data critical to the mission.  And then there was the assembly of the buoy which had been shipped to Hawaii in pieces.  Once assembled, the sensors on the buoy were tested.

Meteorological Station on the Bow
Meteorological Station

As we left Oahu, we stopped to perform a CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) cast. This allowed for the testing of the equipment and once water samples were collected, the calibration of the conductivity sensors occurred.

Sunday, June 26th, was the day of deployment. Beginning very early in the morning, equipment was arranged on deck to make deployment efficient as possible. And the science team mentally prepared for the day’s task.

The deck before deployment began. The buoy is the blue item on the left.

Promptly at 7:30 am, deployment began. The first stage was to deploy the top 47 meters of the mooring with sensing instruments called microcats attached at 5 meter intervals. A microcats has a memory card and will collect temperature, conductivity and pressure data about every three minutes until the mooring is removed next year.

Sensing instruments for the morring
Microcats for recording oceanic conditions
readied microcats
Microcats readied for deployment. They are lined up on the deck based on their deployment depth.

This portion of the mooring is then attached to the surface buoy, which is lifted by a crane and lowered overboard. More of the mooring with instruments is lowered over the stern.

The remainder of the mooring is composed of wire, nylon, 68 glass balls and an anchor.  At one point, the mooring wire became damaged. To solve this problem, marine technicians and crew removed the damaged portions and replaced the section with wire from a new spool. This process delayed the completion of mooring deployment but it showed how problems can be solved even when far out at sea.

After dinner, the nylon section of the rope was deployed. Amazingly, this section is more than 2000 meters long and will be hand deployed followed by a section of 1500 m colmega line. It was dark by the time this portion was in the water. 68 glass floats were then attached and moved into the water. These floats will help in the recovery of the mooring next year. The attachment to the anchor was readied.

glass floats for recovery
These glass floats will help when the mooring is recovered next year.

The anchor weighs 9300 pounds on deck and will sit at a depth of 4756 meters. That is nearly 3 miles below the ocean surface. The crane is used to lift the anchor overboard. The anchor will drop at 1.6 m/s and may take about 50 minutes to reach the bottom.  As the anchor sinks, the wire, nylon and the rest of the mooring will be pulled down. Once it reaches the bottom, the mooring will be roughly vertical from the buoy to the anchor.


Mooring Structure
Mooring Structure

Personal Log

I sailed aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson in 2013 so I already had a general idea of what life aboard a ship would be. Both ships have workout areas, laundry facilities, lounges, and of course messes where we all eat. But on the Hi’ialakai, I am less likely to get lost because of the layout. A door that goes up is near a door that goes down.

On our first day aboard, we held two safety drills. The first was the abandon ship drill. As soon as we heard 6 short and 1 long whistles, we grabbed our life jacket, survival suit and a hat. We reported to our muster stations. I am assigned to lifeboat #1 and I report the starboard side of 0-3 deck ( 2 levels up from my room). Once I arrived, a NOAA officer began taking role and told us to don the survival suit. This being my first time putting the suit on, I was excited. But that didn’t last long. Getting the legs on after taking off shoes was easy as was putting one arm in. After that, it was challenging. It was about 84 F outside. The suit is made of neoprene. And my hands were the shapes of mittens so imagine trying to zip it up. I finally was successful and suffered a bit to get a few photos. This was followed by a lesson for how to release the lifeboats. There are enough lifeboats on each side of the ship, to hold 150% of the capacity on board.

Survival Suit & Julia
Abandon Ship drill with Survival Suit

Safety is an important aspect of living aboard a NOAA ship. It is critical to practice drills just like we do at school. So when something does happen, everyone knows what to do. A long whistle signals a fire. All of the scientists report to the Dry Lab for a head count and to wait for further instruction.

I am reminded of how small our world really is.  At dinner Saturday, I discovered one of the new NOAA officers was from Cottage Grove, Oregon. Cottage Grove is just a short drive south of Eugene. She had a friend of mine as her calculus teacher.  Then a research associate asked me if I knew a kid, who had graduated from South Eugene High School and swam in Virginia. I did. He had not only been in my class but also swam with my oldest son on a number of relay teams growing up. Small world indeed.


Did You Know?

The Hi’ialakai was once a Navy surveillance ship (USNS Vindicator) during the Cold War. NOAA acquired it in 2001 and converted it to support oceanic research.




Kelly Dilliard: Introduction, May 3, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kelly Dilliard
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

May 14 – June 5, 2015

Mission: Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: May 3, 2015

Personal Log

Hello from South Dakota! My name is Kelly Dilliard and I am a college professor at Wayne State College (WSC) in Wayne, NE. Wayne State College is one of three schools with the Nebraska State College System and it is located in northeast Nebraska. I actually live in Vermillion, South Dakota, due north of Wayne and commute to school every day. My husband, Mark Sweeney, is an Earth Science Professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. We are located about 45 minutes northwest from Sioux City, Iowa and about an hour south of South Falls, South Dakota.

Map of locations.
Map of eastern Nebraska and parts of Iowa and South Dakota showing locations of where I am coming from.
Photo of me at Malibu Beach.
Me at a cove beach near Malibu, California in July of 2014. Taking lots of photographs and videos to use in my teaching.

I teach all sorts of Earth Science courses at WSC including Introduction to Geology, Environmental Geology, Historical Geology, Rocks and Minerals, Oceanography, and Introduction to Meteorology. I try to create a hands-on experience for my students, but teaching in Nebraska has its drawbacks. We are far from some of the best geology sites and from the ocean, so instead of taking my students to the rocks or the ocean, I try to bring the rocks to my students in the form of specimens, photographs, and videos.  I believe that my students benefit from exposure to these samples and from the experiences that I bring into the classroom.  I hope this experience out at sea will help me bring more of the ocean to them.  As I teach mostly to future science teachers, I also hope this experience will open them up to taking similar opportunities to gain useful experiences to use in their own classroom.

Family at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
My husband, Mark, myself, and our puggle, Penny Lane, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, July of 2014.

As a youngster I had an interest in two sciences… geology and oceanography. I spent time in Hawaii when I was in fourth grade and fell in love with volcanoes and humpback whales. When it came to deciding on a major in college, I decided on geology and I have been actively engaged in researching and teaching about the Earth for the past 20 years. I am originally from eastern Pennsylvania, but through my graduate and professional career have lived in various states across the United States. I have three degrees in Geology, including a PhD from Washington State University.

Me and my brother in front of sign
My brother and I in April of 1986 standing by the map of the “Save the Whales” walk we took part in.

While I have an interest in oceanography and teach an oceanography class, I have never actually taken a formal oceanography course. I applied to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea (TAS) program to gain some ocean research experience and to bring that experience back into my classroom. The Teacher at Sea program is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary this year and is, as I am finding out, a wonderful program (link to TAS program)! I was selected to take part in a Right Whale Survey off the Northeast Coast on board the NOAA ship the Gordon Gunter (see the ship’s website for information and photographs). I never dreamed that I would also be getting exposed to a “what could have been” experience, that is, if I had decided to study oceanography and whales 20 years ago as an undergraduate.

So let me tell you a little about what I have learned so far about the North Atlantic Right Whale.  The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is an endangered species and is protected under both the U.S Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Right whales were heavily targeted by whale hunters, being prized for their high blubber content, the fact that they float when killed, and their relative sluggishness. They were the “right” whale to hunt. Right whales are baleen whales like the humpback whale, but feed mainly by skimming through prey at or near the surface of the ocean. Right whales are recognized by their callosities, or rough skin (white in color due to whale lice!), on their heads. For more information on Right Whales check out the NOAA Fisheries article on them.

Right Whales
North Atlantic Right Whales. You can see their callosities. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Next week I will be flying to Boston, Massachusetts and meeting up with the Gordon Gunter at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. But before then, I have to finish off the semester, participate at the WSC graduation, put in my garden (hopefully), and pack for my trip. The next time you should hear from me, I should be aboard the Gordon Gunter.

Map of home and WHOI
Map indicating where I live/work and where I will be leaving from for the Right Whale Survey.

Julie Karre: Heading Back to Land… August 5-6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julie Karre
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013  

Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic
Date: Monday August 5 – Tuesday August 6, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
Monday – NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS

Tuesday – E WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS

Science and Technology Log

Meet the Scientists

Meet some of my favorite people in the world. Without these people my experience would have lacked the learning and laughter that made it such a joy.

Kristin Hannan

Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!
Field Party Chief Kristin Hannan has the pleasure of working with her favorite shark species, the Tiger Shark. And those little babies are cute!
Kristin was the Field Party Chief for the first and second legs of the Longline survey. She was also my watch leader, which meant she was by my side in support every step of the way. And as I progressed as a shark handler, she was there with a high five every time. I hit the jackpot landing on a ship with Kristin. She is now off to visit Harry Potter World (I’m so jealous I can hardly stand it) before rejoining the the survey when it leaves Mayport. This is Kristin’s fifth year doing the Longline Survey. The first time she did it, she was a volunteer just like us. I wish Kristin the best of luck in all she does and hope to call her a friend for years to come.
Amy Schmitt
Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.
Research Biologist for NOAA Amy Schmitt gives a big smooch to a baby Tiger Shark.
Amy is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. She has been with NOAA for two years, but has been working in research biology for most of her career. She is a native of Colorado and shares my blond hair and fair complexion. We could usually be found together cooling off in the dry lab as often as possible. It was also Amy who coined one of my nicknames on the cruise – Data Girl. According to the science team, the Teachers at Sea make excellent data recorders. I can’t imagine why 🙂
Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.
Amy and I work together to process an adolescent Tiger Shark. Amy and I often worked together and truly enjoyed our time together.
Lisa Jones
NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the second leg of Longline Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.
NOAA scientist and Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of Longline, Lisa Jones handles an Atlantic Sharpnose on the first haul of the night shift.
Lisa has been doing the Longline survey for 16 years now. She is a wealth of information about sharks, living aboard a ship, and marine life. She is also a passionate dog lover, which many of the volunteers shared with her. Lisa will be taking over the duties of Field Party Chief for the third and fourth legs of the survey. She will be aboard the Oregon II for all four legs of the survey this year. That’s a lot of boat rocking!
Mike Hendon
NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.
NOAA Research Biologist Mike Hendon works to quickly process a Sandbar Shark.
Mike is a research biologist out of the Pascagoula-based fisheries lab. He’s a seasoned veteran of the Longline survey and was a great mentor for those of us new to the shark-handling community. Mike also has two adorable kids and two cute dogs waiting for him at home. He was part of the science team for the first leg of the survey. He can sometimes be found wearing mismatched socks.
Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.
Mike and Volunteer Claudia Friess work on Atlantic Sharpnose.

Personal Log

My final days are winding down and I am caught (no pun intended) off guard by how much I am going to miss this. There is such a peacefulness that comes from the rocking of a boat, especially if you don’t get seasick. And working alongside people who share a passionate nature – we may not all be passionate about the same things, but we are all passionate – is such a reinvigorating experience. These two weeks gave me an opportunity to talk about my environmental science integration in my classroom with people who care very much about environmental science. It was so inspiring to have them care about what I was doing in my classroom. It gives me another reason to trust the importance of what I’m doing as well as more people I want to make proud.

Fun list time! Things you get used to living on a ship:

  1. Noise. There is so much happening on a ship, from the engine to the cradle pulling up a shark. It’s all loud. But you get used to it.
  2. Sneaking into your stateroom as silently as possible so you don’t wake up your AWESOME roommate Rachel.

    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.
    NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor steering the Oregon II during a morning haul back.
  3. Waiting. There’s a lot of waiting time on a survey like this. You find ways to make that time meaningful.

    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.
    The night shift waiting in anticipation as Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols begins to bring in the line.
  4. Rocking. Duh.
  5. Taking high steps through doorways. The doors that separate the interior and exterior of the ship are water tight, so they don’t go all the way to the floor. You can only bash your shins in so many times before it becomes second nature.
  6. Sharks. I said in a previous post that this survey has been eye opening and it’s worth sharing again. I don’t have a marine science background and I had fallen victim to the media portrayals of sharks. I had no idea that there were sharks as small as the Sharpnose that can be handled by such an amateur like myself.

    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.
    This is what it feels like when you successfully (and quickly) unhook a shark! VICTORY! Volunteer Kevin Travis is victorious.
  7. Sunsets. Words cannot describe the colors that make their way to you when there’s uninterrupted skyline. Oh I will definitely miss those sunsets.

    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.
    One of the last sunsets for the first leg of the Oregon II.
  8. The stars. I live a life of being asleep by 10pm and up at 6 am and often times forget to look up at the stars even on the nights when I might have been able to see them. These two weeks gave me some of the darkest nights I’ve had and some of the best company in the world.
Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline. Photo Credit: Mike Hendon
Dolphins escort the Oregon II back towards land on its final day at sea for the first leg of Longline.
Photo Credit: Mike Hendon

Sue Cullumber: Plankton, Food for the Sea! June 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/13/13
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:  Time:  8:25 am
Latitude/ Longitude:  4200.0122N, 6758.0338W
Temperature:  12.4ºC
Barometer:  1007.26mb
Speed:  9.1 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Why study plankton?  Plankton are at the bottom of the food chain. Remember they are free floating organisms that drift with the currents. That means that they provide food for many other animals and those animals are then eaten by larger animals and so on.  Therefore, plankton are important in the fact that if something happens to them, then the whole food chain is affected.

Scientist, Chris Taylor, and Fisherman, Cliff Ferguson, bring the Bongo net back onto the ship.

So researchers are interested in learning all about the different types of plankton, their distribution and abundance in the ocean.  They want to answer questions such as: Have these factors changed over time?  Are we finding different kinds of plankton in different locations?  Has the amount of plankton changed?  How do the changes in the abundance and species of plankton affect higher trophic (feeding) levels?

Types of Plankton:

Phytoplankton on the surface of the water.

Phytoplankton – The plants of the sea. They carry out photosynthesis, so they are found in the water column where light is able to reach. This can vary depending on how clear the water is.  If water is very clear, they can be found at deeper levels because the light can penetrate farther.  These are the primary producers of the ocean, providing food for the first order consumers – mainly some types of zooplankton.

Amphipods, the two larger organims, and Copepods, the pink organisms– some of the many types of zooplankton we are finding.

Zooplankton – Animal-like plankton.  These vary immensely by size, type, and location. They are classified by their taxonomy, size, and how long they stay planktonic (some only are planktonic in a larval stage where others are for their entire life) .  These plankton are consumers with some eating the phytoplankton and others eating other zooplankton. These are extremely important as larger consumers eat them and then even larger organisms eat these.

Fish larvae in among some copepods.

Icthyoplankton – Fish larvae or eggs. These float and drift in the water and, therefore, are considered planktonic.  Since these are only planktonic for part of their life, they are called meroplankton.  Organisms that are planktonic their entire life are called holoplankton.


Plankton – free floating organisms that drift with the current.

Trophic level – position an organism occupies in the food chain.

Taxonomy – how scientists classify organisms.

Holoplankton – organisms that are planktonic their entire lives.

Meroplankton – organisms that are planktonic for only part of their lives.

I interviewed our lead scientist onboard the Gordon Gunter who studies plankton:

Lead Scientist – Chris Melrose

Name: Chris Melrose

What is your Position? Research Oceanographer

What do you do?  Principal investigator on  the Northeast Fisheries’ Ship of Opportunity project.  We collect data from merchant vessels that are crossing areas that we are interested in. I also work on the Ecosystem Monitoring Surveys where my main area of interest is primary production and phytoplankton. They are the base of the food web and tell you a lot about the functioning of a marine ecosystem.  Much of my work was in coastal regions where there were concerns about eutrophication, the enhanced primary production due to inputs of nutrients from pollution.

Why is your work so important?  We are studying the planet we all live on and we are in a period of environmental change. Long term monitoring programs, like this one, allow us to compare data from the present with the past to see how things have changed and also helps us to make predictions about what will happen in the future.

Why did you decide to become a marine scientist and work with NOAA and ocean science?  I grew up on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and always had an interest in the ocean. It was a hobby, but now it’s a career.

What do you enjoy most? I like science and being able to be out in the field – it is more of an adventure than just being in a lab.

What part of your job is most unexpected? When you are out in the ocean, there are always surprises – nature, weather or difficulties with ships, so you always have to be ready to adapt.

How long have you worked for NOAA and as a marine scientist?  From 1998 to 2004 I was with NOAA as a graduate student, from 2004 to 2010 as a contract employee and in 2011 I became a full-time employee.

What is your favorite type of plankton?  Diatoms because they have so many different shapes and geometric designs.

What is your favorite marine animal? Octopus as they are clever and it is amazing how they can change their color and shape.

If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them?  Science and math are very important and you would need to attend graduate school.

What type of education do you need? At least a master’s degree to become a research scientist.

Spraying down the Bongo nets – photo by Chris Melrose.

Personal Log:  

I am now getting use to my shift, noon to midnight.  At each station we put out the Bongo nets or Rosettes (more often the Bongos) and then we have to wash them down and strain out the plankton in a sieve to be saved later for the research. It gets a little harder and colder towards the end of the shift, but it has been very interesting seeing all the variety of plankton we are finding and how it changes from station to station.

Waves were a little higher during a very foggy day on the Gordon Gunter.

Yesterday was very foggy and a little more rocky.  It was very hard to see anything, but still beautiful to look at the ocean around us.  Today it is clearer, but still somewhat rocky.  Sightings have been few, but we were able to catch some whales in the distance by seeing them “blow” – spirt out water through their blow holes.  A Storm is on the forecast and we have had to change our route. We will not be going as far east as planned and will head north to avoid the main barrage of the storm.

The ocean is such an amazing place, with all its life and vastness. It makes you realize just how small you are and how big the world really is!

Sunset off the stern of the Gordon Gunter.
Euphausid- commonly known as krill

Did you know? Many types of whales feed exclusively on euphausid (or krill), a shrimp like zooplankton.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of plankton?

Sue Cullumber: Flexibility – Teacher at Dock, June 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/9/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time – 8:15 am
Latitude and Longitude -41º32N, 71º19W
Temperature – 18º C, 65ºF
Barometer – 1019.5 mb

The Gordon Gunter at the Newport Naval Station.

Science and Technology Log: 

Since we have been delayed in sailing, I have had the opportunity to interview several of the crew sailing with the Gordon Gunter to learn more about working at sea and in the marine sciences. Sailing one of the NOAA vessels for scientific research requires personnel from many different disciplines including the: scientists, NOAA Corps officers, engineers, ship stewards, fishermen, deck hands, computer and electronics personnel, bird and mammal observers,  and others.  I will continue to interview personnel and add them to my future blogs.


Lab Technician, Cristina Bascuñán
Lab Technician, Cristina Bascuñán

1. Name: Cristina Bascuñán

What is your Position?  Lab Technician

What do you do?  I’m in charge of the Rosette CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) equipment and Sea-Bird equipment. I schedule them for the different surveys and send them out for maintenance.

Why did you decide to work with NOAA and ocean science?  As a sophomore in college I started volunteering and loved it, so I volunteered for several more surveys and then went out to sea on a NOAA cruise and loved that.  I was doing 2 trips a summer.  Around that time I got hold of an oceanography branch chief of NOAA who was in need of a lab technician and the rest is history.

How long have you worked for NOAA?  I have worked for NOAA for 16 years. I volunteered for 3 years initially and was 19 on my first trip.

What do you enjoy most?  Meeting all the different people on the various cruises

What would you like to change?  During long trips I miss the comforts of home.

If not working for NOAA, what would you do?  I would be an architect.

What outside hobbies do you have?  When out at sea, I like to knit.  At home, I’m involved in many water activities like:  kayaking, fishing and going out on our skiff (small sailboat).

Where are you from? I have lived on the Cape for 16 years.

What is your favorite marine animal?  The Lumpfish – they look like they are made out of rubber.

What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea?  While out doing a MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System and is a net system for plankton in the ocean), we brought up a bunch of bones and some carrots.  Our group could not figure out where this could have come from or what animal the bones were from.  We found out later, that the Steward (meal preparation person) had tossed the slop basket from dinner into the sea and that’s what we brought up!

If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them?  Get experience and go out to sea on a research vessel to see if it is something you would like to do for a career.

Operations Officer, Marc Weekley

2. Name: Marc Weekely

What is your Position? Operations Officer onboard the Gordon Gunter

What do you do? I am the liaison between the operational side of the ship and the science party, making sure that what the scientists want to accomplish gets done.

Why did you decide to go into the NOAA Corps and ocean science? I have a B.S. in environmental science. In 2004, 2005 I found out about the NOAA Corps and it was a good way to mix the operational side with the science I already had.  All NOAA Corps officers have to do watches and get the ship to where the scientists need to go, which includes ship driving and navigation, which I also liked.

How long have you worked for NOAA?  I was commissioned in 2006.

What do you enjoy most?  The variety of operations, science, and projects that are available and learning about the different scientific research. The routine is always new and fresh and you can transfer to new ones frequently. For example, in the NOAA Corps you spend 2 years in the field on a ship and 2-3 years on a land assignment. I was in Antarctic in 2009 doing atmospheric research on air quality monitoring.

What would you like to change? Some of the assignments are only once in a lifetime and cannot return to them like going back to the South Pole.

What part of your job was the most unexpected?  When I first entered everything took me by surprise because I was not aware of the scope of the Corps. The opportunities to pursue what I was training for came much sooner than I realized. I was on the bridge controlling and driving a ship much sooner than I expected.

How are people chosen for NOAA ships? For many of the officers you fill out a “wish list” of where you want to go and then assigned according to needs and timing.

If not working in the Corps, what would you do? A job on or in the water.

If a student is interested in pursuing a career with NOAA or in marine science, what would you suggest to them? The Corps is looking for individuals with science, engineering and math backgrounds.  

What outside hobbies do you have?  Scuba diving and anything outdoors. I tried rock climbing in Boulder before going to the South Pole.

Where are you from? Currently I live in Moss-point, Mississippi, but I’m originally from Texas where my parents still live.

What is your favorite marine animal? Sharks because so little has changed in them over time. Even though they are a very frightening animal, I love to be in the water with them.

What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea?  Watching a 20 foot humpback whale full breech (entire body) out of the water is one of the most unusual and amazing things I have seen.

Head Steward, Margaret Coyle

3. Chief Steward:  Margaret Coyle

What are some of the skills and experiences a person needs to become a ship’s steward? A person needs good cooking skills, organization,  to be personable, and dedicated. This is a career, I’m working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  “I live to cook and cook to live”.

What do you like most about your job? The cooking and sailing.

What  would you like to change? I hate the paperwork – “If I only had to just cook and order groceries, I would be the happiest person on the planet.”

How long have you been working for NOAA? I have been sailing since I was 20 and cooking for 25 years. I started in the coastguard as an engineer and then went back to school to be a cook. I have been with NOAA for 8 years, 2 months and 7 days.

What do you like most about working on the ocean?  The solitude and the lifestyle of just being at sea and having my own space and my galley setup.  Having a set schedule is something I like and also the rocking of the ship and the weather.

What part of your job did you least expect to do? When I came here I knew exactly what to expect.  Over the years the record keeping requirements have increased, which I did not expect.

How far in advance plan your meals? I have 8 years of menus and keep them all in my computer. I plan my menus by the people we have onboard and how many are going to be at a certain meal.  I have to plan and order 7 days in advance and I have to always order dairy and produce when we pull into a new port.

What training or experience would you suggest for high school students if they want to pursue a career as a Steward or other ocean careers?  You can go the military route and go through their school for cooking. Take Home Economics in HS and work in a restaurant – that will determine if you like it or hate it.

What advice would you give young people to eat more nutritiously? Eat dinner at a table with your family and have a conversation. Don’t sit in front of the TV or play on a computer. Don’t eat out of a bag instead choose something healthy like an apple.

If you weren’t a ship’s steward, what other career would you like to have?  This is my dream job! But if I didn’t cook, I would be a seamstress.

*What’s your favorite meal to prepare? Whatever someone wants to eat, is something I love to prepare.

*Do you ever run out of food? I once ran out of orange juice one year. We were in Mexico and I ordered 100 lbs. of oranges and squeezed 15 lbs each morning for fresh juice.

Do you have an outside hobby?  I sew clothes – My husband and I go to Renaissance fairs and I make the costumes for that. I love old movies as well and gardening.

Where are you from? Hurley, Mississippi and I’m married and have 2 children.

What is your favorite marine animal? The edible kind, salmon!

Here is one of her favorite recipes:

Sweet Potato Cheesecake 

2 cups Mashed sweet potato

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 eggs

2 lb cream cheese

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup melted butter

Beat cream cheese and sugar together till light. Add eggs one at a time.  Add sweet potatoes, spices and mix together.  Butter a spring-form pan and dust with graham crackers.  Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325º till filling is set.  Chill and serve with whipping cream.

I can’t wait to try this when we head out to sea!

Downtown Newport, RI
Photo by Kevin Ryan
The NOAA Vessel – Okeanos Explorer

Personal Log:

One thing that I have learned in life is that many things are not under your control and you just have to make the best of each situation and be flexible.  So even though it has taken several more days to leave port than had been planned, I have had the opportunity to explore the base, visit another NOAA vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, interview several of the staff, and work on my blogs and photography. I have really enjoyed talking with the others onboard and visiting the areas around the base and in Newport, RI.

Stormy day on the Naval Base in Newport, RI

Also by postponing the sailing day, it looks like we missed the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Friday it was raining constantly in port, so it most likely would have done the same at sea!

NOAA Corps’ Flag.

Did you know?  The NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.  Officers work on one of NOAA’s 19 ships or 12 aircraft in support of the atmospheric and oceanic scientific research that  is being carried out on these vessels.

Question of the Day?

What job would you like to have on a NOAA vessel and why?

Gina Henderson: Introduction, August 15, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Prof. Gina Henderson
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
August 19 – 27, 2012

Mission: Western Atlantic Climate Study (WACS)
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Introduction: Purpose of the Cruise

Gina Henderson, NOAA Teacher at Sea 2012

Hello from Annapolis, MD! My name is Gina Henderson and I am very excited about my imminent departure to Boston this coming Saturday as part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. In Boston  I will rendezvous with the Ronald H. Brown NOAA ship and join the science team to conduct experiments aimed at collecting in situ measurements of ocean-derived aerosols. The purpose of this experiment is to characterize the cloud-nucleating abilities of these aerosols. We also aim to sample atmospheric particles, gases, and surface sea water to assess the impact of ocean emissions on atmospheric composition.

A Little about Me

I am an Assistant Professor in the Oceanography Department at the United States Naval Academy. Here, I teach courses in climate science, physical geography and weather. My research to date has focused on land-atmosphere interactions using computer climate models, understanding the role of snow cover in the hydrologic and global climate system, and the influence of such elements on atmospheric circulation and climate change.

Growing up on the east coast of Ireland, my interest in climatology was awakened from an early age having been exposed to the elements through outdoor pursuits including sailing, travel, and hiking. I have found that sharing my enthusiasm and passion for these sciences, focusing on the application of how they relate to our day-to-day lives and the environment in which we live, is an excellent platform to foster student interest and participation.

Having worked as a sail racing coach in Ireland, and captaining boats in the Caribbean during my undergraduate summers, I was eager to get back to the sport after relocating to Annapolis. Since my arrival at the Academy, I have also been volunteering as a coach for the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team which has been a great experience so far and helped me learn more about my students outside of the classroom.

Midshipman measuring sea surface temperature with a bucket thermometer.

Going into my second year teaching at the Naval Academy, I am excited to get this opportunity to participate in this NOAA field work campaign. Having spent the last few weeks as the science officer for a Yard Patrol cruise, where we took a group of 17 midshipmen and introduced them to various oceanographic and meteorologic instrumentation on board the Oceanography Department’s dedicated Yard Patrol training vessel, I hope to acquire new fieldwork skills and experiences while aboard the Ron Brown and to use such experiences back in Annapolis.

Prof. Henderson giving some history about sea surface temperature measurement throughout the past 200 years.

The timing of this research cruise coincides with the start of the semester back at the Naval Academy. This semester, I am teaching two sections of the upper level major elective course, Global Climate Change. While it will be challenging to be absent from the classroom for the first two weeks of class, I plan on engaging with my students virtually and as close to real-time as communications allow  through this blog.

With this in mind, after a colleague introduces the course policy statement and syllabus next Monday 20 August, I am asking all students to take 10-20 minutes to google the underlined terms in the “Introduction: purpose of this cruise” section above, beginning with the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. Students should write a brief summary (2-3 sentences) of what they find, focusing on the program goal(s). Students should then research the other underlined terms and write a brief summary (1-2 sentences) of what they should know about these terms from their previous course, SO244: Basic Atmospheric Processes. This assignment will be submitted via email to Prof. Henderson before the beginning of class on Tuesday August 21.

Midshipmen visit the Fleet Weather Center in Norfolk with Prof. Henderson during summer Yard Patrol cruise 2012.

Wes Struble: Get to Know the Scientists, February 21, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Wes Struble
Aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
February 15 – March 5, 2012

Mission: Western Boundary Time Series
Geographical Area: Sub-Tropical Atlantic, off the Coast of the Bahamas
Date: February 21, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: 26 deg 30 min north Latitude & 74 deg 48 min west Longitude
Windspeed: 11 knots
Wind Direction: 40 deg / NE
Air Temperature: 21.3 deg C/70 deg F
Water Temperature: 24.3 deg C/ 75 deg F
Atm Pressure: 1021.38 mb
Water Depth: 4500 meters/14765 ft
Cloud Cover: mostly clear with some clouds
Cloud Type: cumulus & statocumulus

Science and Technology Log

In a previous post I mentioned that two of the researchers I work with here on the Ron Brown are Shane Elipot and Aurélie Duchez. Both are originally from France but currently work for a UK government organization called NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). Shane works for the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool and Aurélie works for the same governmental department but is stationed at their branch in Southampton. Both have earned Doctoral degrees in Oceanography.

Dr. Elipot and Dr. Duchez take a short break from their research to answer some of my questions

Dr. Aurélie Duchez attended high school in Nîmes, France until 18 years of age. Following high school she participated in 2 years of of grandes écoles (preparatory classes) held at her high school in Nîmes to prepare her for engineering school. From here she enrolled in an engineering school in Toulon (the ISITV) where she majored in “Applied Mathematics” with a specialty in fluid mechanics. This three year course of study not only involved normal class work but also included three different internships in the following order: A six week internship concentrating on computing, a two month internship in Miami, Florida working on breaking waves, and a six month internship in Grenoble, France studying ocean modeling in the South Atlantic. She remained in Grenoble and after three years earned her PhD by studying ocean modeling and data assimilation of the Mediterranean Sea. She secured a post-doctoral fellowship as a research scientist at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK where she currently works as an ocean modeler.

Dr. Duchez prepares some documents for her research in the Main Science Lab of the Ron Brown

Dr. Shane Elipot attended high school in France until 18 years of age majoring in the sciences. After high school he spent two years in preparatory classes to take the competitive entrance examination for the “grandes écoles” (France’s engineering schools). After being accepted, he majored in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in hydrography and oceanography. During this period he earned two masters degrees: Master of Advanced Studies in Meteorology, Oceanology & Environment and a Masters in Oceanography & Hydrography. He followed these with a PhD in Oceanography from Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California and the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Elipot currently resides in Liverpool, UK where he works for the National Oceanography Centre.

Dr. Shane Elipot monitors a CTD cast in the Ron Brown’s Computer lab during the early morning hours
Data acquisition hardware for the CTD in the Science Computer Lab of the Ron Brown

They are both serious and dedicated scientists who enjoy their work and they are also a pleasure to engage in conversation. I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet them.

I would encourage you to consider visiting the following websites:

Scripps Institution of Oceanography      

Natural Environment Research Council  

Elizabeth Bullock: Introduction, December 8, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Bullock
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
December 11-15, 2011


Hello! My name is Elizabeth (Liz) Bullock and I work for the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program (TAS).  Before I worked at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)  I was in graduate school at Clark University in Worcester, MA studying Environmental Science and Policy.  As my final project, I created an environmental curriculum for the Global Youth Leadership Institute (GYLI).  Through this experience, I realized how much I love both science and educating others about the importance of the natural world.

I have been invited to take part in a research cruise on the R/V Walton Smith.  I will be participating in the Bimonthly Regional Survey / South Florida Program Cruise.  The researchers on this survey are  from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanography and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) which is located in Miami, FL.

What will we be studying?  The scientists on this survey are very interested in knowing about the strength and health of the ecosystem.  They can judge how strong it is by looking at various indicators such as water clarity, salinity, and temperature.  They can also record information about the phytoplankton and zooplankton that live in the water.

Question for students: Why do you think it is important to learn about the phytoplankton and zooplankton?  What can they tell us about the ecosystem?  Please leave a reply with your answers below by clicking on “Comments.”

Here is a map of the route the R/V Walton Smith will be taking.

Research Map
The R/V Walton Smith will be leaving Miami, FL and traveling around the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico.

I am so excited and I hope you will follow along with me on this journey of a lifetime!

Caitlin Fine: Endings and beginnings, August 9, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Fine
Aboard University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith
August 2 – 7, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida and Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 9, 2011

Personal Log

The last days of the survey cruise followed a pattern similar to the first days. Everyone got into the schedule of working 12-hour shifts and everyone accepted their role and responsibilities as a member of the team.

We all (morning and night shifts) ate dinner together and often (if there were no stations to be sampled) sat together to play board games, such as Chinese checkers.

Maria and I in the "stateroom" we shared
The scientific team plays Chinese checkers

We also all watched the sunsets together — each one was spectacular!

Science team at sunset

On the night of August 6th, we were towing the Neuston net through an area that had so many jellyfish that we could not lift the net out of the water. We had to get another net to help lift the heavy load. We all took bets to see how many jellyfish we had caught. I bet 15 jellyfish, but I was way off — there were over 50 jellyfish in the net! There were so many, that as we were counting them, they began to slide off the deck and back into the water. I have a great video that I cannot wait to share with you in September!

Moon jellies sliding off the deck!
Science equipment in the truck

The ship arrived back in Miami on Sunday night around 7:30pm. It was amazing how quickly everyone unloaded the scientific equipment and started to go their separate ways. Because the NOAA building (Atlantic Oceanographic and Meterological Laboratory, AOML) is located right across the street from where the Walton Smith docks, we loaded all of the equipment into a truck and delivered it to the AOML building.

This was great because I got a quick tour of the labs where Lindsey, Nelson and others run the samples through elaborate tests and computer programs in order to better understand the composition of the ocean water.

Lindsey in one of the NOAA labs

In reflecting upon the entire experience, I feel extremely fortunate to have been granted the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in Teacher at Sea. I was able to help with all aspects of the scientific research from optics, to chemistry, to marine biology as well as help with equipment that is usually reserved for the ship’s crew, such as lowering the CTD or tow nets into the water.

There were many moments when I felt like some of my students who are struggling to learn either English or Spanish. There are a lot of scientific terms, terms used to describe the equipment (CTD and tow net parts), and basic boat terminology that I had not been exposed to previously. I am thankful that all of the members of the cruise were patient with my constant questions (even when I would ask the same thing 3 or 4 times!) and who tried to explain complex concepts to me at a level that I would understand and be able to take back to my students.

I am using the GER 1500 spectroradiometer

It makes me reflect again on everything I learned during my MEd classes in Multicultural/Multilingual Education — a good educator empowers students to ask questions, take risks, ask more questions, helps students access information at their level, is forever patient with students who are learning language at the same time that they are learning new concepts, provides plenty of hands-on experiments and experiences so students put into practice what they are learning about instead of just reading or writing about it.

A porthole on the R/V Walton Smith

As we sailed into Miami, a bottlenose dolphin greeted us – sailing between the two hulls of the catamaran and coming up often for air. It was so close, that I could almost touch it! Even though I was sad that the survey cruise was over, it was as though the dolphin was welcoming me home and on to the next phase of my Teacher at Sea adventure: I return to the classroom in September loaded with great memories, anecdotes, first hand-experiences, and a more complete knowledge of oceanography and related marine science careers to help empower my students so that they consider becoming future scientists and engineers. Thank you Teacher at Sea!

Survey cruise complete, returning to Miami

Nathan Pierantoni, Thursday 4.7.11

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Nathan Pierantoni

University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith

South Florida Bimonthly Hydrographic Survey

Florida Bay, in transit from Dry Tortugas to Key West.

Thursday, April 7 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

1400 hrs Local Time

Barometric pressure = 1017 Millibars

79 F

78% Humidity

Visibility = good

Wind SE 16 knots

Science and Technology Log

Dr. Neslon was very gracious and gave me free reign to learn as much as I could while aboard the R/V Walton Smith. Water sampling requires the most manpower and it is most common thing we are doing for this cruise, and therefore I have been involved in many vertical casts of the CTD. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth, and when I refer to “the CTD” I am referring to the hefty apparatus that is pictured below, sitting on the fantail (the open deck at the stern of the ship). The procedure is as follows: as we get to our stations along our survey route, the boat stops and the we don our hardhats and life jackets and go out to the fantail,. We then lower the safety lines and prepare for a cast. Next, the captain goes to the stern of the upper deck where there is a winch cabin, from where he can pilot the ship and control the cast. The CTD is attached to a cable and is raised and lowered via an A-frame. The scientists give signals to the captain, and together, the device is lowered into the water where it does its work.

The CTD is actually a dual-purpose piece of equipment. It has sensors that measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, depth, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen. These sensors are built into a unit at the base of the apparatus and are protected by a metal cage.Above the sensor array is a rosette of tubes, which are able to collect water samples. Each tube holds 10 L of water, and our CDT has 12 tubes, called Nisken Bottles. The whole thing is electronically linked to the science deck through its cable, and in addition to the 2 scientists on deck who deploy the device, there is a CTD operator inside who monitors water parameter changes as the CTD goes from the surface to the bottom. This scientist is in communication with the captain in the winch cabin, and as the device returns to the surface the scientist is able to fire the Niskin bottles so that they fill with water. For example, we just finished a 340m CDT sample, and Nelson fired the CTD at three depths, 338 m, 70m, and 2 m. On the way down he was able to determine ‘where’ in the water column he wanted to collect his samples, because he was able to ‘watch’ the water parameters change on his computer monitor as the data from the CTD’s sensors streamed in. Interestingly, they fire two bottles at each depth in case one of them fails. It’s just another way to prevent against errors that would be too time consuming and thus too costly to fix. Once at the surface, the scientists and the winch operator guide the CTD back aboard the ship, and secure it to the deck.

While data from the sensors is logged and converted electronically to graphs, the chemical oceanographer begins her work. Cheryl Brown, aka ‘CB’ is an ocean scientist who I have had the pleasure of working with on the day shift. Cheryl works for the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, a University of Miami institute that receives funding through NOAA. She participates in a variety of water quality projects, and spends about 25% of her time at sea. The other 75% of her work is in the lab, where she has multiple responsibilities that include filtration, data processing, and plotting of the samples from her fieldwork. This is common to most areas of field science, where for every hour of fieldwork yields at least double the time in the lab. CB has a degree in marine science, and specialized in marine invertebrates before finding her way to Miami.

The responsibilities on the chemistry deck are numerous. For each CDT deployment, there are a variety of samples that must be prepared from the water collected by the CTD. Each of this same series of samples is required for each depth of water that has been tested. On average, three depths are sampled per CTD deployment, but on this cruise some casts have collected water from four depths, and some have only collected water from the surface. The water from each depth is transferred to a bottle, which has been rinsed three times to avoid contamination, and brought into the wet lab. From there, a nutrient samples, chlorophyll samples, and dissolved CO2 samples are taken.

A nutrient sample is a general measure of ocean health, and includes many of the same samples that might be taken in a home aquarium, like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. To prepare the sample, we manually filter 50 ml of seawater into a sterile container, and preserve it with chloroform. It is then placed into the lab cooler. Finally, the time, location, depth, sample number, and collection number are logged.

The next step is to prepare a chlorophyll sample, and this is done with another process. In order to increase accuracy, two-200 ml samples are filtered through a small pad that is connected to a vacuum system. The water passes through the filter and is discarded, but the dissolved chlorophyll stays behind. Both small filters are placed into one vial, and the vial is stored in a liquid nitrogen container on deck. Then the samples are logged.

At some of our stations we have collected dissolved CO2 samples. This measure is also an important measure of ocean health, because CO2 is important to the photosynthetic processes that many reef organisms require. To collect a CO2 sample, a sterile flask is filled to the top with seawater, and 2 microliters of Mercury Chloride (HgCl2) are added. These samples are also logged.

This entire process gets repeated for each depth of water that was brought up in the tubes on the CTD. In the end, a whole lot of lab methods are practiced in a very short amount of time. You can imagine that as the week has gone on, these tasks have become easier and easier. At first, we were running stations about every half an hour, and the seas were quite rough. The amount of work to do in short intervals was a little bit overwhelming, but Cheryl let us all know that is would get easier as the week went on, and we she was right! As I finish up this log and we steam from the Tortugas back to the Keys I am looking forward to perfecting my CTD technique before we finish off the week!

Personal Log

It’s been really inspiring to get to know more about the people I am working with. Everyone here is very passionate about the work they are doing, and it is clear that if it weren’t for the love of the job they wouldn’t be out here bobbing around in the ocean! It is also interesting to hear about the different routes that people have taken to get here. This morning during breakfast I had the chance to talk at length with Cheryl about her recent Peace Corps experience. She was sent to the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu for 27 months to do environmental work and to help facilitate a bank that was going to make micro-loans to women in business. When she got there, plans changed, and she ended up living on a small island called Paama. The island was 2 miles x 7 miles and has 21 villages spread around the coast. What had been an environmental mission turned into an educational one, and she ultimately spent her time on Paama rebuilding a primary school that had been destroyed by a cyclone. She had a canoe specially built for her so she could move about roadless island, and while on Paama she had to adapt to the lifestyle that sounds a lot like backcountry camping to me! Ultimately she had to jump islands on small planes, bargain with shipping captains and work with the entire community to get the school completed.

As I listened to Cheryl tell her story, enthralled by the adventure and romance of her experience, I was reminded of how lucky we are in America to have the education system that we have. It is my hope for my students and colleagues that you all really take advantage of the resources, facilities, and especially the technology what we probably take for granted at times. As I learn more about the future of oceanography I have been especially interested in the direction it is moving, toward space. As more and more remote sensing capabilities are developed, the need for ground proofing will also increase. What is clear to me is that oceanography, like all fields of science, will require dedicated researchers who are passionate about their work and skilled in technology, math, and engineering. There is only one place to get these skills, and its at school, and it requires practice, time, and patience. Thanks to Cheryl’s work, students in that small village on the coast of Paama are able to work toward their education. I challenge everyone at Heights Middle School, myself included, to do their personal best to taking advantage of all of the resources we have in order that our students will become the problem solvers of tomorrow!

I’ll keep posting pictures when I can, and I’m excited to come back to school on Monday!

Here is a shot from the CTD monitor inside the ship. The operator can see what is going on on deck, and follow the ater parameters at the same time.

CTD Monitor inside the ship
CTD Monitor inside the ship

In this shot Cheryl and I are preparing to Launch the CTD. I am signaling the winch operator.

Launching the CTD
Launching the CTD

Another shot of the fantail, and you can see the CTD controlled by a cable via the A-frame.


Here is the CTD collecting a surface sample.

Collecting a Surface Sample
Collecting a Surface Sample

Here I am in the process of collecting water out of a Niskin bottle, so that I can take it inside for preparation. Notice the instrumentation on the bottom of the CTD.

Collecting Water
Collecting Water out of a Niskin bottle

Here is a shot of Cheryl getting started in the lab on the sample preparation.

Sample Preparation
Sample Preparation

I like this shot, it shows a clean filter pad and a ‘dirty’ one. The pad attached to the vacuum has just finished filtering 200 ml of seawater. The materials on the pad will be analyzed back in Cheryl’s lab on land.

Filter Pads
Filter Pads

Here is a shot of Nelson Melo. He has been operating the CTD during the day, and he is holding a graph that charted Chlorophyll, temperature, O2, and salinity. This CTD was launched to a depth of 340 m.

Nelson Melo
Nelson Melo

Nelson’s work (which I described in my Tuesday log) and the data Cheryl pulls out of the samples we’ve collected will help to refine scientist’s capabilities for remote sensing in oceanography. I think its pretty significant that the latest issue of the scientific journal

Oceanography Journal
Oceanography Journal

Oceanography has a satellite on it. This is the direction that ocean science has headed!

Nice Sunset! Almost as good as our New Mexico sunsets!


Caroline Singler, August 31, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 31 August 2010

Back to School – Tuesday 31 August 2010

Midnight in the Arctic Ocean
Midnight in the Arctic Ocean
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 00:00 (12:00 a.m. local time); 07: UTC
Latitude: 76 º 37.6 ‘ N Longitude: 138 º 31.2 ‘ W
Ship Speed: 8.7 knots Heading: 197 º (SSW)
Air Temperature: 0.19 ºC/ 32.3 ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.0 mb
Humidity: 98.8 %
Winds: 6.3 knots W Wind Chill: -5.3 ºC/ 22.4 ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.3 ºC Salinity: 25.32 PSU
Water Depth: 3666.9 m
This is a special message for my new Earth Science students, members of the class of 2014 who are participating in 9th Grade Orientation at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School today. I am sorry that I cannot be there with you. I am excited to be your teacher this year – you are important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you when I return. You are in the caring and capable hands of Mrs. Iskandar during my absence. Please be respectful of her and thank her for agreeing to cover my classes for the next week in addition to her normal responsibilities in the Science Department.
As you can see, I am a bit too far north to get there on time. I am currently in the Arctic Ocean on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The ship icon on the map below shows where I was at midnight on 31 August, which was 3 a.m. in Massachusetts. The red lines on the map show different places that we have been during the last month.
Map of Locations
Map of Locations

We left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (pictured on the right) on Monday 2 August, cruised North through the Bering Sea, and have been in the region of the Arctic known as the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin for the last four weeks. I am here participating in an oceanography research expedition as a representative of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. The research mission is called the Extended Continental Shelf Project. It is an international, multiyear effort between the United States and Canada to map the seafloor and the subsurface in the Arctic Ocean off the coasts of the two countries. Healy (pictured on right) and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St. Laurentare both icebreaker ships designed specifically for scientific expeditions in the polar regions. We made it as far north as 82.5º North and are now moving south again. There is still ice around us now, but not as much as we saw just a few days ago. I have been taking a lot of pictures, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Here are just a few from the last couple of days.

USCGS Cutter Healy
USCGS Cutter Healy
Arctic ocean at night
Arctic ocean at night
Louis at Sunset
Louis at Sunset

A week from now, on Monday, 6 September, we will leave the Healy by helicopter at Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. I expect to be back at school on Friday, 10 September.

Breaking Ice
Breaking Ice

Before then, I hope you will take some time to look through my blog and read about some of the things I have seen and done. Then, I would appreciate it if you would send me a short email at this address: Introduce yourself to me and then either make a comment or ask a question about the Arctic, either based on something you read in my blog or just something you wonder about and would like to know. I will do my best to answer all your questions, and I will give you an extra credit homework grade for your effort.

Enjoy your first week of high school. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the size of the building or the crazy way the class schedule works. You will get used to it in no time. Have fun.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. I will see you soon.
Miss Singler

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 7, 2010

Cups heading to the depths
Cups heading to the depths

Science Log

Today was a day of transit. We did a lot of work on the buoys, preparing them for deployment and Rick, with the help of Tonya our Chief Survey Technician, got about half of the cups that his students decorated for ‘shrinking’ into the mesh bags to attach to the deep CTD when we do one . The CTD is a rosette of bottles that are sent to depth, in this case 3000 meters (how many feet is that and how many atmospheres of pressure?) where water samples and a record of the Conductivity (salinity), Temperature, and Depth are taken. These CTD’s will help provide a double check for the electronic data that our buoys collect and add to the data used to model El Nino/La Nina. One of the side activities of the CTD is to send down the cups to be squeezed by the pressure. We also have a cup of similar size that will be used as a control so that students will be able to see the changes that the cups undergo. Rick also has brought along a Styrofoam wig head from his daughter Teri to see the effect on a larger scale.

In addition to our work on the buoys we had our first at sea drills including an abandon ship drill.But since we had a similar drill in port we only were required to muster to our stations with our exposure suits, long sleeve shirt, head cover, and long pants and wear our personal flotation device.

Ship safety drill
Ship safety drill

A wee bit rocky today.We have a swell that seems to be coming from the starboard (right) aft quarter, which gives the ship a strange movement that has made some of the folks a little queasy.Ships tend to roll (movement around an imaginary line running bow to stern) pitch (movement up and down around an imaginary line running 90 degrees to the direction of roll) and yaw (movement left or right of the imaginary line running bow to stern).Today the KA is doing all three at the same time which is why we are encouraged to take Meclizine HCL (Dramamine) for a few days prior to the trip and for the first few days at sea. Taking this makes it easier for the crew to function in an environment that has un-natural motion without getting ‘seasick’. Even with the weird motion of the ship, we still have work to do and for us “newbies” things to learn before we are allowed to do them, like learn how to set the ‘painter line’ for the RHIB so that we will stay attached to the ship in the advent that the engine of the RIHB doesn’t start or other various bad things that can happen to a little boat in a big ocean. We didn’t actually ride in the RHIB today, we simply learned how to enter the boat, where to sit , where the emergency items are located, and how to start and steer the boat.

Out on the deck
Out on the deck

One of the tasks that needs to be done prior to the deployment of our first Buoy at 8N:155W is to determine (as close as possible) the ideal position for the buoy’s anchor. To do this it is essential to know the true depth of the ocean and the topography (collectively called bathymetry) of the area within a few miles of the target latitude and longitude for the buoy.Brian, our Chief Scientist, will determine the depth and location for the anchor by using both satellite sea surface heights and actual sonar depth data from ships that have been in the area. In reality, there really isn’t much hard data, physical sonar tracks, for much of the ocean and much of the depth is determined by the actually height of the sea surface as measured by satellite. These measurements take into account variables, such as orbit of the satellite, atmospheric effects on radar, and tides and compare the computer result to a mathematical ellipsoid model of the Earth’s shape. Sounds pretty complicated, and it is, but we can use this calculated sea surface to help determine the depth of the ocean since the surface mirrors the actual topography of the ocean floor. For Academy students, you will have the opportunity to do two activities from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) that will help you understand what it is that we are attempting to do.

Bathymetric map
Bathymetric map
Catch of the day!
Catch of the day!


Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 6, 2010

Science Log

The KA is under her own steam, well actually diesel and electric, and we are making 10 knots (you should figure out how fast that is in miles per hour) at a heading of 173 degrees. The KA uses diesel generators to create the current to drive here electric propulsion motors. She is a vey quit ship because of this configuration which was part of her original deign…to be quite. The KA is a former Navy antisubmarine warfare ship and needed to be quiet to play her role listening for submarines that might have been lurking around the oceans. Now that quiet nature makes it nice for those of us about to have our first night at sea.

Our current position was 157degrees 51 minutes and 7 seconds west longitude (157:51:07 W) and 22 degrees 55 minutes and 8 seconds north latitude (22:55:09N) at 19:30 lcl on the 5th of January. At that time we had been at sea for about five hours and have many more to go on our way to work the 155 W Buoy line. Sunset was fantastic, but very short. It seems to take almost no time to go from day to night here in the tropics. You can see how it looks behind some of the “birds” (anemometers) that will measure windspeed and direction on the buoys. We are now (09:10 lcl) about 40 nautical miles south of the Big Island and can just see it in the distance. It will be some time before we see land again.

Since we are running a little slow on the internet I will simply post a few images from our first day rather than a video. I will attempt to post a video or two later on but currently we are limited on our bandwidth to about 128K.

For two days I have been overwhelmed as I observed all of the aspects of the crew’s preparation for the TAO mission to Samoa. I am fascinated with everything about this operation – watching the crew load the ship, observing the ship being fueled, viewing the massive nuclear submarines located in Pearl Harbor, and assembling the sensors that collect climate data from each of the buoys we will deploy. Yesterday, in preparation for our voyage, we continued to calibrate instruments and assemble sensors.Last night was our first night at sea, I slept like a baby -the gentle rocking of the boat was like being in a giant cradle.

Robert Oddo, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.21oC
Relative Humidity 78.32%
Sea Surface Temperature 27.62oC
Barometric Pressure 1019.42 inches
Latitude 23 41.483 N Longitude 80 40.363 W

My last sunset from the Ronald Brown
My last sunset from the Ronald Brown

Personal Log 

I just finished watching my last sunset on the Ronald Brown and it is time that I reflect a little on this entire NOAA Teacher at Sea experience.  The cruise gave me a first-hand look at some of the important work that atmospheric scientists and physical oceanographers examine.  I discovered that the ocean system is huge and scientists around the world are compiling information about the ocean so we can better understand it.  This work is like putting one of those big 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles together. The more pieces that you are able to put together, the better you understand how the pieces fit into the entire picture.  Also because the system is so large, it takes the collaborative effort of many different scientists to really get some sort of understanding about what is happening. This cruise would never have been possible without the crew, the scientist and the NOAA Corp officers working as a team. There was science happening 24 hours and everyone did his or her part.

Sitting at my desk in the computer lab
Sitting at my desk in the computer lab

I feel particularly lucky to be selected as the Teacher at Sea on this cruise and I would like to thank everyone that made it possible.  The crew, the scientists, the NOAA Corp officers were friendly, helpful and always willing to explain things about the ships operation and the science that was happening on the ship. Thank you to the Teacher at Sea support staff that helped with logistics and information pertaining to the cruise.  Special thanks go to than Dr. Rick Lumpkin, the chief scientist, for coordinating the cruise, explaining the science, and reviewing sea logs and Field Operations Officer, Nicole Manning for reviewing sea logs and coordinating things.

Finally thank you to all the people that followed along with this adventure. It was always nice to see how many people were viewing the journal and photos. The questions were great and thanks for all the emails. The impacts that these experiences have on teachers and their students have implications that are far reaching. This has really been a special summer for me and thank you to everyone that made it possible.

Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Jillian Worssam, July 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 19, 2008

Numerous times over the past two and half weeks I have mentioned the CTD, small ones attached to moorings, there is one on the MOCNESS, there are even CTD sensors aboard the HEALY, but what does this CTD really tell the scientists?

For every sampling station the CTD needs to be prepared ahead of time so that all the equipment is functioning fully.
For every sampling station the CTD needs to be prepared ahead of time so that all the equipment is functioning fully.

As a review, let’s remember that a CTD records the Conductivity of the water that when adjusted for Temperature gives us salinity. The Depth of each sample is recorded because the ocean is not static; it is constantly moving both vertically and horizontally, and changing as it moves. When you sample with the CTD you can add a variety of accessory sensors to measure other ocean parameters: O2 salinity, temperature, pressure, fluorescence, turbidity and on our specific cruise we are also collecting data in regards to micro-zooplankton, nitrates, iron, and radon.

Each line represents a different element that the CTD is measuring.
Each line represents a different element that the CTD is measuring.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about ocean currents. There are three ocean currents that affect the ecosystems of the Bering Sea: The Alaska Coastal Current, heavily freshwater, colder runoff that shoots through Unimak Pass; The North Pacific Gyre, warmer(relatively) water that seeps through the entire Aleutian chain, like water through a sieve. And the deep ocean conveyor belt, this one actually comes from the Mediterranean…water that has not seen the surface for a thousand years or more! This dense and cold fluid flows through Kamchatka pass, and has traveled from the north Atlantic through the Pacific to get to the Bering Sea, and is really rich in nutrients. No wonder it takes a thousand years. Anyway here we have all this water filtering into the Bering Sea, and here on the HEALY we have the CTD to give us precise data on the composition of this water.

The scientists all getting their water samples out of the 30 liter bottles.
The scientists all getting their water samples out of the 30 liter bottles.

During the actual cast of the CTD at each recorded station 24 data points are collects each second, giving an excellent representation of each specific water column. It is Scott’s job to run the CTD and let me tell you this is no easy task. The electronic equipment has to be constantly calibrated, the physical instrument array maintained, and all the collected data cataloged and stored for transmission to all the scientists both during and at the end of this cruise. None of this is an easy task. I also find Scott’s role on the vessel fascinating. Scott is an engineer who works for Scripts out of California and is hired on as outside technical support. He is not technically one of the scientific team, not technically part of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the HEALY could not technically collect most of their data with out him!

Hamming it up, Scott shows us the real science behind the CTD.
Hamming it up, Scott shows us the real science behind the CTD.

Quote of the Day: If you plan for a year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate your children. Chinese Proverb.

FOR MY STUDENTS: What is a pycnocline?

Chris Harvey, June 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 6, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I survived the night with ease! The only problem I had was after I woke up the first time (around 1:30 AM) and could not fully get back to sleep.  I am still struggling with this jetlag thing, although my “sea legs” are coming along well.  Knock on wood; I am already well adjusted in the inner ear, though I still get tossed around a bit when I try to walk. I can handle that though. It is the seasickness that I feared.

I ate breakfast with Amee and John, the Electronics Technician guy.  He handles all of the communications and electronics stuff on the ship.  We all traded past war stories and somehow ended up in a pseudo-philosophical discussion about science and technology and the future of our world. (I say “pseudo-philosophical” because none of us is trained in any way in philosophy!) Yeah, we are all science geeks!  But it was fun. I am learning that everyone on the ship is very kindhearted and friendly.  I guess you have to be if you are going to live in such close quarters together for so long.  I’ve begun to think of this ship in terms of reality shows (Not that I am a fan of them, but we are under a lot of the same conditions: many strangers with unique backgrounds put together in a strange situation, forced to share resources in close conditions, while attempting to complete a task or mission in a given amount of time.).  I will attempt to document the human element of this trip as much as the scientific.  After all, is observation not a key element to the scientific method?  So far we are drama-free, aside from losing Tonatiuh.  But there are still 30 days left.

On a more concrete note, we are headed towards Necker Island, to the northwest of Oahu.  Unofficial word is that we will be there by mid-afternoon.  Although I have also heard that we have another full day of transit.  When we arrive there, we will begin baiting and setting lobster traps. Our mission on the OSCAR ELTON SETTE is to trap lobster in the Hawaiian waters, take measurements of tagged lobsters, and keep track of the overall population density of lobsters in the given areas.  My colleagues are concerned that the number of lobsters in the area is remaining low despite the fact that the waters have been off limits to commercial fishermen since 1990.  They are hoping that, each time they come out here, there will be a sudden increase in the number of lobsters in the area.  Something must be keeping the population down, and through the data we collect, we will be able to contribute to determining the cause, and therefore be able to help scientists devise solutions to stabilizing the lobster population.

Until we reach Necker Island, it is smooth sailing across a gently rolling Pacific, upon my perch on the Marine Mammal Observation Deck, the highest deck set directly above the bridge and which is intended for use for scientists to search for whales, dolphins, and other such life. It is covered, with a nice breeze, and Garret, a fellow researcher, is playing his harmonica.  Life couldn’t get much better.

On that note: Bob, the Chief Scientist onboard the ship (my “boss” so to speak) has made it rather clear to me that when the time to work comes, I will be working hard alongside everyone else. “I don’t know what they told you about the Teacher at Sea program,” he told me over the phone when I first arrived in Honolulu.  “But you are not going to be just observing. You will be getting hands on and dirty.”  “Good,” I told him with a smile on my face.  “That’s why I am here.”  I imagine that when we arrive at Necker Island the pace of life will pick up rather dramatically.  Until then, I am going to work on learning the ropes and enjoy my time with good company.

We have stopped the ship so that we can take a CTD reading.  The CTD reading is a measure of Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of a water sample between the surface and 500 meters below the surface.  I was very interested in this because 1) it is the first time we have stopped the ship since we made our run out of Honolulu and a change of scenery is great when you are on a ship; and 2) the information that comes back from a CTD is very relevant to the information that I cover in my Earth/Space Science class (Mother, you will have to find some answers to questions I will pose, since some of the data contradicted my thoughts of what it should be.)

The data we are collecting is part of a time series, meaning that we are taking the sample at a specific point that has been sampled in the past and will be sampled in the future.  Scientists can then use the data over time to make inferences about such things as an approaching El Nino or La Nina, suitable regions for supporting animal populations, and other such conclusions based on our basic oceanographic data.  In addition to temperature and depth, the CTD measures the amount of oxygen and chlorophyll in the water, as well as the ocean’s salinity. Why is this data important?  We’ll get to that in a minute.

The CTD is nothing more than a weighted contraption with sensors built into it.  It is picked up by a winch and then released at a rate of 60 meters per minute to a maximum depth of 500 meters.  For this trip, we are going to take four CTD readings.  It is a secondary mission for us, meaning the only reason we are doing it is because we happen to be in the area. As the CTD increases in depth, these are some things I would have expected to see:

1) Temperature should decrease (the deeper it goes, the further it is from sunlight)

2) Chlorophyll count should decrease (Chlorophyll is dependent upon sunlight as well. This is the same chlorophyll that is found in green plants on the solid earth, and is important because it is the most basic form of life for the aquatic food chain. Thus, the more chlorophyll, the greater the chance that an aquatic food chain could be established and supported in a given region of water.  No chlorophyll would indicate a region of water that would most likely not be able to sustain life- i.e.- without chlorophyll there would be no plankton.)

3) Salinity should increase (Saline water is more dense than fresh water, so more saline water should be found at greater depths than less saline water)

4) Oxygen should be found in greatest abundance wherever chlorophyll is in greatest abundance. (Remember from Biology 101, chlorophyll takes carbon dioxide and sunlight and converts it to oxygen)

What actually happened was this:

1) Temperature did in fact decrease with depth, though only slightly.  We were at a depth of over 4,000 meters and we only sent the CTD down 500 meters.  Imagine what would have happened if we sent it down further!

2) The chlorophyll count went from about zero to its maximum at 100 meters, and then returned back to zero by 200 meters depth. This makes sense since most of the sunlight is absorbed by 200 meters.

3) The salinity of the seawater increased at first, then decreased, and ultimately ended up about the same as at the surface.  This is the question I pose for you Terry (ask Marge for some assistance!): Why?  One of my colleagues, smartalec Amee, told me that it was because the Coriolis effect was stirring the ocean between depths of 0-500 meters.  Is this true?  (Remember, Amee is British so I must second-guess ANYTHING and EVERYTHING she says!)

4) Oxygen followed the same suit as I suspected and was at greatest concentration where the chlorophyll was at greatest concentration.

It was very interesting to conduct this investigation because the data that I use in class comes from surveys such as ours.  This was another exciting science-geek moment for me because I seem to forget quite often that I am on a NOAA research vessel conducting the research and acquiring the data that many science resources across the world become dependent upon!

On the sociology side of things, our reality show would never cut it back in the States.  It seems that we all just get along too darn well!  No matter what we seem to say or do to each other, everything seems to come out positive.  Imagine having classrooms with environments like this!  Imagine communities cooperating like we do!  Imagine entire cities or states or countries, or God-forbid, the entire world!  The words of John Lennon come to mind: “…Imagine all the people…”  I guess I am in a utopia of sorts, where life is different only for the time being.  But just imagine!

…you may say that I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

Rachel Dane, May 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rachel Dane
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 4, 2005

Plan of the Day
0400: 1.5N CTD
0830: 2N Recovery and deploy with CTD, AOML and ARGO
2215: 2.5N CTD

Weather Data
Latitude: 1 degree N
Longitude: 95 degrees W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 153 degrees
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Sea water temperature: 27.9 degrees C
Barometric pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 5/8 cumulus, altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Last night I ended up falling into bed, exhausted, around midnight.  Jim and I spent almost an hour having a super fun conversation about river running in Idaho and the Grand Canyon—I had no idea that he and I were both guides on the main fork of the Salmon River in Idaho!  It was a wonderful talk, and I hope to have the opportunity to chat more together.

It’s another buoy day; today we will be recovering a damaged buoy and deploying a new one in its place. Each TAO buoy is moored to the bottom of the ocean using Nilspin, which is steel cable surrounded by a protective plastic shield.  Old railroad wheels are used as anchors for each buoy in the array.  The Nilspin cable is also equipped with sensors at various depths; these sensors transmit data from the ocean to the surface of the buoy. Remember, these buoys constantly collect data on wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure, sea surface and subsurface temperature, salinity, water pressure and ocean currents.  The data is gathered and transmitted via NOAA satellites, and is used by scientists all over the world who are studying the relationship between the Pacific Ocean and climatic changes.

Buoy recovery is a fairly labor intensive process that involves lassoing the floating toroid, craning it aboard, spooling in all of its cable, and cleaning the entire apparatus.  Being submerged for 6 months at a time, the buoys acquire quite a collection of barnacles!  Before a buoy can be recovered the anchor needs to be dropped; a sensing apparatus on its underside is responsible for detecting the “drop anchor” signal transmitted by the ship.  In today’s case, the recovered buoy will be stored on deck until it is cleaned, painted, and outfitted with new instrumentation; it will then be standing by, ready to replace another buoy on the array if necessary. There was some excitement today during operations when the anchor release signal was not acknowledged by the buoy—the ship’s winch was very unhappy about having to haul up the additional 2.5 tons of anchor weight!

Deploying a buoy involves all of the same steps as recovery, but in the reverse order.  First, one end of the spooled cable is attached to the bottom of the buoy’s 2.5m diameter base. The buoy is then lowered into the water and the cable is unspoooled.  Finally, the anchor is dropped. The entire buoy lifting and lowering process is done with the large cranes and winches that the KA is equipped with.

Personal Log

All hands involved in the buoy ops functioned together like a well oiled machine.  There is no doubt that everyone on board is familiar with their duties and responsibilities, and all know what needs to be done and precisely when it needs to happen in order for the procedure to be successfully executed.  It is definitely impressive. Again today, all crew members were more than happy to include me in the excitement, and all were very patient with this rookie sea-goer!  Thank you, everyone!

The weather here at the equator is much less humid than I expected.  In fact, I find it quite pleasant; maybe because there is always a sea breeze blowing.  The inside of the ship sometimes feels like a refrigerator, especially the computer and science labs which are kept cool to maintain the machines.

Teams are made and times are set; let the tournaments begin!  For the remainder of the cruise we will be competing against each other in scrabble, cribbage, darts, poker, and a card game called Sequence.  My first challenge is tonight at 6:30—Fred and I play cribbage.  Personally, I can’t wait to see the dart competition as we rock and roll our way to Mexico!

Rachel Dane, May 3, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rachel Dane
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 3, 2005

Plan of the Day
0300: 0.5S CTD
1200: Equatorial mooring repair followed by a deep CTD and an ARGO
1845: 0.5N CTD
2345: 1N CTD

Weather Data
Latitude: 0 degrees N
Longitude: 94 degrees W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 150 degrees
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Sea wave height: < 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Sea water temperature: 26.5 degrees C
Barometric pressure: 1013.0
Cloud cover: 2/8 cumulus, cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

Today is my first full day on the KA’IMIMOANA (KA).  After sleepily answering my 3:30 AM wake-up call and quickly grabbing a hot cup of caffeine, I met Shawn and Jay on deck to begin the first CTD cast of this second leg of the KA’s journey along the equator. CTD is an acronym for “Conductivity, Temperature, Depth”; it is essentially an analysis of the salinity and chlorophyll levels of a site specific water sample. The casts are performed at each 1 degree change in latitude along the entire TAO array.  The CTD “package” consists of 15 cylinders, each about 1.25m high, attached to a sensing apparatus. Based on commands from the deck, this sensing apparatus will open and close the cylinders and provide real-time data of water conductivity, temperature, density and salinity. For the purposes of this morning’s sample, the package was lowered to a final depth of 1000m for sample collection.  Final depths vary with each cast.  Once the cask is deployed, data analysis of the water sample is displayed graphically on a nearby computer—this morning I was able to view a graphical representation of the thermocline for the first time!

Before lunch, I shadow Doc during her weekly safety inspection.  What a great opportunity for me to see the inner workings of this impressive vessel!  After lunch, the announcement that we have arrived at the site of our first buoy repair comes echoing over the loudspeakers, and it’s buoy time!

The equator! For me, it’s no longer simply a line around the globe.  Not only does the equator represent the dividing line between the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth, but this is also the region where Pacific ocean currents are being extensively studied by NOAA in order for us to better understand the relationship between the oceans and climate.  Essentially, the TAO buoy array acts as a 6000 mile antennae that scientists use to monitor ocean trends.

Donning hard hat and life jacket, I ran to the third deck clutching my zip locked camera and climbed into one of the orange work rafts attached to the KA’s port side.  We (Dave, Brian, Chris, Matt and I) were gently lowered into the water by attentive crew members, and off we motored to our waiting buoy, about 75m away.  Unfortunately, this buoy had been damaged by a fishing vessel so Dave and Brian had some repairs to make.  Fish prefer to swim in the vicinity of buoys because schools feed on the growth that accumulates on the underside, and it is quite common for large fishing vessels to tie up to TAO buoys; oftentimes damage occurs in the process.  After the repairs were complete, I was enthusiastically invited to jump onto the mooring buoy, and it was the absolute highlight of my day! Since fish like to hang out by the buoys sea birds do too; this was immediately obvious to me once I had hopped onto the platform and was clinging to the rungs of the tower.

The entire apparatus was covered from top to bottom with dried guano, and within minutes of climbing and perching on the tower, so was I!  Kind of gross; however, this did not prevent me from reveling in the experience of being on the equator and bobbing like a cork, completely and utterly surrounded by water.  It felt as though I had stepped into a completely foreign liquid universe.  Other than our work boat, the only object in the panoramic view was the KA’IMIMOANA headed towards the horizon. I believe that I could have very happily floated on that buoy for the rest of the day, reveling in the vastness.

Once back in the orange raft, our expert coxswain Chris kicked it into turbo gear and off we sped on a high speed chase, in hot pursuit of our ocean home.  Although the KA remained in sight for the entire operation today and although I longed for more time bobbing in the serene, blue stillness of the equatorial Pacific, there was a feeling of extreme comfort in riding to port side of the mighty Ocean Seeker.  Looking up, we saw 10 of our crew members peering anxiously over the rails on all decks, ready to work together to bring us home safely.

Personal Log

On a daily basis, I continue to be amazed by this ship.  So many aspects of life aboard the KA’IMIMOANA are extremely refreshing: that it is a floating home that operates so efficiently through the patience, teamwork and cooperation of all hands, that a hallway passing almost always evolves into a friendly conversation, and that crew members are consistently willing to share their knowledge and experience with me and excitedly teach new information.

Despite my best intentions and despite a 4.5 mile run on the treadmill, I was not able to squeeze in a rest this afternoon. Now it’s 10:30pm and I’m feeling exhausted, but too overwhelmed to sleep.  This evening I studied the Southern Cross and surrounding constellations with Don. Although I live at the Grand Canyon and regularly study extremely impressive night skies, the stars here rival what I’ve become accustomed to at home.  Thanks to Jimbo’s call I watched over 100 squid swarming on our starboard side, and kudos to Tony–his expert fishing skills have ensured that we will all enjoy fresh calamari tomorrow night!  Matt was the first person to introduce me to an actual example of bioluminescence tonight, visible in the ship’s wake; thank you, Matt, it was so incredibly cool! I definitely plan on taking him up on his offer for me to borrow the “Blue Planet” series to learn more about deep ocean luminescence.  So, brimming with curiosity and excitement, I look forward to the gentle rocking of the ship once I tumble into my bunk later this evening.

Rachel Dane, May 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rachel Dane
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 2, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Today is the big day—my first day at sea! I am excited and nervous at the same time; with no experience sailing my main hope is that sea legs will develop quickly for me!  As Academy Bay receded behind us I was a bit wistful at having to leave the Galapagos with so much left unexplored, but I am phenomenally happy to have had the experience to travel here and truly hope to return someday.

Much of my afternoon was spent picking the brain of Patrick Rafter, our Ph.D. student from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Patrick boarded the KA in San Diego at the start of this cruise, and is amazingly knowledgeable about marine chemistry.  He is also super patient with all of my questions, and very fun to chat with! You rock, Patrick! I basically asked him for a crash course in oceanic interactions, and this is what he taught me—too cool!

Essentially, the ocean can be viewed as the shallow, warm “mixed layer” at the surface and the deep, cold ocean. The dividing line between these two is called the thermocline, and it is the level at which a rapid change in water temperature occurs. Think about it as a multi-layered cake, with each water layer maintaining a fairly unique and consistent salinity, density and water temperature.  Generally, the mixed layer at the surface is the warmest.  In the equatorial pacific this surface layer has a depth of about 100m, and it is this first layer of oceanic cake that NOAA is most interested in studying.  Normally, the thermocline that divides the high warm layer from the lower cold layer maintains a gradually increasing easterly slope.  Under normal conditions, there is also less convection occurring and less wind is present.  However, under El Nino conditions the dividing line between the two layers becomes more level, creating a deeper, warmer top layer. This increase in depth of the top layer affects marine interactions in several ways.  First, a much larger percentage of surface water is warmer.  Second, more convection is occurring due to the warmer water temperature, and third, more wind is present.  One of the major uncertainties that TAO project data is attempting to explain is the cause of this thermocline change.

Personal Log

After a long Monday and a fabulous shrimp dinner, I feel quite tired and ready to call it a day. Tomorrow, Joe will set up my ship email account; I am really looking forward to being in touch with friends and loved ones at home, and also communicating with my students! It pleases me to report that, surprisingly, my stomach feels more settled at sea then it did when we were anchored in the Bay!  I’m not feeling 100% yet, but definitely well enough to give the treadmill a try tomorrow—and maybe I can even skip the Dramamine… Until tomorrow!

Rachel Dane, May 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rachel Dane
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 1, 2005

Personal Log

Following 16 hours of travel that brought me to Guayquil, Ecuador, a 2 hour flight has transported me to the northernmost tip of Baltra Island in the Galapagos.  The Galapagos Islands is the name given to this isolated group of volcanic mounds, which consists of 19 major islands and scores of inlets located 1000km west of mainland Ecuador.  From the air I could observe most of the land mass of the archipelago, which covers 7882 square km.  That these islands have so profoundly influenced scientific thought is astounding! The handful of animals that made their way out here have, through isolation, developed into completely unique species without fear of predation.

After a 10 minute ferry ride from Isla Baltra to the northern tip of Isla Santa Cruz, I am driven 42km south to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the archipelago.  The population of this town is growing (too fast!) due to immigration from mainland Ecuador, and now numbers about 12,000 individuals.  During the drive I was observing the vegetation and wildlife, and noticed many plants with brightly colored flowers ranging from deep red to vibrant pinks and purples. Also present were a plethora of small, lemon yellow butterflies. Soon, Academy Bay was stretching far out to the east, and anchored peacefully in the turquoise water I spotted what was to be my home for the next 12 days: the NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana (Hawaiian for “Ocean Seeker”).

Once dropped off at the pier, I was ferried out to the KA’IMIMOANA (KA) via a local “panga”, or water taxi. I was welcomed by Doc, Joe and Sean (more to come about my crew mates!) and given a brief tour of the ship.  Eager to explore Isla Santa Cruz, Joe and I headed back to the island with our panga.  One of the most popular visitor sites in Puerto Ayora is the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is where I met the giant Galapagos tortoises face to face!  The station directs a captive breeding program for several of the 11 remaining subspecies of tortoise, and I was happy to learn that the captive bred animals are generally released to their home islands when they are about 4 years old.

Tired but elated after spending the afternoon at the research station, I enjoyed a meal of delicious fresh sea bass at a local restaurant.  My first day in the Galapagos closed after the short water taxi trip back to the vessel, and meeting several more of my helpful and welcoming ship mates.  I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the anchored ship, and the comforting view of stars from the window of my berth.

Debra Brice, November 25, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Debra Brice TAS 2003 on RV Roger Revelle
San Diego teacher Debra Brice on RV Roger Revelle

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 25, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1. 251500Z Nov 03
2. Position: LAT: 20-00.0’S, LONG: 073-36.0’W
3. Course: 090-T
4. Speed: 12.0 Kts
5. Distance: 83.7 NM
6. Steaming Time: 7H 00M
7. Station Time: 16H 00M
8. Fuel: 1661 GAL
9. Sky: OvrCst
10. Wind: 220-T, 6 Kts
11. Sea: 220-T, 1-3 Ft
12. Swell: 190-T, 4-6 Ft
13. Barometer: 1014.2 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 22.0 C, Sea 20.4 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Advanced clocks 1 hour @ 0500Z to conform with +3 time zone.
ETA Arica, Chile 261100Z Nov 03.

Science and Technology Log

“Oceanography is Fun.”

So Roger Revelle thought, and as I spend my last night on the ship that bears this remarkable man’s name I pause to reflect on my voyage of discovery. I have learned a great deal while I have been at sea; from the duties of a chief scientist and how to deploy a buoy to how aerosols are involved in precipitation in the atmosphere, and so much more. The experience of being hundreds of miles from shore with thousands of meters of water beneath you is indescribable. In my last log I wanted to talk about my impressions of oceanography and a little about the history of the vessel I am traveling on and what makes it so special.

The Research Vessel ROGER REVELLE is named after one of the most respected Oceanographers in the field. He was also a graduate of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and eventually, the director. I want to share a little bit of Roger Revelle the man and also the ship.

“The ocean holds me in an enduring spell. Part of the spell comes from mystery – the fourfold mystery of the shoreline, the surface, the horizon and the timeless motion of the sea. At the horizon, where my line of sight touches the edge of the great globe itself, I watch ships slowly disappear, first the hulls, then the tall masts bound on voyages to unknown ports 10,000 miles away. From beyond the horizon come the waves that break rhythmically on the beach, sounding now loud, now soft, as they did long before I was born and as they will far in the future. The restless, ever-changing ocean is timeless on a scale of life, and this also is a mystery.

Being an oceanographer is not quite the same as being a professional sailor. Oceanographers have the best of two worlds – both the sea and the land. Yet many of them find it extraordinarily satisfying to be far from the nearest coast on one of the small, oily and uncomfortable ships of their trade (the RV REVELLE is none of these things!), even in the midst of a vicious storm, let alone on those wonderful days in the tropics when the sea and the air are smiling and calm. I think the chief reason is that on shipboard both the past and the future disappear. Little can be done to remedy the mistakes of yesterday; no planning for tomorrow can reckon with the unpredictability of ships and the sea. To live in the present is the essence of being a seaman.

The work of an oceanographer, however, is inextricably related to time. To understand the present ocean he must reconstruct its history and to test and use his understanding he needs to be able to predict – both what he will find by new observations and future events in the sea.”

From “The Ocean” by Roger Revelle, Sept 1969, Scientific American

Revelle was considered as the director who took the institution to sea. He supported and encouraged and personally participated in many oceanographic voyages and deeply believed in the value of personally collected data. An oceanographer had to spend time in the ocean he studied. Even today with our satellite data and computers the data that is being collected at sea by oceanographers is absolutely irreplaceable. Oceanography is one of the few fields where you can still experience the adventure of exploration and discovery. There is still so much we do not know and for a young person is is an exciting and challenging field. With our new technology we can probe and explore more deeply and with greater accuracy than ever before, but still we need to go to sea to collect our data.

I hope that in the interviews with the scientists and crew of the REVELLE I have been able to share a little bit of the excitement and enthusiasm that these people have for what they do. Everyone I spoke with shared with me that they really enjoy the idea that their jobs, either the actual science itself or the support of the science makes them feel that they are part of a real contribution to our future knowledge. The spirit of Roger Revelle lives on in the ship that bears his name and in the scientists, like Dr. Robert Weller, who follow his dream. There is still so much left for the young oceanographers to come and I look forward to sharing this spirit of exploration and discovery with my students.

Thanks for joining me.

Debra Brice

Dana Tomlinson: Day 15, March 15, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Friday, March 15, 2002
Lat: 6.2°S
Long: 111°W
Seas: 4-6 ft
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: partly to mostly cloudy
Sea Surface Temp: 82-86°F
Winds: SE 10-15 knots
Air Temp: 85-74°F

Today was the day that we rounded up our wayward buoy. The buoy was deployed in April 2001 at 5°S 110°W. In November 2001, NOAA scientists knew that it was drifting freely. By the time we found it (it has a tracking device on it) it had drifted one degree south and one degree east. That’s 60 nautical miles in two directions!

Once we pulled it on board, one could see fairly clearly what had happened. There were scrapes on the sides of the buoy (the toroid, or “donut” section) where something like a boat/ship had rubbed up to it. There was a steel cable that had been attached to it and the nylon rope had been cut. So, the theory is that a fishing vessel attached itself to the buoy with the steel slingshot device. It yanks the buoy out of place and it’s easy to catch all the fish that use the buoy’s shade as their ecosystem.

Speaking of the buoy’s fish, while we were bringing in the buoy, folks on board that were not working were fishing the bounty of the ocean with a rod and reel. Several mahi mahi graced our table at dinner that evening – served by Clem four different ways (I think the mahi mahi in coconut sauce was the favorite.)! That woman is amazing. You NEED to use the gym on board to work off her good cooking!

Not to be overshadowed by the morning’s events was the day’s live broadcast. This was our third general broadcast and was the very first ever tried by NOAA out of doors. We had our studio on the buoy deck today. On the live broadcast, Cmdr. Tisch, Chief Scientist McPhaden and I dedicated tomorrow’s buoy to be deployed at 8°S 110°W to Education in America. The bulk of the show was scientist Ben Moore giving us a cook’s tour of the buoy deck’s equipment, and Dr. McFaden talked about our wayward buoy. It was a great show. We can still hook you up for the live broadcasts on 3/18, 3/20 and 3/22 if you’re interested.

Question of the Day:

 This is going to be a bit of a toughie, and might need some Internet research on your part, but it’s interesting. When do most oceanographers consider to be the beginning of modern oceanography? Or, another way of putting it is, what started modern oceanography? Hint: it’s before 1900.

Answer of the Day: 

The question was: how many branches of the armed services are there and what are they? Dennis M. of Lakeside CA got it exactly correct. There are 5 branches of the armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. PLUS, there are two other uniformed branches: NOAA and the US Public Health Service. Great job, Dennis. 🙂

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana