When Sarah Stienessen was a little girl, she got a book about dolphins, and fell in love. She read the book over and over, dreaming about meeting a real-live dolphin one day. The problem was she grew up in Wisconsin, not a place with a lot of dolphins. However, as Sarah says “If you have an interest, don’t let location deter you from your dreams.”
When she grew up, Sarah studied zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but her burning fascination with the ocean led her to graduate school at Texas A&M where she finally got to study DOLPHINS (more specifically, the vocal behavior of dolphins). Her research there included using a hydrophone to listen to dolphins. She later moved to Seattle and began working for NOAA conducting acoustic surveys on walleye pollock in Alaska. On this leg of the Oscar Dyson, Sarah acted as the Field Party Chief (or Chief Scientist). Sarah pointed out that while her use of acoustics with dolphins was passive (placing a hydrophone in the water and listening to the dolphins) she is now using acoustics actively by sending an audible PING into the water and reading the echos that the fish send back.
Sarah was part of the amazing NOAA
science team onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, which included, Denise
McKelvey, Kresimir Williams, and Taina Honkalehto.
Denise was on the day shift, so I mostly saw her during shift changes and on those rare mornings when I was still awake at 7 a.m. and came down for breakfast (okay, bacon). However, early in the trip, she took the time to explain the fish lab procedure to me, even drawing pictures and a flow chart. (Thanks!)
While the duties of the science team often overlap, Kresimir is definitely the “techie” who enjoys inventing and creating new underwater cameras and other devices. Do you remember the TV show MacGyver? MacGyver was a secret agent who was beyond resourceful and had an encyclopedic knowledge of science. Every episode, he would solve the problem at hand in a matter of minutes using a combination of ordinary objects such as duct tape, household cleanser, a Q-tip, and some matches. Kresimir reminded me of MacGyver. If something broke, he would enter the room, grab tools and items that just might work in place of the broken piece, and sure enough, within minutes, the device would be up and running again!
Taina was always in the chem lab during drop camera time, her eyes riveted on the screen. I was excited whenever the camera spotted something, but I loved that Taina seemed equally excited to see what marine species the camera would uncover each night. One of the most exciting, and clearly the biggest, was the Giant Pacific Octopus!
Science and Technology Log
The Giant Pacific Octopus (or Octopus dofleini) is often rumored to weigh more than 600 pounds, but most adult octopuses are much smaller. An adult female might weigh up to 55 pounds while an adult male can weight up to 88 pounds. According to NOAA, the plural of octopus is octopuses, NOT octopi as some people say. Because it doesn’t have bones, a giant octopus can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter! The body of an octopus is shaped like a bag and it has 8 long arms (or tentacles) covered in suction cups.
octopus can have as many as 280 suction cups on each arm. That’s 2,240
suction cups! The Giant Pacific Octopus loves to eat crabs, but it will also
eat snails, oysters, abalone, clams, mussels, and small fish. The octopus’
mouth or jaw is shaped like a parrot’s beak. It is the only hard part of an octopus,
and it’s more-or-less
indigestible. That means that if a sperm whale eats an octopus, and the
contents of the whale’s stomach are later studied, you will see the octopus
beak even if you find no other sign that he ate an octopus.
to avoid whales and other predators, an octopus will camouflage, or change its
color and skin texture to match its surroundings! When he feels threatened, he releases
a cloud of purple-black ink to confuse his enemy.
Octopus Elementary Math Time
(Remember, an octopus has 8 arms.)
If an octopus has 2 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? _______
If an octopus has 5 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? _______
If an octopus has 10 suction cups on each
arm, how many does he have all together? ______
If an octopus has 2 suction cups on 4 of
his arms, and 3 suction cups on his other 4 arms, how many does he have all
If an octopus has 4 suction cups on 7 of
his arms, but half as many on his 8th arm, how much does he all
If an octopus has 259 suction cups and
his octopus friend has 751 suction cups, how many do they have all together?
Mission: South East Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean, SE US continental shelf ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC (35°30’ N, 75°19’W) to St. Lucie Inlet, FL (27°00’N, 75°59’W)
On board off the coast of South Carolina – about 50 miles east of Charleston (32°50’ N, 78°55’ W) – after a slight change of plans last night due to the approaching tropical depression.
Date: July 24, 2019
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 32°50’ N Longitude: 78°55’ W Wave Height: 3-4 feet Wind Speed: 15 knots Wind Direction: Out of the North Visibility: 10 nm Air Temperature: 24.6°C Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb Sky: Cloudy
Science and Technology Log
Life and science continue aboard NOAA Ship Pisces. It seems like the crew and engineers and scientists are in the groove. I am now used to life at sea and the cycles and oddities it entails. Today we had our first rain along with thunderstorms in the distance. For a while we seemed to float in between four storms, one on the east, west, north, and south – rain and lightning in each direction, yet we remained dry. This good thing did indeed come to an end as the distant curtains of rain closed in around us. The storm didn’t last long, and soon gathering the fish traps resumed.
The highlight of yesterday (and tied for 1st place in “cool things so far”) was a tour of the engine room lead by First Assistant Engineer, Steve Clement. This tour was amazing and mind-blowing. We descended into the bowels of the ship to explore the engine rooms and its inner workings. I think it rivals the Large Hadron Collider in complexity.
I kept thinking, if Steve left me down here I would surely get lost and never be found. Steve’s knowledge is uncanny – it reminded me of the study where the brains of London cab drivers were scanned and shown to have increased the size of their hippocampus. (An increase to their memory center apparently allows them to better deal with the complexities of London’s tangled streets.) And you’re probably thinking, well, running a massive ship with all its pipes and wires and hatches and inter-related, hopefully-always-functioning, machinery is even harder. And you’re probably right! This is why I was so astounded by Steve’s knowledge and command of this ship. The tour was close-quartered, exceptionally loud, and very hot. Steve stopped at times to give us an explanation of the part or area we were in; four diesel engines that power electric generators that in turn power the propeller and the entire ship. The propeller shaft alone is probably 18 inches in diameter and can spin up to 130 rpm. (I think most of the time two engines is enough juice for the operation). Within the maze of complexity below ship is a smooth running operation that allows the crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps officers to conduct their work in a most efficient manner.
I know you’ve all been wondering about units in the marine world. Turns out, students, units are your friend even out here on the high seas! Here’s proof from the bridge, where you can find two or three posted unit conversion sheets. Makes me happy. So if you think that you can forget conversions and dimensional analysis after you’re finished with high school, guess again!
Speaking of conversions, let’s talk about knots. Most likely the least-understood-most-commonly-used unit on earth. And why is that? I have no idea, but believe me, if I were world president, my first official action would be to move everyone and everything to the Metric System (SI). Immediately. Moving on.
Back to knots, a unit used by folks in water and air. A knot is a unit of speed defined as 1 nautical mile/hour. So basically the same exact thing as mph or km/hr, except using an ever-so-slightly-different distance – nautical miles. Nautical miles make sense, at least in their origin – the distance of one minute of longitude on a map (the distance between two latitude lines, also 1/60 of a degree). This works well, seeing as the horizontal lines (latitude) are mostly the same distance apart. I say mostly because it turns out the earth is not a perfect sphere and therefore not all lines are equidistant. And you can’t use the distance between longitude lines because they are widest at the equator and taper to a point at the north and south pole. One nautical mile = 1852 meters. This is equal to 1.15 miles and therefore one knot = 1.15 miles/hour.
This next part could double as a neato fact: the reason why this unit is called a “knot” is indeed fascinating. Old-time mariners and sailors used to measure their speed by dropping a big old piece of wood off the back of the boat. This wood was attached to some rope with knots in it, and the rope was spun around a big spool. Once in the water the wood would act kind of like a water parachute, holding position while the rope was let out. The measuring person could then count how many evenly spaced knots passed by in a given amount of time, thus calculating the vessel’s speed.
The scientists on board have been incredibly helpful and patient. Zeb is in charge of the cruise and this leg of the SEFIS expedition. Brad, who handles the gear (see morning crew last post), is the fishiest guy I’ve ever met. He seriously knows everything about fish! Identification, behavior, habitats, and most importantly, how extract their otoliths. He’s taught me a ton about the process and processing. Both Zeb and Brad have spent a ton of time patiently and thoroughly answering my questions about fish, evolution, ecology, you name it. Additionally, NOAA scientist Todd, who seeks to be heroic in all pictures (also a morning crew guy), is the expert on fish ecology. He has been exceptionally patient and kind and helpful.
The fish we’re primarily working with are in the perches: Perciformes. These fish include most of your classic-looking fish. Zeb says, “your fish-looking fish.” Gotcha! This includes pretty much all the fish we’re catching except sharks, eels, and other rare fish.
Plenty of exciting animals lately. Here’s a picture of those spotted dolphins from the other day.
The weather has been great, apart from yesterday’s storm. Sunrises and sunsets have been glorious and the stars have been abundant.
We found a common octopus in the fish trap the other day. The photo is from crew member Nick Tirikos.
I’m missing home and family. I can’t wait to see my wife and son.
That tropical depression fizzed out, thankfully.
Neato Facts =
Yesterday we caught a shark sucker in the fish trap. I was excited to see and feel their dorsal attachment sucker on top of their head.
Hold on. I just read more about these guys and turns out that sucking disc is their highly modified dorsal fin! That is the most neato fact so far. What better way to experience the power of this evolutionarily distinct fish than to stick it to your arm?! The attachment mechanism felt like a rubber car tire that moved and sealed against my skin. (Brad calls them sneakerheads).
Weather at 1200 Pacific Standard Time on Monday 22 July 2019
When I walk outside onto the deck, the sky is a stunning shade of blue matching the color of Frost Glacier Freeze Gatorade. The sun is warm against my skin – I’m finally not wearing a jacket – and bright, but not so bright that I have to squint against the reflection of the water. I put my sunglasses on anyway since the polarized lenses help me see more defined colors in bright sunlight. The instruments show 15° Celsius right now with 25 knot winds. The horizon has a funny haze along its whole length even though the sky above me is absolutely clear. When I look over the long distance, I’m seeing cumulative aerosols – dust, water vapor, and other particles suspended in the air to form a haze along the horizon. I can’t see it directly above me even though it must be there.
One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen this whole trip, even when you take the coastline into account, are the squid. Never thought I’d write that sentence. But they sparkle and change colors! Last week we found a tiny octopus in something called a bongo tow (I’ll explain that in the science section). That little critter was even more awe inspiring. It had big turquoise eyes that reminded me of peacock feathers.
While I was in Newport, Oregon before the ship left, I was walking around Newport Marina and found a couple of guys painting a mural. The one who designed the mural is an art teacher at Newport High School. We started talking about his mural and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. In addition to his career as an art teacher, Casey McEneny also runs his own art studio called Casey McEneny Art. The other guy helping him, Jason, has an art studio called Jay Scott Studios.
By painting the commissioned mural, he was connecting his career with his love of art and his community. His son even participated in the process by filling in a small portion of the mural while Casey worked on outlining the rest of it. Later he’ll go back and overlay the mural with color so it pops off the wall.
Ok, so the bongo tow. Do you remember as a kid (if you were a kid in the movies) when you used to run through fields of flowers catching butterflies in a butterfly net? I’m imagining a 6 year old girl with a flowing sundress. Well, take two oversized white butterfly nets and attach them to a metal frame that look like spectacles. Each hoop in this frame has a 71 centimeter diameter. These mesh nets each have a codend just like the trawl nets, except these codends are less than 1 foot long and are made out of extremely fine mesh. They’re designed to catch zooplankton – copepods, krill – and other smaller things that the net collects while traveling through the water column.
The juvenile octopus we found in the bongo tow last week was too difficult to identify at that young stage. It was only about 1 inch long. I searched through their identification books in the lab and tried to figure it out, but even the scientists said that the science community just doesn’t know enough yet about cephalopods (think octopus and squid species) to identify this beautiful creature until it’s an adult. We do know, since it has 8 arms and a fused mantle, that it’s at least an octopus and not a squid. Squid are not octopods, they’re decapods – in addition to the 8 arms they also have 2 long tentacles.
There are two species of octopus living in this area that look very similar even as adults. They are the Enteroctopus dofleini (Pacific Giant Octopus) and the Octopus rubescens (East Pacific Red Octopus). As adults, they’re both a dark red color almost like rust or brick. The artist I mentioned earlier, Casey, included a Pacific Giant Octopus in his mural at Newport Marina. But those are just two of many, many species of octopods in this area. Our little guy is probably neither of those. Still, I’m hoping it is a baby Octopus rubescens since they have a high density of chromatophores that make them sparkle!
The chromatophores are cells that both reflect light and contain different colors (pigment). They come in all different patterns and are distinct enough to use as identification tools for different species. They can be individually large or small and show up either in dense patches or scattered like freckles. Octopus and squid species contract and expand these special cells to change color based on necessity, if they need camouflage for example, or it’s thought that they even use color to communicate their mood. I’ve seen them sparkle in brilliant colors like a kaleidoscope but that’s probably, unfortunately, an expression of their agitated state since we’re catching them.
While there’s no way to tell exactly what they’re thinking, it is well known that octopus species are highly intelligent compared to other animals found in the ocean. They are curious, they sometimes play pranks on divers, and they seem to be more intentional than fish in their actions. Their intelligence made me think they’d have long lives, that they gained experience and personality over time, but octopus species typically only live a few years. Females will usually only reproduce once in their short life spans.
There are so many ways to connect cephalopods to the classroom! First, research shows octopus species may plan ahead and that they can learn and adapt to their surroundings. They’re problem solvers. They’re curious by nature. How often do I wish my students were more curious about learning and literacy! By reading about the resiliency and learning capabilities of an octopus, maybe it will inspire my students to see themselves as more capable of persevering through difficult challenges and adapting their learning styles to meet the needs of different disciplines. I can drive home the point that studying for biology might not look the same as studying for their upcoming test in civics, and that the more academic learning tools they have to employ from their toolbox, the more they’ll be able to master this whole “being a student” thing. If you’re at a loss for how to bring an octopus into the classroom, try starting with this activity from the NY Times Learning Network called Learning with “Yes, the Octopus is Smart as Heck. But Why?”.
Casey, the art teacher from Newport High School, shared an interesting activity from his art class. He recommends using images of zooplankton under microscope (we found plenty of these in our bongo tow!) to inspire abstract art projects similar to how Carl Stuwe intertwined science with art at the beginning of the 20th century. English teachers could share the same images to get students writing creative fiction or a mini lesson on imagery. Science and art provide a natural blend and plenty of opportunities for teachers to collaborate and combine our instructional force so we can integrate important concepts across the disciplines.
As a literacy teacher, I can’t help but think about how awesome it would be to teach my students the Latin prefixes and root words that are commonly used to name sea creatures. Names like Doryteuthis opalescens, Rossia pacifica, Octopus californicus, or Thysanoteuthis rhombus. Then, let them loose to name, design, describe, and share their own octopus species – yet to be discovered! While I’m sure their imaginations would come up with some elaborate ideas, few things are ever as fantastical as reality. Check out the Vampyroteuthis infernalis living in the deep, dark depths of the ocean.
We wouldn’t have found this creature or been able to capture its image without technology like Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and underwater submersible vehicles. There are clearly ways to link instruction to technology courses in addition to art, science, and literacy. Maybe students could take a sea creature that already exists and use mixed media to present an artistic representation of it like the Oregon Coast Aquarium did for their Seapunk exhibit. They could get their mixed media supplies from scrap leftover in the tech wing.
June 2, 2019 Game Plan and Trawling Line: 5 hauls in the Piedras Blancas Line near San Simeon, CA. Piedras Blancas is known for its Northern elephant seal colony, M. angustirostris. Hauls were conducted outside of the marine reserve and we did not encounter seals.
Catch Highlights: The night started off with excitement when Keith Sakuma brought in an Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica, and we all got to see it up close before releasing.
In Haul 3 we collected a pelagic octopus, Ocythoe tuberculata, shown below. Chromatophores in cephalapods, including squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are complex organs made up of both muscle and nerve and provide the ability for the animal to rapidly change its skin color in order to blend into the surrounding environment to avoid predation, communicate, or send a warning signal. It was impressive to watch the chromatophores at work as the pelagic octopus attempted to blend into the white background of his tank by turning white (see photos below) We released it back to the sea.
The differences in skin coloration of the five primary squid species we are catching including Boreal Squid, Blacktip Squid, Unknown Squid, Gonadus Squid, and Market Squid (see image below) are noteworthy. While living market squid exhibit brown, pink and purple skin color (see image below) the Chiroteuthis squid tentacle displays orange and red chromatophores (see image below).
In Haul 4 we collected a Cranchia scabra, which Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma calls the “baseball squid” or glass squid whose body is covered with tubercles (brown spots on mantle in photo below). This animal attempted to hide from us by turning white, retracting its tentacles and inflating himself into a ball, somewhat resembling a baseball. After a few pictures, we released it back to the sea.
Another exciting deep-sea creature, the Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis, was collected in a bongo net deployed prior to CTD, for Dr. Kelly Goodwin’s eDNA research. The fish we collected below still has intact blue scales due to being well preserved in the bongo. The hatchet fish lives in mesopelagic zone down to 2000 m depths where the CTD sensors recorded a temperature of four degrees Celsius! Hatchet fish have upward facing eyes and mouths and swim up to the the epi-pelagic zone at night to feed on salps and krill.
Kelly conducted a quick surface bucket dip prior to CTD deployment in which we found a small (~2 inch) siphonophore, which I was very excited about since this was my first one to ever see in person! Siphonophores are colonial Cnidarians composed of individual animals called zooids. Moss Landing Graduate Student Kristin Saksa and I were able to confirm the identification of this beautiful creature as a siphonophore using an invertebrate field guide that Keith Sakuma brought on board. Perhaps due to the temperature change from being in the sea to being observed in a cell culture dish under the microscope, the siphonophore broke apart into its individual zooids right in front of my eyes. See before and after photos below.
Tonight I was also able to observe living salps that were pulled up in the bongo net and take a video. It was neat to see the salps pulsing.
Haul 5 was a massive haul full of pyrosomes, Pyrosoma atlanticum. Kristin Saksa volunteered to stir the bucket of pyrosomes (using her arms) so that we could obtain an accurate distribution of organisms for the initial volume count and analysis. As I video of this event (see stills from the video below), we were all laughing and realized that Kristin may be the only human on Earth who has ever stirred pyrosomes.
In haul 5 we were surprised to find a Giant 7-armed Atlantic octopus, or blob octopus. Keith Sakuma explained that the males have 7 arms as the fifth is a sex appendage whereas the female has 8 arms. After photographing this beautiful deep-sea octopus, we released him back to the sea.
June 3, 2019 Game Plan and Trawling Line: 5 hauls Outside Monterey Bay
Catch Highlights: Two of the hauls produced a lot of krill. The hauls had a high species density with a lot of myctophids, salps and blue lanternfish. Such hauls are time consuming to sort so as not to overlook something new and small. In one of the hauls we found a new-to-me myctophid called Nanobrachium. I dissected some of the fish and found that CA lanternfish and Northern anchovies were full of eggs, and their age/reproductive status was previously unknown.
We caught 2 young ocean sunfish, Mola mola. Both were immediately returned to the sea.
We found several species of deep sea dragonfish which we arrayed below on a ruler. Most of these fish are less than 6 inches long, no bigger than a pencil, but they are equipped with sharp fangs and are apex predators in their realm! Dragonfish have large bioluminescent photophore organs underneath their eyes (and sometimes lining their bodies) which produce light and are used to attract or deter prey and attract mates.
We collected a stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger, which can unhinge its jaw in order to consume large prey.
June 4th: Davenport Line
The highlight of today was at 5:45 P.M. when team red hats went to the flying bridge for our workout and to hang out with Ornithologist Brian Hoover. There was a lot of Humpback whale activity. I counted around 20 spouts. We observed one whale that flapped its tail against the sea surface around 45 times in a row, perhaps communicating to nearby whales by generating pulses in the water or creating a visual cue. We saw several full breaches. We finished up the Davenport Line at 6:00 AM as the sea became rough. Thanks goodness for handrails in the shower.
June 5th: Outside of Tomales Bay
I woke up at 4PM and headed to the galley for dinner at 5PM. The boat was rocking so much that I became dizzy and knew that I would become sick if I tried to eat dinner, so I headed straight back to bed. Around 9PM the sea seemed to have calmed a bit, but I soon learned that it only felt calmer because the ship was traveling in the same direction as the swell at the moment but that we were about to turn around. Due to the rough conditions, the first haul inshore at Tomales Bay was delayed until midnight so the fish sorting team decided to watch “Mary Poppins Returns” in the galley. The talented chefs of the Reuben Lasker made the most amazing almond cookies today and, thankfully, temped me to eat again.
Catch Highlights: Haul 1 at station 165 was one of the easiest and most exciting catches of the survey so far because we collected a lot of jellyfish – my favorite! We counted 66 West Coast sea nettles, Chrysora fuscescens, seven Northern anchovies (7) and 24 market squid. I actually have a tattoo of West Coast sea nettle on my ankle. We placed the jellyfish flat on the lab bench and quickly measured their bell diameter before returning them to the sea. They did not sting us as most of the nematocysts were likely triggered during haul in. I removed a rhopalia, a sensory structure that lines the margin of the bell of Syphozoans (the “true” jellyfish). West Coast sea nettles have eight rhopalium which house the the ocelli (light sensing organ) and statolith (gravity sensing organ). A photomicrograph I took of the rhopalia under the dissecting microscope is below.
Haul 2 mostly consisted of Northern anchovies, 1 krill, a few moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita, a few squid, which made for another very short and easy sort (see photo below). I study moon jellyfish in my lab back at McCallie High School, so I was curious to look inside of the stomach and reproductive organs of these wild jellyfish. Under the dissecting microscope, eggs were present and were purple in color (see photomicrograph below).
Haul 3 had a lot of krill, young of year (YOY) Pacific hake, Merluccius productus, one large hake, and a few market squid. This sort was also super easy except for separating the small YOY Pacific hake from the krill.
June 6th: Outside Farallones. On our final night, we conducted three hauls with very small harvests consisting of few organisms and low species density. One new to me fish in the final catch was a top smelt fish (see image below). These were the three easiest sorts of the survey. It was suggested by Keith Sakuma that the catches were small due to the stormy conditions.
Every morning when I come to start my shift, the scientists on the previous shift are in the middle of doing “DropCam’s.” The DropCam is a camera that drops down to the ocean floor and takes pictures of what is going on down there. We have been getting some amazing pictures from the DropCam. The camera goes down about 150 meters (depending on the depth of the ocean floor). Sometimes, the ocean is very sandy and has very little (that we can see) activity going on. Other times, the video feed is full of fish and other marine life. We have seen so much diversity on the ocean floor.
Since being on the Oscar Dyson, we now have seen two octopuses on the boat (well, one was on the DropCam); one was in the juvenile stage and one in the adult stage of life. I’d like to take a moment to talk about how amazing an octopus is. First of all, let’s talk about how they can change color to match their surroundings. They use special pigment cells in their skin to change colors. They have the ability to even blend into patterned rocks and corrals. When we caught the baby octopus, we saw it change its color to white to blend into the white cup we were holding it in.
They are considered to be very intelligent animals. They have been known to be able to open jars, escape from enclosures, solve mazes, and squirt water at targets. They have the ability to squeeze through things that are as small as the size of their beaks. In aquariums, they have also been known to mimic (and actually learn from) other octopuses.
Even though they can get up to be 16 feet long and weigh up to 110 pounds, they only live to be about 4 years old. That is a very short lifespan. After the females lay their eggs (they lay about 100,00 eggs), they brood over them for many months. During this time, they often do not eat. She protects her eggs for 6-7 months, and then she dies shortly after they are born.
When they are looking over their eggs they do eat, they primarily eat shrimp, fish, clams, and lobsters. They have a beak-like mouth that they can use to puncture and tear fish. They have also been known to eat sharks and birds. During the first 3 months of their lives, they eat plankton. Plankton are small and microscopic organisms that drift or float in the sea. They consist of diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals.
After the last DropCam is retrieved, a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) is usually deployed, which collects data from various depths of the oceans. The primary function of the CTD is to measure the conductivity and temperature of the water column at various depths. Conductivity is related to the salinity, or saltiness, of the water. Studying the salinity of the water is a very critical part of studying the ocean, which is made up of salt water. The conductivity, along the temperature and depth, provide scientists with profiles of various parts of the ocean.
The CTD is attached to a larger frame called a rosette. This holds various water-sampling bottles and other sensors that measure the physical and chemical properties of the water at various depths. With this information, scientists can make inferences about changes that they may be seeing in the data and this can give them a better understanding about the oceans. The data collected daily from the CTD is analyzed by Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the end of the survey.
Things on the boat are definitely becoming more routine. We continue to work in 12-hour shifts (mine starting at 4 am). The days consist of getting up, having coffee and a bagel, coming down to the Chem Lab to relieve the night shift, where we take over doing DropCams. After our DropCams, we get to watch the sunrise or other spectacular views.
We then will go up for breakfast at 7. I have really been enjoying having someone else (Lenette and Kimrie) not only make meals for me every day, but also do my dishes. What a luxury! After breakfast, we’ll “go fishing” and suit up to analyze the catch. (I’ll go into details about in the next blog) and then we’ll go have lunch. After lunch, we brainstorm the plans for the afternoon and take care of small projects. Before we know it, 4 pm rolls around and the next crew starts their shift.
I make it to dinner at 5, and then I slowly make my way back to the stateroom. If it is nice out, I will go up to the bridge to look for marine animals or walk around looking at the amazing landscape. I find myself extremely tired around 7 and get ready for bed. I am usually asleep by 8. It’s “good night” and sweet dreams for me!
Did You Know?
The oldest octopus fossil is from an animal that lived 296 million years ago — millions of years before the dinosaurs lived.
Question for my class:
What is the name of this weather instrument?
This year we learned about various tools to help measure weather. I saw this on the bridge of the ship. It measures the speed and direction of the wind. Do you remember what it is called?
answer: A ___ ___ M ___ ___ E ___ ___ R
Interview with Darin Jones
What role do you play on this survey?
I am the Field Party Chief which means that I am the member of the science party that is responsible for making sure as much of our original objective gets completed as possible and I also serve as the main contact between the officers that operate the ship and the science party when important decisions or changes in the plan occur.
What inspired you to pursue this as a career?
I was a contract observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service following college and dreamed about one day working directly for them. I thought that would be an awesome career and I feel lucky to have had my dreams realized.
How long have you been working in this field?
I have been in my current position for 10 years but have been in the marine biology field for the last 25 years.
What sort of training/education did you receive?
I got my Undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Fisheries Resources. I was also an observer aboard commercial fishing vessels for 5 years which provided invaluable sea going experience and knowledge.
Are fisheries something that more people need to know about? Why?
I think fisheries and the health of the oceans is something that people should know more about because they are vital to life on land and important indicators of the status and health of our climate and planet. The oceans are the heart of the earth and drive many other processes.
What interests you most about the data collected on this survey?
The data that we collect is directly used to sustainably manage the pollock fishery so I am proud to contribute to that. It’s neat to be able to track a fish population as it grows through the years and watch how many survive from one year to the next. We are also collecting interesting data on the percentage of certain rockfish species in different types of habitat that can be used to help determine the abundance of those species.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my job is being away from my family for long periods of time. Another challenging aspect is the time management of planning and executing the survey objectives in a finite amount of time. Plans have to be constantly monitored and adjusted depending on weather, equipment malfunction, and other unexpected circumstances. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am contributing to the scientific knowledge that is helping to sustainably manage fisheries.
What words of advice do you have for my students if they want to pursue a career is biology or the sciences?
Math skills are a very important part of biology and the sciences so learn as much as you can. Also getting experiences in fields that you are interested in is very important so volunteer with organizations that interest you and unexpected opportunities will open up.
What is your favorite marine animal?
I think my favorite marine animal is the Pacific viperfish. It is a creature from the deep and has very long teeth and looks very ferocious, however they only grow to a maximum of about a foot long, but I’ve only seen specimens that were about 2 inches long. It amazes me how creatures can survive in the dark depths and immense pressures of the deep ocean.
Do you have anything else that you would like to add or share?
Do your homework and get all the extra credit that you can, kid!
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA
Date: March 27, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 3:35 PDT,
Current Location: near San Nicolas Island, Latitude 33.3 N Longitude -119.2 W
Air Temperature 16.0 oC (59.5 oF)
Water Temperature 14.9 oC (58.6 oF)
Wind Speed 19 kts
Barometric pressure 1014.64 hPa
Science and Technology Log
There is a lot of advanced equipment that is used to do a survey of fish that spans the coast of California. The Reuben Lasker has been fitted with state of the art echo-sounders (Figure 1), which send out pulses of sound that bounce off objects and return to the ship in the form of backscatter. Looking at the backscatter data you can create a profile of the water column and see a variety of organisms swimming beneath the ship. The target species for the research is the Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax). The schools of fish are detected using a range of frequencies. Looking at graphical representations of these data, or echograms, you can see the bottom as an area with strong echoes and, at times, you can see an area of high-intensity back scatter higher in the water column such as a school of fish or an aggregation of krill or plankton (figure 2). This would be a school of fish, krill or other organisms. The geographic location of the school is marked for a return by the ship at night for collection using a trawl. To conduct a thorough survey, the ship travels back and forth between the coast and a predetermined distance out to sea across the predicted habitat of the target species (Figure 3.) Scientists referred to this as “mowing the lawn.”
Figure 1: Reuben Lasker Acoustic-Sampling Beams
Figure 2: An example echogram, showing the seabed and various sound scatterers in the water column.
Figure 3 : Survey Map of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey 2017
The Cruise Leader, Kevin Stierhoff, is a fisheries scientist who works for the Advanced Survey Technologies group at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in San Diego, CA. Not only has he been effectively managing this complex science expedition, he has gone out of his way to make me feel welcome and a part of this scientific endeavor.
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
I earned a B.S. in Biology, a Ph.D. in Marine Studies, and completed several postdoctoral research appointments prior to getting hired by NOAA. The work that my colleagues and I do at the SWFSC is very interdisciplinary, and the variety of educational and research experiences that I’ve had prepared me become a researcher at NOAA.
What do you like best about your career?
I consider myself lucky to have a job with a variety of duties. Not only do I spend time in the office analyzing data, but I also get to spend time at sea conducting survey and collecting data. When I’m not using acoustics to study pelagic fishes that migrate between Canada and Mexico, I use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs, or undersea robots) to survey endangered abalone that live on rocky reefs in the deep sea. When I’m not at sea, I’m analyzing the data that we collected at sea to communicate the results of our work.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
Increasingly, a research career in marine biology requires a graduate degree to allow for maximal career advancement. If possible, take some time after undergrad to work in a job related to your career goals. This will allow you to focus your interests before choosing a graduate program, or perhaps discover that you don’t actually like that career path (better to find out sooner than later!) or that you don’t require a graduate degree to do the job that really interests you (which will save you lots of time and money). Most importantly, choose a job that you look forward to going to every day.
It is dark out, but as I look down from high atop the ship through an open window from the bridge, the lights of Long Beach reflect on the placid expanse of ocean and I come to a great moment of reflection. One of the busiest ports in the world is just off in the distance and I am looking for marine mammals in this suburban wilderness. Beside the glow of humanity, nature continues on.
I have been mostly helping with analyzing organisms that came up in the trawl at night, so my work schedule has moved to a 6 pm to 6 am. I am struck by how hardworking, dedicated, and driven all members of this expedition are. The crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps collaborate to continuously run surveys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am enjoying working at night now even though it took me a few days to get use to all of the adjustments in my schedule. I particularly enjoy doing the marine mammal watch from the bridge. It gives you this aerial point of view of all the action the NOAA Corps expertly navigating the ship and coordinating operations, the deck crew masterfully deploying nets and equipment, and the scientists excitedly exploring the organisms we collect.
Catch of the Day!
Haliphron atlanticus – This strange creature is a gelatinous octopus, whose body resembles a jellyfish, but when you look close, you see eyes looking at you!
Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is the strangest fish I have ever seen! It is one of the heaviest bony fish, surprisingly from a diet high in jellyfish and salps. We caught a small and large sunfish.
Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira): This fast looking fish hunts plankton at night near the surface.
Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens): This juvenile flatfish rises to the water surface at night to hunt zooplankton. Flatfish have an eye that migrates from one side of their body to the other as they develop.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Andrea Schmuttermair Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson July 6 – 25, 2015
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska Date: July 17, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 58 02.3N
Longitude: 152 24.4W
Sky:some clouds, clear
Wind direction: 261 degrees
Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 2ft
Swell wave direction: 140 degrees
Swell wave height: 1ft
Sea water temp: 12.1C
Dry temperature: 16.2C
Science and Technology Log
In addition to the walleye pollock survey, there are also a few side projects taking place on the ship. One of the instruments we are trying out on this survey is the DropCam. With some upgrades from a previous version of the camera, this is the first time this camera has come on the pollock survey. It was initially created for a NOAA project studying deep sea corals. Now that the study is over, we are using it for a project funded by North Pacific Research Board. The goals of this project are two-fold: habitat classification and tracking fish densities in untrawlable versus trawlable areas.
My students would be excited to learn that this is very similar to the tool they designed with our underwater ROVs. The DropCam is made up of strobe lights and 2 cameras- one color and one black and white- contained in a steel frame. We’ve been deploying it twice each night in areas where we see the most fish on the echogram. The ship pauses when we get to a point we want to put the camera in, and the camera itself will drift with the current. The DropCam is attached to a cable on deck, and, with the help of the survey tech and deckhand, we lower it over the side of the ship and down into the water. Once it gets down to 35m, we make sure it connects with our computers here in the lab before sending it all the way down to the ocean floor. Once it is down on the ocean floor, it’s time to drive! While controlling the camera with a joystick in the lab, we let it explore the ocean floor for 15 minute increments before bringing it back up. I’ve had the opportunity to “drive” it a few times now, and I must admit it’s a lot of fun for a seemingly simple device. We’ve seen some neat things on camera, my favorite being the octopus that came into view. One night in particular was an active night, and we saw plenty of flatfish, rockfish, krill, shrimp, basket stars and even a skate.
Here are a couple of photos taken from our DropCam excursion.
We have hit some rougher weather the last couple days, and we went from have 2ft swells to 6 ft swells- it is a noticeable difference! Rumor has it they may get even bigger, especially as we head out into open water. We did alter our course a little bit so we could head into Marmot Bay where we would be somewhat protected from rough waters. It is quite interesting to walk around the ship in these swells. It feels like someone spun you around blindfolded 30 times and then sent you off walking. No matter how hard you try to walk straight, you inevitably run into the wall or stumble your way down the stairs. The good thing about this is that everyone is doing it, even those who have been on the boat longer, so we can all laugh at each other.
Because the weather changes just as quickly here in Alaska as it does in Colorado, the clouds lifted this evening and the sun finally came out. We had a great evening just off the coast of Afognak Island with sunshine, a beautiful sunset, and lots of whales! I stayed up on the bridge a good portion of the evening on lookout for blows from their spouts. Some were far off in the distance while a few were just 50 yards away! We were all out on deck when we saw not one, but two whales breeching before making a deeper dive.
Our trawl today was a little sad as we caught a huge longnose skate. We didn’t notice him initially in our catch until he got stuck in all the pollock as we were lowering the fish down into the wet lab. We paused in our processing to try and get him out. He was about 90lbs with a wingspan of 1.5 meters, so he was difficult to lift out. It took 2 of our deck crew guys to pull him out, and then we got him back into the water as fast as we could. Hopefully he made it back in without too much trauma. While he was exciting to see, I felt bad for catching him in our net.
Meet a NOAA Corps Officer: ENS Justin Boeck
There are 5 NOAA Corps officers and a chief mate on board the Oscar Dyson for this leg of our survey: ENS Gilman, ENS Kaiser, ENS Boeck, LT Rhodes, LT Schweitzer, and Chief Mate Mackie. I have a lot of respect for the officers on our ship, as they have a great responsibility to make sure everything is running smoothly. They are one of the reasons I enjoy going up to the bridge every day. ENS Boeck picked me up from the airport when I first arrived in Kodiak, and gave me a short tour of the ship. He works each night during part of my shift, and it’s fun to come up on the bridge and chat with him and ENS Gilman. I had the opportunity to interview ENS Boeck, the newest officer on the Dyson, to learn a little more about the NOAA Corps and what they do on the ship.
Can you give me a little background on how you came to the NOAA Corps?
Before coming into the NOAA Corps, I received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin. After my undergraduate degree, I was in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa for 3 years. I was an environmental advisor teaching classes to both students and teachers in addition to grant writing and funding. I lived in a village of 500 people, and taught 90 kids and 5 teachers. While I was there we built a wall to protect the garden from animals, helped village members increase their nutrition through micro-gardening, and ran seed bank projects and mosquito net distributions.
In 2015 I went into training with the Coast Guard, and also went through BOTC/OCS (Basic Officer Training Class/Officer Candidate School) at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. There were 14 NOAA Corps officer candidates along with about 50 coast guard officer candidates, and we went through the same program with some of our academics varying slightly.
How long have you been in the NOAA Corps? One month, fresh out of BOTC (basic officer training class). I reported to the Oscar Dyson on June 4th.
Have you worked on other ships? If so, which one(s)? This is my first sea assignment. I’ll be at sea on the Dyson for 2 years, and will then move to a land assignment for 3 years.
What made you choose the NOAA Corps? I grew up near Lake Michigan and enjoy the water. I followed NOAA for job postings for a while, and I found out about the NOAA Corps through my last job working at a lab, so I contacted NOAA Corps officers to get more information about the NOAA Corps. I wanted to be on the water, drive a large ship, and get to SCUBA dive on a regular basis. I enjoy science and also working with my hands so this was a great way to be involved and be at the source of how fisheries data is being collected.
What’s the best part of your job? Driving the ship. The Oscar Dyson is the largest scale ship I’ve driven. It’s pretty amazing. I love being on the boat. The Oscar Dyson is considered the gold standard of the fleet, because it is a hardworking boat, running for 10 months of the year (most ships run for about 7 months out of the year) and a lot of underway time.
What is the most difficult part of your job? Getting used to the work and sleep schedule. We work 12 hours a day; 4 hour watch, 4 hours of collateral work, and then another 4 hour watch. We’re also short on deck so I spend some of my time helping out the deck crew. Because I’m new, I’m also learning the different duties around the ship. I need to know all the parts of the ship in order to become OOD (officer of the deck) qualified. I also need to have a specific amount of sea days, an interview with the commanding officer, and the trust of the commanding officer. Right now I’m learning more about the engineering on the ship.
What is something you wish more people knew about the NOAA Corps? With only 321 officers, it is still relatively unknown. We are aligning our training with the Coast Guard, which is creating more awareness and strengthening our relationship with the Coast Guard.
What advice would you give students who are interested in joining the NOAA Corps? Get boating experience and see if it’s something you’re into. Also having a solid understanding how a ship works. Get your experience early, and learn about weather, tide, swells, and ship processes. During BOTC, you get to fill out a request letter for what kind of ship you want to go on- fisheries, oceanographic, or hydrographic. Because my degree is in biology, I wanted to be on a fisheries boat, so I could get immediate experience in ship handling and still be involved with the fisheries data collection.
Did you know? The NOAA Corps is one of the 7 Uniformed Services, which include the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Coast Guard, US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.
Or, rather, what sea creature is Wilson hanging out with in this picture? Write your answer in the comments below!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Andi Webb Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 11 – 19, 2014
Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July 16, 2014 Science and Technology Log
Do you ever wonder sometimes how people are so generous with their time and talents? That’s how I feel onboard the Oregon II with a crew that is simply amazing at their work. The thing is, though, they make it seem like it’s not work to them. Oh, it’s hard work-that’s certain. But they all seem to enjoy it. There is passion for the ocean here, for the environment, for honing your craft. I feel certain I’m among some of the best scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, Deck Crew, Engineers-you name it. As if that weren’t enough, you can’t beat the food in the Galley! Who knew you could get French Silk Pie on a Groundfish Survey? Shhh….We’ll just keep that a secret!
Many people like to write about the scientific facts of NOAA in their blogs and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I mean, this is science in action, right? Me, however? I like to write about how people make me feel. The people of the Oregon II make me feel welcome. They make me feel happy I’m here. I asked one of the scientists today to please tell me, without worrying about political correctness, if the crew really enjoys the teachers being on board. She readily answered, “I love for teachers to be here. You’re all so excited to learn and that makes it fun for us!” How refreshing. As I write this, someone just knocked on my door and told me they put my clothes in the dryer for me. Really? Does it get much better than this? Teacher at Sea is about learning what scientists do but to me, it’s also about immersing yourself in the work and the friendship on board. As I work the noon to midnight shift each day and the trawls come in, we “haul back” together. Brittany, Michael, and Mark know so much and I learn more and more each day. I’m thankful for them. Kim is sharing items I can use in my classroom. They’ve included me in what they do, they’re teaching me, and I’m making friends. For that, I am thankful.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Patty McGinnis Aboard R/V Ocean Starr May 20 – 29, 2013
Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Point Reyes, CA Date: Monday, May 27, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge Latitude: 38 09.465 ° N
Longitude: 123 01.204 ° W Air Temperature: 10.2 Celsius
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wind Direction: North
Surface Water Temperature: 9.8 Celsius
Weather conditions: clear
Science and Technology Log
If you had asked me ahead of time to predict the percentage of males and females aboard the Ocean Starr, I would have surmised that males would make up the majority. While it is true that most of the crew is male, my scientist co-workers are primarily female.
Lyndsey Lefebvre is a fisheries biologist who works for the Groundfish Analysis Team. Her primary job is to study the age and growth of rockfish and flatfish species such as sanddabs to support fishery assessments. Lyndsey ages fish by removing their ear bones, or otoliths. Otoliths contain annual rings, much like a tree. The ear bones are prepared by breaking them in half and holding them over an open flame to darken them; the rings are tiny so a microscope is required to count the rings. Lyndsey explains that this work is important because studying the age structure of a population over time can yield insights into the population’s health. Fish populations that are heavily fished tend to be smaller and younger. Lyndsey is also concerned with reproductive biology such as when and how frequently fish spawn. She studies the blackgill rockfish, a long-lived fish that has internal fertilization. Females give birth to live young once a year, but Lyndsey is trying to determine if a female’s health or environmental conditions impact the numbers of young produced. In contrast, the Pacific sanddab releases eggs on a daily basis for up to six months of the year. Lyndsey says that although she enjoys field work, that about 90% of her work is microscope work done in the laboratory. She likes to listen to audio books or music to help pass the time. Lyndsey says that being a fisheries biologist is a great career. If you think you are interested in such a career, try volunteering doing any type of naturalist work and make as many contacts as you can.
One of NOAA’s better kept secrets is the NOAA Corps. The Corps, which is run by the Department of Commerce, consists of approximately 340 commissioned officers who are involved in operating one of NOAA’s ships or piloting a NOAA plane. Amber Payne has been in the NOAA Corps since she graduated four years ago with a degree in marine biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Amber first became interested in working on marine vessels through her involvement with a Search and Rescue extracurricular club while in college. She considered entering the Coast Guard, but was drawn to the NOAA Corps because it requires a science background. Amber enjoys the many opportunities the Corps has provided, including training and traveling. She recently obtained a 1600 ton Mate’s License which will enable her to work for a private company if she ever decides to leave the Corps. Amber is currently on shore duty as operations officer at the Fisheries Ecology Division which is part of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. In addition to running the Small Boats Program, Amber helps out Lyndsey in the fisheries lab. Recently Amber took a freshly-caught Humboldt squid to an elementary school where she dissected it for the students. She’s pictured above holding a contraption known as a “squid jig” that is used to catch Humboldt squid. Amber’s words of wisdom: always carry a knife and a flashlight with you when on a boat!
Jamie Lee works the day shift so I don’t see much her except at meals. She smiles delightfully as she tells me that her interest in oceanography sprang from watching “Finding Nemo” as a child.
Jamie is currently a graduate student at San Francisco State University; she attended Stonybrook University in New York as an undergraduate. This is Jamie’s first time on a boat and she is unfazed by its ceaseless motion. Her role on this mission is to assess chlorophyll levels. Chlorophyll is used as an indicator of primary productivity, which dictates how much food is available for ocean organisms. Jamie takes the water samples collected by the CTD and pours the water through a filter to extract chlorophyll from all the phytoplankton in the sample. Jamie tells me that this work must be conducted in subdued light to prevent the chlorophyll from degrading and giving an incorrect reading. The filter paper, which contains the extracted chlorophyll, is then stored in a glass tube or folded in half and put in aluminum foil until it is ready to be read by a fluorometer back at the university lab. I asked Jamie why she is interested in studying phytoplankton, rather than fish or marine mammals. She explains that phytoplankton, although tiny, are the crucial element upon which all the ocean relies.
Kaia Colestock is a volunteer who free-lances as a wildlife biologist. Kaia has been assisting Lyndsey in the fisheries lab with counting fish eggs present in adult sanddabs. This reproductive ecology study will help to determine if the sanddab fishery is doing well. Kaia earned her undergraduate degree in fisheries wildlife from Michigan State University and her masters in ecology from Utah State. Kaia has participated in a number of wildlife studies over the years, but her favorite is when she had an opportunity to fly aerial surveys for wading birds in the Everglades with supplementary surveys via airboats. Kaia recommends her career to anyone who likes spending their time outdoors and says that perseverance, motivation, dedication, and being a good critical thinker are important qualities for someone who works as a wildlife biologist. She recommends acquiring special skills related to math, engineering, or physics. Places that hire wildlife biologists such as Kaia include federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, and non-profit agencies. This is Kaia’s first time on a ship and she is enjoying seeing seabirds during the day and watching how the CTD is deployed.
Krill biologist Brianna Michaeud earned her undergraduate degree in marine biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. Brianna plans to pursue a master’s degree beginning this fall at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Brianna enjoys working with krill because of krill’s vital function to the ocean’s food web. Brianna enjoys being on the ocean and seeing what is caught during the trawls. She works for the Long Marine Laboratories, which is affiliated with UCSC. All the data she is collecting will be shared with NOAA scientists. Brianna’s role on this trip is to collect and preserve samples of krill that are collected in both the bongo net and the trawl net. The bongo net is actually two nets that lie parallel to each other; they are designed to remove the effects of the bridles found on regular ring nets. For organisms as small as plankton, the pressure waves produced by the bridles, or connecting cables, can push them away from the net. The bongo net is made up of a much smaller mesh than the trawl net, so it is capable of capturing the juvenile krill that tend to escape the trawl net. The entire haul from the bongo net is kept in a jar of preservative. Once back at the lab, Brianna will go through the jar to identify the various krill species and obtain a sex ratio for each species. Brianna also preserves 200 milliliters of krill from each of the trawls for later use. Once at the lab, she will count out 100 individuals of the dominant krill species and 50 individuals from the second most dominant. She’ll then measure each individual, identify how many are gravid (contain eggs), and obtain a sex ratio. Brianna says that marine biology is a “great career” and recommends that students interested in this career take classes in statistics, biology, and chemistry. She also recommends volunteering in laboratories, assisting with beach clean-ups, and reading about oceanography.
The research conducted this week extends beyond the waters; biologist Sophie Webb is onboard to document sightings of seabirds and marine mammals. Sophie is one of only three scientists who work the day shift. One glance at Sophie informs you that her site is one where she is exposed to the elements. You’ll find Sophie on the uppermost level of the ship where she sits with her binoculars and a computer recording data all day. Her job is not for the timid; the wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean is cold and she has little company other than the wildlife she is documenting. Sophie is no stranger to this type of work; she has conducted this research project seven or eight times previously and has also participated in several five month cruises in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (Hawaii, Mexico and Central America). Currently Sophie is recording all birds seen in a 300-meter strip seen off one side of the ship. She records the species and basic behavior, such as whether the bird is flying, sitting, or feeding. The black-footed albatross is notorious for following the boat, necessitating Sophie to carefully observe so that the bird is not counted more than once. All the information Sophie collects is recorded into a computer program that is hooked into a GPS unit that updates several times a minute. Sophie shares with me that she is also an illustrator and has authored several children’s books such as Far from Shore, Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage and Looking for Seabirds. If you are interested in a career like Sophie’s, she recommends that students obtain advanced degrees in biology and volunteer as much as they can to obtain experience.
It has been amazing to see how quickly the night shift has formed into a team. Everyone works together when the trawl is pulled up to sort, identify, and record the information as efficiently as possible. I find it interesting to see the variety of organisms we are obtaining in the trawls; tonight some of our catches mainly consisted mainly of shrimp and smelt.
I also continue to be enthralled with the odd looking creatures that the trawls yield. Last night I saw an eel larva. Its body, almost impossibly thin, was gelatinous to the touch. A tiny eye and mouth were the only things that made it recognizable as an animal. When I held it up to the light its many bones became obvious. Even odder was the Phronima, a creature reported to have been the impetus behind the creature in the Alien movies. I also got to hold an octopus in my hand—I could feel the animal’s tiny suckers pulling on my skin. The octopus was returned to its home after the photo op.
Did You Know?
That adult krill have the unique ability to actually shrink in size after a molt if food resources are scarce?
Weather Data: Air Temperature: 13.8 (approx.57°F)
Wind Speed: 10.01 kts
Wind Direction: North
Surface Water Temperature: 19.51 °C (approx. 67°F)
Weather conditions: overcast
Science and Technology Log:
I thought I would end my trip on the Henry B. Bigelow with some fun facts!
Did you know?
The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) is able to prompt the data recorders with all actions needing to be performed for a particular species. It is coded with unique barcodes for every sample taken. Back in the laboratory all scientists receiving samples can receive all the information taken about the given organism by scanning this unique barcode!
Did you know? Science crew operating on the back deck are required to wear an Overboard Recovery Communications Apparatus (ORCA). This system if it is activated sends a signal by way of radio frequency to a receiver on the ship’s bridge. This system responds immediately to the ship receiver and has a direction finder to help locate the man overboard.
It would take me hours to go through all of the amazing creatures we caught and surveyed on this trip, so I thought I would write some fast facts about some of my favorites! Enjoy!
Did you know?
The male spoon arm octopus has a modified arm that passes spermatophores into the oviducts of the female. Pretty neat stuff!
Did you know? Stargazers, like this one, have an electric organ and are one of few marine bony fish species that are able to produce electricity. This is known as Bioelectrogenesis. They also hide beneath the sand with just their eyes sticking out and ambush their prey!
Did you know? This fish, the Atlantic midshipman, has bioluminescent bacteria that inhabit these jewel–like photophores that emit light! It also interestingly enough uses this function in fairly shallow waters!
Did you know? Sea spiders like this one have no respiratory organs. Since they are so small gasses diffuse in and out of their bodies, how cool is that!
Did you know? The flaming box crab, Calappa flammea, uses its scissor-like claws that act as a can opener. It has a special modified appendage to open hermit crabs like a can opener!
Did you know? A female Atlantic angel shark like this one can have up to 13 pups!
Did you know? Seahorses suck up their food through their long snout, and like the flounders I talked about at the beginning of the cruise, their eyes also move independently of each other!!
Did you know? Horseshoe crabs, like this one, have blue blood. Unlike the blood of mammals, they don’t have hemoglobin to carry oxygen, instead they have henocyanin. Because the henocyanin has copper in it, their blood is blue!
Last but NOT least, Did you know? According to the Guiness Book of World Records the American Lobster has been known to reach lengths over 3 ft (0.91 m) and weigh as much as 44 lb (20 kg) or more. This makes it the heaviest marine crustacean in the world! This one was pretty large!!
A big farewell to everyone on the Henry B.Bigelow! Thanks so much, i had a great time and learned a lot! Thanks for reading!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Andrea Schmuttermair Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II June 22 – July 3, 2012
Mission: Groundfish Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July 1, 2012
Ship Data from the Bridge Latitude: 2957.02N
Speed: 10 knots
Wind Speed: 9.65
Wind Direction: S/SE
Surface Water Salinity:35.31
Air Temperature: 28.2 C
Relative Humidity: 76%
Barometric Pressure: 1017 mb
Water Depth: 57.54 m
Science and Technology Log
Reminiscent of my days in high school chemistry, today I had the opportunity to work with our Chief Scientist, Brittany, on completing the daily titration. If you remember, getting readings on the dissolved oxygen in the water is an important part of this survey as we locate any hypoxic (less than 2 mg of oxygen per liter of water) zones or anoxic (no oxygen) zones. This is done with a computerized device on the CTD, but we want to make sure that our readings are accurate. Because “chemistry never lies”, this is how we ensure our readings are accurate.
With our CTD, we have the ability to collect water samples at various depths. We do not collect water samples at every CTD, but rather one or two a day during the daytime hours. We collect water from the bottom to see if there is any expansion of hypoxia.
When the CTD comes back up, we use an Orion dissolved oxygen meter, which is a handheld device, to get a dissolved oxygen reading from our samples. We put the probe on the end of the meter gently into the containers of water on the CTD to get our reading. We will use this number in conjunction with the information sent from the CTD to our dry lab to check against our titration results.
Once we have the reading with the probe, we are ready to take some samples for our titration. We then take the water samples in the cylinders, rinse out our 300 mL BOD (biological oxygen demand) glass bottles a few times with that water, and then fill the botttles up with the sea water from the bottom. These samples are brought back to our Chem Lab (short for chemistry, as I’m sure you figured out) where we will test the amount of dissolved oxygen.
We are using the Winkler method to find the amount of dissolved oxygen in our water samples. The first step in this process is to put 2mL of manganese sulfate into the bottle. After that, we also add 2 mL of azide- iodide. With those 2 chemicals added, we carefully replace the stopper and give the bottle a good shake. We then can wait about 10-15 minutes for the chemicals to settle at the bottom. Pipettes are used to add the liquids and allow us to be very precise in our measurements.
After the particles have settled at the bottom, we add 2 mL of sulfuric acid (which can be a dangerous chemical if used inappropriately), replace the stopper, and shake the bottle again gently. The sulfuric acid “fixes” the solution. Finally we add 2 mL of starch to the solution, which is a blue indicator when we put it in but turns the solution a burnt orange color. Now we are ready to titrate!
Prepared beforehand was a burette filled with phenylarsine oxide, what we use to drip into the sample. We pour the sample into a beaker and place it on a magnetic plate. We’ve placed a magnetic stirrer in the beaker so it gently stirs the solution while we are titrating. We let the phenylarsine oxide slowly drip into the sample until it turns clear. When it does this, we note the amount of phenylarsine oxide that we put in the sample (which is equivalent to the amount of oxygen in the water), and the number should match (or be very close) to the reading of dissolved oxygen that we received from the CTD and the Orion dissolved oxygen meter.
This process is quite simple yet yields important results and is just one of the ways scientists verify their data.
One other interesting thing happened the other night on one of our shifts. We had brought in a bongo tow and were looking into the codends to see what we got. When Alex began rinsing the sample with some salt water, the whole codend began to illuminate. Why did it illuminate? Bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is essentially a chemical reaction that produces light. Many marine critters can produce bioluminescence, as seen below.
One of the things I’ve probably enjoyed the most about my trip so far are the relationships I’ve formed with the people on board. As a teacher, one of my top priorities is to build and maintain relationships with my students, both past and present. That became a bit more of a challenge to me this past year as I took on a new position and began teaching 600 students rather than the 30 I was used to.
I’ve come to love working with the scientists on the night watch, as each of them brings something to the table. Our watch leader, Alonzo, has a wealth of knowledge that he gladly shares with each of us, pushing us to learn more and find the answer for ourselves. I’ve improved immensely on identifying the different fish, crabs and shrimp we find (thanks to Lindsey, who is my partner in crime for making up silly ways to remember these crazy Latin names for all our species). Where I came in knowing names of very few if any types of Gulf critters, I can now confidently identify 15-20 different species. I’m learning more about how to look for the subtle differences between different species, and Alonzo has been able to sit back and be that “guide on the side” while we work and input all of our data. His patient demeanor has allowed all of us to become more self-sufficient and to become more confident in the knowledge we have gained thus far on this trip.
Alex, another one of the scientists on my watch, shows an endless enthusiasm for marine science. He shares in my excitement when a trawl comes up, and the both of us rush out there to watch the net come up, often guessing how big we think the catch is going to be. Will it fill one basket? Two? Six? It’s even more exciting when we get inside and lay it out on the conveyor belt and can really examine everything carefully. His wish finally came true today as we are now in the eastern part of the Gulf. Alex is studying lionfish (Pterois volitans) for his research, and of course has been hoping to catch some. Today we caught 4, along with a multitude of other unique critters that we have not seen yet. Alex’s enthusiasm and passion for science is something I hope my students can find, whether it be in marine science, biology, or meteorology- whatever it is they love is what I hope they pursue.
Lindsey and Renee are both graduate students. Rene wanted to gain some experience and came on the ship as a volunteer. What a better way to get a hands-on experience! Lindsey has joined us on this cruise because she is doing research on Sargassum communities. She has been able to collect quite a few Sargassum samples to include in her research for her thesis. Lindsey, like Alex, is very passionate and excited about what she does. I’ve never seen someone more excited to pull up a net full of Sargassum (which I’m sure you remember is a type of seaweed) in order to sift through and find critters. She has a great eye, though, because she always manages to find even the tiniest of critters in her samples. Just yesterday she found a baby seahorse that couldn’t have been more than a few millimeters long! Outside I hear her giggle with glee- I know this is because she has found a Sargassum fish, which is her all-time favorite.
Our night watch would not be complete without the deck crew, Tim, Reggie and Chuck, who are responsible for helping us lower the CTD, Neuston and bongo tows, and for the trawl net. Our work could not be done without them.
William, one of our engineers, took me down into the engine room the other day. First impressions- it was hot and noisy! It was neat to see all the different machines. The ship makes its own water using a reverse osmosis system, which takes water from the ocean and converts it into drinking water for us (this water is also used for showers and sinks on board). One interesting note is that the toilets actually use salt water rather than fresh water so that we conserve our fresh water.
I cannot believe how fast this leg has gone and that we only have a few more shifts to go before we return to the Oregon II’s home port of Pascagoula. As we’ve moved into the eastern waters of the Gulf, we have seen a lot of different types of critters. On average, our most recent trawls have been much more brightly colored. We are near some coral reefs too- in our trawls we have pulled up a bit of coral and sponge. The markings on some of the fish are very intriguing, and even fish we’ve seen before seem to be just a little brighter in color out here.
Due to the fact that we are finding very different critters, my list of favorites for today has greatly increased! Here are just a few:
Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods
Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa
Science & Technology Log: April 4, 2012
What do you picture when you think of a scientist? Do you imagine a lone individual working in a sterile laboratory, dressed in a crisp white lab coat? The team of scientists involved in this project are far from that image. What does it take to be a scientist when your laboratory is beneath the ocean waves? Here are some brief bios of the scientists working on the comparative sampling method project to assess the populations of the shallow and deepwater coral reef fishes.
Meet the AUV Team! You’ll notice there is an animal next to each scientist. Each team member was asked to provide an animal that is part of the coral reef ecosystem that best represents who they are or how they contribute to the team.
CO-CHIEF SCIENTIST: BENJAMIN L. RICHARDS
Coral Reef Representative:
It is solitary and lives in semi exposed reef flats or lagoons. As juveniles, they resemble drifting pieces of algae not only in appearance but also in movement. Adults are wary and will dive into the sand if pursued. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to turn over rocks in search of prey. Ben described them as little engineers that move and build things. Essentially, they get things done much like a chief scientist must do to successfully complete his/her mission.
Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)
Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Marine Ecology & Photography from Hampshire College, Master of Science in Coral Reef Ecology from University of Hawaii at Manoa, PhD in Ecology & Zoogeography of Large Bodied Fishes from University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Main Duties on this project: Experiment design and coordination of logistics and field operations in conjunction with Co-Chief Scientist.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Explorer like Jacques Cousteau
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Experience new cultures. Start traveling internationally at an earlier age.
Favorite thing about his job: Going to sea. Exploring new places. Coming up with interesting questions and figuring out the answers.
CO-CHIEF SCIENTIST: JOHN ROONEY
Coral Reef Representative:
John likes the octopus because it is versatile, clever, and always seems to have a Plan B and Plan C. If you catch one it will wriggle like crazy. If that doesn’t work, it’ll start crawling across your face or squirt ink and swim away. If you put a fish in an aquarium it stays. An octopus will crawl out. Ok… so maybe that’s not necessarily the smartest thing under the circumstances, but John admires the attitude.
Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)
Education: Bachelor of Science in Geology from Tulane University, Master of Science in Biological Oceanography from University of Hawaii, PhD in Coastal Geology from University of Hawaii.
Main Duties on this project: Helps with any tasks on deck including the launching and retrieval of the AUV. He is also part of the decision making process in setting mission priorities.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Spy or Archeologist
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Pursue what you are most passionate about and worry less on whether you can get a job doing it later.
Favorite thing about his job: He likes the trips, the diving and the people. One of his favorite projects involved researching more technical SCUBA diving techniques to be able to do deeper dives.
AUV CO-PRIMARY INVESTIGATOR: M. ELIZABETH CLARKE
Coral Reef Representative:
Boxfishes do not have scales but rather have fused bony plates that give them their box-like appearance. They are slow swimmers and hover around the coral reef which gives them a “quirky” appearance which is how Liz describes herself. When it comes to science, being “quirky” or different is a good characteristic to possess. Scientists need to be able to think or see things differently. Quirkiness is ingenuity at its best.
Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)
Job Title: Senior Scientist/Supervisory Research Fish Biologist
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from University of California at Irvine, Master of Science in Fisheries Biology from University of Alaska at Fairbanks, PhD in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Main Duties on this project: She originally created the AUV team for the NWFSC. Currently, the NWFSC and the PIFSC jointly operate the AUV and support each other’s research missions.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Nancy Drew
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself… Aim higher. She realized she had low expectations for herself. She also would say to take a step back and take the time to explore what you are passionate about doing in life. Allow yourself the latitude to investigate what that passion is even if it slows you down for a little bit. You’ll find your pathway.
Favorite thing about her job: Going out to sea.
AUV PROGRAM MANAGER: JEREMY TAYLOR
Coral Reef Representative:
Nudibranchs are some of the most beautiful molluscs. Their bright coloration actually serves as a warning to its predators that they are toxic or distasteful. They lead secretive lives under and amongst the coral reefs. Jeremy likes that they are not the most common thing that people will look for in a coral reef. They are like diamonds in the rough. This relates to the hidden mastery that comes when writing the “script” (the driving instructions written in code) for the AUV.
Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)
Job Title: Mapping Specialist
Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Cornell University with a double minor in Computer Science and Life Sciences
Main Duties on this project: Write the scripts to process the AUV data.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Computer Science is the way to go.
Favorite thing about his job: He is constantly learning.
AUV TECHNICIAN: ERICA FRUH
Coral Reef Representative:
Trigger fish get their name from their ability to lock their dorsal spine into position and “trigger” an adjacent spine. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to squirt jets of water at sea urchins. They work tenaciously until they flip the sea urchin and expose its softer side. This tenacity reflects Erica’s work ethic. They also show parental care which demonstrates Erica’s caring nature as she has made me feel welcome right from the start of this journey.
Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)
Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Auburn University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management with a focus on Commercial Fisheries from Oregon State University.
Main Duties on this project: To run and maintain vehicle.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Dolphin Trainer at Sea World
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Keep doing what you want to do. You can make a career with what you like. You don’t have to sit at a desk. There are lots of jobs that have outside components.
Favorite thing about her job: There is always something new everyday; different places and animals. You never know what may be coming up next.
AUV TECHNICIAN: CURT WHITMIRE
Coral Reef Representative:
Curt chose the cuttlefish because he has always been impressed by their cryptic ability and voracious appetite. Its prey is paralyzed by poisonous saliva or crushed by the strong beak. Cuttlefish along with the other familiar cephalopods like the squid and octopus (head-footed molluscs) are believed to be the smartest invertebrates. It has a large brain that can process lots of information that aids in its speedy escape response and predatory tactics. Just like the cuttlefish, Curt has the ability to interpret plenty of data collected by the AUV.
Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)
Job Title: Information Technology Specialist
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Arizona State University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University and double minor in Fisheries & Wildlife and Earth Information Science & Technology (GIS)
Main Duties on this project: Technical support for the AUV
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Fighter Pilot
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Travel more
Favorite thing about his job: The variety and diversity of the projects that are assigned to him.
NOAA OFFICE OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY OBSERVER: ALLEN SHIMADA
Coral Reef Representative:
Its body is designed for speed. It is a schooling fish and is frequently seen with other species of fish but also associates with dolphins. Allen’s father, Bell Shimada, made a distinctive mark in the study of Pacific tropical tuna stocks. Allen chose the Tuna because he likes looking at the bigger picture. It is something he must do as his work is to represent and work with all six fisheries science centers.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northwestern University, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries from University of Washington, Master of Science in Marine Policy from University of Washington.
Main Duties on this project: Observational. He helps all six fisheries science centers get the resources they need to conduct their projects.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist
If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Go straight to University of Washington and begin with fisheries
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather July 7 – August 8, 2009
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK Date: July 11, 2009
Sheet L – Shumagin Islands
Weather Data from the Bridge
Weather System: Overcast
Wind: mild and veering*
Temperature: 12.1º C
Science and Technology Log
Today I got to go out on launch 1010. The two primary launches on Fairweather are 29-foot diesel-powered (Caterpillar) single-screw aluminum boats. I was real surprised to find that 1010 is 35 years old! It’s in great shape. Survey equipment on board includes the multi-beam echo sounder, computers, DGPS (Digital GPS gives positional accuracy to about 6 inches!) radar, radios and Iridium satellite telephones. For “creature comforts” there’s a microwave and mini-fridge as well as a very efficient heater/defrost system. Oh, by the way, there are no heads on the launches. (FYI – a “head” is marine-speak for a bathroom!)
Knowing this in advance, I didn’t have coffee or tea or a big breakfast. Turns out that when “nature calls” the rest of the crew goes in the cabin, closes the door, and you go over the side! Seems gross at first and then you realize that the 30 and 40 ton whales go in the ocean too (besides, it’s biodegradable!) The launches are carried on the boat deck (E-deck) in custom Welin-Lambie davits made for each launch. Welin-Lambie is a company over 100 years old and made the davits for a few ships you may have heard of – the British Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship and oh, yeah, the RMS Titanic! The cradles are self-leveling so when the Fairweather is in heavy seas they remain upright and stable. The picture on the left shows 1010 in its cradle. When it’s time to launch the boat, the securing devices are released, the boat is swung out over the side and two >3 ton winches lower the launch to the rail of D-deck. There it is boarded by the crew and loaded with the needed gear for the day. It is then lowered into the water and sent on its way.
Once we got to the area of our polygon (I’ll explain polygons later in the week) we began acquiring data by “mowing the lawn” – the process of sailing back and forth across a defined area collecting soundings1 (bottom depths.) In every polygon we conduct a CTD cast (CTD = Conductivity Temperature Density.) These three parameters determine the speed of sound in the water and are used to accurately calibrate the soundings. Once we had been working for a while with me observing – and asking what must have seemed like unending questions – PIC2 Adam Argento and AST3 Andrew Clos guided me to monitoring the data being acquired. As you can see on the left there are 4 monitors all running software simultaneously. The picture on the right shows the keyboard and mice. The mouse in my right hand controls the windows on the three screens to the right which are data displays of received info. The left mouse controls which data are being acquired.
After lunch the coxswain4 (“coxin”) – AB Chrissie Mallory – turned the helm over to me to steer. My first leg was headed North. The positional displays on the Fairweather and its launches all have North being at the top of the displays. (This is called – logically enough – “North Up”.) I rocked! If I had to move off to the right a little, I turned right. Need to move left, turn left. There’s a little delay between when you turn and the position as displayed on the screen. Well, we got to the top of the section and turned around to head South. I needed to adjust a bit to the right, so I turned right . . . BUT . . . the boat is now oriented 180º from the prior run. So in turning right, I actually made the boat go left on the screen! Oh NOOO!!! So I overcompensated the other way. Then had to un-overcompensate . . . and so on. I’m sure when they downloaded the data back on the Fairweather they were wondering what the h*** was going on. Eventually I got the hang of it and didn’t do too badly after a while, but I have a much greater appreciation of what appeared to be really simple at the outset.
After a successful 8+ hours out (by the way, our lunches contained enough food for 6 people!) we headed back to the Fairweather about 15 miles away. To see her after a day out kind of felt like seeing home after a long day out. To the unaware, the ship looks like a mish-mash of all kinds of gear all over the place, but it’s remarkably organized. The reason for the appearance is that the ship is capable of so many tasks that the equipment is stowed in every available space. Fairweather is capable of deploying 7 small boats and operating independently of all of them in coordinated tasking! I’d love the opportunity to take a class of students for an all-day field trip aboard and could do so without ever leaving the dock – there’s so much on board!
As you can see in the photo of the Fairweather above, there are two large white inflated “fenders” hanging over the starboard side. This is where we’ll be tying alongside. (I took the next 3 shots from the Fairweather as 1010 approached on a different day.) As the launch approaches, the person on the bow will throw a line to the forward line handler. Notice there’s not a whole lot of room up there as well as the extended arm ready to catch the line. That bow line has a mark on it which lets the line handler on Fairweather know where to temporarily tie off the line. Then the stern line is then thrown to another line handler. Once the launch is positioned properly (no easy task in rolling seas) the hoists are lowered to the launch where they are clamped onto lifting eyes. Each of the clamps on the boat falls5 weighs close to 40 pounds – that’s why in deck ops everyone wears hardhats – and is controlled by both the winch operator and two more line handlers using “frapping lines6.” (in the picture to the left, as the launch approaches, you can see the boat falls, clamps and frapping lines.) Once the clamps are secured, the launch is lifted to the deck rail and the crew gets off, and the launch is lifted back to its cradle.
Piece of cake! Realize, however, that this simply and cleanly executed maneuver, requires: On the Fairweather: 4 line handlers The Chief Bosun 1 or 2 surveyors The bridge crew to maintain position (at least 2 people) 2 or 3 deck personnel to unload gear from the launch A Chief Scientist to task the launch The chefs to feed the launch crew On the launch: Person in charge Coxswain 1 winch operator From 14 to 16 people, all working together. On January 1, 2008, the Fairweather was authorized to paint a black letter “S” on both sides of the ship indicating that she had gone 433 consecutive days without any injuries. Considering the environment in which Fairweather works and the tasking which requires constant deployment and retrieval of heavy equipment, the “Safety S” is a reflection of her crew and officers.
What a great day!
Soundings – depths measured
PIC – Person In Charge
AST – Assistant Survey Technician
Coxswain – (<O.Fr. coque “canoe” + swain “boy”) Individual who steers a small boat or launch
Boat falls – the lines used to raise and lower boats from a davit
Frapping lines – Lines used to control the boat falls
By the Way
It’s time to do some laundry!!! The laundry room is on D-Deck just forward of the fantail.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather July 7 – August 8, 2009
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK Date: July 8, 2009
Small boat/launch operations vicinity; Herendeen Island (Shumagin Islands Group)
Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind: light & variable
Sea State: 1 foot
Science and Technology Log
Today I’ll be heading out on the Ambar (an aluminum hulled inflatable) to check on a tide gauge off Herendeen Island. It might get chilly being off the Fairweather, but the weather has been fantastic since we left. Waves <1 foot, winds below 5 or 6 knots. Weather actually got better as we went to the tide station. (I’ll try to get a good shot of each of the launches.) The tide station is a remarkably simple in concept, yet a terribly complex operation to execute. A month ago, Fairweather personnel installed a tide station on Herendeen Island. This involved sending a launch to the island where personnel did the following setup work:
Drill a 1/2 inch hole 3” deep into a solid piece of granite and set a bronze bench mark into it.
Drill 3 more holes into a huge granite boulder at the water’s edge. Construct, on that boulder, a vertical tide gauge with markings every centimeter, ensuring that the bottom of the gauge is both lower and higher than the tide should go.
Precisely and accurately determine the height of the benchmark in relationship to the heights on the tide gauge.
Send a diver down below the lowest tide levels and install a nitrogen-fed orifice connected to a hose and secure it to the sea floor.
Connect the hose to a pressurized tank of nitrogen on shore.
Install a solar power panel near the station with a southern exposure.
Install the data acquisition interface. This piece of equipment forces a single nitrogen bubble out of the orifice every six minutes (one-tenth of an hour) and measures the pressure it takes to release the bubble which is then used to calculate the depth of the water (as a function of pressure.)
Collected data are automatically sent by satellite to NOAA. A month later, the survey team re-visits the site and performs a series of 10 visual observations coordinated with the automated sequences of the nitrogen bubble data recorder. These visual observations are then compared to the automated data acquired. If their statistical differences are within accepted parameters, the data are considered valid and will be used further. If not, the data are discarded and collection is re-started.
Not only is the process painstaking, but the technology and Research & Development needed to design the equipment must have been extremely difficult. However, given the amount of our nation’s dependence on marine commerce and movement of goods, it is time and effort more than well spent. Once we returned to the ship, I was able to lend a hand on the fantail (that’s the aft area of the deck where a LOT of work gets done) where the survey team was collecting samples of the ocean bottom. Bottom sapling is done at specific locations proscribed by NOAA guidelines for coastal waters. It is important for mariners to know the type of bottom in an area in case they need to anchor or engage in commercial fishing.
Bottom samples are collected using a Shipek Grab. This 130-pound tool captures a 3-liter sample of the bottom. The scoop is spring loaded on the surface and when it strikes the bottom a very heavy weight triggers the scoop to close, picking up about 1/25 of a square meter of bottom. Bottom characteristics are then recorded with the position and will eventually be placed on nautical charts. Sometimes even small animals get caught in the grab. Today we saw brittle stars, tube worms and a couple of little crabs. However, the biggest surprise to me was finding numerous small pieces of CORAL in the samples! I certainly did not expect to see coral in ALASKAN waters!
Lest you think that it’s all work and no play, we anchored tonight after a 12 hour+ work day. With sunset at around 2330 hrs (11:30) there was still time for some fishing (nothing was kept but we caught a couple small halibut) and movies in the conference room. There are movies aboard almost every night as well as closed circuit images from 4 areas of the ship. I’ve also started taking pictures of the menu board every night but won’t post all of them because of space limits on my file size – besides, you all simply wouldn’t believe how well we are fed on the Fairweather. Just as an example: how does blackened salmon wraps sound for lunch??? Oh yeah!!! (You have permission to be jealous!)
Animals (or other cool stuff!) Observed Today
Saw a whale in the distance, quite far off, just before lunch. Two seals a couple hundred meters aft of the port quarter. While at the tide station we saw two whales’ spouts near the shoreline, one seal poked his big ol’ head up from the kelp bed and checked us out a couple of times, saw a bunch of loons, cormorants and puffins, and while at the tide station, Dave Francksen (a very helpful member of the survey team) caught sight of an octopus.
Questions for Your Investigation
What phylum and class are octopi? Are Brittle Stars?
What “day shape” does the Fairweather display when anchored? When conducting survey operations?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow June 12 – July 18, 2009
Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco) Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone Date: July 5, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge
Temperature: 10.3o C
Wind: 8.9 kts
Science and Technology Log
Dr. Mike Vecchione holds a very large dumbo octopus from one of the deep sea trawls. This octopus got its name from the large fins that look like the ears of “Dumbo” the elephant. It is a benthic cephalopod (an ancient group in the phylum Mollusca) that lives above the floor of the ocean. It probably feed on copepods and other small crustaceans, but we don’t know much about its biology. This particular species (Cirrothauma magna) has only been caught a few times before.
John Galbraith and Tom Letessier hold a very large example of a slickhead. These fish are dark in color and their exterior is slippery. These soft-bodied soggy fish are common in waters greater than 1000m deep. They get their common name from the slimy look of their head. They lack a swim bladder and make themselves as light as possible by having weak bones and watery flesh. Chimeras are distantly related to sharks and rays and can be found at depths up to 2500m. These fish have cartilage instead of bones. We caught several of these in the benthic trawls, but this one was the largest. Most of these fish have a venomous spine at the back of its dorsal fin.