Erica Marlaine: You Never Know Where a Good Book Will Take You, July 15, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019


Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 15 , 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 57º 0.79 N

Longitude: 152º40.72 W

Air Temperature:  16º Celsius


Interview with the Chief Scientist

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.

Scientists
Back row: Sarah and Kresimir Front row: Denise and Taina

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!

Giant Pacific Octopus
A Giant Pacific Octopus captured with the drop camera


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. 

Suction cups
Suction cups on the arms of an octopus

A mature 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.

In order 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.)

  1. If an octopus has 2 suction cups on each arm, how many does he have all together? _______
  2. If an octopus has 5 suction cups on each arm, how many does he have all together? _______
  3. If an octopus has 10 suction cups on each arm, how many does he have all together? ______
  4. 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 together? _____________
  5. 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 together? _____________
  6. If an octopus has 259 suction cups and his octopus friend has 751 suction cups, how many do they have all together?

David Madden: Engines, Dolphins, and Sharksuckers, July 24, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Madden

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 15-29, 2019


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

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean
Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean
NOAA Pisces Full Track 7-20-19
This is a map from the other day outlining the path of the ship. The convoluted pattern is the product of dropping off and picking up 24 (6 x 4) fish traps per day, along with the challenges of navigating a 209 foot ship in concert with gulf stream currents and winds.



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. 

Dave with red grouper
Processing fish: measuring length and weight of a red grouper, Epinephelus morio.
Fish Count for July 23, 2019
Yesterday’s fish count. Compare to other day’s catches: Tons of vermillion snapper, tomtate, and black sea bass. And one shark sucker (read on for more). Thank you, Zeb, for tallying them up for me. 


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. 

Dave and Steve and engines
First Assistant Engineer Steve Clement and TAS Dave Madden in the Engine Room

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!

conversions
Posted unit conversion sheets

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. 



Personal Log

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. 

For more on fish evolution here are two resources I use in class.  Fish knowledge and evolution: from Berkeley, A Fisheye View of the Tree of Life.

Fish Tree of Life Berkeley
Fish Tree of Life, from University of California-Berkeley

And check out Neil Shuban’s Your Inner Fish series.


General Updates:

  1. Plenty of exciting animals lately.  Here’s a picture of those spotted dolphins from the other day.
  2. The weather has been great, apart from yesterday’s storm.  Sunrises and sunsets have been glorious and the stars have been abundant. 
  3. We found a common octopus in the fish trap the other day.  The photo is from crew member Nick Tirikos.      
  4. I’m missing home and family. I can’t wait to see my wife and son. 
  5. That tropical depression fizzed out, thankfully. 
spotted dolphins
Spotted Dolphins
common octopus
Common Octopus (Photo by crewmember Nick Tirikos)


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).

Shark sucker
Shark Sucker on Dave’s Arm

Consider all the possible biomimicry innovations for the shark sucker’s ability to clasp onto sharks and fish and turtles while underwater.  This grasp and release adaptation surely has many cool possible applications.  Here are a few: Inspiring New Adhesives.  Robotic Sticky Tech.   Shark Sucker biomimicry

I’d love to hear your questions and comments!

Allison Irwin: Art and Science, July 22, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7-15, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Northern Coast of California

Date: July 22, 2019

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.

PERSONAL LOG


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.

Juvenile Octopus
Juvenile Octopus – Species Unknown

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.

  • Casey McEneny with his son
  • Full mural
  • Jason from Jay Scott Studios


THE SCIENCE


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.

Bongo Net Ready to Deploy
Bongo Net Ready to Deploy

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!

Pacific Giant Octopus
Pacific Giant Octopus from Casey McEneny’s Mural

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.

TEACHING CONNECTIONS


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.

Vampire Squid
Vampire Squid Source: https://marinebio.org

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.

TEACHING RESOURCES

Karah Nazor: Cool Catch Highlights, June 2-7, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karah Nazor

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 29 – June 7, 2019


Mission: Rockfish Recruitment & Ecosystem Assessment

Geographic Area: Central California Coast

Date: June 2-7, 2019

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.

Keith S and electric ray
Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma holding a Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica

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.

Pelagic octopus
Pelagic octopus (Ocythoe tuberculata) attempting to camouflage with the background and flashing white
Pelagic octopus chromatophores
Pelagic octopus (Ocythoe tuberculata) with chromatophores expressing orange, purples and pinks. The beak is exposed here.

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).

Common squids
Common squids in our catches. From top to bottom, Boreal Squid, Blacktip Squid, unknown species, Gonadus Squid, and Market Squid.
market squid
Living market squid exhibiting brown, pink and purple chromatophores.
chromatophores
Pink and purple chromatophores on the mantle of a market squid.
chromatophores
Orange and red chromatophores on a tentacle of the Chriroteuthis squid.

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.

Cranchia scabra or "baseball squid"
Cranchia scabra or “baseball squid”

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.

Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis
Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis

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.   

Intact Siphonophore colony
Intact Siphonophore colony from bucket dip, note tip or “hat” at the bottom on the animal.
individual siphonophore zooids
Siphonophore individual zooids appear as semi circles consisting of small brown semi-circles.

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.

Kristin stirring pyrosomes
Kristin Saksa stirring a bucket full of Pyrosoma atlanticum
Kristin stirring pyrosomes
Kristin Saksa stirring a bucket full of Pyrosoma atlanticum

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.

blobtopus
Giant Seven-Armed Atlantic Octopus or “blob octopus”


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.

A catch with a high krill count
A catch with a high krill count

We caught 2 young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.  Both were immediately returned to the sea.

Kaila with young Mola mola
Scripps Graduate Student Kaila Pearson with a young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.
Keith and mola mola
LTJG Keith Hanson with a young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.

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.

dragonfish
All of the dragonfish caught on June 3, 2019 on the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker.
more dragonfishes
Longfin dragonfish, Tactostoma macropus, on left and a Pacific black dragon, Idiacanthus antrostomus, on right. Also in the photo are a krill (on the left of the dragonfish) and a Gonatus Squid (top left corner of photo).
Longfin dragonfish, Tactostoma macropus, with large photo organ underneath the eye

We collected a stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger, which can unhinge its jaw in order to consume large prey.

Stoplight loosejaw
Stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger.
Face of stoplight loosejaw
Face of stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger.


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.

The sorting team
The sorting team, aka Team Red Hats. From left: Kristin Saksa, Flora Cordoleani, Karah Nazor, Ily Iglesias, and Kaila Pearson.


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.

Karah measures sea nettle
Teacher at Sea Karah Nazor measuring a West Coast sea nettle Chrysora fuscescens.
Karah examines sea nettle
Karah Nazor examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
Kaila holds up sea nettle
Scripps graduate student Kaila Pearson examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
Kristin holds up a sea nettle
Moss Landing graduate student Kristin Saksa examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
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Photomicrograph of the ocelli or light sensing organ in the rhopalia of a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.

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).

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Photomicrograph of purple eggs and clear gastric filaments of the moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita
sorting Haul 2
Kaila Pearson (left) and Karah Nazor and Keith Hanson sorting Haul 2.

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.

Sorting of haul 3 which had a lot of krill and young of year (YOY) Pacific hake, Merluccius productus.


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.

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A small catch from the last night June 6, 2019, with one West Coast Sea Nettle, a Gonatus squid, and two topsmelt silversides, Atherinops affinis.
Kristin with a topsmelt
Moss Landing graduate student Kristin Saksa with a topsmelt silverside, Atherinops affinis, from the final haul of the survey.


June 7, 2019: Return to San Francisco

Group photo at Golden Gate Bridge
In front of the Golden Gate Bridge at the conclusion of the cruise. From left: Brian Hoover, Kelly Goodwin, Ily Iglesias, Karah Nazor, Flora Cordoleani, Kristin Saksa, Lauren Valentino, and Jarrod Santora.
group photo at Marin Headlands
In front of the Marin Headlands at the conclusion of the cruise. From left: Ily Iglesias, Kristin Saksa, Flora Cordoleani, Kaila Pearson, Lauren Valentino, and Karah Nazor.

Marsha Lenz: The Octopus and the CTD, June 21, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017

 

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 21, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 54 38.9 N

Longitude: 161 39.2 W

Time: 0800

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 185

Wind Speed: 9 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

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.

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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.

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An octopus can fit through spaces as small as the size of its beak (photo credit: factsandideas.com).

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.

The CTD

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.

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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.

Personal Log

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.

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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.

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Chief Scientist, Darin Jones, shows me how to conduct a trawl.

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!

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Despite the occasional wind, the views are breathtaking.

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?

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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

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Darin analyzes backscatter from a recent transect.

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.

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The Pacific viperfish can be found 200-5,000 feet below the ocean surface. (photo credit: Earthguide & Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

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!

 

 

Christopher Tait: Suburban Wilderness, March 27, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21, 2017 to April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

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

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San Nicolas Island from the Reuben Lasker

Science and Technology Log

Acoustic Trawl

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

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©2014 Oceanography, Volume 27, number 4, Zwolinski et al.

Figure 2: An example echogram, showing the seabed and various sound scatterers in the water column.

Echogram

Figure 3 : Survey Map of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey 2017

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Scientist Profile:

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.

 

Personal Log

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.

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Long Beach, California

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 atlanticusThis strange creature is a gelatinous octopus, whose body resembles a jellyfish, but when you look close, you see eyes looking at you!

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Haliphron atlanticus

Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

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Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

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.

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TAS Chris Tait holds an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

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Measuring the ocean sunfish…

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Slide to Freedom!

Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira): This fast looking fish hunts plankton at night near the surface.

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Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira)

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.

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Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens)

Andrea Schmuttermair, Underwater Adventures, July 17, 2015

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

Visibility: 10nm
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.

A skate trying to escape the DropCam

A skate trying to escape the DropCam

An octopus that we saw on the DropCam

An octopus that we saw on the DropCam

Personal Log

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.

Two humpback whales breaching near our ship.

Two humpback whales breaching near our ship.

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.

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Longnose skate

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

ENS Justin Boeck on the bridge

ENS Justin Boeck on the bridge

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.

Where’s Wilson?

Or, rather, what sea creature is Wilson hanging out with in this picture? Write your answer in the comments below!

Where's Wilson?

Where’s Wilson?