Maria Madrigal: Meet the Scientists: April 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

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 Scientists

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

Rock Mover Wrasse

Rock Mover Wrasse

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

Octopus

Octopus

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)

Job Title: Benthic Habitat Characterization Ecologist

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

Yellow Boxfish

Yellow Boxfish

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

Chromodoris fidelis

Nudibranch

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

Black Triggerfish

Black Triggerfish

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

Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish

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

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna

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.

Organization: NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

Job Title: Fisheries Biologist (Management)

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

Favorite thing about his job: Going out to sea.


John Schneider, July 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 11, 2009

Position 
Sheet L – Shumagin Islands

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Overcast
Barometer: 1021.4
Wind: mild and veering*
Temperature: 12.1º C

Science and Technology Log 

One of the Fairweather's launches

One of the Fairweather’s launches

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!)

Here I am on the launch monitoring all the data that’s being collected

Here I am on the launch monitoring all the data

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 a long day on the launch, it was great to see the Fairweather on this rainy day.

After a long day on the launch, it was great to see the Fairweather on this rainy day.

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!

A launch returning to the Fairwweather

A launch returning to the Fairwweather

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.

Personal Log 

What a great day!

Vocabulary 

  1. Soundings – depths measured
  2. PIC – Person In Charge
  3. AST – Assistant Survey Technician
  4. Coxswain – (<O.Fr. coque “canoe” + swain “boy”) Individual who steers a small boat or launch
  5. Boat falls – the lines used to raise and lower boats from a davit
  6. 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.

See you all tomorrow! 

It’s laundry day!

It’s laundry day!

John Schneider, July 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 8, 2009

Position 
Small boat/launch operations vicinity; Herendeen Island (Shumagin Islands Group)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: light & variable
Temperature: 12.7ºC
Sea State: 1 foot

National Ocean Service Benchmark

National Ocean Service Benchmark

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:

The tide gauge interface being downloaded to a weather/shockproof laptop computer

The tide gauge interface being downloaded to a weather/shockproof laptop computer

  1.  Drill a 1/2 inch hole 3” deep into a solid piece of granite and set a bronze bench mark into it.
  2. 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.
  3. Precisely and accurately determine the height of the benchmark in relationship to the heights on the tide gauge.
  4. 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.
  5. Connect the hose to a pressurized tank of nitrogen on shore.
  6. Install a solar power panel near the station with a southern exposure.
  7. 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. 

It's a little weird to see the Ambar leave after dropping us off on an island that has seen very few footprints!

It’s a little weird to see the Ambar leave after dropping us off on an island that has seen very few footprints!

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!

Personal Log 

A piece of coral on a pebble.  (It's on a 3x5 file card for scale.)

A piece of coral on a pebble. (It’s on a 3×5 file card for scale.)

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!)

Coming back, the Fairweather, after being out of sight from the Ambar, is a welcome sight!

Coming back, the Fairweather, after being out of sight from the Ambar, is a welcome sight!

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. 

This octopus was about 2 feet across from tentacle-tip to tentacle-tip and changed color when it got over the spotted light-colored rocks.

This octopus was about 2 feet across from tentacle-tip to tentacle-tip and changed color when it got over the spotted light-colored rocks.

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?

What do you call the kitchen on board a vessel?

Ruth Meadows, July 5, 2009

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

dumbo octopus

Dumbo octopus

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 10.3o C
Humidity: 93%
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.

a very large example of a slickhead

A very large example of a slickhead

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.

This is a chimaera that weighed in at 12 kilograms.

This is a chimaera that weighed in at 12 kilograms.

Basti (from Germany) is holding another chimaera, Venda (from Portugal) has a slickhead and Meridith (from Boston) has a lizardfish from the last benthic trawl of the cruise.

Basti (from Germany) with a chimaera, Venda (from Portugal) has a slickhead and Meridith (from Boston) has a lizardfish.

Do You Know? 

What would happen between a shark and an octopus? Find out here.