Britta Culbertson: An Introduction, August 28, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Britta Culbertson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4-19, 2013

Mission: Juvenile Walley Pollock and Forage Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NOAA instrumentation
Britta checking out some NOAA instrumentation at Summit Station in Greenland

My name is Britta Culbertsonand I am currently serving as anAlbert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in Washington, DC.  Prior to my fellowship, I was a high school science and art teacher in Seattle, Washington at The Center School.   I am serving my fellowship in NOAA’s Office of Education and have spent the last year getting exposed to many aspects of NOAA’s education efforts.

Einstein Fellows are K-12 science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) educators who come from all over the United States after a competitive selection process to serve in federal agencies or on Capitol Hill.  They typically serve for the duration of one school year.  Fortunately, I was offered to stay one more year in my office and will complete my second year in July 2014.  Through my role as an Einstein Fellow, I have been able share NOAA resources with teachers at national conferences, work on the education website, and network with a community of STEM professionals in Washington, D.C. among other things.  One task that I hope to accomplish this year is figuring out a way to make real-time NOAA datasets more accessible to teachers.

I am really excited about the opportunity to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea to learn more about the fisheries research conducted by NOAA scientists and to see if there might be opportunities to share real data from my cruise with students and their teachers.

After spending a year meeting Teacher at Sea alumni and hearing about their experiences, I am overjoyed to embark on my own cruise and to have a chance to work with scientists in the field.  I think these real-life experiences are crucial for teachers because it allows them get in touch with the scientific process in the field as opposed to the artificial environment in which we conduct experiments in the classroom.  Sharing these real-life research experiences with students is vital to their understanding of science.

Flat White
Britta at Summit Station, Greenland in “flat white” conditions (elevation 10,530 feet)

I spent part of my summer in Greenland working with high school students from Denmark, Greenland, and the United States.  During my three weeks there, I was inspired by the way the students were more interested in the research they conducted.   Being in the field made it more relevant and the students were more engaged.  We had visual teleconferences with scientists who were studying climate change and also worked with scientists who were in Greenland conducting research.  It was such a phenomenal experience for everyone involved.  I wish to use this trip as a model for my future classroom experiences and I am hoping that some of the scientists on my cruise might be willing to stay in touch with me and my students in the future.  Not only do I wish to incorporate more “real world” experiences and data into my science teaching, but I hope to connect more students with scientists.

Russell Glacier
Britta near Russell Glacier, Greenland

I will be departing Washington, D.C. on September 2 and will travel via Seattle and Anchorage to reach my final destination in Kodiak, Alaska.  I will board NOAA’s ship the Oscar Dyson on September 4 at port in Kodiak.  From Kodiak, we will head into the Gulf of Alaska and eventually make our way toward Prince William Sound, which incidentally, was the site of the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.  During the cruise, we will be collecting and studying walleye pollock.  If you’ve ever eaten fish sticks or imitation crabmeat, you were most likely eating pollock!  According to NOAA’s, “The Alaska pollock fishery is one of the largest, most valuable fisheries in the world.”

Our cruise has several objectives ranging from the study of walleye pollock to physical and chemical oceanography.  I’m also excited about one aspect of the cruise, which is a gear comparison to examine the catch differences for each species between the anchovy trawl and the CamTrawl. We will also be describing the community structure, biomass, and vitality of the other swimming, aquatic organisms we capture along with pollock.  These organisms include capelin, eulachon, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, sablefish, and rockfish.  Additionally, we will examine species that typically prey upon pollock and we will measure the environmental variables that could affect pollock ecology.

It was a wonderful coincidence that I happened to be in Washington State visiting the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center  when the science team for my cruise had their pre-cruise meeting.  I was able to attend in person and meet the scientists with whom I will spend the next three weeks.  I am really looking forward to working with them!  Visiting the OCNMS was a special treat before my upcoming cruise.  It was pretty awesome to stand along the Olympic Coast and check out all of the tide pools and other things like the huge whale skeleton I found.  In a few days instead of being on the edge of this massive ocean, I’ll be on a boat discovering what is in the depths of the same ocean. I’m looking forward to leaving the hot and humid D.C. weather behind for the cooler weather in Kodiak.  Next time you hear from me, I’ll be a teacher at sea!

Whale Skeleton
Whale skeleton on Lake Ozette Trail, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Sea Stack
Sea stack on Lake Ozette Trail at the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Karen Rasmussen, July 7, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Rasmussen
Ship: R/V Tatoosh
Geographical area of the cruise: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Date: July 7, 2011
Cruise to: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Crew: Rick Fletcher, Nancy Wright, Michael Barbero, and Karen Rasmussen
Time: Start 6:30a.m.


Lowering the CTD
Lowering the CTD

The first part of mission is to conduct Multibeam mapping and to collect ground-truthings at the LaPush/Teahwhit areas of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. We will also service the OCNM buoy, Cape Alava 42 (CA42). The second week of this mission is to explore the Teahwhit Head moorings, ChaBa and sunken ships, and North and South moorings.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Winds Lt. Confused seas
W. swell 5 to 7’ Waves 2’
Risk factor 18

Science and Technology Log

We were up at 5:00 a.m. and on the road to La Push, WA. Before leaving the dock, Michael and I measured out 100 meters of rope that will be tied to the CTD. We recorded as follows:

Number of/Color of tape Meters
1 Red 5
1 Yellow 10
2 Black 20
3 Black 30
4 Black 40
1 Green 50
1 Green/1 Yellow 60
1 Green/2 Yellow 70
1 Green/3 Yellow 80
1 Green/4 Yellow 90
2 Red/1 Blue 100

The tank of the boat was filled and all equipment was working. We completed a sound velocity test using a Seacat CTD which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth, as well as density. This device is deployed off the back of the vessel and receives information about ocean chemistry by taking multiple readings throughout the water column. Sound velocity data are used to measure the speed of sound in water, one of many factors used to correct multibeam data.

Doing Multibeam work on the Tatoosh
Doing Multibeam work on the Tatoosh
Doing Multibeam work on the Tatoosh
Doing Multibeam work on the Tatoosh

We found out that there are over 185 sunken vessels in the Marine Sanctuary. There are also 13 NOAA moorings within the Sanctuary. Multibeam surveys of two mooring sites off of La Push were successfully completed this morning. We also began another survey of the sunken ship, Milky Way. However high seas and high winds forced us to return to the harbor before the survey was complete.

I saw only two sea lions and one sea otter today. There were many sea birds including pelicans and puffins.

Personal Log

We had pretty rough seas today. We had to come in to port early today because of small craft advisory, so we docked at 2:30. We went back to ONRC (Olympic National Resource Center) in Forks this afternoon. Rick and Nancy are going over data. We plan on going out tomorrow to Cape Alava to continue with multibeam data collection. I enjoyed driving the Tatoosh today. The swells were amazing.

Karen Rasmussen, June, 27, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Rasmussen
Ship: R/V Tattoosh
Geographical area of the cruise: Olympic Coast NMS
Date: June 27, 2011
Cruise to: Port Angeles Harbor
Crew: Nathan Witherly, Karen Rasmussen
Time: Start 10:30 – End 12:2

The first part of mission is to conduct Multibeam mapping and to collect ground-truthings at the LaPush/Teahwhit areas of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. We will also service  the OCNM buoy, Cape Alava 42 (CA42). The second week of this mission is to explore the  Teahwhit Head moorings, ChaBa and sunken ships, and North and South moorings.

Weather Data
Calm seas/wind

Science and Technology Log

The Tatoosh at dock
The Tatoosh at dock

We began this morning at 8:00 a.m. Tatoosh had been dry  docked at the Port of Port Angeles to have the multibeam  fixed. This mission was to  have started last week but had  to be postponed because of a small leak in the multibeam. This morning the Tatoosh was  lowered into the water to take the measurements in order to  check the accuracy of the multibeam. Nathan drove the boat to Hollywood Beach (Port Angeles, WA) so we could help take readings. Rick and Nancy stayed onshore and used a surveyor’s tripod with an optical level. I held the surveyor’s rod and we completed a dynamic draft measurement of the Tatoosh. Rick took 3 readings from each position the Tatoosh was in over approximately two hours. Later Nancy and I entered their data into the Hypack software program. I read the data as she typed it in. We finished and found that our computer software programs are not interfacing with each other.

Here we are on the Tatoosh trying to work with the computer programs that will collect the data we need.
Here we are on the Tatoosh trying to work with the computer programs that will collect the data we need.

The HYPAK Program Inc. is Windows-based software created for the hydrographic
and dredging industries. It includes ways to complete surveys, collect data, process it, and generate final products.  It can be used on small or large vessels and is also used to collect environmental data.

HYSWEEP is a module of HYPACK and is used with multibeam and side scan sonar.  It gives on-the-spot information  about the ocean’s bottom  condition and data quality from  your multibeam devise.

HYSWEEP measures:

  • Depth – Nadir beam depth in survey units (ten units to one foot)
  • Time (Event)
  • Tide  Corrections
  • Draft Correction
  • Heave (in survey units, positive upward)
  • Roll – port side
  • Pitch – bow up
  • Heading
  • Easting/Northing (Like XY coordination, X= Easting, Y=Northing)

Personal Log
My learning curve is tremendous today and I am extremely tired. Last night I stayed at the Red Lion in Port Angeles. I was up until almost 4 a.m. Apparently, they are having teenager issues. Lots of horn blowing, yelling, and fighting all night long. I am hoping that tonight will be better.

I really enjoyed being part of the team today. Nancy, Rick, and Nathan have been wonderful with answering all of my questions.  Some of the questions I’ve been asking must seem so obvious to them, but my knowledge of underwater geography is so limited. Every aspect of this day has been interesting. I am truly amazed at what these people are doing with the limited and older materials they are using.