Christopher Tait: “Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.” April 8, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: April 8, 2017

Science and Technology Log

“Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

IMG_4912

Sunrise somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

If you think about a famous quote about the ocean, this one might be one of the first you would think of.  It is from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I don’t know the first time I heard that quote, but it gave me a view of the ocean as a foreboding place. People like to use quotes to capture a thought or a feeling or an idea that someone else said near perfect. It is a way of remembering ideas of others and being remembered. It is also a way to communicate a deep truth in a memorable fashion. If said well, the quote rings in someone’s head.

The greatest technology a scientist has is their ability to communicate to the public their science. All the measurements in the world, the most exacting procedures, and the best control of variables die on the hard drive if they are not effectively communicated and shared with others. Said well, it will ring in the head of the recipient.

Scientist Profile:

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle * see footnote

                If you have a career or are retired, you can think back to the path that took you to one of the most important aspect of your life. The people, opportunities, experiences, dreams, or something else that inspired you to take the career you chose. If you are in school, you are being exposed to influential people, ideas, and values that will shape your life. I have to say, the best aspect of this fisheries expedition has been the amazing and inspirational people I have met along the way.  The group of people that were on the Reuben Lasker cover a large span of skill sets that are critical to run a long term research trip.  From the NOAA Corps, to the ship operations, to maintaining the complex systems of the ship, to deploying the scientific equipment from the deck, to the planning, conducting, and evaluating the results of the science, everyone brings to the table their invaluable contributions.  I have not thus far been associated with such an endeavor and I thank everyone for sharing their expertise with me.  I asked the scientists I worked with three simple questions to get an understanding of the events that took them down the path to their career with NOAA.  I’m sure you can relate to these stories and have stories of your own that have brought you to your career.  If you still have many big decisions ahead of you, maybe you can use this as a sign post to reflect upon as you move along your path.  Below is a picture of the scientists I had the privilege to learn from, work with, and share an amazing experience.

 Figure 1:

 

DSC_0266

Scientist (left to right) Dave Griffith, Kevin Stierhoff, Bev, Lenora, Bill Watson, Sue Manion, Chris Tait (Teacher at Sea) & Megan Human

Dave Griffith

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I was working at Hubbs Marine Research as a laboratory manager prior to coming to NOAA.  A group of us had started what turned out to be a long term project combining aquaculture and natural population enhancement known as OREHAP. One of the aspects of the OREHAP project was describing the micro-habitats of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay.  Many days were spent in the field sampling the various habitats of each bay. One of the scientists that would join us on occasion was Sharon Kramer. At the time Sharon was working on her PhD from Scripps and was also an employee of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Sharon alerted me of an opening at the center working for the Coastal Fisheries Resources Division headed up by Rich Charter, one of the best supervisors she had known, and I agree. The rest is history. I’ve now been with NOAA for 27 years; most of them spent at sea and have experienced sights that many people may only read about. No regrets whatsoever.

What do you like best about your career?

This is probably one of the easier questions. What I like and cherish most about my career is the people I have had the privilege to know and work with.  Not only some of the best scientists in the world but just good people. The world of marine science, especially fishery science, is a relatively small community. They become your family. Throw into the mix that I also get to do something that I have wanted to do since high school and I realize that it wasn’t a bad choice.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

In your early academic life, keep an open mind. There are so many aspects to science that you may not realize until you begin your formal education. Take a look at everything. I spent a short time at a city college exploring various avenues before making my commitment to a four year university. If you can, volunteer. It is definitely not time wasted.  For a career in science, earn the highest degree or degrees you possibly can. And lastly, a major component of a career in science is being able to communicate. Learn to write well. I have found that an excellent way to improve your writing is to read. Read everything. Read novels, magazines, journals, newspapers, whatever you can get your hands on and never stop.               

Lanora

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

Growing up, I loved mysteries and figuring out why things worked the way they did. I was also fascinated by the marine environment.  Having learned about NOAA and its missions from relatives, I participated in a co-op program while in college where I worked at a NOAA Fisheries lab.  That work experience helped me realize that this was a field I would like to make a career.

What do you like best about your career?

I would definitely have to say the challenge of the work.  The marine environment is so dynamic and ever changing and evolving.  Working with so many amazing scientists to better understand this environment and the organisms in it is very fulfilling.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

If this is a career path a student is interested in, I recommend looking into volunteer and internship positions.  These experiences help get an understanding of the work in this career and if it’s a right fit for you.  It also helps to build your experience and make contacts in this field.

Sue Manion

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Fisheries Biology. After graduation, I joined Peace Corps and worked for 3 years on the aquaculture program in the Dominican Republic. Upon my return to the states, I applied for and was accepted as a sea-going technician for NOAA at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego.  I have been an employee here since 1989.

What do you like best about your career?

What I like best about my job is the variety of tasks I perform. I was looking for a career where my job was outdoors and physical.  I spend 1/3 of the year working on fisheries research vessels.  I process trawl catches and assist in oceanographic sampling.  In the past, I have been a marine mammal observer on a tuna boat, and have tagged sharks.

The rest of the time I work in an office processing data and prepping gear for our next research survey.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

My advice for someone who would like to follow a similar career path would be to go beyond a BS and get a Master’s.  I recommend taking all the math classes, computer classes and writing classes that are available to supplement whatever field of Science one chooses.

Bill Watson

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

After receiving undergraduate degrees in oceanography and zoology from the University of Washington I went to the University of Hawaii to do a master’s degree working on distributional ecology of fish eggs and larvae. While at UH I visited the larval fish laboratory at the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla, California, to meet the staff and learn what I could to improve my skill in identifying fish eggs and larvae. I subsequently stayed in touch with the SWC larval fish lab while working first at UH, then for North Carolina State University doing biological monitoring studies at a coastal nuclear power plant as well as ecological studies of fish and shrimp larvae in an estuary and adjacent salt marshes, and then in southern California for a consulting company doing a wide variety of mainly coastal biological studies. While at the consulting company I received a call from the supervisor of the SWC larval fish group letting me know that a vacancy was coming up in the group and to keep an eye out for the job announcement if I was interested. When the announcement came out I applied, and got the job. Interestingly, the person I replaced was the person I started my larval fish career with in Hawaii 20 years earlier.

What do you like best about your career?

I like fish larvae, so having the opportunity to go to sea to collect samples, and being able to spend part of my time in the laboratory looking at fish eggs and larvae through a microscope often are as much entertainment as work.  In addition to the routine sample processing that we do in support of biomass estimations for commercially important fishes, we regularly conduct analyses to look at how the California Current ecosystem functions from a fish perspective. We can do this because most fish species in our area have planktonic larval stages, so with one set of samples we can look at fish assemblages ranging from deep-sea meso- and bathypelagic fishes to rocky reef and shorefishes. In recent years we have added genetic tools to improve our taxonomic resolution, and have added squids to our repertoire. Most of the studies done in my lab are group efforts, in many cases in cooperation with universities and other NOAA Fisheries labs.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

I always tell student interns in our lab that if they plan to be scientists, they need to pay attention in English classes. Research isn’t really done until it’s published, and if a manuscript is poorly written the likelihood is that it will be rejected by scientific journals. Writing is actually one of the more important skills to develop for someone interested in a career in science. Beyond paying attention in English classes, a postgraduate degree is almost a requirement these days to have any chance at doing independent research. Getting some real world work experience between undergrad and graduate school can be useful to help in setting a career course that you will be happy with, for example when I graduated from UW I planned to specialize in algology, but during a postgraduate internship working on the effects of tritium exposure on early development of rainbow trout, I discovered that I liked fish better and have been doing that ever since.

Megan Human

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

My career path with NOAA began during my junior year in college. I had been volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium for several years and decided to apply for an internship opportunity that was collaboration between the University of Washington and the NWFSC working with phytoplankton. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work with plankton, but I ended up loving it and was offered a contracting position when my internship was up. In 2014 I ended up moving to San Diego, and thanks to some connections I had from the NWFSC I was referred to a position working with ichthyoplankton (larval stage of fishes).

What do you like best about your career?

I love getting to work with fish and see all the diversity the ocean has to offer. I‘ve also had the opportunity to conduct an egg rearing experiment where I get to raise fish eggs to larvae at sea and in the lab. While it presents many challenges, it is such a great feeling to be able to do hands research in the field. Once you start working on one question, you realize there are so many unknowns out there and it is exciting to get to be a part of a team that is trying to find the answers.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

The best advice I could give to someone who wants to get into a career with marine sciences is to volunteer. There are usually many opportunities associated with local aquariums, NOAA or University vessels, and research laboratories. These are a great way to experience the different avenues of marine science and provide a lot of valuable experiences and connections with individuals in the field. It is also a great way to find what areas you are most passionate about as well as discovering what fields aren’t the best fits.

IMG_4963

Contemplating a successful fishing voyage as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Personal Log

As the boat motors under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the port of San Francisco, I think about how this experience will impact me.  How can I take what I have learned and effectively communicate to my students the importance of researching how our planet functions? How will the planet change in the face of growing stressors from impacts of human population growth?  How can I motivate others around me to be mindful of our impacts and to work towards a more sustainable future?  Well, with any great study, you generally end up with more questions than answers.  I thank my friends from the Reuben Lasker for helping me communicate to others about the ocean, their science careers, and marine sciences in general.

IMG_4971

Arrival to port at the Exploratorium in San Francisco!

For hope and encouragement I turned to my students for quotes of their own.

What quote would you use to describe your perspective on the world as you finish up school?

“For me, this class helped me decide to go into environmental studies. I always cared about the environment, but I realized that the more I know, the more empowered I will be to make a difference.” Abi Brown NFHS ‘17

“I am going into the heath field so it was very interesting knowing about all of the toxins that are having consequences on our health.” Ashley Parkinson NFHS ‘17

“This class really opened my eyes to the environmental issues I wasn’t all that aware of. I knew that climate change was occurring but I didn’t know all the contributing factors in my daily life could build up and add to global warming. Just being aware has made me change my lifestyle drastically.”  Courtney Surovy NFHS ‘17

“Taking this class taught me how large of an impact humans have on the environment. It is hard to believe that just one person can make a change, but the more you know, the more you can take action to save the environment.” Emily Glueck NFHS ‘17

“After taking this class, I found myself constantly going home and sharing with my family what I learned. I wanted them to become as passionate as I became. This class has sparked my interest and motivated me to be more conscious of my actions and look at how all possible results can impact the Earth.”  Maya Scocozza NFHS ‘17

“This class has given me a newfound love for the world that I live in, inspiring me to help improve the quality of the environment for current and future generations by doing even simple things such as recycling.” Olivia Hanisch NFHS ‘17

“As an incoming freshman to UConn’s MEM program, a dual business and engineering major, this class will forever impact my actions in the product design industry. Every step I take in my career will include consideration on how to engineer a product that is both marketable as well as environmentally sustainable.” Hailey Altobelli NFHS ‘17

“Taking AP Environmental Science allowed me to evaluate the destructive choices humans, including myself, make on a daily basis and how it amounts to significant impacts on our global climate and the surrounding ecosystems. Even something as little as leaving your lights on in an empty room or leaving water running while brushing your teeth can cause negative impacts on the environment. When individuals refuse to change their smaller habits on smaller issues, it becomes difficult for widespread change to occur. The class opened my eyes to how little changes make a big impact.”                 Matt Trewartha NFHS ‘17

“I will be pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree via Rensselaer. A successful career to me will be one in which I have assisted in progressing the world environmentally and technologically.”  Matt Sousa NFHS ‘17

“By taking this class, I have realized how much everything impacts the environment. From the cosmetics we use to the food we purchase, we greatly impact the earth’s land and its resources. By working on making sustainable choices, we can make a big impact on the earth.” Hadley Starr NFHS ‘18

“When environmentally friendly energy options become economically beneficial to large corporations and industry, global sustainability will become a tangible goal.”                Kyle Van Vlack NFHS ‘17

“One thing I learned from this class is that little thing you do has an effect. Every bottle you throw out and every shower you take does affects the environment.”                      Leah Anderson NFHS ’17

“As someone who is interested in the field of policy making, this class greatly informed me regarding the hidden dangers in our treatment of the planet. I feel like I am much better educated about the harmful consequences of climate change, pollution, and many other topics.” Matt Rossi NFHS ‘17

“By taking AP Environmental Science, I have become more aware of the destructive effect humanity has on the planet, and thus the necessity of advocating for sustainability. If we wish to preserve the environment, we all must educate ourselves about the severity of climate change and do whatever we can to minimize the negative impact of our lifestyle; even the actions of one person can help make a difference. By becoming catalysts for positive change, we as a society will be one step closer to achieving harmony between humans and the environment.” Nicole Cennamo ‘17

“This class has helped me develop an understanding of the natural world which we live in, and as I move towards studying Biology in college, I believe I have the resources necessary to be successful and have an impact in the world.” Josh Sproule NFHS ‘17

“As a future Political Science major, learning about the massive environmental destruction caused by humans has taught me that fixing the environment should not be politicized, and we should all be committed to doing what is right for the environment.” Mike DaSilva NFHS ‘17

“After this class, I have grown to be able to be more conscientious about my actions and how I affect the world. I care more for the animals and their environment and now have a passion for protecting them as much as I can.” Emily O’Toole NFHS ‘17

“This class has encouraged me to take responsibility in helping to save our planet. I learned that everyday things such as long, hot showers or leaving the lights on actually contribute to the global problems we see today. Taking this class this year has definitely inspired me to take action in helping our planet survive.” – Jackson Lathrop NFHS ’17

“I have gained a lot of knowledge through this class that has helped me to fully understand the impact humans have on the environment, and how to prevent further harm to our world. As I plan to become a business major, this knowledge I now have will impact the choices I will make and influence how I live and go about my daily life, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint.” – Noah Alviti NFHS ’17

*footnote: This quote is actually a misquote of Aristotle.  It was used by Matt Light of the New England Patriots at his retirement speech.  Will Durant deserves the actual quote from his book “Ethics and the Nature of Happiness” where he paraphrased Aristotle’s words from “Nicomachaen Ethics.” 

Mark Wolfgang: Zero is a data point, May 1, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: May 1, 2017

Weather Data from Franklin Regional High School:

Lat: 40o 25’N  Long: 70o 40’W
Temperature: 12.8 oC (55oF)
Wind speed:  6.1 knots (NE 7 mph)
Barometer:   1013.1 mbar
Relative Humidity: 77%
Visibility: 10 mi

Scientific and Technology Log:

I returned last week from my trip on the Reuben Lasker and just wanted to take a moment to summarize what I learned and experienced onboard.  As the trip ended, I sat down and talked with some of the science team to understand what the purpose of this research.

What is the purpose of the research?   Our purpose was to take a survey of the organisms that live off the coast of California.  The research was focusing on sardines and anchovies, but on my leg we didn’t find anchovies and found only 4 sardines.  Although I was disappointed in the lack of fish, we learn something from this data.  Currently, the population of sardines are down off the coast of California.  This is part of a natural of sardine populations going up and down.  Currently, researchers don’t know why these populations oscillate at these irregular intervals.  Because of the low population numbers, there is currently a moratorium on commercial sardine fishing in this part of the Pacific Ocean.  The numbers collected on this survey help to inform the individuals who make fishing policies.  Sardines play an important role in the ocean ecosystem and food web.  Low numbers in these populations affect the other organisms that live in this ecosystem.  NOAA serves as an important bridge between environmental groups and commercial fisheries.  Many commercial fisherman say that sardine populations are higher closer to shore, but the larger NOAA research vessels (like the Reuben Lasker) can only get so close to shore.  Hopefully, the drone is able to help with some of that research.

So you didn’t see many sardines, what animals did you see?

We didn’t see a large number of fish on leg 2 of the Coastal Pelagic Species survey, but we did see some interesting animals.  Below are some pictures of the animals that we found on our survey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Personal Log:

I have been home for a little over a week and it is nice to return to my family and my classroom (although I am trying to catch up on my sleep and get back to my normal schedule).  I am so thankful of the crew and science team on the Reuben Lasker.  They were so welcoming and I learned so much from them.  They didn’t mind my many questions or proofreading my blogs.  I am appreciative for the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.  It was a great opportunity for me to see and experience careers in oceanography and marine biology.  So many students are interested in marine biology and I now can give them an accurate picture of some of the careers available.  I hope my students learned from my experiences as well from reading my blogs and interacting with me on our Google Classroom.  Thank you for following along and I hope you enjoyed reading my blogs.  It was a great experience and I hope other teachers will take advantage of this opportunity – it is an experience of a lifetime.

Did you know?

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was official formed in 1970, but its roots go much further back in time.  It is the combination of United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (formed in 1807), the Weather Bureau (formed in 1870) and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (formed in 1871).  NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems.

Mark Wolfgang: If a Fish Laughs in the Ocean and No One is There to Hear it, Does it Really Make a Sound? April 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: April 21, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Lat: 38o 2.4’N        Long: 123o 6.2’W
Air Temperature: 13.9oC (57oF)
Water Temperature: 12.9oC (55oF)
Wind speed: 12 knots (13.8 mph)
Barometer:   1014.97 mbar
Conditions:  Clear skies and the seas are pretty smooth

Scientific and Technology Log:

DSC00196

The Acoustics room on the Reuben Lasker

Today, I decided to learn more about the other key research part of the Coastal Pelagic Survey.  As the trawling is happening at night and the egg and larval collections during the day, acousticians are listening to what is below us.  Using this information, research scientists can assess the population of coastal pelagic species (CPS).  The acoustics room is full of stacks of computers, servers, monitors and organized wires.  NOAA researchers collect enormous amounts of data as we move down the 80 mile transects across the Pacific Ocean.  On this leg, we have not found many large schools of sardines or anchovies, but the data from acoustic-sampling did lead us to some jack mackerel.  I am going to try to explain some of the technology they use on the Reuben Lasker.reuben-lasker-acoustic-sampling

Simrad EK60 and EK80:  These are two sonar systems that use multiple frequencies to listen to the ocean right below the ship.  In the diagram, it is seen in green.  The EK80 is newer and is being tested on the Reuben Lasker.  It collects enormous amounts of data and acousticians are looking at how best to use that data.

Simrad ME70: This multibeam sonar (seen in orange in the diagram) listens to the water below and around the ship.  It would almost look like a fan.  This does not only tell us what is below, but what is beside the ship as well.

DSC00191

The Simrad ME70

Simrad SX90: This is a long-range sonar (shown in gray) that looks at the surface for a good distance around the ship.  When I was there, they were analyzing 450 meter radius around the ship.  This is where the UAS would come in to use.  If a school of sardines or anchovies are seen on this sonar, they could possibly deploy the drone to fly over the school and take photographs.  Researchers could then analyze those photographs and collect appropriate data.  Researchers can also potentially use this system to see how the ship moving through the water effects the behavior of the school.

DSC00190

The Simrad SX90

Simrad MS70:   The MS70 is a multibeam sonar that also analyzes the water off the side of the ship.  It almost fills in the imaging gap left by the ME70.

DSC00187

The Simrad MS70

DSC00195

K-SYNC

All of these sonars are linked together by a program called K-SYNC.  This program makes sure that the sonars don’t “ping” at the same time and cause interference with all of the systems.  The Reuben Lasker also a very quiet propulsion system to limit the interference of the sound of the ship moving through the water.  The ship also has 3 hydrophones that can be used to listen to marine mammals.

Together these five sonar systems give the Reuben Lasker an incredible view of what is in the water under and around the ship.  This informs the trawls at night and together gives a good picture of the CPS in the waters of coastal California.

Personal Log:

So what do we do during the time we are not working?  The ship is full of movies, an exercise room, and snacks are available all day.  I have been able to read a couple books, watch a few movies with the science team, work on my blog and talk to crewmembers, and even watch some TV (including seeing the Penguins play a couple hockey games).  When you are on shift, there will be some downtime and then a bunch of activity as the net is pulled in.  I have also tried to soak in the clean ocean air and take moments just to enjoy the experience.  My Teacher At Sea voyage has been enjoyable, but I am looking forward to arriving back in San Francisco on April 22nd and flying home that night to be with my family.

Did you know?

Sonar, an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging, is a technique that uses sound to navigate, communicate, or detect objects on or under the surface of the water.  American naval architect, Lewis Nixon, invented the first sonar-like device in 1906.  Because of the demands of WWI, Paul Langevin constructed the first sonar set to detect submarines in 1915.

 

Mark Wolfgang: What Does It Take? April 18, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: April 18, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Lat: 36o 52.3’N         Long: 121o 53.9’ W

Temperature: 12.62oC (54.7oF)

Wind speed: 4 knots (4.6 mph)

Barometer:  1016.96 mbar

Conditions: Blue skies with a few clouds, smooth seas

Scientific and Technology Log:

I have been blessed to work with a great science team and I hope I have been helpful.  There is a mixture of talents and strengths, but a common love for the oceans.  Since there is always a need for reliable data, the entire team does their job with precision.

4.16 Otolith12

Fishery biologist Bev Macewicz teaches me to remove the otilith from an anchovy

I have enjoyed my conversations with them as we wait to get to a trawl location or for the nets to come in.  There are all possible careers available on the oceans.  From the NOAA Corps of officers, to the deckhands and fishermen, to the guys who work in the acoustic labs, to the engineers that make sure the ship is running properly, to the chief steward and second cook, to the science team, there are so many different potential careers if you love a life at sea.  I interviewed a few members of my science team.

Sue Manion, Chief Scientist:

DSC00046

Chief Scientist, Sue Manion, watches the deployment of a bongo net.

Sue has a B.S in Fisheries Biology from Michigan State University and worked with an aquaculture program with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.  When she was in elementary school, she loved the outdoors and animals, both domestic and wild.  She
always knew she would become a wildlife biologist.  Her first position with NOAA was a temporary job as a Marine Mammal observer on a tuna fishing boat.  Sue told me that she loves the outdoor, physical work and never imagined she would get a permanent position as a sea-going fisheries biologist on the ocean.

Favorite part of the job:

“The most enjoyable part of my job is the outdoor, physical work.”

Dream job:

“I would be raising horses and running a wildlife sanctuary.”

I asked Sue, what advice would you give to a student who wanted to pursue a career in marine sciences?

“Take all the science, math, computer, and writing classes available. Learn all you can about working with hand tools and small electrical tools.”

Ed Weber, Research fisheries biologist

Ed has a B.S in Biology from the University of Michigan, M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University, and a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University.  Ed told me he knew he wanted to do some type of

DSC00164

Ed Weber preserves specimens collected from a pairovet

biology work, but never considered a career in academia and became interested in fisheries after doing a work-study position at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center.  Most
of his experience was with freshwater fisheries and he never expected to be working in oceanography.  He was hired because of his skills in statistical analysis and programming and is “still learning a lot of oceanography.”

Favorite part of the job:

“I like the days when I finish an analysis and go home feeling like I know something that I didn’t know the day before, and neither did anyone else. Most of these are very small incremental research advances that won’t change the world, but it’s still a lot of fun.”

I loved his advice for interested students:

“I think the most important and valuable skills are those that make you a good scientist in any discipline. I suggest early-career scientists focus on critical thinking, the ability to read and synthesize information from a variety of sources, and the ability to write well. Specific tools and techniques can always be learned later. A final piece of advice is something I learned by example from one of the best fisheries biologists I know. That is to approach research with a sense of humility. Never hesitate to admit what you do not know, even if you become a world expert in your area. Then go out and find the person who does know and ask that person about the problem. An honest and humble approach to science will make you a much better than you might have thought you could be.”

Personal Log:

I think I am finally “getting my sea legs.”  I am not referring to sea sickness or getting around the ship.  The last few days, I committed myself to experiencing as much as I can since my time aboard the Reuben Lasker is ending.  I have had a lot of moments where I looked around and smiled because I never thought I would experience something like this.  I hoped for a little more biodiversity in the trawls, but that is science field work.  You get the data that you get.  As I was sorting through seemingly endless pyrosomes, I had to take a moment and realize all that I have seen.  I saw fish and marine invertebrates I only have read about.  I saw a drone take off from a ship (I will share more about that later).  I saw humpback whales swimming in pods from the bridge.  I saw Pebble Beach golf course from the ocean.  How many teachers get that opportunity?  I am a lucky guy and am committed to “soaking it all in.” I am looking forward to seeing my family soon, but I will live for each day.

Did you know?

Phronima is a genus of amphipods that live throughout the world’s oceans.  These semitransparent animals attack salps.  They use their mouths and claws to eat the animal and hollow out its gelatinous shell.  The females enter this cavity and lay their eggs inside.  Phronima propels the salp through the water as the larvae develop which provides them fresh food and water.  Hollywood used this animal as the model for the queen alien in the 1979 science fiction horror film, Alien.

 

4.13 Phronima

Phronima sp.

 

Mark Wolfgang: Fish Eggs, I Will Take Mine Over Easy; April 15th, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: April 14, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Lat: 35o 47.1’N         Long: 122o 58.8’ W

Temperature: 14.9oC (59oF)

Wind speed: 29 knots

Barometer:  1020.92 mbar

Conditions: Windy, blue skies with a few clouds, choppy seas

Scientific and Technology Log:

The research into the fish that live in this area of the Pacific Ocean investigates the entire life cycle.  The night trawls will usually catch adults or juveniles.  There are other techniques to collect eggs and larvae.  One of these techniques is a Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler (CUFES).

DSC00050

The Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler (CUFES)

There is an intake valve 3m under the surface of the water and it is collecting water (and anything living in it) all the time.  As the Reuben Lasker moves along a transect water is collected through this machine and filtered.  Every 30 minutes, the specimens that have been collected are removed, counted, and identified under the microscope.  The samples are then rinsed into small vials, preserved in formalin and are labeled and stored.  On this survey, they are looking for sardine, anchovy, jack mackerel, hake, and squid eggs.  The sample also has numerous copepods, but those are not counted and recorded.  So far, we have found mostly jack mackerel and squid eggs which are reflected in our catches during the night trawl.

A second technique involves nets dropped off the side of the ship.  The first is net called a

DSC00040

Deck hands and the chief scientist deploying the pairovet from the side station

pairovet.  A pairovet is a vertical plankton tow.  The net is dropped off the side of the ship
to a depth of 70 meters.  The net stays in place for 10 seconds and then are pulled back up.  The specimens collected are rinsed into containers.  One net’s collection is placed in formalin, a preservative, for later identification, while a second net’s collection is placed in ethanol for possible DNA analysis.  The other net is called a Bongo Net.  This net is an oblique tow and is dropped to a depth of 210 meters and is pulled in at an angle of 45o.  The contents are preserved for later identification and possible DNA testing.  The pairovet has a finer mesh to the net, so it collects smaller zooplankton and icthyoplankton.

DSC00046

The Bongo net being lowered into the waters off of Big Sur

 

The trawls on the night of the 12th had some Jack mackerels, some larger squid, a couple octopi, and a single sardine.  For the Jack mackerel and sardine, we recorded their length

DSC00035

Jack Mackerel

and mass.  We also took tissues for DNA analysis as well as the gonads for female sardines, anchovies, Jack mackerel, and Pacific mackerel.  These will be used for histology and fecundity studies.  Fecundity is the ability to produce an abundance of offspring or their fertility.  We remove a small, hard structure called the otolith.  The otolith is found in the inner ear and maybe used for balance.  The otolith can be used for aging the fish.  We had high winds on the 13th, so we were only able to one trawl.  Ironically, we watched “Finding Dory” while we waited for the bridge to say it was safe to let out the trawl nets.  We didn’t find her.

Personal Log:

It has been quite challenging changing my sleeping schedule.  Not only am I all screwed up with the 3 hour time difference from home, I am currently working the night trawls from 6 pm to 6 am, although the heavy work doesn’t begin until after sunset.  I was awake for 28 hours straight, but was able to get some sleep and relax some this afternoon.  I got a chance to call home and talk to my family.  It has been difficult being away from them and not getting a chance to talk, but I had that opportunity today.  For that I am thankful.  There were some plans to fly the drone when we arrived at the coast of Big Sur, California, but the winds were too high to do so.  I continue to be impressed with the scientists and crew.  I love watching the team work – it is quite impressive.  As we moved up the coast today, I took a few minutes to look around and soak it all in.  Big Sur was beautiful, the sky was clear with only a few clouds, and the water was a deep rich blue.  It was gorgeous.  I am so glad I took a moment to realize how lucky I am.

DSC00038

Big Sur, California

 

Did you know?

The Pacific Ocean is the biggest ocean in the world.  It contains 30% of the space in the earth and contributes half of the water to the world.  It is also the deepest ocean in world, counted at 3800 m.  I am currently traveling through the Northern Pacific Ocean.

Mark Wolfgang: Are the fish listening to us? March 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: March 22, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Although I have not boarded the Reuben Lasker yet, there are 446 bridges in Pittsburgh – the most in the world.  Here is the weather, according to the National Weather Service) from the Roberto Clemente Bridge:

Lat: 40.36oN   Long: 79.92oW

Becoming Sunny

36oF, Wind speed: N 12mph, Barometer 30.31 in, Visibility 10.00 mi.

Introduction:

Greetings to everyone from the city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania (the franklin_regional_logo_2c_goldhome of Arnold Palmer and Mr. Rogers).  My name is Mark Wolfgang and I have taught biology and zoology for the past 16 years at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, a community just east of Pittsburgh.  I am excited to share with you my adventures on the Reuben Lasker as a 2017 NOAA Teacher at Sea.

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker_Photo by Paul Hillman

NOAA ship Reuben Lasker

Personal Log:

Ever since my 4th grade class with Mrs. Kerr, I wanted to be a teacher.  I entered the teaching profession right after college, so my scientific experience outside of the classroom and in the research world is limited.  In college, I became enthralled with the world of insects and worked a summer in the department of invertebrate zoology at the Carnegie Natural History Museum where I got a small taste of scientific research.  When I had the opportunity to create a new course at my high school, my thoughts automatically went to Zoology.  I quickly discovered that although I knew a lot about the bugs crawling around us, I knew very little about the animals that live in our oceans.  Over the past years of teaching this course to our juniors and seniors, I developed an appreciation for all the animals living on our earth and a drive to learn more about them.  This is what led me to NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program – an exciting opportunity to combine my love for animals and quest for knowledge with the research opportunity and to share those experiences with my students.

I am incredibly excited to experience the oceans outside of my classroom full of videos, pictures, and preserved specimens and to help my students realize the career opportunities they have in the world of zoology.  I want my students to see the importance of caring about the health of our oceans and gain an appreciation for animals they will probably never encounter.  My interest in zoology did not start until I was in college, so it is never too late to produce this passion in my high school students.

Outside of the classroom, I am also the director of our school’s spring musical.  This March, I directed my 15th show, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Admittedly, it is a little odd to go from the producing a musical to researching sardines in the ocean in 6 weeks, but I love the diversity of the experiences I have as a teacher.  I have an incredible wife and two daughters (age 8 and 10) who are supporting me on this exciting adventure.  In my spare time I love experiencing the richness of life with the three of them.  I enjoy music and theater, hockey (Let’s Go Pens!), golf, kayaking, listening to podcasts, reading, and exploring our National Parks.

DSC04179

My family at Yellowstone National Park.

Scientific and Technology Log:

Our Mission:Capture

I will soon leave spring in Pittsburgh to fly 2,300 miles to the west coast where I board Reuben Lasker to begin my journey along the coast of central California.  I am excited to see the city of San Francisco since I have never been here before.  Before I return home, I hope to try some sourdough bread.

I will join the second leg of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Study, where we will be surveying the distributions and abundances of coastal pelagic fish stocks, their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environments in the California Current.  We will be using acoustic sampling and trawling to investigate the Northen Anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and the Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax).  Research will also include sampling pelagic fish eggs, plankton, and conducting unmanned aircraft surveys.

Acoustic-trawl method (ATM) is used to estimate the distribution and abundance of certain organisms.  The ATM transmits sound pulses beneath the ship and receive echoes from animals and the seabed.  The intensities of the echoes provides indications of type of organism and behavior.  I hope to share more information with you after we get underway.

Did you know?

As of March of 2015 there are 228,450 known species in the ocean, ranging from seaweeds to blue whales.  Scientists estimate that between 500,000 and 2 million more multicellular ocean organisms are still unknown.  We have quite a lot to still learn about ocean ecosystems.

Julia Harvey: The Nearest Land is 3 Miles Down, June 28, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Julia Harvey

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

June 25 – July 3, 2016

 

Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)

Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii

Date: June 28th, 2016

 

Weather Data from the Bridge
(June 28th at 2pm)

Wind Speed: 12 knots

Temperature: 26.2 C

Humidity: 81%

Barometric Pressure: 1016.3 mb

 

Science and Technology Log

The Aloha Station is about 100 miles north of Oahu, Hawaii and was selected because of its closeness to port but distance from land influences (temperature, precipitation etc).  The goal is to select a site that represents the north Pacific, where data can be collected on the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time Series (WHOTS) has used this site for research since 2004.  You can find real time surface and meteorological data and archived data at the WHOTS website.

We are stationed in the vicinity of mooring 12 and 13 in the Aloha Station to begin intercomparison testing.  CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts are conducted on a regular schedule. This data will help align the data from mooring 12 to mooring 13. If CTDs don’t match up between the two moorings then efforts will be made to determine why.

Mooring 13 is being inspected to make sure sensors are working. Photographs have been taken to determine measurement height of the instruments and where the water line is.

When I was aboard the Oscar Dyson, there were multiple studies going on besides the Walleye Pollock survey. The same is true on the Hi’ialakai. The focus is on the mooring deployment and recovery but there are a professor and graduate student from North Carolina State University who are investigating aerosol fluxes.

Professor Nicholas Meskhidze earned his first Physics degree from Tbilisi State University (Georgia).  He completed his PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology (USA).  He is now an Associate Professor at NC State University Department of Marine Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Meskhidze’s study on this cruise is looking at sea spray aerosol abundance in marine boundary layer and quantifying their flux values. Sea spray is formed from breaking waves. Sea spray analysis begins by collecting the aerosol. Using electrical current, particles of a given size (for example 100 nanometer (nm)) are selected for. This size represents the typical size of environmental climatically important particles (70-124 nm). The next step is to remove all other particles typically found in the marine boundary layer, such as ammonium sulfate, black carbon, mineral dust and any organics. The remaining particles are sea salt.

Sea spray analysis

Dr. Nicholas Meskhidze with the sea spray analysis equipment

Meskhidze is looking at the fluxes of the salt aerosols.  Sea salt aerosols are interesting.  If a salt aerosol is placed in 80% humidity, it doubles in size.  But then placed in 90% humidity, it quadruples in size. Due to their unique properties, sea salt aerosols can have considerable effect on atmospheric turbidity and cloud properties.

Aerosols are key components of our climate but little is known about them. Climate models are used to predict future climatic change, but how can one do this without understanding a key component (aerosols)?

little is known

Source: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makers

 

Personal Log

The galley (ship’s kitchen) is a happening place three times a day.  The stewards are responsible for feeding 30-40 people.

Chief Steward Gary Allen is permanently assigned to the Hi’ialakai. He has worked for NOAA for 42 years and he has stories to tell. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and his early work was at his father’s BBQ stand. He attended Southern University on a football scholarship and majored in food nutrition. After an injury, he finished school at Florida A & M. He worked for a few years in the hotel food industry, working his way up to executive chef. Eventually he was offered the sous chef job at Brennan’s in New Orleans. He turned it down to go to sea.

Chief Steward Allen Gary

Chief Steward Allen Gary

In 1971, he sailed for the first time with NOAA. The chief steward was a very good mentor and Gary decided to make cooking at sea his career. He took a little hiatus but was back with NOAA in 1975, where he would spend 18 years aboard the Discoverer and would become chief steward in 1984. He would sail on several other ships before finding his way to the Hi’ialakai in 2004.

In the 42 years at sea, Gary has seen many changes. Early in his career, he would only be able to call home from ports perhaps every 30 days. Now communication allows us to stay in contact more. He is married to his wife of 43 years and they raised 3 daughters in Seattle.

I asked him what he enjoys the most about being at sea. He has loved seeing new places that others don’t get to see. He has been everywhere, the arctic to Antarctica. He enjoys the serenity of being at sea. He loves cooking for all the great people he meets.

I met Ava Speights aboard the Oscar Dyson in 2013 when she was the chief steward and I was participating in the walleye pollock survey as a Teacher at Sea. She has been with NOAA for 10 years.

Ava Speights (on the right) and me

Ava Speights (on the right) and me

She and a friend decided to become seamen. Ava began working in a shipyard painting ships. In 2007, she became a GVA (general vessel assistant) and was asked to sail to the Bahamas for 2 weeks as the cook. This shifted her career pathway and through NOAA cooking classes and on the job training, she has worked her way up to chief steward.

She is not assigned to a specific ship. She augments, meaning she travels between ships as needed. She works 6 months of the year, which allows her to spend time with her 2 daughters, 1 son, 2 stepdaughters and 4 grandchildren. Her husband is an engineer with NOAA. Her niece is an AB (able bodied seaman) on deck. Her son is a chief cook for Seafarer’s.  And her daughter who just graduated high school will be attending Seafarer’s International Union to become a baker.  Sailing must run in her family.

She loves to cook and understands that food comforts people. She likes providing that comfort.  She has also enjoyed traveling the world from Africa to Belgium.

2nd Cook Nick Anderson

2nd Cook Nick Anderson

Nick is 2nd cook and this is his first cruise with NOAA. He attended cooking school in California and cooked for the Coast Guard for 6 years where he had on the job training. In 2014, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America and from there arrived on the Hi’ialakai. He also is an augmenter, so he travels from ship to ship as Ava does.

 

 

 

Did You Know?

The Hi’ialakai positioned mooring 13 in an area with a 6 mile radius known as the Aloha Station. Check out all of the research that takes place here at Station Aloha. There is a cabled observatory 4800 meters below the ocean surface. A hydrophone picks up on sounds and produces a seismograph. Check the results for the night the anchor was dropped.

Seismograph

Seismograph during Mooring Deployment

Click here to hear whales who pass through this area in February.

Pacific Sunset

Pacific Sunset