Jennifer Goldner: Visit on the Bridge and in the Lab, August 20, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Goldner
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
(NOAA Ship Tracker)
August 11 — August 24, 2011

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 20, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 26.87 N
Longitude: 83.99 W
Wind Speed: 10.86 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 30.30 C
Air Temperature: 28.90 C
Relative Humidity: 72.00%

Science and Technology Log

Checking in with the Bridge . . .

We’ve been catching fish all week and I was curious how the Officer of the Deck (OOD) was always able to get one nautical mile of line out successfully and reel it in without getting it snagged on the propeller.  After all, without this function, the survey wouldn’t happen.  When the Commanding Officer heard I wanted to know the process, he called me up to the bridge to show me how the procedure works.  Brian, Junior Officer, was also on the bridge.  Between the two of them they gave this teacher a great lesson in navigation.  So let me walk you through the deployment of gear.  Future captains, officers, pilots, or any of you that like to figure out how to chart a course, this is for you!

The first thing that must be determined is the direction and rate that the ship is being pushed by the seas.  We want the wind  and current to push us off of the longline when we are retrieving it. This is figured out by doing a drift test.

The OOD declutches the engine and allows the ship to drift for 5 minutes while monitoring which direction and how much the ship is pushed.  When I was on the bridge the ship was being pushed to the Northeast, and the current was 0.5 knots.  Knowing this the OOD wants to situate the ship so that the seas hit the Starboard side, pushing the ship to port and away from the line.  For this, the Cap has a little bit of a trick.  He puts a model ship in the middle of the 360 degree compass to visualize where the boat will drift.  Talk about hands-on learning at its best!

Model ship used to visualize the current
Model ship used to visualize the current

After the angle of the ship is determined, the OOD moves the ship in that direction and signals the Field Party Chief (FPC) that all is clear.  While the crew is on deck setting or hauling, the bridge is monitoring all actions to make sure everyone has their life vests on and hard hats when needed for the crane operation.  In addition, the OOD watches the radar for incoming vessels.

Camera to monitor stern
Camera to monitor stern

Checking in with the scientists . . .

One of the scientists on board, Bianca, was taking blood samples from various sharks.  I found it very interesting so she was kind enough to walk me through the process of gathering blood.  After she draws the blood from the shark it is kept cool until she is ready to process the samples.

Capillary tube
Capillary tube
Plugging the capillary tube
Plugging the capillary tube
centrifuge
centrifuge
This shows 20% of the blood is red blood cells.
This shows 20% of the blood is red blood cells.

First she takes a hematocrit reading by filling a capillary tube with blood, plugging one end of the tube and centrifuging the tube.  The centrifuge separates the red blood cells from the plasma.

After it is taken out of the centrifuge, a reading is taken in order to see the percentage of red blood cells (hematocrit).  Finally Bianca centrifuges the rest of the blood and freezes the plasma. She will conduct further analyses on the plasma when she gets back to her lab.

Bianca pipetting the plasma
Bianca pipetting the plasma
Clear- plasma, red- red blood cells
Clear: plasma; red: red blood cells

Personal Log

It is hard to believe my trip at sea is almost over.  The day before I left on my voyage,  I met a man, Pauly, who was a captain in the Pacific.  He said, “While at sea, be a sponge.  Soak up everything you can.”  I took his advice.  Two full journals later, I am one educated student about the workings of a NOAA Shark Longline Survey.  It is true, I have learned so much in the field of science, but of equal importance I have learned some valuable life lessons. Read on to find out some of them.

Things I’ve realized over the course of my voyage on board NOAA Ship Oregon II as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. . .

    • That I finally have gone one whole day without hitting my shin on a “knee knocker.”
    • That it is crucial on a ship to be a team player.  You can actually put yourself at risk with an “I” mentality.
    • That on a ship when an engineer asks, “Is your head working okay?”, they are actually referring to your restroom and not your noggin.
    • That it will take a while to get used to anyone calling me anything other than “Teach,” “Jen,” or “Oklahoma.”
    • That the OOD doesn’t have to remind me anymore to put on my hard hat when the crane is being operated.
    • That I have a strong preference to baiting the head of an Atlantic mackerel over the tail and I still struggle with baiting the middle of one.
    • That I will miss all the day shift stories during our set out and haul backs.
    • That I will miss hanging out in the dry lab and wet lab.
    • That I have heard some great sea stories AND I have learned how to tell one.
Dry lab
Dry lab
    • That I have a greater sense of empathy for students who can’t quite “get” a concept.  I have been that student that needs “extra help” for the past 2 weeks at sea.
    • That I will miss the adrenaline rush of catching and tagging a shark.  Mark, our Chief Scientist, wonders what there’s left for me to do that will give me that much of an adrenaline surge.  He is right.  I am hooked.(pun intended).
Wet lab
Wet lab
  • That in 14 days I have not texted one time and I have only made 6 calls on my cell phone to my family, all in a matter of 1 hour when we had cell service.  I actually learned how to survive and thrive without my cell phone.
  • That I will miss my curtain around my bed to keep out the morning light.
Bunk bed curtains
Bunk bed curtains
  • That I will have to get used to not having to hook the doors to stay open.

    For doors to be kept open on ships, they have to be hooked.
    For doors to be kept open on ships, they have to be hooked.
  • That I will REALLY miss all the fine cuisine cooked up by Walter and Paul.
  • That every time I hear keys clank together, it will remind me of the 100 number hooks.
  • That there are some really cool jobs out here in technology, engineering, science, fishing, and navigating.  I can’t wait to talk to my students and others about all the opportunities NOAA has to offer!
  • That I have gained 30 lifelong friends.  I cannot thank them all enough for sharing with me their depth of knowledge and love for what they do. 

More pictures from NOAA Ship Oregon II

Old Glory flying high on NOAA Ship Oregon II
Old Glory flying high on NOAA Ship Oregon II
NOAA Ship Oregon II Sunset
NOAA Ship Oregon II Sunset
Sandra tags a sandbar shark
Sandra tags a sandbar shark
Drew, Travis, and I with a sandbar shark
Drew, Travis, and I with a sandbar shark

Natalie Macke, September 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Natalie Macke
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission:  BASIS Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: 9/2/2010

 

Salmon Vampires and Birds…..     
Weather Data from the Bridge :
Visibility :  10+ nautical miles (Wondering what a nautical mile is??)
Wind Direction: From the SE at 12 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3ft
Swell wave direction: 3-4 ft NW
Sea temp:9.9 oC    Sea level
pressure: 1014.4 mb    Air temp:  11.2oC
Science and Technology Log: 
NOAA Fish Biologist Brian Beckman collect blood samples from salmon
NOAA Fish Biologist Brian Beckman collect blood samples from salmon

NOAA Fish Biologist Brian Beckman is our resident salmon vampire aboard the Oscar Dyson. He’s been diligently collecting salmon blood samples anytime we catch them.  So I finally got a chance near the end of our journey to sit down and talk with Brian about why he want all those samples…

Insulin-like Growth Factor One (IGF1)
This is a ubiquitous protein that is made in the liver which causes calls to divide and grow.  So simply put, it causes growth.  Since the level of IGF1 in the blood is relatively stable, scientists can infer the growth rate of a fish by analyzing for this protein in the blood samples.  The growth rate is not an absolute value, but instead a relative comparison between fish populations.  Brian has been studying IGF1 levels in salmon off the coast of Oregon and is now trying to extrapolate or compare his findings with the salmon in the Bering Sea.  When averaging his finding over the region of coastal Oregon, he has been successful in correlating IGF1 levels in salmon with overall zooplankton abundance in the region.

More food –> healthier juvenile salmon –> higher levels of IGF1 –> greater abundance of adult salmon
Getting a Bit more technical..
IGF1

After the blood samples are collected, Brian first centrifuges them to separate out the plasma.  The IGF1 is contained in the plasma portion of the blood.  (Remember that blood is considered a heterogeneous mixture so the components can be separated by physical means)  The plasma is removed and frozen for analysis.  An immune assay is then completed on the samples back in the lab.

Brian also is concerned about the age of his salmon specimens.  Since bigger fish will be producing a steroid that stimulates the production of IGF1.  Therefore, bigger fish’s IGF1 levels are a consequence of both the effect of the steroid and the fish’s diet.  So, by collecting juvenile fish (no steroid production yet) a direct comparison can be made between the fish’s diet and it’s growth rate.

Birding on the Oscar Dyson

So on Thursday it was apparent to the crew and scientists that our fishing was done.  Troubles with the winch made balancing an open net in the water impossible.  Since our perfect 20 days of weather had us ahead of schedule, our sampling stations for this leg of the BASIS cruise were completed and our job was now done.  The scientists could now rest a bit and enjoy their cruise back to Dutch Harbor.  Except for two….. our colleagues from the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service.  Tamara Zeller and Aaron Lang are aboard this cruise, not for fish or oceanographic samples; but instead they are here to perform an opportunistic survey about seabirds.  Armed only with a computer, binoculars and their savvy for visual details they collect data only when the ship is cruising so this last sprint to the harbor meant it was time for them to do some birding.

Tamara, Bruce, Aaron and Jeanette (left to right)

The computer pings and Tamara records what she sees from her window on the front starboard side of the bridge.  Indicators of ocean health, the Fish and Wildlife Service collects baseline data on seabird distribution and abundance in the Bering Sea.  Since most seabirds only come to land to breed, when ships like the Oscar Dyson has room aboard, a bird observer will take advantage of the opportunity to collect some data.

When I asked Aaron and Tamara what the most exciting bird this trip was, they had a hard time deciding between the two shown below.

Curlew There’s only about 5,000 left in the world
Horned Lark, Russian breeding flava subspecies Land bird from Russia
Personal Log

The ending to our cruise on the Oscar Dyson will be bitter sweet.  While I’m happy to be on land again, I will certainly miss the camaraderie of all aboard the ship.  I could not have wished for a better group of people and a more professional crew.  Everyone went to extraordinary measures to help me understand all they do AND how they do it.

Sorting Fish
Sorting Fish  
A special thanks to Ed Farley, our Chief Scientist and Jeanette Gann, my bunkmate and friend these past twenty days..   I wonder how many morning I’ll awake dreaming about collecting water samples from Niskin bottles??
Everyone on board and the NOAA crew was amazingly helpful and patient with the paparazzi teacher.  I’ll miss you all and thank you all once again…
Over and out..