Lee Teevan: The Unexpected Happens, July 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1-10, 2018

Mission: Acoustic Pollock-Trawl

Geographic Area of Cruise: eastern Bering Sea

Date: 13 July 2018

View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK

View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK

 

Weather Data from Norfolk, VA

Latitude: 36.8508° N

Longitude: 76.2859° W

Tide Heights: 2.76 ft & 3.35 ft

Wind Speed: 19 km/h

Wind Direction: NE

Air Temperature: 28°C, 82°F

Barometric Pressure: 1028.1 mb

Sky: Clear

Humidity: 76%

“If you’re awake at 6:00 a.m., you’ll get to see the Oculus as I prepare it to glide around in the Bering Sea!”  With this promise from Dr. Chris Bassett, I made sure I was ready at the appointed time on our last day on the ship.

Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.

Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.

The launching of the Oculus was not on Chris’ schedule for that day beforehand; our expedition was ending earlier than expected.  That setback, however, did not diminish the drive to pursue science.  The resilience and perseverance of the science team to readjust was apparent.  Through the mist of  disappointment, the scientists continued to do as much as possible to continue our mission of the pollock survey.

 

Science and Technology Log

Developed at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in partnership with the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean and the University of Washington Seaglider Fabrication Lab, the Oculus is an ocean glider which samples abiotic factors in the ocean such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen at different depths.

Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.

Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.

After setting the Oculus upright, Chris connected it via the Internet to a computer operated by a scientist at the University of Washington.  This scientist is going to be sending coordinates to the Oculus and guiding it at various depths in the Bering Sea.  Chris explained that the Oculus has the ability to adjust its buoyancy quickly and is able to carry out a more reliable survey than other gliders.  Through the data remotely sent by the Oculus, scientists can gather a more accurate picture of ocean dynamics such as water column layers and ocean mixing.

Unfortunately, I was not able to observe the launch of the Oculus as I had to leave for the airport.

Personal Log

View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.

View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.

The week I spent on the ship was a whirlwind of experiences. I was just hitting my stride being completely awake for my 4:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. work shift and efficiently measuring the length of the pollock in each trawl.

Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.

Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.

At the end of the last trawl, I held a pollock, out of its element of water. Its dense, streamlined body shimmered with iridescence.  One eye stared, unfocused on the strange surroundings.   I too would be out of my element were it not for the 208.6 ft. boat on which I was standing.  Being on the boat was a constant reminder that my species is alien to this ocean habitat and that to explore it, we have to use technology such as the Oculus, underwater cameras, and acoustic technology as well as physical trawls.  Together, these different means of exploring combine information so that we can evaluate our interactions with the ocean and its inhabitants.

The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.

The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.

At times, the ocean had a disorienting effect.  When on the deck, I looked out from all directions and saw nothing but ocean capped by a dome of stratus clouds.  Under this lid of heavy clouds, the sun gave no clue to discern our direction or time of day.

Marine Careers

Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.

Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.

With her philosophy of focusing on the positive, Karla Martinez enjoys her time on and off duty on the Oscar Dyson.  As a Junior Engineer, Karla is responsible for ship upkeep and repairs.  On our last day of the trip, I spoke to her as she changed air filters in all of the staterooms.  Karla began working as a NOAA Junior Engineer three years ago after seven years in the U.S. Navy.  Since working for NOAA, she has traveled extensively and makes sure she visits each place the Oscar Dyson docks.  Karla is on the ship for at least 7-8 months of the year, and she makes the ship feel like home by getting to know people.

Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.

Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.

For young people who are interested in a career like Karla’s, she advises asking many questions and studying technology as much as possible. In high school, students should take the ASVAP test before entering the military.  Once admitted to the military, students should get trained. Karla states that students should talk to their counselors and find out all they can.

Joan Shea-Rogers: Do You See What We See, July 10, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Joan Shea-Rogers

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1-22, 2018

 

Mission: Walleye Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date: July 10, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 53ºN

Longitude: 166ºW

Sea Wave Height: 1.5 feet

Wind Speed: 25 knots

Wind Direction: SW

Visibility: 15 Miles

Air Temperature: 52º F

Barometric Pressure: 1010.61mb

Sky: Overcast

Biological Trawl Data:

Letting the Net Out to Sea

Letting the Net Out to Sea

Trawl hauls are how fishing is conducted. A large net is dropped into the water for a specific amount of time. By catching exactly what is in the ocean, the acoustic backscatter can be identified (what the various colored pixels on the echograms represent). Below is an echogram on the screen, the black line is the path of the trawl through the backscatter, the little red circle indicated where the camera was, and the picture at left is pollock passing by the camera and into the back of the net at that point.

Echogram

Screenshot of an echogram. The black line is the path of the trawl through the backscatter, the little red circle indicates where the camera was, and the picture at left is pollock passing by the camera and into the back of the net at that point.

Samples of pollock and other organisms can be studied and other biological data collected. By counting, measuring, and weighing the pollock and other animals caught in each haul, calculations can estimate the amount of fish in a given area. Acoustic data can be used to determine the number of fish by dividing the measured backscatter by the backscattered energy from one fish (target strength, discussed in the last blog). That gives the number of fish:

To get the backscatter from one fish for the above calculation, we need to know the size and species of the fishes. The trawl provides that information. In the fish lab, species including pollock are identified, lengths are taken, and the number of fish at each length is entered in the computer. Also, the animals including pollock are weighed and a mean weight is determined. The number of fish computed from the acoustic and trawl data multiplied by the mean weight of a fish equals the biomass of the fish (total weight of the population in a given area).

The fisheries biologists developed the software used for all these calculations. This information coupled with the echograms can answer those earlier questions…Where are the pollock in the Bering Sea? How many are there? How big are they? How many adult pollock are there (fish that can be caught) and how many young pollock are present (providing information about future availability and how healthy the population is)?

When I first boarded the ship, I asked the fisheries biologists how they would describe what they do. They responded that they count fish, it’s not rocket science. But you know what? It kind of is!

 

At Work in the Fish Lab

TAS Joan Shea-Rogers at work in the Fish Lab

 

What is this information used for?

This information is used to manage the Pollock fishery. Numerical data is given to the entities that set the fishing quotas for the Bering Sea area. Quotas are then divided up between the commercial and individual fishing companies/boats. Once fishermen reach these quotas they must stop fishing. This protects the fishery to ensure that this food source will be healthy and strong for years to come. A similar example from my home state is that of the Illinois is the Department of Conservation. One of their responsibilities is to manage the deer population. Then they can determine how many deer can be harvested each season that still allows for the deer population to thrive.

 

Personal Blog:

In my last blog post, I talked about preparing for and “weathering the storm”. As with most things at sea and on land, things don’t always turn out as we plan. The stormy weather began with wave heights between 8-10 feet. The ship continually rocked back and forth making walking and everything else difficult. You can tell the experienced sailors because they were much more graceful than I was. I held on to every railing and bolted down piece of furniture that I could. And even then, I would forget and place a pen on the table, which immediately rolled off. While eating I held onto my glass and silverware because as I ate and placed my knife on my plate it rolled off. Dressing was a balancing act, which I was not good at. I finally figured out it was better if I sat in a chair. Luckily for me, my patch for seasickness worked.

While I was sitting in the mess hall (dining room) an alarm rang. The engineers got up read the screen and left. The decision was made by the acting CO (Commanding Officer) that we would have to go back to Dutch Harbor. And now, as I write this, we are docked in Dutch Harbor waiting for word about the status of our voyage. Out here in Dutch Harbor, everything must be shipped in. We wait until parts and people are flown in. The fisheries biologists also have to determine the validity of the data collected on such a short voyage. They also must decide in a timely matter, can this data collection continue after returning to port?

For me, I am holding out hope that all these factors are resolved so that we can go back out to sea. Since November when I turned in my application, this voyage has been such a focal point of my life. If it doesn’t work out (I’ll try not to cry), I will still have had the adventure and learning experience of a lifetime. So here’s hoping……

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson at Port in Dutch Harbor, AK

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson at Port in Dutch Harbor, AK

 

Joan Shea-Rogers: Do You Hear What They Hear, July 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Joan Shea-Rogers

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1-22, 2018

Mission: Walleye Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date: July 8, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 53º N

Longitude: 166ºW

Sea Wave Height: 1.5 feet

Wind Speed: 25 Knots

Wind Direction: SW

Visibility: 15 miles

Air Temperature: 52ºF

Water Temperature: 46º F

Barometric Pressure: 1010.61mb

Sky: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

What kinds of fish live in the Bering Sea? How many pollock are in the Bering Sea? Where are the pollock in the Bering Sea? How big are the pollock in the Bering Sea?

Those are just a few of the questions that the fisheries biologists on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson work to answer during each voyage. In my last blog, I talked about the need to manage the pollock fishery in order to protect this important ocean resource because it provides food for people all over the world. It is important, then, to be able to answer the above questions, in order to make sure that this food source is available each year.

How do they do it? There are two main sources of information used in the Acoustics-Trawl (or Echo Integration Trawl) survey to determine the abundance and distribution of pollock in a targeted area of the Bering Sea. One is acoustics data, and the other is biological-trawl data.

Acoustics:

Acoustic data is continuously collected along a series of parallel transects with a Simrad EK60 scientific echo integration system incorporating five centerboard-mounted transducers (18-, 38-, 70-, 120-, and 200- kHz). In other words: There are 5 sound wave producers (transducers) attached to the bottom of the ship, each one emitting sound waves at different frequencies. This allows scientists to look at different organisms in the water column. Different types of organisms reflect different amounts of energy at different frequencies. The amount of acoustic energy reflected by an individual animal is called the target strength, and is related to the size and anatomy of the species. For example, a fish with a swimbladder (like pollock) reflects more energy than a fish without a swimbladder because its properties are very different from the surrounding water. Some ocean dwelling organisms don’t have swim bladders. Flatfish stay on the bottom so they don’t need the buoyancy. Floating organisms like jellyfish don’t have them. These organisms will look differently than pollock on an echogram because they have a smaller target strength.

Transducer

Transducer

Transducers convert mechanical waves (sound waves) into an electrical signal and vice versa (like both a loudspeaker and a microphone combined). They contain piezoelectric materials sensitive to electricity and pressure: if a voltage is applied to them, they make a pressure or sound wave (transmit), and when a sound wave passes over them, it produces a voltage (receive). When a sound wave (echo from a fish) is received, electoral signal is sent to a computer, which displays the signals as pixels of varying colors as the ship moves along (depth changes up and down on the left of the image, and time and location changes along the bottom of the image). This datum is used to estimate the number and type of fish in the water column, and to determine where the ship should fish next.

The size and colors on the images (called echograms) represent the backscatter at different depths and is related to the density of fish and their target strength. But, since they are dots on a screen, specific identification is not possible. The scientists assume certain strong signals are pollock based on the information they have but, those dots could be other fish. To determine what kind of fish are in the water column at this location, how many are there, and how big they are, other data must be obtained. Biological Trawl Data provides that additional information. More about that in my next blog post……I bet you can’t wait!

Personal Log

The Calm Before the Storm:

So far my trip has been smooth sailing, literally. As NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson sails across the Bering Sea there is a bit of rocking the ship experiences at all times. This is easy enough for one to get used to and sometimes it even becomes comforting, like being rocked to sleep as a child. You adjust to the motion. Over the past couple of days I have been hearing talk of a storm coming our way. On a ship, there are many preparations that occur in order to get ready for a storm. Many items are always secured, such as shelves that have a wall in front so that things don’t fall off. There are “handle bars” in showers and next to toilets (think about that). Along hallways and stairways there are handrails on each side. Mini refrigerators in staterooms are bolted to walls. In fact most things are bolted to walls or stored in containers that are bolted to the wall. In the mess hall (dining room) condiments on tables are in a box so they can’t slide off.

Why do you think this coffee mug is shaped like this (wider at the bottom than the top)?

 

At-Sea Coffee Mug

At-Sea Coffee Mug

Ans. The wider bottom of the mug above prevents it from sliding as the ship rocks.

Our bulletin board reminds us to secure for bad weather. This morning, I put small items in drawers, stowed books on shelves and packed my equipment (phone, laptop, camera, chargers and small items in a backpack that can be safely secured in my locker (the “closet” in my stateroom).

In talking to my shipmates with at sea experience, I am getting lots of helpful hints about storm preparations and strategies to use during the storm. Here are some of those suggestions:

*always hold on to railings with both hands when walking or going up steps. At all other times, remember to keep one hand for you (to do whatever you are doing) and one hand for the ship (to hold on).

*keep something in your stomach at all times, even if you are not feeling well

*eat saltines

*drink lots of water

*when sleeping in your bunk, place pillows between you and the edge so as not to roll off (I will definitely follow this one, as I am on the top bunk) It also depends upon which direction the ship is rolling. Pillows may need to be put between your head and the wall to prevent head bumps

*go to the lower parts of the ship because the top part will sway more with the waves

I also have been wearing patches to prevent seasickness. Hopefully they will continue to help. Only time will tell how we weather the storm (pun intended). Let’s hope it moves through quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Teevan: Getting Schooled in the Nature of Science, July 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1 – 21, 2018

Mission:  Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: East Bering Sea

Date: 8 July 2018

Dutch Harbor, AK

This is a view approaching Dutch Harbor, AK.

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 66 N

Longitude:  166 W

Sea Wave Height: 2ft

Wind Speed: 25 knots

Wind Direction: SW

Visibility: 15 miles

Air Temperature: 52°F

Barometric Pressure: 1010.61 mb

Sky: overcast

Science and Technology Log

Although July has just begun, teachers are already anticipating the first day of school.  Like every science teacher, we launch our classes with the “Nature of Science” or the “Scientific Investigation.”  Unlike past years, I plan on contextualizing these topics by showing my students the  “scientific investigation in action”  by describing how scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson studying eastern Bering Sea pollock populations apply the scientific method in their research.

Dr. Patrick Ressler, Chief Scientist

Dr. Patrick Ressler, Chief Scientist

To better understand how scientists “do science,” I had a conversation with Dr. Patrick Ressler, our Chief Scientist, about this topic. Dr. Ressler has been involved with the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey for many years and stresses that this ongoing research is a way to monitor change over time with pollock populations and to set quotas for commercial fisheries.  He shared his ideas about science and how it is a way to understand natural phenomena through testing. In biological research, however, it is harder to assess the outcomes because of the potential effects of outside factors.  That is why scientists refine their experiments to get “closer to the truth.”  Even being “wrong” about some ideas is beneficial because it facilitates opportunities to learn more. Scientists give testable ideas, or hypotheses, the chance to be wrong through repeated trials.

It was a circuitous path that Dr. Ressler took to become a scientist.  He studied environmental science and creative writing as an undergraduate, but after a semester abroad learning nautical science, he decided to study oceanography as a graduate student.  For his graduate studies, Dr. Ressler focused on acoustics and has worked on Pacific hake populations along the west coast of the U.S.  For the past 16 years, he has worked with NOAA as a Chief Scientist whose responsibilities include being a point of contact between the ship’s commanding officer and the management supervisor on land.  He has supported NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program because he feels that a good science teacher can better cultivate and inspire future scientists.

Screen with Acoustics Data

The screen displaying acoustics data is always monitored.

The  scientists on the Oscar Dyson have varied academic specialties, yet they are collaborating on the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey by contributing their expertise.  Dr. Ressler and Dr. Chris Bassett have been monitoring the acoustics on this expedition.  The acoustic system was most patiently explained to Joan and me by Dr. Bassett.

 

Dr. Chris Bassett

Dr. Chris Bassett, Ocean Acoustics Engineer

On the Oscar Dyson, there are 5 transducers producing vibrations on the drop keel of the boat.  Cables are attached that can lower this drop keel to 9.2 meters below so that storms will not interfere with the acoustics. These cables connect the drop keel to the five boxes in the survey room. Voltage signals are sent to the transceiver, which in turn creates a pressure wave.  When the signal is sent into the water, some sound bounces back. The pressure waves reflected back to the transducer are converted to an electrical signal and recorded by the computer. For the sound wave to scatter off something, it must have a density or sound speed different from that of the surrounding water. The larger the differences in the properties of the animals from the surrounding water, the more sound will generally be reflected by an animal. As a result, animals with ‘swim bladders’ (an organ inside their body containing air) will generally scatter more sound than animals without them.

When one of the transducers sends out a wave, the wave spreads out as it moves from the ship and it may encounter fish.  To assess the number of fish present, the total amount of acoustic energy, the volume of water, the range, and the echo expected from a single fish must be measured or estimated.

The acoustics translate into an ongoing screen display which is observed by both Dr. Ressler and Dr. Bassett in the acoustics lab.  The data displayed allows the scientists to decide whether a net sample is needed.

These scientists adhere to the scientific method so that they can make strong conclusions about their data. The acoustics portion is but one part of this ongoing research.  The trawls, after which we measure the length and mass of each fish, is a means of supporting the data from the acoustics portion. There are also cameras attached to the net so that the scientists can verify the type and abundances of fish species at each sampling transect. By corroborating findings in acoustics with the data from the trawls, these scientists can use their combined data to give greater insight on pollock populations and abundances.

Personal Reflection

I am in awe of people who do what they love for a career.  The scientists with whom I spoke convey their passion for their areas of expertise and are willing to share their knowledge.  These scientists have made me aware of outside resources so that I can learn more about the topic. Collaboration is evident among these scientists as each works to illuminate an aspect of the pollock population.  Together, their work sheds light on pollock dynamics.

Marine Careers

 Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center

Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center, holds a bag of pollock ovaries.

Scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson participate in the Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey research as well as projects of their own.  Sandi Neidetcher, a research fishery biologist at the NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Wildlife Center, is investigating the reproductive biology of pollock and cod.  According to Sandi, the reproductive biology of pollock is important for assessing the stock. By carrying out data collection of pollock length and otolith analysis, scientists can determine whether 50% of the stock is mature.  For pollock, using the otolith analysis is a good indicator of age. Otoliths are made of calcium carbonate and are found in the fish’s inner ear and otoliths have annual growth rings, which allows for scientists to accurately assign their ages.  Since pollock is a commercial fish, it’s important to know how many of the fish are capable of reproducing and using this data, set quotas commercial fishing.   Another facet in researching pollock populations is determining where and when pollock spawn as well as the frequency of spawning.  Sandi has been studying pollock, in addition to other commercially caught species, for many years as a commercial fishery observer.  Currently, she is sampling pollock ovary tissue to determine fecundity, or fertility, of the population for stock assessment.

Sandi advises high school students who think they’d enjoy this type of career to get a college degree in biology.  She also encourages them to network and apply for internships.  Effusive when recounting her career in research, Sandi is equally enthusiastic discussing her horse and misunderstood dog.

Did you know?

Otoliths aid fish like pollock in balance and acceleration.

 

Something to think about….

What are some factors that might affect the growth of otoliths?

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Grudgingly Back On Land, June 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

 NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 29, 2018

 

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Weather Data from the Bridge of the California-based whale watching boat Islander on 7/2/18 at 08:29

Latitude: 34° 13.557 N

Longitude: 119° 20.775 W

Sea Wave Height: 2 ft

Wind Speed: 5-10 knots

Wind Direction: NW

Visibility: 15 miles (seems a little off to me, but that is what I was told)

Air Temperature: 65° F (ish)

Water Temperature: not recorded

Barometric Pressure:  not recorded

Sky:  Grey and cloudy

leaving Dutch Harbor

View from the plane leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Reflection

Wow! What an incredible experience! When I was first accepted into this program I knew that it would be great and I knew that I was going to be working on research, but I feel like I ended up getting way more than I had expected. While filling out my application for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program we were given the opportunity indicate a preference for locations and types of research. I indicated that I would have been happy with any of them, but I was honestly hoping to be on a fisheries cruise, and my first choice of location was Alaska. That’s exactly what I got! I could not have picked a more perfect match for myself.

When I first received my specific cruise offer to join NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson it was pointed out to me that 23 days at sea was a LONG cruise, and I was a little bit worried about being at sea for that long when I had never even slept on a ship like that before. What I didn’t realize, was that the hardest part of this research cruise, would be leaving at the end of it. Saying goodbye to the scientists and friends that I had worked closely with for the past 3+ weeks was pretty tough.

 

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The natural beauty of Alaska, and Unalaska specifically, is breathtaking. I kept saying that I can’t believe that places like that existed in the world and people weren’t tripping over themselves to live there. This is a part of Alaska that very few ever see. I loved getting to explore Dutch Harbor and see some of the beaches and do a little hiking while in port, and seeing the different islands and volcanoes while at sea. I also was incredibly excited to see all of the wildlife, especially the foxes, eagles, and of course, whales.

 

Video of a whale swimming and then diving in the distance.

From the moment that Sarah and Matthew picked me up from the airport, I knew that I was in great company. They immediately took me in and invited me to join the rest of the science team for dinner. Bonding happened quickly and I am so happy that I got to work with and learn each day from Denise, Sarah, Mike, Nate, Darin, Scott, and Matthew every single day. I looked forward to (and now miss) morning coffee chats, and dancing in the fish lab together. I have so many positive memories with each of them, but here are a few: sitting and reviewing and discussing my blogs with Denise, taking photos of a stuffed giraffe with Sarah, go pro fishing (scaring the fish) with Mike, watching Scott identify and solve problems, listening to Darin play the guitar, fishing with Nate on the Bridge, and exploring on land with Matthew. These are just a few of the things that I will remember and cherish about these wonderful people.

I know that it happens in all workplaces eventually, but it’s weird to think that the exact same group of people on the ship will never again be in the same place at the same time because of rotations and leave, and whatnot. I feel very grateful that I was on the ship when I was because I really enjoyed getting to know as many people on the ship as possible, and to have them teach me about what they do, and why they do it.

Not only did I learn about the Scientific work of the MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) team, I learned so much about the ship and how it functions from everyone else on the ship. Every single time that I asked someone a question or to explain how something works, I was always given the time for it to be answered in a way that was understandable, and meaningful. I learned about: charting and navigation (thanks Aras), ship controls (thanks Vanessa), The NOAA Corps (thanks CO and Sony), ship engines and winches (thanks Becca), fancy ship knots (thanks Jay), water data collected by the ship (thanks Phil)… I could go on and on.

After landing back in port in Dutch Harbor, I got off of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and turned and looked at it, and my perception of it had changed completely from the beginning of the cruise. It sounds totally cliché, but it wasn’t just a ship anymore, it was somewhere I had called home for a short time. As I looked at the outside of the ship I could identify the rooms behind each window and memories that I had in that space. It was surreal, and honestly pretty emotional for me. On the last day, once we got into port, my name tag was taken off of my stateroom door and it was replaced with the names of the new teachers heading to sea.  It was sad to realize that I really was leaving and heading home.  It’s weird to think that the ship will continue on without me being a part of it any longer.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in port in Dutch Harbor, AK

A valuable part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program was me stepping back from being a teacher, and actually being reminded of what it feel like to be a learner again. I was reminded of the frustrations of not understanding things immediately, and also the exciting feeling of finally understanding something and then being able to show and explain it. I loved learning through inquiry and asking questions to lead to newer and better questions.  These are the things that I am trying to implement more in my classroom.

While on the ship I was able to come up with 3 new hands on activities that I will be trying out in my classes this year.  This is in addition to the one that is directly related to my research.  The new labs that I have created will help me to focus my efforts and give my students the skills that they will benefit from in the future.  I am also even more excited to go and pursue my Master’s Degree in the near future than I was before, even though I am more confused on what to go back to school for.

I love being able to participate in research in addition to teaching.  I really feel like it makes me a better teacher in so many ways.  It really reminds me what is important to try and teach my students.  In the world of Google searches and immediate information, learning a bunch of facts is not as practical as learning skills like how to test out a question, collect data, and share knowledge learned.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and I really hope that I am able to continue to find other research experiences for myself in the future.  I would love to be able to further my research experiences with MACE by visiting them in Seattle, and I would be happy to hop back on the Oscar Dyson, or another NOAA ship, at any time (hint, hint, wink,wink).  Thanks for the memories.

 

Video of TAS Lacee Sherman on the deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
[Transcript: Ok so right now it is 9 o’clock at night and the sun is still way up in the sky. It will not go down until like almost midnight. And that’s why they call it the midnight sun!]

 

TAS Lacee Sherman

TAS Lacee Sherman with her dog, Chloe after getting back home

Lacee Sherman: Teacher With Fish Scales in Her Hair, June 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6 – 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 22, 2018

rain gear

TAS Lacee Sherman getting in rain gear to process a haul

Weather Data from the Bridge at 19:00 on 6/24

Latitude: 56° 0.7 N

Longitude: 169° 34.5 W

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 ft

Wind Speed: 16 knots

Wind Direction:107° (E)

Visibility: 10 nmi

Air Temperature: 8.1°C

Water Temperature: 7.7° C

Sky: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

With this blog, I will be focusing on the biodiversity in the Eastern Bering Sea. Biodiversity includes all of the different types of plant and animal species in a given environment. All of the species that I will be discussing I’ve seen come up in the trawl net, or have seen from the ship.

Adult Walleye Pollock

Adult Walleye Pollock

Common Name: Walleye Pollock

Scientific Name: Gadus chalcogrammus

Identifying Features: 3 Dorsal Fins, large eyes

Ecological Importance: Polllock influence the euphausiid populations and are food to many larger marine species, and humans.

Interesting Facts:  Walleye pollock produces the largest catch by volume of any single species inhabiting the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.

 

 

Common Name: Krill

Scientific Name:  Euphausiidae (Family)

Identifying Features:  1-2 centimeters in length on average.  They look similar to very small shrimp, and often swim in schools.

Ecological Importance:  Krill are a very important food source for many fish and also larger marine mammals such as whales.

Interesting Facts:  They are filter feeders and eat zooplankton and phytoplankton, which makes them omnivores.

Chrysaora melanaster

Chrysaora melanaster

Common Name:  Northern Sea Nettle, Brown Jellyfish

Scientific Name: Chrysaora melanaster

Identifying Features: 16 lines from the center of the bell to the outer edges of the bell.  Large range in sizes, from very small to very large.

Interesting Facts:  Jellyfish may become a problem for the Bering Sea in the future because they reproduce in large numbers and they can dominate an entire environment easily.

Pacific Ocean Perch

Pacific Ocean Perch

Common Name: Pacific Ocean Perch

Scientific Name: Sebastes alutus

Identifying Features: Bright to light red with brown blotches dorsally near fins, large spines on dorsal and anal fins, knob on lower jaw

Ecological Importance: delicious

Interesting Facts: Pacific Ocean Perch are a type of Rockfish.  Pacific Ocean Perch have a swim bladder similar to that of pollock, so they reflect similar acoustic signals and can sometimes be acoustically confused for pollock if no sample is taken in a specific area.

Yellowfin Sole

Yellowfin Sole

Common Name: Yellowfin Sole

Scientific Name: Limanda aspera

Identifying Features: Black line between body and dorsal and ventral fins, fins may appear yellow in color

Ecological Importance: Yellowfin sole are benthic (live and feed on the ocean floor).

Interesting Facts: Yellowfin sole grow slowly and may be 10.5 years old by the time they reach 30 cm in length.

Magister Armhook Squid

Magister Armhook Squid

Common Name: Magister Armhook Squid

Scientific Name: Berryteuthis magister

Identifying Features: 8 tentacles and two larger feeding arms, dark red in color, but white when damaged

Ecological Importance: Prey on fishes and other squid

Interesting Facts: These are the most abundant squid found in the waters of Alaska.

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon on the conveyer belt with pollock

Common Name: Chum Salmon

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus keta

Identifying Features: Metallic dark blue on the top and silvery on the sides

Ecological Importance:  Chum Salmon have adapted to live in saltwater and freshwater.  They mainly eat copepods, fishes, squid, mollusks and tunicates.

Interesting Facts:  Chum salmon eggs are hatched in freshwater rivers and streams.  They then travel downstream to live most of their life in the ocean.  When it is time, Chum Salmon spawn (reproduce) in the same freshwater stream they hatched in.  Once a salmon spawns, they die.

Pacific Herring

Pacific Herring

Common Name:  Pacific Herring

Scientific Name:  Clupea pallasii

Identifying Features: Large scales that are shiny silver along the sides and shiny blue along the top of the fish.  Tail has a fork and there is only one dorsal fin.

Ecological Importance: Eat phytoplankton and zooplankton.  Herring and their eggs are eaten by fish, birds, marine mammals, and humans.

Interesting Facts: Herring eggs (roe) are considered a traditional delicacy in Japan called kazunoko.

Yellow Irish Lord

Yellow Irish Lord

Common Name: Yellow Irish Lord

Scientific NameHemilepidotus jordani

Identifying Features: Yellowish tan to dark brown, white to yellow bottom, and yellow gill membranes

Ecological Importance: Since they are usually found close the ocean floor, they regularly eat things like fish eggs, isopods and amphipods, worms, and small fishes.

Interesting Facts: There is another species of Sculpin that is similar called a Red Irish Lord.

Fish Lab Gloves

A photo of our fish lab gloves

 

Personal Log

During our hauls, a member of the science team is needed on the bridge to watch for the presence of marine mammals and endangered bird species.  I am one of the people that gets to do this, and I must admit, there is a slight conflict of interest.  I, of course, want to see all of the marine mammals possible, but if they are nearby during a haul, we are required to give them space until they pass so that they are not injured in any way by the ship.  This can definitely slow down the process of hauling if we see them, but of course I don’t mind it if I get to see more whales.  Most of the time I don’t see any marine mammals and just end up enjoying a beautiful view of the open ocean.

I am definitely feeling more comfortable and at home on the ship now. Constant motion from the swells is the new normal, and the creaks and sounds of the ship are a new soundtrack to listen to (on repeat). Sometimes I like to push the limits and see how far forward or backward I can lean during larger swells to maintain balance and have a few superhero moments as I pretend to defy the laws of physics.

I’m getting to know more about the other people on the ship every day and it’s nice to get into a rhythm and start to really work well together and have a good flow, especially in the fish lab. If we are motivated to finish before meal times, we can process a good haul of Pollock in around 45 minutes. That is much quicker than we started at, and it’s because we have really learned how to capitalize on each other’s strengths and just being willing to do whatever job is needed in the lab, even if it is not our favorite task.

Scientists in the Fish Lab

Some of the science team in the fish lab. (left to right) TAS Lacee Sherman, Darin Jones, Sarah Stienessen, Denise McKelvey, Matthew Phillips, and Mike Levine

I have claimed a workspace in “the cave” (acoustics lab) that is perfectly in the way of the phone when it rings, but it’s usually quiet in there and I can focus on these blogs, reading, or planning for next school year. I’ve also been reading the transcripts to a ton of TED talks when we don’t have access to the internet.

Did You Know?

In Alaska, during the summer, they experience what is called “the midnight sun”. It is rarely ever dark enough to see the stars during the summer.  This happens because of how far north it is!

Midnight Sun

This photo was taken just after midnight on 6/21/18 (summer solstice).

 

Bonus!  Cool Photo time!

Cam Trawl image

Cam Trawl image of pollock and pacific ocean perch. Can you tell the difference?

Bird on the fish table

This bird flew into the table where the fish are held before being processed. It was just hoping for a free meal, but ended up getting stuck. After realizing it couldn’t get out on its own, a survey technician helped to get it out and back on its way.

Watertight door

The black bars on the sides of the doors hold it shut and are controlled by the black lever on the left of the photo. Talk about a tough door!

 

 

References:

Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “Yellowfin Sole Research.” NOAA Fisheries, 25 Oct. 2004, http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/species/yellowfin_sole.php.
“Crustaceans.” Crustaceans , Marine Education Society of Austrailasia, 2015, http://www.mesa.edu.au/crustaceans/crustaceans07.asp.
“Facts.” Facts | Pacific Herring, http://www.pacificherring.org/facts.
Jorgensen, Elaina M. Field Guide to Squids and Octopods of the Eastern North Pacific and Bering Sea. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2009.
Mecklenburg, Catherine W., et al. Fishes of Alaska. American Fisheries Society, 2002.
NOAA. “Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus Keta).” NOAA Fisheries, 21 Jan. 2015, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/chum-salmon.html.
TenBrink, Todd & W Buckley, Troy. (2013). Life-History Aspects of the Yellow Irish Lord ( Hemilepidotus jordani ) in the Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Northwestern Naturalist. 94. 126-136. 10.1898/12-33.1.

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Counting Krill June 16, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 16, 2018

 

Scientists on deck

Fisheries Biologist Sarah Stienessen, Chief Scientist Denise McKelvey, TAS Lacee Sherman, and Fisheries Biologist Nate Lauffenburger on the Hero Deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in front of a few volcanoes.

 

Weather Data from the Bridge at 18:30 on 6/17/18:

Latitude: 57° 09.7 N

Longitude: 166° 26.4 W

Sea Wave Height: 3-5 ft

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Wind Direction: 345°

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature: 7.2° C

Water Temperature: 7.8° C

Barometric Pressure:  996.8 mb

Sky:  Grey and slightly foggy

More scientists on deck

TAS Lacee Sherman with Fisheries Biologists Matthew Philips and Nate Lauffenburger on deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in front of nearby Volcanoes

Science and Technology Log

In the fish lab, after the haul is sorted out, a sample of each species are randomly selected to undergo additional measurements and data collection.  One of the primary pieces of information needed is the lengths for about 300 pollock per haul.  The length of the pollock is important because larger fish have larger internal organs.  The internal organ that matters most to this survey is the size of the swim bladder since this is what give us the echo that can be picked up by our acoustic transducers.

According to the NOAA Ocean Service, “If fish relied solely on constant swimming to maintain their current water depth, they would waste a lot of energy. Many fish instead rely on their swim bladder, a dorsally located gas-filled organ, to control their stability and buoyancy in the water column. The swim bladder also functions as a resonating chamber that can produce and receive sound, a quality that comes in handy for scientists locating fish with sonar technology.”

To process a trawl sample, the pollock are put into baskets and weighed. One basket is selected at random to obtain the lengths and weights of individual fish. 30-35 Fish are selected for otolith samples (ear bones) that can be used to age the fish.  These fish are also inspected to look for the sex of the fish and their maturity stages.  There are 5 different maturity stages for pollock:  immature, developing, pre-spawning, spawning, and spent.  Since the fish already needs to be cut open for this process, we will sometimes look at the stomach contents of the fish as well to see what they are eating.  Based off of stomach contents, one of the main food sources for pollock in the Bering Sea this summer are euphausiids, or krill.

Flow meter

Flow Meter used on the Methot Net. This is a calibrated instrument and we use the number of spins to measure the volume of water going through the net. This is an important tool for determining the catch per unit effort.

In addition to trawl samples, we also are taking samples of Euphausiids with a special tool called a Methot net. Four Methot samples will be taken on each leg of this research survey.  A Methot net includes a sturdy metal frame of a set circumference with a net attached to the back. The net is a very fine mesh (small holes), so that the small euphausiids don’t escape.  A flow meter is attached that measures the volume of water that is going through the net.

Methot Net on deck

A photo of the methot net on deck of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

The euphausiids are a very important component of the marine food web in the Bering Sea.  Euphausiids eat very small phytoplankton and zooplankton, so they are omnivores.  Pollock eat the euphausiids, and then the pollock are eaten by marine animals such as seals, orcas, large cod, and even larger pollock.  Humans also eat pollock, often in the form of imitation crab meat and the fish filet sandwiches from fast food chains.

Euphausiids being counted

Euphausiids being separated into groups of 10 so that they can be counted. This only represents a small sample of what was brought in with the Methot. There were 1,110 in total counted.

Once the Methot net has come back on the ship at the end of the haul, a scoop (sub-sample) of them is taken and counted.  Fish larvae and anything else that is not euphausiids is taken out and counted separately and then we go to work counting to get a total number of euphausiids from our sample.  In our small sub-sample of .052 kg, our count was 1,110 euphausiids.  Based off of the total haul weight of 2.12 kg, we are able to estimate the total number of euphausiids for this haul to be 45,251.  This number is calculated based off the total number and weight of our sub-sample, compared to the total weight of the Methot haul.

Personal Log

I finally saw Orcas!!  All of the running around on the ship was worth it!  We always seem to be heading in opposite directions so I have seen mostly just dorsal fins, but I’ll take it!  One morning I finally saw them from a closer distance and was able to see the white patch near the eye.  I feel like I will be remembered by everyone on the ship as the “crazy whale-obsessed teacher,” but I can live with that.

First Orca

The dorsal fin of an Orca spotted from NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

One of the side experiments happening on the ship looks at the survival rate of fish caught on traditional fishing lines versus fish caught in trawl nets.  One pollock had been caught and all of us on the ship decided the name should be Jackson Pollock.  Jackson survived for a few days, but didn’t last past 6/15/18.  The next day six new fish were put into the tank after a trawl catch, and after 24 hours, only two were still alive.

 

NOAA Careers and Unexpected Learning Opportunities

I have been trying to talk to everyone on the ship about how they first got interested in this type of work and exactly what their role is for day to day operations.  There are so many different career options that can allow you to live on ships and be involved with scientific research.

The past few days I have spent time trying to learn as much as I can about everything related to the ship.  I spent time speaking with Commanding Officer (CO) Michael Levine and Ensign (ENS) Sony Vang about their ship and land assignments and the requirements of the NOAA Corps.  ENS Vanessa Oquendo showed me how some of the ship’s controls work.  They are regularly focused on navigation (on a paper chart and electronically), and communication with other ships about positioning, weather, and the speed and direction of the ship.  There is a lot to consider and to maintain 24/7.

Easy button and emergency affirmation

A few of my favorite buttons on the ship.

Getting the nets in and out of the water is a very complicated process and involves many different ropes, chains and weights.  I noticed this really cool type of knot that seemed to undo itself, so I asked one of the Deck Crew members, Jay Michelsen to teach me some cool ship knots.  I learned how to make:  bowline knots, flying bowline knots, cow hitch knots, daisy chains, double daisy chains, and a way to finally wrap up headphones so that they won’t tangle themselves.

Matthew Phillips and Scientist Mike Levine taught me how to fillet a fish which will be useful since I enjoy cooking so much! I will no longer be intimidated to buy fish whole.  We got some practice on a spare cod that we caught and a few rockfish.

One of the licensed engineers, Becca Joubert, gave me a tour of the engine room and I was able to see the engines, winches, rudder, water filtration systems, and the repair shop.  I didn’t realize that fuel was held in different tanks, but it works best that way because of safety and because it helps to distribute the weight all around the ship better.

 

 

Did You Know?

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson was named after a commercial fisherman named Oscar Dyson.   There is a smaller boat on board named the Peggy Dyson after his wife, who would broadcast the weather forecast twice a day every day to local ships as well as personal announcements and important sports scores.

Things to Think About:

Dolphins and Orcas eat a variety of fish, squid, and sometimes other marine mammals, while large whales such as blue whales and humpbacks mostly rely on krill as their main food source. Why would such large marine mammals feed primarily on tiny krill?

Since there is a relationship between pollock and euphausiids, as the number of pollock grows, what is a reasonable prediction about the number of euphausiids?