George Hademenos: Home Sweet Home…at Least for the Next Two Weeks, August 14, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

George Hademenos

Aboard R/V Tommy Munro

July 19 – 27, 2022

Mission: Gulf of Mexico Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 14, 2022

There was no doubt about my excitement of being named as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and the opportunity to immerse myself in marine science and participate in scientific research. But the one aspect of this experience that I particularly looked forward to was being able to do this on a ship at sea. The ship would serve as a classroom like no other…a classroom where I could learn as a student and yet serve as a basis for me to develop instructional activities and projects for my students as a teacher. The classroom, as I described in the prior post, was originally scheduled to be NOAA Ship Oregon II but eventually turned out to be the R/V Tommy Munro.

While both ships were equipped with the facilities, resources and infrastructure required to conduct the samplings necessary for the survey, the main difference was that the Oregon II was part of the NOAA fleet of research vessels while the R/V Tommy Munro was not. Rather, the R/V Tommy Munro is operated under the management of the University of Southern Mississippi. Of course, when a ship is named after a person, there is always a sense of interest about the individual and what background, experience, and contributions to ocean sciences warranted such an honor. Tommy Munro has a compelling biography and can be read by accessing the following link:

http://www.msimhalloffame.org/tommy-munro.html

It was a thrill seeing the R/V Tommy Munro for the first time on Tuesday, July 19 in preparation of my upcoming cruise.

a collage of two images. on the left, a view of R/V Tommy Munro tied up at the dock, looking toward the bow. The name is painted prominently in black and blue. At right, a view of a life preserver mounted on an outer a wall of the ship. The life preserver also reads R/V Tommy Munro.
The ship exterior and a life preserver aboard the R/V Tommy Munro.

As I arrived at the docked ship, I was first met by John Z., the ship’s cook, who treated me to a tour of the vessel. I know you are just as anxious to see the various spaces inside the ship so come on aboard and let me take you on a tour. The first stop was my living quarters.

A collage of two images. On the left, a view of a closed door (simple, wooden, with a knob, could be in a house.) Several pieces of laminated paper are taped to the door. One reads: State Quarters 2. The next are the two pages of the Emergency Station Bill (not close enough to read). On the right, a photo looking inside the stateroom, where we can see four bunks.
My living quarters while aboard the ship.

I was assigned to State Quarters 2 which consisted of 4 bunks. My bunk was on the bottom to the left as you can see my belongings on the bed. Interestingly enough, it would turn out that 3 individuals were assigned to the quarters which meant that the upper bunk above mine was open. This was important because if the upper bunk was occupied, that would mean that I would have no other place to store my luggage than with me on the bed. So the upper bunk served as storage for the luggage from all three of us, giving us much need space to rest comfortably in our bunks.

The next stop on our tour involves meals on the cruise. The dining room is a table where all formal meals were served and offered an opportunity for those around the table to engage in conversation and watch television. It was not required for anyone wanting a meal to eat at the dining room table but it did offer a unique and comforting diversion from the long hours and hard work exerted while collecting samples for the survey.

view of a table in a narrow room. there are bar stools fixed in place around the table. we can see a microwave, cabinets, a small shelf with a coffee maker, a TV, and the stairwell.
The dining room table where all formal meals were served.

Of course, the dining room would not have much of a purpose were it not for a kitchen to prepare the meals.

a collage of two photos. on the left, a view of the kitchen, looking much like a simple apartment kitchen with wooden cabinets, an oven, a range, a refrigerator. on the right, a view of a pantry and a counter space.
This is the kitchen where all formal meals are prepared (right) and the storage area/table space where meals are prepared.

The picture on the left is the cooking station with the stove and oven where the meals are cooked and the picture on the right is where the meals are prepared. These two spaces appear to be very small areas and they are but there was enough room for the vast amount of groceries purchased prior to each cruise. I remember speaking to John Z. the cook about the grocery shopping for an upcoming cruise and he relayed to me that when he returns from shopping, it takes him approximately 3 hours to put up all of the groceries!

The tour continues with the areas of the ship dedicated to the research conducted during the cruise.

The first area is referred to as the wet lab – the space where the samples collected from each sampling are processed, and measurements are recorded and uploaded to a database.

a collage of two photos. on the left, we see wooden cabinets and a metal counter, a large sink, a computer monitor, a small window. on the right, a line of refrigerators or freezers to store samples.
The work area of the wet lab is depicted in the photo to the left while the samples storage area is shown on the right photo.

Just located across the hallway from the wet lab is the dry lab, the area with several computers allowing the scientists to track the motion of the ship, confirm its arrival at each sampling site, and store data acquired by the Secchi disk, the CTD array of sensors unique to each sampling site, and the species analysis of marine life species collected during each sampling.

view of a room with wooden cabinets and countertops, desk chairs, storage boxes, computers and a printer
This is the dry lab is where the computational analysis from each sampling is conducted.

As we near the end of the tour of the R/V Tommy Munro, let’s proceed from the wet and dry lab to a flight of stairs to the upper deck of the vessel to the captain’s deck.

the bridge of the ship. we can see monitors, control panels, logs, and the windows of the bridge.
This is the captain’s deck of the R/V Tommy Munro.

The captain’s deck is equivalent to the cockpit of an airplane where the captain and his crew navigate the vessel to the assortment of sampling sites in coordination with the science team.

We wrap up our tour of the R/V Tommy Munro from atop the upper deck with the view from the stern of the ship. This was a spot that I found myself many times, particularly in the evening, as I took in the scenic views of the surrounding seas.

a collage of two photos, each showing the same view out the ship's stern (back) with rigging to deploy nets. both of these photos were taken at sunset on different evenings, and the setting sun is centered behind the ship.
Views from the upper deck toward the stern of the ship.

In this installment of my exercise of the Ocean Literacy Framework, I would like to ask you to respond to three questions about the third essential principle:

The ocean is a major influence of weather and climate,

presented in a Padlet accessed by the following link:

https://tinyurl.com/kkue3uru

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.

George Hademenos: Come Sail Away…to Conduct Science Research at Sea, August 10, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

George Hademenos

Aboard R/V Tommy Munro

July 19 – 27, 2022

Mission: Gulf of Mexico Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 10, 2022

Long time no hear from, right? The explanation is quite simple…there was no Wifi on my research vessel. I was definitely writing about my experience and taking pictures of my observations but I had no way to share the information with you in a blog post. Now that I have been home for several weeks, I have been working hard to complete my blog (6 posts in particular) which are in the process of being completed and am now ready to begin posting.

In a prior post, I described my participation in the Teacher at Sea program and how I plan to translate my experience and observations into classroom activities and projects for my students. In fact. As I prepared for my upcoming cruise assignment, I developed a Google Site that not only provides more detail about my upcoming experience as a Teacher at Sea educator, but also instructional resources and project ideas related to ocean sciences. What I would like to do in this post is talk about the opportunity presented to me and all other educators in the Teacher at Sea program.

Teacher at Sea Program

The Teacher at Sea program is a unique Teacher Research Experience (TRE) opportunity managed by NOAA that allows teachers to learn by doing rather than by reading about it. In these types of experiences, the teacher is placed with a team of research scientists and immersed into their scientific work, serving as an honorary member of the team. The TRE provides the teacher with an opportunity to not only conduct the research, but to also ask questions, engage in detailed investigations about aspects of the research, and most importantly, distill these experiences into lessons, activities and projects for classroom implementation to the benefit of my students. I would strongly encourage my educator colleagues to explore the Teacher at Sea program

https://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/

and should you qualify, please consider applying for this unique educator experience.

SEAMAP

I would like to now speak about the research I would be involved in during my assigned cruise. I was assigned to participate in Leg 1 of the Summer Groundfish Survey conducted in the Gulf of Mexico in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries as part of SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program)

https://www.gsmfc.org/seamap.php

The survey consists of a series of collected samples of marine life at positions determined by SEAMAP to make decisions about damaged marine ecosystems, depleted populations and destruction of habitats. Exactly what was entailed in the collected samplings will be described in an upcoming post.

Assigned Cruise

Cruises designed to engage in SEAMAP Surveys are seasonal (generally occurring in the Summer and Fall from April to November) and are typically executed aboard NOAA vessels in legs or segments consisting of 2 – 3 weeks with cruises occurring over 3 – 4 legs per survey. My assigned cruise underwent a change in schedule and vessel from my initial assignment. My original assigned cruise was scheduled as Leg 2 of the Summer Groundfish Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II from June 20, 2022 departing from Galveston, TX to July 3, 2022 arriving in Pascagoula, MS for a 15-day cruise. However, due to maintenance issues, the Oregon II was not seaworthy for the scheduled cruise which required a replacement vessel. The replacement vessel was the R/V Tommy Munro. There is a lot to say and pictures to show about the R/V Tommy Munro which will be the subject of the next blog post.

In this installment of my exercise of the Ocean Literacy Framework, I would like to ask you to respond to three questions about the second essential principle:

The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.

presented in a Padlet accessed by the following link:

https://tinyurl.com/h2stuf44

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.

George Hademenos: Do You Know the Way to San Jose?…Oops Siri, I Meant to Say Biloxi, July 18, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

George Hademenos

Aboard R/V Tommy Munro

July 19 – 27, 2022

Mission: Gulf of Mexico Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 18, 2022

The date July 16, 2022 might seem like a typical Saturday, an ordinary day on the calendar to enjoy the last days of Summer before school starts around the corner. And this would be the case any other year. This year was different. It was a day that was two years in the making and one that this physics teacher could not come soon enough. It was in 2019 that I received the great news I was selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea for the 2020 research cruise season. I was beyond ready for such an incredible learning opportunity. It would however turn out not to be…at least for the present. This is when life (also known as COVID) intervened. Eventually, thanks to vaccinations, mitigation strategies and effective treatments, conditions started to improve and in 2022, the research cruise season was slowly becoming a reality and I finally received my cruise assignment. Today (July 16, 2022) is the formal beginning of the cruise. So, how did the day begin?

I awoke at my usual time (about 7:00 am-ish) and got washed up and ready for the day ahead. I had begun the packing process several days before and had my luggage ready to go.

However, it doesn’t seem official.

My flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Gulfport was scheduled for late afternoon and had arranged for shuttle pickup at 2:40 pm. This meant I had a lot of time on my hands. I took care of school related professional development activities in preparation for the upcoming school year so it was time well spent.

But still, it doesn’t seem official.

Minutes and the hours passed by quickly and the shuttle driver showed up on time. I placed my luggage in the back, took my seat, fastened my seat belt and we were on the way to the airport.

Even then, it didn’t seem official.

The driver was very pleasant and personable, which is not always a certainty with shuttle drivers.  He got me to the proper terminal, informed me of my gate number and I was on the way to check in my luggage and to security. I now had some waiting to do so I found a seat close to my gate, pulled out my iPhone, logged into my Facebook page and checked in.

screenshot of Facebook post, reading: "George James Hademenos is traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi. I can't think of a better way to wrap up summer than a science cruise aboard the R/V Tommy Munro as a NOAA Teacher at Sea! Let's get this started!"
An announcement on Facebook to kick off my journey as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

Now, it was official. Even though I knew I would eventually be going on a research cruise for two years, it is not truly official until it is Facebook official. Now all I needed to do is get to Biloxi. After a 4-hour “pilots are past their working hours limit…we have to wait for a new crew” delay, we finally were allowed to board the plane. The flight was a relatively short one and pleasant one at that.

Screenshot of FlightAware report showing the flight path from Dallas to Biloxi, plus details, including that the departure was 3 hours 53 minutes late
An overview of the flight, courtesy of FlightAware, from DFW to Gulfport where I will then travel to Biloxi for my cruise.

The next day was a rest day prior to the departure of the cruise. The weather was gorgeous and served as a perfect opportunity to tour Biloxi. I would like to share with you a couple of photos of my self-guided tour.

top photo: a large overhead arch reads "BILOXI" with the years 1699 and 1999 on each side. bottom photo: an informative sign titled "Biloxi City Park & Welcome Sign" (other print too small to read)
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. A historical Biloxi Welcome Sign located a short distance from my hotel.
another Biloxi sign on a pedestrian walkway over a street
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. A Biloxi sign located down the street from my hotel.
the guitar-shaped sign on the outside of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. There are 8 casinos in Biloxi with one of them being the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It is a casino hard to miss with its upright large guitar prominently situated in front.
images of an informative sign (too small to read); front of City Hall; side view of City Hall
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. A collage of photos depicting Biloxi City Hall.
mural depicting Dr. Martin Luther King on a building along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd; the street sign is visible at the intersection
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. This is one of my favorite photos of a mural depicting Dr. Martin Luther King taken at Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.

As I was heading back to the hotel, I was looking for a bite to eat and walked by a restaurant I had heard rave reviews about so I decided to stop in. The restaurant was Half Shell Oyster House and the reviews are spot on!

top: sandwich paper reading Half Shell Oyster House. bottom: shrimp po-boy
Photos from my self-guided walking tour of Biloxi. Lunch consisting of a shrimp po-boy and fries courtesy of Half Shell Oyster House.  

I got a shrimp po-boy and it was just as good as it looks. It was a great relaxing day in Biloxi but the exciting part of the trip happens tomorrow when we board the R/V Tommy Munro for the cruise. There will be more detailed information about the ship, the research, the crew and the day-to-day operations of the science team in subsequent posts. In fact, the next blog post will be shared with you from the ship.

As I round out this post, I would like to let you know of a couple of items to expect in the blog posts that follow that will not only provide insight to the research conducted aboard the R/V Tommy Munro and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, but also will inspire and stimulate interest in learning more about marine science.

I would first like to introduce you to a Google Site that I created for this experience entitled, Welcome to my Classroom at Sea. The site can be accessed by the link below:

https://sites.google.com/g.risd.org/welcometomyclassroomatsea/home

In this site, I not only introduce myself and discuss the research to be conducted on my assigned cruise, but I have also included ideas for ocean-related projects as well as a host of various resources to explore all aspects of marine science.

Secondly, I would like to introduce you to a recurring segment on this blog that centers around the Ocean Literacy Framework and the seven essential principles of ocean sciences, shown in the infographic below.

"The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences: 1) Earth has one big ocean with many features. 2) The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth. 3) The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate. 4) The ocean makes Earth habitable. 5) The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems. 6) The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. 7) The ocean is largely unexplored.
An infographic detailing the 7 Essential Principles of Ocean Science, developed to improve Ocean Literacy in the classroom.  

The seven principles outline the integral fundamental concepts that all students Grades K – 12 should not only recognize from their science experiences but have an in-depth understanding as to how ocean sciences relate to the sustainability of and human life on Earth. Each blog post will highlight one of the seven principles of Ocean Literacy and an invitation to respond to three questions about the principle. There are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.

For this blog post, I will start with Principle 1: Earth has one big ocean with many features. After you have had some time to think about this principle, please click on the link below:

https://tinyurl.com/mryxzmfp

which will take you to a Padlet (an electronic bulletin board) with three questions to answer. Please click on the rounded plus sign and record your answer on the blank note that appears under each column. Once you have finished typing your response, click on Publish in the upper right-hand corner and you are done with that question. Once you finish your responses for all three questions, you may then close the page. Thank you for participating in this exercise and I look forward to reading your responses.