Geographic Area of
Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak – Aleutian Islands)
Date: September 22, 2019
Weather Data from Richmond, Virginia
Latitude: 37 44.36 N Longitude: 77 58.26 W Wind Speed: 5 knots Wind Direction: 195 degrees Air Temperature: 31 C Barometric Pressure: 1018 mBar Sky: Clear
Wow, it’s hard to believe that my time on the waters of Alaska aboard the Oscar Dyson are over. It was an experience I will never forget. I just hope that I can instill in my students the idea that all kinds of things are possible when you follow your interests.
It has taken me several days to reacclimatize to life on land. Standing in front of my class, I have caught myself swaying. It also took several days to readjust my sleep schedule. (I don’t get rocked to sleep anymore and my hours are completely different.)
There were so many things I will miss and never forget: all of the unique experiences and sights I got to see, starting with my side trip to Barrow and swimming in the Arctic Ocean before the start of the expedition, getting to explore some of Kodiak before we left port, all of the open sea and species that were part of the random samples, the little coves we snuck into when storms were approaching, getting a “close-up” of the Pavlof volcano, and getting to explore the native land around Dutch Harbor where we were able to watch Salmon spawning and Bald Eagles doing their thing.
It was also interesting talking to and learning from the ship crew. There are some interesting stories there about how they got to NOAA and what they have experienced since then.
At the top of the list though would have to be the connections I made with the scientists I spent almost three weeks with. Being able to go out into the field with them and talking about what they have seen and learned over years of research has really reenergized my love for science in general. Starting my shift looking forward to seeing what each Bongo station would bring up or what each trawl would bring to the sorting table, made for an expedition that went much too quickly. It was interesting listening to my fellow scientists comparing how the numbers and ages of pollock caught at the various stations compared to what they had found in the Spring and in previous years.
Overall, this has been an experience I will never forget. I have learned so much about Alaska, the ocean, marine species, global warming, and scientific technology. My time as a Teacher at Sea aboard the Oscar Dyson is something I will never forget and hope I can pass the excitement and experiences on to my students.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak – Aleutian Islands)
Date: September 12, 2019
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 57 35.35 N Longitude: 153 57.71 W Sea wave height: 1 ft Wind Speed: 14 knots Wind Direction: 208 degrees Visibility: 8 nautical miles Air Temperature: 15.4 C Barometric Pressure: 1002.58 mBar Sky: Overcast
Science and Technology Log
Well, we only have a few days left on this trip and it looks like mother nature is going to force us to head for Dutch Harbor a little early. I thought this might be a good time to spend some time sharing some information on some of the species we have been pulling out of the ocean. This is far from a complete list, but just the ones that made “the cut”.
At the top of the list has to be the Pollock. After all, this is the primary objective of this study. On the left is an adult three-year-old pollock and on the right is an age-0 pollock. The sampling of age-0 pollocks is a good indicator of the abundance of the future population.
There were several species of salmon caught on our trawls. On the left is a Coho Salmon and on the right is a Pink Salmon. These fish are very similar, but are classified as separately Coho Salmon are larger and have larger scales. Coho also has a richer, fuller flavor with darker red meat while the Pink Salmon has a milder flavor and a softer texture.
Jellyfish were abundant on our hauls. Here are the five most common species that we found.
While the Smooth Lumpsucker is significantly larger than the Spiny Lumpsucker, both have unique faces. The Smooth Lumpsucker is also found in deeper water than the smaller Spiny Lumpsucker.
Most of the squid caught and recorded were larval. Here are a couple of the larger ones caught in a trawl.
There were a
variety of seabirds following us around looking for an easy meal. The Black-footed Albatross on the right was
one of several that joined the group one day.
In keeping with the admiration I have for the scientists and
crew I am working with, I will continue here with my interview with Rob
How long have you been
working with NOAA? What did you do
before joining NOAA?
One and a half years.
Prior to that, I was a professor at Oregon State University
Where do you do most
of your work?
In the Gulf of Alaska
What do you enjoy
about your work?
I really enjoy giving presentations to the general public, where we have to describe why we are conducting studies and results to an audience with a non-science background. It teaches you a lot about messaging! I also like working with writers, reporters, and journalists in conducting press releases for our scientific publications. I also use Twitter for science communication.
Why is your work
Having detailed knowledge about our
surroundings, especially the natural environment and the ocean. Finding
patterns in what sometimes seems like chaos in natural systems. Being able to
provide answers to questions about the marine environment.
How do you help wider
audiences understand and appreciate NOAA science?
I provide information and expertise to make
well informed resource management decisions, I inform the general public about
how our changing climate if affecting marine life, and I train (and hopefully
inspire) future generations of marine scientists
When did you know you
wanted to pursue a career in science an ocean career?
During middle school
What tool do you use
in your work that you could not live without?
Computer! So much of our instrumentation and sampling equipment
are controlled by software interfaces. Also, much of my research involves data
assimilation, analysis, creating graphs, and writing scientific papers.
Although, at the very beginning of my career, most of our data collection was
hand written, as were our scientific papers before typing the final version
with a typewriter. So glad those days are gone!
If you could invent
one tool to make your work easier, what would it be?
For in the office: a computer program that
would scan all of my emails, extract the important info that I need to know and
respond to, and populate my calendar with meetings/events. For the field: a
nano-power source that provided unlimited continuous power for instruments AND
global cell phone or wireless connectivity.
What part of your job
with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?
I joined NOAA later in my career and had
collaborated with NOAA scientists for many years, so everything was what I
expected for the most part.
What classes would you
recommend for a student interested in a career in Marine Science?
Biology, math, chemistry, and physics are good foundation
courses. If you have an opportunity to take a class in marine biology at your
school or during a summer program, that would be ideal. But keep in mind that
almost any field of study can be involved in marine science; including
engineering, economics, computer science, business, geology, microbiology,
genetics, literature, etc.
What’s at the top of
your recommended reading list for a student exploring ocean or science as a
I originally studied wildlife biology before marine science and one of my favorite books initially was A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. For marine biology, I would recommend The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck.
What do you think you
would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
I would probably work at a university again –
I was a professor at Oregon State University before working for NOAA.
Do you have any
Pretty much any type of outdoor adventure, most frequently kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and beachcombing with my family and our dogs.