Karah Nazor: One Week Until I Board and I am Already Dreaming About Fish, May 22, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karah Nazor

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 29 – June 7, 2019


Mission: Rockfish Recruitment & Ecosystem Assessment

Geographic Area: Central California Coast

Date: May 22, 2019

Hi!  My name is Karah Nazor and I am a science teacher at McCallie High School, an all-boys college preparatory school in Chattanooga, TN, which is also my hometown. It is one week until I board the Reuben Lasker in San Francisco, and I am already dreaming about fish.  I teach marine biology, molecular biology and environmental science and “coach” students in our after-school science research program. We typically have around 20 tanks running at a time in my classroom including three species of jellyfish, a reef tank, zebrafish tanks, and a freshwater shrimp tank.  Ongoing marine research projects in my lab include primary culture of nerve nets of the jellyfish Aurelia aurita, moon jellyfish, (students Jude Raia and Danny Rifai), the effects of ocean acidification on the jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana, upside down jellyfish, (students Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel) and spawning of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi (Thatcher Walldorf). Seniors Keith Kim and Eric Suh just presented their findings on the effects of river acidification on freshwater snails at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, AZ, and sophomore Kevin Ward just wrapped up his research on the effects of a high sugar diet on tumor formation in tp53 zebrafish.

A corner of the Nazor Classroom/Lab
A corner of the Nazor Classroom/Lab
Freshmen Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel Shenanigans
Typical shenanigans with Freshmen Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel
Freshman Danny Rifai and Junior Jude Raia Culturing Moon Jellyfish Nerve Cells
Freshman Danny Rifai and Junior Jude Raia Culturing Moon Jellyfish Nerve Cells

Education

I am a lifelong competitive swimmer who loves the sea, marine mammals, and birds, and like many of my students today, as a high schooler I dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.  I earned a bachelors of science in biology with a minor in gerontology from James Madison University, where I was also on the swim team. I was interested in learning more about the neurodegenerative diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and attended the Ph.D. Program in Gerontology at the University of Kentucky and worked in the Telling Lab.  There I studied the molecular foundation of prion diseases, caused by protein misfolding which forms aggregates in the brain, a pathology similar to AD. I continued this research as a postdoc at the University of San Francisco (Prusiner Lab).

How did I come to raise jellyfish in my classroom?

Chattanooga is home to the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium, located on the Tennessee River waterfront.  This non-profit public aquarium has two buildings, River Journey, which opened in 1992, and Ocean Journey, which opened in 2005. The Ocean Journey exhibit “Boneless Beauties and Jellies: Living Art” (2005-2019) featured exotic invertebrates including around 10 species of jellyfish, ctenophores, cuttlefish, giant Pacific octopuses, and spider crabs. On my first visit to Ocean Journey in 2005, I became transfixed with the “comb jelly” (the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi) tank, specifically its rapidly beating ctene rows, which refract light creating a rainbow effect, and function as the animal’s  swimming organ. Many people mistake the light refraction of the beating ctenes for electrical signals traveling along the ctenophore’s body.  This first visit to the comb jellies tank left a lasting impression on me, and I was truly inspired by their beauty and curious to learn more about this gelatinous creature..

A  comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi in my classroom tank
A comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi in my classroom tank

Six years ago, I visited the comb jelly exhibit again and decided to try to bring jellyfish into my classroom.  I missed swimming in the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay, so I sought to bring the cold ocean and at least one of it’s critters into my classroom. I chose to raise the Pacific Ocean variety moon jellyfish, which I so often encountered swimming in the San Francisco Bay and at Tomales Point!   A gifted student built a special jellyfish tank, called a Kriesel, and next I contacted the TN Aquarium’s invertebrate specialist Sharyl Crossley to inquire about how to raise jellyfish. I was beyond thrilled when she invited me to train under her for a summer!  That Fall, I began culturing moon and upside down jellies in my classroom and my students began research projects right away. Raising jellyfish is not easy, as they require perfect current, and water the salinity and temperature that matches their native habitat.  Jellyfish require daily live feed of two day old enriched brine shrimp nauplii and rotifers. We actually have to feed the jellyfish’s food. The next year, I was ready to introduce the more difficult to raise comb jellies into the lab and have cultured them ever since.  In 2017, I got to spend a week with Dr. William Brown at the University of Miami to learn how to spawn ctenophores, study hatchlings, and dissect out stem cell rich niches from the animals for in vitro work in the cell culture lab.   You can often find me in the lab late at night at the dissecting scope still mesmerized and awed by the simplistic nature and immense beauty and of ctenophores in their spawning bowl.

Moon Jellyfish (Pacific Ocean variety) in my classroom tank
Moon Jellyfish (Pacific Ocean variety) in my classroom tank

Back to the Bay Area for a cruise on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker!

The years that I lived in San Francisco for my postdoc were some of the best of my life because of the science plus athletic opportunities afforded by living next to the ocean including open water swimming, surfing, and abalone diving.   I made lifelong friends partaking in these cold and rough water ocean sports. I lived in the Sunset neighborhood and I often went to Ocean Beach for the sunset and swam in the Bay several times per week at the South End Rowing Club (SERC).   In 2008 I swam the English Channel. While swimming in the Bay, we often saw NOAA ships and I never thought I would get to join a cruise one day as part of the science team! While living in San Francisco, I did have the opportunity to go on a couple of whale watching tours and swim all over the San Francisco, Richardson, and San Pablo bays for my training swims, but I have never got to spend much time on a boat and I have never spent the night at sea!  I am a bit nervous about becoming seasick and adjusting to being on the night shift next week.

Swimming with SERC friends in 2017 next to the Muni Pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco (I am in the center with goggles on).
Swimming with SERC friends in 2017 next to the Muni Pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco (I am in the center with goggles on).

Even though I was raised visiting the Atlantic ocean for summer vacations and am fond of the Caribbean Islands and the coral reefs, I am partial to the West Coast, where the mountains meet the sea.   I prefer the cold green rough seas, the winter swell, kelp forests, abalone at Fort Bragg, great white sharks at the Farallones, Pier 39 sea lions, harbor seals, salps, humpbacks, orcas and sea otters in Monterey Bay, Garibaldi of La Jolla Cove, sting rays of La Jolla Shores, and elephant seals of Ano Nuevo.  I enjoy kayak fishing for rockfish and yellowtail in San Diego with my brother, Kit.

Karah at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, CA in 2018
Karah at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, CA in 2018
Abalone shell on top of a cooler or some other white surface
A large beautiful abalone I harvested from about 40 feet down from Fort Bragg, CA in 2007. You can see the algae on its shell. The abalone diving season is now closed until 2021.

The rockfish recruitment survey is a longitudinal research project in its 30th year led by the NOAA chief scientist Keith Sakuma.  I have always been inspired by ichthyologists, specifically Dr. David Etnier, of the University of Tennessee, who worked with my step-dad, Hank Hill, on the snail darter case (Hill v. TVA) in the court’s first interpretation of the Endangered Species Act in 1978.   I am excited to learn from NOAA chief Scientist Keith Sakuma and the other members of the Reuben Lasker‘s science team about the rockfish and groundfish species we will be targeting in the recruitment survey. I look forward to learning how to identify up to 100 additional species of epipelagic fish, most of which I have never seen (or even heard of) before, as well as micronekton including several types of krill, tunicates, and hopefully jellyfish!  

The animals we will be surveying are known as forage species and are mostly primary and secondary consumers in the food web. These young of year rockfish and groundfish, epipelagic crabs, and small fish such as anchovies, sardines, and lanternfish are important prey for tertiary consumers including marine mammals, large fish, and seabirds. Long-term research studies allow for scientists to study the relationships between hydrographic data such as sea surface temperature, salinity, and density and the abundance and geographic distribution of forage species over decades, and in the case of this survey, three decades. An ecological rearrangement of forage species can affect not only the tertiary consumers and apex predators such as orcas and great white sharks, but will also impact the fishing industry. It is important to understand the impact of warming oceans and weakened California upwelling events have had and will have on the diversity and health of the ecosystem of the Pacific Coast.

Kimberly Godfrey: Creature Feature, June 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

 

Mission: Rockfish recruitment and assessment survey

Geographic Range: California Coast

Date: June 8, 2018

 

Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 36° 43.508′ N

Longitude: 121° 52.950′ W

Wind: 30.87 knots from the SE

Air Temperature: 12.7°

Waves: 2-3 feet with 6-8 foot swells

 

Science and Technology Log

We moved up north to continue with our trawls. The first night we trawled just north of Monterey Bay. It was a good thing we did because outside the bay, the wind and swells are rough. We saw lots of jellyfish and lots of krill in our catches. However, I would like to talk a little about a very specific group of fish, rockfish. If you read the mission above, you will recall that rockfish are the primary focus of this survey. Therefore, I think they need a moment in the spotlight to themselves.

While this number may vary, NOAA has over 60 species of rockfish listed on the West Coast. They are an intriguing group of fish for many reasons. First, it is important to note that they are extremely significant to their food web because they are a prey species, but they are also important as a food and income source for humans. Species like the bocaccio rockfish and the yelloweye rockfish are species of concern due to over fishing, and populations are slow to recover. That is enough reason to learn as much possible about these fish.

Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye Rockfish

Bocaccio

Bocaccio

What we know about rockfish species is they can live for a long time. Many can live over 50 years, some can even live over 100 years of age!  Their growth rate is relatively slow, and very few make it to adulthood because they are prey for other fish. During the first year (sometimes more depending on the species), they spend much of their time in the pelagic realm (open water). If they live long enough, they can grow to a size that allows them to settle in the benthic zone (ocean floor). For many species, 60 mm is a large enough size to settle. This is what the term “recruitment” refers to. Once rockfish settle out of the pelagic zone, they have a higher chance of reaching reproductive maturity.

YOY Rockfish

Various species of YOY (Young Of the Year) rockfish caught in one of our trawls. Photo Credit Keith Sakuma

NOAA Fisheries has been surveying the West Coast for rockfish since 1983. They first started in a smaller region from Monterey Bay to Point Reyes, CA. The survey area expanded in 2004 and by 2013 it covered the entire coast of California. The success of the local ecosystem and the commercial fisheries depend on healthy fish populations. The survey tries to collect at least 100 specimens per species of rockfish and take them back to the lab (on land).  Back at the lab the species identifications are determined as many rockfish are difficult to identify to species at this life history stage without using a microscope.  In addition, their size is recorded and tissue samples taken for genetic studies. Then, on select species, otoliths are removed to age the specimens. The otolith is an ear bone. In fish, the ear bone deposits layers of bone in rings. It happens daily and these daily rings can be counted using a microscope to learn how old the fish is. These ages are used by scientists not only to learned how old the fish are, but they can compare this information to the size data collected and estimate the expected size of a fish at any given age.

I had a chance to talk to everyone from the night shift science team about what they do and how they came to work for NOAA:

Keith Sakuma has been working with the survey since 1989. He is the chief scientist and team leader of the night crew. He works hard to make sure we are all focused and efficient because it is a fast-paced work environment. In between hauls, he enjoys the company of his team and a few Dragon Ball episodes. He was born and raised in Hawaii, and went to University of Hawaii for his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology.  In his younger years, Keith worked for the Division of Aquatic Resources, where he spent his days walking up and down the beach to count fisherman and interview them about their catches for the day. He also did snorkel surveys doing fish counts in fisheries management areas.  In addition, he worked on a team that implemented fish aggregating devices, buoys that attract fish for the local fisherman.

While at the University of Hawaii, he was part of the Marine Option program where they teach you various marine skills and connect you with marine research activities. Through this program he completed his scientific diving training, and then participated in two diving surveys. Both surveys documented the impacts of tourism on the reef systems on the island of Lanai Island and Molokini, which is a tiny islet off Maui. On Molokini, tourist traveling to the islet by boat, dropping anchor in the reef, caused a significant amount of damage to the reef. Mitigation included the addition of moorings so boats could tie up and not have to drop anchor, destroying more of the reef.

For his Master’s, he attended San Francisco State University.  His major advisor just returned from a 2-year sabbatical, working with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) [also known as NOAA Fisheries] on the mid water trawl survey, and suggested that Keith do his Master’s Thesis on the data he collected on the survey. While finishing his Master’s degree, he was offered a full-time position working with NMFS, and has been here ever since. That means he has 29 years put into this work.

Growing up in Hawaii near the ocean definitely influenced his decision to pursue Marine Science. He used to say to others how much he loved the ocean and that the ocean loved him back. He couldn’t wait to spend time at the beach in the water. And while today this remains true, he has mentioned that that cold waters of Pacific Coast are not as affectionate as the warm waters of Hawaii.  The water around the islands is so clear, allowing one to see at a distance the beauty that lies beneath. Here, you must pick the right day at the right time to find tolerable temperatures and some visibility. The murkiness makes it hard to see anything, but that murkiness is what contributes to the productivity of the region.

Even after 29 years, Keith still very much enjoys being at sea. He doesn’t get sea sick, so he can spend time working in the field with real specimens and real-time data rather than just analyzing data collected by other people. He enjoys seeing new people come on and get excited about the work. For anyone interested in pursuing Marine Biology and any research science, it is important to have a strong background in math and statistics, especially in today’s world. He also mentioned how important it is to have computer skills and programming skills. The software used to process and analyze data requires one to read and write programming language. Having these skills make one a stronger candidate when applying for research positions. It also gives one more validity when having to speak about and defend the analysis of the research.

That’s Keith, the Chief Scientist, in a nutshell. I also got to learn more about the rest of the team. Thomas Adams has been working with this survey for 5 years now. He started as a volunteer with NMFS, analyzing marine chlorophyll samples. He always had an interest in Marine Biology, and already had a connection to someone working in a NOAA lab. He was invited to work on the rockfish survey because he was known for being a knowledgeable and efficient worker. He too is very enthusiastic and really enjoys being at sea with Keith and the rest of the team. He is the main provider of Dragon Ball, and the Simpsons, which the team enjoys in between trawls. He recently completed his Bachelor’s degree and plans to go for his Master’s in Marine Biology in the near future.

Melissa Monk is a Research Mathematical Statistician, and is responsible for fisheries stock assessments for West Coast near shore ground fish. She also participates in research related to improving fisheries. Her schedule is on a bi-annual cycle. One year is devoted to stock assessment, and the next year is devoted to research.  During stock assessment years, there is a mad dash that happens around September to learn anything and everything about your assigned species. At the end of the assessment season, there is a week-long panel review of all the data gathered during the assessment. Once the assessment is approved, the information is used for species management and harvest regulations. She received her undergrad in Wildlife Sciences with a minor in Statistics. Her Master’s was in fisheries. She spent half her year monitoring the sea turtle populations in North Carolina, and the other half of the year in classes. She did a lot of quantitative work, research, and recruitment training for her Master’s. She also had a connection to NOAA because her PhD advisor at LSU used to work for NOAA. She learned that NOAA trained people to become stock assessors, and pursued fisheries as a career. Her favorite part about working for NOAA is that her work directly impacts fisheries success.

Rebecca Miller is a GIS Specialist, works on a variety of projects at the Santa Cruz NOAA lab. One project is the spatial mapping of rockfish and other marine species. She maps California fisheries catches in both time and space, and is able to analyze this data as far back as the 1930’s. Her Master’s degree is from Oregon State University in Fisheries Sciences with a minor in Geography. She knew since 6th grade that she wanted to be a Fisheries Biologist. She participated in internships and part-time summer jobs in freshwater salmon fisheries, marine intertidal work, and geodatabase management. She loves the people she works with, and the fact the work is so diverse. There is a lot of field work, lots of data analyses, and different projects to work on. She too enjoys knowing that her work helps to sustain fisheries to be both utilized and conserved.

Stephanie Oakes is from NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology (OST). She got her Ph D. in Marine Sciences, and worked on Antarctic krill in an ecosystem context.  The rockfish survey is similar in the sense the it also surveys species in an ecosystem context.  Being able to participate in surveys like this is important to her because she gets to experience first had what happens during the surveys and how the team operates.  Her personal gratification is that she gets her hands in the catch, in the field like she did for her Ph.D.  NOAA Fisheries OST is there to advocate and ensure sound scientific basis for NOAA Fisheries science programs and resource conservation and management decisions.

Did you know…

Here are some of the species we found during our trawls:

  • Adult and young of year (YOY) anchovy
  • Adult and YOY sardine
  • Jack Mackerel
  • Northern Lamp fish
  • Mexican lamp fish
  • California Lamp fish
  • Blue lantern fish
  • Northern smoothtongue
  • Black smelt
  • Pacific Hake
  • Pacific Sanddab
  • Speckled Sanddab
  • CO Turbot
  • Black-bellied dragon fish
  • High fin dragon fish
  • Barracuddina
  • King-of-the-salmon
  • Market squid
  • Gonatus squid
  • Boreal squid
  • Octopus
  • Electric Ray
  • Wolf Eel
  • Pacific Sea Nettle
  • Purple striped jelly
  • Moon Jelly
  • Krill
  • Pelagic Red Crabs

Pacific Sanddab

Young of Year (YOY) Pacific Sanddab

King of the salmon

King-of-the-Salmon

Krill

Krill. There is mostly one species of krill here, but we’ve seen multiple species in our catches.

Barracudina

Barracudina

Adult Anchovy

Adult Anchovy

Myctophids

Blue lantern fish

Pelagic Red Crab

Pelagic Red Crab

Chryasora colorata

Purple Striped Jelly

Boreal Squid

Boreal squid

Octopus

Octopus

Wolf eel

Juvenile wolf eel Photo Credit Wyatt Sebourn

Kimberly Godfrey: Preparing for the Adventure! May 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean along the California Coast

Date: May 25, 2018

Introductory Personal Log

One time, I had the chance to visit California for a conference, and I got to dip my feet into the Pacific Ocean. It was so cold! In less than a week I will be surrounded by Pacific waters as I set sail on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker for 12 days. The anticipation has been building since I learned of my assignment, and now the time has finally come.

My name is Kimberly Godfrey, and I am the Coordinator of the Women In Natural Sciences (WINS) Program at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (yes, that it a mouthful). The Academy (1812) is the oldest natural history research institution in the Western Hemisphere, and WINS just celebrated 35 years. WINS is a science enrichment, after-school program for high school girls in public and charter schools in Philadelphia. Our goal is to provide opportunities for exposure to the natural sciences in ways the students cannot find in the classroom. Our long-term goal is that they take what they learn and turn it into a career.  Most of our participants have had little to no real-world, hands-on science in the classroom, and they share many first-time experiences with the WINS staff and other participants.

WINS Participants peforming stream studies

WINS participants collecting macroinvertebrates to determine the health of a stream in Avondale, PA

WINS 2018 Seniors

2018 WINS Senior Farewell. Of our 15 graduates, 12 are pursuing STEM majors and careers!

That’s my favorite part of being a WINS girl. I can share my experiences and my knowledge with them. I have a degree in Marine Biology, and had the opportunity to participate in marine mammal research for 2 years. I taught about environmental science and wildlife conservation for 10 years prior to working at the Academy.  And, something that is important to me, I am a Philadelphia native who, like these young ladies,  knew little about my urban ecosystem while growing up in the city (the only eagles I ever saw growing up were the Philadelphia Eagles, you know, the 2018 Superbowl LII Champions! You may have heard it a time or two). It wasn’t until I returned from college that I began to explore the world right under my nose. Now I help them explore the wildlife in their backyard, and then push them to branch out of the city, the state, and even across the globe.

Over the past few weeks, I found it difficult to refrain from talking about my upcoming trip. I shared the information I’ve learned so far with some of my girls, and each time I share something new, they become equally excited to follow my adventure at sea. I met with one of the Academy’s fisheries scientists, Paul Overbeck, to learn how to remove an otolith.  Some of my preparation stories have led to a lot of joking and humor. For example, trying on every pair of waders, boots, and waterproof gear that we have, all of which are too big for my size 5 shoe and my 5’0” height; how my freshly caught blue fish dinner turned into a dissection in my kitchen as I practiced removing the otoliths; or how I randomly had the opportunity to meet Sian Proctor, 2017 TAS participant and face of the 2018 TAS application (she happens to be friends with one of my co-workers)! All of this leads to one very anxious and excited woman ready to set sail.

Blue fish otolith

Practicing how to remove an otolith on what was supposed to be my dinner.

Blue fish

Beginning the process of removing a blue fish otolith.

TAS Participants K. Godfrey S. Proctor

Small world indeed! I had the chance to randomly meet Sian Proctor, 2017 TAS Participant.

Quite a few of our girls wish to explore Marine Science as a career, so my plan is to absorb everything I can and bring it back to them. I want them to know the importance of this research, and that this career is truly an option for any one of them. One day, I would love to see a WINS girl aboard a NOAA research vessel, dedicating their careers to the understanding and stewardship of the environment. That’s what NOAA’s mission is all about!

Did you know?

Scientists working with NOAA and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center have been conducting surveys along the California Coast since 1983. Along with rockfish (Sebastes spp.), they’ve been collecting abundance data and size information on other species including Pacific Whiting (Merluccius productus), juvenile lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax),  Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) market squid (Loligo opalescens), and krill (Euphausiacea). The information gathered from these studies is used to examine recruitment strength of these species because of their economic and ecological importance.

Visit NOAA”s website to learn more here https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=FED&ParentMenuId=54&id=19340

 

 

Alex Miller, Riding by the River, June 8, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL
Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 27 – June 10, 2015

IMG_9074

Pyrotechnics training

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast
Date: Monday, June 8th, 2015

Weather Data:

  • Air Temperature: 12.0°C
  • Water Temperature: 14.0°C
  • Sky Conditions: Overcast
  • Wind Speed (knots/kts) and Direction: 20 kts, NNW
  • Latitude and Longitude: 46°29’98”, 124°59’93”

Yesterday, I spoke with two of the NOAA Corps officers, Ensign Nikki Norton and Commander Brian Parker. Ensign Norton is in her first post as a NOAA Corps officer and Commander Parker has been in the Corps for 21 years. The NOAA Corps’ main responsibility is to oversee all operations of NOAA research vessels and aircraft. In addition to positioning the ship for deployment and hauling back of the various nets and instruments, they help chart the course to make sure that we visit all the transect stations. In fact, we missed an operation at one of the stations, so they are going to do a slight reroute so that we can make up for that lost data point!

Ensign Nikki Norton wore many hats and had many responsibilities during our time at sea. Including serving as the OOD, Officer on Deck, essentially an extension of the CO while on watch in the bridge, she oversaw safety operations and was the medical officer. Interestingly, she holds a Bachelor’s in marine biology from Florida State University, which makes her well suited for overseeing the operations of a research vessel.

You can listen to my conversation with Ensign Nikki Norton below.

 

This morning, I visited the bridge and spoke with the Commanding Officer of the Shimada, Commander Brian Parker. Commander Parker has been a NOAA Corps officer for 21 years, working his way up from ensign to XO (Executive Officer) to CO. NOAA Corps officers work alternating sea and land posts for two-years at a time, and at the end of this year, Commander Parker’s sea post will end and his land post as Port Captain of the NOAA facility in Newport will begin.

You can listen to my conversation with Commander Parker below.

____________________________

We arrived to our second to last transect, the Columbia River line, on Sunday. The Columbia River acts as an important source of food and habitat for certain marine species that the scientists on board the Shimada are studying and they anticipated interesting changes in the physical and biological data that they would collect at these stations.

IMG_8578

The long blue shelf-like line (labeled CR plume in top graph) shows decrease in salinity.

As I’ve mentioned before, the CTD measures temperature, salinity and chlorophyll (a measure of how much plant material is in the water), which are collectively referred to as physical oceanographic data. Dr. Curtis Roegner tracks the data acquired throughout the day at each station by printing the CTD graphs and taping them onto the cabinets of the Chem Lab, creating a visualization of the measurements. He looks for patterns in the data that may help him to better understand the samples acquired from neuston towing. In the graphs, you can see a dramatic change in salinity in the first 10 – 20 m as the ship passes through the fan of fresher water created by the emptying of the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean. This area, called a plume, is the meeting of two bodies of water so different that you can see a front, a clear border between the salty water of the ocean and the fresh water of the river.

The chem lab, wallpapered with CTD graphs.

The chem lab, wallpapered with CTD graphs.

As a fisheries biologist, Curtis Roegner has several driving questions that guide the work he does on board the Shimada and back at the NOAA Center. Among the work he does, he aims to study how well certain projects in the Columbia River are working to restore salmon populations. Certain species rely on the wetlands of the river to spawn (produce young) and mature in and some of this habitat has been lost to the development of cattle grazing lands. Studying the impact of the Columbia River plume on the Oregon coast may help affect change in environmental policy and agricultural (farming) practices.

I interviewed Curtis about his work and you can hear that talk below.

 

____________________________

Rougher weather kicked up a lot of swells, which the mighty Shimada crashed right through, sending spray all over the decks and outer stairways and producing just enough pitching and yawing to make a walk through a hallway interesting. The Shimada’s size helps keep the rocking and rolling to a relative minimum, but when at sea safety always remains a major concern.

With that in mind, today I participated in an optional pyrotechnic training with some officers, crew and members of the science team. Several different types of flares and smoke bombs are used at sea to draw attention to a ship in need.

In order to avoid a “crying-wolf” type of situation, we practiced this during the day and most likely radioed to all nearby vessels that we were in fact training and not in need of rescue. While I probably won’t be applying this skill in the near future, I decided I couldn’t miss an opportunity to try something new. Above you can see photos of different members of the crew and science team using these tools and below, you can see a video of me operating a flare gun.

 

Lucky for me, we weren’t in an actual danger situation. At the end of the clip, I turn to NOAA Corps officer LT Tim Sinquefield for assistance. After some adjustment of the flare shell, you can see me successfully operating the flare gun below.

 

____________________________

To top off an even more unlikely morning, members of the night shift and I were watching the sun come up and helping Amanda with the bird and marine mammal observations when a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins came to play off the bow of the ship. They stayed astern (toward the back of the ship) throughout the pyrothechnic training and at times, felt close enough to reach out and touch.

Pacific white-sided dolphins   ride the waves near our port stern, seemingly for the sheer joy of it.

Pacific white-sided dolphins ride the waves near our port stern, seemingly for the sheer joy of it.

Personal Log

As June 10 looms ever closer, I am frantically trying to take everything in. I’m basically operating under the mentality that I can sleep when I’m home. The more I try and experience, the less time I have to document what it is I’m learning on board the ship. But I set out to write eight posts about my time as a Teacher at Sea and I’m going to stay true to that commitment. Stay tuned for the final episode of my cruise aboard the Shimada, coming soon.

Sue White, June 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 7, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sat. 06-07-08 19:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.34.30 AM

The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow

The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow

Science and Technology Log 

Heading for San Francisco!

The weather has again had an effect on the scheduled research tasks. As the week went on the weather deteriorated so that some nights we could only do one trawl before the waves crashing over the aft deck made it too dangerous to be out there. Safety was the primary issue in everyone’s mind on the ship – bridge officers and the scientists discussed weather conditions and forecasts and the deck crew were careful to point out safety concerns involving equipment or wearing protective clothing. Even with the ship feeling like it was doing a wild tango at one point, I felt very secure.  Last night was a complete wash as far as doing the scheduled work.  By evening the ship officers decided to stay out the night in Drake’s Bay since the peninsula would give some shelter from the wind and waves.  We used the time to prepare for a new group to come aboard in San Francisco, cleaning our staterooms and doing laundry.    

I sorted through notes and organized the dozens of photos taken over the last 12 days.  Here are some squid facts Ken Baltz, the cruise leader told me about earlier in the cruise:

  • The Humboldt squid we caught were probably around 5 months old and will only live about 1 year
  • These squid are one of the fastest growing organism
  • They have a very rapid metabolism, eating about 20% of their body weight daily vs. our human requirement of 0.5 to 1%

Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals

Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals

The bongo plankton tow ties in with the squid sampling in an interesting way.  It shows how all of the research coordinated on the DAVID STARR JORDAN this cruise (and really all NOAA projects) is working towards understanding what life is like in the ocean and how the distribution of organisms is changing.  One plankton sample from each bongo tow was preserved in ethanol. The other sample was preserved in formalin (a formaldehyde solution).  The rationale behind this was that formalin denatures or destroys the structure of an organism’s DNA.  The ethanol sample could be used to do genetic testing. When the samples are examined back in the lab, the researchers are hoping to find paralarvae of the Humboldt squid in the same location as the adults collected this cruise. This would give credence to the idea that they are now breeding off the coast of California, rather than in the tropics as has been the accepted understanding.  Bill and Robert (two of the volunteers on this leg of the cruise) had great questions while Ken was explaining this part of his research. Bill (and the others) had been using a fluorescent lure to “jig” for squid. Squid are attracted to the bioluminescence found in some ocean animals, like the “headlights” on a California Headlight fish.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.

He asked if the squid are caught in the nets because they are hoping to feed on the small fish being concentrated there. His hypothesis was to see if luminescent lures in the net would increase the number of squid caught.  Robert asked about using radioactive isotopes to label squid and then look for the radioactive label in the paralarvae as a way to see patterns in breeding. Such intriguing thinking.  I was not alone in wanting to be awake for our entry into San Francisco Bay.  We enjoyed a hot breakfast for the first time in days (and for some the first time ever on the ship!) and were invigorated by bright sunshine. Well, the sun seemed bright through the San Francisco haze after being on the night shift! Everyone was outside by the time land was sighted and we enjoyed watching the Golden Gate Bridge get closer. For days I had not noticed much traffic at sea (especially at night)  so it felt like driving into a major city in that the traffic kept increasing the closer we got to the Bay.  Huge shipping barges and small personal sailboats were all out on a beautiful Saturday morning.

The map distance from Drake’s Bay was not far, but our speed entering the bay was such that it took several hours to get around the bend and in to where the piers are in San Francisco. Just as in leaving San Diego, the ship officers were busy piloting the ship to its place at the pier.  Staff from the Santa Cruz lab were waiting to help offload specimens, some ship personnel were already off duty and looking forward to a day in the city, and my husband was patiently waiting on the pier to hear my stories of life at sea.

Personal Log 

After almost two weeks at sea it was interesting to adjust to life on land. I did feel the ground moving as I walked and especially felt phantom ocean waves when I tried to sleep or take a shower (no grab bars to steady yourself on land though!). The sounds were so different too with less of the ongoing sound of the ship engine or the air system in my stateroom and more collective noise of traffic and airplanes. I had missed the simple sounds of my backyard birds, but did not notice this until I realized how wonderful the familiar can sound.  I am brimming with new information and connections to make with classroom labs and activities.  I (and my husband) can  hardly wait until school starts so I have a new audience for my Teacher at Sea stories.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Think about the area where you live. How many people in your neighborhood can you name?  List the types of dogs that live in your neighborhood, too.
  • Name any of the birds that may fly into your area.  (Is this naming business getting harder?)
  • Name any other wildlife that may inhabit your neighborhood.  (Remember that wildlife can be small and not all will be mammals!)
  • How many insects can you identify?  Can you name specific types of one kind of insect? In other words, can you tell the difference between a monarch and swallowtail butterfly? What about a skipper and a sulfur butterfly?
  • Scientists, from experience, can name an incredible number of organisms.  Often they can even give the scientific name for exactly one species that differs only slightly from another. You can also increase your naming ability with practice… what would you like to become an expert in identifying???

A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge

A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, June 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 1, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sun. 06-01-08 04:00 GMT 

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Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.

Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.

Science and Technology Log 

It’s shrimp night!  We continue on up the coast of California.  The transect schedule for tonight is off Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. The catch tonight surprised us (again) by being completely unique from earlier trawls. Usually the largest part of what we sort is krill.  The first night it was very strange to see all of those eyes, but now the krill just seem like background to look past as you see other colors and textures. When we spread the catch out on our trays tonight, it was an orange pink instead of the typical brownish color. The nets were loaded with market shrimp!  Joao took off with some after we sorted and came back later with boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce. This was the second time he had acted as a seafood chef for everyone. Friday night Joao brought down the squid he had saved from Tuesday and Wednesday night.  He had been marinating it in his special recipe and spent the time before his shift sautéing squid strips for us.  He had also made some salsa that was perfect with it . . . and the saltine crackers some of us were needing tonight due to the waves. It brought to mind this passage from John Steinbeck’s introduction to The Log from the Sea of Cortez: “…we could see the fish alive and swimming, feel it plunge against the lines, drag it threshing over the rail, and even finally eat it.”

Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose' Coito ready to do a trawl

Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose’ Coito ready to do a trawl

We have a pattern down for the nights now. The scientists, deck crew and bridge are seamless in their coordination of a trawl. Everyone knows their job now and down to who turns the deck lights off once the nets are in the water seems to be done intuitively.  As soon as the nets are brought in, the sorting starts. Big fish, or worse the big jellyfish, are caught as the nets are being rolled up.  Some fish and the jellies are measured and added to a database by location.  Jellyfish are especially hard on the nets because of their weight.  If they become too plentiful, trawls can be cancelled to keep the nets from being destroyed.

Looking for rockfish - Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and Robert (left to right)

Looking for rockfish – Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and
Robert (left to right)

Here is my count from one tray of catch tonight:

  • 38 Myctophid (fish)
  • 22 Californian Headlight (fish)
  • 8 Sergestid ( tiny red dot shrimp)
  • 5 Black Smelt (fish)
  • 3 Black-tip (squid)
  • 1 Blue Lantern (fish)
  • 1 Gonatus (squid)

The fish are more familiar by now.  The Myctophid and Headlight fish looked so similar at first, but now I can see the two bioluminescent dots between the eyes on the Headlight fish. With more experience, it became even more obvious that there were many differences differences, but harder when they are hidden behind the more generic krill, or in the case of tonight’s haul, the pinkish shrimp.  The rockfish (Fig. 4) also have to been identified as separate from other fish also similar in size and color.  Side by side it is easy to see that these fish that are both dark in color.

Personal Log 

Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola

Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola

The waves just keep getting rougher as the cruise progresses.  The motion onboard varies with different activities. The bars to grasp in the shower and at various places around the ship are very practical, to say the least. Sleep is an interesting process where you can wake up with tired muscles from trying to keep yourself in place! Those with more experience have said that it is physically tiring to be onboard and that we should expect to need more sleep.  It is amazing how I have adjusted to sleeping during the day now.  The volunteers have been great to work with. They are now bringing their music down to play as we sort the catch from each trawl.

Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)

Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)

It is fun to hear the eclectic playlists they have.  I have also been impressed with how well-read they are.  We have been able to talk about books that range from Steinbeck to environmental awareness.  They also enjoy the oddities we find on our sorting trays… anything with suckers must be stuck on your finger to see how long it will hold on (little squid or octopi require peeling off!)  One night we had double tailed fish.  Somehow several of the fish that night managed to get one head caught in the other’s to the point that it looked like the head was in the center with a tail going off each side.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Look at Figure 6 above. How many different types of animals do you see? (Hint: Different colors are easy to spot, but also look for different eyes since some of the animals we found were transparent!  )
  • Can you find any animals that are not fish?  We found tiny squid and octopi most nights.  Squid tended to have really big eyes for their overall size.  Most of what you see in Figure 2 is krill.
  • Describe what makes the juvenile rockfish different from the sand dab shown above.

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, May 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 28, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Wed. 05-28-08 04:00 GMT 

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This is the second night of collecting data for this leg of the cruise.  Last night was a real learning curve for those of us new to the work involved. As soon as they were aboard, the scientists in charge of the rockfish survey (Ken Baltz – the Chief Scientist, Keith Sakuma, and Brian Wells) were busy organizing equipment so they could begin at sunset. Each night the plan is to start by gathering plankton using the bongo nets. The plankton is processed and preserved for later study back at the scientist’s lab in Santa Cruz.  CTD (conductivity, water temperature, and depth) data is gathered throughout the day and night, and on the first night there was an electronics problem between the collection equipment that goes into the water and the computer.  Since weather has become such a factor on this cruise, the scientists did not want to lose any opportunity to gather data or specimens.  After sunset, the main focus through each night is to conduct mid-water trawls to collect data on fish populations and preserve samples for later study. All of this data goes into an ongoing database.

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Bongo Plankton Tow

Each volunteer had specific jobs associated with the different specimens or data being collected throughout the cruise. Figure 1 shows how Robert Cimitile and Bill Matsuba worked the bongo nets. Gabe Singer was responsible for the CTD readings throughout the night shift. Ben Gire sampled krill from each trawl for a separate Euphausia study, checking for species type and numbers of gravid (“pregnant”) in an area. We all worked to sort the catch from each trawl. Last night there were a number of midshipman fish in the catch.  Tonight there is a different sort of excitement since we are finding large numbers of Humboldt squid in the nets.  These are processed for other research groups who are studying stomach contents and establishing the squid’s genome.  Between trawls the deck crew, scientists, and volunteers “jigged” for squid using fluorescent jigs on fishing line over the port side of the ship. It was impressive to see the live squid and their reaction to being out of water. Their chromatophores pulse and change colors while they hiss water out of their siphons. Some also spray ink in the process.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!

Sue White, holds a live Humboldt squid!

These squid are huge compared to the tiny Gonatus or Loligo squid we have seen. The main fish being surveyed is the rockfish. They are few in numbers and when we do find one, it is placed in an ocean water ice bath to maintain them until Keith identifies them by species. This is also part of an ongoing, year-to-year survey to establish their distribution and numbers up the coast of California. Since they only come up to feed at night, they are the reason the trawls can only be done at night. It has been impressive to see the teamwork involved with working the cranes for the bongo nets and the CTD equipment, as well as the pulleys involved with the gates, and the trawlnet reel located on the gantry on the aft deck. Radio communication between the deck crew, the scientists, and the bridge starts each operation. The deck crew manipulates the equipment and the scientists and volunteers assist in positioning. They all have a part in collecting the specimens as they are brought up.  The bridge officers maintain the course and speed of the ship for all operations and also are vigilant about safety on the aft deck.  They maintain contact with the radio and also have visual contact with cameras.

Personal Log 

Jigging for the squid

Jigging for the squid

I feel rested tonight, but not quite used to working a night shift!  Last night was the first time I think I have ever been awake for 24 hours, so my bunk looked wonderful this morning. It was easy to sleep through the day after being so tired and now it is beginning to seem more normal to work at night. The squid are amazing the animal unit.  Seeing them alive and then being able to witness their dissection just a short time later was a singular experience that I will retell each spring now for my students.  Joao, one of the fishermen, showed me how to hold the live squid behind their eyes so the arms would not “get me”.  After seeing how they can latch on to fish even in the trawl net and how their beaks mince those fish, I have even more appreciation for what these animals can do as a predator!   I am learning how to recognize and name a great diversity of pelagic animals.  It has been an intensive learning curve for me in the last day (or should I call it night?) but I am starting to see the pattern of the trawls and it is very interesting to see how they vary according to transect location and even distance from the coast throughout the night.

Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)

Ben Gire (Volunteer) and Keith Sakuma (NOAA Scientist) with Humboldt Squid (CTD equipment is behind them to the right)

Challenge Yourself 

  • How has the weather changed since my last log (Monday at noon)? Calculate the differences in wind speed and temperatures.  Has the ocean salinity changed?  Is the pressure rising or falling?
  • Do the temperature changes seem reasonable considering we have traveled north and the time of day is later?
  • The Humboldt squid are very well adapted for these conditions.  Would you be comfortable swimming in this water too?

Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall

Daybreak and the nets are ready for nightfall

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue